Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Government Boundary Proposals Voted Out!

I can understand the Tories' frustration, they claim the status quo is against them. But then equally we need a system that is fair for all, and the proposals do not take into account those who need to be on the voting register, the impracticalities of some of the constituencies drawn up, and a system that is fair to all parties! Maybe the Conservatives need to consider that rather than looking at changes most likely to give them an overall majority

Monday, January 28, 2013

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands To Abdicate!

To be honest this is not entirely a surprise! Her Mother abdicated in 1980, and her Grandmother in 1948, so this seems to be a growing Dutch Royal tradition!
That said, does it signify pressure for other monarchies to follow suit? I somehow doubt it even though it is possible, as it is unprecedented in other countries. It is especially unlikely in the UK where the Queen may well feel that by abdicating she is violating her coronation oath and has memories of the only voluntary abdication in the UK which are likely unwelcome!
So I doubt other countries will follow suit, especially the UK, but it seems that the Netherlands are developing a Royal Tradition where their soverign does not remain monarch unto death. Congratulations also to Crown Prince Willem Alexander, who will be the first male Dutch Head of State in over 120 years

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Review: Marco Polo

Every month until December, Mars Hill will be doing a review of one story from Doctor Who from each of the Doctors' televised adventures. This month Tim Roll-Pickering picks Marco Polo from the William Hartnell era!

My favourite Hartnell story is one I'm almost certainly never going to see. At this point in time I don't think it's that controversial to say so. It's nearly thirty years since searchers last found anything more from Doctor Who's very first season and the prospect that somewhere out there is a complete copy of the story is frankly about as likely as a majority Liberal Democrat government.

But we have the audio of all the episodes. For this story we're also blessed with tonnes of photographs and even the "telesnaps" - pictures taken of the actual transmission to provide a record of the story in the days before cheap home video. It's thus possible to experience such stories as best we can.

Marco Polo is the earliest missing story from the series and something of a curiosity in its development, particularly as it shows the Doctor softened somewhat from the harsh edged character seen in 100,000 BC, The Mutants and Inside the Spaceship * to the more benign, grandfatherly figure that appeared for much of the rest of William Hartnell's time in the role. But it also demonstrates a real scope and imagination in spite of the limited resources. It's important to remember that in its very earliest days Doctor Who was not seen as a particularly important BBC production and so often had to make do with the smallest studios and worst resources. As time went on things got a little better. But here we have a serial that tells of a great journey from the Plain of Pamir all the way to Peking **, made in a small studio with a limited cast. It was a sign of the show's skill and focus. We never see Noghai and his great army, we just hear about the threat mounting. Nor do we meet Ping-Cho's fiancée - much like the lady herself. And then the great made small comes in the ultimate form with the episode entitled "Mighty Kublai Khan" where the great ruler is revealed to be... a fussy old man afflicted with rheumatism. Perhaps it's because of such limited resources that the production, forced to focus on character so much, has translated well to audio, helped by the scenes of Marco Polo narrating movements from one location to another as he writes his journal.

The sets and costumes make the most of things, and show just how well the BBC has always been with historicals, but it's the script and the acting that shine the most. The story may take a few liberties with known history (though for that matter the real Polo has been accused of this) but it does so to present the epic journey in such a way that the story never drags. Throughout we are made to feel for all the characters and their goals - the regulars who just want to get into a repaired TARDIS and escape, Marco Polo who wants to leave Cathay before the Khan dies leaving him at the mercy of his enemies, Ping-Cho who is on her way to an arranged marriage to a man she has never met and who is old enough to be her grandfather, and Tegana pursuing his own agenda of sabotage. The conflicts between them and the situations they encounter drive events forward, creating for real tensions and false hopes when escape attempts fail. What is also surprising given the age of the story is the highly respectful way in which the Mongol culture is presented. There are no condescending portrayals of the leading characters or gross stereotypes, and when there is a clash of values over Ping-Cho's marriage the European Marco Polo is to be found on the opposite side to the regulars.

A TARDIS crew made up of four regulars may seem like overkill to a later generation, but when cast well and all assigned reasonable roles they all work to complement one another, as is the case here. Having now worked together for some thirteen episodes the four regulars all bounce off one another and make it believable that whatever the circumstances that brought them together, they now all support and care for one another. The guest actors are equally well cast, with Mark Eden (Marco Polo), Derren Nesbitt (Tegana), Ziena Merton (Ping-Cho) and Martin Miller (Kublai Khan) each bringing their characters to life with relish.

The Hartnell historicals were traditionally derided by both fans and some production teams as interludes between more exciting science-fiction adventures but this view seems increasingly jaded and overlooks the possibilities to do some imaginative drama without falling back upon stock science-fiction clichés. In later eras this story would have been told very differently - invariably Tegana would be working with some alien force trying to obtain some object from the Khan's court, and in on particular era we might have heard the lines "Did you fail Mongol as well as science Jo? 'Tegana' is Mongol for 'Master'!" (As far as I know, it isn't.) But in the Hartnell era the emphasis was on exploring the universe and historicals were just as much a part of the series formula as science-fiction tales, on many occasions even outshining them. Sadly, the absence of this story from the archives means that it is often overlooked, and its seven-episode length may put off some. But try it and you'll find a true tour de force as all the elements come together to tell a magnificent epic.

(* "What?!" I hear someone cry. "How DARE somebody use any titles but the ones in the 1981 Programme Guide?!" Sorry to those who get worked up about such things but I developed my fan awareness from the 1990s reference books, so your best bet is to travel back in time and sort this out then. Better still go back to the 1960s and bring back just over a hundred Doctor Who episodes.

** Funnily enough the Who title warriors never seem to get worked up about the episode entitled "Assassin at Peking" despite that being an anachronistic name for the city - it should have been "Cambaluc", using Polo's spelling, or "Khanbaliq".)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

William Hartnell

As part of the 50th Anniversary Year of Doctor Who, Mars Hill will be looking at each of the actors and their interpretation of the role of the Doctor, culminating with Matt Smith in Nov. This month we will be looking at William Hartnell.

When Doctor Who began that Saturday evening on Nov 22nd 1963, British television viewers watched something they never quite saw before, a science fiction serial, aimed primarily at children, about an old man from another World and his granddaughter, who lived in a police box that was initally sitting in a junkyard in London and was in fact a Time and Space Machine in disguise. Travelling with them were two school teachers, one who taught science and another who taught history, and these people visited other worlds and witnessed events in history.
Time Travel stories were not new, nor were stories about space travel, but new stories of such adventures combined were new and people were transfixed.
Central to that was the character of the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, previously typecast in tough guy roles. The Doctor was seen as a craggy and aloof old man who nonetheless had a sense of mischief and strong sense of justice. A mainstay in the changing world around him and the changing line up of companions.
What legacy did Hartnell's portrayal leave? Well that of a man who showed how the Doctor should be seen, a kind of Merlin in Space and Pied Piper, who fought intolerance and injustice and who in old age showed wisdom and sound judgement. It is not for nothing that in the Tenth and Twentieth anniversary specials we see his successors defer to "The Original", as he was sometimes known!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hugh Gaitskell - Fifty Years On

This weekend saw the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Hugh Gaitskell, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last year of Attlee's government, leader of the Labour Party, instinctive Social Democrat and Fabian, and perhaps one of the best Labour leaders we never had.
Many of us on the Right of the Labour Party admire Gaitskell and owe him a debt. Before Blair, this man showed to many that you could be both Labour and hold centrist policies that sometimes involved accepting and even embracing a degree of free enterprise. Gaitskell was one of a no of politicians in the Twentieth Century in both Conservative and Labour Parties who was neither impressed entirely with free market philosophy as espoused by Friedman, or indeed the hardline neo marxist widescale nationalisation policies that some on the hard left espoused.
Would Gaitskell have been Prime Minister and a good one if he had lived? The honest answer is we shall never know, but as Professor Brian Brivati mentioned in the Dictionary, he would have been unable to effectively attack the Macmillan government over the Profumo affair (given his affair with Ann Fleming) and he would have possibly have not been able to keep us out of Vietnam as Wilson did, and for that maybe Wilson was the better Labour Prime Minister, but he did show resolve and tenacity and a way of espousing a form of Social Democracy that inspired politicians like Crosland, Healey, and Jenkins, who in turn inspired the likes of Hattersley, Owen, and Smith, and who in turn helped inspire Blair and Brown.

Interview With Richard Franklin

Last weekend I interviewed actor and former Doctor Who regular Richard Franklin in Central London. Richard played Captain Mike Yates of UNIT from 1971-1974 during the Jon Pertwee era. He returned for the Twentieth Anniversary special, The Five Doctors, and has since reprised the role in various audio dramatisations for Big Finish Productions and Audio Go

PAUL BURGIN: You joined Doctor Who in 1971, which was Jon Pertwee's Second Season, and you also joined at the same time as Katy Manning and Roger Delgado. How did your character come about?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well actually when people ask me that question they usually know the answer better than I do. I don't know what the script decisions and discussions were that led them to believe.. well actually I think I probably do, I think they wanted to introduce me as a love interest..

PAUL BURGIN: For Jo Grant

RICHARD FRANKLIN: For Jo Grant, and I think the thing is they didn't have that interest before and I think the writers realised it was actually a young adult age group that was at the core viewership for Doctor Who. It wasn't beforehand, I mean it was much more a children's programme, and indeed the BBC of course paid their top brass a lot of money, but their actors, they kept those of us on the show on a children's television rate

PAUL BURGIN: Yes it was that in-between time, I remember reading once, years ago, Barry Letts saying that the Jon Pertwee era was when there was a more adult audience.

RICHARD FRANKLIN: That's right, it became cult during that time. It didn't become a fully become a young adult show, University level kind of thing, until Katy, Jon, and I were involved

PAUL BURGIN: Joining at the same time as Katy Manning and Roger Delgado, did you feel like the new children in class as it were?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well one of the things about Jon Pertwee was that he had a lot of background in theatre and he knew the role of the leading man and really the leading man in the company has a sort of quasi directorial role. He's "Mine Host" in a way and Jon was extremely good at that, I mean we used to as you know, have quite celebrated guests coming in sometimes and he always welcomed everybody. Everybody was made to feel part of the team from Day One. That is not just being socially adept, it's not just a question of being nice and friendly, it is a question of getting good work, because if you don't have a good working relationship with all your actors the product is going to be inferior

PAUL BURGIN: Sometimes we hear a bit about Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney, Katy Manning and John Levene. We don't sometimes hear much about Roger Delgado, partly because sadly he died almost in harness in the role. What was he like to work with because he was a very quiet person wasn't he!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Oh he was, but he was very, very, nice. He was very precise, very reliable, very good, and he was very much liked and respected and loved. But you don't have to have one elbow on the bar and shout to be heard the other side of Leicester Square to be good company, although a lot of actors are and not good company!

PAUL BURGIN: I did hear a story once, I don't know if it's apocryphal, that when they were filming The Daemons, when it was the first take of him  being taken away the children instead of booing as they were asked to, actually clapped and cheered because he was so popular, I don't know how true that is!

RICHARD FRANKLIN:  Oh yes, particularly something like The Daemons in Aldbourne where the general public are involved. Crowd control is rather important and  I know we had one marvellous effect which had to be redone as far as I remember. There was an incident with the globby Axons with a very effective shot in which  I had just jumped out of the moving land-rover and it went driverless down a steep hill and exploded at the bottom, and when it exploded someone in the crowd applauded with enthusiasm and of course it wrecked the shot. So whether they were able to do something with the soundtrack or not, I think they must have done something like that. Very natural, you see something  extraordinary happen and your immediate reaction is to applaud or gasp or something, but of course it's hard sometimes to instil that into very nice people who are supporting that they are not in the theatre

PAUL BURGIN: The first season you were in, you were in nearly every story, bar one. When you look back on that are there any moments you look back on with particular delight or fondness?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well I think, well I'm not trying to avoid the question, but I really did enjoy it all very much indeed, because the stories were very good and the action that I had was particularity enjoyable. I do remember particularly one story, I think it was filmed in a clay pit in Hertfordshire, a gravel pit, where Terry Walsh did a dramatic roll fall down a steep slope. I had run into him with a landrover. It was a very good stunt, the stunts were great fun to watch because HAVOC who used to do it were clever, fearless, death defying people!

PAUL BURGIN: I did hear that Jon Pertwee liked  to do stunts and that there was this occasional tension between him and Terry Walsh and he would say "Make it look difficult!" to Terry Walsh!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Oh yes, I think you know, Jon was a man who believed he could do anything and was very keen on gadgetry, all his Whomobiles and everything! I think there was one story in which he has three or four different types of vehicle. There was a hovercraft, a helicopter...

PAUL BURGIN: I think that was the last one he did!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: But just to try and be a bit specific about what I particularly enjoyed, I did enjoy Planet of the Spiders because I had a lot of filming to do and here's a lesson for any actor looking at his script on television or film. Don't count the words, count the pictures because I didn't actually have a huge amount to say, but I came over, I think, rather well, because I was given such good action with Sarah Jane Smith

PAUL BURGIN: Yes and I think it was also a good story because when you look at the previous one you did, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, it kind of indicated the character (Captain Yates) was leaving under a cloud, whereas Planet of the Spiders there is this kind of redemption of the character in a way!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Yes indeed, yes absolutely. Of course Planet of the Spiders is one I remember particularly affectionately, and The Daemons, I think everybody would say that probably! Most  people would say that because we had two weeks filming for a start and it is always nice to get out of the studio, and it was in a particularly beautiful little village and we stayed in a very nice hotel in Aldbourne, so it was first week sunshine and second week snow, but it was that pleasant!

PAUL BURGIN: When you came back briefly a decade later in The Five Doctors, where you weren't exactly playing Mike Yates but an image of the character, what was it like going back to Doctor Who, even if it was just for that five minutes?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Two impressions actually. The first was "Nothing has changed!" Then after that I think it was very much populated with actors, so there was no difference about it! But I was really delighted to be on that. You probably know the story about it, it is one of the many reasons why I am very grateful to fandom, because I moved up to North Yorkshire and was doing something completely different. I was running a very large County Youth Theatre and that's why incidentally I had less and less to do in later episodes. I was offered work but I turned it down because I was doing something else and I could only fit in a certain amount of time in London, but when I moved up there there was a good deal of press publicity about my moving into this very small hill town, and this article, page spread, was done by a journalist from the Northern Echo, and the younger brother of this journalist was a Doctor Who fan who picks up the article, illicitly. I am so glad he did, he got my phone no from his brother, before he printed the article, and invited me to have tea in Darlington with their group. There was a very small group, about twelve of us, and I said "I'd love to go", so we went and had tea and we talked about this and that and they said "Are you going to be in The Five Doctors?"  I was so cut off by then that I actually, I think I only vaguely heard of The Five Doctors, and they filled me in and I thought "Really, why the hell haven't I been asked?"  I was really quite disappointed by that and I thought no more of it. Two weeks later and the postman came and I had a large envelope fall on the mat. It was a script and a letter from John Nathan-Turner, apologising for the fact it was only a very small scene, but would I like to play this part and scene was on a completely different coloured paper which was an addition, so I wrote back and said "That's terribly nice, I'd love to!" and the only reason I'd been alerted to the fact I wasn't doing it was the fans in Darlington had written to him saying "Why isn't Richard Franklin/Captain Mike Yates in The Five Doctors?" so I literally have the fans directly to thank for  the fact I was in it at all!

PAUL BURGIN: There was this long hiatus as well with the series. Then seven, coming up to eight years ago now, it came back. Have you seen much of the new series since it's come back and and if so what do you make of it?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: I've seen very little, I watch very little television to be quite honest with you. I've seen all the Doctors since the comeback and I think Matt Smith is head, shoulders, and knees above the others. I think he's very good, because he's got the character within him. He's not playing eccentric or rolling his eyes, he's Doctor Who! He understands the man with two hearts. The only thing I do feel, and I'm very firm supporter of the new series, is because society is moving and changing so fast in this country and a decade can make a heck of a lot of difference and when I was doing Doctor Who people respected people with grey hair and the grandfather looking after the grandchildren ethos was still vaguely there although the grandchildren were becoming young adults. But you can no longer, when the new series started, have a curly grey haired Doctor Who with a frilly shirt! It wouldn't connect at all with the young adults of that day! But they didn't throw away everything. They've kept the TARDIS, they've kept the magic, they've kept the essence of Doctor Who and all this sort of pseudo science and all the rest of it and so I think the writers have done well! The only thing I do feel about it! I think it's actually, certainly in the very last story that I saw with Matt Smith in, with the little blocks...

PAUL BURGIN: That was the UNIT story about these cubes invading the Earth!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: That's right, I thought it was much too fast and he was forced to be even more frenetic than he usually is

PAUL BURGIN: I have heard fans say there were about five different plot lines or so in it

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Ah yes! And I was going to make a point about the previous story, the Wild West one! It was a good story and I enjoyed it very much, but it had three profound ideas which actually were too much to take in I thought, but very good ideas, I actually wanted it to be a three parter at least, and actually I'm afraid, in fact I know, I don't know what all the reasons are, but one reason certainly is that the modern generation  just likes to see the thing, be done with it, and move on!  I think that's a shame but maybe that's how the modern world works, but I think the cliffhanger format is much better!

PAUL BURGIN:  You've worked with more than one Doctor now. I mean you've worked with Jon Pertwee on television and you've recently worked with Tom Baker on Audio. Technically you've worked with three Doctors because David Troughton played the Second Doctor in lieu of his late father (in one of the audio stories), but with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, what's the difference because in real life I get the impression they are two very different people and their interpretations are of two very different Doctors!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well in the first place I like both of them very much indeed, but you are right they are quite different! Tom is a genuine eccentric, rather like Matt Smith, and Jon.. I was going to say he was acting eccentric but I think that is not right, I think it's a false impression of a sort of superficial performance. I think Jon is much more of an actor and Tom is much more of a personality. I don't think Jon would have been terribly pleased of me to say that because Jon was indeed a personality and his charisma, you could even feel it in the open air in a field. I remember in Aldbourne clearly, Jon was slightly after than everybody else in arriving and actually strode across the field, the whole sort of tension rose and there is no question, Jon was very charismatic. He was very tall, and craggy face and mass of white hair, and his extravagant costume. That was part of Jon, so I think if you like, Jon's Doctor's eccentricity was profound, but it was also illustrated externally, whereas Tom, he could have been wearing a bathing suit and then he would still be eccentric!

PAUL BURGIN: There is this lovely bit isn't there, in the very first story he did, Robot, where his Doctor is trying on new costumes and comes out with these constantly ridiculous costumes in front of the Brigadier and Harry Sullivan and they are both getting more and more inwardly uptight!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: I must admit, I think Tom is wonderful to work with, I like working with Tom. He's extremely intellectually intelligent, very witty, and they both took tremendous interest in the actual script, whether it was going the right way or not, and they had plenty of opinion too!

PAUL BURGIN: I did hear that when Lis Sladen left as Sarah Jane Smith, she and Tom Baker , I don't know if this is true, with her parting scene, she and Tom Baker more or less wrote that last scene together, because when they looked at the original script, they said "That's not how the Doctor and Sarah would part!" and they almost ad libbed it!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well I don't know if that's true, I've never heard that story, but I could well believe that might be true!

PAUL BURGIN: With the Fiftieth Anniversary coming, do you have any expectations, and how involved are you with the whole general process?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well, my expectation is that I am asked every week or more to come and do things, because I love meeting the fans, I love meeting the other actors who I've been working with and I love keeping the reality and the memory of UNIT alive! Now there is only Katy, John, and myself and I like to show the flag very much! If you are blogging it please invite me I will come and do anything! Because I would love to be there and answer questions

PAUL BURGIN: One thing I do know you are doing are these Audio Go conjunction with Big Finish stories entitled Destiny of the Doctors and you are narrating a story!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Oh yes and I've done two very nice things with Big Finish. One is a Companions Chronicle called Vengance of the Stones and the other one is The Rings of Ikiria, it was a lost story that I narrated with Katy and it was, I think, a five parter! People have been emailing me and talking about it and saying they like it very much

PAUL BURGIN: You also wrote a novel recently, Operation HATE, what is that about?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well Operation HATE has all the names changed but you will recognise the characters instantly. Because, the thing is this, it's all very sort of hush hush, undercover operation and so all the names had to be changed. MI6 and all the rest of it!

PAUL BURGIN: Have you plans to write any more?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: The door is definitely open to write a sequel, yes.  But that's complete in itself

PAUL BURGIN: Any plans for the future with Doctor Who or Mike Yates that are definite or are in the pipeline?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: No, no, but but just to go onto Operation HATE, I think, I'd like to think, it is slightly better than a tuppeney horror! Actually there is a lot of autobiography in it, although I am not telling you what is fact or what is fiction or what is fact exaggerated! But the thing is I have written it from experience so that it is a very human book and it is, I hope, informative and interesting and funny! But it recalls real life experiences that I have had

PAUL BURGIN: Aside from Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, do you have a favourite Doctor?

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Well I am not being evasive, well I am being evasive on this as they are so different! It's very hard to say. I always have great fun when I am with Colin Baker, because I know him and have done other, non Doctor Who work with him and so on. But I very much like the eccentric Doctors, kind of what you might call seriously eccentric and I think, I like to look back, to Bill Hartnell, because he was, he really was, the mad scientist

PAUL BURGIN: His widow said that when he got the part, one of the reasons he was so glad to accept it was for so many years he had been playing tough policemen, tough villains, tough army sergeants, this was, whilst the character had a degree of acerbic-ness to him, there was something very different to what he had played before and he was so pleased to have that!

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Yes absolutely, but I think it's very hard to understand when we are talking about cultural change, why the new series has to be, had to be rewritten completely and they have done it extraordinarily well and I think Russell T. Davies did an amazing job on it, but if you look at or try to grasp the audience, the country's reaction to Doctor Who when Bill Hartnell first did it. I mean people didn't talk about space in that way, I mean yes there had been things like Batman and crazy crazy things, but this was serious science. This was based on actual discoveries and people were really beginning to think about going to the Moon and things like that and what is out there? I think people watched the scenes wondering what was going to come next. It's quite different now, it's much more ironic and one enjoys the wit of fiction

PAUL BURGIN: Absolutely. Well thankyou very much for your time

RICHARD FRANKLIN: Not at all, it's a great pleasure


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Real Life/ The Internet

Recently I have heard about Twitter addiction and Social Media addiction being a growing trend, now I may put forward a good argument against that and you would not be surprised, given I obviously use social media a lot, but I think social media can be like alcohol. Good for some, not for others. To be best taken in moderation and not to the exclusion of everything else. So here is what I think is good and what is lacking about social media

  • Social Media is good for meeting new people. After all, my wife and I met via a mutual friend on Facebook. However meeting people in real life is far better
  • In real life you can travel to other countries, eat nice food, drink tea, have sex (no, cyber sex is not the same thing!), gauge other people's emotions more clearly, enjoy the environment of town and countryside around you
  •   Social Media is good for receiving up to date news and information (Twitter for example is very good at that), but depending on how you are involved, how is it best to utilise whatever news you receive which is important to you!
  • A final question. How well do you know someone or some people who live several thousand miles away compared to your own neighbour?
Some points to ponder on perhaps!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

David Miliband on Benefit Caps

Further to my blog post a few minutes ago, here is David Miliband's brilliant attack on the government's benefit cap in the House of Commons


   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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The 1% Cap on Benefit Rises

The government will tell you that tonight's vote was to do with the austerity measures, that it is to do with dealing with "the deficit left by the previous government"
Even if every one of their explanations were true, why pick on the most vulnerable in our society instead of finding cuts elsewhere! There is the phrase "Compassionate Conservatism" Compassionate to who?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Gay Bishops Row

It seems of late that there are rows about what makes a good Bishop in the Church of England. Can a Bishop be a woman? Can we have gays as Bishops? If we do, should they be celibate? In this day and age when we seem to be obsessed with sex and sexuality it is hardly surprising that these are major issues that are presented before us
So it is that the Church of England is tackling this issue on Gay Bishops almost directly! The suggestion put forward will anger hardliners on both sides. The Liberals because there is a limit as to what is offered. In other words you can be Gay but celibate, and Evangelicals will hate it because they see it as a compromise and both sides will see it as a fudge and I can totally understand that because when struggling to see the Gospel presented well here in a way that shows Grace and Love it can seem sometimes like woolliness and I hate that!
But we do need to keep certain things in perspective here! The first is that a Bishop should be someone who not only adheres to the Gospel, and therefore most importantly that Christ died for our sins and rose again, but shows Love and Mercy, without which that Bishop will be a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). I know of at least one Bishop who I found to be superior and patronising  and whilst I likely misjudged him, it reminds me that God judges what is in the hearts of all and many can be found wanting.
The second is that what we have to ask ourselves is, Is there a difference between Homosexual orientation and practice? If so then Evangelicals need to tread very carefully here and not rush towards making judgements which could rebound against them and hurt and alienate many fellow Christians who struggle to maintain standards those said hardliners find far easier to follow.
I am purposely publicly not taking sides here in order to make some points and I will not be thanked for it, but I do so because I believe many on both sides are not looking at each other with Christian Love and concern. "Love your enemies!" Christ said, and a commandment I, and it seems, many of us who profess to be Christian find hard as we always want to add "Except for...", but then who said being a Christian would be easy!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Blogging Highlights from Tom Harris and Iain Dale: A Review of Sorts


On my birthday in September, I got from my wife two books, one of which was the book "Why I'm Right and Everyone Else Is Wrong" by Tom Harris. Basically it contains the best of his blogposts when Tom was renowned for being one of the most widely read Labour Party bloggers in the UK.
Far from being in straightforward chronological order, the blogpieces reprinted in the book are divided into subject matter ranging from Parliament, to the Tony and Gordon situation, to what some would call an obsession, but others a total understanding appreciation of Doctor Who (something I share). It's serious, but also entertaining and funny, and clever, and shows a strong hinterland and a reminder as to why Tom was loved and is missed for his insightful blog posts.
What I have yet to read is Iain Dale's recent publication "Blogfather", which I understand is similar to Tom Harris's book, although Walaa Idris has written a review here. Iain has recently started blogging again and has so far not lost his touch. While his politics are different to mine (Thatcherite Conservative to my Right-Wing, Croslandite, Fabian, Social Democratic, whatever you call it) Iain has a sure touch when it comes to blogging and connecting with his varied readers, as well as showing a keen understanding about the intricacies of UK politics and the personalities involved (which takes some doing). If his blog has anything to go by I look forward to reading it. A possible hint there Rachel! ;-)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Year in Northern Ireland or Back to the Past

For any of us who watched Jools Holland's Hootenanny to see in the new year 2013 starting looking a little like a return to the 80s. For those of us in Northern Ireland that return to the past appears to have started in December.

Before the New Year even kicked off the protestors were back out in on the streets. But even on those Facebook pages that claim to be about promoting peaceful protest I've spotting the following exchange. I'm writing what was written (with one additional redaction) so apologies for spelling and grammar.

Admin: The alliance is open in east Belfast iv just walked by there. There sneaky c**** so a protest in the morning is called for

Response: f***** [sic] right smash the place up
Admin: You got that one ryt [Responder]
This appears on a Facebook page called Loyalists peaceful protests updater. There are often calls on these threads to keep protests peaceful, but today this admin has overstepped that mark. It looks like Northern Ireland will not be seeing a peaceful New Year, at least not for some foreseeable future.

Over the holidays I was doing a little more family research. I've found yet another of my Donegal relatives was in the Royal Irish Constabulary at the time of partition who fled for his life. He joins one of my Great Grandfathers in those who very nearly died in defending order in our land. There are also numerous members of the armed forces in my family (not all conscripts) so the defense of our independence is something that I know my family has very much been involved in.

That is something I still seek to defend, but part of that order is defending democracy and the right of the people to go about the job they have been elected to peacefully and those that wish to consult with them to do so without intimidation. However, it looks like 2013 will carry on with the intimidation of people who are part of a party that came to a democratic decision to try and ensure order.

Elsewhere there have been bombs and attempted shootings of PSNI Officers, fingers have been pointed at dissident republicans. But we must not forget that in December there was also an attempted murder of an Officer outside the offices of East Belfast MP Naomi Long so both sides are making life hard for our police here.

While you may disagree with someone intimidation and causing those people and others to leave work early merely to ensure safety, because your protests cannot guarantee that, is not something we'd expect to be happening against a democratic decision.