New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

Archives: Mary Magdalene

Madonna or the Magdalene?

I spent an interesting hour in the company of Bettany Hughes watching BBC4 last night. She’s always good value. Her programme was about how the cults surrounding Aphrodite/Venus developed through history in different cultures, mainly pre-christian but with a brief reference to the Madonna. My novel Where’s Sailor Jack? is a family saga, which assumes monogamy and love between partners as the norm, while the storylines substantially are about the difficulties in complying with that norm.
In the midquel to Where’s Sailor Jack?, provisionally called No Precedent? (I do like titles with question marks but they’re damned difficult to punctuate), now about half-written, I’ve created an alluring character, a young woman called Maddie, who is happy with more than one partner at once, of either gender. She does not feel that this is sinful, and as she throws away her family’s catholicism, will come to deride the notion that she stands in need of salvation.
I realised last night that I am writing her as a modern-day Venus, sometimes in blue jeans but mainly in a short, tight skirt when she’s wearing anything at all.If I allow her approach to life to become the theme of the book, don’t I negate the finely-nuanced acceptance of the basic Christian message of the first novel? The fall as depicted in the Garden of Eden, perhaps a little later than the first Aphrodite, is from a state of innocent obedience to guilty disobedience to the will of God, with no interim state of either guilty obedience, which some would accuse Christianity of, or innocent disobedience, the status perhaps being claimed for Maddie.
I’ve also realised that Maddie subliminally was suggested to me by Mary Magdalene. Maddie shows selfishness and deviousness with her fellow humanity, not seeking harmony in her pursuit of pleasure. If you take the gods out of the narrative, she does still for me stand in need of repentance and salvation, as do we all.
I’m sure that the development of the cults of Venus and the Madonna has been happening since humans came into being, and before. One time, my old dog ran off to investigate some food he’d spotted a few hundred yards back. It was along a main road, and I worriedly chased after him. I tripped over a flagstone and crashed to the pavement, cutting myself nastily. He heard, turned and ran back to me. He had a conscience. I was his lifetime partner. He didn’t have to forsake all others but he put me first. The Madonna or Mary Magdalene are both in the story.

Justin Welby

Justin Welby has received well-deserved plaudits for the gracious way he had handled the news of his father’s identity. He has demonstrated how the Christian spirit is interpreted in the Church of England, indeed how the Holy Spirit is felt by Anglicans. But I have a problem. In the excellent interview he gave to Bryan Appleyard for the Sunday Times, his most theological comment was: “I know that I find who I am in Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.” As a cradle Anglican who still attends Church, I do not nor never have felt that. I can’t rule out the genetics. I feel my father in me in many of the movements I make, and see them in my children. I hear my mother’s voice above the babble of today’s orthodoxy. I hear my ancestors in what I read. To this, I add the story of my life that I tell to myself, including time and place, the people I’ve known, the influences I’ve encountered, the good and bad events, and I try to miss nothing out. I don’t see Christianity as a reductive religion. I’m a Lancastrian, physicist, baby boomer Anglican, who’s had a rich life and who’s travelled through life with many people I have nothing but affection for. If there’s a eternity, I don’t see how I’ll recognise them if they’ve changed too much. In my novel, Bob Swarbrick wants to meet Jesus in a heavenly pub, have a game of dominoes with him, everybody get merry and JC himself join in with ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, Mary Magdalene on the harmonium in a low-cut dress.
I think the theologians call that a low Christology, Jesus as wholly man who became God as the first fruits of the harvest that could include everyone.

He is risen indeed


He wakes up. It’s dark. There’s a crack of light coming in from behind the stone. It must be morning. He puts his finger to the stone. It rolls away easily, making the earth shake. Two angels are outside with a robe. This is what he expects. He changes out of the linen clothes and folds them neatly. He nearly forgets the head napkin. He goes into the garden with the angels and watches as Mary Magdalene looks in the tomb. He sees her run back to fetch John and Peter. They come, and go back home scratching their heads. Mary stays around. She sees the two angels by the tomb. She tries to talk to them through her tears. She turns to see Jesus, without knowing who it is. He must look younger, he thinks. He calls her by her name. She recognises him, rushing to give him a hug. He asks her not to touch him this side of Paradise. “Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”