Sabbatical, Day 48: Gambling, G20 And Our Children

Our belovèd government promises concern for problem gamblers and all affected by their habits. Which is why they are doubling the minimum stake in fruit machines to £1 and the jackpot to £70. So that will help.

If you are as offended by this foul act as I am, there is an online petition here and you can also visit Fruitless.

Thanks to today’s monthly e-news email from the Methodist Church for this, which also plugs the Put People First march for Saturday week. 


Having kept Mark at home today due to his mystery rash (which has again disappeared), fine weather meant some time outside. He played with some chalk near on our drive and near the front door for most of the morning. He rather got ahead of himself:


Come to Mark's house it's Easter today
Come to Mark's house it's Easter today

Below this first picture, however, you will be able to see that he is aware that Easter is not just for us. It is for everyone. No ‘This is my truth, tell me yours’ approach here!




It's Easter in the world
It's Easter in the world


However, as the next picture shows, I eventually convinced him he was being proleptic and would have to ditch his realised eschatology for a ‘not yet’ approach to the kingdom of God:










3 weeks until Easter
3 weeks until Easter

The poor little lad will have to wait like the rest of us. He’s looking forward to chocolate and to the annual Easter party Debbie organises for him, Rebekah and a few of their friends. She started this our first Spring here as a way of trying to help our two make friends in the area. It has worked well. We now have the pleasures of egg rolling competitions on the drive, Easter bonnet-making (no, the boys never gravitate to that) and sundry other fun activities. The invitations have been going out in the last couple of days, not just to established little friends but to some other children whom we’d like encourage our pair to befriend.

We’ve also had further reason to take pride in Rebekah today, when she was moved up again to another level in the school reading scheme. She is delighted, too, but she doesn’t make a big deal about it and put down other children who haven’t reached her standard.

It was such a contrast this morning when I went to give my weekly twenty minutes of reading help in another class. I think they like me, because inevitably they get very few offers of help from men, although they’ll miss me next week when I’m at Lee Abbey. Each week I am given a different group of children. The groups are streamed, so from one Friday to the next I can get a vast contrast in ability. Today, I had three lads who were struggling. One in particular still can’t make the connection between the phonetic sounds of letters and the word he is trying to read. He should have known this a year or two ago, poor lad. The other two boys kept jumping in when this one didn’t know, which did nothing for his confidence.

So it was important this morning to have a simple rôle as an encourager. That was a privilege, just to try and boost the boy a little bit. I wondered how much encouragement he received. Certainly he gets it from the staff, who provide extra help, but clearly he suffers at the hands of other children, in the classic way in which youngsters are so cruel to each other. Some carry the scars for years. Occasionally, we ministers pick up on it decades later.


  1. Yes, indeed, a very strange way to tackle problem gambling! I enjoyed Mark’s efforts very much. I am surprised that you have to have three boys together for reading help. I used to have them one at a time in succession, so that I could tailor my help to their particular needs and personality. The breakthrough for one Pakistani boy came when I discovered an illustrated book on ‘How to play chess’ that told how chess originated in Pakistan. A very shy West Indian girl suddenly came to life when I gave her a picture book with no words and got her to tell a story from it. I wrote down what she said and typed it up for her to read next time – and the sequel was that her teacher managed to get this shy little girl to read her story to the whole class. But I shall never, ever forget the mischievous, almost uncontrollable boy whom we couldn’t get to settle down to reading. Then one day, as the Headmaster walked through, he gave a loud, excited and urgent shout, ‘Sir, Sir, I’m reading a book! I’m reading a book!’ That was a golden moment.


    1. Everyone in the school is in these small groups for reading, three mornings a week. On top of that, those who struggle have extra support. I can be with any group across the ability spectrum. The groups are given names that do not give away where they are in the streaming. In the class I serve, they are each named after fruits.

      I must admit, I was being sarcastic about governmental attempts to help problem gambling. It’s the last thing these proposals will do.


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