Carry on Like That and your B***s will be Decorating the Christmas Tree

That’s what I’d be tempted to say to any bloke who abused his position and tried to harass me sexually: in my view it’s the only way to deal with this sort of thing.  Incidents involving politicians have been crawling out of the woodwork lately, from Lord Thingy (I can’t be bothered remembering his name but you know who I mean) to Dark Hints being dropped about men on all sides of the house.  WHY should the place supposedly in the forefront of our national life, be so backward?  It should not be up to women to think about the best way to deal with this stuff: they ought not be having to deal with it at all.  Other organisations have procedures in place and named individuals to go to if it happens.  The Commons should be setting an example in all these things, not being some kind of sluggish, antediluvian back-water where change is resisted to the hilt!

But we all know that’s how it is.  The only way, as an individual, to deal with sexual harassment is to stamp on it: tell the guy, quite bluntly and if necessary graphically, exactly what future you have in mind for his genital equipment if he can’t keep it in his pants.  Just getting awkward or embarrassed is not going to do the trick – because, let’s face it, that’s exactly what he wants: I’d favour saying very loudly, ‘Could you take your hand off my thigh please?’ in front of a whole table of dinner-guests, or else bending his forefinger back, all the while giving him an angelic smile – that’s quite painful (the finger not the smile).  The thing is, these inadequate and pathetic males are abusing a position of power, in which women want to get on, so by doing that you’d probably scupper your chances of getting a job.  But do you really want to work in an organisation which tolerates this sort of thing?  Because it’s not going to stop once you get the job.  The guy will still be there – or, if not him, someone else higher up.  You don’t need that in your life – be the stronger woman and tell them where to get off!

There’s a lot of this kind of crap goes on in our national life – making the victims responsible, I mean.  Like the cry that goes up, first thing after recession has set in: ‘Let’s get people back to work!’  And since nobody can create jobs out of thin air, they end up harassing the unemployed – because pretending it’s Just Up To Them is about the only option they have left.  Governments, when it comes down to it, have precious little power in a global economy – but the last thing they’re ever going to do is admit it.

Rant over.  Now on with Thursday

Kirk out

Happiness is a Warm Pinggk

I enjoyed Pingkk Poetry last night even more than usual: in a new function-room out the back with a little stage, it was perhaps less intimate but better for performances than the bar.  Lots of people came along: I did two recent poems, ‘Earthbirk Blackword’ and ‘Spin’, which I reproduce below, and there was a great variety of work, from free verse to rhyming and assonance, from ‘street’ to ballad, from personal to political.  The main act was someone whose first poem was about the Brandon unit, somewhere I taught yoga for a while.

But here’s today’s question:

Do you suffer from short-term hair-loss?

I used to.  I used regularly to lose up to nine-tenths of my hair in a drastic ‘No 1 or 2’ operation: here’s a picture of me before I found a cure.  As you can see it doesn’t run in families…

No, all right – that was a Woman’s Own article about my use of urine for therapeutic purposes.  Actually my hair doesn’t look too bad there but that was nearly ten years ago and I think I’m a bit old to get away with skinheadedness nowadays.  Anyway, here are last night’s poems:

When Harry Ate Sally

It’s an…

earthbirk blackword

earthword blackburn

birthwork blackbook

earthwork blackbird

bookbird – blackbird!

Blackbird!  Blackbird!

Got it.  Blackbird.

Blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!







both words


– worms!


Earthworm, earthworm earthworm earthworm earthworm earthworm!

Blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird blackbird..

It’s an…








What was that again?

And in case you don’t know what an earth-thingy black-wotsit poem is, here’s a rambling reference which completely fails to explain it:

Do you know when I googled the subject that reference to my previous blog post was the only thing that came up?  There’s no hope…

And now the second poem, called ‘Spin’:


Honesty is your breastplate

your girdle and your bra

truthfulness your mindset

spin-cycle and your car

you’ve done a deal with openness,

it shines from every pore

integrity alone can pass

your strait-and-narrow door:

you won’t give birth to any but

the pure and free of sin;

if other seeds knock on your womb

you just won’t let them in;

your enemy does not exist –

no man of woman born –

an army in which none enlist,

the devil’s only spawn

the charges will refuse to stick,

you have a teflon heart

you think you’re such a clever dick

as you rehearse your part:

you can’t be held accountable

when figures don’t add up

the problem’s insurmountable

if we’ve been sold a pup:

sincerity’s your middle name

– you sing in a crystal choir:

but you and me, we’re both the same;

both players in the ageless game

though Burnham come to Dunsinane

you can’t fool me – you l*ar.

Well, ARE We?

Hm?  Well, are we?  I mean, you know what I’m on about, right?  Because you’ve been following the thread of my thoughts and you know exactly what I mean here.  So – are we?

Hmm… feeling a bit like Ross here, when he’s supposed to have read Rachel’s nine-and-a-half pages – front and back!


Well, you should have come to Drink and Think last night, where we discussed the question ‘Are we an Arrogant Species?’  Chris introduced the topic very ably, breaking it down into sections so that the discussion was more structured than it otherwise might have been.  We started by defining arrogance and decided that ‘an assumption of undue importance’ was as good as it got – and went on to evaluate what our actual importance might be in the scheme of things: Mark expressed the somewhat unorthodox view that we are more important than giant pandas but less important than bacteria.  Resisting the temptation to tell him to speak for himself, I moved the discussion on to defining arrogant behaviour.  The list here included:

feeling that you have a right to use resources

a refusal to account for your behaviour

valuing yourself or your group more highly than other groups (connection with racism and discrimination here)

the ‘humble’ can often be arrogant – some deaf people assume superiority over hearing people

We then imagined what the world might be like without our species: would the world be better off without us?  Or do we exaggerate the negative effects we have, just as our forefathers exaggerated the positive?

Inevitably we came on to religion where the group was quite sharply divided between those who thought religion teaches arrogance and those who believed it taught humility.  We came to the question, ‘What are humans for?’  Contrasts were made between human-centred faiths and paganism where we are on an equal footing with all life-forms.  Some of us raised the modern tendency to narcissism in public life and wondered whether there was a connection between this and secularism.  Darting back to ancient Rome for a while, we talked about ‘practical’ faiths such as theirs, where they didn’t appear to believe in their gods so much as to use the ideas for practical purposes.  We ended on the subject of thought and whether thought is equivalent to action (Blake’s ‘sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires’ was quoted)

and whether thoughts can be directed or controlled.

And that was Drink and Think.  Thanks very much to Chris for introducing the topic so ably and to me for facilitating.

Next month: Political Correctness.  25th March, Ale Wagon, 8 pm

Kirk out


Dinner with a Dalek

Last night we dined on fresh Dalek.  This is a delicacy not many humans are familiar with but thanks to Mark’s extra-planetary connections we were able to sample one last night.  Daleks are generally thought of as being indigestible, and whilst this is true of the adult Dalek, the young ones are quite tender: the trick is to get one before the outer shell has formed.  Sometimes known as ‘Skaro Skallops’, these Daleklings are very tasty when chopped and roasted with Earth Apples (‘potatoes’) and Martian (‘red’) onions.  I could give you the recipe but Mark’s video does it better:

So, post-Dalek I repaired to Yesim’s where we had an evening of story-telling: I told stories of my Grandfather, about whom I have blogged before:

and also the story of how I first met Leonard Cohen.

Wow!  Leonard Cohen and Daleks in one day!  I wonder what today will bring?

And whilst we’re on the subject of Daleks I can’t leave you without pointing you once more in the direction of Bill Bailey’s excellent ‘Dr Who Jazz’:

The best bit starts about half-way through but you need some rudimentary French to really get it: my fave line is ‘Ils ne peuvent pas monter l’escalier’.*

Querque dehors

* They can’t climb the stairs

I’ve Just Mythed the Bus…

Waiting for the bus yesterday I counted the ideas – or bus myths – going through my mind.  Now as anyone who catches the 104 (or indeed any bus anywhere) will know, the timetable bears scant relation to reality as it is experienced by the aspiring passenger.  That is a given: what is interesting, however, is to categorise the myths that go through said passenger-in-waiting’s mind whilst scanning the horizon for that familiar blue shape.   Here are some that I observed:

1.  It’s time for the bus to come: therefore the bus will come

2.  The bus is now late: therefore the bus will come

3.  Another bus has gone in the opposite direction: therefore the bus will come

4.  Lots of people have gathered at the stop: therefore the bus will come

5.  I’m getting really fed up now: therefore the bus will come

6.  I’m going to start walking: therefore the bus will come

7.  I’ve actually started walking: therefore the bus will come

Only the last one is actually true, you know this from experience; which results in an internal dialogue about whether or not to start walking, intensified by the knowledge that if I’d started walking several minutes before I’d have reached the bus stop round the corner which enables me to catch several different buses.  In the end the bus wasn’t too late, though it did sail inexplicably past several stops where people were waiting.  On the other hand, coming back from Peter’s I caught the X3 almost immediately which took me at a slightly early hour to World Food Night.

World Food Night was a great evening at Bishop St Methodist Church.  Here, just for good measure, is a picture of Hayri at Yesim’s who also supported Refugee Action on Friday.

About 50 people showed up at Bishop St; my poetry was well-received, the food was great and I’m told they raised at least £200 for Refugee Action.

Unfortunately the music couldn’t be heard properly as a result of both poor PA and awkward acoustics – but still, we had a good chat with some people and there arose some possible opportunities for future performances and sales of my e-b0ok:

My talk at Tomatoes was also well-received.  Actually it wasn’t so much a talk as a descent into silence: rather than talking about the theme of excess noise I thought it would be good to experience silence, so I got people to count down from 10 (a shout) to 1 (a whisper) and then mouth the word ‘zero’ silently, after which we experienced listening to the sound of our own breath.  Everyone was quiet and it was great.

Terry Nation is not Dead

Apparently the designer of the Daleks is dead.  I always thought that was Terry Nation, but it seems he just came up with the idea, though he is invariably credited with inventing them.  Is this another example of intellectual activity having a higher status than practical action?

I think we should be told.

And speaking of intellectual activity, it’s ‘Drink and Think’ tomorrow night.  8 pm at the Ale Wagon, and the subject is, ‘Are We an Arrogant Species?’  I’d better start thinking about that – although since I’m facilitating I probably won’t be opining much.

See you there!

Kirk out

God, the Devil and Dawkins

Mind you, there’s a lot of stuff out there which is enough to turn anyone into an atheist.  And that’s the rub: there’s so much indefensible, hypocritical and downright outrageous ‘religious’ practice that it makes you want to go and hide in a wardrobe and not come out till you’ve stopped believing in Narnia.  It feels weak and frankly pathetic to be defending religion after so many suicide bombs, after so many attacks on women for ‘not dressing modestly’ (when clearly it’s the men who need to go around with a paper bag on their head) – and especially after the film I watched last night.  ‘Magdalene’ made me want to line up all the priests, all the nuns and all the religious bigots in the world, and shoot them.  Oh, no – wait: I’m against that.  OK so instead I’ll give them a good old mouthful about what the Bible actually says!  The Magdalene laundries in Ireland were effectively prison workhouses where women were sent, often by their own families (!) after being raped or getting pregnant outside marriage – or sometimes even just for being attractive and slightly flirtatious.  It’s an utterly compelling film, and I have to say if that was your only experience of religion, I wouldn’t blame anyone for being the most rabid out-and-out atheist.  We don’t need Richard Dawkins when the Catholic Church is doing his work so effectively for him.  I know there are good individuals within the institution – and, yes, I do have friends who are Catholics – but the Catholic Church sucks.


These laundries were only finally closed in 1996 and were responsible for stealing children from their mothers, for ruining the lives of women and in some cases engendering insanity.  What the hell does this have to do with accounts of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the Bible?

I’ll say it again: the Catholic Church sucks.  I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone but it has to be said.

Now, where did I put my copy of The God Delusion?

Kirk out

PS  I shall be performing tonight at World Food Night in aid of Refugee Action, so come along and support.  It’s a donation of £10 for a great dinner and some excellent music and poetry!

Where the hell IS God?

OK so here is an attempt to deconstruct the whole atheism-religion debate.  Of course, without writing a whole book on the subject it’s impossible to do more than touch on one or two areas, so that’s all I’m trying to do here.  But it does seem that the voice of reason, the voice of tolerance, is getting lost.  Somewhere between Dawkins and the Westboro Baptist Church lies a whole acre of middle-ground, so let’s go there.

Firstly, we need to decide whether God exists.  There is no way to prove, in any scientific sense, the existence of God.  Science deals with the physical world – or what can be intimated about the physical world, through evidence.  God being a spiritual entity, it’s hard to see how science as it is at the moment, can have anything to say about him/her.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: in other words, the most science can have to say is that there is no evidence for God: the most religion can say is that there wouldn’t be, would there?  This does not get us any further.

What I would insert into the debate is the question, What is Love?  Dawkins, so far as I can remember having read ‘The Selfish Gene’ a few years back, has a great deal to say about sexual and parental love and the genetic advantages to the human race.  What he cannot adequately explain is the kind of love that Christianity (and other faiths) is built on, and that is compassionate love.  It’s hard to see how it can benefit me genetically to raise money for Water Aid to help people I have never seen and never will see: or even to buy, say, The Big Issue from a man I can see, but whom I only interact with very briefly.  It could be argued that there is a ‘good feeling’ attached to these gifts which confers some benefit, but actually this is often not the case: I give because I feel I should, and often don’t feel very good about it at all as it just reminds me of how much poverty and injustice there is in the world.  Anyway, if that were a universal law, wouldn’t more people give to charity more of the time?  If there was some advantage in it, wouldn’t we all be doing it, just as nearly all of us find a partner and reproduce?

So I don’t buy that.  In any case, I don’t think science can adequately define love – and if you accept that such love exists, AND the proposition that God is love, then you have accepted that science can’t define God.


Comments, please

Kirk out

The Penguins Are Talking About Me Again

Now, as you guys all know, I’m not against atheism.  I think it’s a perfectly respectable – even logical – point of view in many ways: I also like many aspects of the secularist tradition.  What I don’t like is dogmatic – and what I might call sneering – atheism: the kind of atheism that not only mocks belief, but suggests you have to be an idiot to believe in God.  Viz someone on Facebook the other day who posted a link to Richard Dawkins.  I commented that I don’t like Dawkins because I find him dogmatic and intolerant: she responded that it’s better than believing in ‘invisible sky-wizards’.

So that’s me told… I commented that the phrase ‘invisible sky-wizards’ is kind of loaded and that I would wish for a more tolerant approach to the debate.  Still waiting on a reply…

Penguins are strangely anthropomorphic – I can’t help wondering if they believe in God.  The current BBC series on penguins is quite startlingly brilliant, even by the high standards of BBC nature programmes; they’ve developed some robot cameras which mimic penguins and eggs! so that for the first time we can see what happens inside when they all go into a huddle and talk about me.  (Oh, wait – that’s in rugby.)  They don’t make as much use of these cameras as I’d hoped, but the programmes are utterly fascinating. Go watch.

Some good news yesterday – I’ve had an acceptance from a magazine I sent stuff to a while ago.  When I looked up what it was, I saw I’d sent them a poem and a short story.  I emailed to ask which they were publishing: they said ‘both – they were very good.’  That gave me a boost…

And here’s the magazine – though not the relevant issue yet:

I shall post a longer diatribe on atheism when I’m feeling a bit more together.

Kirk out

Just Nipping Over to the Dark Side…

… and I may be gone some time… but before I go, here’s some good news: I’ve had an acceptance!  I don’t know whether I will actually be paid for it, but it’s good news nonetheless: I sent the magazine a story and a poem, so I don’t yet know which they’re publishing – or if it’s both – but here’s the link to it:

So that’s the lighter side of today’s news.  Mark, however, seems permanently to inhabit the dark side: I happened to mention Holly’s swollen face this morning (she has an abcess).  ‘Can’t you give her something?’ I asked him.

‘Maybe,’ he said.  ‘How swollen is it?’

‘Haven’t you noticed?’ I asked.

‘Not really.  Is it on her right side?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘That explains it.  I didn’t see the right side of her face yesterday.’

‘You are so weird!’ I exclaimed.  I mean, how the hell can anyone know whether or not they saw the right side of someone’s face?  I suppose you could tell if you had a brief meeting in a pub, say, and one side of their face was in shadow – but if you’re around someone at home for most of the day, how the hell can you say that?

So my conclusion is that Mark lives permanently on the Dark Side…

Apologies for the short post today but I’ve been rewriting a story to send off; one which will hopefully now be published.  I’ll let you know on that one.

Kirk out

One Richard Up, One Down…

So farewell then… Richard.  Yes, Richard Briers, aka ‘The Actor in the Car-park’, has died aged 579.  Known for his roles in The Good Battle of Bosworth and Ever-Decreasing Plantagenets, this much-loved actor’s reputation suffered after he played roles in Shakespeare where his deformities were exaggerated and he was only allowed to portray villains.  This was in marked contrast to his role in Real Life where he was well-liked, playing opposite such great women as Queen Margaret (‘Margot’) Leadbetter.

Richard Briers III was killed by a blow in the head from a tractor whilst out digging in Bosworth Field, although for years he had suffered from curvature of the spine due to walking in Ever-Decreasing Circles.

Oh, all right then… Richard Briers is dead.  This is very sad, though probably not unexpected as he was 79: he seems to have as well-liked in person as he was loved in his acting roles, the best-known of which were characters he himself disliked.  He found Tom Good unbearable and Martin Bryce (of ‘Ever-Decreasing Circles’) “a man of giant insecurity”, but was able nonetheless to make them sympathetic.  The Close, featured in the latter sitcom, could be a prototype of Harry Potter’s Little Whinging – and, though The Good Life was funnier in many ways, I found EDC more intelligent in the way it got inside the characters.  Another feature of the programme which I liked was what I called ‘Howard-and-Hilda jumpers’: each week Martin and Ann’s neighbours (and friends) would appear sporting a different set of matching knitwear.  There’s a classic example in this clip – about 3 minutes in:

I love the attention to detail in this series – the way Martin always turns the phone round when he comes in the house; the way Briers got his walk and mannerisms exactly so.  Briers also did a lot of voice-over work as he had an inimitable and highly individual voice: breathy but with a note of urgency and insistence; a voice that said; ‘You can be comfortable with me but I’m not a will-o’the-wisp.  He will be much missed.

Another blast from the past – we actually watched Coronation Street last night with Holly.  Amazingly, Ken Barlow and Gail thingy are still in it!  Take a look:

And that was yesterday.

Kirk out