I agree with Marina Hyde in today's Guardian.
WE LOVE THE NATIONS OF EUROPE
Saturday, 25 February 2012
If there's one thing Blair will be remembered for, apart from his megalomaniac military adventuring, it will be the stench of fraud, corruption and peculation that hangs over the entire Blairite coterie. Of course Blair sold peerages, but we're not yet ready to admit it; Mandelson's iffy relations with Russian oligarchs that has left him a home of such size and vulgarity that Liberace would not have been ashamed to have stayed, and their chums were parachuted into tax-funded sinecures that bled the working family dry. Among them was Emma Harrison, whose firm A4e we now learn had a success based on fraud and false accounting. Anyone closely associated with Blair during the sleaze years has been diplomatically distancing themselves from the teflon-tanned gamester, who continues to amass dodgy wealth in the Middle East.
Friday, 24 February 2012
There is no practical difference between a Bangladeshi woman seeking to abort a female foetus because boys are more culturally valuable and a Fabian seeking the compulsory abortion of all offspring of those of low intelligence. Both practices are equally repugnant. Polly Toynbee's beloved Swedish fascists avoided taking the abortion decision by compulsorily sterilising the thicker Swedes until the 1970s, but this is morally no better. The left may argue that allowing Pakistani and Bangladeshi women to abort female foetuses is kinder than the common alternative fate for live-born infant girls - the 'accidental' rollover, asphyxiation during sleep. It's not. Both are heinous.
Thursday, 23 February 2012
In the old Colony Room, where we would consume alcohol in truly industrial quantities, fights were unknown. Members were expected to savage each other verbally alone. Now one would expect the drunkest members, and therefore the most combative, to be the least articulate, their fluency dulled by drink. And no doubt this was often the case. But not always. When a member, the director of a well-known advertising agency, stretched his privilege by bringing in three rather unpleasant guests who drank the small fridge dry of champagne and displayed an arrogance towards members warranted to irritate it was too much for a sweating, red-faced, swaying member of modest means with at least four bottles of house red under his belt. He rose majestically on his stool, pointed a Moses like finger at the miscreant and boomed " You phff.. fff..phphff.." The bar froze in anticipation. "Fucking?" came a helpful voice from the back "Fat?" from the rear window "FATuous VULgar IGNORant DREARY little C__T!" he completed and collapsed exhausted back on his stool to ringing cheers. The Ad agency director and his guests slunk away down the stairs a few minutes later.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
The Old Bell in Ipswich has an emotional appeal to me, being one of those places that would turn a blind eye to a couple of 15 year-olds enjoying a couple of halves some two score years past. Then it was on the fringe of a working dock, with narrow roads inset with freight tracks and signal levers so that the old Eastern Counties 221 from Tattingstone had to negotiate a line of rail box wagons to pass, the air heavy with the cloying aroma of malt and pigeons fat on puddles of spilled grain. Men who went down to the sea in ships were drinking in the Bell when Thomas Wolsey was a lad, his father's shop a long stones throw up St Peter's Street. It's a rambling, higgeldy-piggledy accretion of bits of building from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century, more or less upright, pierced by more chimneys than one would give reason for, the inside a maze of low-ceilings, passages and tiny parlours except where a brewer past has taken out a wall or two to make the public bar and steel posts intrude.
It's death came with the smoking ban and the Council's 'improvements' outside, which created another two acres of roads, lines and traffic signals between the pub and the town that have only marginally increased vehicle congestion and have actually reduced traffic speeds. It's now just beyond an old run of pubs that used to be separated by no more than a hundred feet and provided a comfortable if time consuming walk into town from Wherstead Road without ever being in a building newer than the eighteenth century.
It's currently up for sale, with a fifth-acre yard, for the price of a London bedsit - £225k. The owners, who seem to have given up, have secured planning consent for a nightclub with bedrooms (?) or a 'sports bar', yet there's room for not only a micro-brewery but a brewing school or additional wine bar in the yard ... is there really no-one who can remake a financially viable pub from the Old Bell, and keep six hundred years of Ipswich history alive?
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Katabasis - the journey downwards - features in Greek myth perhaps more than in the shared ur-stories of any other ancient culture. Not only Orpheus but every other hero it seems had to descend to the underworld before redemption, rescue, rebirth or resurrection. So it's somehow not entirely inappropriate that the latest EU postponement of Greece's exit from the Eurozone takes that nation further down in a spiral of shrinking GDP, shrinking tax-take, shrinking savings, growing social commitments and unsustainable growing debt. The very EU measures imposed on Greece will ensure the need for yet another bailout, and another, until the coffers of the entire Eurozone are empty. And for why? Euro-hubris.
Monday, 20 February 2012
I've no idea who the winners will be from the tacky events of this Summer, but it's fairly clear the poor folk who live in the East End will get scant benefit. Firstly, the promised construction jobs failed to materialise; the ODA's monitoring showed some 95% of building work went to workers from outside the area. Then they were advised that their road network would be reserved for bent FIFA officials in Mercedes limos with blacked-out windows to race to their west end hotels with a Lithuanian tart and a heap of cocaine each. Then they were advised they wouldn't be able to use the public transport system, either; priority would be given to games visitors, but never mind, they'd get shedloads of free tickets. When in recent weeks the free tickets turned out to be a miserly allocation of third-class seats to the women's ping-pong quarter-finals you'd have thought their lot couldn't get any worse.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
There's a certain slightly unpleasant crowing from some of those of faith in reaction to the claimed public humiliation of both Richard Dawkins and Trevor Phillips last week. They'd be better off saving their words, for militant atheists such as Dawkins when given free and unfettered rein do more good for faith than damage. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said to the Consistory last week;
"... even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.Like a secretly gay footballer foremost in the public vilification of homosexuals, Dawkins affirms his own thirst for something transcendent in his life with every word he utters.
A movie popular at home now is The Way, starring a popular actor, Martin Sheen. Perhaps you have seen it. He plays a grieving father whose estranged son dies while walking the Camino di Santiago di Campostella in Spain. The father decides, in his grief, to complete the pilgrimage in place of his dead son. He is an icon of a secular man: self-satisfied, dismissive of God and religion, calling himself a “former Catholic,” cynical about faith . . . but yet unable to deny within him an irrepressible interest in the transcendent, a thirst for something -- no, Someone -- more, which grows on the way."