On Turning Ten

An old radio

This evening I was listening to Chain Reaction on BBC Radio 4, a show where last week’s interviewee becomes this week’s interviewer. Tonight poet John Hegley interviewed comedian and actor Jack Dee.

It was a fascinating interview, particularly while he was talking about exploring his vocation. At one point he thought he might become a priest but discovered that his true vocation was to the stage. Much to his director of ordinands’ relief.

At the end of the show John Hegley invited Jack Dee (why when writing about famous people can you never just write “… John invited Jack…”?) to read out a favourite poem of his. He chose this one:

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Billy Collins

Meet the Revd Simon Stevens

The Revd Simon Stevens

Meet Simon. Cheery, friendly, cuddly Simon. Actually I’ve not tested out the ‘cuddly’ bit but the other two adjectives are true, at least from my experience.

This is the Reverend Simon Stevens. The Reverend Mr Stevens. And not to be confused with simple, secular Mr Simon Stevens, who for all I know might be a bit of a grump when compared with his ecclesiastical namesake.

I don’t know, I’ve not met him. I have no way of telling. Other than actually meeting him I suppose. But then I’d have to do a test, which would involve quite a bit of preparation. You know what it’s like when you set out to compare namesakes. You need questions. And a camera. And it leads to graphs. And debt.

Anyway, I’m not here to introduce you to potentially-grumpy Mr Stevens. I’m here to introduce you to his yellow holiness the Reverend Simon Stevens who, if you’ve not guessed already, is one of God’s chosen. He has been ordained into the holy order of presbyters and can count himself as one of Jesus’s closest friends.

Again, I’m simply speculating here, I can’t vouch for his prayer life but he’s a man of his word, and God’s word, so I think I can be safe in my assumptions and his name is now (probably) in lights in a small room in heaven somewhere. There is probably a plaque there too. And a certificate. In a frame. On some celestial mantelpiece.

So … Simon Stevens (the reverend one) is the Anglican chaplain at the University of Southampton, which is famous for being, amongst other things:

  1. in Southampton
  2. a university
  3. where World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee is a professor
  4. erm … closer to Anstruther than it is to St Andrews, which is another university town.

If you want to find out more about our dear Fr Simon then you will be delighted to learn that Simon currently has three sites for which he is responsible:

  • Yellow … aka The Revd Simon Stevens – Anglican Chaplain at the University of Southampton – his personal homepage
  • Dark Side of the Moon Chaplaincy – his blog
  • Boldrewood Tunnel Society – his project (nice site by the way, Simon!)

Which got me thinking. Simon is always doing lovely and kind things for people. He goes out of his way to be nice to folks, he even goes as far as meeting people such as comedian Dave Gorman and Stewart Lee (the comedian partly responsible for Fist of Fun and making lots of Christians angry).

And it got me wondering: how many of my friends’ (and even strangers’) blogs might we be able to get to feature The Revd Simon Stevens within the next month? So please feel free to download the photograph from his website, resize it to whatever dimensions you wish and remember to link to his site:


Go on! Introduce Simon to your friends, to the WORLD!!, in a bit of random fun, and let’s see how far Simon can travel on the World Wide Web and let’s make Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee a proud man of his university. (Not that I’m implying that he’s not already.)