Tuesday, 1 March 2016


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Don’t believe in God.

Don’t believe in any kind of superior being or superior force.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of Joe Simpson? He wrote a book called Touching the Void about how he fell over a cliff high on Siula Grande in Peru. His co-climber Simon Yates cut the rope and Simpson plunged to his death. Except he didn’t die, he survived the fall and miraculously crawled on all fours back to base-camp. It’s an amazing, amazing story of endurance.

When Simpson was interviewed on Desert Island Discs, Sue Lawley pushed and pushed for him to say he believed in God; that there had been divine intervention; a miracle. But he wouldn’t, in fact he couldn’t have been more unequivocal  and said more or less that he saved himself.

I heard the end of a discussion on Radio 3 recently and two explorers were talking, reminiscing, chuckling and one of them said something like, ‘If you didn’t believe in God before you navigated a Force eleven hurricane in the southern oceans, you will certainly believe in him when you come out the other side’.

I can see that actually. It’s not been my experience but I do see that.

I have come this close to death quite a few times: one time driving south at night on the M1 when I pulled out to overtake a truck in the outside lane going way too fast for the torrential rain but forgot I was already in the outside lane. Hit the barrier and spun out of control. Should have died. And another time driving home at half-one in the morning up the A1 going past Ripon and a woman doing ninety was driving toward me on my side of the dual carriageway. That I survived was a miracle. And famously, being rescued by a child in Nepal when I got completely lost, dehydrated with Malaria and Typhoid fever. Shouldda died then. Shoudda died later from the Typhoid.

So, I have plenty of good reasons to believe in God and to thank Him for keeping me alive, safe, still functioning sufficiently well to write this blog. But I don’t think it works like that; I was lucky but I could write you an equally long list about the times I have been unlucky [don’t worry . . . I am not going to!]. We are masters of our own destiny, I think.

Recently, we had a tradesman round to do some work for us out in the garden. He cycled here . . . in fact he was late because he had had a puncture . . . and carried his tools in a rucksack on his back.
Pleasant enough guy, to be honest I thought he had bitten off more than he could chew but I didn’t interfere, just let him get on with it. Besides, I was quite busy myself that day. Didn’t bring anything to drink; didn’t bring a sandwich or anything to eat for his lunch; didn’t fix the puncture.

I gave him a cup of tea but when I had my lunch, I didn’t make him anything to eat. He seemed to want to talk but I don’t do that and as I say, I was quite busy with other things. Four o’clock and he hadn’t even nearly finished all the jobs and it was starting to get dark. He had no lights on the bike; he hadn’t fixed the puncture; he must have been bloody starving and as far as I could tell, he hadn’t used the toilet since he arrived at half-past nine. I asked him what he was going to do about all or any of these problems and he said, ‘God will provide’. Honestly, word for word, God will provide. Then he said, ‘are you a Christian?’ I said I didn’t believe in God and he said having only met me that day for ten minutes and having absolutely no idea about me, my life, my problems, my sacrifices, what I have fucking endured, ‘that must be a terrible place. All these flowers and trees, these beautiful  birds singing, how can you not believe?’

I couldn’t be more opposite philosophically to this guy. I totally believe in personal responsibility, always have, always will. ‘God will provide?’ God will fix the puncture put lights on the bike provide a cup of tea at regular intervals and something for his lunch? Not from me. Every now and then in business someone would appeal to my better side, for a favour, for a discount, for a second chance; people who hadn’t done the work, hadn’t put in the hours, couldn’t be arsed to be at Hopkins west London office for half eight in the morning. Wanted an easy life. Well, I do have a better side and sometimes would give in to them but I am way past that now.   

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