Monday, 30 May 2011

Cinematic horror special

I generally insist that people have a right to do what they want, providing they leave others to go about their own business too, but there are limits. And I have to report a case which exceeds them.
Because Living Hell (or 'Living Hope Community Church', to give them their official title) have a planning application in (number 11/00621/B) to set up another permanent base in the former gym by Douglas’s Palace Cinema.
Apparently they currently run their Sunday freak show in the Shearwater Suite. Now they want to start holding it in the Palace Cinema instead, setting the gym aside for a separate child abuse session.
I have to protest.
It is not just that parents in the cinema, eyes swivelling and mouths frothing as the lunatic at the front gets into his stride, will not hear their offspring screaming to get out from the gym. It is also a public health issue.
Years ago I worked in several large Victorian psychiatric hospitals, so I know what happens when largish groups of mentally disturbed people get over-excited. Apart from the obvious danger of physical harm to each other as they thrash about (though as the Living Hell acolytes are, in law at least, consenting adults that is their business) they lose control of their bodily functions too.
There is no way to put this politely. Places where this happens regularly develop stains and odours which no amount of bleach and hard scrubbing ever remove.
Adults may decide to put up with this if the film is good enough and the prices are low (neither, admittedly, seem likely at a Manx cinema). But the Palace Cinema is also a place where kids are taken to be entertained.
Any parent will have difficulties explaining to puzzled tinies why the place stinks like a blocked toilet and the floor appears to be stained with faecal matter. And sane or responsible ones would never allow the lights of their lives in such a cess pit in the first place.

Who needs a Manx 'Sarah's Law'?

I was amused to read that there has been yet another call to introduce ‘Sarah’s Law’ here (see ).
Apparently there are parents who would like to know about any dubious character who “poses a potential danger to their children”.
What on earth are these herberts on about? Those details have been on public record for some time, courtesy of the Manx government.
Just go to and for names , addresses and pictures of the guilty.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Spot the real social problem

I was laughing today at an old Auberon Waugh article in which, apropos of nothing useful, he complained that care of the handicapped was becoming a UK boom industry for the hard of thinking.
I laughed first because at the time the article was written (being younger, idealistic and still unwilling to live off laundered crime proceeds in the Finance Sector) I was being interviewed for a Manx job working with the disabled. Thankfully, the Manx public and voluntary sector was then being run by even thicker, more faith challenged dimwits than now, so I was turned down in favour of some superstitious village idiot, who probably now advises the Manx government on matters they know even less about. I shudder to think what a mess I might have made of my life if 'managed' for years by people handicapped by both religious delusion and severe myopia regarding the outside world.
Which brings me to the other reason I laughed, and a more serious matter.
From a story where, with government encouragement, local media wrongly reported (see for example ) that a girl died solely because she took the ‘legal high’ MDAI, to the first precautionary amendment (see for example by the Coroner, along with admissions that investigations were incomplete, to the first intervention by the government body which bears the major irresponsibility for such futile deaths (see for example ) we see a perfect example of the nonsense ‘Bron’ warned us about.
The sad, totally avoidable death of a Ramsey teenager points up everything wrong with Manx drug and alcohol policy, and that it is wrong because the Manx government (in itself a major source of ignorance) chose not to seek any expert or informed advice, and instead pandered to the whims of a bunch of cretinous, unemployable, faith-addled numpties who need to be kept off the streets.
Like the UK government (and governments elsewhere wasting resources in an unwinnable ‘war on drugs’) the Manx government could learn from criminal drug dealers, who are models of social responsibility by comparison.
For example, it was drug dealers and the better drug advisory bodies who enabled an informal ’drug testing’ information service in the 1990’s (known to clubbers and even distributed by clubs) by which rival ‘brands’ of Ecstasy were evaluated for content and purity, and rogue batches blacklisted and put out of circulation. Bear in mind, ‘E’, then as now, was illegal, so those involved risked both further arrest and loss of profit.
And also bear in mind that it was when clueless government drug czars made ‘E’ a Class A that, in the circumstances, both kids and dealers turned to older Class A substances which were cheaper and more deadly, on the basis that you would spend just as long inside if caught dabbling in either.
In those circumstances, is it surprising that Manx kids turn to ever more bizarre ‘legal’ variants of an illegal drug which, alone, has never killed anybody (because all the deaths credited by tabloid hysteria to Ecstasy, when properly examined by anyone with the patience to read autopsy reports fully, turn out to have been due to a mixture of substances – some, such as alcohol, legal – or simple dehydration, or a pre-existing medical condition)?
And is it surprising, in a social situation where their only ‘expert’ drug and alcohol advice comes from ‘professionals’ who rely on free handouts written by superstitious simpletons who, in turn, probably couldn’t scrape through GCSE Chemistry, never mind Sociology, that they turn to ever more bizarre suppliers?
‘Bron’, in typically black humour, went on to worry that the supply of handicapped people might run out before all the chumps can be found jobs negating the opportunity for such already put-upon souls to get on with their lives. Similarly, maybe the real reason we appear to be reading so many Manx tabloid scares about drugs, alcohol, homelessness, prisoners who cannot fit back into society, sexually transmitted disease and family breakdown is not because they are on the increase. Maybe, on any close analysis, the population percentages suffering such problems are the same as they ever were, or even declining.
Maybe they are just more prominently reported, and, knowing that few (if any) Manx reporters now actually find stories, go to events or even ring round contacts to flesh out the PR releases they are sent (predominantly from business and government) there is also another intriguing possibility.
Maybe a superstitious, previously privileged minority is terrified of people who take control of their own lives, and terrified of losing their ability to leech off social misery. So maybe, rather than the ‘great and the good’ dominating social care in order to abolish poverty and attendant misery, they are determined to dominate it in order to ensure it continues – or is at least seen to continue.
Oh tragedy of social tragedies, that vacuous godbothers might no longer find enough drunks, smackheads and other victims to pay the mortgage and subsidise their church expenses.

New appointment, new threat from old menace

Yesterday’s announcement of the appointment of a new Anglican Archdeacon (see is interesting, and perhaps rather ominous.
Apparently: “Andie Brown has been Canon Theologian at Derby Cathedral since 2003 when he took up the post of Continuing Ministerial Education Adviser for clergy and lay people of the Diocese, working with the Mission and Ministry Team.”
Interestingly firstly because it confirms the growing rift between local professional clergy (or indeed any thoughtful Christians) and ‘area management’.
Traditionally, clergy used to come here as relative juniors and rise through the ranks. Take, for example, the career of the last-but-one Archdeacon, Brian Partington, who did just that – from a young curate who came originally to get a few church ‘youthies’ going and stayed until retiring as Archdeacon (a post older Manxies tend to believe he still holds).
Now the policy, officially, is to bring in ‘new blood’ rather than let ‘the professionals’ get rooted in the community, allied to both a major ‘cost-cutting’ exercise which sees retiring clergy not being replaced while their houses (and sometimes even churches) are sold off, and a new management structure which includes ‘honorary canons’ from other denominations and other outside influences.
While this policy is allied to a pretence that it even includes non-Christians (e.g. a laughable attempt to get public subsidy for the Cathedral by setting up a bogus management committee where ‘business’ and ‘other faiths’ have ‘input’) the reality is that, firstly, a senior Anglican advised the Manx government a few years back that there were no other faiths, thus no need for government to consult them, secondly Churches Together in Mann also refused to meet with other faiths to discuss ways of broadening ‘interfaith’ unity and discussion on the island and thirdly, while non-Anglican fundamentalist evangelicals are being handed jobs within the remit of the Anglican Church and both the Fundies and the Anglicans bang on about opening community facilities to church use (Fundies) and churches to ‘community use’ (Anglicans), neither party is using the obvious solution – the Church Sharing Act, a 1990’s piece of legislation drafted by the Vicar General which allows different denominations to share a church and bills rather than let empty buildings rot.
Odd, is it not?
Then we have Sentamu’s Apprentice saying that: “He brings skills in organisation, commitment to outreach, and experience of working with individuals and teams. I look forward to working closely with him in continuing to support churches in this diocese as they develop their involvement with their local communities.”
At the simplest level, this suggests that he has a track record for creating or excusing further interference by faith-challenged simpletons with our kids and communities, but to understand this threat more fully, you need to know that Derby University was, until 1992, a C of E teacher training college called Bishop Lonsdale College. And Anglicans, having flogged off the tastier campus facilities for redevelopment before the ‘upgrade’, still have more than passing influence on University life (see, for example, ).
Also, as traditional academic faculties drop away, and government funding increasingly goes to places of lower learning which prepare students for the McJobs which British McIndustry wants, the course range gets more bizarre (golf course management, alternative health?) and subsidised by McResearch facilities.
Take, for example,, which enjoys a regular income from both public and private sponsors of ‘study’ which, rather conveniently, ‘validates’ ever more public money being micturated away on ever more right wing faith groups under the pretence that they are the glue which holds communities together (all evidence of their bigotry and divisiveness being, even more magically than transubstantiation, strangely absent).
So, keep a closer eye on your kids, your community and your taxable income in future, as all are under new threats from old, unsavoury quarters.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bible stories

You probably cannot help but notice the ‘celebrations’ around the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible.
Radio 4 devoted an entire day to people reading excerpts from it, there have been TV programmes, newspaper and magazine articles, etcetera, etcetera…et pigging cetera. Apparently the non-religious are not supposed to object because the ‘KJB’ (as those in the delusion flogging business call it) is, after all, ‘part of our heritage’, a ‘cultural icon’, and so on.
And this racket also has dodgy entrepreneurs trying to flog old horses and new funding applications over here too. Not that there’s anything new about shady characters trying to steal public money with dodgy ‘heritage’ product on the Isle of Man, of course.
OK, I am certainly not buying the ‘part of our heritage’ lie (and I am always on my guard ANY time a prat in a dog collar starts sniffing around Manx schools looking for fresh victims) but I will accept that the King James Bible is one massive chunk of lush 17th century English prose, not to mention hundreds of rich phrases that decorate our everyday speech.
So when the Mrs noticed a newspaper article where a local church was asking folk to go along and copy out verses from the Bible in their best handwriting for a UK-wide project that aimed to celebrate the KJB’s 400th anniversary, and she, being capable of some pretty elegant script, fancied a go I was OK with that. I even thought The Prodigy might want to be part of this ‘historic’ project.
The article had no contact details (typical Christian attention to detail there) but vaguely mentioned the Methodists were running it so we wandered into a church social to ask the score. They didn’t really know about it, but knew a woman who did, so took our details to pass to her, who would presumably get in touch……..
And almost a month later did, with a vague promise to come round some time when she could….
And almost two weeks later did, having been delayed by the promise of loads of verses being written in church events going on around the island (where we later found, hardly anyone wanted to know).
And so, to get to the point, we were given some paper and asked to write out Psalm 54. Fair enough, the Psalms feature some the best prose passages in the King James Bible, so I rushed to get out my granny’s old copy……
At which point the organiser explained that they weren’t actually using the KJB for the text, they were using the New International Version. For those who aren’t up on this guff, that’s a twentieth century bible edition written in ‘modern English’ for thickos. It reads like something compiled by a committee of marketing trainees for a BTEC project.
To get some idea how awful the NIV Bible is compared to the KJB, imagine Hamlet’s soliloquy read aloud by a top Shakespearean actor. Then imagine the same speech rewritten as a report for a particularly dull corporate entity, typed up by an office junior who can’t spell any word with more than six letters and read out by some kid on work experience who just wants to go back to texting her mates.
But that’s Christians for you. They have a resource that is at least worthy of secular respect, but they bin it for something duller than ditchwater in a frantic ‘we gotta get down with the kids’ panic.
But they still want your cash, they still demand the right to pester your kids on the pretence that this is a project of massive historical, cultural and educational interest……..
And I still cannot take them seriously.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Offers that can't be refused

The latest evidence of a cutback in social services and care of the elderly was announced this week. What is laughingly described as a ‘live at home scheme’ for North Douglas pensioners (see for more) is an additional insult to older people from self-seeking superstitious nitwits, in that yet again government has collaborated with churches to further screw up the lives of folk who cannot defend themselves, but must still pay to be insulted.
The loon in charge claims…“the idea is to offer support with friendly faces in the community, and anybody who would like to get involved will be made very welcome”.
“It is not, they are not, and they will not be”, would be my response to that pile of old cobblers, based on evidence from elsewhere.
For example, a couple of years ago a friend of mine in his nineties moved back to England after several happy decades here in the North of the island. Being non-religious, he had little choice when his wife’s Alzheimer's became more severe and he had no local relative to help.
Both the ‘official’ social support workers and the 'third sector' (i.e. Christian fundamentalist) charities in his area pointedly ignored his plight. No surprise there as (a) my friend was an eloquent critic of local Christocentric cranks and (b) some of those cranks were and are bigwigs in both social services and church-based charitable drains on the public purse.
Down south, the situation is even worse. So bad, in fact, that an evangelical inside source not only confirmed half-joking complaints I had heard from the relative of one victim as typical, but suggested the real situation is far worse. This is worrying as a Southern scheme controlled by some pretty obnoxious Baptist freeloaders is now being rolled out elsewhere.
The story told by the relative of one housebound geriatric was of youngish bible-bashers charming their way into the house with the story that her name was on a list of vulnerable pensioners they had been ‘asked’ to ‘help’ by ‘someone from social services’. After one visit which was some sort of ‘appraisal’ (at which they drank the old girl’s tea and ate her biscuits but gave no help) they returned to ‘invite’ her to a church event as a way to ‘get her out of the house’. It then started to be suggested that it would be ‘unfortunate’ if the old girl did not go along or let them into the house to ‘check’ and one day she was, for example, to fall on the floor and nobody could hear her cries for help.
After a relative heard this she quite bluntly warned these pondlife to stay away or face police action, pointing out to them in the process that they were worse than the Krays because (a) the Krays picked on people their own size and had more respect for the elderly and (b) solved practical problems – permanently - in return for protection money.
An inside source, who is an evangelical and candidly admits his early public sector career opening and subsequent rise through the ranks is due to church contacts, not only confirmed that the story was credible but that he knew of church meetings at which this and similar strategies to drain public funds and gain government influence were discussed. Church-goers in public sector jobs in particular have been asked to tip the church leaders off to possible future openings and told that, in return, senior government figures would ‘intervene’ when promotion prospects or regrading came up.
So Jesus saves yet again, it seems, but only because the rent and other office expenses, utility bills and pensions of his thuggish little helpers are being met from our taxes.

Dying Matters, but not to the Manx Health Department

Apparently, this week has been Dying Matters Week, though from the Manx government’s take on this (see ) you could be forgiven for thinking it was just another excuse for Christian fundamentalists to make our public health system worse.
If the health department’s ‘independent researcher’ on dying well quotes Cicely Saunders once that suggests poor education and very narrow research parameters. If she quotes Saunders twice it suggests something bordering on learning difficulties, and that has to be a worry to the public.
As I mentioned before, the only thing anyone needs to know about Cicely Saunders is that she picked up a million smackers from the Templeton Foundation the year before they similarly ‘honoured’ Billy Graham and just a few years after they gave the loot to Mother Teresa, who wrote character references for financial criminals and dictators in return for laundered cash.
But on the Death with Dignity website yesterday I learnt that:
“Monday then saw the launch of Dying Matters week. Dying Matters is a national coalition of organisations, of which Dignity in Dying is a member, which aims to "change public attitudes and behaviours towards death, dying and bereavement". They provide a wealth of resources to help people talk more openly about death, including leaflets and posters to talk with others about dying”.
I wonder why a Manx Health Department presided over by a paid up member of LIFE, and where another senior figure admitted to me once that she never takes a moral decision without talking it through with her priest, forgot to tell us that.
If you want to know more about the real Dying Matters Week go to . Unlike the travesty which will inevitably feed into a Manx government pseudo-consultation on dying well, you may learn something.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Churches, community, architecture and balance

I blogged recently (see Parish Capers) on the difficulties up at Jurby Church. Just the week after, the Northern News section of the Isle of Man Examiner mentioned a proposal for the church to become an arts centre during the week, with ‘business as usual’ on Sundays.
This, I fear, is desperate folly. Does the island really need yet another naff ‘arts centre’ where no actual arts can be experienced or practiced?
Honestly, those island galleries which get public subsidy would be substantially improved if they just took the pictures off the walls and left them bare. And shops run by duff daubers which pose as art galleries flog tat which even Jurby Junk would not take. As for Port Erin Arts Centre –who amongst us can recall the last time any art happened there, if ever, apart from some creative accountancy?
Come to think of it, our arts community may be even less popular than child molesters or tub-thumping evangelicals amongst those with even half a wit. Frankly, I would put these clueless, anal-gazing galoots lower than lepers on the social scale, and I do so as a well informed party.
I spent my early twenties working on the experimental fringe of the UK arts scene, back in the days when working class people could at least get a foothold in an industry now run entirely by wealthy inbreeds with two figure IQs, no natural talent and no incentive to develop any through hard work or practice.
But the dilemma of these small church communities, and this suggested compromise, is worth more serious thought.
As the bishop himself admitted in the last copy of Together, the Manx Anglican newsletter:
“I have been surprised by some statistics which reveal that between 1989 and 2009 this Diocese declined in numbers by a greater proportion than any other diocese of the Church of England: we are down 40% over that 20-year period.
There will, of course, be some who excuse this by saying that the Island was probably more religious than England in 1989. Then there will be others who respond that, since the Island’s population grew significantly during that period, the decline is actually worse!”
Add this new bombshell to that infamous report co-sponsored by government, Manx Heritage and the churches, which showed that by the admission of church leaders themselves some 40% of island churches are ‘surplus to requirement’, and it is clear we have a crisis for the churches, or more particularly for their dwindling congregations. But as someone who (it may surprise folk) takes a keener interest in church architecture than many actual church-goers, and who certainly cares about the quality of life of my community and neighbours (even religious ones) I am not sure I want to cheer. And I certainly do not want a decline in church-going to be yet another ‘investment opportunity’ for the thugs in the property development racket. We have lost quite enough decent Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco landmarks to that already, if you don’t mind.
So if sometimes quite decent buildings, made with care and craftsmanship and where centuries of personal history have been played out, are not to be flattened to make way for (empty) luxury flats and office blocks or just car parks, but can be retained for some useful community purpose, which in the long or short term also allows ageing churchgoers to worship close to home with their friends, what should be the ‘ground rules’?
I raise the issue because I am genuinely interested. Using the case of Jurby as an example, I cannot see how the right balance is struck between the need of the church-goers for a certain moral and spiritual ‘ambience’ and the need for at least one place on the island where, for once, we can have real creative industry and discussion without having to worry about ‘offending’ religious bigots and their tiny, crypto-fascist view of the world.
I know we cannot trust either the churches, the politicians and civil servants or venal property developers to run this debate. But if we want better lives, and to retain better buildings for better, more varied use, perhaps we had better have it.

Another year, another damp squib

The Micturant Tendency of the local evangelical community have announced details of their annual August freakfest.
If you are a concerned parent or householder, see for the times and places to avoid.
Interesting choice of venue. Surely nothing – I repeat nothing – to do with them being thought beyond the pale even by the standards of the German religious cult that has taken over The Crossags (or possibly just because Firestarter still haven’t paid the utility bills run up at previous Christofascist damp squibs held there or in St. Johns).
And surely nothing – I repeat nothing – to do with Ardwhallan’s owner being a prominent member of the golf club whose secretary used to annually write to Ramsey Commissioners complaining about the noise from the festival.
Maybe these penny-pinching oddballs were just made for each other, or maybe, having fallen out of favour with every other Christian landowner, the honeymoon will end yet again when Firestarter get invoiced – and try to pass that invoice on to their parent churches, who try to pass it yet again to an inter-church youth committee which has eventually dealt with it in the past, but may no longer be able to do so, having been put further and further into the red by a decade of bills run up by childish, over-the-hill bible-bashers.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

An island nation of unemployed telemarketers

According to our Minister for Child Abuse and his cohorts have announced another public pseudo-consultation, this time on dumbing down kids for the workplace.
What an awful idea.
While, admittedly, the very idea of the Welfare State reached us almost by osmosis when the adjacent isle developed it, there used to be the idea that even a state education should invite children to be all they could be, not what vile, venal employers who cannot even compete in the UK market want them to be.
My parents were never so proud as the day, when I was about ten, Mr Fretwell, my Oxbridge educated form teacher, urged them in his cut glass accent to make me aim high, maybe Oxford or Cambridge, maybe the Classics. This was, to use Blair’s phraseology, a “bog standard junior school”, and ironically enough it was Cherie Blair’s maternal grandfather who, only a year later, encouraged my Dad to similarly aim high, stop throwing away the musical talent his parents had invested in so heavily, and get himself a university degree so that he could nurture that talent in other council house kids.
This was 40 years ago and Mr Fretwell may be long gone, but are there no teachers today who still think like that? Are they all too terrified by an educational industry which seems to chew up young talent and defecate prematurely aged mediocrity to …. well, do their job?
The thought that Manx children should have standards of education (already almost non-existent for too many) further lowered to raise new generations of call centre dullards is, frankly, horrific. The irony is, the call centres and other techno-sweatshops in countries which undercut our costs and laugh at our pitiful service standards are staffed by graduates who already have all-round educations our children can only dream of. As I saw only last week, we struggle to achieve basic standards of English, while graduate employees of our clients for whom English is a third or fourth language send back our sloppily written professional documents for rewriting with spelling and grammatical errors highlighted.
It would be funny if it were not so tragic. Can the nation which once, within a period of five years, produced both Randolph Quirk and Frank Kermode really be reduced to this?
The main reason those young Manx people who haven’t had all self-worth kicked out of them at school in the first place must “engage in lifelong learning” is that they learnt so little at school either. And the main reason most of them won’t even be able to benefit from lifetime learning (at least through on-island sources) is that the Education Department has dropped all the adult evening classes where we used to be able to do that. All that remains are a few second-rate flower-arrangers and new-agey nonsense, with the ‘serious’ emphasis on Micky Mouse vocational retraining courses to meet the requirements of employers who can thus pretend to be offering ‘professional development’ while retaining dumb, compliant employees who cannot afford to leave.
Were an eleven year old Randolph Quirk or Frank Kermode to be going through our current school system, what would be the highlight of their curriculum? Probably Business Studies, IT, and Marketing, I suspect, especially if, like Quirk and Kermode, they were children from modestly off families with no social connections.
If we throw away all hope for our children like this we sentence ourselves to become an island nation of unemployed telemarketers within a generation.