Black but comely

Do those words cause offence? Is it the sort of thing you should shout out in the streets these days? Does it make you think of skin colouring? There are many skin types from black through browns, olives, yellows, reds, pinks, pales to white. If Coco have missed any please tell me [off?]. Please do not think that Coco has forgotten about frogs, fish, flora and feathered friends whose colourings are far more vibrant than our own. Does it make you think of complexion? A dark (to submit to modern perspectives on the matter, but Coco really means black) complexion is much more robust than a pale [white] one and longer lasting. But it is not just skin colouring that is in view here.

One of my friends declared after a wonderfully warm and dry spell in Canada: I am black! Well if your first language is not English perhaps you do not notice the similarity in the words but in Spanish soy negra (which also happens to be close to the colour of the sauce) you would, and so may be forgiven for the declaration.

And perhaps this also gives you a clue as to what is being said in the opening remark.

If this had been said in the modern age then this is what the young lady would have written to her friends perhaps through the medium in which you are now reading it, or perhaps on a better known social media platform, (and if you are not reading it well, what can I say? You would not even know that this had been written anyway) whilst on her holiday in Tenerife or Lanzarote, but they were said three thousand years ago, albeit in not too dissimilar circumstances. We find them towards the beginning of a play which antedates even the surviving plays of the Greeks by just a little short of five hundred years.

At the beginning of a play, as we were being introduced to her, one of principle characters made this declaration to her teenage friends. We do not know what her complexion was, though perhaps it is likely to have been an olive shade, but we do know how she had come to say: I am black! She herself tells us that the sun had scorched her, as one of the translators puts it. We would say tanned. She was a farmer’s daughter and worked in the open air looking after her brothers’ vineyards (under duress) rather more than her own. Her exclamation and explanation tells us that the events here are taking place in the summer months possibly around or towards the harvest time for grapes.

She was a farmer’s daughter but in the manner picked up, but toned down also, by Disney was to become even more than the Disney princess. Without giving a spoiler the story also ends in a different place than you would expect the Disney story to end. So the timing of the play is also introduced to us, the events then unfold for us over a period of perhaps as long as three or four years. The stage directions have either been lost or not preserved depending upon your perspective on the matter so it is not entirely possible to be certain of them, but there is enough in the text to settle most of the possibilities. Now, it is not at this time I want to say any more about the play, but hope to return to it in the coming days (it is not possible to return to it in the preceding days you will take careful note).

Now you may wonder what a story about a teenager who had been sunbathing has to do with Easter weekend. Well nothing really, but we all make many allusions, correlations which have no actual basis or causation, but does it matter? In scientific (in the general sense) enquiry, yes of course it does, but not in literary works, you only need to read Lucas or Adams to understand that.

Now for those of you who missed your trip to Lanzarote, Tenerife or just St Davids, and longed to have been able to write home to say those opening words to your friends but have been unable to do so, and for you who merely read the opening words just to skip to the end and for those of you who have managed to climb this far, it is in common parlance Easter time:

The Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week having fulfilled everything that he had been sent to do, having carried the just wrath of God, paying the penalty for our sin, lying in the grave after the manner of Jonah in the belly of the whale, therefore God has highly exalted him that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Let us worship him.


Pray? Did I hear you say?

When did you last hear that said? We were reminded of that this morning. In these days of quarantine what do you do?

The Lord Jesus told his disciples that they too should go into quarantine. Those of you who have no interest in tax or law please skip the next paragraph. Those of you who do, please correct me. It does have a remote significance to the point I have to make, but skipping it will not harm.

Coco came across some notes of a discussion on charitable status which contained the following reference; for the purposes of obtaining tax relief, you would expect that a religious group would not find any difficulty in obtaining such a status. However the RC Carmelite Priory which housed a contemplative order, devoted to prayer, and therefore quarantined was found not to be charitable as the public benefit provided was not susceptible to legal proof, which the court required in order to act. Lord Greene did not argue that there was no public benefit but that the benefit could not be proven and without proof of benefit you cannot move from the position of being non-beneficial. That there is public benefit in private prayer is, as we shall see, without contradiction.

In the sermon on the mount, which you will know starts with the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc the Lord goes on to say, just after the section dealing with charitable giving and good works where he says: Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room [quarantine yourself], and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place (Matthew’s gospel chapter 6).

When we are going to pray we are enjoined by the Lord to hide away in our own room away from others. It is there that we make our requests known to our heavenly Father, who hears us. Are we in our enforced quarantine making use of this opportunity to hide away and make our requests known? In times past our leaders have exhorted us in times of national distress to pray. We live in a day of international distress, do we hear that call today, or have some of our leaders lost their way?

The Lord went on in the sermon to say: your Father who sees in secret will himself reward you openly. Openly, in plain sight, in public that the benefit of your praying might be felt by all. Paul wrote to the Philippians (my paraphrase): For I know that through your prayer taken on by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance.

Coco wrote this before the Queen’s speech this evening. It was good to hear her words about people who pray. Coco asked, should he change any of this? Perhaps, perhaps not….you may judge.

But we, let us pray and seek the Lord that he may have mercy upon us and upon our land. It will be costly. If you will approach him you must have clean hands and a pure heart, and who of us can say to that I do? But he in Jesus Christ will provide that so we may come to him in Jesus’s name and he shall hear us.


Coco has been clearing out for shredding old files which have lain in loft space for twenty years….not much changes apart from the writing technology. The attached picture is a scan of the opening paragraph of a letter sent to him in the ember months of, Coco thinks, 1987 but it may have been ’86 or ’88.

It was written using a typewriter as you will be able to tell by the imperfections in the corrected letter i printed in white ink. Who remembers those typewriters?

Coco does not remember the reason for that lock down, and shall not tell on the two who broke it. It will now take East German technology to put the document back together. If you recall what caused the lock down and for how long it lasted, do, please, provide an extended discourse on the matter in this forum.

Thank you.