Saturday, 8 June 2013

Shameless plug for The Pink Humanist

I’ve been somewhat remiss in pointing you all towards the June issue of The Pink Humanist, probably because I’m a guest contributor. I am a good friend of the TPH crew, so was happy to give them some on-the-spot reportage on ‘the Ramsey lesbians and the landlord from hell’.
This was not so much to stir up more trouble as to set the record straight. The Isle of Man may be a lot of quirky things, but is no longer the centre of the flat earth world, and Ramsey folk – by and large – are OK. In fact, if we could just fill up a leaky fishing vessel with the town’s evangelical preachers, a few of the crankier Commissioners and maybe the management of the worst finance sector firms, then set it off into the Irish Sea with the rudder set for hell most of our troubles would be over.
I was also glad to do it for other reasons. One is, simply, that TPH runs articles on humanism and current affairs that no other publication can match, and just having my name as a contributor alongside Peter Tatchell, the incredibly brave and intelligent Nigerian campaigner Leo Igwe and other such figures is a boost to my ego.
Take a look and see what I mean. Astonishingly good stuff – every issue a groundbreaker.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Goodbye Mr Tom

I was sorry to read yesterday that Tom Sharpe had died (see ).
In recent years – have to admit – the old spark had gone but in the 1980’s Sharpe was my favourite when you needed to read something intelligent and funny but not ‘worthy’. In particular, I loved the ‘Wilt’ series for personal reasons.
This is because between 1974 and 1976 I was incarcerated at a Cambridgeshire college, so like the ‘Fenland College’ where Wilt taught ‘Meat 1’ and other unwilling students that for years I racked my brains trying to work out which of my former tutors was writing under the pen-name Tom Sharpe.
Turns out, none of them. There were two such colleges in the county and Sharpe was at the other one. Incidentally though, he did trade stories with some of my tutors and these provided major characters and storylines for the Wilt books, as too obvious connections to his own former workplace might have got him sued… or just lynched.
Another sadly deceased comic writer, the music hack Steven Wells, had a great story about the time NME sent him to interview Sharpe and found he was all he had hoped for and much more. The interview was set for mid-morning, at Sharpe’s home, and on arriving Swells was immediately offered a stiff whiskey to calm his nerves, and then another…..
Things got so out of hand that, on consulting his notes on the train back, Swells could no longer remember if Sharpe had actually said some of the outrageous stuff he’d jotted down or if he’d imagined it. As young Mr Wells was then hanging on to employment by his fingernails (having upset far too many sensitive indie music bods, windbag ‘socialist intellectuals’ and showbiz luvvies) he could not risk more controversy so timidly rang Tom Sharpe to check. Sharpe not only confirmed his comments, but reminded Swells of ones he’d missed and added some truly OTT new ones just for the hell of it. The subsequent story offended everyone Swells could not in his wildest dreams, and as all the offence was caused by Britain’s biggest selling living author nobody lower down the gravy train dared complain.
Great writer, great attitude and, like Swells, he will be sorely missed.

Turned off, tuneless …paid out?

Port St Mary is hardly ‘upmarket’ even by seaside town standards, but amusingly it seems even their residents have some limits.
This was a positive story in a week that has been otherwise a bit ‘so-so’. The Manx Indy’s take on it (not yet online) tries to hint at over–reaction - and Living Hell are, obviously, trying to drum up Christian persecution for all it’s worth - but this would be nonsense.
For the record, a Port St Mary ‘beach mission’ had run amicably enough for almost a century until Living Hell got involved. Since then relations between residents, beachgoers and born-again headbangers have gone rapidly downhill.
No, the truth is a lot simpler. They are too loud, too painful to listen to (even with tongue firmly in cheek) and their message is too bigoted, even for Southern rednecks.
Imagine an over-40s night at some Wetherspoon’s hell-hole (see for example) and you might be close. The ‘music’ generally consists of repetitive drones, up to 20 minutes in length, punctuated by startling banshee wails and while the song titles vary deliberately (and the pitch accidentally) the words are few and almost interchangeable. This, close observers suggest, is possibly because their core audience commonly suffer short term memory loss, so may just think they are at a Sunday version of whatever day-care they attend the rest of the week.
It is bad enough when the howling of so many distressed souls escapes through the asylum windows each Sunday morning. But imagine that outdoors, on a beach frequented by innocent families, and we are talking serious public health hazard, not to mention the last nail in the coffin for the tourist trade. “Never mind noise abatement, call the MSPCA”, some might cry.
Incidentally, key figures in such antics were spotted with Northern allies at a farewell concert for one of the genuine Ramsey clergy recently. The sight of evangelical panhandlers en masse (as they inevitably are when free food or public money is on offer) was enough to put everyone else off their fairy cakes. It was startling to watch them hovering round the food table, sarnies in both hands and coat pockets overflowing with cake put aside for a later lonely midnight snack while watching God TV (at least that’s what they say they are watching, and if found doing otherwise it must be for ‘research purposes’ into the nature of contemporary sin).
The only question on anyone’s mind was: “if they came 30 miles each way just for a bag of free buns, which government department got the expense claim for the petrol?”