Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Manger danger

There are days when you worry about the state of the Manx NHS. And then there are other days when you really worry about it - especially when it caves in to pitchfork-waving simpletons stirred up by priests.
Which isn't to say that all clergy contact with the health service is negative. For example, when the bishop spouts guff like this (see http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/68929/bishop-bemoans-political-correctness ) I know at once that he doesn’t talk to his own hospital chaplain, who probably put the display up in the empty chapel as usual because he actually knows and respects the beliefs of hospital staff. In my dealings with the last generation of hospital chaplains on a committee, I also knew them as three tolerant, kindly lads with definite party lines but prepared to understand and work with others to the common good.
But the island's hospitals have always been a little, well.... rustic compared to UK equivalents, and it did take years of effort just to get things relatively scientific. Even five years ago I knew of a superstitious senior hospital official who never took a major decision without consulting her priest. Thankfully, he was slightly more worldly than she was, and I gather talked her out of a few schemes straight out of Lourdes.
Sadly, those wise old heads are now retired, and their replacements are either under orders from area management to concentrate on rich invalids or just from Christianity's lunatic fringe anyway. In addition to one replacement (the one who stirred up the nativity scandal) being a sectarian fright, representatives of the island's freak sects (formerly kept at bay by hospital staff) now freely roam the corridors looking for victims.
All of which makes this (see http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/68928/it-s-humbug-health-chiefs-dispel-nativity-decoration-rumour ) somewhat inevitable.
What next? Homoeopathy, “services of spiritual healing” .....leeches ....... exorcisms?
Laugh if you like, but two of the above are already on tap at the island's semi-privatised hospice (a centre of spiritual excrement, sadly, ever since its unfortunate conception), so not quite the plot for a black comedy starring, say, Mark Gatiss that it ought to be.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

No room at the inn?

About a month ago, I was made aware of an apparent case of religious prejudice against people trying to help the homeless. I was reminded of it again when I saw http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/church-to-host-christmas-day-meal-event-1-6990614 . Then, last night, I was finally introduced to the victims of this odd incident of discrimination.
Briefly, some well meaning hippy types had managed to find a way to regularly obtain surplus vegetables from farmers and small-holders. Their plan was to cook this up and have a regular free lunch for the homeless.
First they approached the owner of an alternative cafe about running the project. He, reasonably enough, pointed out that he couldn't really offer free food to some of his regular punters and not others without confusion or arguments.
Next they approached the wardens of a church with a large hall. The wardens were totally disinterested in the whole project until the hippies offered to pay, and even then not until they offered to pay the full commercial rate expected of, say, a mid-sized business hiring the gaff for a few hours.
That was bad enough. What the hippies tell me happened next was even worse.
They suddenly got a phone-call in which one of the church wardens said that the Parish Church Council had seen fit to hold an emergency meeting. At the meeting, as far as I can tell, the PCC not only voted to refuse permission for the lunch, but to bar anyone involved from hiring the hall in future.
And here is the sick joke.....
The church hall concerned is run on the proceeds of one of the earliest ever Manx charities. The will of the Victorian benefactor provided for a school house and soup kitchen. Under the terms of this will, the property was demised to the vicar and wardens of the adjoining church “and their successors in office to be held on trust for such good and pious uses as they from time to time may determine with full power to dispose of the property and apply the proceeds to like uses.”
I should also say this is not the first story I have heard about the church involved barring use of the building for genuine community initatives, even when the organisers offer the full going commercial hire price. By comparison, pseudo-charities and snooty little cultural soirees run by well-heeled townspeople seem to find no such obstacles. Neither( it has been suggested) do some of them even pay a token hire fee.
Another funny thing. I passed by the church recently and couldn't help noticing the Baby Jesus was missing from the Nativity display.
Maybe the wardens decided there was no room for him either.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Not a prayer?

I had a bit of a giggle recently at http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/68672/ramsey-company-answered-our-prayers-says-beach-buddies.
Well firstly, I doubt if anyone had to pray about it, given that the company directors and most of the Beach Buddies go to the same church.
Secondly, those most involved were present at a local course given a few years back by CARE - a nasty little gang of bigots posing as an educational foundation with rather more influence at Westminster than is healthy.
They owe this influence to their practice of providing interns to members of the Christian Conservative Fellowship free of charge. One such intern was the daughter of the Manx government minister who invited CARE over to run the course, and who used their dubious “research” himself a few times while trying to push his department's policy through Tynwald (thus contributing to the public's general impression of him as a flat-earther who needs to read a lot more).
The topic of the course was how to give your business a Christian ethos. In a nutshell, it sold ways to avoid tax and present your business as a religious charity, without either the cost or the inconvenience of registering as a charity and thus having to produce audited accounts.
Nice tax strategy if you can get away with it. And as long as such companies have a friend who works in the offices of the temporary Attorney General I suspect few checks will be made or awkward questions asked.

The art of cronyism

The real world has prevented me posting for a while, but I had to point out the latest tat Ramsey Commissioners have dumped on us under the ongoing town degeneration scheme (see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/rnli-saluted-by-commissioners-with-sculpture-1-6995364 ).
Believe me, however bad you think it looks in the picture, the reality is far worse. No wonder it was unveiled in the dark. Until this gargoyle rocked up, a disability scooter or pram could just about get up a section of pavement the regeneration scheme had finally (and I suspect accidentally) fixed. Now it's back to normal. Another nice one, Nigel and his co- numpties.
And what is it about the conception and delivery of “public art” that local government and the Manx Culture Mafia find so hard to think about? Everything, apparently.
Why else could it be that every time some public sector apparatchik hatches half an excuse to commission a statue we get a giant size replica of one of those toys you used to get free in Cornflakes packets?
Since the Millennium, Ramsey has now suffered the Nazi Tyre outside the Shoprite toilets, the Two Crusties moved from the Town Hall to the “community area” outside the soon-to-be closed Ramsey Post Office (the only public fixture in the redeveloped area any member of the public genuinely wants) ...... and now this.
Look, the return to the figurative (rather than abstract) in 21st century public sculpture is supposed to engage the public. When Damien Hirst creates ghastly giant size versions of awful toys it is meant ironically. When Anthony Gormley, (perhaps more effectively) created the Angel of the North or his sea watchers on the beach it caused people to look twice or gasp, and then rethink the way they see that landscape. Whoever commissions such pieces at least assumes ordinary members of the public without art history degrees are intelligent enough to do that.
By comparison, the rash of god-awful cod-fascist crap inflicted on the Manx public over the last 20 years and excused as statuary or urban redevelopment really needs …......
Well, let's just ask where are Gustav Metzger and Jean Tinguely now that we really need them?
Some will say that if I feel this strongly I should do something more than moan; possibly stand for the IOM Arts Council or something. Well, I would, only the call for next year's members was only made yesterday (Friday), the applications have to be in by next Friday, and the new Council starts operating in January.
Think about this. Applications to be in three and a half days before all government departments take the phone off the hook, have a glass of bubbly on the taxpayers and shut up shop until January 5th, from about which date the new Arts Council has to be up and running?
Does anyone else spot the obvious problem?
And does anyone else have just the teensy-weensiest suspicion of a private club pre-deciding next year's members?