The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - April 24, 2014

HEIGHT OF RUDENESS Be careful where you sit at the top of a mountain
HEIGHT OF RUDENESS Be careful where you sit at the top of a mountain
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It is quite unusual to climb a mountain and see two people having a row on the summit,

but that’s what happened to me at the weekend.

Even worse I was involved in it.

Myself and a friend ventured into the Lake District on Saturday, where the traffic on an Easter weekend is heavier than central New York (with fewer yellow taxis, but way more elderly couples wearing matching fleeces and with a border collie in the boot).

The congestion on the roads was so bad it took us longer to reach our destination – Haweswater – than it did to actually complete the mountain walk that followed.

But no matter. It was a glorious day and we were in fine spirits, striding uphill towards High Street, named after – for the pub quizzers among you – the Roman road which ran over its summit and the only place in England which has a Golden Eagle (I thought, at one point, that I saw it swoop by, but on closer observation it turned out to be a blue tit... easy mistake).

After a couple of hours walking, we finally reached the top and stood for a few seconds, as you do, surveying the view and regretting the fact you’ve worked in an office for the last 14 years, then headed to a nearby shelter to have our sandwiches.

Already in what was quite a small shelter was a slightly wild-eyed, long-haired guy and as my friend sat down, he accidentally knocked over the bloke’s flask of coffee.

“What the flip?” said the bloke, though he put one of those words much less politely. “You flipping imbecile, what the flip do you think you’re playing at, that’s my flipping coffee”.

His response was so X-rated it was like having a conversation with Richard Pryor circa 1975.

Now this chap had every right to be upset. I would be if I had hair like his.

But his reaction to the flask spillage was a little over the top, especially as it looked like Mellow Birds – I mean that’s not even great coffee.

In fairness to him, he quickly calmed down and then proceeded to confess he’d recently given up cigarettes and was “a little on the edge”. It was at this point I hastily finished my ham and cheese sandwich and backed away slightly, for fear he was about to whip a knife from his rucksack and go on some sort of rampage.

We said our farewells – us wishing him all the best with his quit smoking mission, him not asking us if we’d enjoyed our coffee – and then we parted, our paths probably never to cross again.

All of which goes to show, be careful where you sit when you reach the summit of a mountain – you never know who you’ll meet.

The Force is a bit too strong with this lot

As it’s Easter week, and because of David Cameron’s recent comments about Christianity, I think it would be remiss of me not to talk about faith and religion.

Not just any faith and religion though, as Marks and Spencer might put it, but the Jediism.

I must confess that until this week I had never heard of it but apparently Jediism was confirmed as the UK’s seventh most popular religion in the 2012 census.

It is, believe it or not, a Star Wars based faith where followers live their life by the moral and spiritual codes demonstrated by the Jedi character in the films (which, if nothing else, makes Scientology look almost normal).

The religion began in 2001 as a joke when, after a worldwide internet campaign, people were urged to write Jedi Knight next to religion on their census form.

As a result, at this moment in time 65,000 Australians, 21,000 Canadians, 53,000 New Zealanders, 190,000 Brits, and 640 Serbians (the jape clearly didn’t catch on in Serbia) are registered as practising Jediism.

The Brits, it probably won’t surprise you to learn, went a little further and in 2008 a lad called Daniel Jones founded the International Church of Jediism, one of the rules of the church being that followers are encouraged to wear their hoods at all times, like a Jedi.

This led to Jones being ejected from a supermarket in North Wales. When he complained to the local paper, it prompted the response from Tesco: “He (Jones) hasn’t been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood.”

You can’t argue with that.

The reason I tell you all this is because of the news that four prisoners are planning to sue the Prison Service for failing to recognise their Jedi religion.

“I put in an application asking that I be allowed 
to practise my religion freely — I am a Jedi,” said one of
 the prisoners.

“The written reply said, ‘Whilst Jedi is a recognised religion according to the UK census, it is not recognised by the National Offender Management Service’.

“This is an example of the kind of intolerance and religious bigotry faced by members of our faith.

“Please withhold my name as I fear retaliation from the Dark Side.

“May the Force be with you.”

One of the wonderful things about living in this country is freedom of speech and being allowed to follow our beliefs. But if this case ever makes it to court, I may have to emigrate to a place with more commonsense, Serbia perhaps.

No surprise

Manchester United have only themselves to blame for the chaos they are in.

They took the ultra-safe option in appointing David Moyes, hiring a yes man instead of the world’s best manager Jose Mourinho – who was available, wanted to go to Old Trafford and, lest we forget, had won seven league titles in four countries, the European Cup with two clubs, the Uefa Cup, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Spanish Cup and the Italian Cup.

Instead they went for Moyes, who did well at Preston, then a good solid job at Everton, once guiding them to fourth in the Premier League.

United played it safe – or what they thought was safe – taking too much advice from Sir Alex Ferguson, who, surprise, surprise, was a good friend of Moyes.

Now they are in a mess you can guarantee the next appointment will be one of football’s big-hitters, a proven trophy-winner.

Whether they’re a slightly controversial figure, like Mourinho, doesn’t matter – at a club like United, it’s about winning and nothing else.