Monday, July 30, 2012

Indiana Aurora and God

Apart from that ridiculous pastor who believes gays should be kept behind electrified fences, in  the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Greensburg Indiana a small boy in clean white shirt stands before the congregation and sings a song that ends with the words ‘Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven.’ This is received with cheers and whoops and a voice shouting ‘That’s my boy!’ Presumably that was the child’s proud one hundred percent heterosexual daddy and it would serve him right if his boy turned out to be the biggest, most obvious, airy-fairy faggot Indiana ever saw. The video clip evidently went, or has gone, viral, forcing the church to back pedal, putting out a statement in which the pastor writes that they do not hate anybody no matter what or who, etcetera. This is like saying white supremacists or the KKK didn’t hate black skins when they strung someone up from the nearest tree or burnt crosses on their front lawns; like the Nazis saying they didn’t really hate Jews, they just did want them around, like the Turks saying they didn’t destroy Smyrna and massacre Greeks and Armenians, that is one big lie. But you see, if you are a so-called Christian you have to go along with what the Bible says even if it was written by superstitious Bronze age prophets all those years ago when the world was still sort of young, and certainly not very wise, and certainly had little or any conception of the vagaries of human nature; only that as God’s creation we ought to obey the rules he set down as interpreted by them, rules that we should live by even today with all the advances that have been made in psychology, physiology, etcetera.  It never ceases to amaze me that Christians (so-called) whenever they want to express horror at what we humans get up to, always cite the Old Testament, never ever the new, because there is little if anything in the New Testament capable of raising their wrath. Well, apart from the ravings of that schizophrenic Saul of Tarsus. So, according to the Old Testament we still have to slaughter a bull in sacrifice to the Lord, we can sell our daughters into slavery and we can murder our sons if they disobey us. How come these aspects of what is called God’s everlasting word are simply ignored? And if heaven is filled with the likes of the good Christians of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church I should think any self-respecting homo would be only too delighted not to go there.
Now let us ask where God was in Aurora. Rob Rendle, the founding pastor of Denver United Church a former associate pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs says, “The movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado shook me and the rest of the nation. Reading about the young and unsuspecting victims… Why did this happen? Where was God in all of it? How could a loving God allow this? We pastors face the unenviable task of being asked to answer for God. Most people ask the big questions in times of irresolution, times when satisfying answers are scarce. Let’s be clear: there are no easy answers to the deepest questions of suffering. Libraries overflow with the volumes that have been written to address these questions. Centuries of philosophers, pundits and preachers have reflected on the existence of evil, the meaning of pain and the role of God in suffering. I won’t begin to recount all of their ruminations here. But here’s what I think.
The capacity to choose God and goodness came with the commensurate ability to choose evil. Is it loving to force his creation to follow his order, or to teach it and leave the creature to choose? But Scripture also teaches that God is totally in control. He is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is willing and able to intervene in human events. (?) So there is a gap between human choice and divine foreknowledge, a gap that transcends understanding and that helps define God in my mind. There are at least four influences on human events: God’s will, to be sure; but also the will of Satan, our adversary; peoples’ choices, for better or for worse; and natural law (gravity, collision, combustion, and the like). It is difficult to know which force causes the circumstances that devastate us. But it is enough to know that God need not be responsible for them.” With him so far?
“Where was God in Aurora? He was on the lawn in front of the Civic Building as thousands gathered in solidarity, hope, and love at a packed prayer vigil last Sunday. He was in University Hospital as neurosurgeons groped for synonyms for miraculous.(?) He was in the outpouring of compassion at a victim’s funeral and in the passionate call for unity from a resolute councilwoman and at the bedside vigil of a wounded victim’s church community.(?) Redemption has only begun in Aurora, and already God is everywhere. Their (sic) will be beauty once this story is written that overshadows and transcends the ashes. Where is God in Aurora? He is shining brightly from the hearts of his people.”
But he wasn’t there to save their lives.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cinematic Ghosts

How money over and above daily living expenses dribbles, or rather, bleeds away with the unexpected: Service and repair to air-conditioner 80euro. Replacement of bathroom mirror - 55. Catalytic converter and exhaust on the car 150.New hand brake 50. Replacing Douglas’s lost prescription sunglasses - 150. That is the equivalent of one moths’ pension, in fact a little more. Have I left anything out? More than likely. Still to come, replacement of two sets of metal windows that have rusted beyond repair, quotes so far 2000 and 1600 euro. We will try and do better than that!
Our friend Diane making her annual holiday visit brought two DVD’s with her, ‘The Woman In Black’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.’ Though looking forward to them both they both turned out to be slightly on the disappointing side, neither of them really living up to their hype. I felt the same way about ‘The Artist.’ Obviously in my twilight years I am becoming harder and harder to please because they’re not actually bad but certainly not five star.
‘The Marigold Hotel’ has a cast list consisting of the crème-de-la-crème of British thespiana (new word before somebody points it out as a typo.) Starting with the inevitable dames, Judy Dench and Maggie Smith, and continuing with Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, whose performance I particularly liked, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imre, Dev Patel, an energetic performance I also liked. There was a time when no actor would dare to play a gay role as it would more than likely put an end to his career but now they seem to be queuing up for it, the latest being Tom Wilkinson. It’s a great shame that Brad Pitt and the producers of ‘Troy’ chickened out of the Achilles/Patrokles affair and consequently made total nonsense of the movie. You simply don’t go bananas over the death of a cousin unless that cousin also happens to be your lover.
Our friend Beryl Mayes has also been out on her annual holiday and invariably on departure leaves books behind, one of which this time is ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller, winner of The Orange Prize. If Beryl hadn’t left it, what a wonderful surprise, I feel sure, having read the reviews, I would have wanted to get it and indeed I’m enjoying it immensely. Apart from anything else, I will say this for Miss Miller she writes the most beautiful love scene I think I have ever read. Without going into lurid detail she paints a picture of erotism powered by love that is wonderfully poetic, unlike most writers’ sex scenes that in their detail, what she does to him, what he does to her, he to he, she to she, has one’s toes curling in embarrassment – mine anyway – and let’s face it I am far from being a prude.
And so to ‘The Woman In Black.’ So what was it disappointed me here? Well it did raise a few goose-pimply moments but nothing truly spine-chilling. I didn’t like the big close-ups of the raving ghost. Seeing her from a distance or suggesting her would have been enough. Although I haven’t seen it in many a long year I still remember the scene in ‘The Innocents,’ can quite clearly see it in my mind’s eye, Deborah Kerr looking across the lake and seeing the forlorn looking black figure standing in the reeds. As the saying goes ‘my blood ran cold!’ For example in this movie our hero looking out of a window and her face appearing to look over his shoulder was a wonderful scary moment. And what about Daniel Radcliffe’s performance? Well, frankly, also a bit disappointing. Excellent when required to mutely react but weak when required to open his mouth. But that is only my opinion.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Till Death Do Us Part

I wrote a letter to The Daily mail. I feel certain it will not be published; in fact I know it will not be published, but I gained some satisfaction in writing it. The only paper that prints my letters is The Athens News.

The Editor,
Daily Mail.
Re: Tom Utley’s column, Daily Mail July 6, 2012

I usually enjoy Tom Utley’s column, a man who talks a great deal of sense so, to put it mildly I was little disappointed to discover in Friday’s column that our Mister Utley is something of a homophobe. Now I know from previous columns that he had a religious upbringing but isn’t it time, as a highly intelligent adult, he put aside the blinkers and accepted that homosexuality is as much a part of nature as heterosexuality? He might never have experienced it in any shape or form himself but to write that it is “against the facts of life” is plainly ridiculous. What on earth are the facts of life? The facts of life are myriad, homosexuality itself, just like heterosexuality comes in many shapes and forms and, as Goethe said, ‘How can you call anything in nature unnatural?
Poor Mr. Utley, however would you be able to cope if you suddenly discovered that one of your four sons of whom you are evidently and quite rightly so proud, turned out ‘against the facts of life’ to be gay? How would you cope?

Yours sincerely,

Would he, I wonder, like the Brazilian MP say, ‘Rather a dead son than a gay one’?
Sad, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, whatever happened to ‘till death do us part?’  I suppose it was really always a no-no, except for the happy few who celebrate countless anniversaries before one or the other departs this vale of woe. The Bishop of London has said promiscuity, separation and divorce have reached epidemic proportions in Britain, and the extent of youth unemployment in Britain is "appalling."  What the one has to do with the other I really don’t know but there you are, the Bishop is obviously a very worried man. He says people should use the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to restore strained relationships but he doesn’t say just how that is to be achieved.
He said although people were better off in many ways than in 1952, material progress had come at the expense of equality and communal life. Better off? At the same time I read that in Britain a family of four needs £36800 a year to stay above the poverty line. Writing in a Bible Society pamphlet, the Bishop said relationships had become more strained, fragile and broken than people cared to recognize.
A spokesperson (note the PC will ya?) for The National Secular Society said having a choice to leave unsuccessful marriages was something to be welcomed.
But back to the Bish. ‘Literally millions of children grow up without knowing a stable, loving, secure family life - and that is not to count the hundreds of thousands more who don't even make it out of the womb each year,’ he said. So abortion now enters his argument so we have divorce, unemployment and abortion.
Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, which aims to challenge religious privilege, said that ‘while Britain had problems, there was no “epidemic”- of immorality. That people now have the choice to escape from painful and unsuccessful marriages is something to welcome,’ he said. ‘It has not always been so, and women in particular have borne the brunt of sometimes brutal marriages from which they could not escape - mainly because the Church would not let them. How many cases of domestic violence are reported every year and how many more that aren’t? Like so many other clergymen, the bishop is trying to convince us that we are immoral because we have progressed in ways that he doesn't like. And that is probably why his church is so empty.’
Caroline Davey, from charity Gingerbread, which provides support for single parents, said “poverty and conflict” were the most powerful drivers of poor outcomes for children. ‘Modern British family life is made up of a range of different family types, all of whom need and deserve support - not criticism - as they bring up their children in these difficult economic times,’ she added. That is being as starry-eyed as the good old Bish considering how many people are incapable of bringing up children in the first place.
Dr Chartres presented the biblical understanding of a Jubilee as an opportunity to take a long view, and think about the kind of environment being bequeathed to following generations. He said it should include a move to living within our means. I wonder what the Bishop’s stipend amounts to and whether he would be willing to forego any of it to aid a charitable cause, or perhaps divert some of the church’s immense wealth for the same purpose. Somehow I doubt it. After all what is the church for but to keep the higher echelons of the clergy on the gravy train?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I’m still on the religious bit, guys so if it offends you, or bores you silly, skip today’s Blog and wait for a more interesting episode. After all what is this about that is so important? Well, a little bit of skin the good Lord gave us and then demanded certain peoples take it away. But was it really God who demanded it or was it simply a matter of practicality where personal hygiene is concerned? Interesting don’t you think that circumcision took off and took on a religious aspect in countries hot, dry, and without water to waste on such matters as washing cocks. The ancient Egyptians used to laugh at the Greeks for being uncircumcised and the Greeks laughed at the Egyptians who walked around half-cocked as it were. The fact is smegma, that secretion from glands beneath the foreskin, there’s no point in denying it, does not rate highly in the olfactory sense and I feel sure the ancient prophets thought, aha, the way to get rid of this awful aroma is to cut away the prepuce and be done with it, the smegma will be naturally rubbed off in contact with clothing etcetera, no need to waste precious water and, if there is any objection, we will say the order came from God. Excuse me for being an ignorant goy but does that not make a lot of sense? Like why didn’t those ancients keep pigs? Of all animals pigs require a lot of water. Goats, no, camels, no, but in a desert situation pigs are definitely out and, without refrigeration, pork will go off a lot quicker than goat or camel. Practicalities again. So why, as the aforesaid ignorant goy, am I writing this? It has nothing whatsoever to do with me. With no religious belief of my own and with all due respect to ancient tradition I find the whole thing a storm in a very small teacup; a demitasse even, so why am I bothering? Well, as it was only to be expected, the German court ruling has caused such ructions that for the first time in goodness knows how many years, if not centuries, Jews and Muslims have actually banded together to defend their rights and their religious practices. But evidently the circumcision of infants has become something of a cause celebre in Holland too, as well as the banning of Halal meat (that would include Kosher I suppose) and the Bhurka. Ibrahim Wijbenga said “The motivation is plain Islamophobia. It is not a discussion about medical ethics.” Presumably, following his argument, it is anti-Semitic as well. Maybe Ibrahim is right. Western nations are at last waking up to the fact that as the Muslim population in their midst increases so their way of life becomes a bigger and bigger bone of contention.
But let’s stick with what motivated this Blog. I have personally met more than one adult Jew angry and  bitterly resentful of what was done to him as a babe and I wondered what would happen if one of these gentlemen decided to sue for damages his parents and the mohel who performed the operation? Hey! Here’s a thought – supposing it’s a scam, the parents and the mohel in on it and they all share the pay out. But before my Jewish friends blow a gasket and take exception to my flippancy, with all the brouhaha caused by the courts it may be forgotten that there are, or so I am led to believe, a great many Jews in Europe and the Americas who do not practice circumcision. In America the majority of circumcisions are not performed ritually but take place in a hospital – a good source of revenue. The fact also is that circumcision by removing the protective sheath over the glans reduces sensitivity and to put it in a nutshell, as Rabelais said, ‘foreskin- the only wrinkles that please.’
Now I see Gauleiter Merkel, that woman of steel who has virtually single-handedly brought Greece to its knees – “There is no alternative to austerity” (this, despite the fact that Germany owes billions in reparation for the atrocities of World War 11 and refuses to stump up citing time lapse) has entered the fray on the side of the circumcisers as have various members of her government. Okay for her. She’s neither Jewish nor Muslim and she’s only in it for the votes. And that is quite enough of that. The subject grows tedious and hopefully will never be mentioned again.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


They call it a modern version of alchemy – at the Imperial College in London, the Centre for Synthetic Biology - the design and creation of forms of life that have never existed in nature. If God wasn’t dead before he sure is dead now because what our scientists are doing is playing at being God or endeavouring to. On this over-crowded planet where each day mankind encroaches more and more on the natural habitat, destroying it and its wildlife as he goes, we have artificial insemination, cloning, GM crops and now this; the creation of new forms of life. A report for the Royal Academy of Engineering concludes that this new science is of "critical importance to building a nation's wealth". Here we go again; in the end it always seems to come down to money. ‘Imagine bacteria,’ it goes, ‘fitted with artificial DNA, harnessed to churn out an anti-malaria vaccine.’ – That evidently is already happening in California. Is California swarming with malaria carrying mosquitoes? First I’ve heard of it, but then I am a bit of an ignoramus on the subject of California.
‘Or imagine bacteria with synthetic genes that make them light up when parasites are detected in drinking water - that has been proven to work at Imperial. Or imagine organisms transformed into factories to make us fuel or materials, or engineered to gobble up oil spills and industrial pollution, or crafted to provide the power and wiring for the next generation of computers.’ When a leading scientist was asked where this could lead, he replied impatiently: "That's like wondering back in the 1960s what a computer could do - who can tell?" Who can tell indeed? Remember Frankenstein my friends, remember thalidomide and wonder just what you are going to unleash on an unsuspecting world. Actually it could, on the other hand, be the saving of the planet as it wipes us all out and everything has to start all over again. Instead of another ice-age we will have a microbe age. Brave new world. Is it at all possible for nature ever to be controlled or will nature eventually enact its revenge? In a musical I wrote many years ago based on the Cupid and Psyche legend (just another one never performed alas) a line in a lyric reads, ‘chase out nature and she comes back at the double.’ Maybe instead of ‘chase’ it should read ‘change.’

One comment on the article reads – I am trying to imagine the possibilities but unfortunately my imagination stops at the four legged chicken. Many a true word as the old saying goes. Wow! Imagine it! Four drumsticks! Now that is progress.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Olympic chaos

Why do cities fight over who is to host the Olympic Games? Is it really worth the hassle? London would have been much better off if they had let Paris have them, sit by, enjoy, and watch Paris go bankrupt. Four years after the event Athens is still trying to recover. Is it worth the supposed kudos? The opening is only a few days away now and the buzz word is ‘CHAOS!’ The main road from Heathrow Airport to central London was closed for repairs but has reopened. But, more important, a huge question mark hangs over the security arrangements. The company contracted at enormous cost has failed to come up with its full quota of personnel and is reputedly signing on teenagers as security! Meanwhile the government is drafting in 3500 soldiers to help out and athletes are already arriving though it might take them, we are informed, about two hours to get through security. Law courts in the country have had their cases postponed because of the number of police drafted to London so the next question is, even though the venues themselves may be well guarded against terrorist attacks, what about the rest of the country? Bombs going off elsewhere, Birmingham or Manchester say, or any other major city, will have just as devastating an effect. But the possible acts of terrorism will not be confined to the UK. There has already been one incident. The president of Libya's Olympic committee, Nabil Elalem, is reported to have been abducted in Tripoli. According to eyewitness he was in his car with a colleague when two vehicles carrying armed men forced him to stop. A spokesman for Libya's Olympics commission told a Libyan TV channel that the men had claimed to be from the army and asked Mr. Elalem "politely" to go with them. His colleague was left in the car.
Thousands of athletes and officials have begun arriving in London for the Olympic Games, as questions remain about recruitment of security staff.
Preparations are intensifying just a few days before the opening ceremony. The first priority "Games Lane" has begun operation on the M4 - the main route from Heathrow Airport The rest of the 30 miles of dedicated lanes in the Olympic Route Network (ORN) will be operational by the middle of next week, with heavy fines for those who misuse them. All road users will be able to go into the lanes when they are not in use overnight. Kevin Delaney, from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the lanes could exacerbate traffic problems in the capital. “If anything goes wrong with the central and inner London transport network, we tend to get a wholly disproportionate amount of congestion - and so the Games lanes themselves will actually impose serious constraints on this already stretched network,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. The Olympic drug testing lab starts work. The biggest anti-doping operation in the history of the Olympics has begun. Speaking to BBC News channel, London mayor Boris Johnson said: “London is as ready, in fact readier than any Olympic city has ever been at this stage in proceedings.” Heathrow Airport is standing by to process as many as 120,000 passengers a day, about 10,000 more than would be normal for this time of year. Already hundreds of athletes have been welcomed through Terminal 4 by a huge crew of smiling, garishly-dressed Olympic volunteers - and  armed police with sniffer dogs!

The Mayor of London said: “It's absolutely vital that we get the message across these Games are going to be very safe, very secure. Obviously you can never be complacent about security, you can never take anything for granted - and huge amounts of work continue to be done, particularly on the intelligence side, to make sure that we have anticipated every conceivable threat - but London will be very, very safe.” Fine, all well and good – but what about outside London?
Of course there will be many who can’t wait to get on the gravy train. For example someone we know who spends the occasional night in London used to stay in a bed and breakfast in Hackney, normally charging £28. When he called recently to book a room guess what! The nightly charge is now £320! Hopefully their bookings will be few and far between. A few years back I wrote a novel ‘The Journeys We Make’ all about a mother and her daughters leaving London for warmer climes to escape the 1948 London Olympic Games. I wonder how many Londoners have left to escape these.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Streets Continued.

London taxi driver Tina Kiddell estimates that something like twice as many streets in London are named after men than women. She describes herself as “a woman in a man's world” and has an in-depth knowledge of the city, after driving people around it for 24 years. When not behind the wheel, she spends much of her spare time poring over a copy of The London Encyclopaedia, a comprehensive reference book of more than 1,000 pages. “Every single road has got a story. For example, Gower Street was named in 1790 after a lady named Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower, who married the fourth Duke of Bedford,” she says. “Cavendish Square  - named after Henrietta Cavendish, a daughter of the Duke of Newcastle, Charlotte Street - named after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, Gunnersbury Park/Lane/Avenue (W3) - named after Gunylde, a niece of King Canute, Minories (EC3) - named after the Minoresses, the nuns of St Clare, who had an abbey there, Savile Row (W1) - named after Dorothy Savile, the third Earl of Burlington's wife, and you have Bedford Square at the end of Gower Street - so there's your little story about a family marrying together and having the two names in one area where they had houses and owned land.” Kiddell is proud of her city's history and the stories behind it and is not bothered by London's somewhat male-dominated street map. “When the streets were named, women were subservient to men. Whether that was right or wrong at that time, that was the way it was," she says. “You can't change history.”
But Julia Long from the London Feminist Network says the women in Rome are absolutely right to question the status quo.
“I would love to see a similar project taken up in London. It would play a big part in ensuring that women feel recognised and valued in our city,” she says. Long is concerned about the impact this has on the self-esteem of women and girls. She also thinks it gives men an inflated sense of entitlement and self-worth. This is a very personal opinion that I doubt has much if any validity. No one really takes notice of the gender of street names and why they should be the cause of a sense of entitlement and self-worth in men or self-esteem in women and girls is quite frankly beyond me. “Oh, look, that street is named after a man isn’t that great?” “Oh, look, that street is named after a woman, hiss-boo, it lessens my sense of entitlement and worth.” What a load of old codswallop or, rather, bee in the bonnet time.
But back to Rome where "Street names are a very important form of recognition,” Ercolini says They are a way of immortalizing a person, and of holding in high esteem their achievements. The message conveyed by the naming of such a disproportionate number of streets after men is that men are of more value and importance than women," she argues. And so on and so on. So name a few more streets after women what difference will it make? Not many will take any notice.
Naturally this article was open to comments of which here are a few.

I live on a housing estate with roads named after common native bird species. As if there wasn't already enough important stuff going on the world I am now worried that amphibians, reptiles, platyhelminths and members of the dioptera are underrepresented on our street maps.

Street names are not sexist but male dominated and there is a huge difference. In a corner of the town where I live streets are named after poets. Would I rather live in Plath Drive than Hughes Avenue? Yes, but not because Sylvia Plath was a woman and Ted Hughes was a man, but because she was clearly the superior poet.

I have done my bit to rectify this situation as I have persuaded my wife to change her name by Deed Poll to A259.

To resolve this is quite simple, prefix half the street names with Mrs. or Ms or is that another argument?

What a travesty of male chauvinism! What we need is a quota to correct this, all new roads to be named after women! We need a new road name gender equality Quango to draw up a list of names and allocate these to new roads until half are named after women. There is also a lack of roads named after transgender persons, so we need a quota for them too, also ethnic minorities, different religions etc.

Like I say, every street tells a story.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Streets. Street, road, lane, drive, boulevard, thoroughfare, place, crescent, square or circus, whatever you want to call it I’m surprised no one has thought of doing a television series on streets; fictional or documentary. “I have often walked down this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before, all at once am I seven stories high knowing I’m on the street where you live,’ the song from ‘My Fair Lady’ by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewes says it all. Suddenly the street isn’t just a street anymore but something entirely different. Maybe someone has done a series and I just don’t know about it but there must be a million fascinating stories waiting to be discovered.
The street where Maureen Walsh lives has the totally opposite effect of being seven feet high. What's it like to be the only resident on a road full of empty houses? Thousands of people have been left "utterly stranded" in desolate streets up and down the country because housing regeneration schemes have stalled. "I just feel really, really sad when I look out of the window," says Mrs. Walsh, who bought her two-bedroom terrace in Oldham with husband Terry in 1973. Opposite where a terrace once mirrored her own behind a wire-fence barrier, a single inhabited home of an elderly lady is propped up by the remains of its derelict, pigeon-infested neighbours, their gaping sides covered with tarpaulin. London Road in Oldham is just one of scores across England earmarked for demolition in 2005. It was part of Labour's ambitious £2.2bn project to breathe new life into neighbourhoods "characterised by dereliction, crime, anti-social behaviors and poor services" and blighted by "housing market failure". The Pathfinder scheme as it was called, initially in nine areas of England, was designed to attract private-sector investment to improve housing stock and increase demand. In places, it meant replacing terraces, said to be in low demand, with family homes with gardens and parking spaces. But eight years on, the scheme was reeling from the successive blows of the recession, the collapse in house-building, and public spending cuts.
The current government wound it up with Housing Minister Grant Shapps branding it a failure - "bulldozing buildings and knocking down neighbourhoods... demolishing our Victorian heritage.” There is an old saying, “The way to hell is paved with good intentions,” and Labor’s constant “Ve haf vays of makink you do it” interference is typical. The failure of the scheme has left some neighbourhoods in limbo - including many householders who opposed the programme. Mrs. Walsh admits she was a "thorn in the side" of Pathfinder. While most householders moved out, she was among a minority who fought demolition in court.
In Liverpool, Toxteth's "Welsh Streets" became a Pathfinder cause celebre. Built in the 1880s and given Welsh names by builders honouring their homeland, the terraces hit the headlines thanks to 9 Madryn Street, birthplace of former Beatle Ringo Starr. I wonder if my Welsh grandfather, who built most of the old part of Prestatyn, had anything to do with the building. Where once children played, the streets are desolate. Metal grilles have replaced front doors, while bay windows are bricked up. Charities such as Save Britain's Heritage accuse councils like Liverpool of being too gung-ho on demolition.
A tiny proportion of streets in Rome are named after women, while nearly half are named after men - and it is a similar story in other major cities around the world. Outrageous sexism? A simple fact of history? Or both?
Place your finger on a street map and it's far more likely to land on a road named after a man than one named after a woman. You may not have given it much thought, but Maria Pia Ercolini has. The geography teacher in Rome says her city's landscape is dominated by men and wants that to change. Ercolini and a team of 26 women painstakingly went through every one of Rome's 16,550 streets to determine the gender balance. They found that 7,575 (45.7%) of the city's streets were named after men and just 580 (3.5%) were named after women. "That's proof of the discrimination," she says. Local authorities, which have the final say over street names, are now being urged to redress the balance.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


I’ve just finished reading and enjoying another book lifted at random off the shelves. It has certainly been there a long time. I must have bought it from the second-hand shop in Xania all of fifteen years ago because I see the price was 400drachma. Not exactly in the mainstream of literature, but certainly written with style and in its quirky way a definite page-turner and quite brilliant, the book is “Cutter and Bone” by Newton Thornburg, made into a film in 1981 under the title ‘Cutter’s Way.’ There is no information about the author on the book cover so I looked him up on Google and found he had written a number of novels ‘Gentleman Born’ ‘Knockout’ ‘To Die in California’ ‘Black Angus’ ‘Valhalla’ ‘Dreamland’ ‘The Lion at the Door’ ‘a Man’s Game’ ‘Eve’s men’ and ‘Beautiful Kate’ also made into a film. He died May 2011. If I come across any of his other writing I would certainly look forward to reading it though it would need to come to me as, at the moment, we are not in any position to splash out on books. Bone is a fairly standard American dropout from the rat-race but Cutter is a great character – a one legged, one arm, one eye survivor from Vietnam with a great line in wry humour and vindictiveness.
And while on the subject of books – my Gothic thriller ‘The Museum Mysteries’ is now available on Amazon should anyone (I hope) be interested. Together with the Novella are a number of short stories one of which, ‘An Alternative Christmas Carol’ is one of my favourites bits of writing but will no doubt cause a stamping of irate feet in certain quarters.
Proofing is without doubt one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Both Douglas and I went over the manuscript a dozen times with a fine tooth comb but sure as god made little green apples there is at least two typos still in existence and I only discovered that because I opened the book at random and on page 166 I find “For a moment she stropped chewing as she hastily crossed herself.” Now how on earth did that one escape when now without a second glance it immediately leapt screaming off the page? It really is bloody annoying. I wonder how many more were missed.
I came across only two in Cutter and Bone which is pretty good going these days as even books from major publishers tend to be riddled with mistakes. Ah well, too late to do anything about it now. Just got to live with it I guess.
Language is strange though don’t you think? When you consider there are an estimated 7000 spoken around the world. 2200 can be found in Asia while Europe has 260. How varied can human expression be? Once you’ve got over the biggies; English, French, Italian, German, Greek, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and four or five Eastern European languages that still leaves about 240. Could you name them? I’m buggered if I can.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vamos Arts

Vamos’ Arts Month came to a climactic end! On the Saturday night we had a gala concert consisting of a number of different acts, one of which had me so hysterical I honestly thought I was going to be sick with laughter. I don’t know how or where the sketch originated, having never come across it before, but it was about a radio announcer, an alcoholic, doing a kiddies’ programme “Noddy.” He holds a glass in one trembling hand and a bottle of Gordon’s gin in the other. He starts off by telling the kids Noddy has woken up and is about to wash his face. There is a pause as gin is poured into the glass. ‘Do you hear the water running?’ Then Noddy decides to have a bigger wash – more gin, cleans his teeth and finally takes a bath, more gin. The host gets progressively more pissed, goes on a tour of the Highlands, his car breaks down and the AA Man informs him its because there’s no water in the radiator, glug glug glug, no water in the battery, glug glug glug, no water in the windscreen wash, glug glug glug and I won’t give away the tag that had me practically falling out of my seat. Chris sang two modern songs in the first half and two numbers from Champagne Charlie in the second. Both I’m glad to say went down well. It’s really strange that at an age when the voice is supposed to have given in that he is better and stronger than I have ever heard him. The only downside to the evening g was that Douglas lost his very expensive sunglasses. Someone must have picked them up and now has a pair worth 150euro!
Then Sunday evening at the old school, well in the courtyard of the old school, just along the road from us, we had a concert given by The Concert Orchestra of Rethymno. The Concert Orchestra of Rethymno consists of students and adult musicians. They range in age from very young to well passed middle age and it was a totally enchanting evening. The first half was classical, the second half pop, with vocals. But I am here to tell you that in a Haydn Concerto the pianist was a girl who by the look of her could not have been more than twelve and what a performance! I don’t think brilliant is a too over the top word to use and I really hope she has the opportunity to make a career on a much wider stage – a worldwide stage in fact if she continues on the road she has started. From where we were sitting I couldn’t actually see who the soloist was and when she got up to take her bow I nearly had kniptions! Fantastic.
Then on Monday Chris and Douglas went to a performance of Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ in Xania.  I chickened out. This production came from the mainland and, though not understanding the language, they both thoroughly enjoyed it. A friend of ours, Alexei was the musical director. He took charge of the demo disc for La Belle Otero in Athens all those years ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zimbabwe politicians and circumcision

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe (Mrs.) made a plea to her fellow Zimbabwean  politicians. Get yourselves circumcised and reduce the risk of catching HIV. It would seem at least 10 Zimbabwean MP have rallied to the call. A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare but it would seem the majority of MPs are baulking at the suggestion and I don’t blame them. Ouch! I am led to believe that circumcision in an adult isn’t exactly the most painless of procedures. It is said Robert Monster Mugabe is thinking of setting an example and having it done which seems a waste of time with someone of his age. A bit late in the day don’t you think?
Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and Aids, reducing infection among men by 60%. Really? There are several reasons it is said why circumcision may(?) protect against HIV infection. Specific cells in the foreskin are thought(?) to be potential targets for HIV infection. Following circumcision, the skin under the foreskin becomes less sensitive and is less likely to bleed, reducing the risk of infection. But it is not the whole solution. Promoting safe sex, providing people with HIV testing services and encouraging the use of male and female condoms are all seen as equally important. Some experts are saying there is a danger in sending out a message that circumcision can protect against HIV because it could lead to an increase in unprotected sex. Note the ‘may’ and ‘thought’ above which is hardly reassuring so let me ask this – When Aids was first experienced in the United States and was known as the gay plague how come it claimed so many many many victims when ninety percent of American males are circumcised? Surely this fact should have reduced the infections by that mythical 60%? My 90% is as big a guess as the UN’s 60% so let’s just say the majority of American males. Modern thinking is of the opinion that circumcision is a totally unnecessary procedure unless the foreskin needs to be removed because of phimosis for example. So most Europeans under the age of say 40/45 (another guess) will be found to be uncircumcised except for those who are done for religious reasons. Though I read that a German court has caused a volcanic eruption by stating that the circumcision of babies is mutilation and no one should undergo the operation until the are old enough to decide for themselves. This goes completely against Jewish and Muslim custom of course so it’s little wonder it has caused an unbelievable uproar. Who knows? One day outmoded customs might just die of their own accord. The court in Germany has ruled that circumcising young boys for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm and that a child's right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights. The case involved a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four year-old that led to medical complications. Although male circumcision - unlike female circumcision - is not illegal in Germany, the court's judgment said the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”. Circumcision, it decided, contravenes "interests of the child to decide later in life on his religious beliefs".

Sunday, July 8, 2012

That Breguet watch

It’s not only Afghan clerics ridiculed or in trouble with their flock. The Russian Orthodox Church has apologised for showing a photo of its leader Patriarch Kirill that was doctored to airbrush out a luxury watch he was wearing. Despite the airbrushing the watch's presence was given away by its reflection on a polished table top. The gold Breguet watch is estimated to be worth more than $30,000 (£19,000) was spotted by Russian bloggers. The original photo, dated 3 July 2009, showed a meeting between the Patriarch and Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov. The doctored version appeared quite recently. In a statement the Patriarch's press service said "we reject on principle any use of photo editing software to alter the appearance of images the manipulation would be investigated and the guilty ones will be punished severely." In February a photo of Patriarch Kirill meeting President Putin - who was prime minister at the time - showed Kirill wearing the Breguet watch. Last week he told a Russian interviewer, that expensive watches were not part of his official attire. He admitted owning a Breguet watch but said he kept it in its box. He keeps the box on his wrist?
The Pope has accepted the resignation of an Argentine bishop after the publication of pictures showing him embracing a woman on a Mexican beach. Bishop Fernando Bargallo, 57, was photographed in the sea, hugging a woman in a bikini. He initially said she was a childhood friend, but later admitted to having had "amorous ties" with her. In one of the pictures, he is seen half-submerged in the water, embracing the woman. Shortly after the pictures were published, Monsignor Bargallo gave a public statement saying that the woman was a childhood friend, whom he had known all of his life. He said the situation in which he had been photographed was "imprudent, as it could lead people to jump to the wrong conclusion." He asked his flock to forgive him for "the ambiguity of the pictures" and urged them to view the photos "in the context of a long friendship." But later that same week, Monsignor Bargallo convened the priests of his diocese and told them he had had "amorous ties" with the woman and would resign.
The Vatican has strongly condemned a book on sexual ethics by an American nun and theologian – “Just Love – A framework for Christian sexual ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley. Published in 2006, the book has received widespread praise from Christians of all denominations and has been used as a textbook in college courses on sexual ethics. For it, Farley won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Religion from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2008. (Presbyterians are coming into the modern age? Wow! How about Muslims? Fat chance.) The "notification" says Farley's book "ignores" or "contradicts" Catholic teaching, presenting it as "one opinion among others," and warned that it should not be "used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue."  In plain English we believe it’s a load of crap – ignore it. The "notification" was approved by Pope Benedict XVI on March 16. The Vatican's doctrinal office singled out masturbation, homosexuality and marriage as specific areas of concern in Just Love. Well it would wouldn’t it? Any mention of masturbation or homosexuality will get any number of knickers in a right old twist.
For example, Farley writes that "masturbation … usually does not raise any moral questions at all," and that homosexual acts "can be justified" following the same ethics as heterosexual ones. The Vatican statement retorts that "masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action" and that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to natural law."
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that Sister Farley’s writings manifest “a defective understanding of the objective nature of natural moral law.” If that isn’t gobbledygook I would like to know what is and since when did nature evince any moral law? Sister Farley to my way of thinking has obviously written a book of sound commonsense and sound commonsense is always dangerous to the religious bigots.
The conservatives and the reactionaries will have their day though. I suppose it’s too much to hope they will drag themselves into the 21st century.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thinking of giving up.

I am thinking seriously of giving up Blogging as I am beginning to find it too depressing. Every time I read a newspaper or watch the news or see a video I am reminded of just how irredeemably sordid so much of the world is, from individual stories to more massive horrors. For example a young girl enjoys a night out and finds in the early hours of the morning she is just twenty pence short of her bus fare. Is the driver sympathetic? No, he refuses to let her on the bus. Do any of the passengers come to her rescue, after all who cannot afford twenty pence? No, they sit tight on their bums and their wallets. What is the result? The girl is forced to start walking and along the way is brutally raped and beaten up.
The internet is an extremely useful tool but, alas, it is also a forum for shysters, fraudsters, bullies, and the emotionally disturbed.
Attention seeking on the internet takes many forms, but the people who hoax online forums with tales of sick children are among the most painful, writes a certain Jolyon Jenkins.
Little Charly Johns was a trouper.
She was only six years old and had cancer - but she fought it with determination. She was in and out of hospital as the disease advanced and retreated.
It was tough too for her mother Anna. She joined the Macmillan online cancer forum.
There she found support and help from people who knew exactly what she was going through.
For two years, Anna kept them updated on Charly's progress.
"On the whole she is doing great," she wrote. "She is happy, lively, giggly and very easily excitable. She is always the first to laugh at anything and the last to stop. Nobody could look at Charly now and have any idea of the things she has endured these past 14 months."
But in November last year, Charly lost her fight for life. On the Macmillan forum there was an outpouring of grief. People wrote poems in Charly's memory. They painted their fingernails pink in accordance with her last wishes - even men.
But it was all a lie. Charly did not exist. Neither did Anna.
The whole thing was a hoax, discovered when the church in Paris where Charly's funeral was to be held turned out to have no record of her. The perpetrator, it transpired, was a teenage girl suffering Munchhausen syndrome. The pictures of "Charly" were the girl herself when younger. But she is far from being the only bone. There have been too many cases in which people fabricate illnesses to gain attention and sympathy.
BBC Radio 5 live presenter Richard Bacon has revealed that he has suffered two years of anonymous abuse directed at him, his wife and his baby son. Bacon has complained to the police, and tried to track down his abuser for a BBC Three documentary on abusive "trolls": The Anti-Social Network He said he wanted to know how criticism of his work "could go to contacting my family and tweeting about my baby.” Bacon, 36, said the line had been crossed when criticism about his radio show turned into abuse about his wife, his mother and five-month-old son Arthur. Much more disturbing, he said, were the actions of "RIP trolls" who posted offensive messages on tribute sites. "They see these nice tributes, then they also see these weird sexual, violent comments and imagery," he said.” For people who don't even understand Facebook in the first place, as well as being upsetting and prolonging their grief, it's confusing.”  Once upon a time it used to be anonymous letters but it is so much easier just to use the computer.
Young girls in England are being gang-raped by young boys. This isn’t necessarily happening only on sink estates. A girl is cornered by two or three boys who then phone their friends with the message, “come and join us!” and jolly good fun is had by all – except the girl of course. I seem to remember when I was growing up in South Africa that the penalty for rape was so many strokes of the cane and the incidence of rape (reported rape anyway) was very low. Only masochists relish physical pain. Today in South Africa rape is evidently endemic.
But on to a broader canvas - Imams ranting from their pulpits, ‘Death to Israel, kill the Jews,’ and Muslim children as young as five being brainwashed on mass with the some hysterical slogans of hate to provide a new generation of killers and suicide bombers, already being taught how to use weapons they can hardly hold up. And, as Alfred Jingle in Pickwick Papers says when asked if he has any more stories to tell replies, hundreds more. But let’s leave it there shall we?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Afghans have lampooned clerics over a proposed ruling for women. Cartoons emerged, such as one of mullahs trapped in a cage by a modern Afghan woman sitting on top of it.  After a council of Afghan clerics issued restrictive guidelines for women, later embraced by President Hamid Karzai, young Afghans streamed to social media sites to lampoon the rulings. "It's outrageous," wrote one young Afghan on his Facebook page. "The next thing they'll be saying is that Afghanistan needs to be divided up in two - one half for men and the other half for women." This was just one of thousands of comments posted on social media sites by young Afghans after their country's top religious council said that men and women should not mix at school, work or in other everyday situations. New sites have been set up to campaign against what critics are calling gender segregation. "The government's expenditure is going to rise sharply because they'll have to set up a special parliament for women, and separate universities, banks, and shopping malls," wrote a Kabul resident on Facebook. "Maybe, they should just divide the city into special sections for men and women." Though there has been an angry response others have decided that the best way to react is through humour:  "Ladies, you should not surface on Facebook without a male partner," wrote Mahnaz Afzal, an Afghan woman currently working in London.  
"We have asked the Facebook administrators to create separate profiles for women. You are not allowed to 'like' or 'poke' someone on Facebook or you will be cursed."
"Could I please ask the Afghan girls not to comment on my posts unless they have permission from their fathers or husbands or the Ulema council?" one man tweeted.
"Girls are only allowed to access Facebook if they are wearing their burkas!" tweeted another.
Cartoons have appeared on many sites. One shows a woman in a traditional blue burka reading the television news, her face completely hidden. Many young Afghans see the government's support for the recommendations as a throwback to the Taliban era and say the president is using it to reach out to the Taliban.
"It means the government is paving the way for the Taliban to control Afghanistan", says Zakia Nawa, a women's rights activist who fled to Iran when the Taliban came to power.
"I remember the bitter time when we were housebound by the Taliban and were deprived of education. This is another way of restricting women's rights."
Some members of parliament have also spoken out about the new recommendations. Ahmad Behzad, an opposition deputy from the western city of Herat says it contravenes the Afghan constitution. There are of course supporters of the proposed law by the brainwashed religious “I support the comments by the Ulema council because it is in accordance with Islam,” said a theology student. Most of those who have taken to Facebook and Twitter to protest are from the country's young, educated urban elite. But there is another Afghanistan out there, where people are deeply religious and protective of traditional values. "I support the comments by the Ulema council because it is in accordance with Islam," said a student of Islamic theology from southern Afghanistan.  "We are Muslims and we must obey what Islam and our clerics say," said a resident of Badghis. "I am surprised that our young people call themselves Muslims, but when it comes to Islamic rules, they make fun of it," wrote a Kabul resident on Facebook.
Muslims now it seems amount to twenty percent of the world population; how long before the world is back in the dark ages?

Monday, July 2, 2012


This, believe it or not, is Blog 500 so, put together with the ones I lost, I must have written about 750! Actually I see it is 720. How many of them are worth anything I wonder and how much of it is dross? Well, the only way to find out would be to reread them and that I definitely ain’t going to do; but here are a few more tit-bits to enliven your day.
There was once a weekly magazine in England called Tit-Bits – human interest stories, drama and sensation. It was founded in 1881 and expired in 1984. So many publications have died. There was once an excellent daily newspaper, The News Chronicle that ceased publication in 1960 and The London Evening News was incorporated into The Standard in 1980. The latest to fold, thanks to Mr. Murdoch of course, is The News Of The World (1843), or ‘The Screws’ as it was nicknamed. I never thought I would live to see it. That paper was a famous British institution. Over the years it had lost much of its bite of course once naughty politicians, naughty vicars and naughty scout masters were no longer of much interest. Times do change. Anyway, today’s tit-bits for your edification – I suppose I really should have talked about Her Maj’s Jubilee that’s driven the UK crazy because, in a way it is a Jubilee for me, having landed in England that very year and getting chilled to the marrow and soaked as I remember overnight in Hyde Park waiting for that once in a lifetime glimpse of the procession passing by but somehow I can’t seem to rake up the enthusiasm. I remember also at the time watching the recording of the coronation on a little black and white television at a friend’s house in Croydon. Television was so primitive in those days.
Would you like to know where British taxes go? Well, partly anyway. It goes on Civil Service credit cards allowing civil servants to book into first class hotels, dine in expensive restaurants, make purchases, etcetera without in many cases having to provide a receipt. There are 24000 cards and they have been used for such purchases as teddy bears, doughnuts, lingerie and tooth brushes! I suppose with a stretch of the imagination these could be claimed as legitimate expenses. I mean, you could be sitting in the Laundromat waiting for your lingerie to be laundered, with a teddy for company and eating doughnuts to sustain you while you wait, after which of course you will have to use a newly purchased toothbrush to clean your teeth or your dentist’s bill will be charged to the card and that is more money from the exchequer. So really, when you analyse it, you are being economical with the taxpayer’s hard earned money. After all, dentists don’t come cheap. The public accounts committee is now evidently clamping down on the abuses. It’s amazing how often horses and stable doors spring to mind.
Evidently the government is also worried about the benefits system being virtually out of control. Surprise surprise! If people can take advantage of the system they will take it. If they can fake it and get away with it they will fake it. There are four million homes in the UK where no one goes to work. I wonder just how many of the inhabitants are work-shy: and can you blame them when benefits pay more than they would get by working, especially if you have kids, the more the merrier? What started off as a wonderful piece of socialist thinking, giving support to those in need, has turned into a nightmare when so many rely solely on benefits and wouldn’t know how to do a day’s work even if they were inclined to. The modern education system doesn’t help of course. Some pupils leave school virtually illiterate and unemployable. Some students leave university unemplpoyable! Meanwhile what are the wonderful members of parliament getting up to righting the wrongs that beset British society? They’re busy twittering with inane messages like ‘Kids in bed. Chicken in Oven. Was careful not to muddle the two up.’ You realise of course that this is what passes as the soul of scintillating wit but has the perpetrator nothing better to do? It was the tax-payer’s vote that put her into parliament and the tax-payer’s money that keeps her there. Who needs it?