Friday, December 30, 2011

Alan Ayckbourn has just produced his 75th play. Seventy five plays! How can anyone be so prolific, it beggars belief. And how many of Mister Ayckbourn’s seventy-five plays have I seen? Three maybe four. The man is a history of theatre all to himself. Anyone using his life and work on ‘Mastermind’ would have sunk without trace.

Have you heard of an author by the name of Georgette Heyer? I must admit, like the jockey who was the author of over forty novels and whose name I have forgotten, I hadn’t heard of her, but a biography has just been published informing me that Ms. Heyer (Politically Correct there you see?) published, that is she had published 55 novels still in demand and selling millions! We all know about lady authors who reputedly produce book after book. Sometimes I think after the first few best sellers they become a brand name for a factory. I think Agony Christie wrote all her books. No one else could possibly write like Ms Christie but take Barbara Cartland for example who evidently produced a number of romantic novels clearly plagiarising Ms. Heyer’s early success and just as clearly, Ms. Heyer was horrified and had this to say, “I would have borne it better if Miss Cartland had not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate” Oh, boy! She went on to say that the novel she wrote aged 19 which Ms. Cartland had plagiarised “had more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which Cartland has written at the age of 46.” Ms. Heyer, according to her biographer, was not a nice lady at all. If the plagiarism was so obvious how come there was no action taken for breach of copyright? These days a shit-hot lawyer would pounce without a second thought.

Still on the subject of books I have just finished reading “The Lancashire Witches” by Harrison Ainsworth, another nineteenth century writer and another prolific one. A friend and associate of all the famous and literary names of his day; Disraeli, Bulwer-Lytton, Coleridge, Thackeray, Carlyle, Southy, the Count D’Orsey, Dickens. His first novel “Rookwood” went through three editions earned him a fortune and made him famous. As a schoolboy (Manchester Grammar) in the basement of the family home he was producing plays he had written, and he wrote articles, short stories, etcetera for various magazines, but it was his Gothic novels that hit the bullseye. ‘The Lancashire Witches’ is the only one I have read and it truly is a Gothic novel to out-Gothic them all, and a massive one – 716 pages, the writing as florid as Mister Marion Crawford. No typewriter to make life easier and, even more so, no computer, just everything written out by hand. Can you imagine the work that entails and that was only one novel of many? It was the same of course for all writers of the period. Think of the thousands and thousands of words Dickens produced and the Russians with their massive tomes.

The interesting thing about ‘The Lancashire Witches’ is that he writes of them as if their witchcraft really did exist, that they were in the thrall of Satan, even to the extent of being able to fly on their broomsticks – in one instance two people fly on a hazel switch! Naturally King James features heavily. No story of The Pendle witches, the witch hunts, the tortures, the burning at the stake, can be told ignoring the baleful influence of that strange superstitious man. Isn’t it weird that his influence is felt to this very day with the production of the King James Bible?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Here is a moral problem to solve. Nature sometimes throws up some pretty weird phenomena, not least of which are Siamese twins. In many cases apparently they can with modern surgery be separated but here is the dilemma – just recently conjoined twins have been born in Brazil with two heads, two functioning brains - but a single heart. Doctors say separating the twins, named Jesus and Emanuel, is not currently an option because there is only one set of organs, Reuters reports. They are being monitored by specialists to see how they develop. Dr. Neila Dahas, who is treating the newborns, said surgery was not being considered at the moment. But she said separating the boys would be impossible because of the single set of organs - and that it was difficult to choose which head to remove because both brains were functioning well. And this is the moral dilemma because, if both brains are functioning normally and both have been breastfed with normal appetites then both boys are alive and to take off the head of one is without doubt to commit murder.

Patrick O'Brien, a spokesman for the UK's Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists who has been involved in several conjoined twin cases, said no decisions were likely to be made about Jesus and Emanuel's future for some time. "A lot of work is needed, in terms of scans and tests, before doctors will know if they can separate them or not, and just how organs and blood vessels are shared and linked. It takes quite a while before they can decide how feasible it is." But what if after a lengthy spell of work and tests there is no chance for the boys to be separated. They have now developed further as human beings; does the option of removing one head still remain and how do you decide which one it is to be? Toss a coin? Say eeny-meeny-miny-mo? Pray for enlightenment? It’s a Gordian knot and no mistake. Jesus and Emanuel the boys - they might share one body but they are still two boys - might be named but was God anywhere around when, like so many unfortunates, they were malformed in the womb?

I am most definitely an Epicurean. According to a review in The Sunday Times, in a book, “THE SWERVE: How the Renaissance Began” the author, Steven Greenblatt states that the philosophy of Epicurus, a man now widely misunderstood simply as an advocate for the pleasures of the table was, according to Lucretius much more startling. “Predating modern physics by centuries, he speculated that the universe is composed of atoms in constant motion and that everything in it, from humans to trees is made by these particles swerving randomly and then dissolving in a ceaseless cycle” As Greenblatt puts it, for Epicurus there was “no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design” and therefore no afterlife and no fear of death. As a result the highest aims for a human being are the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure – by which he meant achieving peace of mind.

If baby Jesus and baby Emanuel do grow up, will they ever be able to achieve this?

Monday, December 26, 2011

It’s not only the religious who are brainwashed (for want of a better word) into bizarre beliefs but superstitious folk who are not necessarily religious in the orthodox sense. I am thinking of the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and the belief and reporting of strange natural phenomena. On a famous lake ice cracked so loud it seemed to shake both heaven and earth and a mysterious glow was seen on a revered mountain top. Boy oh boy, this is ancient Rome when divine or near divine status was bestowed on her Emperors. The 69-year-old had led North Korea since the death of his father in 1994 and an elaborate personality cult, involving multiple stories of alleged miracles or astonishing deeds, has been built up around him. Even nature is mourning, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Thursday. A snowstorm hit as Mr. Kim died and ice on the volcanic Chon Lake near his reported birthplace at Mount Paektu cracked, it said. Following the storm's sudden end at dawn on Tuesday, a message carved in rock - "Mount Paektu, Holy Mountain of revolution. Kim Jong-il" - glowed brightly, it said. It remained there until sunset. On the same day, a Manchurian crane also apparently adopted a posture of grief at a statue of the late leader's father in the northern city of Hamhung. "Even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong-il, born of Heaven, after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him," KCNA reported officials as saying. On Wednesday state media said more than five million people had already turned out to pay their respects to Kim Jong-il. State media have called on North Koreans to unite behind his designated heir, youngest son Kim Jong-un, who is being called the "Great Successor". Looking at photographs of the 27 year old Kim Jong-un he looks like a rather fat gormless young man so who knows how long he will last or will there be a dynastic struggle? He does have older brothers who have been overlooked.

Thinking of the siege of the Paris theatre by the religious, I wonder what would happen if my play “Twilight of Aunt Edna” ever did get put on. Would there be riots on Shaftsbury Avenue, or the South Bank, or even further afield? It has got close to a production half a dozen times but always failed at the last hurdle. Cold feet? I wrote it at the height of the phenomenon that was Mary Whitehouse and, although I say it myself (well no one else is going to, are they?) it is quite brilliant in a Joe Orton kind of way, so there. Of course it is not the only work regarding this intrepid relic of a woman; the BBC did a play titled “Filth, The Mary Whitehouse Story” starring Julie Walters. The difference between that and Twilight of Aunt Edna is that Filth was based evidently on fact and Twilight is pure fiction. I wonder what Mary Whitehouse would think of the media if she were alive today to hear famous film actresses using the c word and the f word on television chat shows let alone the boring over use of the f word in film. Her campaign was obviously a lost cause from the very beginning. The floodgates had to be opened and that is all there is to it. I still would like to see my play produced. Maybe it is time to send it out again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two extremely interesting reviews in The Sunday Times; one a film and the other a book. Verily, to use a good old-fashioned biblical sort of word, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The debate about global warming is still making headlines and, if global warming is actually taking place, there is only one reason for it – too many humans. The book reviewed is “The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age” by Nathan Wolfe, professor in Human Biology at Stanford University. Also the director of Global Viral Forecasting, an organisation searching for “the first human infection by an animal virus that may wipe out millions, or hundreds of millions, of people throughout the planet.”

The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed 50million. Today swine flu will eventually infect 2billion, killing 1% and the bird flu virus has a fatality rate of 60%. The danger is bird flu could combine with swine flu creating what he calls “a mosaic daughter virus.” Alternatively, a chimpanzee kills and eats a monkey; a hunter kills and eats the chimp and, whacko! There’s your virus passed on. This evidently was how HIV was born. So “bush meat” over which Wolfe is especially worried is a major problem which leads us to the population explosion. Urbanisation, deforestation and road building are taking millions of hungry people into previous remote forest regions and exotic wild animals are increasingly on the menu. Another problem is the amount of globe-trotting humans are now indulging in. Chris has just flown back from London and has arrived with the mother and father, grand parents of a cold, if it’s not the flu, and I swear, as I’ve maintained for some time, it’s from the aeroplane. In the US influenza rates rise sharply every Thanksgiving as people fly home for the holiday and I invariably come down with a chest infection after flying. It’s not really surprising when you think of bring cooped up in steel tube using recycled air with hundreds of others some of whom are bound to be unwell and whose germs can easily be passed on. Our interconnected world is just one “giant microbial mixing vessel.”

Now for the fiction bit – A film called ‘Contagion’ with a truly star-studded cast is quite simply about a global pandemic such as Professor Wolfe has scientifically postulated. One woman catches a mysterious virus which soon spreads around the world and it is up to the scientists and brave doctors (American of course) to discover a cure before the human race is wiped out.

So, truth or fiction or truth and fiction and can anything be done about it or has it already gone too far? One has only to watch the news, see thousands of people milling about in city centres like swarms of ants, note the number of cars on the roads, look at the modern skyscrapers and sprawling densely packed cities to realise how overloaded the planet is and, apart from the possibility of a pandemic, the earth’s resources are not going to last forever, in fact are being depleted fast.

At my age none of this concerns me but I do feel for future generations if future generations there are going to be.

And on this optimistic and joyful note ya’ll have a good Christmas and a bonny new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We have got used to Muslim fanatics hating, killing, or destroying anyone or anything they think demeans their religion. We’re used to foaming at the mouth American fundamentalists who hate everything but themselves. (Most probably don’t really like themselves very much either when push comes to shove). Now it seems Catholics are joining in the fray. Riot police in Paris have been brought in to protect a city centre theatre putting on a play said to be blasphemous by many Catholics. A group of young Catholic activists has already disrupted another play said to be offensive, but critics say they are attacking the right to free speech. They have kept a vigil outside the theatre with the police holding them off. The play is followed by a nude pianist playing Haydn’s “Creation”! Maybe he is meant to represent Adam except that I don’t think Adam would have been quite so fat. Not a pretty picture.

The more I hear about religion the dafter it seems. Thinking of the mob outside the theatre, are they using the slogan "what would Jesus do?" Where did the slogan come from and is there ever an answer to the question posed? It sounds like something happy clappies would have come up with. Actually the question has a long history. In 1896 Congregational minister Charles Sheldon published a novel called “In His Steps - What would Jesus do?” in which a town is revolutionised when Christians "pledge themselves, earnestly and honestly for an entire year, not to do anything without first asking the question, 'What would Jesus do?'".

Thanks to a mistake by its first publisher, the book was never covered by copyright, so it was sold cheaply by multiple publishers. As a result it has sold 30 million copies, putting it in the top 50 bestselling books ever. Have you read it? I never even knew it existed.

A youth leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, one Janie Tinklenberg, after re-reading it in 1989, talked to her youth group about it.

At the time friendship bracelets were all the rage, so she got a local company to produce 300. She opted for the abbreviation WWJD and asked the group to wear them for 30 days, they caught on locally, and more were needed.

Naturally others with more of a commercial eye than Tinklenberg spotted the trend, made their own and took the marketing to the national level. By the time she attempted to register her trademark it was too late. Particularly in the US, but also elsewhere, it's on wristbands, mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers, necklaces and earrings, though most of those seem rather to defeat the purpose of reminding the owner about anything, but God sure makes the wide boys who see a shining opportunity rich beyond belief. Apart from T-shirts, also available are WWJD? teddy bears, WWJD? lunch boxes, WWJD? underwear, and WWJD? baby bibs. Will the Muslims follow the example I wonder? Probably not. It would mean mentioning the prophet and that would be blasphemous.

Like all the most enduring slogans, "what would Jesus do?" has inspired countless rewrites. There has been everything from political parody - anti-war T-shirts asking "who would Jesus bomb?" - to something that is a parody in itself such as the "what would Jesus eat?" biblical diet plan!

The original question has been taken seriously by millions of Christian teenagers and has now been co-opted by protesters outside London's St Paul's Cathedral threatened with eviction.

Someone has commented, “I would have thought that anything that encourages people to stop and think before they act has got to be a good thing. At least that way you would know that anyone breaking the law had thought about it first and decided to continue anyway. With that knowledge perhaps judges would be more ready to hand out sentences that reflect the crime. Bankers and politicians spring to mind.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Still on the subject of books: some time ago on one of the shelves I came across and wrote in a previous Blog about a book by a Victorian writer whose name was F. Marion Crawford; found it a delightful read and quite a page turner. Well, blow me down and shiver me timbers as Long John Silver would say (well it is getting close to Christmas and the Mermaid Theatre used to do ‘Treasure island’ every year: I was in it twice) I have found another Marion Crawford lurking there. Where did they come from and why? Well that is a mystery that will never be solved. Mister Crawford was not one of your one book authors but appears to have been quite prolific. This one is called ‘Saracinesca,’ set in nineteenth century Rome and, although the writing is distinctly Victorian and what one could term florid: if one were to compare it to architecture would Baroque or Rococo suit? Or to painting, how about Fragonard; every leaf on every tree and every bug on every leaf? Despite this it is a ripping yarn! This guy certainly knew how to tell a story and it would make a fabulous film in the manner of ‘The Leopard’ which, of course, started life as a novel and the same period: the Risorgimento, or better still, a television series. I couldn’t get my nose out of it and, when I got to the end, imagine my surprise and bitter disappointment to read that over 400 pages was only part one and the story would continue. But bugger me gently and sideways, I cannot find ‘Saracinesca Part Two’ anywhere. Did he write it under another title maybe? Or did he just not get around to it at all? Anyway, here is an example of Mister Crawford’s writing and you will see what I mean by florid –

“She said nothing, and though she at first made a slight movement – not of resistance, but of timid reluctance, utterly unlike herself – she suffered him to hold her hand. He drew closer to her, himself more diffident in the moment of success than he had ever been when he anticipated failure; she was so unlike any woman he had ever known before. Very gently he put his arms about her and drew her to him. ‘My beloved – at last,’ he whispered, as her head sank upon his shoulder. Then with a sudden movement she sprang to her height, and for one instant gazed upon him. Her whole being was transfigured in the might of her passion: her dark face was luminously pale, her lips almost white, and from her eyes there seemed to flash a blazing fire. For one instant she gazed upon him, and then her arms went round his neck, and she clasped him fiercely to her breast. ‘Ah, Giovanni,’ she cried, passionately, ‘you do not know what love means!’

Beat that if you can and if anyone knows where I can find part two please let me know.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Who in their right mind would want to be a writer or, at least, attempt to make a living from it? Is it true that Amazon stocks over 3million books? And although many are listed as ‘The Best Seller’ how many of these actually are? I think I’ve made this point before. Beginning to repeat myself. Beginning? So just how many books are in circulation and how many writers are there, setting aside the celebs and what is known as chick-lit, from one book authors to forty book authors? My niece e-mailed my sister from America to say she has found my books in a bookshop there! That is the very first indication that any of them have been available other than through Amazon. Let’s keep fingers crossed that they take off, even in a moderately successful way. What brought on this speculation is reading the book reviews in the Kultur section of the S.T. I’ve only just started to go through the pile, maybe half a dozen, and already I’ve found six or seven I would like to have but (a) there isn’t the money and (b) there is no more room in this house for more books. As it is they’re piling up on top of the piano, and a short while back Douglas, for charity, got rid of two big boxes full, mostly chic-lit and romance that holiday visitors have left.

When I say who would want to be a writer, something else was brought to mind reading the review of a biography “Under A Canvas Sky” of Mervyn Peake by his daughter Clare and what caught my attention particularly was this – ‘In 1957 everything changed. As Clare remembers it, it happened in a single day. Mervyn had written a play called The Wit To Woo, which was put on at the Arts Theatre. The first night seemed to go well, but next morning’s reviews were disastrous, and when he read them he collapsed, shaking uncontrollably …. For the next twelve years until his death he was in and out of hospitals but never recovered.’

The exact same thing happened to me in the exact same theatre but, fortunately, I didn’t react to the critics’ venom as badly as he. Later I had another play produced in London, at The Old Vic, and the critics were just as diabolical there. This time the reason for their venom was obvious: the play dealt with an Irish subject and Louis Mountbatten had just been murdered by the IRA so anything Irish was verboten. What a furore it created. This time the criticisms definitely did have an effect. I didn’t write another word for the next two years. I found it impossible to even contemplate it.

Though I’ve heard of the Gormenghast trilogy I’ve never read any of Peake’s work. Maybe I should, but there are so many many books to read and that is the problem of wanting to be a writer.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Arguments, discussion, theories are still raging over the summer’s riots. All manner of reasons have been put forward as to why it happened. It happened because what started off as a stream became a flood and floods cause a lot of damage. One of the problems about Facebook, Twitter, etc., is that news soon spreads and it seems to offer an open invitation for hoodies, thugs, criminals, and even a whole host of normally law-abiding people to join in the looting and mayhem. And, even as it must have come as a great shock to many, it was hardly a new phenomenon.

Evidently it is said anti-police sentiment was a major factor in the riots. What, for example, does one make of this?

Daniel – Was on holiday abroad when he started receiving viral messages about the unrest, including images of burning police cars in Tottenham. "As soon as I saw that, I was happy, like. For some reason I just wanted to be there. I actually wanted to burn the cars," he said.” What I've been through my whole life, police have caused hell for me... now was my opportunity to get revenge.” Interviewed on the BBC's Newsnight, he said the government had made it hard to get jobs, cut people's benefits, and made university unaffordable. "We thought, 'Okay, you want to financially hurt us?' We'll financially hurt you by burning down buildings. "That was the best three days of my life." Note, financially hurt as he was he could still afford to be on holiday abroad and he doesn’t say how the police made his life hell. And how burning down buildings affected the government is anybody’s guess.

A week ago Athens and Thessaloniki had more anti-police riots, the excuse this time as in previous years, being the third anniversary of the death of a teenager shot by a policeman. Once again private property was vandalised. Suspects arrested were between the age of 18 and 33

In England the riots were characterised by widespread looting and arson attacks on both businesses and homes.

The time Prime Minister David Cameron said the unrest had been driven by criminality and devoid of political meaning. “This was not political protest, or a riot about politics, it was common or garden thieving, robbing and looting,” Mr Cameron told the House of Commons.

Many of those interviewed admitted they had been involved in stealing, saying that a perceived suspension of normal rules presented them with an opportunity to acquire goods, often describing the riots as a chance to obtain "free stuff". As someone commented, if the looting was about poverty then chickens, baby foods, bedding, and basic stuff should have been stolen not flat screen television sets.

But is there anything new about this? Paris has seen mainly student riots, Los Angeles over police brutality. In April 1981 riots broke out in Brixton, shops were looted and burned, arrests were made, people injured. In July the trouble broke out in the London suburb of Southall where mainly Asian youths committed arson and pelted the police with petrol bombs. Worst of all, In Toxteth, Liverpool the trouble continued for nearly two weeks, and there was many a riot in the UK in previous centuries over one grievance or another. No, it most certainly is not a new phenomenon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yet another dig at elf and safety but only because the stories grow more and more bizarre. We’ve had policemen who won’t climb ladders or go out in the rain in case they slip and hurt themselves and we’ve had the story about the lady dying because she wasn’t rescued from the mine shaft in time and we now have a paramedic who refused to lift a fourteen year girl suffering a heart attack in case she hurt her back – her own back that is, not the girl’s, who died on the way to hospital. There’s no saying she would have been saved but the delay whilst elf and safety rules were invoked certainly didn’t help matters. The paramedic, a Miss Lynn admitted mentioning health and safety but said: ‘What I actually said was we need to think of the safety of everyone. That included Shannon. I was trying to get control of the situation.’ Yes, just like the fire chief.

Another very interesting story this week which goes one step further in proving to me that the world (England if nowhere else) is going stark raving mad: pupils aged five are to be given transgender lessons. Aged five! Whatever happened to childhood? I’m not saying children aged five are little innocents but why lumber them at that age with something they need know nothing about until later in life or until they ask? It isn’t going to stop bullying which is evidently the reason being given. It’s just going to make them more curious and probably more aggressive in targeting those who appear to be different. Whereas before it might not have been so noticeable now they will know what to look for and appearances as we know only too well can be deceptive.

I seem to remember some time ago writing to say that after a half century or more of getting The Sunday Times, we gave it up. This was because of the cavalier way overseas readers were treated, despite howls of outrage. The paper got thinner and thinner as section after section was cut. The price never went down and the last straw was losing the Culture section. They kept the car sales section but who living outside the country want to know abut car sales? I suppose one can get the culture section on the internet these days but to be honest I can’t be bothered to even try. I still get it anyway. Friends in England every three months or so send it to me, minus the television pages which are of no interest, and I was thinking only yesterday that I hadn’t received any for quite some time and Hey Presto! As if by magic, two rolls, not one, but two rolls are delivered, half a year’s worth, twenty-five in all so guess that will keep me in reading matter until Christmas. Thank you the Maffins of Huddersfield.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hard to believe this is Blog 400! I wonder, should I keep on ranting or shall I call it a day? Whatever, before getting on to the two hetero stories, one more about Africa. According to a new report by Human Rights Watch violence against LGBT people has reached a new high and what is more is usually totally ignored by the police. The report includes the case of one lesbian who was repeatedly raped by a family member, her soccer coach and her pastor, all in an attempt to “convert” her and show her how to be “a real woman.” Her case is one of many including the slaying of lesbian women in the townships. The South African constitution promises equality for all its citizens but for some that promise is not being kept.

And so on to the nitty gritty of this sad mad world, beginning with France where their parliament seems to be as myopic as the Nigerians as they have decided to ban prostitution(!) by fining (3000euro) and imprisoning (six months) anyone paying for sex! Around 20,000 people are believed to be working as prostitutes in France and France evidently has been committed to abolishing the practice in principle since 1960. The resolution says the country should seek "a society without prostitution" and that sex work "should in no case be designated as a professional activity". It urged abolition at a time when "prostitution seems to be becoming routine in Europe. What on earth are they talking about? It’s been routine all over the world since the year dot. So long as men need sex and that is the only way they’re going to get it prostitution will be with us.

Pimping is another matter and is punishable with a prison sentence of up to seven years. There are some 1,000 convictions annually. One MP claims that nine out of ten prostitutes are victims of trafficking. “From now on prostitution is regarded from the point of view of violence against women and that has become unacceptable for everyone.” When it comes to trafficking I wholeheartedly agree but nine out of ten seems a very high proportion. From where does he get his statistics?

However, France's sex workers have a trade union and a rally outside parliament was organized to oppose the proposed bill. Several dozen prostitutes and supporters gathered under placards reading "Sex Work is Work" and "Prostitution - No Repression - No Punishment - Rights!" In a letter to MPs, it and other groups accused politicians of treating prostitutes as “marginals whose voice does not deserve to be heard.” As far as trafficking is concerned a woman in China found guilty of heading a gang has just been executed for forcing hundreds of women into prostitution. The brothels were disguised as tea houses, beauty salons or hotels. Too often here in Greece one reads of women being lured to a foreign country under the impression they will get good jobs only to find they have been the victims of trafficking, and victims is not too harsh a word for the treatment they receive. The traffickers are usually Albanians, Bulgarians and the like, not that the Greeks are blameless. The French government will find it impossible to stop prostitution. A much better idea would be to licence the women making sure as far as possible they have in no way been coerced by anybody into what they do and that they work in conditions of safety.

I am at the moment writing the sixth Thornton King book and the previously established character of Carlotta the London prostitute has this to say of herself –

‘I know what I am, Thornton. There’s no point in denying it, but I do supply a service to society and I’ve never been ashamed of it. Oh, yes, sometimes I’ve regretted the way my life has turned out, it wasn’t how I thought it would be, but never ashamed, no. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, except for this of course.’ She indicated the cigarette. ‘I’m not mixed up in anything criminal and I have regular check-ups at the clinic. I’m very careful, I’m clean and, as far as I am aware I have never given anyone anything to worry about or have sleepless nights over. I’m just a member of the oldest profession, that’s all. What they call the sex industry these days. Everything seems to be an industry these days. I mean, we’ve been with you since the year dot haven’t we?’

Very old joke – gay walking down the street sees a prostitute and hails her with ‘Hello prostitute!’ To which she replies ‘Hello substitute!’

One way or another sex for the sake of sex, sex for the enjoyment and pleasure of sex, sex to satisfy a natural need, is a fact of life and no amount of government wishful thinking or religious venom is going to get rid of it so why get your knickers in a twist over it? As the actress said to the bishop.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blog 399

This is a subject I fervently hoped never to mention again as I felt I had written about it quite enough, but sometimes events take place that make you wonder just when are bigoted idiots going to see some sense. Yes – the subject is sex, firstly homosex and then heterosex because both aspects of human sexuality have been in the news. It is a fact that in Africa, with the exception of South Africa, homosexuality is illegal. Though I don’t know whether, as in some other countries, it can incur the death sentence the Nigerian parliament has just passed a law making the very fact that one is homosexual by nature if nothing else punishable by a jail sentence of fourteen years. Just what is supposed to be gained by this? Do these ignorant politicians really believe that it will act as a deterrent and that homosexuality will just fade away and be no more? If that is the case they are sorely fooling themselves. The result will more than likely be that any imprisoned gay will be sexual fodder for sex starved inmates with no access to women. There will be no contraceptives and more than likely a transmission of HIV. Apart from the misery caused there can be no other outcome. The excuse behind this monstrous piece of legislation is tradition and religion, both Christian and Muslim. To give some idea of the virulence of religious emotion you only have to read some of the comments.

The are always reason given for anti-gay prejudice. In England in the fifties there was a purge brought about because of fears of the cold war, the bomb, and the spying scandal culminating in the disgraceful stitching up of Lord Montague, Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood. After they had all been sentenced and sent to jail the two RAF men they were supposed to have corrupted confessed to having written and said exactly what the police and prosecution wanted. As for the boy Scouts they were evidently right out of the frame. The English came to their senses and the purging not only stopped but homosexuality – with certain provisos- was no longer a criminal offence and no longer considered an illness. Poor old Oscar Wilde suffered prison and vilification not just because he was gay but because he consorted with ragamuffins way below his class and society found that unforgivable. Today his tombstone in Paris was in such a state of disintegration due to countless woman kissing it it is now protected by a glass screen which hasn’t stopped the kissing but at least it’s easier I suppose to wipe of the lipstick.

In Nigeria the vote was passed unanimously. Now I don’t know how many MPs there are in Nigeria but do you honestly want to tell me that all those unanimous votes came from 100% heterosexuals? That none of them had any intimate knowledge of someone who was gay? A brother maybe? A cousin? A best friend? Somehow I very much doubt it but if you were a Nigerian MP and a little on the doubtful side would you be brave enough to stick your neck out and vote against? I somehow very much doubt that as well.

This brought to mind the treatment of gays in the Third Reich so I did a little research and came up with what can only be called the horror story to end all. Historians evidently, and I presume they have done their research well, have come to the conclusion that if it hadn’t been for homosexuals Hitler and the National Socialist Workers Party, that is the Nazis would never have made it, there would have been no World War ll, no holocaust. If this was the case why were countless homosexuals sent to the camps? The answer evidently is that these were ones whose sexual orientation was unmistakable. Apart from those who blatantly flaunted their homosexuality like Ernst Röhm, the earliest meetings of the Nazi party took place in a gay bar in Munich, the SS and the SA were a hotbed of warm brothers and with Hitler it wasn’t so much, some of my best friends are Jewish, but some of my best friends are gay, like Hess for example who he addressed with the endearment “Bubi,” and he preferred homosexual soldiers, storm troopers, etcetera because they were much more willing to indulge in atrocity than the straight German soldier. I wonder what the modern neo-Nazis think about that.

The hetero stories will have to wait till next time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The third account of money in our modern world. Two small boys have made a staggering (staggering considering their age) £100000! How did they do it? Or rather how did their parents do it for them? They put a 57 second video on You Tube that went viral – the internet term for spreading like wildfire - and which has been seen 400million times. And just what is this 57 second video that is so fascinating that it is worth 400million, or more by now, viewings? It is called ‘Charlie Bit my Finger.’ Yes, folks, and that is it. Charlie bit his elder brother’s finger. It was videoed by dad and the result is the family is now £100000 richer. Having hit the jackpot with Charlie bit my finger; the family have followed it up with other truly inspiring videos like Charlie with the scooter he got for Christmas! Wow! Isn’t that fascinating? It is the advertising around these videos that generates the income and it appears more and more people have become aware of the possibilities and are having a go as though the internet isn’t overloaded with crap as it is. Don’t I sound like a real old bear? But I honestly can’t get my head around the fact that there are millions of people world wide who go for this sort of thing. Not surprising really I suppose if you consider that if you hit the jackpot it’s money for old rope. Kids and animals are always up for the aaaah factor. Advertisers are not slow in realising the potential, You Tube evidently fitting the product to the video. For example with Charlie bit my finger there is advertising for Aptamil baby milk. ‘Lots of people know that You Tube is a place to upload and watch ‘inspiring’ videos,’ says Sara Mormino, head of ‘You Tube Online Content Partnerships for Europe.’ Gulp. Inspiring? Inspiring? Come on, is this what life is really all about? Is this to be the sum total of people’s ambitions? Either that or making it on a reality TV show? Anjula Mutanda, a psychologist and social scientist said, ‘For all those parents tempted to grab their camcorders and start making cash from their children there is a caution – ‘If you are going to put your head above the parapet be prepared to be shot. Not everybody will find your clip funny, your child cute or your pet adorable and the flipside of You Tube fame is that by going public with your video you are inviting the chatter of the universe (I like that phrase, good on you Anjula) and not all of it will be flattering.’ And sometimes, when the furore subsides and they are no longer famous, people can suffer a severe depression.

On Greek TV every evening there is a programme called ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ which I have watched a couple of times and which consists mainly of people falling on their arses, sometimes obviously painfully and dangerously so. It’s a multi-variation of the old banana skin joke and the studio audience seem to find it incredibly if not hysterically funny. Small things obviously amuse small minds but again it’s money that attracts. If your video in any programme is voted best of three it’s worth ten thousand smackaroos. Go for it kids.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I see once again I repeated myself on the 3rd. Such carelessness, Made up for it by publishing Blogs two days running. Today’s Blog is mainly about money – other people’s – so what’s unusual about that? It’s just that I thought some items in the paper quite interesting. Firstly I am back again hammering publishers who seem to have lost all sense of decorum and must surely now, like the film industry, be run by Philistine accountants whose only interest is how much profit a book will generate. Never mind content, never mind relevance, never mind literacy, never mind style, never mind intelligent writing, just think of all that lovely lolly rolling in. The author is a celeb, a VIP. They might only be famous for fifteen minutes so cash in while you can. I’m sure I went on about this before but what got me thinking about this yet once again was the news that the Duchess of Cambridge’s younger sister Pippa Middleton (she just had to be named Pippa – doesn’t it conjure up the King’s Road?) has pocketed £400000 for evidently writing a manual on entertaining. And what nuggets of wisdom does the book hold for the avid reader? Well now, this is what I read - party tips – ‘To be a social hit make sure you have the right equipment: a lovely big sister.’ Wow, how about that? Each and every aspiring party goer who wants to be a hit has to produce another Kate Middleton aka Duchess of Cambridge. I bet Her Maj is really thrilled to bits to read that little bit of wisdom, perhaps asking herself just what she has allowed into the house of Windsor. ‘Get her to marry the heir to the throne.’ Have you ever in your life read such rubbish? ‘Remember bumpkins, it’s napkins, not serviettes and serve the peanuts before the pud.’ I guess this is meant to be humorous? This is wit? This is worth nearly half a million quid? This is reputedly her ‘first book’. Can’t wait for the second. And talking of seconds and thirds whatever happened to Wayne Rooney’s autobiography in half a dozen or so parts for which he was paid the most enormous advance. The first volume seems too have died a death so maybe no more will be forthcoming. Spending your young life kicking a football around, throwing a temperament, and having it off with ladies of the night doesn’t really amount to very much to write about I suppose, and the lovely wife has been into the literary trough as well. Any more to come from her I wonder? News of expensive handbags is always so fascinating.

I keep getting e-mails from various organisations and charities asking for donations. I would love to give, in particular where animals are concerned. Unfortunately at the moment I am just not in the position to respond to these requests even with a small amount, and small amounts I am sure can sometimes produce miracles. This Christmas money is so tight we can’t even afford to send Christmas cards.

It is estimated that Rupert Grint, the third of the principal trio in the Harry Potter films is worth something like £28000000. We’re already aware of what Mister Radcliffe is worth and no doubt Emma Watson is worth a pretty bundle.

The question I ask is, do these lucky kids ever get e-mails asking for donations to charity and do they ever respond? Just curious. A portion of twenty eight million would definitely produce miracles.

Next time the third interesting money story; a phenomenon of our modern world.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thinking about Monster Mugabe and Mad Mahmoud’s homophobia that gets them frothing at the mouth – could it be fear that does it do you suppose? – started me thinking about all the different phobias humans suffer. I’m not too bad on heights and I revel in wide open spaces but, on the other hand, placid Taurian though I am, I do have a phobia in that I’m scared to death of enclosed spaces; that is I suffer from claustrophobia. The picture of how mental patients used to be confined in a sort of flat cage in which they were unable to move fills me with horror and even the thought of not being able to use my arms causes a shudder. Although as a child I went through the Cango Caves in South Africa and even on a school field trip went down a coal mine with no problem, today I wouldn’t be able to go down that coal mine or go potholing for example for all the money in the world.

Apart from the obvious phobias, why do people get such fixations in life that they behave in the most irrational way, obviously unable to help themselves? For example, stalkers. A Dutch woman who called a man 65,000 times in the past year - an average of 178 calls a day - is to face charges of stalking. The man told police he had been bombarded with calls, texts and emails from the woman. Lawyers say the 42-year-old woman claimed to be in a relationship with the man and denied that her actions were excessive. The 62-year-old man denies that they were in a relationship. The police raided the woman's home in Rotterdam and seized a number of mobile phones and several computers. At a preliminary hearing in The Hague a judge granted the woman bail on the condition that she leave the man alone but just a couple of hours after being released, she allegedly called him again. She has been kept in custody ever since and it was decided three judges should hear the case. A new date for the hearing is yet to be set. Goodness alone knows what her phone bill must have been like. Unlike the stalking of famous people, film stars for example, the man doesn’t appear to be anybody special except in the eyes and mind of his stalker. What would a psychiatrist make of it I wonder?

And here is another one – women who are quite well but believe they need cosmetic surgery on their sexual organs; what has become known as designer vaginas and should they be referred to overstretched (whoops! ) NHS hospitals? Specialists at a Central London teaching hospital say they received 30 such referrals, mainly from family doctors, over the past three years. This included women who mistakenly believe they need surgery and eight schoolgirls - one as young as 11. Bupa says the procedure is purely cosmetic and does not offer financial cover for the procedure. The NHS has no such restriction and it is apparently a boom industry, 2000 procedures being paid for by the NHS each year.

“Dr Sarah Creighton and colleagues believe the future demand for so-called "designer vagina" operations or labial reductions is potentially infinite and is driven by society's wider and growing desire for cosmetic surgery in general and changing expectations about what is a desirable appearance for women. It's shocking, particularly because we are seeing girls who are really young. They are asking for surgery that is irreversible and we do not know what the long-term risks of the procedure might be. That's probably just the tip of the iceberg. It's a massive boom industry in the private sector." In a study, they reviewed 33 women referred to their clinic between 2007 and 2010 with requests for a labial reduction. Most of the women were seeking help because they were concerned about appearance. Only a fifth wanted the surgery to reduce discomfort. One woman said she felt compelled to have the surgery after seeing a television programme on cosmetic genital surgery. On examination by the doctors, all of the women were deemed to have "normal" genitalia, but three were offered surgery to address "a significant asymmetry". The remaining 30 were refused any procedure at all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thinking about the crassness of those crude stand up comics of today, a couple of evenings ago we watched an old programme made by Thames Television, ‘Tribute to Tommy Cooper,’ and couldn’t help but think, as we laughed like gurgling drains all the way through, how brilliantly funny the man was without any recourse to smut (there’s an old-fashioned word for you). No four letter words, no dirt, just what used to be called good clean fun. Admittedly today comedians are hamstrung by Political Correctness: no mother-in-law jokes, no Jewish jokes (unless you are yourself Jewish), no jokes about sexual orientation, no nationality or racist jokes, in particular black jokes of which of course in private life there are plenty though I won’t mention any of them here. I must admit Cooper during a ‘This is Your Life’ programme about Bill Frazer, did make one racist joke he certainly wouldn’t get away with today, pretending to mix up Frazer the actor with Frazier the boxer. Black he might get away with, a reference to thick lips he certainly wouldn’t. PC, like elf and safety, really does have a lot to be blamed for when it comes to limiting our lives. Something as wonderfully naïve as the old seaside picture postcards: fat man in swimming costume standing on the beach, his little son beneath his beer-barrel belly and the caption, ‘When did you last see your little Willy?’ or over the garden wall ‘My husband is making his whatnot stand’ banished forever. There were other comedians of a bygone age who were equally as funny as Cooper, even someone like Benny Hill who was always being accused of sexual innuendo (and no that is not an Italian suppository! Boom Boom!) or the suggestive dialogue of the Carry On films, though I am glad to say there appears to be something of a backlash these days with the pendulum beginning to swing back. It would seem the trendy theories about education (no one is a loser, which means no one is a winner) that have led to a generation of virtual illiterates is also being challenged. ‘Put elitist back in our schools,’ says the MP for education. I’ll never forget many years ago when we were living in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Hackney where they were/ are so leftwing they almost came/come around to the right again, we wanted to put on performances of Chris’s one man show, ‘Champagne Charlie’ for the benefit of old people’s homes (Oops! sorry, facilities for the elderly) and, when Chris mentioned the fact that the show was fully professional and really very good, the harpy on the other end of the phone told him the council did not go in for excellence, excellence was elitist! You wouldn’t think that anyone could be that stupid but obviously they can.

Whatever happened to three score and ten? Eighty-four seems the predominant age to be dying these days. Virtually every time I read of someone’s departure from this vale of woe, the latest being the film maker Ken Russell, that seems to be the favoured age to go, though Stalin’s only daughter by name Lana Peters went one better to go at eighty-five. Still eighty-four gives me three more years to rant against the iniquities of this world, ha ha!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thinking about the crassness of stand up comics of today, a couple of evenings ago we watched an old programme made by Thames Television, ‘Tribute to Tommy Cooper,’ and couldn’t help but think, as we laughed like gurgling drains all the way through, how brilliantly funny the man was without any recourse to smut (there’s an old-fashioned word for you). No four letter words, no dirt, just what used to be called good clean fun. Admittedly today comedians are hamstrung by Political Correctness: no mother-in-law jokes, no Jewish jokes (unless you are yourself Jewish), no jokes about sexual orientation, no nationality or racist jokes, in particular black jokes of which of course in private life there are plenty. I must admit Cooper during a ‘This is Your Life’ programme about Bill Frazer, did make one racist joke he certainly wouldn’t get away with today, pretending to mix up Frazer the actor with Frazier the boxer. Black he might get away with, thick lips he certainly wouldn’t. PC, like elf and safety, really does have a lot to be blamed for when it comes to limiting our lives. Something as wonderfully naïve as the old seaside picture postcards: fat man in swimming costume standing on the beach, his little son beneath his beer-barrel belly and the caption, ‘When did you last see your little Willy?’ or over the garden wall ‘My husband is making his whatnot stand’ banished forever. There were other comedians of a bygone age who were equally as funny as Cooper, even someone like Benny Hill who was always being accused of sexual innuendo (and no that is not an Italian suppository! Boom Boom!) or the suggestive dialogue of the Carry On films, though I am glad to say there appears to be something of a backlash these days with the pendulum beginning to swing back. It would seem the trendy theories about education (no one is a loser, which means no one is a winner) that have led to a generation of virtual illiterates is also being challenged. ‘Put elitist back in our schools,’ says the MP for education. I’ll never forget many years ago when we were living in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Hackney where they were/ are so leftwing they almost came/come around to the right again, we wanted to put on performances of Chris’s one man show, ‘Champagne Charlie’ for the benefit of old people’s homes (Oops! sorry, facilities for the elderly) and, when Chris mentioned the fact that the show was fully professional and really very good, the harpy on the other end of the phone told him the council did not go in for excellence, excellence was elitist! You wouldn’t think that anyone could be that stupid but obviously they can.

Whatever happened to three score and ten? Eighty-four seems the predominant age to be dying these days. Virtually every time I read of someone’s departure from this vale of woe, the latest being the film maker Ken Russell, that seems to be the favoured age to go, though Stalin’s only daughter by name Lana Peters went one better to go at eighty-five. Still eighty-four gives me three more years to rant against the iniquities of this world., ha ha!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Further to my criticism the other day of Benetton and the like, Jan Moir in Friday’s Daily Mail (a paper trendies and lefties do NOT read but which we get every Friday for Film, theatre and book reviews – and Jan Moir of course) has taken to task a comedian by the name of Jimmy Carr. Having been out of the UK so many years and not having access to British television I haven’t a clue who Jimmy Carr is but, if what Miss Moir says about him is true, I have no wish to know anything about him. Evidently his latest funny ha ha is a cheap shot at Down’s syndrome children. How low can a body get? Well, I don’t know, there is already that something who goes by the name of Ricky Gervaise who’s latest funny ha ha is evidently about servicemen who have lost limbs. Oh, no, wait a minute, in his latest TV he invites viewers to laugh at a dwarf. Great going, Gervaise. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size as we used to say of school bullies? A friend once sent us a copy of “The Office” and we watched about fifteen minutes of it, if that, before deciding that Gervaise was the most objectionable greaseball ever to hit the small screen. What makes the man popular? Is it his very crudeness the great unwashed find amusing? And then there is Frankie Boyle with his unspeakable gags about Katie Price’s disabled son. What was I saying about hurting people?

The following is for the benefit of the Monster Mugabe and the Mad Mahmoud – What do the following people all have in common? Alexander the great, Richard the Lionheart, Augustus, first emperor of Rome, the Emperor Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Leonardo de Vinci, Euripides, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Juvenil, Plautus, Seneca, Donatello, Raphael, Cellini, Lord Byron, Michael Tippett, Valentino, Rachmaninov, Michelangelo, Frederick the Great, Ludwig ll, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copeland, Charles Laughton, Abraham Lincoln, Lawrence of Arabia, D.H.Lawrence, Joe Orton, Verlaine, Benjamin Britton, Peter Piers, Montgomery Clift, Cole Porter, Aristotle, Plato, Visconti, Rimbaud, Jean Cocteau, Walt Whitman, Hans Christian Anderson, Elton John, Richard Chamberlain, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Edwards, Laurence Olivier, Frankie Howerd, Somerset Maugham, Gore Vidal, Ivor Novello, Terence Rattigan, Jules Verne, Almodovar (Spanish film director) George Cukar, Herman Melville, Truman Capote, Flaubert, Thomas Mann, Caravaggio, Tennessee Williams, Igor Stravinsky, Cary Grant, Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Freddie Mercury, Larry Grayson, Andy Warhol, Sergei Eisenstein, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Botticelli, Armistead Maupin, Ang Lee, Anthony Perkins, Cary Grant, Dirk Bogarde, John Frazer, Errol Flynn, Sal Mineo, Tyrone Power, John Gielgud, Francis Bacon, Harvey Milk, Ian McKellen, Jean Genet, Nureyev, Nijinsky, Steven Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Christopher Isherwood, Alan Turing (code breaker World War 11) Lord Kitchener, General Gordon, Baden-Powell, Cecil Rhodes, and many many more, the list is virtually endless and includes at least five Popes, a number of cardinals and let us not forget the Theban Band and the Samurai of Japan. According to Mugabe they are all pigs and dogs. That’s the answer of course – they were/are all gay or bisexual. If Mugabe and Mad Mahmoud enhanced the world just an infinitive fraction of the way most of these men did, each in their own way, maybe their ignorant phobia would lesson somewhat and they would stop ranting and foaming at the mouth. Mugabe’s latest is to call Cameron a Satanist for promoting gay rights.

It is estimated that in 1928 1,200,000 men in Germany were gay including of course members of the SS, the SA, and the armed forces. Like Monster Mugabe and Mad Mahmoud, Hitler (there is some doubt about his own sexuality) thought the world would be a better place without them.

And is there not more than a little doubt about St. Paul? He certainly, gay basher that he was, seemed to have a whole heap of trouble with it. I wonder why.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I’m thinking of giving up. Have I got nothing good to say about anything? My Blogs these last few days seem to have been nothing but doom and gloom. Hardly surprising I suppose considering the state of things but I wish it could be different. I wish there was some sweetness and light. There is certainly no sweetness and light in Colombia. The government there, according to a documentary made by VBSTV, has conscripted police and soldiers to murder the homeless in the name of “social cleansing”. The homeless are forced to hide in sewers to escape the death squads but militia groups have been known to ignite the sewers with gasoline trapping and killing those hiding there. It is obvious that many of these homeless people who have been living on the streets with no support are children and adolescents. Is this called population control? The whole idea of it actually happening is so horrible it is almost beyond belief except it would seem that South American countries are constantly throwing up these “death squads.” In a few years time the world will get around to condemning Columbia for this atrocity with accusations of crimes against humanity but it will be too late for the hundreds if not thousands who will die in the meantime.

David Beckham has been offered an eighteen month football contract for almost twelve million pounds. How many of the homeless could be sheltered for twelve million pounds?

Sir Philip Green is reputedly personally worth six billion! How many could be housed if he gave away only a half of his fortune, or even a third?

Yet another black mark against the deadening (deadly?) influence of elf and safety. A woman who fell 45feet down a mineshaft wasn’t rescued because firemen were told using life-saving gear would break the rules. Fire chiefs refused to mount an immediate rescue operation because of health and safety fears. With several broken bones Alison Hume who was found by her teenage daughter was left lying in agony in the cold and dark for eight hours. A report has found she could have been brought out alive if firemen had been allowed to do their job, instead of which while the rescue operation was in progress, a certain group commander by he name of Paul Stewart, realising he was the most senior man there, took charge, ably assisted by his colleague, one William Thomson. Although one fireman had already gone down Stewart’s first move was to stop a paramedic, who was already strapped in a harness, from being lowered. He and Thomson refused to use a winch to lift the woman out because elf and safety rules state the equipment can only be used to save their own staff! Alison Hume was finally brought out alive but died of a heart attack due to hyperthermia. Moral of the story? If you are in difficulties, no matter how dreadful, don’t even think of relying on the rescue services, because of elf and safety rules they’re more concerned with saving their own skins and the fear of being sued if things go wrong. Unbelievably group commander Stewart had the gall to say the operation had a successful outcome because the casualty was ultimately brought out. He is still in the fire service and is on the waiting list for promotion to divisional commander! Pathetic.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Never mind off-putting photographs of the mad Mahmoud kissing bearded Mullahs, the Vatican has been a positive hornet’s nest of outraged sensibilities. It would appear Benetton produced an advertisement featuring a mock-up of His Holiness giving a bearded Mullah a real smackaroo; the Mullah with pursed lips and closed eyes obviously enjoying it! The Vatican threatened legal action saying the advert was “damaging to not only the dignity of the Pope and the church but also to the feelings of believers,” and, despite my own feelings regarding religion and the religious, I have to admit they’re dead to rights though there was no mention of the other side. What has happened to sense and sensibility (and sensitivity) these days or even plain good manners that people feel its funny or they can get away with discourtesy, ridicule, obscenity, insults, hurt, scurrility? Witness the witlessness of the disgusting phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross on their show and the pair seemingly stupidly unaware of the backlash it would cause. Did they believe they were so popular they were above criticism? Now evidently a transcript is available in schools for pupils to analyse, naturally causing even more outrage, and you want to tell me the world isn’t going totally apeshit? Evidently the Benetton campaign, now withdrawn, featured other political leaders as well and a spokesman said it had been aimed at “fostering tolerance.” Alessandro Benetton, the company’s executive deputy chairman said, “The images are strong but we have to send a strong message.” Indeed? Is that so? Who do they think they are, who do they think they are kidding and who on earth requested they should send out any kind of message at all let alone strong ones? There is only one reason for advertising - to drum up trade and sell more of your wares – that was the strong message it was meant to convey. I am truly surprised that some fanatical Muslims, incensed by what they see as an insult to their religion and, as is their wont, haven’t attacked the Benetton establishments in droves, or that some mad Mullah hasn’t issued a fatwa.

Here on Crete, any new business or office opening requires the services of the local papas to give it a blessing. Like all Greek ceremonies it goes on interminably and watching it the other day at the opening of a new office for the Vamos Culture Society priest and cantor moaning away with book, incense, holy water, crucifix and basil I couldn’t help feeling what a load of superstitious old moody it all was but wouldn’t dream in a thousand years of voicing that opinion.

And still on the subject of religion, in Croydon a Roman Catholic school for girls aged 11 to 18 has been taken to task for selecting pupils who, along with their parents, attend mass, help out at church, and who were baptised within six months of their birth. Evidently “faith schools” tend to do this. I can understand Jewish schools wanting to be completely Jewish and Muslim schools likewise, there really would be little if any point a non-Jew or non-Muslim wanting their child to attend though even within these religions there are schisms of course; but when there are so many varying beliefs in the Christian religion it does seem a bit cliquey to say the least. Evidently, because of the excellent academic record of faith schools there are parents prepared to change their religion in order to enrol their offspring in the school of their choice.’

Nurse: Congratulations, Mrs Christian, you have a bonny bouncy baby daughter.

Wife to husband: Quick, dear, we have just under six months to convert from Congregational to Roman Catholic, have her baptised, and enter her for the convent school.

Husband to wife: I’ll set the ball rolling at once, darling.

It’s a bit like entering your son for Harrow or Eton the moment he’s born.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Well, folks, here it is as promised – Headlined “A Tax Too Far” and illustrated with a photograph of two men holding up their tax demands towards the camera.

“ARE POLITICIANS – Greek and European – deaf, dumb and blind or just plumb crazy that they can’t see the wood for the trees?

Do members of the government not realise that the more they pile on the taxes, the less people will buy and, together with all the small businesses that have been forced to close, the tax base will be further eroded?

The property tax will more than likely be the last straw. I know that I, for one, when the time comes and living on a small UK pension, will simply not be in a position to pay it. What will happen? Will my electricity – now more expensive than ever anyway –be cut off? And if this should apply to not hundreds but thousands of people in the same boat whose income has been reduced or who have been made redundant and their electricity is cut off, what a fine old mess that is going to be.

Of course the very rich have no cause to worry, but for the ordinary working man this could very well be a tax too far, as it were.

Secondly has this nonsensical idea of obtaining shopping receipts using a swipe card been thought through? It’s fine for the big supermarkets that accept credit cards but there are thousands of small businesses that don’t. They simply won’t accept anything but cash.

And what about the itinerant peddler who sells his wares from the back of a truck? Or farmers for example? Or the baker who, apart from his shop, does a bread round in a van, a boon to the elderly? Or the stall holders in street markets? Or the sellers of plastic furniture and nurserymen selling plants, wood merchants and more? I’ve seen a fishmonger’s van, someone selling tools from the boot of his car, Chinese merchants flogging tat and even live chickens for sale. Are they all going to use swipe cards? Do me a favour.

Another point –multiple households. In this house there are three people, each with his own tax number. Now if one goes shopping on behalf of all three (which is in fact the case) can you imagine a supermarket teller’s reaction when the shopper says, ‘This purchase goes on this card, this one on the second card, and these others on the third. The whole idea is absurd.”

A short Blog today, pithy and to the point … I hope.