Friday, 13 December 2013

Out of the mouth of babes - kid's 'Pantastic' reviews


Out of the mouths of babes….Children can be the harshest critics, but no one at the Sacred Heart Primary School at Presby, Byermoor had a bad word to say about Act1 Productions latest panto, “Peter Pantastic”. The pupils were even hooked on Pan’s mortal enemy, the villainous Captain! Here are some of their quotes:

“I liked Peter Pan the most” - Angus 

“I liked the panto, it was really funny. Me and my friends enjoyed it” – Cameron 

“It was very fun. I liked Captain Hook because he was very funny” - Jesse 

“Peter Pan is better than Captain Hook” - Hannah 

“Tinkerbell became Stinkerbell - really funny” - Andrew 

“It was excellent and exciting” - Ellie 

“It was great” - Tom 

“I thought it was fun” - Michaela 

“ I thought it was really, really funny when Captain Hook the pirate did 
 a roly poly” - Jacob. 

Other comments by schoolmates:

“I liked the blue and green fairy”

“I think it was so cool and amazing and funny”  

“I think that was the best panto ever!!!!!” 

For more information, contact:


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Natural Disasters - is anyone to blame?

       No doubt in some people’s minds - it’s all God’s fault. After any loss or disaster, great or small, even people who don’t believe in a higher power find He comes in very useful when they’re looking for someone to blame.
       Shockingly, some religious fundamentalists believe that natural disasters are the result of divine wrath, citing the Noachin Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and other Bible accounts. One well-known evangelist, for instance, felt the devastating earthquake in Haiti which killed over 200,000 people, was due to the island having ‘sworn a pact with the devil’.
       What they all fail to realise, however, is that, far from being indiscriminate, Biblical ‘Acts of God’ destroyed only the wicked - and only then after repeated warnings were sounded, giving them the chance to repent. Significantly, those who heeded the warnings, such as Noah and Lot, always managed to escape.*
       Other commentators, even if they don’t actually point the finger at God, wonder why He lets such bad things happen – a sentiment shared by various religious leaders as they’re wheeled in front of the cameras to explain these terrible events.
       According to the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, almost 300,000 people (good and bad) were killed by 373 natural disasters during 2010 – an astonishing escalation from 300 catastrophes spanning over 24 years, from 1975 to 1999. And recent disasters have done nothing to diminish the view that weather patterns are becoming ever more unstable and extreme.
       Something is obviously going on! But if it isn’t God who brings them, who or what is the cause and why are they occurring with such sickening regularity?  In a recent report, the United Nations claims: “Populations are too often being concentrated in risky areas such as flood plains. In addition, the destruction of forests and wetlands is harming the capacity of the environment to withstand hazards.
       ‘Looming above all this is the threat of global climate change and rising sea levels as a result of increased greenhouse gas concentrations.” The statement goes on to add that all these problems have been caused “by human activity”.+        So, whether you believe in Him or not, it isn’t God who causes innocent people to suffer. Instead, all blame for natural disasters should be laid firmly where it belongs - at the altar of human greed and selfish exploitation.

+Since writing this post, concern has been growing over frightening advances in Tesla technology. The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) which is being developed by US military forces is thought to 'boil the upper atmosphere' with catastrophic effects.  

*Jesus accurately prophesied that during his presence in the Last Days there would be wars, food shortages, earthquakes and pestilences (Luke 21:10,11; Matthew 24:3-7; Revelation 6:1-11). However, these events were highlighted as part of a composite sign for humans to recognise the times, not as acts of vengeance from the Almighty. The following article explains why we can be sure that God is NOT the cause of indiscriminate destruction. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

All at sea with Captain Catastrophe - The Runaway Children 2

Since starting his travels five years ago, hed been shipwrecked at least twice, not counting the times his vessel had been beached, scuppered, squashed, upturned or stranded on a sandbank somewhere inconvenient. He was also very good at getting lost, having sailed around Fiji four times before wondering why it took so long to reach Dover. No wonder hed been dubbed Catastrophe by fellow seafarers. In fact, every time he left port, coastguards throughout the world took bets on when hed meet his next disaster. Of course, it mattered little to him if people poked fun, but things were different now.  Now, two young lives depended on his seamanship and, for the first time during his watery exile, he wished with all his heart hed taken lessons!
With great difficulty, he staggered towards the prow, fighting against the fiercely squalling winds while raindrops big as jam jars pelted down remorselessly. AS he lurched from side to side, Captain Bob tried desperately to lash the sails and fasten the rigging, but the deck had become so slippery, it was almost impossible to stay on his feet while the waters swelled with increasing power, tossing the vessel every which way but upright. 
Down below, the boys were feeling distinctly queasy and their arms ached through holding onto the table. Do you think we ought to help him? asked Odi, trying very hard not to panic. Joe shook his head. He told us to stay here! he yelled, unable to hear himself above the now earth-splitting thunder that accompanied the constant shafts of jagged, pure white energy. The boat rose upward from the stern and jiggled violently, as though determined to shake the boys grip from the table and they both screamed with terror as the craft slapped downwards again, almost pulling their arms from their sockets.  Immediately, there was a sickening crack from the deck. Im going up! Odi insisted. If Captain Catastrophe gets swept overboard, were done for!
Up aloft, the Captain was in a dreadful state, scarcely able to stand due to the force of the gale that howled menacingly around the Mersey May while the boats joints creaked under the strain. To make matters worse, the deluge had sucked all the air from his wellies and waterproof trousers, rendering them rigid, vacuum-packed, and clinging tightly to his legs. Unable to bend his knees, all Captain Catastrophe could do was cling desperately to the rails and haul his huge bulk along the deck, lunging wildly from one spot to another until finally reaching his goal. With one hand clutching the winch, he stretched his other hand towards the rigging of the main sail and started to untie it. This in itself was a Herculean task, but then a particularly savage gust wrenched the rope from his grasp and knocked him off his feet.  At the same time, a sudden gush of air shot up his jacket and, unable to escape due to the tight neck fastening, caused the garment to blow up like an enormous yellow balloon. Poor Captain Catastrophe completely lost resistance to the elements, and was literally blown across the deck, bouncing in his jacket like a buoy, until his head struck the tiller. But for an open cupboard under which his inflated jacket got wedged, hed have been dragged overboard by the ferocious surge of water.  Now completely helpless, the Captain lay with his upper body jammed into the cupboard and his legs sticking out, stiff as boards.
What do we do now? yelled Odi in dismay.
The jig….the jig…! Captain Catastrophe replied from the cupboard.
What?! Neither Joe nor Odi had a clue what he meant.
 The thingummy jig! the Captain continued, frantically waving his one free hand towards the mast. Pull down the sail! Its going to break!
Sure enough, the mainsail was flapping and yawing perilously above them. Here! said Joe. Well tie ropes around our waists in case we get washed away! Once secured, both boys inched their way towards the mast, trying to dodge the rigging that whipped from side to side. It seemed to take ages, but at last, they reached the mast and started winding together to bring the sail down. Unfortunately, theyd hardly begun this task when the cable jammed.
Its stuck! cried Odi. One of us will have to climb up to release it! Ill go, Im the strongest!
No Joe protested, Im lighter than you are. Itll be less likely to break. Not waiting to argue, Joe grabbed the mast and began to scale up it.
Be careful! yelled Odi, but Joe couldnt hear him above the howling gale and the gushing of the sea. At first it was almost impossible to climb;  his feet kept slipping and every time the boat dipped into the hollow of a wave, he had to cling on desperately. But slowly, carefully, agonisingly, he managed to inch himself upwards, until at last, he could grasp the cable near the top of the sail.
Start winching now! he cried and waved at Odi who had a crick in his neck through looking up. While Odi set about his task, Joe began to inch downwards, a feat that was even harder than the ascent, for he couldnt see where to put his feet. To make matters worse, he was still a long way from the deck when he heard a sickening crack. The mast had split beneath him!
Help! he screamed, as he felt the mast lurch sideways.
Hang on! cried Odi. Ill pull you in. And he grabbed the other end of the rope which was tied around Joe and yanked with all his might. Immediately, the mast fell sideways and dangled over the sea, leaving Joe floundering headfirst in mid air, with only Odi and the rope between him and certain death. I should be used to this by now he thought wryly, and prayed Odi was as strong as he liked to boast.
Fortunately, Captain Catastrophe had managed to squeeze himself out of the cupboard in time to help Odi haul Joe in. The three of them collapsed in a heap, groaning with fatigue.
As usual, Odi was the first to speak. I feel like Ive been in a Tom and Jerry cartoon! he remarked. It was then he noticed the Captains balloonish appearance. And, if you dont mind me saying so, Captain he added cheekily, You could do with a few less fry-ups! 
                “Glad someone still has a sense of humour” said Captain Catastrophe as he reached into his pocket. “All in all, that was quite a squall.” He pulled out a small penknife and plunged it into his oilskin jacket, which, to the boys’ delight, deflated with the most disgusting noise.
   Hey, Captain exclaimed Odi, cheekily, You make a brilliant whoopie cushion!

Extract from "The Runaway Children Volume 2 - The Astonishing Mr Smyle" 

Friday, 11 October 2013

"Don't stop believing"

         That was the advice from ex-pat Peter Coghlan when interviewed recently by Eugene Henderson for an article on assisted suicide.
       Pete knows better than most how easy it is to give into despair.  Two years ago, he suffered a massive brainstem stroke which left him locked-in - paralysed except for his eyes, his only means of communication.
       At the time of the article, which appeared in the Sunday Express on 29th September 2013, police were investigating the possible suicide of former teacher, Victoria Meppen-Walter, who was left in constant pain after a routine operation.
      Having woken up from a coma, Pete overheard doctors saying he’d little chance of recovery. The thought of living the rest of his life unable to move drove him to beg his mother to help him die.
       “Once people believe there is no hope, they give up, but I’ve been through a living hell and it was better than dying,” said Pete. “With the right care, physio and motivation, it can happen. I’m living proof. If you keep trying, things can change.”
       Now recovered from his ordeal, Pete lives in Perth Australia with his wife Jade and has written a book based on his experiences as a locked-in patient. “In the Blink of an Eye” is available on Amazon. (See links)

For more information about Peter Coghlan and locked-in syndrome:




Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dreams and how they affect us

Sally felt herself being driven along a rough, undulating path to be confronted by the head of an enormous mouse.....
After someone pushed Alan off the edge of a cliff, he found himself falling into a dark, fathomless abyss....
Jennifer desperately tried to escape as a gang of sinister men approached with pickaxes in their hands, but her legs refused to move....
Flapping his arms vigorously, David began to gain height until at last he could soar above the treetops, taking care to avoid the telephone cables overhead....
No, not horror films or scenes from science fiction, but experiences many people have while safely tucked up in their beds. Possibly due to something they’ve eaten, like cheese!
Dreaming is not only normal but absolutely vital for our mental health. Without it, we become tetchy and anxious, undergoing personality changes and finding it difficult, even impossible, to concentrate.
According to researchers, infants dream for up to 70 percent of their sleep time, while adults get by with just 24 percent REM activity (Rapid Eye Movement) when the brain is at its most active. Even cats, dogs and other mammals are thought to dream, a fact borne out by their yelping, twitching, growling, grunting and other animal expressions during sleep.
But whoever we are, wherever we live and whatever our circumstances, we all have dreams, although not everyone remembers them; the dreams we DO recall are the ones we have immediately before waking, before they slip like threads of gossamer from our minds.
What happens when we dream
When we nod off, our sleep becomes progressively deeper, reaching a state of total unconsciousness until starting to get lighter. It’s during this lighter phase of sleep when dreaming, or REM activity, occurs - a cycle that is repeated 5-6 times. On average, we can expect to dream for a total of 90-120 minutes throughout the night – roughly the same length as a feature film, though maybe not as thrilling. This is because the most common form of mental activity isn’t dreaming about incredible situations, but ‘sleep thinking’ – a process involving real-life events which tend to be rather mundane. Sleep thinking may however help us resolve any problems or worries we may have.
In fact, with the exception of neurons related to concentration and memory, our brains are actually busier when we dream than when we’re awake. But that’s only to be expected from such a complex organ; the brain has up to 50 billion elements generating between 100-300 signals every second! No wonder it never stops working.
Some dreams can be decidedly unpleasant. Past events and impressions obviously play a part – army veterans may be haunted by horrific wartime experiences, while victims of crime may re-live the fear and panic of their original ordeal.
Nor do they have to be particularly dramatic. Some of the most terrifying dreams can centre on normally innocuous objects, like dustpans or cupboards or mirrors which may suddenly seem sinister and threatening.
Children are particularly prone to frightening dreams. According to a study by mental health experts in Mannheim, Germany, 9 out of 10 youngsters are awoken by nightmares such as being chased, falling, natural disasters and war. Interestingly, gender has a bearing on how dreams are dealt with; boys tending to forget them altogether, while girls talk or even write about them, something which experts encourage. Drawing pictures of the dream or acting it out can also help children to overcome their fears so, as a result, the nightmare eventually occurs less often.
Interpreting dreams  
Humans have been fascinated by dreams since the world began, with many pagan nations including the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians using them as a guide to various aspects of life.  The Babylonians were particularly in thrall to the subconscious, having “such trust in dreams that on the eve of important decisions they slept in temples, hoping for counsel”.
More recently, Sigmund Freud viewed dreams as “the royal road to the unconscious” and tried to interpret them in the light of patients’ repressed desires. Such case studies have since been dismissed by many scientists as over-simplified.
Then there are the ‘dream books’ in which various pundits attach meanings and psychological insights to certain features of a dream – in some cultures, snakes, for example, are thought to represent disease. However, in her book The Dream Game, Ann Faraday believes such books are “equally useless, whether they be traditional or based on some modern psychological theory.”
Another specialist, Dr Rosalind Cartwright, is impressed by the differences between dream interpreters, with many psychotherapists insisting their interpretations are correct, “... apparently quite oblivious to the fact that their colleagues, on the basis of the same dream, may see quite different things for you.”
Can dreams foretell the future?
Many people believe so. For instance, a 1999 survey by sociologists found that over half of Russians believe in prophetic dreams and omens. And they’re by no means alone.  
The Bible has several instances of divinely inspired dreams, including Joseph’s warning to flee to Egypt with Mary before Herod could harm their child Jesus. Jacob, his son Joseph, Daniel, Ezekiel, even pagan rulers Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Pharaoh of Egypt had visions. Yet these were related specifically to God’s purpose and, once the Bible was completed, dreams were no longer used as channels for divine communication.
On the contrary, dreams are just a normal if essential part of life, helping us make sense of our experiences and enhancing our memory. So enjoy them for what they are and, if you’re disturbed by nightmares, instead of looking for any ‘meaning’ in them, look for causes nearer to home.

And cut out the cheese!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Daydreams - Adventures of the Mind

       “Advantage Miss Brean. Championship Point.”
       The spectators hold their breath, waiting for the reigning Queen of Wimbledon to save herself from an unexpected and humiliating defeat. Surely, her 15-year old opponent, this wild card child with a devastating backhand volley, the perfect figure, flawless complexion and really beautiful hair, won’t be able to hold her nerve! Slowly, carefully, the older player tosses the ball into the air, draws back her arm, positions her racket and Wham! The ball zings across the court and skims over the net, spinning wide of the young girl opposite. Jacy reaches out, every sinew stretched towards the round yellow object and....
       “Jacy Brean! What’s the square root of 945?” Startled by this unwarranted intrusion, I find myself back in the classroom with an empty exercise book in front of me. Miss Sheehan is not amused. “Write out one hundred times, ‘I must not daydream during double maths!’”
       From as far back as I remember my life has been divided into three main states of consciousness. When I’m asleep, when I’m working and when I’m daydreaming. The first two activities together account for...oooh, 33 percent of my time. The rest of my time, if I’m honest, has been spent in a parallel universe.
       But I’m getting better. Motherhood, the need to earn a living and do the normal things of life – such as eating – have forced me to ‘get real’, a state of consciousness to which I used to be a total stranger but where, for the most part, I now reside. I’ve not stopped daydreaming completely, though. After all, daydreaming has its uses. While waiting in a queue at supermarket checkouts, I’m actually galloping across the desert on a beautiful Arab stallion; when confronted by a dull and over-talkative acquaintance, I’m mentally preparing for the next assault on Everest; and train journeys fly by when I’m auditioning for my latest West End play. Last time this happened, Judi Dench took so long over her soliloquy, she made me miss my stop!
       Daydreaming is such a wonderful way to escape the problems and tedium of day to day life, I’m surprised more people don’t indulge. But there you have it – the world is separated into practical people who concentrate on realities and actually achieve something, and people like me whose successes are merely imagined.
       People from all walks of life have imagination, of course, but daydreaming goes beyond the normal ability to envision situations. It puts the dreamer centre stage where he or she can actually feel the relevant emotions, as though living in a novel or film.  Such virtual experiences can help a person to develop empathy and to explore outcomes to real-life problems. And, according to a recent study by Daniel Levinson, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA*, people whose minds wander during tasks may be more intelligent, with greater ‘working memory’ which enables them to do two things at once.
       But there’s a downside. Spending most of one’s time on ‘another planet’ may prevent us from confronting issues in the here and now. It can distance us from others and result in an unrealistic, overblown view of ourselves and our abilities. Does every XFactor hopeful really have what it takes, or are they merely chasing the ‘dream’? Sadly, you only have to watch the initial auditions to see how few competitors possess the necessary talent – talent invariably honed by the finalists through years of sweat, tears and training.
       Lack of concentration can be embarrassing too. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve offended by chuckling after they’ve told me their dog/cat/grandmother’s died! It’s not that I’m heartless, mind – just that I lose track between setting sail for Fiji and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
       And, while daydreaming may seem harmless on the whole, much depends on their content. A craving for riches, for example, can lead to gambling, fraud or other dubious practices. Romantic fantasies may revolve around another person’s partner, resulting in broken hearts, homes and families. Or they may lead us to follow a glamorous but highly competitive career to which we may not even be suited.
       A few years ago, I asked a group of friends whether they daydreamed. All did. One girl had the very natural dream of marriage and children, the proverbial cottage with roses round the door. One (rather aggressive) young man imagined battling with a faceless opponent over a parking space – an incident that led to violence and a highly dramatic court case.
       During the discussions, my best friend, Lynda arrived and listened intently without adding any revelations of her own. But then, no one could imagine Linda daydreaming, she was far too down-to-earth. “Of course I daydream!” she exclaimed. “Really?” we asked, by now completely agog. “What about?” Linda’s eyes narrowed with concentration, as we awaited her pronouncement. Finally, she remembered her most cherished fantasy:   
       “Tax rebates.”
*Published in Psychological Science
See also:

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Roots to the rescue!

Nice to see former tree-loving, eco-warrior Swampy hitting the news again. Seems he has finally emerged from his tunnels to live in a yurt with his four children in a remote part of Wales. Swampy is the inspiration for my character Roots who helps The Runaway Children escape the clutches of the evil Nunjas in the first book of the trilogy.* 

Roots to the rescue

The village council began to groan again with most of the members unable to see any reason to help two snotty little middle-class school kids. All except for one rather pale, skinny young man with extraordinary dreadlocks, which twisted and twirled in every direction but his scalp. Hed been listening intently to Laurels pleas and was deeply disturbed by them.
Noticing his thoughtful expression, Laurel turned to address him directly. "What do you think, Roots?" asked Laurel.
"I think, he began falteringly, I mean…that is…what I think is, that every little person who gets stolen away from his house should have an automatic right to be rescued, and if no-one else will do it, then…then it ought to be us. That's what I think..... and I'd like it to go on record, please!"

             Roots in a hole

"Come on, folks", cried Roots "follow me". With that, he dived down a large rabbit hole and Laurel encouraged each of the children to crawl in after him. "Don't be afraid", she kept saying. "Rabbits won't hurt you." Conscious of his new role as the man of the family, Miles went first, then Odi, then Joe followed by Alice. After making sure all the children were safely down the rabbit hole, Laurel called up again to her wode-painted colleagues who'd stayed behind to defend the village, "Send word when it's safe again. We're heading for the canal." Then she too disappeared into the hole.
"It's dark!" cried Joe as he valiantly scrambled after Roots. "Don't worry," his big sister tried to reassure him "just keep going and we'll be alright." Secretly she was terrified, not so much by the darkness, but rather at the thought of touching any worms.
"Are we nearly there?" asked Miles, anxiously. "Hard to say, really" Roots replied. "I've never been this far before. We might end up having to dig our way out."
"You mean we're trapped!" squeaked Odi, temporarily deserted by his usual aplomb.
"I wouldn't say TRAPPED exactly", said Roots. "More like..... buried. But never mind, we're sure to come out somewhere."
"Help, help, I'm suffocating!" yelled Odi, his chest heaving up and down.
"Hush up, Odi" said Joe "you're scaring everybody."
"But I can't breathe!" Odi was now really beginning to panic, gulping desperately for air.
From the rear, Laurel called out soothingly "Deep breaths, Odi! Deep breaths!"
"Not TOO deep, mind", said Roots "You'll use up all the oxygen." 

Roots joins the jet set

"Quick!" cried Jo "Switch on the engine!" Miles ran to the back of the barge and slipped the key into the lock. As soon as he turned it, the barge set off at an amazingly spanking pace for such a heavy vessel. Roots had just untied the rope from its mooring and was now trotting alongside with it on the towpath.
"Hey! That's them!" bawled one of the trench coats and started running towards the Judith Rose.
 "They've seen us!" Roots yelled.  "Press the Booster, Miles!"  He was just about to hop on board as Miles touched the large red button. This caused the barge to lunge forward at such an incredible speed, it yanked the unfortunate Roots off the towpath. "Sack this!!" he hollered, clinging desperately to the rope, his feet wafting in the air behind him. "Sack this for a Kleenex full of bogies!"
"Supersonic!" whooped Miles and he waved his fist above his head as the barge blazed along the canal, sending ducks and fishermen diving for cover. "Wit woos!"
Meanwhile, Roots had recovered his balance sufficiently to press his heels into the water and lean backwards like a skier. "Look at me!" he cried, jubilantly. "I've joined the jet set!"

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


              Now I have to hold my hands up here. Dates really aren’t my bag. Nevertheless, the news that a new timeline for ancient Egypt has now been established by archaeologists,* along with the promise of a forthcoming feature film, got me thinking about the plagues. Not something I usually ponder on while hoovering – after all, we’ve enough problems in the world to worry about today, never mind 5000 and odd years ago! Nevertheless, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do some research.
       So what were they all about, these plagues? Most people have heard how Moses, commissioned by God, confronted the Egyptian Pharaoh and demanded freedom for the Jewish slaves. Had this haughty ruler been more reasonable  there’d be no story but, unfortunately for him and his subjects, he refused to even consider this request, dismissing Moses and brother Aaron with the words: “Who is this God and why should I obey him?”
       The Pharaoh’s intransigence was to be his undoing as, time and time again, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob brought a series of catastrophes against Egypt, the greatest world power of its day. These plagues not only forced Pharaoh to liberate the Israelites but served an even higher purpose; to magnify God’s name amongst the nations, in the process humiliating and executing judgement on Egypt’s most revered gods and goddesses:
       Turning Nile waters into blood
       After Aaron struck the river with his rod, he struck a major bow against Nile-god Hapi. As all the rivers pools and waters of Egypt turned to blood, fish died creating a stink. Some types of fish were venerated by the Egyptians and even mummified.
       Plague of Frogs
       This miracle proved the Hebrew God’s superiority over Heqt, the Frog-goddess. In Egypt, frogs symbolised fertility and resurrection but now they teemed throughout the nation, getting into ovens, troughs and every corner of the home.
       Dust turned into Gnats
       Up to this point, Egypt’s priests, headed by Jannes and Jambres, were able to duplicate God’s miracles through magic arts supposedly bestowed by the god Thoth. But on this occasion their powers proved unequal to the task and they were forced to acknowledge the Hebrew God’s superiority: “It is the finger of God!”
       Swarms of Gadflies
       This presented another demarcation being the first plague not to affect the Israelites in Goshen. From now on, only the Egyptians would suffer from God’s miracles. No one knows for sure what type of insect gadflies were but the English term usually includes bloodsucking horseflies and botflies. Botfly larvae are parasites which burrow into human and animal flesh, causing great distress and even death.
       Pestilence on Livestock
       Attention now turned to Cow-goddess Hathor,  Apis who resembled a bull, and Nut, a female deity conceived as a cow with stars fixed to its belly. Again, God made a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. Not one animal in Goshen died from this severe disease.
       This was a direct attack upon deities with supposed healing powers such as Thoth, Isis and Ptah. Again, Egypt’s gods were put to shame, along with the priests who became so badly afflicted they couldn’t appear before Pharaoh.
       As well as his other roles, Thoth was apparently responsible for rain and thunder too, while lightning came under the power of Reshpu. Neither, of course, could prevent Almighty God from showering “a very heavy hail” which killed many Egyptians and their animals.
       Anyone who has seen a swarm of locusts on the attack can imagine the devastation caused by this eighth plague which highlighted the impotence of Min, a fertility god whom worshippers believed protected crops.
       The whole nation was plunged into pitch-blackness which Sun-gods Ra and Horus were unable to alleviate. Despite his other ‘hat’ as god of sun, moon and stars, Thoth was just as helpless to cast light upon his followers.
       Death of Firstborn
       This final plague hit right at the heart of Egypt’s entire belief system. Like every Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh believed he was a son of Ra or Amon-Ra  and that his first-born son likewise resulted from a union between the Sun-god and the queen.  As a god incarnate, death was unthinkable, yet the death of Pharaoh’s heir proved no one – not even their gods - could stand against the power of the Almighty.