Sunday, 26 September 2010

Talking to God on the big white phone

I was intrigued yesterday by an art installation outside Ramsey Methodist Centre (it’s actually just a church, but they rebranded it ‘centre’ in an attempt to suggest some community relevance a few years back).
Well, I think it must be an art installation, because it has a touch of the Tracy Emin about it. On the other hand, as ‘proper’ Manx artists tend towards either (a) insipid oil or watercolours which suggest more than a passing acquaintance with the art therapy room at a long term mental institution or ( b) cack-handed ‘explorations’ of ‘Manx identity’ which get easy heritage money it can’t be their work. I would happily recommend this piece for an arts council grant, but it’s far too interesting and professionally executed.
So, the ‘installation’ is placed just outside the church within the yard and consists of a white toilet inside a little shed with the door open, facing the street. It has notices on the roof and sides, but as you’d have to enter the yard to read them I don’t know what they said.
As I mentioned recently (‘All Over Bar The Touting’) it’s Back To Church Sunday today, and the Methodists decided to throw their house open for the entire weekend, with little flyers distributed to all the local houses. The installation, I suppose, was meant to draw folk into the church for their display yesterday, but as even whimsical humour couldn’t get this family through their doors I’ll just have to pass on the ‘real’ explanation and wonder instead.
My first reaction was, is it a cruel teetotal reference to the euphemism ‘Talking to God on the big white phone’?
For those who lack imagination (or have no memory of Freshers Week at university) that refers to the moment when a hopeless drunk is on his or her knees in front of a pebbledashed toilet bowl, having regurgitated several meals he or she has no memory of eating, moaning “Oh God”.
But, on a Saturday night, how crazy would you have to be to leave a toilet in plain view on your property if it lies the opposite side of the road to a major pub with a bus-stop outside it?
Or was it just a bizarre attempt to cash in on the unwitting public service offered by one of the town’s odder cults, also close to that pub?
The thing is, the alleyway on the side of the pub offers faster relief to the weak of bladder than queuing for the pub toilet. Patrons of a charity shop housed there are already asked not to leave donations in bags overnight outside the shop.
The doorway of a small church at the end of the alleyway isn’t an obvious makeshift toilet, partly because it is at the crossroads of busy walkways joining local streets, partly because the bloke in the house facing it breeds Rottweillers. On the other hand, the back of the church is more sheltered, and must see far more congregants around Friday or Saturday midnight than the inside ever sees during Sunday opening hours.
Who says churches cannot offer a valuable public service to those in desperate need?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Why, oh Why, oh W.I.?

Coming out of the local post office this morning I saw a startling poster.
It seems the local jam and Jerusalem brigade want to encourage a new generation of women to wear sensible shoes. They have an odd way of showing it: or maybe they’re just odd anyway.
Because the W.I. are putting on a major lecture in November with a star speaker to get some new blood.
And that speaker is............(drum roll, pause for dramatic effect)........Anne Widdecombe.
(Cymbal crash, nervous cough, stunned silence)
Yes, Anne Widdecombe, former Tory MP, leading light of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and well known campaigner for the rights of women and other folk held back by bronze age belief systems.
For example, Widdecombe (until then a devout Anglican) converted to Catholicism in 1993 along with fellow Tory John Gummer in protest over the decision to allow women priests. And in 1996 Widdecombe, then prisons minister, defended her government's policy of shackling pregnant women prisoners with handcuffs and chains when in hospital giving birth.
Then there’s her more recent attempt to become the UK’s Ambassador to the Vatican. Amusingly, for once there she met with opposition from nutters even more stuck in the dark ages than she is. Because Benny and the boys know – infallibly - that the only true position of women in the Catholic church is barefoot, pregnant and polishing the church baubles.
Oh, another joke too. She’ll be giving her lecture at the Gaiety Theatre.
Is this wise, knowing Widdecombe’s views on gays?
Along with fellow prominent CCF throwback Edward Leigh she led attempts to prevent the repeal of Section 28. And in 17 recorded government votes on issues which would help equalise the legal position of gays, 15 times she voted against, with two no shows.
The poster prominently states that the purpose of the W.I. is ‘inspiring women’.
Some inspiration!
Never mind "And did those feet in ancient times". They’ll be running for the hills after this farce.

Broomsticks on the lawn?

As well as turf wars with a rival Batshit protection racket and worries that government departments looking for cuts could check if several ‘rehabilitation schemes’ (all running at the same time in the same room) might, perhaps, also be serving the same few (often fictitious) ‘clients’, Douglas’s biggest faith-based drain on public funds may have a new threat on the doorstep – literally!
Something I spotted outside the Broadway Baptist Church has me both amused and intrigued. Smack bang outside the front door this week was a car with a bumper sticker reading “My other car is a broomstick”.
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the kind of fundie headbangers who solemnly teach the dimmest parents and social workers that teenagers in black T-shirts are trainee Satanists were under some sort of psychic attack from real local witches? Though the local witch and warlock community are almost as batty as the Baptists, and equally wrapped up in ‘timeless’ folk myths of recent – often urban – origin.
Take their grandaddy Gerald Gardner, who ran the old witchcraft museum at Castletown.
Gardner arguably kickstarted the whole modern witchcraft phenomena with a 1950’s potboiler, Witchcraft Today, opportunistically published just after the repeal of the old witchcraft laws (repealed on the grounds that nobody in the mid-20th century believed such old wives tales). Gardnerians are like the High Anglican version of witches, and funnily enough Gardner had also been both a church warden and a high ranking freemason – so not exactly an anti-establishment figure.
The other hilarious clunker for those who’d like to see him as re-introducing ‘timeless’ Manx tradition is that his book was based on his personal experiences in a New Forest coven and (now discredited) theories of Margaret Murray about ‘the Old Religion’, sexed up with some supplementary material from Alistair Crowley. It’s even alleged Gardner bought his impressive sounding rank within OTO (Crowley’s cult) at a time when that other shady shaman was little more than a penniless dipso about to pop his clogs in another run-down seaside resort, Brighton.
There is a well documented tradition of Manx faith-healers (known as "fairy doctors"), for example in various local Edwardian publications, though they were always at pains to stress they weren’t ‘proper’ witches, just folk with enough plant knowledge to concoct something for your lame horse or hens who weren’t laying.
Funnily enough, the nearest to a ‘witch craze’ we’ve had over here was when the local fundies started offering ‘help’ in case kids were dabbling with ouija boards or might get tempted to sell their souls to Satan while going door-to-door singing Hop Tu naa (Manx version of Halloween dressing up, well before Trick or Treat was invented).
This was a bit of a bad joke when the only known cases of the problem were sessions which had happened on the premises of evangelical churches in the 1980’s, and involved some of the same ‘youth workers’ who a few years later were offering ‘help’. Few other teenagers could have been bothered to waste their time on such twaddle, which might explain why most went on to decent jobs while the superstitious minority still beg public funds or flog woo-woo to the impressionable rich and thick.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Assisted dying - the debate comes back to Mann

I saw a familar figure talking nonsense in the press recently.
I’ve known Peter Murcott for years – ever since the years when he set up a Manx branch of Mary Whitehouse’s mob, then when he ran a Keep Sunday Special campaign, and so on ever since. He’s one of those dependable godbotherers who can be guaranteed to put up an argument on any moral issue, and I almost admire him.
He must realise he’s unfashionable, he must know people snigger at some of his views but he doesn’t seem to care. He gets flattened time and time again in debates – at least in the view of those who listen long enough to hear the arguments and evidence. Even Manx government ministers and civil servants cringe when he kicks off in public - and very few of them display intellect, honesty or open-mindedness.
This time he seems to be the only one willing to put the contrary view in a local debate on assisted dying with Jo Cartwright from Dignity in Dying. He sets out his stall at .
Poor man doesn’t seem to have new arguments since the retired Oxford psychologist Jeff Garland flattened him amicably enough in a Manx Radio debate a few years back, when a Tynwald Select Committee was gathering evidence for a possible Bill. But Peter’s a tryer, we should give him that.
The debate is being put on by Positive Action Group, at 7.30pm on September 27 at the Manx Legion Club in Douglas. More details on their website at .

Monday, 20 September 2010

All over bar the touting

Apparently some major cult leader or other has just had a UK holiday courtesy of the taxpayer. Now he’s gone home again.
The papers and TV stations have been so full of pointless twaddle about it (and resolutely blocked every attempt to question it) that there’s really little more to say or little point in saying it.
So I’ll confine myself to two observations.

(1) Aren’t Susan Boyle gigs getting more surreal? Who on earth was that odd old tranny in the ruby slippers warming up for her at Glasgow last Friday?

(2) Some people might think £10 Million and a disability scooter with bulletproof windows is far too much public money to spend protecting UK children from one German pensioner. But as anyone with kids knows, NO amount is too much to keep our little darlings safe from dangerous freaks.

Of course, it is inevitable that the Deluded Herd will try to make a few bob locally on the back of it all. It’s even more inevitable that at least one politician who’s a complete waste of space will jump on the bandwagon too.
This, in short, explains an upcoming disaster known as Back To Church Sunday, which you can read about in original form, untouched or unclaimed by our local press as their own work, at .
Oh dear!
Energy FM, to their credit, at least attempt to put their own spin on it at . I suspect when it comes to other media outlets, all those years of IOM Steam Packet advertising put their way by Mr Corkish before he ‘retired’ and became an elected layabout will have their price.
But as the zombie worshippers are trying to play us for a bunch of poor misguided kiddies who ran away from home and might be made to feel guilty about it, let’s stick with that analogy and hoist them by their own petards.
As the late Quentin Crisp so sagely remarked, the problem with all those teary-eyed tales of teenage runaways is that, in nearly every case, absolutely the worst thing anyone can do is send them back home. There are good reasons why kids run away, just as there are good reasons why most people (once they’re big enough to say ‘No’) refuse to go to church.
Let’s see… sexism, racism, homophobia, child abuse, fraud, dishonesty, bullying, sheer stupidity, boredom…..
Need I go on?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Losers Convention

There are days I (almost) feel sorry for the Magic Invisible Friend's personal representative on Earth.
What a comedown when your 'state visit' to the UK - costing the taxpayer something approaching £100 million - kicks off with you acting as support act to Susan Boyle.
Never mind, at least all those faith leaders can get together today to commiserate the great British public's total disinterest in their faith-based pyramid schemes. And amongst them (see ) will be a gentleman whose unelected presence in our upper House of Fun was decided by his former area manager and rubber-stamped by Gordon Brown.
Oh well, I'm sure they'll have a great time telling each other how nobody loves them and nobody understands. If only we could persuade politicians and civil servants to share our lack of interest the world could move on.
Because it's funny when you think about it. If you want to voluntarily help out at a kiddie football team you need to pay for a police check which can take months (and probably won't be accurate). If you want to be Bishop of Sodor and Mann and interfere with the political process at the most senior level nobody checks you out anywhere. It isn't just that the Manx public have no vote, even the busybodies in government whose main role in life seems to be to prevent democracy (or even community) are asleep on the job.

Attack of the blue-rinse conspiracy theorists

Watch out everyone. Gay communist satanists are coming for our kids, and the worldwide conspiracy of Jewish freemason advertisers are organising it all.
Oh yawn!
Yes, there’s more sensationalist twaddle from the Deluded Herd on the IOM Newspapers website (see ). This time it’s the Mothers Union on about the ‘commercialisation of childhood’.
Oh crikey, what a shock, and how on the ball. Moral crusaders have wittered in an ill-informed way about this ever since reading failed PR guru Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders in the 1950’s – and probably well before if we could be bothered to look.
What next in this return to Victorian Valium? Perhaps a Manx Rechabite Lodge revival, or the return of the League of Decency?
This report is equally clueless; in fact it should probably itself be reported to the ASA as misleading and offensive advertising. If you can be bothered to trawl through a bag of over-emotional excrement for yourself you can find it at . What you won’t find (you’ll notice at once) is convincing evidence, sources, or even a clue as to how the information was gathered, who from, what methodology used to ensure fairness or accuracy…. and so on and so on.
In short, a complete fabrication, based in part on paranoid conspiracy theory and in part on some zombie worshipping dimwit’s cunning plan to scare us back to church. As ever, it’s a snapshot of just how far out of touch these herberts are, and how desperate they are to spread any sort of wild rumour that might panic us into paying attention to them.
The funniest thing for those who like to watch the local antics of the ‘DH’ is that these blue-rinse bozos are actually the radical wing of the clown show. I kid thee not.
In the early years of the 21st century even the MU had to operate like the Militant Tendency – secretive gatherings of Tory matrons sworn to bring about change to the Diocese from inside. It wasn’t until Graeme ‘the invisible bishop’ Knowles arrived that they could even get a senior cleric to officially attend their shindigs.
How sad is that?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

For stranger danger, think local

I was mildly amused and intrigued by the front page story in this week’s Examiner about a ‘religious sect’ planning to set up a Manx base , now on the website at .
I don’t doubt the basic story (though judging from the ‘ex–team’ website at the former cultists seem a few apostles short of an apotheosis themselves), but I’m amused and intrigued for several reasons.
For one thing, I don’t see why yet another oddball cult here makes such a difference. The place is such a haven for them already. For example, one equally odd one has been fleecing rich new agers for years from a rural venue not 5 miles away from the Crossags. It has large adverts in Johnston Press’s various publications every week, and an input into various flakey ‘alternative health’ and ‘spiritual’ groups with whom it trades punters, ‘life coaches’, leads on access to government advisory committees, public funds and facilities….and so on.
For another, what’s this about 'the Team' only beginning to set up an island base? At least two associates have been peddling their talents around evangelical churches and Christian youth and ‘outreach’ groups for over a decade. I warned Christians Together in Mann’s youth subcommittee about them in 1998, and far more recently (judging from their schools work) a heritage group was not only using other bampots from other dodgy evangelical sects but had taken on board a suggestion first made back then by the Team’s ‘undercover squad’ for tourist development at one of the island’s best known historical venues. Then again, as that venue in turn has a long and ignoble connection with an evangelical chancer/ property developer who counted Billy Graham and Richard Nixon amongst his friends what‘s a few more freaks at the historical freak show anyway?
I’m intrigued because (as I frankly don’t believe either the Bishop’s advisors or any major church group are genuinely concerned) it would be nice to know what the real motive was for feeding IOM Newspapers the story, and indeed who fed it to them.
When the area around the Crossags has so many bampots, conspiracy theorists and hidden agendas why pick on this one?
For example, there have been previous behind the scenes campaigns to stop development around the Crossags. These include a plan to build holiday accomodation in the late 1980’s blocked by local Rotarians, who had a prominent member and schoolteacher point out the ‘danger’ to schoolkids from increased traffic on the road to the Crossags.
Except schoolkids don’t use that road. In fact the only danger on it is from flying golfballs on the adjoining golf course – whose membership revolves around such Rotarians and where it’s a source of huge frustration that the selling off of public land and cutting off of public rights of way cannot extend to the road because it is the main footpath to Albert Tower.
Also amusingly, one silent party behind the proposed development was closely connected to the Anglican management, and the elaborate plan involved a trust which would run the Crossags as a faith-based charity as part of a growing ‘empire’ also involving other Christian children’s charities close to government.
Because again, Nigel Chaplin has been trying for years to set up some sort of lifetime possession trust arrangement for the Crossags which would have allowed him to retain a home for his aged mum and live out his days, with the facility then preferably passing to the sort of church-based groups who use it most. Problem is, the ‘interest’ church groups have in kids is not their healthy development and preparation for a socially useful adulthood, but in grooming them as tithe-payers when they start earning.
They would love to gain control of a nice little facility where kids can run riot in the fresh air and camp safely for weekends (and where Nigel has helped them arrange such things –with the groups concerned often never paying back the full costs of amenities they run up). They just, somehow, seem to view it as Nigel’s ‘Christian duty’ to hand over his heritage so that they can run it – tax free – at a nice little profit.
The backroom intrigues and battles between such imbeciles would make amusing reading should they ever be revealed. I suspect they never will be. Shame, as even Teutonic twerps allegedly running cults might then prove less bizarre or amusing than the homegrown variety.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Not a lot of people know this...

I nearly crashed the car coming home from work last night.
The cause was an item on Radio 4, and I’m sorely tempted to ring them up and swear at them. The item was so unbelievable that I had to watch the TV news on both BBC and ITV…… and then Channel 4 too, and I still couldn’t believe it.
The source of my amazement was hearing the voice of an invisible man – the island’s previous Bishop. A figure so obscure that when I once referred to him by name instead of his ‘proper’ title in a letter to a local newspaper the sub-editor put the title in brackets afterwards, just to ensure the Manx public knew who I was referring to.
The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles (as he now is) was a determined careerist who never really sought the Manx Anglican Area Manager job. It was just a necessary evil for him to acquire some political experience – preferably in a low risk environment – before being able to apply for the cushy London job at St. Paul’s he really wanted; and which he now has.
While stranded here on Lambeth orders, this Teflon parson was careful never to express a controversial opinion, never to take sides in an argument…. Never, in fact to do anything except nod and smile politely.
Meanwhile church membership figures plummeted, and even a Manx government report into church buildings co-commissioned and substantially dictated by church and heritage interests managed to conclude that around half of local churches are surplus to requirement. It also accidentally revealed who the diocesan management were planning to flog them to, but that’s another matter!
His final sermon was delivered to a captive audience of government bigwigs. Nobody else bothered to go: indeed most folk simply didn’t know it was on, who he was, that he’d ever arrived here or done anything - never mind that he was leaving again.
Now our Graeme has an equally pointless existence, helping Anglicans suck up to a Westminster government with no future to offer young people by inventing ever more useless ritual ‘celebrations’ for older, more privileged dullards.
Yesterday it was remembering (carefully edited) stories about the Blitz. Tomorrow ….well, I’m sure he’ll be up to something just as bland, safe, and dull as ditch water.
And just in case nobody on the Isle of Man can believe it, catch the grey one’s dull sick tones at .
Watch, listen and laugh.

Christian politician turns down free lunch shock

I haven’t seen this in the rest of the press yet, but Pink News has a story on the world’s only openly gay prime minister and her partner being snubbed by Christian politicos.
The snub happened while Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was visiting the Faroes, where, Pink News tells us:
“The prime minister of the Faroe Islands, Kaj Leo Johannesen, invited all seven of the Faroe Island's party leaders to dine with Ms Sigurðardóttir and her wife, Jonina Leonsdottir. However, Jenis av Rana MP, leader of The Centre Party, a Christianity-based conservative party, declined the invitation, reportedly saying it was against his religion and that he wouldn't "dream of attending such a banquet".”
See the full thing at
Stupid, of course, but at least it could never happen in the Isle of Man.
No Manx politician in living memory has ever turned down a free lunch, and neither have many of our clerics - espcially when the taxpayer is footing the bill.
(hat tip Mike Tidmus)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Philately funds the flat earthers

I blogged before on a nasty little deal cut between the Manx and Vatican Post Offices to profit from Benny the Boy Nazi’s pointless UK holiday. Seems from the latest follow-up
(see ) that at least the Manx one no longer wants to give the game away.
Maybe they’re taking note of growing public anger, rather than excitement, over a waste of over £100 million on security costs alone, most of which must be met by local authorities because Westminster views police spending as a ‘regional’ matter. Money, as many are saying, that means further cuts must follow in public services already being told to save up to 25%.
But, as I discovered yesterday, that hasn’t stopped our Post Office colluding with yet another bunch of right wing spook-chasers. If you take a look at you’ll discover (to your horror if you know them) that Ramsey’s best known purveyors of evangelical claptrap (and drain on public funds) have done it again.
As if the public money and helpful tax holidays for (let’s see now) building a film studio, ‘training’ film technicians (more accurately being subsidised to employ them for something like 60% of usual UK film industry rates even after ‘training’) and getting Education and Film Board support for the naffest cartoon series in history (hated by all except some pseudo-award from a Christian Concern for our Nation spin-off group) isn’t enough, now they’re flogging stamps?
It’s enough to make you give up posting letters for ever. In fact, I may just stick to e-mail until after Christmas, just to see if it works.
I was also saddened to find out that the Manx Gaelic translation of this borderline end-timer twaddle – paid for by Manx Heritage Foundation – is being undertaken by two folk whose stalwart work for the Manx language movement I used to admire.
I’ve come to expect nothing better from the Manx Heritage Foundation, but true Manx cultural workers used to be proud of being better read and in the frontline of any local fightback against bigotry and ignorance, so I hope this isn’t the beginning of a new trend.