Friday, 26 December 2014

The Policeman's Special or Half'n'half: My Festive Drink

It's Boxing Day and there's a drink I have every year that is special, different and sums up the festive season for me. It is the old Half 'n' half, otherwise known as the Policeman's Special, the drink of champions. I was first introduced to the Police Man's special as a child, gained a taste for it and loved it ever since. It's origins for me are lost in the mists of time, but I can tell you where I came across it. In the east end of Rundle St, Adelaide, South Australia, there was an old grocers shop, Randall's Fruit and Veg (or Frut and Veg according to the dilapidated sign out the front). Run by Mr Randall, it sold all kinds of things from basic convenience items to sweets and a whole range of things in between. One of the most popular features of Mr Randall's shop was his ginger beer on tap that saw a range of city dwellers, from police officers to Hare Krishna's, frequenting the place for a draft of this wondrous drop. It was in the mid-seventies that my family moved church congregations from the Salvation Army Unley to the Salvation Army Adelaide Congress Hall which was located in the east end of the city square mile. Not far from the Adelaide Citadel was Mr Randall's shop and the informal initiation into the the Adelaide Congress Hall Salvation Army Band was to drink a pint of the mystical Half'n'half. A yard glass was even available for the more daring who thought they were man enough ( no women in the band then) to take on challenge. Although my father found the drink repulsive, it became a firm favourite of my brother and I.  Every Friday night, following the young people's band and choir practice at the Salvation Army citadel, our father would take us to Mr Randall's shop to get a pint of Half'n'half and a strap of the usually stale and tough licorice which was just gold. To us this was heaven and almost worth missing out on The Incredible Hulk TV show each week in the days before VCRs. We would climb upon the ancient counter stools fixed to the wooden floor and drink our pint of Half'n'half. We would then walk back to the car, eat our licorice strap and dream of the wondrous Saturday morning cartoons waiting for us on the other side of sleep.

By the mid 1980's Mr Randall's shop had gone. Mr Randall had retired and the shop that replaced it, which also sold Half'n'half, didn't stand the test of time. We too had moved on to comics and milkshakes, bought each Friday night from a deli/milk bar nearer to home, but the dream lived on. Each year at this time, when we don the gay apparel and troll the yuletide carol, I drink a glass of Half'n'half in memory of Mr Randall and the old days of the 'Frut and Veg shop'. Why this time of year you may ask? Because all the ingredients are here, bought for Christmas day lunch and ready for the mixing. And what is this mystical recipe you may ask? Well I've included it here for the curious and daring.

1/2 a pint of milk
1/2 a pint of ginger beer

1) Pour the milk into a glass. 
2)  Add the ginger beer.
3) Wait till a curdled head begins to form and drink.

And so there you have it. I hope you enjoy a pint or two of Half'n'half and that God brings you lots of hope, peace, joy, love and Santa this Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Jesus And The Rings Of The Phantom.

The Rings of the Phantom, the Skull Ring and the Good Mark Ring

One of the greatest masked superheroes of the modern age is the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks, friend of the Pygmy Bandar and the Guardian of the Eastern Dark. Older than Batman and Superman, he has graced page and screen for nearly 80 years. One of the strengths of the character is the faux mythology that has been built around the character that links him into myth, legend and history of the real world. Whether it be Arthurian, Greek or Roman legends, this scourge of piracy has a connection to it all. 

While browsing through that font of all wisdom, Wikipedia, I discovered that when it comes to Christian history and theology, this is no less the case.  The most direct link in Phantom law to the the Christian faith are the two rings he uses in his battle against evil. The first ring we will focus on is the Good Mark Ring. Many do not realize the significance of the symbol on the ring and the depth of meaning behind it. It has been described as the crossing of two sabers however the design has an ancient origin, The symbol's origin is Greek and was traditionally known as the Chi-Rho. It was used by ancient Greek scholars to mark valuable or noteworthy passages in the margins of a text. It combined the two letters X (Chi) and P (Rho), the first two letters of the Greek word 'chreston' which meant 'good'. It was literally the 'good mark'. The Chi- Rho eventually went on to be used by the early Christians as a symbol of Christ. The original Greek form of Christ, 'Christos', also began with XP. This, coupled with the cross shape recalling the crucifixion, made it ideal for use by the early Christians.  This use as a symbol for Christ can still be seen in the word 'Xmas', the common abbreviation of Christmas. It was the Chi-Rho symbol that the Emperor Constantine reported seeing  in his vision that led him to accept the Christian faith as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Through the years, the Chi-Rho was adapted into many stylistic designs by the church and became one common version of the Christian Cross motif. It is of no coincidence then that when the Phantom was looking for a symbol to represent his protection, he literally chose to use the 'good mark'. Either that or Lee Falk and Co. did their research well.
Three variations of the Chi-Rho symbol. The Phantom's Good Mark fits well as another variation.
The origin of the Skull Ring has an even closer affiliation with the Christian faith, that of Christ himself. The mythology, as set up in the unfolding narrative of the comics, is that the Skull Ring was presented to the original Phantom by the great physician, scientist, and occultist, Paracelsus. It was fashioned from the nails that held Jesus on the cross and was originally owned by Emperor Nero, who had led one of the early Roman persecutions of Christians. This reappropriation of crucifixion nails for other purposes was not unheard of. The nails used in crucifixion were iron spikes between 5-7 inches long and were often collected and highly prized  as healing amulets. Like the legendary Holy Grail  that was pressed into the service of King Arthur, the Skull Ring is a relic of Christ that continues to be used in the cause justice and redemption of a fallen world, or so the ongoing chronicles of the 'Ghost Who Walks' tell us.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Advent Begins: May the Darkness Flee.

Today (sunday 30th November) was the start of Advent, a time of the year I always love. With the placing of wreaths, the lighting of candles and the decking of halls with Christmas decorations, it sounds cliche, but there is a magic in the air. As we turn on the festive lights and get to see the amazing creations our neighbours have put together, the suburbs begin to change. For me these days it begins around Halloween when, on the 29th of October, the neighbourhood is beginning to open up. Rightly or wrongly, this transplanted celebration is gaining popularity amongst the kid’s of Australia. Instead of the legion of the brave heading out to face off the forces of evil in fancy dress at the time when the nights are getting longer and colder, our kids hit the streets looking for lollies when the days are getting longer and warmer. Before the fairy lights lace the verandas, the pumpkins have appeared on the letter boxes, letting the trick or treaters know that it’s safe to knock on the corresponding door. It is now that I see children at my door, dressed in an array of amazing costumes, who are usually hidden with in their own homes, stuck behind computer screens and retreated from the streets around them. The darkness is beginning to subside, the light is coming. With in days Christmas pageants are taking place and Santa has come to town. Carols are beginning to be heard in the stores and the family tree trimming takes place. And then comes today when the first candle of Advent gets lit, the candle of Hope.

Jesus Looks Ahead
In worship today the set gospel reading was taken from Mark 13. On first glance it is an account of Jesus giving his disciples information about the future. It describes tribulations that are yet to come, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, natural disasters and cosmic phenomena marking the end of history and a warning to be ready for Christ's  return. At first glance it is hard to see how this relates to Advent, the weekly count down to Christmas. But on reflection it's makes perfect sense. Many of the scenarios described were already happening at the time of Christ and even at the time of the writing of the Gospel of Mark several decades later. In fact some of Jesus' predictions didn't come to pass until 70 AD when the Romans finally destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where creation and creator were connected in ancient Jewish belief. The might of Rome crushed the intimate bond between God and his world, seemingly never to be rebuilt again. However God had a plan that would out run the banners of Rome. In the person  of Jesus, God established a new intimate connection with humanity. However when Rome tore him down, God raised him back to life. In Christ there is hope that calls all of us to put our trust in him and the way he calls us to follow. When the sky is falling, and the sun refuses to shine, because Christ lives with in us, there is hope

The Candle of Hope
The Candle of Hope reminds us that no matter how dark our world gets, there is hope. That when our relationships are messy and love has seemingly died, there is hope. That when our bodies give up and our mind fades, there is hope. When there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, and the end is nigh, there is hope. May the light of hope burn brightly in your advent season this year.