When commenting recently on what I might have blogged about had I bothered to write anything at all, I mentioned a few issues, but avoided the Pussy Riot trial in Moscow. The reason I avoided it has nothing to do with the issues raised by the case itself. I'll come back to it later – after a couple of bland observations that I hesitate to make without developing them (for which there isn't time).

First, Pussy Riot would still be anonymous around the world if Putin's boys and girls hadn't lost perspective. Putin will do the opposite of anything the 'old enemy' wants him to do – it's almost a matter of principle. So, the riot of disgust and anger around the world at the eventual sentences handed down to the three women won't cause Putin to lose sleep.

Second, the Moscow Patriarchate shows signs of being a little too close to Putin and his regime. This has clearly also led to a loss of theological perspective on its part. The ensuing global publicity about the Pussy Riot demo has simply drawn attention to questions the Church finds uncomfortable (or, at least, should do) and focused critical attention on its political allegiances and privileges.

Whichever way you look at it, Pussy Riot has managed to attract more attention to their cause than they could ever have dreamed of. And both the Putin regime and the Church look ridiculously self-regarding and over-sensitive. I wonder whose tables Jesus would have overturned…

Anyway, I am on an island holiday with almost no mobile signal and few places where I can get a wi-fi connection. I am also trying to avoid 'work'. So maybe this is the time to explain an unusual phenomenon that still surprises and amuses me.

Way back in 2009 I posted something entitled 'The rules of pizza'. It followed a bizarre experience in an Italian restaurant in London when the waiter, rather than asking me if everything was OK with the meal, instead observed that I “eat pizza funny”. The women on the next table were laughing. I said I wasn't aware there were any rules for how one should at pizza. So, I posted the piece and posed the question.

However, the odd thing is that I still get daily views of this particular post. Dozens every day – sometimes hundreds. I was amused early on after I had originally posted it that I was getting hundreds of referrals from a lesbian bondage website. This seems to be happening still. And I have no idea why or how.

So, you can understand why I hesitated before posting anything about Pussy Riot. Most referred viewers must have been really disappointed to find they got to a bishop discussing pizza. I dread to think what will happen to future referrals from exotic websites caught by the title of this post.

Or maybe they will all come from cat protection organisations…


I only went away for a few days and all the exciting stuff happened at once. Nothing like being in the right place at the wrong time.

shellfishA word of advice: avoid the shellfish. I was persuaded to share a bowl of the little monsters with my wife and began to feel unwell even before we left the restaurant. Two days of serious unwellness followed – not bad for a four-day break. I am still suffering and not eating. So, the moral of the story is: DON’T EAT THE FISH – STICK WITH PIZZA!

While I was away the Bishop of Rochester announced his resignation with effect from September 2009. I have caught up on some of the media comment on this, ranging from the slightly optimistic (George Pitcher in the Telegraph) to the facile (Melanie Phillips in the Mail). It would never ‘do’ to represent reality fairly, would it? People will have mixed feelings about the bishop’s departure – especially as it is so unclear to what precisely he is departing – but it should be stated that he is a remarkable man and has proven himself to be one of the sharpest brains in the Church.

nazir-aliI remember hearing Michael for the first time at a clergy conference when I was a curate up north. He spoke without notes and without hesitation, repetition or deviation for an hour and then responded skilfully to questions from the floor. It was remarkable and his ability to remember details is formidable. Which is a good word to use of him. He is a formidable opponent, but a remarkable ally. Whatever one makes of his stance on particular issues or his absence from last year’s Lambeth Conference, what must never be questioned is his integrity or courage.

And this is where Melanie Phillips is facile. Lots of bishops draw attention to the seriousness of the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world. I (and many others, no doubt) seem to spend half my time engaging with the ‘secular’ agenda in this country. When I represent the Archbishop of Canterbury in interfaith conferences in Central Asia, I have neither the desire nor the need to compromise the Christian faith or play ‘niceness’ games. My colleagues from different faiths will attest that I have regularly raised uncomfortable questions about such matters as persecution of Christians, lack of religious freedom in Muslim countries and the need for integrity of action, not just speech from religious leaders. The fact that many bishops do such stuff passes by Melanie Phillips because we don’t publish it in the Telegraph or the Daily Mail. I realise that serious engagement does not afford good headlines for shock-horror newspapers, but maybe that’s the point…

flat-earth-newsMelanie Phillips draws all the wrong conclusions from Michael’s resignation. Having just read Nick Davies’s expose of the Mail in his worrying book Flat Earth News, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. I, along with others, will watch this space and pray for Michael as he prepares to move on.

Anyway, the G20 summit is happening, England beat Slovakia 4-0, the Home Secretary’s husband remembered some dodgy films, everyone is getting hysterical about something, I’ve just done an interview on rock music and Christianity for the Financial Times (out on Saturday) and I have come back to a desk full of work. Damn the shellfish…

My last post on the rules of pizza was sufficiently disturbing that I have now lost all confidence in the protocols of public consumption. And it is clear from the comments people have made that I am not the only one currently having to review – with confidence well and truly shaken – the ethics and form of pizza-eating.

I went to Brighton with my younger brother on Friday to enjoy a day off in the sunshine by the beach. Tim has come down from Liverpool for a week or so and is staying with us in Croydon. So, we parked the car and went searching for lunch. Brighton is brilliant for little alleyways and narrow roads stuffed with small restaurants and cafes. We eventually got drawn into an Italian with a cheap offer. There was nobody else in there, so I felt reasonably confident about eating without any wider scrutiny.

We ordered the same pizza and then started to attack it. Judge for yourself (my brother is on the left).


Does that look weird to you?

The photo below is at the half-way mark when I was beginning to lose the will to carry on.


cimg11432Please tell me this doesn’t negate my entire life!

I know there are a load of vitally important and challenging matters to occupy the mind at the moment and my mind is usually duly occupied. But I have come home feeling a little distracted.

pizzaI had an appointment in London this morning and came out of it needing something to eat. I nipped into a place where I could get something cheap and easy and ordered a pizza (‘piccante’, if you must know). When I got in there I was the only customer, but within ten minutes the place had filled up. The waiter came over to ask if everything was OK at a point where I was about a third of the way through the pizza. Instead of asking me what I thought, he ventured to comment that I was cutting the pizza ‘in an unusual way’. I thought he was joking and asked if there is a ‘right’ way to cut pizza. He said he wasn’t sure, but the way I was doing it wasn’t it.

I turned to the two women on the next table and asked if they knew the ‘right’ way to cut a pizza. They had overheard the conversation with the waiter and were laughing. One woman said she didn’t, but she did know the way I was doing it wasn’t the ‘right’ way.

So, now I am bemused and confused… and a bit worried. Life is complicated enough without discovering at my age that I have a pizza-eating disorder. I had no idea there were rules about such things. I start round the adges and work in – on the grounds that the edges go hard as the pizza cools and so are best eaten early. But, I now wonder if I should be slicing from the outside towards the centre in triangular movements.

Does anyone know the rules for slicing/eating pizza? And are there rules for other areas of life that I haven’t yet come across? I have this dread that I might have been committing other social faux-pas for decades and nobody has had the courage to tell me.

Should deodorant go on the left armpit before the right? Should one put the right leg into the bath before or after the left?

Or am I losing the big picture and thus setting up a parable of how not to keep things in perspective?