As of December, 2009, this blog is inactive at this location. All posts have been transferred to the new location here. You are very welcome to read and comment.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Debrett's Correct Form

This is one of those books that I saw and rather fancied over a year ago and intended to buy for myself, but kept forgetting. Each time I remembered, something else came up or I procrastinated. Does anybody else do that: see something you want but then keep forgetting to get it for yourself?

Well, I'm pleased, as the updated edition was published in October and a friend has just bought it for me for Christmass. Apart from being an invaluable tool - just how I have managed thus far without it is beyond me - it will look rather good on my desk beside my dictionaries of various languages, my thesaurus, The Oxford Guide to Style and the publications by the Fowler brothers.

I do enjoy my books. It seems that my godfather knows this all too well as his Christmass present to me was a very generous collection of book tokens. :-)

What fun!

It was on a starry night,
when the hills were bright,
earth lay sleeping - sleeping calm and still;
when in a cattle-shed,
in a manger-bed,
a boy was born: King of all the world!
And all the Angels sang for him,
the bells of heaven rang for him,
for a boy was born: King of all world!

It was my day off work on Thursday and I was getting the last of my Christmass shopping in at Manchester city centre. I had got completely fed of of all the hustle and bustle, the crowds, the pushing and shoving, the queueing for the better part of an hour for a bus and the whole atmosphere. Then I finally got the bus home and sat diagonally opposite from two girls who were with their father. They couldn't have been much older then 4 or 5 years old, and, completely oblivious to the stress that many of us impose upon ourselves at this time of year, they were gleefully singing the Christmass carol, It was on a starry night.

O, the innocence of childhood!

It was unbelievably moving and put the whole thing back into context for me. I got home and, as I tried to explain what had happened, I just burst into tears. My housemate came over to comfort me until I managed to get out just enough words to explain that these were happy tears.

I think we, as a society and especially as Christians, can learn much from our children. They aren't sullied by all of the nonsense that we are. God bless them.

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mission (Is the Western Rite a catalyst?)

St Augustine of Canterbury, by Aidan Hart

Below is an amended form of an something that I wrote very passionately in the course of correspondence with my godfather. Uponn re-reading what I wrote, I felt that it is something that I would like to convey more widely, and so I proffer this, the ranting of merely one person. If you're from my locale and you're moved by this in any way, then please do get in touch.

Here is the excerpt from our exchange:

I must admit that my primary purposes in supporting the restoration of the Western Rite are twofold:
a) to bring people to the Truth of Orthodoxy who would otherwise have found the transition difficult.
b) to enable the Liturgy and traditions of the Holy Orthodox Tradition of this place, which nourished the Saints before us, to be restored to its proper place in these western lands.

What Father Michael, all those involved with the Western Rite, and I decidedly do not do is to try to persuade our Orthodox brethren of the Eastern tradition to take part in the Western Rite. The reason for this is that there is simply no need. The Eastern Rite is a beautiful, noble and worthy tradition which I love dearly and which has nourished the faith of millions of Orthodox faithful throughout the centuries, through many tasking times, producing many Saints in the process, who are venerated throughout the Church today. Long may it continue! For people who are settled in the Eastern Rite and who have been brought up in it, they have a wonderful channel through which they can work out their salvation in Christ and there is no need at all for that to be disturbed.

The people who need to be made aware of the Western Rite are those who have a love for Orthodoxy, who have explored the Orthodox Faith and its Holy Tradition and would love to be Orthodox but find the ethnic image that Orthodoxy has to be a serious barrier: non-English or only partially-English services; styles of vestments, hymns and services that have been imported from Greece or Russia at the expense of Orthodox vestments, hymns and service that are indigenous to Britain and Western Europe; after-service meals that are exclusively made up of foods from "the old country" (the old country varying from parish to parish, of course), and where nobody speaks English. I have read of American converts to Orthodoxy, with white faces, blond hair and blue eyes, being denied communion in Orthodox churches because the priest refused to believe that they were Orthodox, because of course as everybody knows, Orthodoxy is for Russians, Eastern Europeans and Greeks.

To many people, (and it has been said to me on Ship of Fools and elsewhere), this seems to fly in the face of the Orthodox claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for they rightly ask how it can be catholic (universal) if being part of it means denying the liturgical and spiritual Christian heritage of the West which has given us many Saints as well. Many see Orthodox churches as little tastes of Russia, Serbia or Greece in Britain, and while they may find it all very exotic and fascinating, they do not even consider it as a church that they would want to make their own.

I have put an open invitation on Ship of Fools for people to come to church with me at Nativity if they wish, assuring them that they would be taken care of. One person replied thus:

I don't have next year's diary with me, but I'm free that weekend, I think. I would be quite interested in attending an Orthodox service - it's something I've always wanted to do, but it always seems a little off-putting - having a friendly guide would be wonderful.

Why should an Orthodox service be off-putting? Why should somebody who has wanted to come to an Orthodox service for years find the idea daunting?

Now before I give you the wrong impression, let me make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that there should be no Eastern Rite in Britain. Britain has a wonderfully rich and diverse cultural composition. Many people from Orthodox lands in the East have migrated here, and it is right and proper that they should bring their spiritual and liturgical customs with them. I thank God that such people, many of whom fled to Britain under the most appalling of circumstances in their homelands, have been given the opportunity to worship God in the way that has fed their spiritual tradition for centuries. I am also grateful that we, in Britain, have benefited from this by once again being exposed to the Orthodox Faith as a result of such migration. I was reading Metropolitan Anthony Bloom's biography, and learning how many Russians lived in atrocious conditions in ghettos in places like Paris and London, and where the church was their refuge. Their homes, livelihoods, families and dignity had been robbed of them and the church was the one place where they could gather as Russians and worship God as Russians. What a loving mother the Church is!

However, the Church does not stop there. Orthodoxy in Britain cannot be content to see itself as a ministry to Russian exiles in Manchester, or as a cultural focal point for Greeks in Salford. For that would be to ignore Christ's command to go into the world, making disciples of all the nations.

As Orthodox Christians, we have a missionary role for, as we sing in the Creed, we believe in the Apostolic Church - called to be apostles (messengers) of the Truth of Christ. We have the ability, dare I say the obligation, to continue the fullness of the riches of our Holy Orthodox Tradition in its entirety - both East and West - which we have inherited from the Saints before us, for we believe in the Catholic Church. As Orthodox Christians, we should harbour no "East good: West bad" mentality, for we believe in the One Church, recognising the diversity of Orthodox worship while holding to the unity of the Orthodox Faith, while shunning such strange ideas as ecumenism based on the branch theory. And finally, as Orthodox Christians, we must use our Oneness, Catholicity and Apostolicity for the purpose of holiness, for we believe in the Holy Church, called to bring all to Christ in his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the sanctification and salvation of their souls and bodies, as well as our own.

That may sound very inspiring in theory, but what does it mean at its basic level? What does it mean "on the ground"?

For me, it means that the fullness of the Orthodox Tradition has to be celebrated as a good and holy thing in both its Eastern and Western expressions to bring the Truth of our Lord and Christ to as many people as possible. It means that an English person who wants to explore Orthodoxy must not feel frightened to enter an Orthodox church because it seems too exotic and foreign to him. It means that western people who do feel comfortable embracing Orthodoxy as their own faith must no longer be the exception, but rather the norm. It means the free use of a truly Orthodox (for nothing less will do) Liturgy, spirituality and ethos that will be accessible to the people of Britain, being part of their culture and heritage.

Gone are the days when Saints in their droves walked these lands and lived the Orthodox Faith. Apart from some pockets left in certain parts of other churches, by and large, gone is the once widespread spirituality which was worked for by such Saints as Aidan and Colman of Lindisfarne, Bertelin of Staffordshire, Werburgh of Chester and the whole host of the Saints of the British Isles. And it will not do for us to simply bemoan this loss and do nothing to remedy it, hoping that people will jump over ethnic, cultural, and liturgical hurdles in order to become Orthodox. We in Britain are in a missionary situation and we need to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and for strength to do our part in bringing the Faith to others.

Advent IV

Tomorrow's homily from the St Petroc Monastery:


We are now in the last leg of our examination of our lives and resultant repentance during this Advent. Soon we will be celebrating the birth in the cave-house on the road to Bethlehem of God’s Christ and our Saviour, his taking of human form and human nature together with His eternal Divine nature, and His Coming to us here in earth.

As a preparation for that, we have observed the fasting and repentance that is appropriate to the Second Coming of Christ to this earth. During this Advent, we have been more overtly doing what every Orthodox Believer should do all the time: Acting as if the Second Coming of Christ was tomorrow morning. It is very difficult for the busy work-a-day person to keep the mind focused on the Second Coming, one’s own unreadiness to be judged and general unworthiness. The Church however provides for two annual extra-serious seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the
wo annual extra-serious
seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the Nativity and the Great Lent before the Resurrection.

This Sunday, we pray that justice may be found for the many poor of countries around the world, and that those countries, classes and individuals who enjoy real prosperity will turn and follow our Lord’s admonitions to assist those who are left behind. We should keep in our prayers all those who labour in the poorest areas of the world to bring spiritual and material food and comfort to the many forgotten poor. We pray for the bewildered refugees of Africa. We are supposed to keep our own offences and failings constantly in the forefront of our minds at this penitential season. We must also keep a realistic picture of the vast number of medically, physically and spiritually needy and, using that picture in our minds, we must take intercessory and financial action for we must not keep the gifts of God to ourselves.

The struggle to achieve perfect personal holiness and the struggle to provide for all of the world’s poor and needy are very similar in many respects. We shall probably never achieve personal holiness perfection and we shall probably never provide for every person on this earth. The important thing in both cases is that we put our best effort into the attempt. It is the struggle towards holiness that is the purifying fire. Without God’s help neither goal is possible of achievement. The trouble is, that no matter how often this is repeated by and to us, we never quite manage to shake off our worldly “old man” and we persist at least in part, in trying to achieve the goal from our own resources.

On the personal level this leads to all sorts of failures and problems. On the world level, we continue to believe that this or that form of human government might, if it was done properly, achieve the perfect world - or at least feed a lot of the worst cases. The fact is that it is not possible for so long as humans insist on governing themselves. We personally, and corporately must give the government of ourselves and our world over to God. Unless we do that, we will persist in wading painfully in the mire of our own making. Christ came to tell us of His Way. He made the whole painful and humiliating journey from human birth to human execution for us, that we would see the Way.

Let us reflect on sorrow and prepare for joy.

Advent III

I apologise for my absence over the past couple of weeks. I haven't been online much at all as I'm still settling into my new routine with work and what have you. still, here I am. To all those who have contacted me privately, I will respond to you. Please do be patient. I'm sorry for my delay.

Here is the homily from the St Petroc Monastery for last Sunday:


The signs of Christ’s presence with his Church are shown by the Scriptures set down for the Liturgy today as a continuation of the Truth brought forward in last Sundays’ Scriptures: that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.

John’s question to Christ from prison at first seems puzzling since we know that he has already announced Christ. Why then the question? Was Saint John having doubts? That he was not perfect and did not possess perfect knowledge is not in question. What we see here however is a rhetorical question, asked for the sake of his disciples. While John had received the revelation of Jesus the Christ, there was no outward sign of the magnificent Judge with power inherent to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. Perhaps he was puzzled by the mercy instead of judgement. Where was the fulfilment of the well-known prophecies? The question given by John to his disciples is designed therefore to allow them to elicit the truth about Jesus for themselves. His time was over, he had gone ahead of the Messiah, it was time to hand over his disciples to that Messiah. These disciples were “family”: They were already in a sense “believers” in that they
followed Saint Jon precisely because he was the Forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus did not answer with a direct claim, or stage a transfiguration for their benefit, but said in effect: “The evidence is all around you, you judge”, having, in their presence done a large number of miracles that might not be expected even of a great prophet.

Here was the healing King, the One who would call us to healed unity of belief in him. We hear that healing call today and it it is a call towards unity of the People of God, those Called Out to believe rightly in God and His Christ. The confusing thing is that there are numerous “uncertain trumpets” calling us towards forms of unity. The only unity can be that which is based on right belief. That is, there can be no compromise of that which is genuinely Apostolic Tradition (including the Holy Scripture). Such unity cannot be in “submission” to any one leader or based on any false or convenient reading of Scripture. The only submission involved in the unity of all Christians is that of all to Christ in the right belief in Him. This would be a true healing, and this is the healing that Christ will require of us if we are to truly be His Called Out people.

This time of Advent, when the Church looks towards the Second Coming of Christ, is a good time to think in terms of the healing of His people here in earth, for it is a vital part of our preparation for His Coming. Not only must we bewail our many-fold individual sins and wickednesses, but we must repent our corporate sins and wickednesses, foremost among which is the diversion from the right belief of so much of Christ’s Kingdom. We desperately need peace on earth
and goodwill among Christ’s people. Not a false peace based on satanic formulae of papered over differences and ingorance of the explicit statements of Scripture, but a right peace and a universal right belief.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent II

Here is today's homily from the St Petroc Monastery.


As we thought about Advent last Sunday, we saw that this is a period of radical re-thinking of our way of spiritual and moral living and of looking forward to the coming of Christ - radical re-thinking. We so often have no understanding of our transgressions. We simply fail to understand the depth and seriousness of the apparently minor transgressions that we take as almost inevitable in the course of our daily lives. The “white” lie, the dismissiveness towards others’ sensitivities, the pure thoughtlessness, the aggression in pursuit of our own way, the petty dishonesties, the pervasive judgementalism. We constantly judge others, in particular, we judge those whom we think to be weaker than we are, those addicted to alcohol, or gambling or drugs. We are all addicted in one way or another, so it ill-behoves us to look down on the perhaps more obvious addictions of others.

For a start, we are all called by the Church to consider our failings and, by prayer and fasting, to seek to amend them. We do this in the light of the coming of Christ and our desperate need to ready ourselves. Let us consider this looking forward to the Coming of Christ. We know as a simple matter of fact that Jesus, the son of Mary, was the Incarnate Son of God and was here in this world for thirty odd years at a particular place and time. We know too that He had quite a lot to say which we have available, to read for ourselves. We know all that - it is not a matter for question or contention among us. So we “believe” that Jesus is in fact God. That all relates to the coming of Jesus into the world around two thousand years ago.

But there is far more than that.

In this season, and the Holy Nativity, we are thinking about His Second Coming into this world. It is very popular to express much of the New Testament in allegorical terms - and perhaps nothing more so than the Second Coming of Christ. It is an uncomfortable thought for those who lead Christian people astray, that there will come a time when Christ turns up here and requires answers. For a start, it smacks of the supernatural - and they wish to divest the New Testament of as much of the supernatural as possible. The Church however, teaches that the Second Coming is a frighteningly real matter which will happen. We admit that we haven’t the faintest idea when it will happen - but happen it will. Christ will come here again. It may be quite soon - who knows? The point is that we must, for our own good, read as much as possible about it in the New Testament and be sure that we know exactly what the Church teaches about the Second Coming. That way we can see why it is important that we prepare ourselves constantly.

So in Advent we reflect, we re-think our ways and we resolve to align ourselves totally with God and His will. That’s it in a nutshell: Aligning ourselves without reservation, no fingers crossed behind our backs, with what Jesus taught us. That is why the additions to the Liturgy throughout this season, refer constantly to this Second Coming, which He Himself emphasised again and again. We read “The night is far spent, the day is at hand”. Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus telling us that His Second Coming will be an event that will be both spectacular and crucial to everyone. We will be made fully conscious in the power of the Divine Light, we will be conscious of all that we did in rejection of God’s love and that consciousness itself will form
either the terrors of hell or the joys of Heaven, according to the individual.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Feast of the Presentation

And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. - The Protoevangelium of James

Today is the prelude of God's good-will and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: Rejoice, O thou fulfilment of the Creator's dispensation! - Troparion. Tone 4.

The most pure temple of the Saviour, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of the glory of God, is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. And the angels of God chant praise unto her: she is the heavenly tabernacle. - Kontakion. Tone 4.

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple. The troparion and kontakion for the day really say it all. We are blessed to be able to share in the New Covenant in Christ through Baptism, and it is through Our Lady that this was made possible. As, under the Old Covenant, the Ark of the Covenant was fashioned to house the word - the Law - of God, which was a mere shadow of things to come, so Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for she housed, nurtured and presented to the world the Logos, the Incarnate Word of God, Who is the fulfilment of the Law and the fruition of all things. For this purpose she was prepared and sanctified and through her desire to conform her will to that of God, the lowly Hebrew maiden became the Mother of her God.

The story in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James tells of her being dedicated to the Lord by her parents, the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, and her being presented to the Temple at the age of three years. We are told of how she lived in the Holy of Holies (the Debir, which is the part of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant would have been housed), where she was fed daily by Angels.

While the story itself may be a little fanciful (but not impossible!), it is permeated with the Truth of God. Whether or not a young girl would have been allowed into the temple - and in the Debir at that - is something about which I am not qualified to comment. We know that Our Lady was of a priestly caste and so it is possible that she grew up in the temple grounds with people of similar lineage, which may form the basis of the story. I simply do not know.

What I do know is that a mythical reading of the story robs it of none of its truth. I do see it as a myth - a story that may or may not be historically true, but the historicity of which is irrelevant to the deeper truth that is contained therein. And the deeper truth of this story is that Mary, a young Jewish girl, wholly gave herself over to the will of God, that she became the dwelling-place of the Most High, the Ark of the New Covenant, the precious bridal-chamber wherein heaven was wedded to earth, where eternity and the created realm of space and time were united, and where the divine Logos condescended to become human, that he may conquer death, show forth the Resurrection, and ultimately, take that human nature into the heavenly state at his glorious Ascension.

For this the Church gives thanks and praise to God and due honour to his blessed Mother.

Wherefore, let all faithful people
tell the honour of her name;
let the Church, in her foreshadowed,
part in her thanksgiving claim.
What Christ's mother sang in gladness,
let Christ's people sing the same.
Hail, Mary! Hail, Mary!
Hail, Mary, full of grace!


Creator of the stars of night,
thy people's everlasting Light.
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race.

Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
as drew the world to evening-tide,
proceeding from a Virgin shrine,
the spotless Victim, all divine.

At whose dread Name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow,
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread,
to judge and doom the quick and dead,
preserve us, while we dwell below,
from every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three-in-One,
laud, honour, might and glory be,
from age to age eternally. Amen.

V/ Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.
R/ Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation.

In the Orthodox Western Rite, today, Sunday, the 20th of November (3rd of December in the secular calendar) is the first of the five Sundays of Advent, and the beginning of the liturgical year. The Advent fast also begins today, in preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmass, which, this year, falls on a Sunday, making this the longest possible Advent.

Here is a homily for today from the St Petroc Monastery:

Once again, at the outset of the Christian year, on this first Sunday of Advent, we contemplate the ever-present King, the Saviour Who came and Who will come again to this earth.

Luke 4:16-22 is an admirable early Advent text which reads: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: And, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.

The Law which governed Israel as a theocracy from the time of Moses until the time of Christ foreshadowed Christ. The Jubilee Year, (the acceptable year of the Lord) brought freedom from financial debts. Christ is our freedom from our debts to God: The offences which we have committed throughout our lives. Here we see Christ's fulfillment of all of the Old Testament’s Law.

"Advent" means "coming". Christ comes to man in Bethlehem, in His Word and He will come again on Judgment Day. We in Advent look forward to that Second Coming and we prepare ourselves as we await Him. Not only does Christ fulfill all of the Old Testament Law, but He fulfills all the Messianic Promises in the Old Testament. In the above text He fulfills Isaiah 61:1-3. In Acts 10:43 Peter said: "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His Name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins." Jesus said (John 5:39): "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." In Luke 24:27 we are told: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He (Christ) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Verse 18 of our text plainly mentions all three persons of the Trinity just as do John 14:16 and 15:26.

Today is the first day of the new church year. Our meeting with Christ - one way or another - is imminent. More imminent than most of us are willing to admit. Now is the time for each of us to prepare, to examine ourselves in the light of a really imminent confrontation with God. We ask that we, ourselves, our souls and bodies may be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice to God. Reasonable, Holy and Lively: Acceptable to God, holy as He requires of us and spiritually alive. We must be in good standing with God in order to receive the Holy Mystery, and we must be in good standing when we come before Him, as we most surely will. It is no use putting off the day of examination. Better that we reckon with ourselves now, and correct our many shortcomings, than that we put it off and have to explain those uncorrected shortcomings to God Himself.

We utilise the Advent season of contemplation of the Second Coming of Christ to examine and prepare ourselves. To that end we fast - as this is a season of fasting. This is a sober season because thinking about our many shortcomings is a very sobering thing to do. Fasting isn’t some formalised thing that the Church expects of us, it is a real, a serious thing that we do for our own good. We don’t do it because the Church instructs us to do it, we do it because we desperately need to do it. If we haven’t realised that, then we have probably missed most of the point of Christianity. This life isn’t the whole thing - it is merely the short introduction to Life. We are still at school, we are still preparing. None of us is wise, nor are we experienced in terms of the Life that we must lead beyond this introduction. Understanding the importance of what we do now is vital to us. It behoves us therefore to think a great deal about where we are going and just how prepared we are for the real task ahead of us.

Today we should wish people a joyous and happy New Year in Jesus Christ.


Many of you will have noticed the daily calendar in the right-hand margin. This is merely a bit of Javascript that I added to the blog template and it automatically updates daily. I think that this is a wonderful thing to have. However, it would appear that, for the pre-Nativity fast, the good people who provide this service have chosen to change the text to purple (save for Sundays, which remain red), making reading the text very difficult. As I have no control over the colour of the text, I'm afraid that there's very little that I am able to do about this short of changing the background colour of my blog, which I would prefer not to do. Until the fast ends, it may well be worth just highlighting the text so that it appears clearly.

Growth and Learning (or "the wretched flu")

No, this isn't a section of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Rather, it's just a summary of one or two lessons that I've learnt having not worked for a while and now being back.

1. If you've just started a new job and it turns out that you happen to know a number of the people who work there from elsewhere/previous lives, and those in your training group insist that you know everybody, don't deny it. Experience shows that if you do, within 15 seconds, somebody else who recognises you will approach you and say something to the effect of, 'I haven't seen you in ages!'

2. If you've been off work because of difficulty leaving home for whatever reason, resulting in your isolation from normal day-to-day life and interaction with other people for an extended period of time, then you can reasonably expect your immune system to have stormed off due to feeling neglected. After the first week, you will have contracted the influenza, a cold, rabies or some other unpleasant ailment (a tautology?).

3. Be certain that, whatever your experiences at previous jobs, the payroll department of your new employer will strive to attain unto new heights of incompetence, humorous to all but the poor soul who hasn't been paid because his salary was paid into a bank account of one digit's difference from his own.

More seriously, things are actually going rather well. I don't have much cause to complain and I'm quite looking forward to the coming week. I'm glad I survived week 1. Although I was feeling good about myself for having got this far, I wasn't sure how I'd actually handle getting back into a routine after so long and restoring regular interaction with people but it has gone well, even if I am exhausted and suffering from some virus or other. My body will soon grow accustomed to this sort of thing again, no doubt.

Thanks, again, for all of your support.