Tuesday, January 31, 2006


(BBC Online)

The nominations are somewhat predictable, and I am sure we all have our favourites (and that most of us have not seen all the mainstream nominations), suffice to say that in the midst of Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, and Capote, you would give a moment to consider Walk The Line (admittedly I am a bit of a Johnny Cash fan), and hope that it gets an Oscar.
Oh, and that Keira Knightley gets an Oscar for Pride and Prejudice, if only because she is British, she was in a film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and that...
Well the fact she is Keira Knightley ;).
Okay, very shallow reasons there, but there tend to be with Oscars (BTW If I ever become a successful writer and get a nomination for 'Best Screenplay', may I point out that this is in jest ;) ). Suffice to say I am not asking for Walk The Line to sweep the board. Just a bit of a nod or a wink would suffice.

Coretta Scott King

(Associated Press)



There doesn't seem much to say about it at the moment, except that it is sad that another civil rights pionner is no longer with us.
Details can be found here.

In Political Praise of: Tony Crosland and Denis Healey

Two of my biggest ideological heroes within the Labour Party and the natural heirs of Hugh Gaitskell.
In which case, some may wonder, with good reason, why I havent included Roy Jenkins ! Well the simple reason is, I don't have much time for a party wrecking, self-regarding, gossip mongering, claret-quaffing, intellectual snob of a Euro-elitist!

(BBC Online)
Okay that was a bit personal, but I think you get the idea. Jenkins was the sort of guy with the sort of personality I found difficult to deal with! The man tried to mould the party in his image and when things were not going exactly the way he wanted (which is more than once), he picked up his bat and strode off the pitch, but not before causing mayhem in his wake.
That said, it would be somewhat churlish of me not to give credit where credit's due. The man had also a first class brain, was at his finest as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Yes he did some great things as Home Secretary, but this is where I think he really was splendid!), and wrote some good biographies, but (to coin a phrase I used in one of yesterday's entry's) that is where the admiration ends. When it comes to personality, I have far more time for Tony Benn (from whom I am rather far, politically speaking) .
So what do I admire about Tony Crosland and Denis Healey!
Well Tony Crosland did much to change the way the Labour Party was going. To use an analogy, he didn't change the general direction of the yacht, he simply moved the rudder a couple of notches to the right. But he was very much a socialist, who brought home the need to adapt the ideology to current circumstances. Something the moderate wing of the Labour Party are doing today. Especially with the economic policies of Gordon Brown.

(John Londei)

Denis Healey, whom Roy Jenkins unkindly described as being a 'Heavy gun-carriage carrying light ideological baggage', did much to preserve the Social Democratic wing of the Labour Party (as opposed to Jenkins and his acolytes), and can be credited for helping to make the party re-electable in the long term. As Defence Secretay in the 1960s, he managed to cause cutbacks in millitary expenditure with the minimum of fuss. He is widely miscredited as saying in 1973 that the incoming Labour government would "tax the rich until the pips squeak". What Healey actually said was; "I warn you that there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 80% on their last slice of earnings". Which is somewhat different.
One of Healey's bravest acts was to secure a loan from the IMF in 1976, in the face of fierce criticism from the hard left (Tony Benn), and some of those from the right of the Party (Tony Crosland). Although to do otherwise, i.e. to take the protectionist route, would have been economically dangerous and politically foolish. Many in the Labour Party saw it as an ideological betrayal, but there is nothing socialistic about refusing to ask for a loan when the alternative is a freefall to economic disaster.
In spite of this, Healey was best placed to succeed Labour leader in 1980 (the last such election that was wholly decided by MP's only), when James Callaghan finally quit. However, he was defeated by a whisker by Michael Foot, and that can be regarded as a self-serving betrayal, as at least four Labour MP's deliberatley voted for Foot, so as to wreck Labour's electoral chances and help prepare a feeble excuse for the SDP's formation (It is worth noting that Foot defeated Healey by a majority of just five).
However, Healey's finest hour in the internal politics of the Labour Party had yet to arrive. Appointed Deputy leader, he quickly found himself challenged by Tony Benn, and by association, the bullying might of the hard left and Millitant. Healey moved quickly and decisively, campaigning up and down the country and bravely facing off his challengers. Unlike Jenkins, Healey's heavy gun carriage came to good effect as he faced down his opponents and boosted the morale of his own side (some of whom were subjected to heavy intimidation by Millitant) and kept the Deputy leadership by a whisker; 50.426% to Benn's 49.574%.
After 1983, Healey remained on the front bench, serving as Shadow Foreign Secretary under Neil Kinnock, before retiring from front-line politics in 1987, and as an MP in 1992. He currently serves in the House of Lords, and has been adding his occasional support to the Social Democratic wing of the Labour Party.

Nasty Britons Part II

Further to my last posting on this subject, the list of Top Ten Nasty Britons has been put into preferential order by the readers of BBC History Magazine.
Whilst I agree with Jack the Ripper being at No 1, I am a bit miffed by some of the chronological order. For example Thomas Beckett is at No 2 and Sir Oswald Mosley is at No 10, which seems a bit, well...
Put it this way, Thomas Beckett is someone I am none too impressed with, but he stood up to the state's attempts to control the Church in England and paid for his stance with his life! He can't exactly be compared to a man who lived some 700 + years later, who quit the Labour Party when things didn't go his way, formed a Fascist party, got chummy with Hitler, was involved in violence and intimidated an East End Jewish community, committed moral treason, was imprisoned during the War for being too friendly with the enemy, appealed to racist paranoia on immigration, amongst a large no of other disgraceful actions.
And to think he was at the bottom of the list, what kind of people read BBC History magazine?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cameron Blues

(BBC Online)

Whilst some are jittery, or delirious with the prospect of holding the levers of power (depending on your political viewpoint). It looks like Labour are holding firm whilst the other main parties are either suffering from continuous ambushes (The Liberal Democrats), or appraoching civil war (The Conservatives).
I wish I could say that I am above such petty feelings and don't enjoy a sense of schadenfreude every time the Tories have a scrap, but that would be lying! True I ought to take a bit more of a mature attitude, but for the one or two good policies they had, the Tories did a lot of damage to the country in their eighteen years in power and they can have a very persuasive voice with the minimum of effort sometimes!
So, what is the latest scrap about. Well today the hard right of the Party (which have many grassroots supporters, who care about little but their own) have launched a twin attack on David Cameron. In the Independent, that redoubtable columnist, Bruce Anderson, has mixed feelings about Cameron's change of direction, whilst Lord Tebbit (hat tip to Kerron btw)has compared David Cameron to Pol Pot! One of the most genocidal and evil dictators of all-time.
Now in one respect I have some admiration for Lord Tebbit in the way he and has wife have coped with the trauma they suffered during the Brighton Bomb, but like the fact that I have a lot of admiration for the way right-wing activist and Guinness Book of Records Editor, Norris McWhirter, coped with the IRA murder of his twin brother, Ross, the admiration just about ends there (although I am a fan of the Guinness Book). I find Tebbit's brand of politics, unworkable, uninspiring, unhelpful, out-of-touch, except with the unreconstructed politics of 'Essex Man'. There is usually a flavour of the sardonic with Tebbit, who always speaks points of view that seem to be one sentence from the sort of view that causes embarrased and angry silences at dinner parties. So on reflection, I am sure his comments on Pol Pot were deliberatley calculated to offend.
Whether Cameron will respond,and whether it will reasonate with a lot of the 'Maggie and Judy' brigade amongst the Tory grassroots remains to be seen, suffice to say that it looks like a nasty scrap is looming on the horizon.

In Thespian Praise of: Audrey Hepburn

(BBC Online)

There are not many actresses who I find myself attracted towards, but Audrey Hepburn is definetly one of them.
Okay, she has been dead for over a decade, but you know what I mean! Well I hope you do anyway :/.
But it's obviously not the fact that she was so breathtakingly beautiful, considerate, and charming, that I mention her here. It's the fact that she was a brilliant actress, whose sense of timing was impeccable. Not many people have that gift, but Hepburn did.
Born in Belgium in 1929, the daughter of an Anglo-Irish banker and a Dutch aristocrat, Audrey Hepburn lived under an psuedonym during the War, so as to avoid being spotted as being of immediate English descent. During the allied invasion of Holland (where she and her mother lived, following her parents divorce), many Dutch people starved to death because the Nazis were using the Dutch food and fuel supplies for themselves. Audrey herself nearly starved and this traumatic experience helped shape her life and values.
It was after the War that she moved to England and started work as a model, before becoming an actress and appearing in several films before being a success as the lead in Gigi on Broadway. It was as a result of this that she was cast opposite Gregory Peck in the film Roman Holiday.
A decade long succesful career in Hollywood ensured, with films such as War and Peace, Breakfast at Tiffany's (which co-starred George Peppard of The A Team), My Fair Lady, and Charade (which is one of my favourite films).
Then, at the age of forty, Hepburn decided to quit, following her divorce from her first husband. However, unlike her co-star in Charade, Cary Grant, Hepburn made the occasional comeback film, which included Robin and Marian, opposite Sean Connery.
In later years, she worked as a UNICEF Ambassador and did much for the organisation at personal cost.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In Christian and Political Praise of: William Wilberforce


As I have mentioned before, William Wilberforce is one of my biggest heroes in British political and Christian life!
It is simply because he made a stand against the things that went on in society, that many accepted, but which he felt were repugnant. This was fighting against the odds and took many years, but a lot of his views, and the views of others, helped change Britain for the better.
Things were never perfect of course, and there are a lot of attitudes that still need to be overturned, but it could be argued that Wilberforce and his fellow Clapham Sect made a significant difference!
Born in 1759, Wilberforce was educated at Pocklington and St John's College, Cambridge, where he made a lifelong friendship with the future Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger. Whilst he wasn't yet a Christian, Wilberforce was shocked by the hedonism that took place at University, writing; "I was introduced on the very first night of my arrival to as licentious a set of men as can well be conceived. They drank hard, and their conversation was even worse than their lives."
What Wilberforce would have made of University life today, or even the reputation of the Conservative Party Youth Group, Conservative Future, I dread to think!
It was at Cambridge that Wilberforce decided to pursue a career in politics, and he spent £9,000 to get elected as the Tory MP for Hull. Had his life gone through it's natural progression, Wilberforce would have easily risen through the ranks and likely have succeeded Pitt as Prime Minister in 1806, but, to use that old phrase, 'God had other plans..'
In 1784, Wilberforce became friends with an evangelical Christian, whilst on holiday on the continent. After much gentle belittling of his faith, the man challenged Wilberforce to give a very serious look at Christianity, if nothing else. This Wilberforce did, and he ended up as a Christian within months.
One thing that happens in such a step, is that your outlook on life gradually changes, and one notices things and changes points of view, simply because one's attitude is God-centred, compared to before. For the first time in his life, Wilberforce noticed that Britian and it's dependent states were in desperate need of social and moral reform! Duelling and gambling were rife, there was no social provision for men, women, and children working long hours with little pay, in places of little sanitation, and every chance of catching tuberculosis or any other fatal disease. Adultery was rife, so were the chances of catching sexually transmitted diseases, children could be hanged for petty crimes, corruption was immense with people able to buy their Parliamentary seats (If you have ever watched that episode of Blackadder, where Baldrick becomes an MP, that was basically what it was like!).
Then there was the slave trade. Where millions of Africans were kidnapped from their home, transpotted on ships, in unbeleiveably harsh conditions (many died on the way, from being in close confinemtn with many others, chained to the floot with little move for movement) to the West Indies and North America, and made to work long hours with many of their owners taking a harsh and cruel attitude towards them.
Some were already beginning to vocally complain about this barbarism, but they were social misfits like John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) and John Newton (who wrote Amazing Grace). Clergymen who were a little too enthusiastic about their faith and who took a tough view of sin.
Wilberforce was different, he was a bit of an establishment figure, and some went to him, knowing he was a devout Christian, voicing their concerns about the slave trade and hoping that, as an MP, he might be able to do something about it. Wilberforce felt that he might not be able to manage much, but that he had a moral right to do something about it in Parliament.
Wilberforce started his campaign in the late 1780s, facing hostility from fellow Tories, Whigs from across the Chamber floor, from prominent businessmen who were making much from the trade. He was lampooned and ridiculed by the critics and satirists of the day and, to their eternal shame, he was ridiculed by a no of people who were clergymen. Representatives of the faith Wiberforce lived and which they paid lip service to!
That said, Wilberforce had his allies. In his last letter to Wilberforce, John Wesley told him that if God was on his side, then it didn't matter how many opponents he had, he would eventually prevail. Wilberforce also had some friends who were Christians with close connections, known as the Clapham Sect by their detractors. People like the philanthropist Hannah More , the MP for Sothwark, Henry Thornton (whose economic views were later picked up by John Maynard Keynes), and the Venn Family (One of whom became a priest and founded the Church Missionary Society).
The French Revolution and the war with France which followed, made it difficult for Wilberforce to continue with his campaign, but he doggedly persisted, and in 1807, with a huge majority in the House of Commons (backed by the House of Lords), it became illegal to transport slaves. A huge difference from the 163 votes to 88 that Wilberforce suffered with his proposed Bill in 1791.
But it didn't stop there. Slavery was still legal in the colonies, and the trade still existed. If the Navy was about to catch a captain of a trading ship with slaves at sea, then the captain would have a no thrown overboard, so as to reduce the fine. The Clapham Sect realised that the only way to deal with the problem comprehensively, was to have slavery abolished altogether. Wilberforce was worried that this might be unworkable, but was persuaded to rejoin the campaign, but he was passed his peak and did not have much to contribute.
That said, the campaign had a full momentum of it's own and in 1833 an Act was passed making slavery illegal throughout the British Empire. Wilberforce died a month before it came on the Statute Books, but lived long enough to know it had passed. It is reputed that among his last words was his saying that to think he would live to see the day when Britain gave up £25 million sterling for the emancipation of slaves!
Wilberforce also campaigned for 'The Reformation of Manners', and this was championed by King George III in 1787 with his 'Proclamation for the Discouragement of Vice'.
This took longer to persue, but the work of Wilberforce and his allies, had an influence of many who followed them, such as the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. I also have no doubt, that the effort the Clapham Sect had in changing attitudes affected the cultural attitudes in the UK for the better!


(Carlton TV)

As I think I have mentioned before, I do have a weakness for detective stories, although I find I watch them on TV and film, as opposed to reading them.
That said, I am reading a detective novel at the moment, where the protagonist is one of my all-time detective heroes, Inspector Morse
I like Morse for a no of reasons. There are the sentimental reasons, I lived just down the road in Enstone for a few years, and Oxford is a city I first expereinced as somewhere my parents did their Saturday shopping. I remember being about six years old, and finding Oxford mentioned in a children's book on the English Civil War and being a bit shocked that it was famous! Plus, as fellow bloggers Jo and Antonia might tell you, if you watch an episode of Morse, or anything else set in Oxford, there is the amusement when you see a character or two go down one street in Oxford and see them emerge in a different part of the city. There was also the added thrill when I saw the last ever episode and I saw Morse enter the John Radcliffe Hospital for a check-up. The entrance he used was in real-life the entrance to the Mother and Baby unit, where my brother and sister were born (They're not twins, there's four years between them).
Now I got the self-indulgence out of the way, the other thing I like about Morse is the fact that he is human. He likes all the things which are bad for his health and he can be arrogant, rude, and sardonic. That said, there is a fundamental sense of decency about Morse. As one of the characters in the episode Fat Chance puts it; "Morse is one of the good guys"
It also means that, unlike some detectives who seem to be unusually perfect, Morse doesn't always get it right.
So you can imagine how pleased I am that, whilst Morse was killed-off in the last story, his former sidekick, Lewis is making a return with a spin-off, simply entitled Lewis.
It's on this evening, on ITV at 9PM, and whilst I have my reservations (Morse is a hard act to follow), I have some faith in his sidekick!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Politics Test

Via Bloggers4Labour:

You are a

Social Liberal
(61% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

That said, some years ago I took part in in the test done by politicalcompass.org, which I recommend. It showed me up to be highly centerist, albeit slightly left/libertarian. A position I take more comfort in than the answers here.
But that said, some of the questions needed complex answers, or rather my answer would have been more complex. To take an extreme example (not listed in the test). I am pro gun control, find the NRA infuriating, and yet, if I around in 1969 and invited to Sharon Tate's infamous party, and I had a rifle on me when the Manson family stormed in. I would not have hesitated to use it on them!
Which, okay, as I said, it's a very extreme example and somewhat spurious, but you can see what I mean when I say that some questions need more cohesive answers than a yes or no which can pigeonhole you into something you don't quite believe.
Well that's my opinion anyway.

A Day In My Life

For those of you who don't know, in the last few weeks there has been a bit of a change to my proffesional life.
Put simply I have a fully paid, full-time job at Tesco's. The thing is though, it's seven days a week, five-eight AM. So I am still looking for a variety of other jobs (I do the odd writing stuff, and I help edit a magazine+newsletter called IMPACT, but that is unpaid), from Parliamentary Research to the possibility that in the near future I could be pulling pints at my local!
So, how does my daily life pan out now!
Let's take today for example. As always my eyes snapped open at 3:45AM (like the lead character in William Boyd's Armadillo). I aim to get up then in case I am so tired that I need time to get used to being awake.
Then it's the bathroom, getting dressed, making sure I have all my stuff with me and this is usually done by 4:20. There then follows the next twenty-five minutes being entertained and informed by Alistair Yates or Deborah MacKenzie on BBC News 24, before my lift is ready at 4:45. I don't drive, but I know someone who works most early mornings (Tell me if I am being boring yet!)
I arrive at work just before 5, enough time to say hi to people and find out what needs doing, before I start weeping, moping, hoovering, and cleaning (At some point during this time I think all of this might come in useful in a novel. Maybe set it in a factory in Norway!)
I take my break towards the end of my shift so that both finish at the same time. Breaks are usually spent browsing through tabloids (which isn't my idea of fun, but there isn't much choice, and besides it's best not to be too superior about them!) chatting with other staff and watching GMTV or BBC Breakfast (Sian and Dermot. They aren't Sophie and Jeremy, and yet they have become a part of my morning life!)
Then I clock out, buy a copy of the Guardian or Independent,(today is Saturday, so it's The Guardian, if only for Posy Simmonds cartoons go home, probably check my e-mails, update my blog etc.. for fifteen minutes before having a 1-2 hour nap.
I then catch up on some work, throw in another blog entry, have lunch, get some ironing done, help tidy the kitchen and other such housework, and go into town (where I am right now), so as to stay sane, before I will be going home, getting dinner, getting some IMPACT stuff done, checking for e-mails, check for jobs etc.. a few phone calls, tv, and then bed.
Not perfect, but interesting. Although hopefully things will change before long.

Holocaust Memorial Day


I feel bad about not mentioning it yesterday, but I want to do this entry some justice.
In case anyone doesn't know, and I would be surprised if anyone doesn't, yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering those who suffered, and/or died at the hands of the Nazis in the various concentration and death camps in Nazi-occupied Europe. January 27th 1945, was when the Russians liberated Auschwitz.
It goes without saying that the Nazis were responsible for the most brutal and vile acts of barbarism ever known to man and were guilty of far more heinous crimes than the false charges they laid at the doors of those they hated. They called the Jews money launderers and theieves! Yet they stole valuable posessions from their victims, even down to the gold fillings in their teeth. They called homosexuals sexually peverse, and yet some aspects of some of the executions which they carried out, involved sexual peversions aimed at stripping people of their dignity. They called for sterilization of women liable to give birth to disabled children and endorsed euthenasia of the mentally handicapped, and yet the Nazis had the most intolerant and closed minds around! They called Eastern Europeans, slavs, gypsies, subhuman! And yet which group of people rampaged around Europe in the 1940s behaving like a collective and violent pack of animals!
It is difficult to look at what happened in Auschwitz, Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, and other such camps and not feel any anger or rage about what these people did! Well not for me anyway. I find that if I don't feel angry then I feel such impotent despair that I am close to tears, but I suppose that feeling these violent conflicts of emotion remind us that we are human, that our conscience (which Hitler regarded as a luxury for Jews), would strongly prevent us from doing such things so why did these people do what they did!
Then of course there is the fact that the Nazis have not been the only ones in history. Some of the Soviet gulags were pretty horrendous, the way the Bosnian serbs dealt with some of their captives during the Yugoslav War is another. The genocide in Rawanda! And dare I say it! Those who die in famine as a result of Western greed.
This is why it is important to remember, why it is vital that we work to help prevent it happening wherever possible, and we musn't also forget how lucky each of us are, that we never suffered under Nazi occupation! I felt cold when my sister, who has studied the Third Reich at University, told me that she found out that our family surname - Burgin, was considered by the Nazis to be a Jewish name (There are a no of Burgin's in Norway and there were in Germany). Several Burgin's died in Nazi death camps and if the Nazis ever invaded Britain I think it might be fair to consider that I would never have been born! I am certainly glad that my paternal grandparents never knew.
And what about those who fled to South America? Like many I used to rage that such people 'Got away with it!', but as my Mum points out, no one gets away with anything. Josef Mengele ended his days, terrified day and night that Mossad and/or the CIA were out to get him. He would sleep with a gun under his pillow and had a watchtower built by one of the palces where he stayed (he tended to move around), so that he could check and see if an assault was about to take place whenever he felt scared.
That's not living in pampered luxury, that is living like a cornered animal (although I don't really want to insult animals). Obviously it would have been far better that he was kidnapped by the Israelis and put on trial like Eichmann, but if he was to evade Eathly justice, then living in constant fear and paranoia is what he deserved.
So today, if you get a chance. Think of those who died, think of those who fought to defend us from Nazi tyranny, and, if you believe, thank God that we have our freedoms and help make sure that such things never happen again.

In Thespian Praise of: Richard Beckinsale

(BBC Online)

One of television's actors from the 1970s who is still fondly remembered.
One of the location shots for the seventies sitcom, Porridge, was in Baldock, Herts (for the prison allotment scenes), which is literally just down the road from where I live (As a family, we seem to end up living near well-known location shoots, as I will mention later). The cast and crew were very popular with the locals, and as I mentioned a while back, one friend of mine is proud of the fact that she once spotted seeing Richard Beckinsale leave the George and Dragon pub!
His daughter Kate seems to be more well known, but throughout the 1970s, Richard Beckinsale was a young actor much in demand. His tragic and early death in 1979, seemed to add to his status as one of televisions most beloved actors.
Born in 1947, Richard Beckinsale wanted to be an actor from an early age, and after enrolling in an adult drama class at the age of sixteen, things moved rapidily and successfully for him.
He secured a place at RADA (where he met his second wife, Judy Loe. He married his first wife when he was in his late teens, with whom he had his daughter, Samantha ), before a cameo in Coronation Street, followed by being given a lead in his first sitcom, The Lovers. This was followed by senior roles in the two highly popular sitcoms, Porridge and Rising Damp, in the former, he managed, without seeming to try, to make his character, Lennie Godber, almost a significant a character as that of Norman Stanley Fletcher, played by Ronnie Barker. Porridge had a follow-up series called Going Straight (which followed Fletcher and Godber after their release from prison), and a moderatley successful film version of the original series (Beckinsale's last completed acting assingment).
As well as a no of sitcoms, Richard Beckinsale also appeared in a no of hit West End shows and appeared in a no of dramatic roles. What may have been his most succesful in that genre has never been seen, aside from some rushes in a documentary about him.
Immediately after completing the film version of Porridge, Beckinsale started work simultaenously on the film Bloody Kids, as well as taking the lead in a brand new BBC Sitcom called Bloomers.
In Bloody Kids (written by the then-unknown Stephen Poliakoff), Beckinsale played a detective who was trying to solve a series of violent assaults among teenagers. Anyone who has seen the film, will see just how far removed from Godber his role is!
It was halfway through filming this, and towards the end of filming Bloomers, that Beckinsale died suddenly of a heart attack at just thirty-one years old. Part of the shock was that he never had any major health problems before, although a few days before he died he mentioned in a conversation that he was worried about his cholesterol intake, which turned out to be the cause of his heart attack. Few people knew then about the abnormal levels of cholesterol that can exist in some people, and given his young age, no one, least of all Beckinsale, would have suspected what was about to happen. His role in Bloody Kids was recast and his scenes (apart from the distance shots), re-filmed and Bloomers was put on ice, and all five episodes shown later that year.
Richard Beckinsale was one of the most talented actors of his generation, but his support and contribution were subtle and considered. Had he lived, one speculates just how succesful he would have become, although the huge amount of work he packed into his career give testament to his skills.


Following Kerron's recent blogging about beards, and given my rumaging through old photos yesterday, I thought I would inflict, sorry, show you the one photo of me with a bona-fide beard.
As you can see from the side photo on my blog, I do suffer from mild stubble at times, given the fact that I am one of these people who need close shaves. That said I never really had the courage to grow one for some years.
Then, some sixteen months ago, my then-girlfriend and I split up and a few weeks later it occured to me to grow one and I thought, 'Why not!'
My job was fairly secure, I was till getting over my ex, so I figured that there was no point in being worried about what any girl might think, and besides, given the split I felt I could do with a change.
Yes folks, when some people start to recover from the end of a romantic relationship, they buy a load of DIY stuff, or go on mammoth shopping sprees, or change their hairstyle (There was a girl I fancied for a while in my early twenties, she wasn't local and so whenever I saw her with a new hairstyle I was fairly happy because I sussed out that it happened whenever a relationship she was in was over!).
Me, I just grew a beard!
Well it helps to be original, although I quickly found that I didn't belong to the David Bellamy school of beards. The sides were messy, so they got shaved off within a fortnight and then a month after I started (around about the time this photo was taken), I got made redundant, due to a company takeover and what's more I had my first date coming up since my split with said ex-girlfriend.
So the beard just had to come off, there were employees and girls to impress (I know, I know, some girls like facial hair and some employees don't really mind, but I wasn't taking any chances). Suffice to say it was a while before I got another job and hardly anything came of the date!
Maybe I should have kept it, and it was fun while it lasted.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Re-reading my last blog entry, I realise there might be a misunderstanding with the title.
'Dogs' refer to the scandal involving Jeremy Thorpe (who was accused of attempted murder. The alleged victim's dog was shot and killed in the afray!)
Maybe I am being a bit oversensitive, but as the possible misunderstanding occured to me, I thought I ought to clear it up a.s.a.p.

Dogs and the Liberal leadership!

Michael White briefly reminding us about the last time there was a major scandal in the 'Liberal' Party.
If there is one thing that grates me about people's perception about the Liberal Democrats, it's that they are cuddly people who are more mature at politics (and to be fair,there is the odd decent Liberal Democrat politician and I have met and corresponded, via blogging, with decent Lib Dem activists).
But they can have people within their Party who are just as machavellian, just as sharp, just as cruel, and just a vicious as some of your worst politicians within the other parties. Admittedly their cuddly image has been given a blow this month and some activists have quit as a result (I am sorry to be so dissmissive, but they must have been very naive), or else they have quit because they have noticed that the Tories have elected a nice man to their leadership, so everything there must be okay!
Not only that, but some of the biggest scandals to hit Party leaders were within the Liberal camp.

(BBC Online)

Jeremy Thorpe (Liberal leader 1967-1976) faced a criminal trial on a charge of conspiracy to murder and David Lloyd George (Nat Liberal Prime Minister 1916-1922)!


What was so awful about Lloyd George? How about shabby deals with Tories, sending the Black and Tans to Ireland, rampant adultery which caused pain and suffering for his family, the selling of honours (and don't forget that the senior Whitehall civil servant who sold the honours, Arthur Maundy Gregory, was involved in the disapearance and probable murder of the former Labour MP who treatened to expose the whole thing, Victor Grayson)and helping to permanently smash up the Edwardian Liberal Party which brought forward some important reforms! It was a disgrace that Lloyd George got a peerage shortly before his death and, unless it would harm the innocent, it was a disgrace that he wasn't totally publicly exposed for the man he was within his lifetime. Some politicians quit the Liberals rather than see him as leader, including Tony Benn's father (who was a very moderate politician compared to his son)
I know this is a bit of a rant, but put basically where some look at twentieth century Prime Ministers (left or right, depending on your politics)and feel their blood boil, they tend to look at Balfour, or MacDonald, or Chamberlain, or Churchill, or Eden, or Wilson, or Heath, or Thatcher, or Blair. I honestly and totally believe from a moral perspective, that Lloyd George was the worst Prime Minister of the last century. Corruption flowed in his blood!
Would he get away with it today? Well I am tempted to be sardonic here and say that if he wore a sweater, lived in some nice middle class area, had a golden retreiver with him at press calls, and had a consistent pleasant demeanour he would get away with it. But given today's politics I doubt it, and if someone like him was exposed now; alongside Hughes and Oaten and Kennedy, the Party would face an Earthquake which would take an extremely long while to recover.

Text Messages Courtesy of Tom Baker

(BBC Online)

Kerron has mentioned that Tom Baker is putting his voice to text translations on people's landlines!
It's interesting, and given that I am a Tom Baker fan, I am somewhat impressed, although I am worried this system can lead to some abuse (cranks getting hold of an MoD phone no etc..), and it can be the cause of some practical jokes, and given that my sense of humour is in somewhat bad taste, a few of those have easily sprung to mind ;)!
That said, perhaps this service will start a trend. Renowned actors like Patrick Allen (Who does some of the voiceovers on E4) could be used. Perhaps even veteran film actors like Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Roger Moore (and you can imagine the scope there!).
Nothing like personal service is there!

The Very First Photograph I Took

August 1985, and the Burgin family were on holiday in Austria, staying in Innsbruck. During our time there we visited various places, including Berchtesgaden, which is a place I found to be rather cold and sinister (understandably), as well as Saltzburg, birthplace of Mozart.
There were Mozart memoribilia everywhere, even 'Mozart' commercial products! For some reason I remember seeing cheeze on sale with Mozart's likeness stamped on it, which seems more tasteful than the news I heard this morning that there currently are bras on sale there that play Eine kleine Nachtmusik when taken off!
Of course it's the genius's 250th birthday today, hence this blog entry and all the stuff about him in the media at the moment. So it seemed apt to show you the very first photograph I took (Okay, my Dad was giving me careful instructions on what to do beforehand, so some of the credit must go to him), which was during that day in Saltzburg. It's of Mozart's statue in a square dedicated to him. I remember seeing people play with a lifesize chess set in a corner of the Square. The first time I saw such a thing!
Oh, and I thought I would be somewhat gratuitous as well. Given the fact that I got a lot of 'Ooh's' and 'ah's' from people via e-mail and to my face, when I published a baby photo of me :)! I thought you might like it if I showed you the very first photo taken of myself.

It was October 1975, when I was just a few weeks old. It was when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the IRA's Balcombe Street Gang were still running amok, General Franco was dying, Saturday Night Live had just started (I'm a fan of the show and it's a matter of pride for me that it's just eleven days younger than myself. So you could argue that we started out round about the same time :)), there were just three television channels in the UK (and they began broadcasting at 9AM, except for BBC Two which occasionally showed Open University stuff), Gerald Ford was the US President, Jaws had very recently been running in the cinemas, a computer game called PONG was highly popular (Few had come across a computer game before and you had to hook it up to a TV set), and Queen were about to release Bohemian Rhapsody!
I feel a bit old :(

In Christian Praise of: Charles Colson


A fairly controversial chap, considering he was fairly prominent in the Nixon administration, and was sent down for his involvement in smearing and dirty tricks.
But there is more to Charles Colson than the role of 'Hatchet-Man', if there is a US version of Jonathan Aitken it's this guy! I know I am not going to be popular amongst some of you for being nice about Colson (or Aitken for that matter), but I take the view that if someone has committed an offence and they are genuinely sorry and the evidence points in that direction, then one should accept the apology.
Colson was a succesful lawyer when he was invited by President Nixon to be his Chief Counsel, which he was during Nixon's first term (1969-1973).
It was during this time that Colson was involved in the events that led to his imprisonment. Namely, his involvement in smearing anti-Vietnam campaigner, Daniel Ellisberg by having his FBI file leaked to the press. He also helped cover up the burglary of the office Ellisberg's psychiatrist.
When more and more details about Watergate, and therefore the sleaze around Nixon's administration hit the Media, and Colson faced arrest. A close friend, Tom Phillips gave him a copy of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, which Colson read and decided there was a convincing case for Christianity. That said, he did hesitate, worried that he was making a 'Foxhole conversion'; making a crucial life-changing decision during a time of personal emotional vulnerability, but came to the conclusion that if Christianity was true, then the circumstances were not so important as to whether he was committed.
Whilst he was, as expected, ridiculed for making this decision by the Press (as did I in my pre-Christian days when I heard about it), Colson did seem to slowly undergo a character change. He pleaded nolo contendre, 'No Contest' to the charges against him and he was sentenced to one-three years in prison. He ended up serving seven months in an Alabama prison.
Colson then turned his recent experiences to an advantage. He set up Prison Fellowship , which works as an evangelical outreach to those in prison and has worked hard to improve reform of the penal system and rehabilitation for prisoners. Colson, one of Nixon's goons, became someone whose views on the penal system might have some of your average Daily Mail readers spluttering with rage. He has a low opinion of the 'Lock em up and leave em' approach to criminals.
He is still very much the conservative (and given my views on abortion and stem cell research, I have some sympathy with some of his opinions), and his views will have your average Guardian reader spluttering with rage, but I would challenge anyone to contest the view that his Prison ministry, and his views on penal reform, do not make a stand on behalf of the underdog.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Palestinian Elections


Was somewhat unnerved, but not entirely surprised, to see Hamas win in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections.Particually as it is still a terrorist group that still carries out attacks on Israel and pledges to destroy the country.
And it's not even often that I am in agreement with George W. Bush, but his statement that "the US would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced its call to destroy Israel." is worth noting as a valid argument to take.
I don't like the way Israel has conducted some of it's policies over the last sixty years, nor do I agree with the abuse of the Palestinian people. But Israel, like it or not, has a right to exist and it's people have a right to live in their homeland. If I were an Israeli, living in Jerusalem, which has suffered from suicide bombings, constitutional alarms (such as Sharon's stroke), and have woken up to see this result, I would be scared and with good reason, as one wonders what Hamas, and therefore now the Palestinian state, will do next!
I don't entirely blame the Palestinian people for what they have done, they have felt consistently bullied and oppressed for many years, but Israel has been unusually concilliatory in the past fourteen years (give or take the odd major incident), and this act has now probably set the clock back further. The Middle East is enough of a powder keg with Iraq, Iran's new hardline stance, and Pakistan's problems with Al-Qaeda, without this happening as well.
Still, democracy can do funny things to people! Look at Northern Ireland for starters. I only hope and pray that this is the start of something positive, but that said, the omens are not good at all.

In Political Praise of: Betty Boothroyd

(BBC Online)

Okay, a blog entry this morning that isn't to do with sexual activities! Which is somewhat welcome ;)
Betty Boothroyd is a brilliant example of a politician who kept fighting forward against great difficulty. She had a record of standing four times for Parliament (a couple of those seats having been Labour for many years), before finally being elected as MP for West Bromwich in 1973. A great example for those of us who have stood more than once for public office and have been defeated.
She settled in quickly at Westminster (having worked for a couple of MP's there for many years), and quickly became a Whip (One of the MP's who was answerable to her was John Stonehouse), followed by a brief period as an MEP and then a stint on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, where she helped greatly in the fight against Millitant.
After the 1987 general election, Boothroyd accepted the one of the three posts of Deputy Speaker, followed a few years later by her being elected as the first female Speaker of the House of Commons.
Boothroyd brought much success to the role. Particually because television broadcasting of the Commons was in it's infancy when she was elected, and therefore she became a much recognised figure with the public. Like her predecessors, she often felt the tug against her political neutrality, but she equipped herself well and could be forceful without being nasty or malcious.
In 2000, Boothroyd retired as Speaker and has since been a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, where she attends and speaks on a regular basis.

Sex and Speaking

According to the BBC, some experts say that having sexual intercourse is a good way to help prepare for a speech!
Now, call me a cynic, but I am not sure about that! Although I can imagine score of Uni students reading this today and thinking 'Oh, brilliant. I don't need to make notes on Friday's presentation/tutorial! I will just go out clubbing/spend the evening with my girlfriend/boyfriend', and as Dr Peter Bull says, "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say, and preparing thoroughly, rather than having sex the previous night."
Besides which, my sex life is nonexistent. In fact I will probably shock everyone right now and declare that I am a virgin! I don't see why I should be ashamed of that, and I am actually saying it to make the point that I am usually confident when making public speeches and therefore doubt that sex is crucial to making a succesful speech at all. I'm slightly nervous perhaps (about making speeches that is..), but confident. And I am sure I am not the only one.
That said, the next time I see someone striding up to a podium with a big grin on their face, I will wonder. And if they flunk their speech I will know ;).

Simon Hughes's sexuality

(Getty Images)

I suppose everyone else is blogging about this right now, although I do think it's worth commenting on.
It's not that I am surprised, it's been rumoured for a while. The first I heard of anything about it was two years ago, when I went to see The Passion of the Christ with Tammy and a mutual friend of ours, who had recently defected to Labour from the Lib Dems.
He mentioned Simon Hughes, and hinted at him having a hotel room, ajoining that of a male researchers at one of the Lib Dem conferences. I just put this down to tittle tattle, because as far as I was concerned, Hughes mentioned his regrets at marrying, and hinted at a couple of long-term heterosexual relationships. Which, okay, a lot of gay people have made those sort of comments (Particually when life was a lot more difficult for gays than it is now), but Hughes struck me as someone who had integrity, and what's more he said that he was a devout Christian (which I still don't doubt, but in my mind that meant he wouldn't be publicly deceitful about his private life!)
Okay, hands in the air, I took a naive viewpoint on all this, but C'est la vie.
Of course, has time went on, you heard more and more rumourmongering to the point where one felt that this was true. Even a few days ago, after a CSM Youth meeting, Hughes's private life was mentioned and I clearly believed it by then, because I found myself saying, 'Why doesn't he just come out and have done with it!'
Which, to his credit, he has. But that said, I am not impressed!
Which begs the question why! Well it's very simple. Hughes has denied he is homosexual in the past, and whilst he has gone the long way round in saying that he is bisexual, and therefore hasn't lied as such, he has at the very least (to quote my paternal grandad), been 'unkind to the truth'. What's more, it's been over something not that important in the grand scheme of civic politics and public life. Plus it's hardly as if he has had a family and decieved them, whilst carrying on with rent-boys doing unspeakable things!
Then there is the matter of the 1983 by-election in Bermondsley, when there were accusations of a smear campaign against Peter Tatchell. There were the Liberal Party leaflets for a start (Hughes being the winning Liberal candidate), which wasn't impressive, (and hat tip to Antonia Bance for pointing it out) and which was part of an unfair and cruel campaign against Tatchell (Now I am no fan at all of Peter Tatchell, but, looking at the Bermondsley by-election in detail for the first time recently, I think there was an unfair and cruel campaign against him). Hughes has apparently apologised for anything he may have done wrong in that campaign and all credit to him for that, but it all just strikes me as being unfair and wrong!
I am one of these people who thinks that, with blindingly obvious exceptions, one should divorce personalities from politics, and Simon Hughes has been someone from across the political divide who I have had time and respect for (And in some respect I still do). I have admired the way he has seemed to live out his faith in his civic life, as well as the way he stands up for his political beliefs, even when I don't agree with them. But he seems to have just about lied about his sexuality (at the very least he could have said; 'My private life is my own concern and does not affect my work in politics', and he would have come out of this with some dignity) and when he was young and foolish, turned against those who were more open in a way that demeaned Tatchell's opponents. If he was frightened of the reaction of Conservative-minded Christians, then I can understand, but he needn't have worried about that in the grand scheme of things!
And he needn't have been evasive as to be prone to lying!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In the News Today

(BBC Online)

Twenty-fifth anniversary of the SDP's foundation.I have mentioned my views on this before, but, suffice to say if they had had the guts to stay behind and help begin the fightback against the hard-left. Then Labour could well and truly have got into power sooner!
I had a brief chat with a prominent Lib Dem in my area this afternoon. You know how it is at the moment, I began the conversation with 'Who do you think you will be voting for in the leadership?' etc.. and that led to a conversation about the SDP. To my surprise he agreed with me about Labour losing it's chance to get into power sooner, due to the SDP's creation! These Lib Dems eh!
The other news it that the Daily Telegraph's appeal against Galloway's libel has failed!
That said, the House of Commons standards watchdog, Sir Philip Mawer, has started an investigation into complaints about Galloway's conduct. The Serious Fraud Office has also started an investigation into the results of a UN backed-investigation concerning alleged kickbacks from Saddam Hussein.
Oh, and The Sun have published this charming photograph of Galloway with Uday Hussein. That lovely guy who murdered a valet in front of President Mubarak of Egypt, got expelled from Switzerland (From Switzerland!?!) for threatening to stab someone in a resturant, and who would gatecrash parties, looking for women to rape, amongst a load of other vile and disgusting crimes.

Aside from the sense of chickens coming home to roost, I have to say that Galloway is that rare breed of politician. Some politicians I like personally and dislike politically, others I like politically and dislike personally, and then there are those I like personally and politically. It is not often that I take a personal and political dislike to someone and Galloway is one of them.
As I was finishing my early shift at work this morning, I took my break and caught GMTV in the staff cafeteria. Now I am not a GMTV fan, as you may of guessed, BBC Breakfast is more of my bag, but this was interesting, they were interviewing Jodie Marsh and showing clips from Celebrity Big Brother (which, to be honest, is not my bag either).
But what I saw shocked me. Galloway tearing into Marsh in a verbally vile manner with a goulish looking Pete Burns (who sounds, from the various stuff I have read, like he needs help, and is also in trouble over his monkey fur coat), grinning inanely beside him. Then there was his verbal assault on Michael Barrymore, which was enough to make me feel very sorry for the guy, whilst Galloway sat back with a self satisfied look, puffing away on his cigar.
As someone pointed out. The older men on the programme ganged up on Marsh, now she isn't there, Galloway is ganging up on his one-time ally, Barrymore. The guy clearly only feels happy and confident when he feels he is calling the shots and is attacking and demonising someone.
Sad in a pathetic kind of way really, and he is in for a nasty and unpleasant shock when he gets out, when he finds that he is loathed by more people in his constituency, loathed by more people in the Media, loathed by more of his fellow MP's (I really wouldn't want to return to Westminster, not that he often attends, if I were in his place), and loathed by some of his old millitant socialist cronies.
How lonely! And to think part of the denonuement was reached, not in Parliament, not in Capitol Hill, not at Old Queen Street when he was expelled from the Labour Party, but in a postmodern popular TV show that thrives on conflict and chav headlines.
I hope, but wonder if he ever will realise, that one day he will realise just how low he has sunk!

Changing Faces

Lisa Rullsenberg on plastic surgery.
And I totally agree. It's also indirectly insulting to those who need plastic surgery, due to illness and/or a horrific accident. I think it's sad that some people only feel confident as human beings if they have less wrinkles etc.. Put basically, if someone ignores you, demeans you, is rude to you, won't go out with you etc.. because of your looks, then it is they who demean themselves and you don't really won't to go down to their level!

Which Sports Car Are You?

Via Jo:

I'm a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

I wouldn't say I am one of the elite though, and I am not one of these people who is easily impressed by those who want to go places for self-engrandisment. I am also easily capable of being gracious to losers as well.

In Thespian Praise of: David Niven


Perhaps one of the more underrated British movie actors in Hollywood.
Born in London in 1910, (James) David (Graham) Niven had a troubled home life. His father was killed in the First World War and neither he, nor one of his elder sisters, Grizel (a renowned sculpturess, who is still alive today)had a particularly close relationship with their stepfather, Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt.
He joined the Highland Light Infantry, before resigning his commission and taking up a series of odd jobs, before heading to America and finding work in Hollywood, starting off as an extra known as Anglo Saxon Type B 2008.
His seemingly effortless confidence in mixing with anyone and everyone got him the attention of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, and Niven swiftly became a leading actor within five years. That said, his integrity came to the fore when, after his first film to carry his name, Raffles, the Second World War started and Niven felt it was his duty to return home and fight for his country. Goldwyn warned him that he was putting his career in jeapody and that if he came back alive he would never reach the dizzy heights he was expected to make. Niven knew this and yet still set about preparing to return to the UK. It says much about Niven that he was prepared to sacrifice a highly succesful film career and the comforts of Hollywood when he wasn't even called up.
During the War, Niven made only two films and served in the British army, rising to the rank of Lt Colonel and being involved in the War Office, and possibly British intelligence, as well as serving in a British commando force. It was during this time that he met and married his first wife Primmie, the marriage being, according to all who knew them, blissfully happy.
After the War, Niven, his wife and children, returned to Hollywood to receive a heroes welcome, but events took a tragic turn when Primmie was killed after a fall at a Hollywood party. Niven was never the same and he found his relationship with Goldwyn becoming increasingly fractious, before deciding to persuade Goldwyn to release him from his contract in 1950.
After a short lean period, Niven started to shine as an independent film actor. Although he never achieved the success he nearly once had, he was a success in films such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Seperate Tables (for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor), The Guns of Navarone, The Pink Panther, Paper Tiger, Death on the Nile, and The Sea Wolves.
He also played James Bond in the hybrid 1967 Bond movie, Casino Royale, and was considered for the role for the first Bond movie, Doctor No, as his friend Ian Fleming felt that he would be ideal. Whilst Niven didn't have the sharp edges that Sean Connery had, he certainly had the background.
Niven also wrote two bestselling books, which included his memoir, The Moon's a Balloon, which gave him a new lease of fame in the 1970s. However, his personal life was unhappy. His second wife was an alcoholic who consistently verbally hurt and abused him and one of their adoptive daughters was involved, and very nearly died, in a car crash in Switzerland.
But it says much about Niven's character, his seemingly easy ability to be affable and friendly with everyone, that when he died in 1983 following a two-four year battle with Motor Neurone disease, one of the wreaths at his funeral was from the porters at Heathrow Airport. The card read: To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king.

Radio 4 UK Theme

(BBC Online)

For those who know, the medley of music that comes on Radio 4 at about 5:30AM every morning, as an announcement between the BBC World Service broadcasts finishing, and the daily Radio 4 broadcasts starting.
It's been around for thirty-two years, and for the times I had to get up about 6AM, it was a confirming comfort about what the time was, without fumbling about for my watch, as I am sure it is for many others.
Now the BBC have ditched it, and almost without warning.
Why? I am not too happy about this, and neither are a lot of other people. I mean, the medley includes Danny Boy, What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?, Scotland the Brave, Rule Britannia, Men of Harlech, Greensleeves, Londonderry Air and Early One Morning.
And if that doesn't get one up and about in the morning, what can!
Actually, perhaps it is best that no one answers that.
But seriously, why ditch a tradition that is harmless and which many listeners, including myself, are rather happy with.

Deus Caritas Est

(Associated Press)

According to Wikipedia, under it's entry on Encyclicals:

For the modern Roman Catholic Church, in the strictest sense, a Papal encyclical is a letter sent by the Pope which is explicitly addressed to Roman Catholic bishops of a particular area or the world, usually treating some aspect of Catholic doctrine. However, the form of the address can vary widely, and often designates a wider audience. Papal encyclicals usually take the form of a Papal brief due to their more personal nature as opposed to the formal Papal bull. Papal encyclicals are so famous that the term encyclical for Roman Catholics is used almost exclusively for those sent out by the Pope. The Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion retain the older usage.

Glad we got that one sorted.
That said, a lot of the time Papal encyclials are newsworthy events, and over the last forty plus years each Pope (Bar John Paul I, who lasted a month and therefore barely had time to write one)has written an encyclical which has been much covered in the news and causes much discussion and controversy.
Pope John XXIII wrote Pacem in Terris (otherwise known as 'Peace on Earth'), shortly before his death in 1963. This spoke about against the horrors of the Cold War and was noted for it's opening 'To all men of goodwill'. Paul VI caused controversy with his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which, contrary to expectations, kept to the Church's teaching on contraception. The fallout was such that Paul VI never wrote another encyclical. Pope John Paul II started off with a classic, 'Redemptor Hominis', which spoke out for the dignity of man and was used by Polish dissidents against the communist regime, and followed it up with Evangelium Vitae, which attacked abortion and euthanasia. Emotive subjects which few have neutral views on.
So, as you can guess, Pope Benedict XVI has written an encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (otherwise known as 'God is Love'). Well not exclusively, part of the encyclical are unfinished writings by John Paul II, and that caused a delay in publication.
Put basically, the encyclical is a reflection on two of the 'Four Loves'; eros and agape, in conjunction with logos (the Word). This seems to owe more to C.S. Lewis's book The Four Loves, than anything else, although, whatever one's thoughts on it, it is worth a look.The main focus of the argument is that eros becomes downgraded sex, when there isn't a Christian spiritual element involved.
Given that many can agree that there is not really anything wrong with sex ;), and that many can agree that it is a gift that can be much abused and cheapened, then I think it is an encyclical to be welcomed and discussed.
Apparently, after the launch, there will be a Vatican-sponsored conference this evening to discuss the encyclical, with the film director Liliana Cavani and the former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn.
I wonder if there will be a buffet afterwards ;)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Today in 'The Guardian'

If you have dark sense of humour, like me, then you might appreciate the bit about the Whale in the G2 section. That said, I doubt I was the only person who got fed up with the news-a-minute reports on it's progress during Saturday, only to moan out loud 'Oh no!' when the news flashed that she had died.
Then there is the wonderful article on page 12 in the main section. Well wonderful in so far that the Daily Mail have been caught out again. They apparently accepted hoax letters, some twenty-five years ago, as genuine, concerning the then-Labour government and Leyland!
Not as embarrasing for them as the praise they gave on Kitchener's death, their publishing of the 'Zinoviev letter' or their support for Moseley's Blackshirts (how many other national newspapers behaved in so despicable a fashion during the 1930s!), but interesting nontheless!

In Christian Praise of: Basil Hume


Archbishop of Westminster and Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales from 1976, until his death in 1999. Cardinal Basil Hume did much to make the Roman Catholic Church accesible and, in regard to ecumenical relations, somewhat useful. He was also renowned for his personal warmth and ability to relate to most people, whatever their background or religion.
He was born George Hume in 1923, the son of a Harley Street Doctor, and was educated at Ampleforth, before becoming a novice at the monastery there. He then became an ordained priest, took the vows (and the name Basil) and became a monk and eventually became Abbot of Ampleforth in 1963.
He was considered at one point, for the post of Abbot General of the Benedictine Order (of which he was a member), but he remained at Ampleforth until Pope Paul VI made him Archbishop of Westminster, along with a Cardinal's hat.
He had no previous experience of running a Diocese, but he was renowned for being a first-class administrator, as well as a renowned pastor of souls and such was his mark that when Pope Paul VI died two years after his appointment, followed by the premature death of his succesor, Pope John Paul I, less than two months later, many considered Cardinal Hume to be in the running as the next Pope in the two conclaves of that year.
Whilst he had the manner and connections (one of his brothers-in-law was a senior civil servant), Basil Hume could challenge the establishment with a tenatious manner if he felt someone was suffering as a consequence. He was one of the very first prominent figures to challenge the convictions of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, and he quietly challenged the Roman Curia in the Vatican if he felt they were making prophetic statements at the dire expense of being pastoral and thoughtful.
That said, not all saints are perfect, the man did insist on supporting Newcastle United! ;)

Galloway faces political gallows

Hat tip to Jo for spotting this, and a bigger hat tip to the person who found the law

Farewell to the West Wing


Being away from a computer for much of yesterday, I only read this morning from the various entries on Bloggers4Labour, that The West Wing is to be axed!
On one hand I am disapointed, on the other it seems about time. Bartlett is coming to the end of his two-terms of office and it seems silly to continue. That said, watching the current season on More4, I started looking at some of the various characters as possible Presidential and Vice Presidential material.
But quite simply it was one of the best US Drama series I have seen in recent years and if I was an american, and Bartlett did exist, then you would find me one of the most flag-waving patriots in the middle of the North American continent.
Okay, that's not exactly true, but I think you get my point ;).
BTW When are we going to get a UK version! I mean the Germans have already got one!

Another Day Out in London


Yesterday was a bit eventful for me, hence only one posting. There was the 3:45AM wake-up alarm for my early morning shift at Tesco's (5-8AM), before getting home, having a nap, getting washed and changed, a spot of ironing, checking e-mails etc.. lunch, getting my glasses fixed at the opticians (a screw came out, so it was dealt with there within minutes), before heading down to London.
Yesterday I commuted for two reasons. The first was because it was the last chance to see an old Uni friend of mine, Beccie, before she leaves the UK on Saturday for a two year job in Eritrea. It was somewhat emotional and, as Beccie said herself, saying goodbye to friends over the past week almost feels like watching her own funeral. That said, it was good to get a last chance to see her for what will be a very long time.
I then felt annoyed with myself for failing to take my digital camera along, as Beccie decided she wanted to take some snaps of me with her camera.
After that, it was the monthly CSM Youth meeting at Portcullis House, where we were given a talk about the Church and the Media by Dave Landrum, he who works with Kerron and has suffered mercilessly at his hands.
In any case, the talk was interesting, Richard Dawkins was mentioned a few times, but the most bizarre part of the evening was when Dave decided, as an exercise, to prove a point about the Church and the Media having a consistent sharp relationship by getting two of us to read out a Newsnight skit, where one of us was Jeremy Paxman and the other was Jesus Christ. Suffice to say, the saintly Helen Dennis (one of the CSM regulars and the YMCA's Parliamentary Officer) played Christ and I was the redoubtable Paxman.
Somehow, verbally admonishing a twentysomething blonde and saying things like 'Your campaign is not a success, even Judas Iscariot, one of your key supporters, says you are not being hardline enough..', and interrupting her when she gave replies like 'Let he who is without sin...' is not something I envisaged doing at the start of the day!
Then it was a trip to St Stephen's Tavern next door and a general chat, before I had to leave early.
Well I had to be up at 3:45AM the next day.

Monday, January 23, 2006

In Political Praise of: Martin Bell

(BBC Online)
Sometimes, as mentioned in an earlier post, celebrities get involved in politics and it just doesn't translate well. For example, Vanessa Redgrave is a very good actress but is a little teensy too left wing for my liking!
So it was a pleasant surprise to see Martin Bell do so well when he got involved in electoral politics.
The son of the first compiler of the Times Crossword and the Uncle of fellow blogger, Oliver Kamm. Martin Bell did National Service and graduated from King's College, Cambridge with honours, before joining the BBC. Bell rose through the ranks, becoming a War Correspondent in Middle East, Nigeria, Angola and Rwanda. He also covered Northern Ireland and was Washington correspondent in the 1980s.
He was approaching the end of his career at the BBC, when he was asked by several people if he would like to stand for Parliament, as an Independent, in the constituency of Tatton. The seat was the fifth safest Conservative seat in the country, but that said, the sitting MP, Neil Hamilton, was being accused of various sleaze allegations and the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates were prepared to, and indeed did, withdraw from the contest.
Obviously I remember that election night well, but I was watching it all unfold at a friends' house and was yet to be a Labour Party member (in spite of the entreaties of my friend, Tammy). But I do remember the result from Tatton at about 2AM very clearly.
Just as the Returning Officer was about to read out the results I noticed that Bell looked somewhat depressed. 'Oh no, he's lost!' was my response, followed by the pleasant surprise of seeing him win with a 9,000 majority.
But it didn't stop there, Martin Bell was a very effective constituency MP and always argued his cases gently, but passionately, even if you did not agree with some of his arguments. He also failed to be pigeonholed into being labelled left-wing or right-wing, it was usually depend on the issue involved.
Many people in Tatton wanted Bell to stand again as MP, but he kept his promise of serving them for one term only, and instead set his sights on Brentwood and Ongar for the 2001 general election. This time he was not so succesful, but didn't do too badly considering each of the main parties had candidates in the seat.
Bell then announced his retirement from politics, but not before standing in East of England in the 2004 European elections. The fact that I heard a no of people (Usually Tory or Labour), say that they wanted to vote for him, says a great deal about his popularity and integrity.
He is now a UNICEF Ambassador and promotes Independent candidates at elections.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In Thespian Praise of: Tom Baker

(Press Association)

Yes, I thought I would pick another television actor, renowned for his voice.
Unlike Valentine Dyall, however, Tom Baker is well known to an international degree (His image, dressed in his Doctor Who costume, has appeared in several episodes of The Simpsons).
He is also as mad as a hatter!
In a nice way of course, but this is the guy who once said how wonderful life was before penicillin, who mentioned that he once had a bed romp with a woman who insisted on wearing his Doctor Who costume (He said he had an uncomfortable feeling that he was making love to himself) , and who suggested Miriam Margolyes play one of his assistants in Doctor Who (although that was seriously a very good idea!)
Tom Baker started his professional life training to be a monk, until he decided that it really wasn't for him. He then joined the Merchant Navy, took up acting, married into a gardening family, had two sons, got divorced, joined the RSC, before getting his big break playing Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra.
After appearing in the odd BBC Play and the odd B-Movie, Baker found work hard to come by and was reduced to working on a building site, before one of his films came to the attention of the BBC Drama department and he got the lead in Doctor Who, following Jon Pertwee's desire to leave after four years.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Baker has since appeared in Blackadder, the BBC Production of C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair , Medics, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), was allegedly considered for the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, and was recently the narrator of Little Britain
He is also well known for his big grins and hearty laughs, and to finish in the words of the man himself.

Mark Oaten and the Rentboys

(Associated Press)

Well, this was one that just came out of the blue! Some politicians, you hear innuendo and gossip, whether true or not, and so you are not entirely surprised when a particular story occasionally breaks into the spotlight.
But this is something else! My first thought was that gossip must have started doing the Westminster rounds and this is why he quit, but apparently not!
So, what do I make of it all? Well I feel very sorry for him, leading a double life and then being publicly exposed like that must be a horrible experience.
But I also feel sorry for his family, who must feel somewhat betrayed, and just what did he think he was doing? Doing something for the thrill of danger might have something to do with it, but then he also stood for the leadership of the Lib Dems and that kind of thing warrants a lot of attention, some of it unwelcome.
All in all, I think he has been very foolish, and to a degree, somewhat arrogant, but that said 'But for the grace of God...'

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Apparently there a new inroads into medicine, due to acupuncture.
This is all very well and cosy, but I will say that open heart surgery, minus general anaesthetic and using acupuncture instead, does seem a tad too radical for me!
Besides which, it doesn't seem to be practical to be conscious during such routines either. I mean, there you are on the operating table, hearing a surgeon say something along the lines of 'We are going to have to move quickly, otherwise the paitents aorta will burst within the next few minutes!', I mean, that's enough to give anyone a heart attack in itself!