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Diary

Fair exchange?Great excitement on the domestic front: I have been asked to audition foChannel 4's Wife Swap. I receive the invitation on my return froholiday, which I don't remember being marked by marital feuds (well, everyongets a Spanish parking ticket once).So it is with relief that I discover I have not been put forward by my othehalf, but by our soon-to-be-married features editor, who is always keen for good story and obviously not eligible herself.The programme-makers call her, and say they are looking for a livelChristian woman with a strong and stable family, and she thinks of me. (Hmm, can tick one of those boxes.) It must be someone closely connected with thChurch; so a priest or someone married to one is ideal. No children under twoso the fact that I have four who will never see toddlerhood again is jusperfect, says Sam, the researcher responsible for finding the For readers who are unfamiliar with the programme: it is billed as "mums arthrust into new families, putting their values to the extreme test"; a wife i.e. me - swaps her home and lifestyle with another wife. The programme-makermatch up the families and women to provide a fair amount of drama: career womawith nanny swaps with stay-at-home mum, and so on.Already, I imagine I will be pitched against a teetotal, dog-hating atheistwho keeps an immaculate house. But, of course, this is pure speculation, asfor weeks, Sam's number keeps jumping off the screen, and yet I cannot brinmyself to make that call.I test it with the family. How would you feel if I went on Wife SwapSo I ring Sam anyway, in the name of journalism, you understand. She admitshe has looked at a number of families, who, for various reasons, have noworked out. The vicar's-wife, mother-of-four angle really gets to her. "Yosound great. We could just come on a short pilot visit, and see how it goesRemind me of your family details. . ."Realising that I am about to sell my soul, I ask about the sleepinarrangements. I mean, what if . . ? "Don't worry about that. One of us will bwith you all the time." So not only do I get a new husband and family, but new best friend, too. I settle for vicarage life. But, if any readers arinterested, I have Sam's number.The die is ca
Gambling is quite the issue nowadays. Here at the CT, we havcovered it from all angles (the Prescott one included). The head of the CasinAdvisory Panel even made it on to our back page< href="/80256fa1003e05c1/httppublicpages/4473a940de41e7c8802571ef003e4847?opendocument22 September). So it is with interest that I receive a personal copy oGambling by Mike Atherton, the former England cricket captain.Did you know that Jericho houses the Oasis Casino, where the roulette wheelare polished daily, but no one plays? It was built in 1998, and, before thsecond intifada in September 2000, thousands of Israelis (gambling beinillegal in Israel) crossed the border every day to have a spin. A skeletostaff is still kept on to await the return of peace.The author quotes the manager of the casino, Brett Anderson: "Israelis hava passion for gambling. The state of Israel is a gamble; so perhaps that's whthey go at it with such intensity."Political journeyI take the train to Manchester for a feature: big mistake. Not thinterview, I hasten to add, but the return journey, which coincides with thend of the Labour Party Conference. I finally find a seat, and squash in nexto a lady who breeds Afghan hounds, hates politics, and works on the payrolfor Network Rail. (There is a great deal you can learn between Manchester anStoke.)Opposite us are two political PR gurus, outdoing each other with tales frothe conference. They are going all the way to London. One of them leanconspiratorially across the table. "The trouble with our world is the bottocan fall out so easily. The religious world must be much more stable."Dangerous timesI secure an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is globetrotting tpromote a new biography of himself. Can I get through security to chat with hiin transit at Heathrow, suggests his assistant? My only other brush with armeguards while on Church Times business was in Athens, when lookinround the Religious Services Centre at the Olympics. (To be fair, it was my twcompanions who fell under suspicion outside the complex, as I had talked my wain with a press pass.)So I settle for interview by mobile, not nearly as satisfactory, and am soochastened by my own cowardice. Dr Tutu regularly received death threats durinthe anti-apartheid campaign. He ignored most of them, and those he didn't hprayed about.This day in historyPeople who are older than I am often remark that they can remember whathey were doing when President Kennedy was shot. I wonder whether thDean-designate of Westminster Abbey, Canon John Hall, will remember what elshappened on the day his appointment was announced, Tuesday 19 September?For reference, and I can vouch for both events, it was national Take YouDog to Work Day, and international Talk Like A Pirate Day. Check out thwebsites.In addition to being a Church Times reporter, Rachel Harden imarried to a vicar in the diocese of St Alban

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