On the Polarisation of Debate

It’s good to have comments; they can be very stimulating and sometimes a conversation can lead into another post – like this one on the polarisation of debate around the transgender issue. This has now become a form of trench warfare with armies dug in on both sides firing guns at each other across a bleak no-man’s-land. In this environment, even sticking your head above ground can be very dangerous.

Let me say at once that it is not trans people I have a problem with. I’ve met a few and I try to be respectful of their preferred names and pronouns and to treat them the same as anyone else. But to accept a person is not the same as accepting an agenda, a bill of rights, if you will, about that person – and it’s this ‘bill of rights’ which is causing so much hassle. The debate has become polarised politically too: people on the left have lined up in favour of the whole LGBTQ (or ‘quiltbag’ if you prefer) agenda and vilify anyone who questions it is labelled transphobic. Meanwhile those of us with a problem are likely to find that our only allies are on the political right: I was offered the opportunity to give an interview to the Daily Telegraph but I declined because I don’t want to be a part of their culture wars. I don’t agree with the self-ID law recently passed in Scotland but I totally disagree with the UK government’s decision to block it, because they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

Recently I watched a trans woman being interviewed by Owen Jones (sorry I can’t find the video). She said that it wasn’t just outright abuse which hurt her but when ‘nice, middle-class people’ started asking ‘what is a woman?’ I can understand that that might seem a tad personal but in general if we can’t even ask questions without being labelled a TERF then what hope is there? The very essence of what it means to be female is caught up in this debate, and simply repeating the mantra ‘trans women are women too’ is not going to help our understanding. The nature of femaleness is profoundly affected by this and it’s quite valid to want to debate it, particularly in Scotland where self-ID seems wide open to abuse.

I expect I’ve said this before, but we have had decades of debate on other issues, for example racism, feminism, gay rights and disability rights. Those debates are still ongoing. They haven’t always been respectful and I regret that, but we’ve had them – and out of these debates society as a whole has arrived at an agreed position, much of which has been enshrined in legislation. I realise this is a gross oversimplification but the point is that this situation arose out of debate. People were able to ask such questions as ‘are women able to do most things that men can do?’ (spoiler alert: we’re already doing them) without being vilified as a beyond-the-pale misogynist. Yes, I know we haven’t eradicated misogyny any more than racism or homophobia but these things are now publicly unacceptable – and that is a position which arose out of sustained public debate. With the trans issue, on the other hand, I feel that the T has simply been stuck on the end of LGB without any debate at all. I’m not sure I would have expressed myself the way JK Rowling did but she had a perfect right to ask the questions that she did; they are legitimate subjects for debate – but instead of having those questions answered she has been vilified and subjected to death threats. It’s quite scary.


Apart from having an effect on ‘cis’ women this agenda impacts on other groups. I don’t think most people have realised this yet, least of all Owen Jones, but if straight partners like me are being told that ‘sexuality is fluid’ what does that mean for gay rights? As far as I’m aware one of the main planks of gay rights is the belief that sexuality is not a choice. Being gay isn’t a choice; being straight isn’t a choice. Yet I have effectively been told that I can go from a straight relationship to a gay one without losing anything because I ‘fell in love with a person, not a gender.’ But what does this mean? Are gay people going to be told that they can now be in a straight relationship? How’s that going to work? These are questions that need asking. We need – please god – to have a proper debate. It is perfectly legitimate to ask questions such as ‘what is a woman?’ or ‘how do trans rights affect all-female spaces?’ It’s legitimate to be concerned about what happens when those self-identifying as female are allowed access to all-women spaces. It’s legitimate to be concerned about prisons, changing rooms and sports. But when I look around all I see are people on opposite sides slinging mud at each other. And the government isn’t helping one little bit.

Do please comment but make it respectful.

Kirk out

PS what do you think about the new colours? Are they hard to read? Is black and white better?

The Trans Woman’s Wife

About a thousand years ago I wrote a play called The Trans Woman’s Wife, about my experiences of being married to someone with gender dysphoria. ‘What is it like when your husband doesn’t have another woman but is another woman?’ was the strapline (at least I think that’s what they call it but that might only be for films.) I can’t remember if I sent it to the BBC – I probably didn’t because I don’t think it’s ready yet and in any case opportunities for new writers are shrinking year on year faster than the government’s moral compass. Writersroom is virtually the only place to submit and their windows are only open for a short period every year. However I have just found a site called Upload where you can send them anything at all, so I’ll probably give that a try.

I am trying to practice non-attachment to results in this regard and finding it extraordinarily difficult. Non-attachment is a yoga practice (also a Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist and probably Christian idea too) where you try to detach yourself from the fruits of your efforts. Nowadays we tend to judge our efforts purely by the outcome but yoga says that the effort is its own reward. This sounds like something my Grandma used to say and I found it very annoying because I want the rewards. I want them badly. Don’t we all? But I can see the point, because if you’re happy with what you’ve done it doesn’t matter what others think; you’re not tossed about on the winds of public opinion.

I’ve only really attempted radio plays because I don’t think I’d be much good at the stage variety. I have a good ear for sound and dialogue but I don’t have a sense of ‘the theatre’ – of the space people perform in and what something looks like on stage. So I’ll leave that palm to Alan Bennett and carry on doing what I’m doing.

SPOILER ALERT Speaking of Bennett, we went to the cinema at the weekend to see ‘Alleluia’, a film about a geriatric ward based on an AB play. This was enthralling to watch with a great cast including Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey and Derek Jacobi. The Bethlehem ward, known affectionately as The Beth, is under threat of closure from a government which doesn’t see the value of caring (sound familiar?) The place seems idyllic; caring and supportive with all-inclusive activities such as singing and games. It made me yearn for a time when people had the time to care. But all is not as it seems; the nursing sister played by Saunders, is quietly bumping off some of the patients by injecting morphine when they get too old. Judi Dench’s character, unwilling to take part in a TV programme that’s being compiled, is given a tablet to record her own views. In the process she accidentally records the sister injecting the morphine – and everything becomes unravelled. It’s a story of murder but what stuck with me was the caring of the staff – even the nursing sister – and the fact that they had the time to do it. Jennifer Saunders was a revelation in this straight role and though there were massive stars in the cast there was never a sense of there being starring roles. Everyone was more or less equal and everyone had a voice. It made me nostalgic.

I think I’ll send the radio play to Upload. That’s if I can get it into a PFD format; it seems particularly resistant to assuming that shape just at the moment.

If anyone would like to read the play please comment below and I’ll attach it. NB please note that copyright has been legally established – not that any of my readers would dream of passing my work off as their own. Just saying…

Kirk out

Wild? We’re Absolutely Livid!

Now this is what I call a proper documentary. Intelligent, unintrusive commentary, no inane chatter, very little done to camera and no incessant recaps. I refer of course to last night’s Wild Isles, David Attenborough’s latest (and last?) docuseries. It’s lovely to see a work on Britain for a change and as ever the photography is stunning. The ‘how we did it’ section at the end shows just how much work goes into a few minutes of film. This is utter dedication and love and it puts some so-called documentaries to shame.


There’s controversy about the last episode, though, in which he talks about how much damage we are doing to the environment. This is reportedly going to be streaming on iplayer rather than broadcast live, and some people suspect that the BBC has once again caved in to pressure from right-wing Tories on this.

There’s a theme emerging here, what with the Gary Lineker fiasco, though that seems to have been resolved now; the BBC have reinstated him following the disaster of Saturday night’s football coverage, given how much support Lineker got from colleagues and players.


This was very heartening to see, and the more it happens the more the government seems out of step with its own people. Amazing how we didn’t hear a word about free speech from the usual quarters; makes you wonder whether, had he tweeted in support of the government, he would have been disciplined in the same way. It looks very black (or blue.)

I could, if I allowed myself, get angry on a regular basis. I try not to because it’s not good for my health and it doesn’t achieve anything – but I must say the government works very hard to rile me; between interfering with the BBC and Rishi Sunak’s ridiculous swimming pool (never mind that he’s paying for it, what about the carbon emissions? Bastard bastard bastard!!!! Deep breaths, deep breaths… it is very hard to stay calm these days. I’ve just been round the supermarket and noted how many prices have gone up yet again – after paying £20 for a miniscule amount of petrol which would have cost me a fiver just a couple of years back. So yes, no wonder when I think of Wild Isles I want to say ‘wild? We’re absolutely livid!’

Word of the day: skimpulse – when you suddenly put something back on the shelf because you’re worried you can’t afford it.

Kirk out

That Was the Week that Was

This week has been quite a busy one blog-wise, perhaps because the weather has been absolutely freezing with snow nearly every day. So, have you been paying attention? The word of the week is ‘progsplaining’ – when TV programmes tell you what you already know because they’ve told you before! Question of the week: who the hell is Vivienne Tuffnell? Bot of the week: Chat GPT, acronym of the week is AITA and expression of the week au reservoir. So there you are – you’re all caught up. Have a good weekend.

Kirk out

Humankind Cannot Bear too Much Reality TV

I keep trying not to watch too much TV but it’s hard because by the time I get to 7.15 (the hallowed hour after the Archers) I don’t have the brain to do much else. I keep hoping for something new and terrific and sometimes I find it but often I end up scrolling through the schedules saying ‘nope, nope, nope – seen it, nope, nope, nope’ from after the Archers right up until bed time. Everything seems so formulaic these days and there’s far too much so-called ‘reality’ TV. Even if I’m interested in it – for example I quite enjoy ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ and if you want something to restore your faith in humanity, that’s it – even then you have to wade through two minutes of introduction (without the option to skip, as you do in drama series) with music jogging along in the background and then a minute or two at the end when they preview the next programme. I don’t want to know what’s on next time! I’ll watch it next time! I shout at the screen. Some programmes, presumably believing that we have the attention span of a gnat – even recap in the middle. I know that in teaching the mantra is ‘tell ’em what you’re gonna tell them and then tell them what you’ve told them’ – but this is ridiculous. Some series are better of course – David Attenborough keeps the progsplaining to a minimum (oo, have I invented a new word there?) and so does Michael Palin who skilfully weaves the recap into a stylish sentence as he boards the train to Krakow but others are not so considerate.

Generally I find TV a perpetual disappointment. Over the weekend I read about an upcoming series where Kathy Burke talks to celebs about ageing. I’ve always liked her so I thought it might be interesting: it wasn’t. In spite of interviewing interesting people like Jenifer Saunders and Bill Bailey the questions were dull and nothing new was said. After half an hour I decided this was not enough to compensate for the infernal adverts and switched it off.

Depressingly I often find myself turning to older programmes for entertainment. On Britbox I came across the classic Goodnight Sweetheart starring Nicholas Lyndhurst, who I consider to be vastly underrated. Nobody can do deapdan reactions or slow realisation like Nicholas Lyndhurst (I still remember him as the sensitive and intuitive younger son in Butterflies) and he is on top form in this time-travel comedy. He plays Gary, a TV repair man unfulfilled in his work and marriage who goes through a time warp and finds himself in 1940’s London in the middle of the Blitz. They could have made this a simple story of a man dissatisfied with his high-achieving wife finding love with a conventional wartime inamorata but it’s much more complex and nuanced than that – and very funny.

Then again I wonder – have we been spoilt by too much choice? If I were to look at the schedules for, say, this day in 1973 would they be any better? Or did we just concentrate harder because once it was over it was gone and you’d have to wait for the repeat several years down the line? Perhaps I should find a time warp and travel back to the ’70s; I might be happier there.

Think I’ll stick with these colours – I quite like them.

Kirk out


If you understand that acronym you’re probably under 40. Then again you might not be cos I’m not, as yesterday’s post proved when it brought me a letter inviting me to apply for my pension. I’ve already sussed out how much I’m going to get so in one sense the letter was welcome, though in another, of course… Anyway, AITA stands for the succinct and elegant question, Am I The Asshole? (being an internet thing, we obviously have to use the American spelling.) You can find a whole series of AITAs on the internet and let me tell you, it’s a real self-righteous fest; almost as good as watching Crash Detectives where trained police officers try to figure out what happened in an RTA (there’s another acronym for you: AITA in the RTA?) Replies begin with either YTA (you’re the asshole) or NTA followed by an explanation; from the ones I’ve seen there’s usually a surprising amount of unanimity.

Which brings us to Gary Lineker. As you no doubt know by now, Lineker has found himself in hot water (unlike the poor sods trying to cross the channel who are in very cold water indeed) about remarks he made following Suella Braverman’s announcement of the latest plan to deter small boats. He tweeted that the plan was ‘beyond awful’ and later defended the comment by saying that there was ‘no huge influx’ and that the policy was ‘immeasurably cruel.’ He went on to compare it to those used by Nazi Germany in the ’30’s. The BBC had said it will be speaking to him about impartiality but as he’s freelance and particularly as he has garnered a lot of support (including from Piers Morgan, improbably) he’s unlikely to be dropped from the schedules. I was quite shocked to learn, however, that he earns more than 1.3 million quid for that gig. That’s a heck of a lot of money – but beside the point here.



So is Gary Lineker TA? I would say absolutely NTA and maybe those who bang on about free speech can take note.

What’s your view? Vote below with HTA or NTA but be warned; racist comments will be deleted and the author blocked. Not that any of my lovely followers would be so mean… just saying.

Kirk out

I’m trying some new colours. You like? Of course you have to change the text one block at a time, which is annoying – but then everything about blocks is annoying. I suspect there are a lot of bullshit jobs in WordPress which involve annoying the users in a variety of interesting ways.

Chatting about Chat

I realise the title sounds a bit Alan-Partridge but bear with me. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about ChatGPT but I didn’t know what it was. And now I do. I expect you’re way ahead of me here, but apparently ChatGPT (what does the GPT stand for, I wonder? I could look it up but I cba…) is fully abreast of this blog. Well, whaddayaknow? It gives a very nice and quite flattering precis, saying: ‘The blog contains a variety of posts on topics such as writing, poetry, books, personal reflections, and spirituality.’ (Note the Oxford comma there.) ‘The author seems to be a published author, and some of her posts contain links to her books or reviews of other books.’ It goes on to say that I feature creative writing and posts about mental health. It’s quite gratifying – or would be, if this were a real critic rather than a bot, but perhaps I should be flattered anyway. Maybe bots are harder to please? The only problem with this review is that ChatGPT is convinced that I’m Vivienne Tufnell. I’m pretty sure I’m not Vivienne Tuffnell – at least I wasn’t last time I looked – so what the hell? Who the hell is Vivienne Tuffnell? Perhaps I should adopt that as my pen name from now on…

An interesting typo that came up this morning was ‘wordcress’. I leave it to your imagination to figure that one out.

Kirk out

I don’t know where that coloured thing came from; it just happened. And now it’s gone, so you don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s Nice to Have Comments

Though my followers are few, yet they are valuable and when someone comments (as they did yesterday) that it’s good to see me blogging again, I feel all warm and fuzzy and have to go for a lie down. Not so long ago I thought this blog was over. I thought I’d said everything I needed to say and had no more ideas. I didn’t think I’d miss it: for months I didn’t miss it, and then I did; sentences started to spring up in my mind and I’d think ‘I’ll put that on the blog’. Or I’d watch a film and think, ‘I must review that for the blog.’

One of the things that dispirited me was the number of followers. There used to be more but they dropped off when WordPress (in its infinite wisdom) decided that you could no longer link automatically to social media, and they never recovered – even though I can copy and paste the link myself. Something had broken and it wasn’t morning – and now my followers are so few that I feel like the organiser of some whacky fringe religion. The Judean Popular Front, perhaps. I am depressed by the awareness that in internet terms I am but an infinitesimal speck; yet I don’t know how to change this. I’ve tried all sorts of approaches but all they do is to make me seem a stranger to myself without garnering any more attention. Hey ho.

The more I see of Ben Wishaw the more I appreciate him. Not only has he captured perfectly the voice of Paddington bear, he played Norman Scott to the life in ‘A Very English Scandal’, the story of Jeremy Thorpe and his gay lover. I think there should be an embargo now on calling things ‘a very British’ or ‘a very English’ something-or-other as it’s been done to death and you can’t remember which very British thing is which – but will they listen? I doubt it. Anyway, it’s a very gripping and well-told story. Hugh Grant is terrific as Thorpe; Machiavellian with a crocodile smile as he lures Scott into an affair and then dumps him. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a watch (and has resurfaced on BBC i-player.) The other thing I enjoyed recently was a webinar on ‘Being Mr Wickham.’ This is a one-man play starring Adrian Lukis who played Mr Wickham in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. The play tells the story from Wickham’s point of view, asking the viewer, in my situation what would you do? It sounds very interesting and I wish I’d been able to see it.

Book-wise I’ve been reading ‘Bullshit Jobs’ which I mentioned yesterday – I may blog more about this another day – and re-reading ‘Miss Mapp’ by E F Benson. I’ve blogged about his books before


and they are an eternal delight. His style is so Dickensian and the way he describes the minutiae of life in terms of a Greek epic is delicious.

As a true Tillingite would say, au reservoir darlings – and I appreciate you all.

Kirk out


I’m thinking about money. There’s never enough of it, some people have far too much and don’t know what to do with it and we spend half our lives thinking about it, but what is it? I’m writing a story at the moment about the collapse of money; not the economy but money itself – a situation where money no longer means anything therefore nothing can be bought or sold.

In this scenario the banks have disenfranchised so many people that they’ve given up on making money and started to form small communities. In these communities resources are shared and the more people join the more resources are available. In the end the only people using money are the very rich who finally find themselves in deep doo-dah when money itself collapses and everything they own is suddenly worthless.

In a way this is a utopian vision but in another sense it’s something that could happen because of the way banks are going. It’s also been inspired by ‘Bullshit Jobs’


on how many jobs are pointless and despite being well-paid, serve no useful function at all. There are examples in every area of life but the one that often occurs to me is government; in my youth there used to be about 20 minsters in the cabinet but nowadays we seem to have a minister for almost every aspect of life. It’s a gravy train: it’s bullshit. Meanwhile those doing useful jobs – nurses, sewage workers, cleaners – find themselves being squeezed on every level. Caring doesn’t pay any more, and it’s not only in the ‘caring professions’ that caring happens – the chief objection to doing away with, say, ticket offices in stations is not that a machine could sell the tickets but that the staff deal with multiple unexpected human problems every day. As for doing away with guards on trains, the prospect is horrifying. A friend of mine who was once a guard told me of all the human situations he’d dealt with over the years, from dealing with drunks to helping deliver a baby. This society sucks, and why? Because nothing matters unless you can put a price on it. We need to do something about this, and I’m not convinced that electing a Labour government (though I really do want one) is the answer.

What is?

Answers on a postcard please (or comment below).

Kirk out

Film Review: ‘Gravity’ (Contains Spoilers)

I’m not a great George Clooney fan and I don’t like Sandra Bullock, so the obvious choice for last night’s viewing was this (sort of) two-hander starring the pair of them. Although I’d say the real star of the film is gravity itself: what it does, how much we need it and how disastrously things can go wrong without it.

The action begins with three astronauts out in space tethered by umbilical cords to their spacecraft. They are in constant communication with each other and with Houston and the whole thing appears highly realistic – though I always think it doesn’t matter if something is realistic so long as it is plausible. Still, I’m quite prepared to believe that ‘Gravity’ is highly realistic. The rest of the crew are on board ship but an accident wipes them out: space debris from a Russian satellite (it would have to be Russian) smash into the ship, allowing the air to escape and so suffocating the crew: when the two outside discover them their faces have completely imploded. The ship is now unviable, leaving the two of them alone trying to figure out how to get home.

The acting is fine; there’s a sort of keep-calm-and-carry-on lack of urgency in their interactions; no shouting, no crying, no raised voices, just calm discussion. But what makes it so watchable are the special effects. I’m not usually a fan of having too much in the F/X department but in this case what they do is to show us what life would be like without gravity.

I wish I knew how to convey to you the effect of the cinematography; because if there’s one thing this film does it’s to show us how objects (including human bodies) behave when there’s nothing to slow them down. The slightest movement, whether voluntary or involuntary, can cause the object to travel in one direction at speed until the movement is corrected. All the astronauts have to help them are the jet-packs on their backs and when these fail, they’re at the mercy of quite literally astronomical forces. The slightest collision can cause the object (or person) to veer off at unpredictable angles and become entangled in yet more spinning, colliding debris and the effect when yet more space junk hits the ship is like being in the inside of a liquidiser. All this while the Earth wheels underneath giving us glimpses of outlines: Italy, South America, India. This trailer should give you some idea:


There’s probably a name for the type of film which starts out with a whole team and ends with one person, but I don’t know it. After the ship is destroyed Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) tries to rescue teammate Kowalski (George Clooney) but in the end he sacrifices himself to save her. Dr Stone decides to jet off towards the Chinese station which from her perspective is a light in the sky about 100 miles away. When she gets there it’s unmanned but at least after a series of complicated manoeuvres avoiding debris and struggling with the airlock, she’s in a place of safety. Or so it seems: one characteristic of this film is that each time she finds safety some new danger appears; it’s quite nail-biting. In this case the danger is fire: a random spark has ignited and one section of the station is burning. She tries unsuccessfully to shut it down but now has no choice but to evacuate, managing to locate and enter the escape pod and blast off for home.

Is that it? Will she finally get back? It seems so; splashing down in a freshwater lake, she pulls off her spacesuit which having kept her alive is now drowning her, and climbs out. As she dries off she gives us several minutes of her impossibly slim body (reminding me of Julia Roberts’ character in Notting Hill who confesses to having been on a diet every day for the last ten years.)

We were disappointed that the film ended there and didn’t show her returning to civilisation, but that’s a small nit to pick. I have never seen a film that so brilliantly depicted what it must be like to travel in space and how terrible things can be when they go wrong.

‘Gravity’ is streaming now on i-player and probably lots of other places as well: see it while you can.


Gravely yours

Kirk out