Any time soon I am hoping to receive a lumpy packet in the post.  It should contain my very own Friar William of Ockham in the form of a hand -knitted glove puppet.  He is one of my philosopher/theologian heroes most noted for his cutting blade as in ‘Occam’s Razor.’  I wanted my own, to remind me — and others — of the basic principle that he promulgated.  Which is that the simplest explanation is likely to be right.  He uses his razor to cut away extraneous causes and possibilities. 

I have a friend who is a knitter and I found a knitting pattern for a glove puppet of Saint Francis and emailed it to her.  “Lose the soppy birds on his shoulders, please. You know what he should be carrying.”  Came there back the caustic response:  “There’s a dearth of hand-knitted cut-throat razors on the internet but I will see what I can do.”  And then she added, “Just been talking to a friend about William of Ockham and the kiss principle.”  “Ah!” I chirruped breezily back “Kisses?  We can’t have too many of those can we?”  The computer gave me an old fashioned look, as they do. “KISS.” she replied, “As in: Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.” 


I can see myself lending him out to sit on the edge of the pulpit to remind preachers of the KISS principle and first causes.

Fifty years ago I attended a free food and beer feast in St Chad’s College Durham, which was part of a week’s mission.  I wasn’t concerned about the mission but — being profoundly greedy — I was drawn in by the beer and food.  I found myself sitting next to a man in a black cassock and grey scapular.  He asked about me and my plans.  I said that after Christmas I was about to go to Leeds to teach in a Roman Catholic girls’ secondary modern. 

He said: “Are you a Catholic?’

“No,” I replied, “Common or garden Church of England.” 

“We are growing some interesting things in our garden at the moment,” he said.

A week or two ago we reminded each other of that conversation which was the beginning of a very special friendship that has lasted through half a century.  A friendship of shared laughter and tears, the ups and downs of the human life: the joys, losses, and anxieties of family life, not only in mine but in his within the family of his community.  The sharing of our journeys, ideas, books, exploring new territory, new landscapes, new views.

Because he has become frail I was seeing him in his room.  This was a first but there were no surprises; it felt familiar. There were books, paintings, cards,