You know how it is with Wikipedia: you go there for some specific thing, and the next thing you know you’ve spent hours looking at different pages. I went there recently looking for some information and I somehow ended up reading the entry for doner kebabs, which somehow led me to the entry on currywurst.
Currywurst is Germany’s most popular street food, especially in the cities of Berlin and Hamburg. It consists of slices of bratwurst topped with a tomato sauce that’s best described as “curry ketchup”. It might not sound that good at first, but trust me: it’s delicious. It’s also amazingly easy to make at home:
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chili sauce (or Sriracha hot sauce)
1 good-sized onion
3 tablespoons honey or sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic (diced)
1 tablespoon paprika
Curry powder to taste (I use 4 tablespoons)
1 pound bratwurst or sausage of your choice
1 beer (optional)
French fries (optional)
1 2qt. pot with lid
1 large cooking skillet
1) Chop the onion and place into the 2qt. pot. Add the garlic and just enough oil to coat the mixture, then cook over medium heat until transparent, stirring frequently.
2) Add tomato sauce, chili or hot sauce, honey or sugar, black pepper, paprika and curry powder. You may defer adding the curry powder until the very end if you’re cooking for people with varying “spiciness thresholds”, although for best taste add it now. Stir well.
3) Bring the sauce almost to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) While sauce is simmering, cook bratwurst according to package instructions. I prefer cooking the sausages in a pan in beer, but that’s just me.
5) When sausages are fully cooked, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then cut the sausages “on the slant” into bite-sized pieces. When done, add to currywurst sauce and stir.
6) Deep-fry some french fries. Put them on the side of a plate, then spoon the currywurst onto the plate. Eat the currywurst as-is, and use the currywurst sauce as a ketchup for the fries.
Wow. At first, I was a bit disappointed. I wanted some kind of cliffhanger, some kind of thing that would keep me on the edge of my seat until next season. But then I thought about it a bit. I remembered the end of series 1 of Life On Mars, and how the writers tricked us then, too. So then I took a deep breath… and was like “Wow… that was heavy. What just happened would suck on so many different levels”.
The final episode of Series 1 was, for Alex, the ultimate “good news\bad news” situation: knowing an ultimate love in your present day from someone in your past… and also finding out a terrible secret about your family… the worst kind of secret… and in the worst possible way.
The episode beings with Alex detailing the events of the day… 10 October 1981… the day her parents died. We then see her at the prison interrogating Arthur Layton – the person who shot her in 2008, and the “drugs kingpin” she arrested and sent to prison in episode 1. He promises Alex that he’ll never tell her any of his secrets.
Back at the station, it’s almost like like one of those old Western films with all the cops asleep at the station. The Manc Lion is throwing darts, while Chris and Ray nap. Alex walks in and quietly picks up a phone, which she puts it down on the desk and stealthy dials the phone on her desk. She pretends that it’s an informant calling in with a tip about a car bomb. Unfortunately, Ray and Chris don’t seem to take the matter too seriously… especially when Viv walks in and announces that Lord Scarman is coming for an inspection. Gene then gathers the troops and gives them the stereotypical “let’s go gang” speech. It’s one of those moments I both love and hate about Ashes to Ashes: the show pays homage to 80s cop shows (just as Life On Mars did with 70s cop shows like The Sweeney). And 80s cop shows had a lot of these cheesy moments… but it’s just awkward to watch in 2008.
Anyway, the entire station begins feverishly cleaning up the station and most everyone forgets about Alex’s bomber. Alex, seeing as she can get no help at the moment, goes to watch her father practice law in a London courtroom. She has flashbacks about being a child and playing in the courtroom while wearing dad’s fancy wig. She approaches him after the courtroom is cleared and introduces herself. She pleads with him about the bomb threat. Her father won’t kow-tow to anyone, and he’ll tells Alex that he will live his life as he pleases. He then calls Alex eccentric and tells her to take care. Alex decides that if her father won’t protect the family, she’ll have to.
Back at the station, Chris brings Alex a list of blue Ford Escorts. She has no idea whose car the family will take, but she sees a name on the list that immediately sticks out: Angus Ashton. He’s a gay rights activist and friend of the Price family. He will be at a gay rights rally that day in London. Alex begs Gene for Ray, and the two of them go off to investigate the parade… but not before Gene has a fit about the trophy case. I don’t know what was in the trophy case before – probably booze – but it was made presentable to Lord Scarman by emptying it… completely. So Gene tells a detective to go to a nearby pawn shop and buy some sports trophies. He hands the him some cash and tells the detective that if the pawnshop owner haggles over the price “tell him that his wife will get a video”. He then asks Viv who’s in the cells at the moment. When Viv names four or five harmless regulars, Gene tells Viv to let them go. This makes Chris to make a wise crack about “empty cells: during Lord Scarman’s visit. Gene then orders Chris to the cells on the charge of “exposing himself on a bus”. Hunt tells Chris to tell Lord Scarman what a “lovely nick” it is, and he’ll get him out soon.
At the gay rights rally, Alex and Ray hang out in the Quattro and scan the crowd with binoculars. Alex quickly finds “Uncle Angus” and his car. Ray asks for the glasses and spies the 1981 version of Tom Robinson in the crowd… which causes him to go on a hilarious rant about gays that’s so horrifyingly outdated that it’ll make you cringe. Alex considers impounding Angus’s car, but instead comes up with a “better plan”: earlier she spied a bright pink tank used as a float in the parade. Rather than simply seizing the car, Alex commandeers the tank and runs over Uncle Angus’ poor Ford Escort!
Several uniformed officers notice that’s it’s DI Drake, and Robinson overhears them talking about her, which causes him to shout a warning to the crowd (which then scatters, fearing a police riot). Alex and Ray fire up the Quattro; Alex tells Ray to put his seat belt on, and he refuses (missing a golden opportunity to echo Hunt’s “you’re a police officer, not a bloody vicar!” line from an earlier episode). Alex takes off in the car, but has to slam on the brakes, smashing Ray’s face against the dash:
Back at the station, Gene has the station all spic and span just as Lord Scarman arrives. Everything is completely normal at the station… for a few minutes anyway. Scarman takes a gander at the trophy case and notices a trophy for “Esher 1923 Girls Under 14 Netball”. Ooooops! He then spies the whiteboard Alex has been using to brainstorm about the car bombing, and Drake explains it all to him like a certifiable loon. This causes Gene to have Viv escort Scarman around the station while he “talks” to Drake in private. And by “talk”, I mean, “scream at the top of his lungs”. Alex agrees with his demand to get “onside” with the team.
Gene then follows Viv and Scarman as they tour the cells. The only “prisoner” is Chris (allegedly in for public exposure, remember?) and Hunt gleefully describes Chris’s “crime” in vivid detail to Scarman. Scarman then chews Chris out for being a pervert… although the best of the cell visit goes well.
Back upstairs, Ray comes up to Alex in the station room. She apologizes for his nose; he seems not to mind so much. He has a list of the Price’s clients… one of whom sticks out: Arthur Layton. It seems that Layton also has experience with explosives. She goes into Gene’s office and begs him to go with her to interview Layton in prison… and thus “Gene Genie” was back: the two haul ass to the prison, where Alex questions Layton while Gene broods in the background. Layton describes the car bomb perfectly, but refuses to admit any knowledge of such a bomb. Layton offers information in exchange for… Alex. For Alex to marry him after he gets out of prison. Gene can’t be bothered to stay any longer, and leaves the cell. Layton quietly sings his line from “Ashes to Ashes”: “I’m happy, hope you’re happy too”. Alex tells him that she knows his future, and that his life is far from its low point. She asks him point blank if he knows why her parents die. He has her lean forward, and screams in her ear instead. He won’t tell. Ever.
Outside, Gene spies Evan White walking into the prison. Drake walks up and tells Hunt that they’re doing dinner that evening.
Back at the station, the cells are filling up with the gay rights activists from earlier. An old drag queen is put in the cell with Chris, and the two just talk as normal guys do. It’s pretty funny. Alex then sweet talks Ray into swiping some cocaine from the evidence room. The two go to the Price’s house, where Alex takes the key from under the rock (remember?). Alex successfully plants the cocaine and arrests the two of them. And just as Lord Scarman is leaving the station, here come Alex and Ray with the Prices. Lord Scarman, who personally knows the Price family, is shocked. He says he’s going to stay on for a few hours. Hunt is thrilled.
The cells are, of course, full from the “gay riot” (and Chris). There are people just standing around that don’t even have room for a cell at all. Ray is, of course, a homophobic brute with them, but Alex “apologizes” to Tom Robinson in her own way:
“I know you… You end up on Radio 6, fall in love with a woman, and have two kids!”
Back in Gene’s office, the Guv starts chewing Alex out… and a familiar pattern starts to emerge. Life On Mars fans might remember that when things really started to “go right” for Sam, they went downhill for Gene. And it’s happening again. Lord Scarman was just leaving, and how he’s in for the long haul after the Prices were brought in. And just when Gene thinks it can’t get any worse, Viv walks in to tell him that Scarman has, voluntarily, put himself in one of the cells. Oh, and that gay rights protesters that have started to form outside the station. Gene’s head almost explodes.
In an interrogation room, Caroline and Alex have a talk. And boy, is it ever a girly talk! They talk about their daughters. Caroline says that she’s planning to take a two year sabbatical to “[do] all the silly things I should have done years before with her”. Because she “loves her so much… and I’m not absolutely sure that she knows that”. Caroline says that she’s taking her daughter on a trip as soon as she’s out of jail. Alex cries. Her mother did love her after all.
Alex goes to the hospital to see Shaz “before she goes home”. Alex tells the comatose (sedated?) Shaz all about her mother, and how happy she is. She also tells Shaz that she’ll miss her as she was her favorite “construct”.
Next, we see Alex and Gene on their date. The scene is touching and sweet, even if Gene and Alex have zero chemistry together. Alex just goes upstairs and goes to sleep… where she has a dream where she’s back in 2008 with Molly. She dreams about the (1981) day and the Angel of Death then does his best to send Alex some kind of “clue” that points to Evan White as the evil one.
Chris is finally let out of the cell sometime Saturday morning. Alex walks in and Ray tells her that the billboard she remembers from that day has not been placed anywhere near the “crime scene”. Alex thinks that this is good news. Lord Scarman walks in, having given in to the cells too. Scarman gives Hunt an earful and even threatens him… to which Gene gives the speech of a lifetime… complete with Hollywood-style music, a catch phrase, and a round of applause from all at the end. It’s so unbelievably cheesy. But don’t worry, grasshopper… the fun in this episode is officially over.
Viv comes in to tell the Guv that the cells are all empty. Hunt, apparently, has let the Prices go. Alex only finds out about it just then… and there are less than 15 minutes before 10:00. Alex wants to hit the road immediately, but Ray says that she’s got a call from her “informant”. She slowly walks to ward Ray… she slowly puts the phone to her ear:
“I’m happy… hope you’re happy too…”
The next thing you know, Hunt and Alex are in the Quattro, where Ray confirms via radio that Layton was released this morning. Alex goes to the Price’s office, only to see Evan White walking out. He says that he’s resigned from the firm that morning. He also confirms Alex’s worst fear: that the Prices are on their way to the train station. In a car. Alex thinks that this is impossible… until Evan White says that its his blue Ford Escort that they borrowed.
I shall stop right there. That’s because the final 15 minutes of the episode are very intense, and there’s simply no way that I just could do them justice. Plus, the final 15 of this show is nothing but adrenaline; reading it instead of watching it (with the awesome soundtrack blaring) is boring. I will say that, by the end of the show, Alex will learns something very sweet… and a wrinkle in timehappens.
I’ll do a write up in the next few days with my thoughts about this season… and thoughts about the “Life on Ashes Universe” in general. Stuff like… “is Gene Hunt really God, as perceived by English police officers in purgatory?”
MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE
Tom Robinson – “2-4-6-8 Motorway”
David Bowie – “Ashes To Ashes”
Supertramp – “Take The Long Way Home”
I’m still working on the recap of Thursdays’ season finale of Ashes to Ashes. I hope to have it posted tomorrow afternoon (Saturday).
I did want to mention a couple of things though: there will be a second season of the show; as the credits rolled on Thursday’s episode, the friendly BBC announcer said that the show would be back… next year with all new episodes. Next year? Next year? Why God, why? Why torture us so?
Also, the finale got pretty decent ratings: according to this article, the finale pulled in 5.4 million viewers. This is down from around 7 million for the series premiere, but it’s still pretty good for the UK market. The CIA Factbook estimates that the UK had 60,776,238 people in 2007, so that’s just under 10% of the entire British population watching Ashes to Ashes. That’s more than enough for a second season, don’t you think?
My name is Alex Drake. I’ve just been shot and that bullet has taken me back to 1981. I may be one second away from life, or one second away from death. All I know is that I have to keep fighting… fight to live, fight to see my daughter, fight to get home…
Since I discussed German toilets yesterday, I thought I’d bring up one other thing I just don’t get: British sinks. Most every sink you’ll find in a British restroom has dual taps – one for hot water and another for cold water:
So if you’re at a museum, a pub, McDonald’s, or even a posh restaurant, you’re supposed to put the stopper in the sink and fill it with a mixture of hot and cold water, then wash your hands in the mixed water. Of course, many places don’t have the necessary stoppers, so you have to run both the hot and cold water. The hot water is usually so hot that you can barely stand it, so you have to move your hands between the hot and cold taps as your hands either burn or freeze.
What I want to know is… why do they still have these awful sinks? America hasn’t had dual-tap sinks in decades, and most of Europe converted over to single-tap faucets after World War II. Britain, it seems, is the sole “double tap” holdout in the developed world. I found a possible answer in a post at another blog, which cites this Wall Street Journal article from 2002:
LONDON (Oct. 31, 2002)—During a wartime visit to Moscow in 1942, Winston S. Churchill discovered a marvel of modern technology: hot and cold water flowing from the same faucet. The plumbing in the villa where he stayed as a guest of Stalin was unlike the primitive British standard of separate taps for hot and cold. Rather than having to fill up the sink to achieve the right blend, the British leader could wash his hands under gushing water “mingled to exactly the temperature one desired,” as he put it in his memoirs. From then on, he resolved to use this method whenever possible. His countrymen have been slow to take up the single-spigot cause. Most bathroom sinks in Britain still have separate hot and cold taps today, 60 years after Mr. Churchill’s conversion and decades after nearly all dual taps were scrapped in the U.S. and most vanished from continental Europe. For reasons of thrift, regulations and a stubborn attachment to tradition, the British have resisted the tide of plumbing history. Even when they renovate old homes, many choose two-tap systems, and builders often install them in new, low-end housing. Separate taps account for an estimated 40% of all bathroom-faucet sales in the UK…. Britons don’t understand why foreigners raise a fuss over this issue. “The British are quite happy to wash their hands with cold water. Maybe it’s character-building,” says Simon Kirby, managing director of Thomas Crapper & Co., a maker of bathroom equipment in Stratford-on-Avon. Boris Johnson, a Conservative Party member of Parliament representing Henley, congratulates “the higher civilizations” that have adopted advanced plumbing technology. But he argues that having the choice of either hot or cold for washing hands “is an incentive to get it over and done with and not waste water.” (…)
(“Old-Fashioned Faucets: Unique British Standard” by James R. Hagerty; from The Wall Street Journal Online)
Wow – I’m glad I held off recapping last week’s episode of The Riches; come to find out, the first two episodes of this season might as well be “part 1” and “part 2”. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen last season’s finale, let me get you up to speed:
Hugh Panetta (Doug’s boss) has just been dumped by his new stripper wife and has a massive broken heart, Nina (the neighbor) is all in a funk because her husband just came out of the closet, Dale came to Eden Falls and threatened to blackmail Wayne and Dahlia… and most importantly, Doug Rich’s friend Pete Mincy came to town looking for Doug. Wayne did his best to put Pete off the scent, but Pete just wouldn’t give up. The season ended with Doug walking into his office and finding Pete there. Pete knows that Wayne is trying to be Doug, and he wants answers… now.
So, the season premiere begins with Wayne rounding up the family and getting them out of town ASAP. Not only are the Malloys hitting the road, so too is Doug’s senile mother… and Nina, who saw them packing everything up and demanded to go with them. Meanwhile, Wayne and Dale try to “take care of” Pete. Wayne tries using smooth talk and promises of money to bribe Pete; Dale just kills him. In the middle of all this, who should show up but a drunken Hugh, who has the offer of a lifetime for Wayne: a new real estate deal worth $150 million. Doug’s share will be $13 million. Will Doug take off and join his family? Or will he try to fix things up in Eden Falls and go for the $13 million?
This week’s episode starts off with Dahlia and the kids. Something happened to the Mercedes towards the end of last week’s episode, and they needed some transportation. So they tried stealing a van… only just as they were getting ready to leave, a huge redneck sticks a massive handgun in Cael’s face. He takes the Malloys (and Nina) back to his house, where he holds them hostage. Oh, and then his wife comes home:
It soon becomes obvious to Dahlia that the man has problems… well, specific problems. Problems with money and his wife (also caused by money). She soon offers the couple a proposition: $7,000 for their freedom. The man doesn’t believe them at first – he knows that they’re travelers, and has been screwed by them in the past – so he makes the Malloys leave Nina as a hostage. The show switches over to Doug and Dale’s dealings – which I’ll get to in a minute – but when we come back to Nina and the crazy family, it’s obvious that much of the tension has disappeared. That tension disappears completely when Nina whips out one of her “medicinal joints” and passes it around. As Nina starts telling the couple about her own woes, the guy starts softening his stance towards her. He puts down the gun and starts telling Nina that she’s beautiful (Nina almost cried when she talked about being dumped by her gay husband, and how everything he had told her was a lie). The crazy couple get closer and closer (thanks to the weed), and start having sex… which gives Nina the opportunity to call Wayne and escape.
While all this is going on, the Malloys set up a scam on gigantic proportions on the one-horse town where the Mercedes broke down. A high-school football game is the only action in town that evening, so they set up multiple scams: first they have a fake car wash (they actually wash a few cars, but they’re really only looking for a car to give away). They then start selling raffle tickets to win a Cadillac Escalade (which they washed earlier), which is to benefit Sam – who is pretended to have some tragic form of cancer. It all goes to hell, however, when a waitress from the local café (that spotted Cael stealing money on their first visit to the diner) calls the Malloys out on their scams. The crowd the falls upon the entire family, and Cael gets a right beating.
It’s only stopped when Wayne shows up waving a fake FBI badge and a gun. Wayne, it seems, got the call from Nina and magically: finished burying Pete, got away from Dale, fixed the RV, drove 300 miles, picked up Nina and managed to pull up at the football game just in the nick of time… Riiiigghhhhttt! I did like that the family chose their future together – Mexico or Eden Falls? Eden Falls! I also liked that they went back to the couple and gave them the money just to show them that all travelers aren’t bad.
So here’s the set up for the rest of the season: the Malloys are going back to Eden Falls in hopes of making $13 million. Dale thinks that he’s getting half of that, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Plus, it’ll be interesting to see what Hugh thinks about all this. He was passed out in a hotel room when Dale and Doug were talking about burying Pete… if he wasn’t completely asleep, then interesting things might happen. He already thinks that “Doug” is the best damn lawyer in the world – would his opinion really change if he knew the truth… with $150 million on the line? I can’t wait to find out!
I have finally come to the realization that Hotel Babylon is a guilty pleasure, and, as such, is no better than Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place. In many ways, it’s actually worse than those shows: you’d think the writers would have learned from 90210 and Melrose’s mistakes. But no, they haven’t. You can actually see it with your own eyes as Hotel Babylon slides ever closer to jumping the shark. What was once a clever show based on a titillating tell-all book about the real-life “behind the scenes” world of a luxury London hotel is now nothing more than Gossip Girl, really. But that’s OK, because, in true BBC fashion, the show is put together really well. It’s a good show… it’s just not what it once was.
Here’s a summary of the episode, ganked directly from the BBC website:
Jack has just been promoted to General Manager, and this year’s big ‘rom com’ is being filmed in Babylon by a very emotional director (John Barrowman). Problems arise as leaks to the press, a lack of on-screen chemistry between Katy (Megan Dodds) and Tom (James Lance) and a gaffe by Jack all threaten the film, and ultimately Babylon’s profits. It’s up to Jack to save the day, but will he succeed?
Anna is having a dilemma. Ned has just invited her for a weekend away in New York, but she can’t get Charlie out of her head. Finding it hard to know what to do she confides in Rachel (Donna Air), an enigmatic young woman who seems to have it all. But Rachel has her own secrets and reasons for living the high life, and Anna resorts to bring Rachel the happiness she deserves, and also to make amends with Ned.
So – how was the first “Charlie-free episode”? Not as bad as I feared, but not as good as I hoped. The storyline – a movie filming at the Babylon – was just plain silly… especially with hotel staff just standing around the set. Anna’s storyline is the only one worth mentioning: she’s having all sorts of issues with the whole “Charlie vs. Ned” thing when she becomes friendly with a mysterious guest named Rachel. Come to find out, Rachel is dying of pancreatic cancer. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend to spare him the pain of her death, and Anna wants him to at least know about Rachel. Maybe he’ll want to run away from Rachel. Maybe he’ll stay with her until her last breath. But it should be his choice, right? Anna sets up a scam where she calls the boyfriend and says that he’s won a free stay at the hotel. When he shows up, Anna escorts him to Rachel’s room… where the two of them immediately start arguing. Once Anna breaks down and tells him that Rachel is dying, it’s all tears:
It was really sweet. Seriously.
However, Gino and Ben were unbearably annoying in this episode. They want a part in the film, right? So they harass the film’s director without mercy, with Gino doing horrible impressions of movie stars from 50 years ago and Ben turning the “queen factor” to HIGH. I wanted to punch them through the TV screen.
Jack continues to impress, however. I don’t like the guy – especially with his “alcohol ban” in this episode – but it’s nice to see that he can pull a rabbit out of his hat when he needs to. He’s actually pretty sneaky, which I like. But he ain’t Charlie, which I don’t like.
Word on the Intarweb is that Tony (Dexter Fletcher) is leaving the show (the previews for next week showed him getting fired, but you know how previews can trick you). I honestly don’t know if I can watch the show without ol’ Dexter. I’ve liked the guy since I first saw him in The Rachel Papers, and the departure of Fletcher would\will be a huge loss for the show.
It’s happened to every American who has ever traveled to Germany, Austria, parts of the Netherlands and perhaps even Eastern Europe. It’s a horrifying moment. You get off the plane… you go to your hotel… you head to your room, and can’t wait to drop off all your bags and take a shower. Once there, you decide to visit the bathroom… and then you see this monstrosity:
This, my friends, is a German toilet. It’s more or less the same as an American, British or Canadian toilet, but for one bizarre feature: the “poo shelf”. When you do #2 in der Fatherland, your poo comes to rest on the shelf in the middle of the toilet. There are two reasons the Germans designed their toilets this way: 1) it doesn’t cause embarrassing “splashes”, and 2) it allows the German to examine his own poo, enabling him (or her) to make sure everything’s A-OK “down there”.
Which is all well and good, but using these toilets is nevertheless frightening for most Americans.
First of all, since the poo is only swept off the shelf and down the drain when you flush, the toilet does nothing to contain odors when you’re doing your business. You’ll be able to smell each and every fragrant molecule as you poo. It’s disgusting.
Also – and it’s kind of hard to tell from the photograph – but the shelf isn’t nearly as deep as it appears. If you need to take a… uhhhh.. “substantial poo”, there’s the terrifying prospect of your poo building up and touching you on your ass. As it is, you need to be deft with the wiping hand, ‘cos your fingers will only be millimeters above a nasty pile ‘o poo.
And when it’s time to flush… oh Lord! Hopefully, the poo will sweep off the shelf and down the drain on the first try. Or it might stick in places, which causes a bunch of “panic flushing”, which in turn sets the mind off into international travel etiquette: “Do I leave it like this? Do I keep flushing? Do I wipe it off with tissue? Oh God, the travel guide doesn’t say anything about this!”
Oh, and if you’re a dude, just go ahead and sit down… the amount of “splashback” with these toilets is unbelievable.
A couple of months ago, I went through the site and added a bunch of new categories, one of which was the “Anglican News” section. The Anglican Communion is in deep trouble these days, and I’ve been keeping tabs on it since I converted to Anglo-Catholicism back in 1995. I haven’t really said much about the matter on this website, though. And when I set up the “Anglican News” category, I kind of just “jumped right in” to the fray, without giving you much of an explanation as to what was going on.
The Church of England began as the Church in England (the Roman Catholic Church). In the year 597, Saint Augustine of Canterbury arrived in England and established the first “official” Catholic Church. He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and his actions caused the Roman church to become the “official” church of the island of Great Britain.
Things were groovy for the next 1000 years, but by Henry VIII’s time, the Roman church was in deep trouble. In Europe, Calvinists and Lutherans ran amok, threatening the Roman church throughout Northern Europe. This horrified King Henry, who wrote a book called Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (Defense of the Seven Sacraments), against both sects, for which Pope Leo X gave Henry the title Fidei defensor (“defender of the Faith”), which to this day appears on British coins as Fid:Def.
The Protestants made several good points, though. The medieval Church was overrun with… earthiness, for lack of a better word. Monasteries owned huge tracts of land, which gave them considerable power. Priests, bishops and the Pope were everywhere involved in secular disputes. Some clergymen had mistresses, some had many mistresses, and a surprising number of them had children. Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for Martin Luther were indulgences. Basically, the Roman Church sold slips of paper as “get out of hell free” cards. If you were an unimportant little farmer that cheated on his wife, you could give your local bishop a little bit of money and you’d be officially forgiven. If you were a prince that led a life of whoring, drinking and slaughtering your enemies, you could pay your bishop a lot of money and you’d be off the hook as far as the Church was concerned.
While Henry was decidedly Catholic, he wasn’t insensitive to these issues. He allowed the seeds of Protestantism to flow somewhat freely, as long as they weren’t “too extreme”. And then, of course, Ann Boleyn happened. You probably know the story: Henry’s older brother Arthur was in line for the throne. Henry’s father, wanting an alliance with Spain, had Arthur marry Katherine of Aragon of Spain. Arthur ended up dying, and Henry, wanting the alliance with Spain to continue, convinced his son to marry her. But they had to have a special dispensation from the Pope, as the Book of Leviticus clearly forbids a man from marrying his brother’s wife. The Pope was more than happy to make the dispensation, as that was basic SOP for Popes and Kings at the time. Katherine, of course, never produced a male heir, and Henry became convinced that the Lord was punishing him for marrying his brother’s sister. Henry then met and fell in love with Ann Boleyn, and thereafter sought an annulment from the Pope. The only problem was that Clement VII was a virtual prisoner of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V… who was Katherine’s nephew. The Pope then stalled as best he could, not wanting to offend the English king, but not wanting to lose his head to Charles, either. Henry eventually got sick of waiting and named himself head of the newly independent Church of England.
After Henry’s death, England went back and forth between being a “Protestant nation” and a “Catholic nation”. This continual to-and fro worked something like an “idea sieve”, and by the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, the doctrine and organization of the Church of England was more or less set. And of course, at around this time, England became a sea-faring nation, with colonies stretching across the globe. Wherever the English went, so too did the Church of England.
The American Revolutionary War would create the first “independent” Anglican church, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. In time, other colonies would either go independent too, or would be built up to such a point that a “national” church was necessary. So you have a loose network of national Anglican churches “in communion” with each other. Unlike the Catholic Church – which is a hierarchy if ever there was one – the Anglican churches work on consensus. Meetings of bishops from all countries happen every ten years at something called the Lambeth Conference. Consensus is there reached (or, as is the case lately, not reached) on issues that affect the entire Communion.
And for a quick summary of what’s happened in the last 50 years, and why it’s tearing the Communion, see this incredible piece from Australian Anglican Dr. Mark Thompson. It’s really not that long, but it’s a fantastic summary of recent events that’ll quickly get you up to speed. If you’re one of those that prefers hearing to reading, you can download an MP3 of Thompson reading the speech here.