Secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

We took part in the best debate yet at The Bell, as the house put forward the motion that a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

Table Talks’ host Emma B laid the foundations for a lively discussion, reminding us that the UK has undergone secularisation, fewer of us go to church and there appears to be a lack of support for religious liberal values while fundamentalism recently lead to the fatal attack on Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London.

The panel featured the writer and filmmaker Gita Sahgal, who is also Executive Director of the Centre for Secular Space. Gita said, “The point about a secular society is it allows people to live together…You should be able to hold any lunatic belief you wish to hold, however if you act on that lunatic belief, you have to be stopped.”

Father Michael, the Priest of the Catholic Church of Christ the King in nearby Burwash, argued that society should be allowed to practice its religion. “I agree we don’t need religion to be good, and I agree with the notion about fundamentalism…But, if you analyse the secular states that we’ve had in the last 100 years – Communist, Fascist….” well, a far better option for Father Michael is a pluralist society whose people are allowed to practice their religions all the while respecting one another.

“The great thing about religion, said the comedian Joy Carter, “is that it’s a glue that holds society together…I was bullied and what kept me going was my faith.’’ Joy lost her family to war in Africa and was adopted by missionaries.

The broadcaster James Whale delighted in clashing with his fellow panelists and said, “To be in tune with Mother Nature and the environment, like the religion of the red Indians, is the ideal religion.”

Gita Sahgal won the audience’s approval with her passionate intellect, “The point about a secular society is that no-one is trying to take your religion away from you…religion flourishes in secular societies, it is also limited in secular societies where it does harm.’

After tonight’s lively debate, the motion was carried: a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

The bell may have tolled, but heated conversations continued into the night…in our multicultural society we are often encouraged to hide our religion – this week the Girl Guides scrapped the allegiance to God that hitherto formed part of their oath. In today’s multicultural society are we going too far in our effort to be all inclusive and avoid inflaming tensions?

a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

We took part in the best debate yet at The Bell, as the house put forward the motion that a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

Table Talks’ host Emma B laid the foundations for a lively discussion, reminding us that the UK has undergone secularisation, fewer of us go to church and there appears to be a lack of support for religious liberal values while fundamentalism recently lead to the fatal attack on Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London.

The panel featured the writer and filmmaker Gita Sahgal, who is also Executive Director of the Centre for Secular Space. Gita said, “The point about a secular society is it allows people to live together…You should be able to hold any lunatic belief you wish to hold, however if you act on that lunatic belief, you have to be stopped.”

Father Michael, the Priest of the Catholic Church of Christ the King in nearby Burwash, argued that society should be allowed to practice its religion. “I agree we don’t need religion to be good, and I agree with the notion about fundamentalism…But, if you analyse the secular states that we’ve had in the last 100 years – Communist, Fascist….” well, a far better option for Father Michael is a pluralist society whose people are allowed to practice their religions all the while respecting one another.

“The great thing about religion, said the comedian Joy Carter, “is that it’s a glue that holds society together…I was bullied and what kept me going was my faith.’’ Joy lost her family to war in Africa and was adopted by missionaries.

The broadcaster James Whale delighted in clashing with his fellow panelists and said, “To be in tune with Mother Nature and the environment, like the religion of the red Indians, is the ideal religion.”

Gita Sahgal won the audience’s approval with her passionate intellect, “The point about a secular society is that no-one is trying to take your religion away from you…religion flourishes in secular societies, it is also limited in secular societies where it does harm.’

After tonight’s lively debate, the motion was carried: a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

The bell may have tolled, but heated conversations continued into the night…in our multicultural society we are often encouraged to hide our religion – this week the Girl Guides scrapped the allegiance to God that hitherto formed part of their oath. In today’s multicultural society are we going too far in our effort to be all inclusive and avoid inflaming tensions?

a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

We took part in the best debate yet at The Bell, as the house put forward the motion that a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

Table Talks’ host Emma B laid the foundations for a lively discussion, reminding us that the UK has undergone secularisation, fewer of us go to church and there appears to be a lack of support for religious liberal values while fundamentalism recently lead to the fatal attack on Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London.

The panel featured the writer and filmmaker Gita Sahgal, who is also Executive Director of the Centre for Secular Space. Gita said, “The point about a secular society is it allows people to live together…You should be able to hold any lunatic belief you wish to hold, however if you act on that lunatic belief, you have to be stopped.”

Father Michael, the Priest of the Catholic Church of Christ the King in nearby Burwash, argued that society should be allowed to practice its religion. “I agree we don’t need religion to be good, and I agree with the notion about fundamentalism…But, if you analyse the secular states that we’ve had in the last 100 years – Communist, Fascist….” well, a far better option for Father Michael is a pluralist society whose people are allowed to practice their religions all the while respecting one another.

“The great thing about religion, said the comedian Joy Carter, “is that it’s a glue that holds society together…I was bullied and what kept me going was my faith.’’ Joy lost her family to war in Africa and was adopted by missionaries.

The broadcaster James Whale delighted in clashing with his fellow panelists and said, “To be in tune with Mother Nature and the environment, like the religion of the red Indians, is the ideal religion.”

Gita Sahgal won the audience’s approval with her passionate intellect, “The point about a secular society is that no-one is trying to take your religion away from you…religion flourishes in secular societies, it is also limited in secular societies where it does harm.’

After tonight’s lively debate, the motion was carried: a secular society should not prevent people acting on their religious beliefs.

The bell may have tolled, but heated conversations continued into the night…in our multicultural society we are often encouraged to hide our religion – this week the Girl Guides scrapped the allegiance to God that hitherto formed part of their oath. In today’s multicultural society are we going too far in our effort to be all inclusive and avoid inflaming tensions?

This house believes in passing the parenting test.

hould we have to pass a test before we are allowed to become parents? Or is the reality of restricting procreation to those who demonstrate they are capable of nurturing and instinctive parental love a flagrant disregard of our basic human rights?

Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy and Parenting for Dummies kicked off the debate. “At times parenting can feel like training jelly – all wobbles and no rules.” Agreeing that it is not easy to raise a balanced, useful member of society, Sue is concerned that parents are reluctant to ask for help, no matter what their background and that training is better than testing. “Parenting is one of the most important jobs in the world and yet we get no training for it. I don’t mean the extremes of Super Nanny, just ordinary everyday skills.”

Journalist Tom Latcham, the only man in the group, argued that the subject is surrounded by snobbery and hypocrisy. “Popular opinion appears to be that thick poor people should be prohibited from having kids and yet Prince Harry is a thick Royal and he could potentially father the next heir to the throne!” Tom has yet to enjoy the parenting role and the prospect terrifies him. A parenting test could be likened to passing your driving test and then crashing into the barriers. “After all, what moron would leave a child in a pub? Oh yes the same moron who put George Osborn in charge of the economy!” Tom concluded that no government has the right to decide who has a child or not.

Our lovely local representative couldn’t be better qualified. Frankie Nowne, as a youth magistrate and a member of a local adoption panel, questioned what the criteria would be for a parenting test, financial or genetic? “The Australian government has just apologised for giving children away born to mothers who didn’t pass the marriage test.” Frankie believes that there is a robust system in place to audit childcare and safety. Adoptive parents have to go through rigorous and intrusive tests but at the end of the day all children need is unconditional love.

Rachel Tonkin, a Senior Communications Officer with Parenting UK, wondered how many times parents should take the test as parenting changes as a child grows up. “It’s very different for toddlers and teenagers”. Lots of things happen during any childhood which will affect the way they are parented, be that divorce, bereavement, changes in physical and mental health. The single most important thing Rachel feels is “to reduce the stigma of asking for help.” Their helpline received over 8.6 million queries last year according to Rachel “Not seeking help is, in fact, failing you child.”

The debate opened to the audience and issues such as the environment children are brought up in,, parenting lessons in schools, financial circumstances and level of education were raised, some quite vocally. When put to the vote the motion was denied – unanimously, which is a first for Table Talks at The Bell.

And, at the end of the day, parenting should be a joy, not a burden.

Something Fishy at The Bell

 
The Bell’s very own master chef and fish connoisseur, Richard Kirkwood,hosted an educational and insightful evening on the global challenges
of securing tasty, sustainable fish. To appreciate just how good local, sustainable fish can taste Richard demonstrated how to cook a perfect
mackerel starter and local fish enthusiast, Kit Smith, cooked up a fascinating fishy quiz. We all now know just how ugly a monk fish really is!
Lively debate in a packed stable, a fabulous two course dinner with wine made for a swimmingly good evening.

 

As promised here are the recipes.

 

Devilled mackerel with shaved fennel &blood orange Serves 4:


4 whole mackerel, gutted
For the paste:
75gms butter
5gms caster sugar
5gms English mustard powder
5gms Cayenne pepper
5gms Paprika
5gms ground coriander
5 gms freshly ground pepper
10gms salt
11 mls of red wine vinegar
For the salad:
1 head of fenne
l
20gms dill
1 blood orange, if not available then a normal orange will do.
Rapeseed oil or good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil

 

Preheat your oven to 180oC
 To make the paste melt the butter in a saucepan, then add all other ingredients mixing well.
Bring back to the heat and cook for another 2 minutes, set aside until required. 
Wash and dry the mackerel, then with a sharp
knife score the skin on each side. The deeper the scores the more that the devilled paste with flavour the fish. When the paste
is at room temperature use a pastry brush to apply the devilled paste. Apply as much or as little as you wish.
 
Place the fish onto greaseproof paper and place in the oven for about 10 minutes.
For the salad, segment the
blood orange,placing in a small mixing bowl, using a mandolin thinly slice the fennel, adding this to the bowl, add the
chopped dill, season to taste and finish with some Rapeseed oil or good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil. Allow the salad
to sit for 2-3 minutes to allow the orange juice and salt to soften the fennel.

 

Pan fried gurnard with smoked bacon and wild mushrooms Serves 4

4-8 fillets of gurnard depending on the size.
Ask your fishmonger to fillet and pin-bone the fillets (ask to keep the bones)
For the garnish
80gms pancetta lardons
100gms wild mushrooms (use chestnut or button if wild cannot be found)
80gms small baby onions (do not use round shallots as the taste will be too overpowering)
100mls good chicken stock
Splash of white wine

For the sauce:
Gurnard bones
20gms pancetta lardons
1 Leek sliced
1 carrot sliced
1 onion sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced
20gms tomato puree
1 small tin chopped tomatoes
10gms Fennel seeds
200mls good red wine
200mls good chicken stock
10gms butter

 

A little rapeseed oil or extra virgin oil for frying 

The sauce can be made the day before and stored in the fridge until required.
Add the pancetta to a cold heavy bottomed saucepan and gently fry until all the fat has been released. Add the chopped gurnard bones,
fry for 2 minutes and then add the vegetables. Turn down the heat and cook the vegetables and fish bones for 15-20 minutes.
Add the tomato puree, sweat for 2-3 minutes then add the red wine. At this point turn the heat up and boil until the red wine has
reduced by 2/3. Add the chicken stock, fennel seeds and the chopped tomatoes and simmer until the desired consistency has been reached.
 
Check the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve. The sauce should have a gentle hint of red wine, and a hint of sweetness.
Place aside until required. For the garnish:
Peel the baby onions and fry in a saucepan until coloured, add a splash of white wine,
and then cover with good chicken stock, simmer gently until cooked. Drain and set aside for later. In a heavy bottomed, cold, saucepan
gently fry the bacon lardons, until crisp (note: you do not need any oil in the pan).
 
Add the mushrooms and fry until cooked, add the baby onions and toss with a little butter and chopped parsley. In a heavy bottomed frying
pan, heat the oil until hot, but not smoking. Lightly flour the gurnard fillets and season with salt and pepper. Fry skin side down,
placing them in the pan away from you to avoid splashes. Fry on a medium heat until the skin is lightly coloured and crispy, flip the
fillets over and finish cooking in the pan. Note: If the fillets are large they may have to be finished in a moderate oven. 


 
To serve, spoon a small amount of mashed potato in the middle of the plate, top with the gurnard fillets, then the garnish and finally
boil the red wine sauce, whisk in 10gms of butter to create a silky smooth sauce and pour over and around the fish.

Table Talks December

 
With a festive nip in the air we sneaked into the Stable with a Table to debate the latest Table Talks notion:
‘This House Believes in Father Christmas’. As if the very existence of the jolly fellow were in any doubt!

 

Yes, this was one of our more light-hearted debates, but if we delve into the past, we find a real figure associated with Father Christmas,
or Santa Claus – Saint Nicholas. In his life as a bishop, Nicholas was known for his generosity to the needy and for his love of children.
He was imprisoned for his faith and after his release attended the Council of Nicaea, called to preserve the unity of the church. Now,
St Nicholas Day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on December 6th. So, why do we get our children all excited by a man in red
squeezing down our chimneys on the night of the 24th?

 

Well, first to speak from our Christmas panel was Philippa King. Stonegate’s PR guru suggested Father Christmas could be seen as a
“pre-cursor to a conventional religion”.

 

“It takes a leap of faith to believe in Father Christmas as a child and maybe the same leap of faith is made to believe in the virgin birth.”
And there are, she said, similar expectations that, “If you are good you will get your rewards, whether that be in heaven or your stocking.”
 

 
The writer Cole Morton told us that, to bolster his son’s swaying faith, he wrote a piece in the Sunday Telegraph about phoning Father Christmas.
When Cole got finally got through, Father Christmas said, “Merry Christmas”, in a voice as warm as figgy pudding.” Hhhm! That’s just how we imagined
he would sound, perfect.

 

Spy Magazine, said Cole, worked out that to deliver gifts to the 378 million believing children in the world, Father Christmas would have to travel
at 650 miles per second with flying reindeer pulling a sleigh with 321,300 tonnes of presents.

 

The comedian Frog Morris is not convinced: “There are no known species of reindeer that can fly. You can’t get to 91.8 billion homes in one night and
no one can drink 91.8 billion glasses of brandy in one night, I know this because I’ve tried it.”We’re teaching children capitalism and it begins with
Santa… why don’t we teach children to go out and work and buy presents.”

 

Santa, implausible? Certainly not, argued a little elf (this debate was getting a touch surreal): “Quite obviously my boss does not use conventional means….
It’s quite conceivable that flying reindeer have not been discovered yet.” Kieran the elf was pretty put out to be wasting time on our debate when he has
far more pressing things to be getting on with in the run up to Christmas. Well, he is Manager of Baubles and Chief of the Naughty List.

 

Mark Watkins, chef extraordinaire, took to his feet: “I believe in Father Christmas not because I want to, but because I have to… I was a sloth at Chirstmas,”
Mark explained, “So, I went to Christmas Anonymous. One of the steps was you had to believe in a higher power so I let Father Christmas in.”

 

The pink-clad head of Wall of Sound records, Mark Jones, turned the surrealism up a notch, telling everyone he is a Buddhist and urging us to chant with him.
So, we did. Mark says he believes in faith but is yet to be convinced by Father Christmas.

 

Our host Emma B baited the audience with the suggestion that, “Father Christmas is a kind of faith system,” since, “there is an order in the way we approach it.”

 

“Enough!” cried the audience.

 

Sue Gaisford, put everyone straight: “Children have to be disillusioned at some stage.”

 

Her husband, Rob, added, “In our house my older brother was so frightened of this fat bloke coming down the chimney that my parents had to tell him he parked down the drive.”

 

When the vote was cast, the house passed the notion. It seems we do believe in Father Christmas, or the Christmas spirit, at least.

Table Talks

We’re mid conference season and for all the coverage given to the annual gatherings of the three major parties, you would
think we regarded them as events of monumental significance. So, why is it, as The Economist recently reminded us,
that the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour have fewer members between them than the RSPB? Could it be that the
political party has had its day? A lively debate featuring Ken Livingstone considered this motion at The Bell.

 

 

“The party is the only vehicle we have,” Ken told a larger than usual crowd, “The alternative to the party system is
violence. So, join any political party you can just about stomach.”

 

Matt Korris, a Senior Researcher at the Hansard Society suggested direct referendums might be an alternative, but
his research proved otherwise. “We do need representative democracy. We don’t actually want to make all these decisions,”
he said, adding that just 40 % of people responding to his survey wanted to be involved in local decision making, and only 33% in
national decision making. “It means, in principle, we want other people to take those decisions. The complaint is that they don’t
see it working in the way it ought to be.”

 

Charles Moore, a former editor of The Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph recalled Maggie Thatcher’s era, when her local Conservative
Association in Dartford boasted 3,000 members. “It was tribal,” said Charles, “people had their aspirations and thought the
Conservative party was the vehicle. This was the first generation where women actually had the full vote. Though we all believe in
democracy, we don’t so much care about our vote. If we don’t get engaged we can’t really complain about the result.”

 

The satirist Andy Zaltzman, upon whom our host Emma B pinned the Bell badge for greatest applause, quipped, “The political party
is at its end. Floating voters are bobbing face down on a reservoir of disillusionment.” Andy recognised demonstrations and protest
marches as the current mode of political activism.

 

 

Julia George, presenter of the BBC Politics Show for the South East, said,
“We seem to accept the party system is dying, but we don’t have anything to replace it. A lot of politicians are still kidding themselves
that it’s all ok, but actually the lights have gone out and the party is going on in the dark.” Julia’s utopia would enjoy consensus politics.

 

We all agreed apathy and disillusionment have taken their toll. What is more, an eighteen-year-old in the audience said, politics is
inaccessible, “It’s very rare for people in our groups to have a good understanding of politics, unless they’re studying it,” she said.

 

Fewer than 10 people in our thronging stable with a table were fully-fledged members of a political party. Yet, the motion was denied.
We voted to keep the party system, albeit with a few modifications – primaries to elect local candidates, for example. We could yet see the day.

The Pig: Its life, its loves and your happiness.

 
Here at the Bell we revere the noble pig in all it’s forms, and not more so than on our new ‘Pig board’.
Select from our plethora of pork based snacks, like Black pudding bon bons, crispy pork bites, spiced ribs and sausage rolls.
We’ve taken all of the best bits of pig, and married them with their perfect partner, be it Tom Maynard’s Bramley apples,
House of Parliament Sauce or crisp and light puff pastry, to create a truly mouth watering selection of pig treats.

Come to the Bell Inn in Ticehurst to sample our wares and maybe enjoy a pint or 2 as well.
The pig board, and it’s associated partners, are available between 12pm and 9:30pm every day (Sundays 12pm and 9pm).


 

Comedy Bingo

What to expect from a Bell favourite, Mr Frog Morris? It started with wizardly predictions and just got wackier. The first round was
played with ping pong balls bated into a paddling pool, and finished with Mr Morris resplendent in a gimp costume retrieving numbers
by throwing himself into a somewhat larger paddling pool. Prizes all round from curly wurlies to toasted sandwich makers with a bit
of fake tan in between. Madness and VERY Bell.

 

Cricket

It was a quintessential English scene, glorious sunny afternoon, cricket pitch with views over the rolling Sussex countryside to distract
the fielders when play flagged a bit. The Bell played for a victorious result winning by 4 wickets against the Donkey’s Impediment then
all back to The Bell for a sportsman-like pint or two. Men of the match included the Wright brothers and Danny the barman.
THE bell cricket