Vote Vote Vote and Please Don't Vote for Johnson

It’s polling day today and I have but one thing to say: vote Labour (or something else if they can keep the Tories out.)

Vote for your NHS

Vote for schools and youth centres

Vote for the homeless

Vote for fair pay and workers’ rights

Vote for a final say on Brexit

But above all, even if it’s bucketing it down, get out and vote. People died for the right to vote – what’s a little rain?

Kirk out

In Search of Mental Equilibrium

There are times in a person’s life when mental equilibrium can be almost impossible to find; and now is such a time for me. There is a man who has lied, cheated, run away and hidden in fridges, stolen journalist’s phones and held talks with the US about our public services, and still enough people are planning to vote for his party to enable him to be Prime Minister. Devastating cuts to public services are not enough to change their minds, nor are threats to the NHS, nor cowardice in the face of Andrew Neil (who, to his credit, did his best to shame Johnson into being interviewed.) Nope, the nation wants this guy and apparently the phrase GET BREXIT DONE, when repeated often enough, is sufficient to overturn all this. I simply cannot believe a single person would vote for him, let alone millions. It makes me wonder what has happened to the world.

It is essential to one’s mental well-being to have a break from all this, and yesterday I took the train down to Leicester to look round the shops and visit a friend in hospital. It was a horrid day, windy and wet, but nevertheless a welcome break and I was able to buy a couple of pressies; however I was less than gruntled to find a TV in the waiting room blasting out a speech by our glorious leader, necessitating a scramble for earphones and music.

Grr.

It’s been a week for egotistical males, as last night we watched a documentary about Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga. I have long been sceptical about this form of yoga as it seems to embody the most anti-yogic characteristics of competitiveness and greed. I was outraged to hear that Bikram was trying to copyright asanas (postures) which he did not invent but which derive from ancient texts and practices and belong to everyone. He did not succeed but the attempt embodies the very worst of capitalism.

Despite studying under his own guru, Bikram seems to have known nothing of the ethical side of yoga; the do’s and don’ts or yamas and niyamas which also come from the ancient texts and include such practices as ahimsa, non-violence; aparigraha, non-greed and most importantly brahmacharya, sexual abstinence or, for those in relationships, sexual continence. This was the most disturbing of the accusations levelled against him; that he did, Weinstein-like, invite young women to massage him and sexually assaulted them in his room. He is also accused of several rapes but has refused to testify.

Sadly the US equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service has declined to make this a criminal case in spite of the wealth of evidence against him, leaving plaintiffs to pursue their own civil cases. Bikram is in the same mould as Trump and Johnson and is still at large running courses in Mexico.

The film is well worth watching for the massive size of Bikram’s ego and for the way he quite literally stands on the backs of his students as they are performing asanas. And unless we vote him out, we can now look forward to five more years of Boris Johnson doing the same thing to the country.

Kirk out

We're All Editors

Lately as I have two projects waiting to be edited, my thoughts are on that process; what it means, what I’m aiming for, how to go about it, what to put in, what to take out and when to stop (always a problem as I can’t help going through taking out commas and putting them back again.) But whether or not we write, we are all editors of our lives: we edit our thoughts, our speech, our actions and our memories. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent – it may often be necessary – but sometimes like spring cleaning it’s good to take out the mind, give it a good deep clean and see what’s lurking at the back of the cupboard.

We all live in societies, and these societies make certain basic demands of us; that we behave in a certain way towards each other and avoid certain words and phrases. At best these are reasonable, such as the demand that we should not run another car off the road or barge into other shoppers in the mall or steal an old woman’s purse. Those who flout these rules are punished (yes, even Prince Phillip was forced to give up driving.) At worst the rules are oppressive, but in every case, as Orwell observed, we learn to edit our thoughts as well as our behaviour.

Then there’s the editing of memories. I know I do this a lot and it’s quite disturbing: for example, when I’ve had a terrible evening out I may well edit it the next day and replay it as ‘not too bad.’ Is that dishonest or is it merely a wish not to dwell on the negative? On the other hand I’ve had experience of editing a positive experience to make it so-so – and why would I do that? Is elation too hard to cope with? Is it easier to have a homogenised life?

Editing the memory is something we all do but it can be terribly dangerous. We wonder how those concentration camp guards can live with themselves – well that’s how. They just don’t remember it like it happened. And don’t even get me started on Donald Trump. I could say that the invention of videotape means people can’t get away with false memories, but as we know, videotape can also be edited. Not to mention faked. Hey, ho.

As for us ordinary, non-Nazi mortals, we probably can’t help editing our memories but we can stand back and observe; notice that it’s happening and ask ourselves why.

Today’s editing is that I shall be cutting the p-word out of my life. I shall be forgetting all about p*l*t*c* for the day and going to Leicester where I shall enjoy the shops and cafes, go to the Mothercare closing down sale and visit a friend in hospital.

But first I have to edit this post…

Kirk out

How Clean is Your Husting?

Last night OH and I attended a local hustings. The word ‘hustings’ comes from the old Norse house thing where a thing means a parliament or discussion, as it still does in Iceland.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husting

Locally these things – I mean these affairs – are usually pretty well run; civilised and with a minimum of shouting, unlike some I’ve seen clips of (though to be fair the clips aren’t likely to give a balanced view). Questions were submitted in advance to all five candidates (Labour, Lib Dem, Green, Tory and another which I’ll come to in a minute) and the hustings was chaired by —– and hosted by Churches Together in Loughborough. This proved in the end to be a significant factor.

When I first read Queenie Tea’s political pitch my reaction was, ‘what a waste of time.’ I couldn’t understand why a couple of artists would choose to faff around standing a non-candidate in an election where momentous issues were to be decided. But Queenie Tea proved to be a welcome bit of light relief and far from seeming to detract from the other candidates, offered some comforting insights as well as tea and biscuits.

Questions ran on the usual lines: Brexit, the NHS (huge support for Labour on this and derision for Jane Hunt’s assertion that under a Tory government the NHS would not be for sale) and the climate emergency. I found the Green candidate disappointing; he was the only BAME member of the panel but I thought failed to show the necessary passion and conviction needed for Green issues in these times (it has long been a regret of mine that I can’t vote Labour and Green at the same time.)

Then the questions diverged a little. As could have been predicted, there was a fairly hostile question on antisemitism in the Labour Party accusing Corbyn of being anti-semitic (lots of no’s.) Stuart dealt with this competently and confidently, saying that there were problems in all parties, that Corbyn was not an antisemite (applause) but that Labour should have done more, and more quickly, to deal with a small group of people who had probably joined in 2015 and who were bringing the party into disrepute. Then came the most bizarre moment of the evening, a long speech (practically a rant) on ‘Christian values’, asking candidates how they would uphold these in the face of the ‘descent into depravity’ of the last 30 years and citing examples of Christians not being able to wear crosses or pray with people in hospital or refuse to bake cakes. There was clearly a lot of unease at the tone of this but here Queenie Tea’s response was the most sensible, blaming rampant consumerism for the decay in values while the others waffled a little and failed to pick up on the homophobia and lack of cultural diversity implicit in the question.

At this point I was waving my hand around furiously as there was a comment I really wanted to make – but sadly we were out of time so I’ll have to tell you instead. Churches Together in England have rejected a Quaker nominee for president because she is a lesbian married to another woman, which has caused great hurt and upset in the Quaker community as well as among GSM people. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog I have come across many examples of homophobia in the church and a few years ago walked out of a sermon to find a young man weeping outside. How can this be Christian? On the plus side last year I went to a Pride service in Loughborough which was the best service I’d ever been to. Now I ask you, which speaks more of Christ – condemnation or inclusion? There’s a very apt saying going around Facebook: ‘if you want to put the Christ back in Christmas feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, help the poor.’ Those are Christian values.

Kirk out

And on That Note… Thoughts on Editing

It was last thing at night. I was sitting up in bed reading and OH was drifting off to sleep when suddenly I heard a voice say urgently: ‘Tenrecs have 29 nipples!’ Now I happen to know that a tenrec is a hedgehoggy sort of thing so thankfully I didn’t have to ask, and I suppose the fact of it having 29 nipples is sort of surprising but I couldn’t really get worked up about it. So I did what I always do and made a note with the aim of either putting it on Facebook or blogging about it. So there we are and now you know; tenrecs have 29 nipples – presumably because they may have up to 29 offspring to suckle, I wouldn’t know.

Making a note of things is a practise I got into a long time ago; I keep a book by my bed for anything that occurs to me during the night and wherever I am in the day a pen and paper will not be far away. Professor Branestawm used to make notes on his cuffs (those were the days of detachable cuffs which were regularly laundered, which meant that he lost a lot of great ideas in the wash) and I used to make notes on my hand but I don’t do that any more because my hands aren’t big enough and besides it’s probably not good for you. But discrimination must be exercised in the writing of notes, otherwise you can end up with far too much material, so I’ve adopted the practise of waiting and assessing: if an idea doesn’t immediately demand to be written down, I wait a moment and see if it becomes insistent. If it doesn’t, I let it go; if it does, I write it down. As time goes by I’ve become more confident in the ability of my mind to remember things as it needs to. Some thoughts need to lie fallow and mature before they can be worked.

So as the editing season begins for Nanowrimers (I shan’t begin till the New Year and maybe not even then) here are my thoughts on editing:

First, editing begins in the mind. Even as you write, the mind is sifting and selecting ideas, words and phrases, even if you’re writing quite quickly. This process is largely unconscious but it’s interesting to watch: just try standing back and observing what happens as you write.

Second, there is no hard divide between writing and editing. You do not ‘write’ first and then ‘edit’; editing is writing (though sometimes it’s un-writing) and writing is editing. However between the first and second (and subsequent) drafts of a work there is likely to be a difference in emphasis between getting things down on paper and improving the expression of those things.

My main problem is that whilst I’m able to subdue the critical mind during the first draft, it necessarily comes to the fore during editing. But unfortunately, mine doesn’t know when to stop: as soon as it’s let out it rushes at the words like a guard dog at a burglar, chases them up a tree and keeps barking until the police arrive – by which time they’ve lost the will to create. I’ve managed to write a first draft without self-criticism, now I have to find a way of editing without being super-critical.

Kirk out

Boris Notgodunov

Ben Jennings on Boris Johnson and the London Bridge attack

by Ben Jennings, image removed on request

I’m struggling to get my head around everything at the moment. Leaving aside the terror attack for a moment I’m struggling to understand why some people are happily intending to vote Tory despite knowing full well that Boris Johnson habitually lies. They almost seem to adopt an indulgent attitude to his duplicity as though he were a toddler trying to walk and continually falling over. ‘It shows he’s human,’ said one voter – yet at the same time these people magnify the sins, not to mention the glasses, of the other leaders. I’m really starting to think we’re in Looking-Glass Land here, where black is white and white is at the very least a dirty shade of grey *. Whilst Labour’s faults (and yes, they do exist) are blown up out of all proportion poor sweet little Boris can lie, cheat and hypocritise (if there is such a word) his way to the top.

Perhaps people like him because there’s a little bit of Boris in them too. Or perhaps it gives them a sort of licence to behave badly, as though Boris Johnson were a political Lord of Misrule, only much less fun; as though they too can try out fathering illegitimate children, having ‘oven-ready’, content-free ideas and avoiding interviews on the BBC. To their eternal shame, the Beeb have allowed Johnson effectively to pick and choose which interviews he does and to avoid the scrutiny of Andrew Neil to which all the other leaders have been mercilessly subjected. It doesn’t seem to matter how low he sinks, the response is ‘Aw, bless!’ like the family of that struggling toddler.

Something is definitely rotten in the state of Britain. But unlike Tony (everything’s gone to pot since I left) Blair, who reckons we have the craziest politics in the world, I don’t see this as a purely national phenomenon. Boris Johnson is cast in the same mould as Trump, Bolsonaro and possibly Putin: authoritarian, self-serving bullshitters to a man.

See this interview for just one example.

I regard this election as a test – not of the leaders so much as of the people. If the British people are really stupid enough to elect this man, I don’t think I want to live here any more. So as Hugh Grant steps up to beg people not to vote Tory, so I beg: deliver us from this evil and put a cross in the box of anyone progressive who can keep him from moving back into Number Ten.

Kirk out

*I guess we should be thankful that it’s just one and not fifty

O Happy Day

Yes, I’ve done it! I’ve written 50,000 words in just over 22 days and now for me the war is over, I’m putting on my demob suit and packing my bags and waiting with the other troops on the airstrip for the planes to take us back to Blighty. It feels good to relax a little, stretch out and not have to worry about how many words I’ve done today or whether I’ll get to the end because I’m there! I made it – and even though it’s only a very rough draft with lots of repetition and more loose ends than a bag of wool fragments, it is real. Something which did not exist five weeks ago is now in the world and will soon be putting on its first pair of boots and going out to look for a good time. Ah, they grow up so quickly, these novels! Once a twinkle in their Mummy’s eye, then a tiny collection of dots on a page, they soon outstrip their first set of clothes and are fully weaned. Then before you know it they’re off to take their place in the world.

I can’t bring myself to think about editing yet. It’s time to focus all my efforts on the *l*c*i*n and the rest of the time kick back and enjoy a well-earned rest.

Phew.

Last night’s TV was nothing special – or so I thought, but then I realised there was the climate debate on Channel 4 and a little later a ‘candid’ interview with Elton John. The climate debate was excellent for several reasons: in the absence of Boris Johnson who was running late – sorry, scared – and the leader of the Brexit Party who is presumably a climate change denier, these two leaders were replaced by a pair of melting ice sculptures. Though this had been mooted as an idea we didn’t think they’d actually do it – but they did! It was brilliant and well-deserved. Boris Johnson is now in a huff and threatening like his pal Trump to ‘review’ the Channel 4 licence; meanwhile little Govey, having been dispatched post-haste to deputise for his Glorious Leader*, was denied entry on the grounds that it was for leaders only and jumped up and down outside squealing ‘they won’t let me in! Mummy! It isn’t fair!’ and other such mantras. * he’s not even the deputy leader, is he? Hang on, who is? Any ideas?

Inside it was the most civilised debate I’ve seen in a long time. The five leaders were broadly in agreement, the only differences being in terms of the timescale and detail of their plans. I’m disappointed that Labour are not fully committed to scrapping the disastrous expansion of Heathrow but Corbyn made some good points nonetheless and was the only one to tie climate change to wealth disparity. Nicola Sturgeon as always came off best – that woman really does show everyone how it’s done – and the others were fine. There was no slanging, no interruption, no rudeness, no insults – in short it reminded me of how political debates used to be. My only sadness was that in this election time there was still the necessity to score party points and I live in hope that we will at some point have a government of national unity to deal with this. Because climate change is a war and we have to win it. Johnson may live to regret not attending the debate: the first rule of politics is, always show up or, as C P Snow put it, never be too proud to be present.

I really wanted the ice sculptures to have melted by the end (just as the Tory and Brexit party arguments would have done) but alas they did not; still it’s well worth watching. Here it is on youtube as it’s not available on All4, because All4 is crap, and here‘s poor little Govey being turned away from the party.

Aw. Sad face.

On a much lighter note, Elton John bared all on the Beeb in an interview with Graham Norton. It was basically a whistle-stop tour through his life and career but what struck me was, in the midst of all his diva-esque outfits and over-the-top addictions, how ordinary and down-to-earth the man was. I got the same sense I had when seeing him in Rome (when in Rome, go to an Elton John gig) – that he’s one of us. There was no preciousness about him; he admitted cheerfully to being bald and wearing a toupee, to being 72 years old and to having had addictions and weight problems; yet this was no tear-filled celebrity confessional, just an ordinary bloke talking about his life. I’ve always liked Elton, he’s a one-off and the fact that he’s been friends with lyricist Bernie Taupin for more than fifty years says it all. So watch the climate debate, shed a tear (of laughter) for poor little Govey and then watch this. You’ll be glad you did.

Kirk out