Being Idle with Phil & Jonathan

Often I can relate to that magnificent poet Mary Oliver when she writes:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields

which is what I have been doing all day.

(The Summer Day)

I have taken days off work to be idle and blessed. As part of my idleness I am reading the new Phil Rickman novel, the Fabric of Sin.

I really like Phil’s writing, and he is about the only fiction I read these days. This new one features his regular protagonist, Rev Merrily Watkins, an Anglican exorcist who mixes sole motherhood, earthy good sense and spiritual combat in a very delightful way.

The novels are billed as a cross over supernatural-crime genre, and Phil obviously knows more than a little when it comes to the topics of magic, exorcism, ghosts and haunting. All the exorcism and cleansing descriptions read very true to home. I have often thought of getting students expressing an unrealistic and glamorous desire to cleanse houses to read these novels. It would shake them into reality a bit 🙂 As Molly would say, ‘do yourself a favour’ and go and grab a novel or two.

I am also being idle with the first two seasons of Jonathan Creek, and this time wishing I could make overly sentimental and undiscriminating students watch these DVDs too. The series, a few years old now (I never seem to watch anything contemporary) involves the partnership of the lead character, Jonathan Creek and his colleague Maddie Magellan. He is the designer of complex conjuring tricks used by stage magicians and she is an investigative journalist. Together they scrutinize and solve seemingly impossible questions, like how does someone murder a person in a sealed nuclear bunker, locked from the inside, and somehow escape.

The mind bending application of logical and lateral thinking is wonderful to watch, and I have found my mind expanding in a similar way to that induced by some Qabalistic word processes. The show is also funny with great lines and acting. However, I expect ‘any airy-fairy-lets-believe anything’ occultist forced to watch it would be carried away with the coincidental matching of the initials of the main characters and delve into their Da Vinci Code before the end of the first episode 🙂



  1. Murray · May 8, 2008

    I’m currently reading “The Chalice” by Phil Rickman and enjoying it immensely. I’ve also enjoyed all the Merilly Watkins titles I’ve read (but I struggled to get into “The Man In The Moss”). Any-way thanks for steering me in the direction of Phil Rickman he is a good read.

    If I recall correctly it was also a combination of yourself and Philip Carr-Gomm in “The Druid Way” which lead me to Mary Oliver who has become one of my favourite poets. It’s good to know that you are allowing time to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves” 🙂

  2. Steve · September 15, 2008

    Glad to see another Phil Rickman fan out there.

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