Sunday, April 27, 2008

RIP Humph

I suppose you could call Humphrey Lyttelton the acceptable face of Old Etonians, in contrast to the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
It was always said that his passing would mean the end of 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' and I hope that proves to be the case. There's nearly forty years' worth of archived programmes for us to continue enjoying.

I don't wish to rain on the eulogies but those wonderful introductions to the programme and the filthy innuendoes about Samantha and Lionel Blair were not written by Humphrey Lyttleton. He simply read them out, albeit with impeccable timing.
A documentary a few years ago revealed that it was the job of the producer to write all the jokes and Humph would rehearse reading them with a straight face just before the recording. But you wouldn't guess this from all the tributes to his wit.

This illustrates the wider point about the shameful way that writers are treated in television and radio and the way that many performers take credit for other people's work.
Harry Hill's TV Burp has just won two BAFTAs. The Radio Times recently published a letter praising the way Harry Hill extracted humour from the week's TV programmes. Yet Harry Hill writes very little of the programme and depends on a team of writers and researchers. To his credit he once admitted this when receiving a previous award.

It's still the case that programme credits often name writers as 'Programme Associates' rather than writers in order to disguise the fact that the highly paid star has done nothing more than read an autocue. (Another traditional device was 'Additional material by....', which meant the presenter/comedian had written just the words 'Good evening').

Television in particular is a medium built on deception. Generations of quick-witted game show hosts have employed people to write their 'ad-libs' for them. The panellists on 'Have I Got News For You' are shown the questions in advance to give them time to think up jokes. Even that secular saint David Attenborough tracks down a rare reptile which (we now know) has been brought from a zoo and placed in front of him just before the camera rolls.

So I'm not launching a posthumous attack on the great Humphrey Lyttelton. He may not have written the material but he brought to the party his world-weary urbanity and flawless delivery and timing.
And 'I'm Sorry...' was just a diversion from his day job as a great jazz musician and nobody would criticise him for interpreting tunes written by someone else.
But I'd also like to pay tribute to all the producers of 'I'm Sorry....' who have written hundreds of introductions, puns and doubles entendres without ever getting any credit for it.

My niggle above has been eloquently remedied by Jeremy Hardy in today's Guardian obituary:
"He was furnished with great scripts by Britain's best jokewriter, Iain Pattinson, but only his delivery and persona could have done them justice: he would play around with lines and add flourishes of his own, maintaining his austere demeanour, but visibly delighted when something new went well."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bash Street Kids

Cutting Edge (C4) had a progamme last night about children's Thai boxing in which children as young as five were made to punch and kick each other in a caged ring.
A father said the children wouldn't do it unless they wanted to. Shortly afterwards we saw a tiny girl in floods of tears as her father lifted her into the ring. It was at that point that I stopped watching it.

I was left feeling puzzled that dog-fighting has long been illegal but this form of child abuse is apparently within the law.
I also recalled that a few months back two women were prosecuted and widely reviled for forcing two toddlers to fight each other and filming it.
Nancy Banks-Smith in the Guardian today gave this film quite a gentle review. Having grown up in a Northern pub, maybe she's a less sensitive soul than I am.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday Witterings

In last night's footie, Chelsea scored a brilliant headed goal to equalise. Unfortunately, it was scored by a Liverpool player. And it happened in what, by tradition, we must call the dying seconds of the game.
It's a funny old game, Brian.

ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley really excelled himself last night with a string of old favourites from the football commentator's phrase book.
We had "no quarter asked, no quarter given."
And we had one of my old favourites: a full-back "discharging his defensive responsibilities." This means he either cleared the ball or successfully tackled someone. But commentators love circumlocution and piss-elegant language because they think it implies they are not the twats that we all know them to be.

Clive's finest moment was shouting "It's a head injury!" as a player lay on the ground clutching his bollocks.
Admittedly, that's where most footballers keep their brains but it was left to his second-string commentator, Jim Beglin, to make the correction and tell us he had "tweaked a muscle in his groin."
I don't know if that's a medically accurate diagnosis but anyway, he should be so lucky. Nobody's tweaked my groin in a long time.


Spotted in today's Radio Times listings:
a comedy drama in the 'See Hear' strand for deaf viewers.
It carries the helpful note: "With voiceover."


Isn't free market capitalism a wonderful thing?
The banks and building societies, having got themselves in a pickle mainly through their own greed and incompetence, are handed £50 billion of public money, with the possibility of another £50 billion to come.
This from the same politicians who are unable to provide an affordable dental service for most people, unable to provide free social care for the elderly, etc, etc, etc.
In view of this largesse, the bankers are asked to go easy on people struggling to pay their mortgages.
They tell the Government to fuck off.
Yet still the prevailing orthodoxy is that anyone who suggests there might be a better alternative to free market capitalism must have a screw loose.


I learned from Woman's Hour last week that the music in those animated Lloyds TSB commercials is called 'Eliza Aria'. It's by a woman called Elena Kats-Chernin.

I pass this on so that those like me who are driven into a rage by this music can avoid encountering it elsewhere.
Or possibly go into music stores with a hammer down their trousers and smash up any CDs of this aural torture. Not that this blog condones illegality.

The offending piece comes from the composer's ballet music for 'Wild Swans'.
Well, my reaction to it is very similar to that of a wild swan. A swan reacting to someone attempting to abduct one of its cygnets. If anyone played it to me I would probably break their fucking arm.
It's a small miracle that my television hasn't yet gone through the window.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Giving Battleaxes A Good Name

Belatedly, I must express my sadness at the death of the Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody.
Built like a brick shithouse - and I wouldn't dare say that if she were still alive - she was as terrifying as one of Bertie Wooster's aunts, although I doubt if Aunt Agatha would have ever been found ensconced on the Labour benches at the House of Commons. More likely spreading terror in the House of Lords Tea Room.

Gwyneth Dunwoody was a late-flowering cactus, her golden years coming towards the end of her career when she became Chairman of the Transport Select Committee.
Prickly herself, she showed no mercy to the assorted pricks who were paraded before her.
And they included our late leader, Tony Blair. Left to her own devices, she would probably have pulled his designer boxers down and smacked his bottom. As it was, she was one of the select group of people who managed to put one over on the smug, God-bothering little public schoolboy.

Exasperated by her withering attacks on Government transport policy, and particularly on the greed and incompetence of the privatised railway companies, Blair had her removed from the Chairmanship of the Committee. But Gwyneth hasn't having it. Nor was the House of Commons. She was swiftly reinstated and the snivelling little creep retreated to his den in Downing Street to write out 100 times: I will not interfere with the appointment of Select Committee Chairmen, especially when their name is Gwyneth.
This episode inspired one of my favourite Steve Bell cartoons, based on a cliché of early movies. Blair has tied Gwyneth to a railway line and, as an express bears down on her, he says: "Get out of that, train-loving bitch!" Of course, the joyous ending, subsequent to the cartoon, was that she did.

It's possible that my mother once dangled the infant Gwyneth on her knee. (Well, it wouldn't have been the mature Gwyneth. It would have taken a heavy-duty crane to do that).
My mother and Gwyneth's mother trained as teachers together after the war. Her mother was Norah Phillips, later Lady Phillips, the wife of Labour General Secretary Morgan Phillips.
They met up towards the end of their respective lives to reminisce. Norah Phillips probably told my mother that Gwyneth was now putting some stick about in the Commons and watching people jump. Mercifully, the chronology meant that my mother didn't have to confess that little Willie was now blogging and remarking on Gwyneth's resemblance to a brick shithouse.

Sometimes it's better not to read people's obituaries.
I had no idea that Gwyneth, whilst a forensic critic of the financial excesses and incompetence of the private sector, had got her own finances into such a parlous state that she took a consultancy for the Fur Traders Association and found herself having to defend animal traps.
But we must be as generous in assessing the balance sheet of people's lives as we would wish them to be to us - except, of course, when Blair pops his Gucci shoes.
So we must hope that, to paraphrase the Bard, in Gwyneth Dunwoody's case the great good that she did lives after her and the misjudgements are interred with her not insubstantial bones.

Going Logo

It seems only the other day I was complaining about the BBC News logo and already they've changed it.
The power of blogging.

The new logo is definitely an improvement - lighter and brighter. But it's hardly the radical rebranding one might expect for half a million pounds.
The dreadful music is unchanged and the countdown to the hour is the same, with Kate Whatsit - you know, the tall piece with glasses - still striding over the Millenium Bridge in a scarlet coat like Father Christmas in drag.

BBC News 24 has been renamed 'BBC News'. The original name did what it said on the tin. The new name doesn't. And if I continue to chronicle their cock-ups, I'll have to refer to it as 'the BBC News Channel' to distinguish it from BBC News in general.

The new logo is engraved into the glass behind the newsreaders. On last night's Six O'Clock News (sorry, we now have to call it 'BBC News at Six'), the positioning of George Alagiah made it look as though he had a laser beam going in one ear and out the other. Or that his head was impaled on a frozen streak of piss.
I was so distracted by this that I couldn't concentrate on what was happening to mortgage rates.
You don't get these problems with news on the wireless.
Except when Charlotte Green gets the giggles.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Congratulations Amidst The Category Errors

There was partying late into the night at Lupin Towers at the success of Gavin and Stacey at the BAFTA Television Awards.

I almost wrote last week that G & S didn't stand a chance in the Programme of the Year category which is voted for by viewers. It has only ever been on BBC3 and BBC2 and was up against juggernauts like Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice. Clearly, its fans feel so passionately about it that large numbers of them took the trouble to vote. So the label 'cult sitcom', still being used today, seems rather absurd.

I also think 'sitcom' is a misnomer. 'Comedy drama' would be a more accurate description. However, since there's no 'comedy drama' category at the BAFTAs, James Corden was quite right to question why it hadn't been nominated in the Best Sitcom category.
But BAFTA's categories have long been a complete dog's breakfast.

Take the ridiculous 'Continuing Drama' category. This lumped The Bill with soaps like Eastenders and Emmerdale. But The Bill is not a soap. It has discrete, self-contained stories which it often wraps up in one or two episodes. And it has recently gone back to its roots with less about the personal lives of its characters, making it even less soap-like. Why doesn't BAFTA finally have a 'Soap' category and another for 'Popular Drama Series'?

I often think I watch far too much television, but last night there were only a few nominees I had ever seen. Since these were supposedly the cream of the television year, does that mean I mostly watch rubbish?
One award that delighted me was for 'Mark of Cain' as best single drama. If you've never seen it, I urge you to watch the next repeat.
Portrayed by some newspapers as a slur on the behaviour of British troops in Iraq, it was actually much deeper and more complex and had a stunning performance from Gerard Kearns of 'Shameless' fame.
It was written by Tony Marchant, whose work I follow with added interest since I spent a morning years ago helping him with research for a TV drama. He already had a BAFTA then but, like most writers, was quiet and self-effacing with no outward hint of the emotional power of his writing. I remember confiding to him that I had an early ambition to write a novel. "I can't imagine why anybody would want to write a novel", he replied. And why would you if you could reach millions of people with the brilliant TV dramas that Tony Marchant has created over the years?

Because of the clash with the BAFTAs, I didn't watch the final episode of Gavin and Stacey until 9 o'clock this morning. That's a very odd time to find yourself an emotional wreck from both tears and laughter. It was as brilliant a finale as we could have hoped for.

From recent interviews with James Corden, it now seems a third series is a real possibility, although only if the two writers are sure they can sustain the quality. There are online petitions calling for a third series and, after winning two BAFTAs, the pressure on James and Ruth will be intense. The problem for them is that it was never conceived as a long-running series. On the other hand, since most of the comedy comes from the characters, it should be possible to devise new situations for Pam and Bryn and, of course, Smithy and Nessa.
And let's have more of Smithy's sister, so wonderful in the last episode. And more of Gavin and Smithy's gang of mates. Let's have more of all of them, plus a CD of the music. Not forgetting the merchandising opportunities. I'm desperate for my Gavin and Stacey Oven Gloves - the oven glove discussion was one of dozens of little vignettes that were worthy of a BAFTA in themselves.
And I guarantee that, even as I write, someone is taking delivery of a T-shirt emblazoned with 'Oh! What's occurring?'

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Carry On Crap

The Carry On films are "parables about failure."
They "held up a cartoonish mirror to the depressed and repressed Britain of the 1950s and 1960s."

You can read more such bollocks in an article in today's Guardian. And, this being the Guardian, there's the predictable whinge about their portrayal of women.

I've never been very keen on the Carry On films and don't think I've ever watched one right through. About 20 minutes is usually enough for me. But to write several hundred words about their supposed cultural significance is as absurd as the plot of one of the films.

There's actually a clue about their true nature in one of the quotes above.
Although not a mirror, they are certainly a cartoon. And frothing with tight-arsed indignation about a cartoon is just plain silly. It's like people complaining about violence in Tom and Jerry or right-wing religious nutters in America and Poland fearing that one of the Teletubbies is gay.
Although I've never like animated cartoons, I quite like cartoon-style comedy using real actors. That's how I see Roy Clarke's 'Keeping Up Appearances', although 30 minutes of that style of comedy is usually enough at one go.

The writer of this article says that when her grandmother heard the line "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!", which she loved, it rang true. It summed up her life.
I suspect she liked it simply because it's one of the best-loved puns in the language.
I've sometimes said it at bad times in my life and it always makes me smile. Rather than summing up a particular life or the human condition, it points up the absurdity of histrionic paranoia. It won't work if you're clinically depressed or paranoid but if it makes you smile you can be reassured that you're neither of those things, just going through one of life's regular, rough patches.

Not Quite The Nine O'Clock News

Flicking to BBC News 24 last night, I found the following caption at the bottom of the screen:
.....police have charged 5 people.....

What? Five?
Only five people after crimes against music and entertainment that have occurred annually for almost my entire lifetime?
Even so, wouldn't you have loved to be the copper who said: "Boom-Bang-A-Bang, you're nicked!"

But regular readers will have twigged that this was actually yet another cock-up in the BBC's captioning department.
The header should have been 'Rhys Jones Murder'.
Nobody noticed the mistake for a good ten minutes. They were either all in the pub or busy polishing Huw Edward's ego before the Ten O'Clock News.

BBC News has just spent £550,000 of our money on a new logo to be unveiled next week. An essential rebranding in a cluttered marketplace, we're told.
Maybe for just a fraction of that money the world's greatest broadcaster could have done something about the high volume of errors on 24 hour news. It often seems as though they're literally broadcasting from a stall in a cluttered marketplace, struggling to create the right caption from some sheets of Letraset.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh, The Irony Of It!

Last night's Cutting Edge, 'Cotton Wool Kids' (C4), was about parents with an exaggerated fear about the safety of their children, believing a paedophile, rapist or murderer was waiting on every street corner.
The children led lives that were little different from 'house arrest'. Some of the parents had given their children remarkably detailed descriptions of what could happen to them. One small girl said her mother had told her that if she was snatched 'they' would probably put a towel round her mouth to stop her breathing. In my book, feeding very young children that kind of stuff is child abuse itself.

A few minutes into this programme, I realised I was watching the mother and father of all ironies. For these parents who were obsessive about their children's safety were happy to put them on TV at peak time and show considerable detail about their lives.

Let's put this in context. A lot of library footage of schoolchildren used by news programmes doesn't show their faces because of concerns about privacy and safety. And children are urged not to put personal details on social networking sites.
Now consider the case of a 13 year old boy featured in the programme whose father was one of the most obsessive about his safety, never letting him go anywhere unaccompanied.
We were told that they live at the Pere Michel Restaurant in London W2. We were shown shots of the street and the restaurant. We were shown identifying shots of the boy's school and the car in which his father drives him there.
Any child putting that amount of detail on a networking site would be naive and foolish, although in most cases it would be seen only by a handful of friends. Yet his neurotic father was happy to sign release forms for a TV company to broadcast this information to a potential audience of millions.

If someone is in the grip of an irrational fear, you might expect them to behave irrationally in a more general sense. However, you might expect their particular obsession to have some internal logic and consistency. So if I believed that murderous zombies had taken up residence in my garden shed, you might expect me to always keep the back door locked and not invite them in for tea.
So the unjoined-up thinking of this father and the other parents left me gobsmacked.

One hopes that these desperately unhappy children can use this against their parents: "so I can't walk ten yards down the road without an escort but it's OK to put me, my house, my school and friends on television. What fucking planet are you on?"


On a related theme, the funniest headline this week was 'Pupils Posing As Paedophiles'.
It was hard to believe this hadn't been written by Chris Morris or Armando Ianucci.

The story itself was not funny at all, since it referred to a new form of cyber-bullying with children as young as ten posing as paedophiles on social networking sites to frighten the wits out of other children.
But it shows the ingenuity and maliciousness that the little angels are capable of.
The greatest risks to children's safety come from, in no particular order: other children, their parents and traffic accidents.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Just Wanna Tell You How I'm Feeling, Gotta Make You Understand

Another day passes and I still haven't been Rick-Rolled.
I wait 10 years for an internet scam to come along that I would quite enjoy and it just doesn't happen.
Somebody, anybody, Rick-Roll me!'

'Never Gonna Give You Up' is one of the truly great pop songs. And I'm not 'admitting' to liking it as though it were a guilty secret. I've always liked it and I think there are good reasons to like it.
Yes, it's what used to be called 'bubblegum pop'. Yes, it was a five-minute wonder. And yes, it has little musical merit.
The lyrics are as banal as many pop songs but they do the job.
And compared to these:
"Love, love me do.
You know I love you,
I'll always be true,
So please, love me do
they could almost be Sondheim.
What a loss Lennon and McCartney were to Hallmark Greetings Cards.

One night twenty years ago, a drunken, love-sick youth sang 'Never Gonna Give You Up' very loudly below my window late into the night, pausing only to vomit on the pavement.
No, he wasn't singing it to me. Well, obviously not or I would have dragged him inside after the first two verses.
He was presumably singing it to his girlfriend who had made her excuses and left after (a) he started singing or (b) threw up over her shoes.
But that vignette sums up the song for me. No, you cynical bastards, not because it makes me vomit but because it's a song about First Love in all its deluded optimism.

First Love is always forever. You're never gonna tell a lie or make them cry or say goodbye or let them down or run around. (Those song-writing solicitors, Stock, Aitken and Waterman, certainly knew how to rhyme).
It's the only time when there isn't a little voice in your head telling you not to be so fucking stupid and warning you that it will probably end in tears.

If you were a teenager in the eighties you could take it at face value and sing along after eight pints of Heineken.
If, like me, you were just a little older, you could simply enjoy its repetitive, upbeat optimism and fondly recall the time you would have believed every clichéd word of it.

I still like it.
I always will.
And if no bastard is going to Rick-Roll me, I might be reduced to shouting requests out the window when the pubs throw out.
You never know, the vomiting youth of twenty years ago might pass by again. I wonder how many lies he's told, how many people he's made cry and how many times he's said goodbye in the intervening years? And has his singing improved?
Questions to ponder as I wash the vomit from my doorstep.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Adwatch - Citroen C5

If it weren't for the fact that coincidence is the explanation for most apparent plagiarisms, I would think that some advertising creative had been perusing back issues of my blog.
I once wrote - in relation to Renault - that, given the longstanding 'personality clash' between us and our nearest neighbours, the last thing you should do when marketing a French car to the British is emphasise its Frenchness.
So I was astonished to see the new TV commercial for the Citroen C5.
It consists of a period film shot in Germany with a Wagner soundtrack and culminates with the slogan 'Unmistakeably German'.
In smaller letters is the phrase 'Made in France'.

Citroen's website even has a quiz you can take to find out how German you are.
I failed it. A scary German gentleman who seemed to be moonlighting from a fetish movie told me that I was not unmistakably German.
In many ways this came as a relief although it does mean ditching my plan to enter this year's Village Carnival in lederhosen.

Leaving aside the fact that if you think the Citroen C5 is German then you are indeed mistaken, this commercial drives my argument into the fast lane to absurdity.
All I meant, chaps, was that you shouldn't over-emphasise the Frenchness of the product, for example with a string of garlic hanging from the mirror or irritating Frenchies running round shouting 'Nicole!' and 'Papa!'
Affluent Francophile shits with a Gîte will lap this up with as much alacrity as they would a dish of moules marinières but if you have a wider target market in mind it might be better to just focus on the qualities of the product.
Of course, the Citroen ad is presumably trying to exploit the supposed admiration for German engineering. But that does raise the question of why you wouldn't just buy a German-made car in the first place.

The final intriguing question is whether the French and Germans are now such good buddies that Citroen are using the 'Unmistakeably German' slogan in France?

And the final, final question is whether Citroen know that 'C5' was the name of Clive Sinclair's electric invalid carriage, which in all its legendary and hilarious failure was somehow 'unmistakeably British'.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

David's Smashing Time

WARNING: some plot revelations.
David Platt's rampage in last night's Corrie was an odd affair. Few of the men in the street tried to restrain him. Kevin Webster stood around "like one of Lewis's", as they say in Liverpool, while David smashed up his client's cars. Guardian reader Ken Barlow tried the softly-softly, caring approach and got a twisted ankle for his pains.

David wasn't enjoying it much either, eventually reduced to walloping a bicycle to pass the time until the police arrived. For this wasn't a rampage born of rage but a calculated tactic to get himself arrested.
Fortunately, police cars and ambulances always arrive in Coronation Street within three minutes rather than the twenty minutes that is more usual in real life - unless the plot requires that someone expires or is burned to a crisp, in which case they get stuck in a traffic jam in Rosamund Street.

Jack P. Shepherd (David Platt), whose acting skills I have long championed, did a turn on the 'This Morning' (ITV) sofa yesterday and revealed a deep understanding of his alter ego and the complexity of the character which is why the 'devil child' never totally forfeits the viewer's sympathy.
As you'd expect, he was asked to do his 'evil look' several times, for this has become a party piece that the actor will never escape from. But it transpired that this is a natural expression for Jack that he has just exaggerated for the role. Several times Eammon Holmes said 'He's doing it again!', only for Jack to say 'No, I'm not!'

He also made some astonishing revelations about future storylines. In prison, David has a gay cellmate with whom he ends up sharing a bunk. I think there was something about a top bunk and them both being on top, but we'll let that pass. There will also be that old cliché, the prison shower scene. Fern Britton thought Jack was joking but he insisted this was all true. But if they're really planning to do a contemporary version of 'Scum' at 7.30 in the evening it will have to be delicately handled.

I later remembered that Eastenders had a similar prison scenario with one of their young characters many years ago in which a rape scene was done by hints and implication. Viewers could draw the inference or not, which probably meant that older viewers thought it was jus a bit of horseplay amongst the inmates and the ten year olds thought it was a gang rape and wondered why everyone still had their boiler suits on.


A friend of mine was a wardrobe mistress at Thames Television. She once told me she'd had a nightmare of a day working with Hughie Green. He had complained about everything and been rude to everyone in the studio. He asked for the heating to be turned up and then flew into a rage about the excessive heat and demanded the heating be turned off. And they were only shooting a short trailer for one of his shows.

So this week's 'Curse of Comedy' drama (BBC4) about one of the most unpleasant men ever to appear on television (Jeremy Clarkson was still in nappies then) held few surprises.
It was worth watching for Trevor Eve's remarkable feat of impersonation. There were several scenes where I thought I was actually watching Bob Monkhouse.
That's not to take anything away from his performance. Rather, it's to point out that there was a great similarity between Greene and Monkhouse in terms of toe-curling unctuousness. That might explain why Monkhouse was so disliked by many people for much of his career.
The difference, of course, was that Monkhouse was a very good comic and, so far as one can tell, beneath the stage persona a fairly nice and generous man.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Waking Up With Evan

This week Evan Davis made his debut as a Today presenter, in the wake of a Guardian leading article 'In praise of Evan Davis' and a Media Guardian article that began 'Why does everybody like Evan Davis?'
So he could be forgiven for having even more of a spring in his step than usual.

It's been a good start. He has a lightness of touch without being lightweight and speaks pretty much like a normal human being. How he fares when he's let loose on the big political interviews remains to be seen.
And he seems to be getting on well with John Humphrys although this is unlikely to turn into a radio version of Brokeback Mountain.

Did I mention that Evan is gay?
Well, just about everyone else does. Or, to be precise, the amazing fact that a serious broadcaster without a smidgin of camp about him is 'openly gay'.
Is it any more relevant than that John Humphreys is openly straight?
In most respects, no. But for young people here's a role model that's refreshingly different from the 'professional poofs' who infest light entertainment. And for those of my age it's a pleasing example of how things have changed.
In my childhood there was a Panorama presenter called James Mossman. I liked and admired him enormously. I think it was Mossman who once caused a furore when he totally lost it with Harold Wilson over Vietnam. Other gay men of my generation have told me that they instinctively knew that Mossman was gay but this was never confirmed until after his death. It was, after all, illegal at that time. So the only unambiguously gay image that minced across our television screens was that of the loathsome Kenneth Williams, leaving many of us in the strange and confusing position of hating what we were supposed to be like but knew we were not.

Interviewers have shown an obsessive and prurient interest in whether Evan Davis has any forms of body decoration which he wisely declines to answer, although this only fuels their interest.
Does he have any tattoos? As a rule of thumb, if you pronounce the middle 'tt' in 'ta_oo', then you probably don't have any.
And does he have a 'Prince Albert'? I believe this is a silver or gold ornamental match-holder attached to a watch chain, made fashionable by Queen Victoria's Consort.
But I don't think Evan Davis smokes and I've never seen him in a waistcoat, which I think is a prerequisite for wearing a pocket watch.
It's an accoutrement more likely to be favoured by the historian David Starkey.
Now there's an ostentatious prick.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Faith, Lies and Prejudice

Hats off to Danny Carr. In a Guardian article he has described his so far futile attempts to get de-baptised from the Church of England.
It may seem a trivial matter but there's an important principle involved. Why should someone continue to be recorded as a member of an organisation with which they fundamentally disagree against their will?

On the 20th April 2005, I raised this issue in relation to the Catholic Church. Here's an extract:

"In recent weeks we keep being told that there are one billion Catholics in the world.That's 1,000,000,000. Does anything strike you as odd about that figure? Well, it's wonderfully round and precise for such a huge number. You don't usually get that when you're dealing with astronomically large numbers...........So how do they arrive at that figure of one billion? The first source I found on Google just said that there are various criteria for determining membership but didn't elaborate. The most accurate criterion would obviously be those who attend mass regularly. But then I found some statistics published in the newspaper of the Holy See which reveal that the one billion figure (give or take a few hundred thousand) is based on the number of people baptised Catholics. So you can take that figure with a bucketful of salt. In fact you can take it with the contents of all the salt mines on the planet and you'd still end up with a massive over-estimate......It's a cunning trick of the Catholic church that, so far as they are concerned, you can never leave it. If you're baptised as a non-reasoning infant, you're a Catholic for life."

It's reasonable to assume that the membership figures for all the religions are similarly grossly inflated. They could teach politicians a thing or two about misleading statistics. And I thought that honesty was supposed to be a principle of all the leading religions.
I wish Danny Carr luck but no doubt the churches will claim exemption from the Data Protection Act, just as they seek exemption from equality legislation.

In other church news, you should look at a post on Elizabeth Pisani's blog about a Catholic poster campaign in Tanzania with the message that condoms kill.
'Shocking' doesn't begin to describe it.

And on a day when Stonewall published a report showing that homophobic bullying in schools is far worse today than in previous decades, two schools in Bristol have had to halt lessons to counteract such bullying because of objections from Muslim parents.

Sexual Politics

So LibDem leader Nick Clegg has told a magazine that he may have had sex with up to 30 people in his life. The cheap joke is that, unusually for a leading LibDem, so far as we know they were all women. But this blog doesn't do cheap jokes.
But it's the cue for the tabloids to describe him as a Lothario, a Casanova, if not a priapic, sex-crazed satyr, from whom no woman is safe.

It's impossible to know whether this was misguided honesty on Clegg's part in a situation where he would have been justified in telling the interviewer to mind his own fucking business or whether it was calculated to increase his electoral appeal.
You may recall that William Hague once claimed to have drunk 12 pints of beer a day when he was a teenager, which was greeted with some scepticism.
Then there was Cherie Blair telling The Sun that Tony was a three-times-a-night man. This also strained credulity (and for Tony might have strained something else) if only because, as the comedian Al Murray put it, any man seeing that large clown's face coming towards him would claim to have a heart condition.

Returning to Clegg, is up to 30 sexual partners for a man in his forties really evidence of rampant promiscuity?
It's surely a bit like the definitions of 'left' and 'right' in politics. It depends where you're coming from.
Some people clock up 30 partners a year, some in just a month and some only in an entire lifetime. The married, ultra-monogamous person might clock up only one. For a small minority the tally is 'none'.

Would the interviewer (Piers Morgan) have asked the same question of an older politician such as Vince Cable? Or of a female politician? What brave man would have asked the question of Margaret Thatcher?
(Interesting side-note: it was during Thatcher's premiership that (a) explicit sexual information was promulgated because of the AIDS scare and (b) hard-core pornography was legalised for the first time. Pity the poor ministers who had to brief her on those two issues whilst marvelling that old iron drawers gave her approval).

All of which reminds me of the two old Chelsea Pensioners discussing when they last had sex.
"Not since my wife died ten years ago", said one. "What about you?"
"Not since 1918."
"Really! As long ago as that?"
(Looks at watch) "Well, it's only 19.45 now."