Well, are we?

So what was our conclusion last night at Drink and Think?  Are we becoming a more cruel society – or are we not?    We no longer have corporal punishment of any kind, for example, but we do have more modern phenomena such as cyber-trolling and bullying on game shows: for example, when Susan Boyle startled everyone on ‘Britain’s got Talent’ or whatever it was, by having a beautiful voice in spite of being ugly!!! Piers Thingy thought it appropriate to say this to her:

‘When you came on, everyone was laughing at you’.


I find shows like the Weakest Link quite nauseating – and it has even seeped into more serious quiz programmes such as University Challenge, where Jeremy Paxman reportedly reduced a nervous student to tears.  How is that acceptable?  I would like to throttle Paxman every time I hear his sneering voice.  It’s out of order.


It seems, then, that there are shifts in behaviour: homophobia is no longer acceptable but footballers think it’s appropriate to bite one another or to cheat in order to win; racism is outlawed but anti-Semitism flourishes – and, most perplexing of all, sexism and sexual harrassment are unacceptable but any Friday night on Braunstone Gate you can see far more flesh than I would ever wish to bare – on both sexes!  I can’t help wondering how it is that people feel OK doing this, and what message they are sending out.  One of the blokes in the group confessed to being confused about the signals some women are transmitting nowadays, and I can sympathise with him.  It’s clearly out of order to blame women for rape, no matter how they dress: on the other hand it doesn’t seem sensible to bare all and adopt a ‘look but don’t touch’ policy.

So it was a good discussion which raised some interesting points, and I think the conclusion – if any – was that cruelty is always around; that the level of it may remain constant but that expressions of it shift from one area of life to another, and from one form to another.

Bong!  In other news, Holly is thinking about doing a gap year and looking for options abroad, either voluntary or paid work.

And yesterday morning in philosophy we did Descartes and Bacon and asked ‘how can you know anything?’

Beats me…

And that was Monday.

Kirk out

A Hard Fact to Swallow

We had a great night last night at Yesim’s where it was the first anniversary of the group.  Yesim herself baked a cake the size of an occasional table which was cut into twenty brick-sized slabs and washed down by an enormous bottle of Rioja – one of the better brands.  I don’t know what year it was, but this was the make:


At the end we sang my Yesim’s Music Circle song with two extra verses specially written for the occasion!

And so to bed…

Then this morning, one of Mark’s little mini-lectures was on enthalpy (there’s no way to avoid these, so I just sit through them and groan softly from time to time, which he interprets as encouragement) or the measurement of calories by exploding food.  Apparently you bung your food in a microwave-sized explosive device and blow it up.

‘And then what?’ I said.

‘Then you know how many calories there are in it!’ he said.

‘What good is that?’ I said.  He looked aghast.  ‘I mean, if you’ve exploded your food you can’t eat it, can you?’ I pointed out.

‘That’s just a sample!’ he said.  ‘If you’re Cadbury’s or someone you test a sample of chocolate – and then you put the number of calories on the packet.’

‘Or not.  If they put calories on the packet nobody’d buy it,’ I said.

He had no answer to that.

I’m against the calorie-counting method of dieting anyway: having tried it myself in my youth I know that as soon as you impose a daily limit on yourself you instantly want more.  What has worked instead for me has been adopting a vegetarian diet (far fewer calories, always supposing you don’t live on cheesecake) and practising yoga.  The practice of yoga tends to give you a certain distance form impulses so that you can control them rather than them controlling you.

Overeating often stems from frustration.  In my youth I was horribly frustrated because I wasn’t able to express my thoughts and feelings: now that I’m writing full-time, that frustration has largely gone.

Yes, contrary to what Wallis Simpson said, you can be too rich or too thin:


– but you can never be too happy or too fulfilled.

So there we are – that’s my thought for today.

Today I shall be mostly… philosophising then socialising then Drinking and Thinking.  Join us tonight at the Ale Wagon, 8 pm, for a discussion on ‘Are We Becoming a More Cruel Society?’

Kirk out

Spam, Spam, Strawberry Jam

Aaaaand here is today’s top spam comment:

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The ones by non-native English speakers are always the most entertaining.  Keep it up, spammers 0r rather, ‘At all times care for it up!’  What would I do for a laugh without you?  Well, I suppose I’ve always got Mark….

So… today I have been to church where I did the prayers, then came back and caught up with Dr Who from last night (good episode, I thought) after which we performed the usual Sunday ritual of watching ‘Casualty.’  Yes, other people have their roast beef dinners; we have tomato soup and watch a blood-soaked soap.  So it’s only now, accompanied by the sound of Mark chipping away at the toilet (don’t ask) that I am able to speak to you.  And the news is that we may be going camping in June if we can get it together : the next few weeks will see me delving in obscure cupboards and extracting unruly lumps of nylon with sharp and dangly bits looking like some Harry Potter monster and then seeing if I can find the kettle.  I know we have a kettle but as I recall it’s the one thing I can never find.  The camp is happening in the Peak District and I hope we can make it as we may not manage another holiday this year.

The wine is fizzing nicely although puzzlingly there aren’t any bubbles passing through the air-lock.  There must be at some point but I’ve stood there and watched for several minutes without seeing one, so that’s weird.

Other than that I haven’t done much as I’m feeling tired.  Off now to have a nap.  Yesim’s tonight where it’s the first anniversary!  I’ve written a couple of extra verses of the Yesim’s Music Circle Song!

Kirk out

Richard of York Grave Battle in Vain

Now as you know, I try to be fair in my Thinking about Things, but I’ve just gotta say this again: back off, York – you’re not having him!  Yes, the latest battle in the re-match of the Wars of the Roses – this time between York and Leicester – has opened with a bid by Richard’s distant relatives to bring him back to York by saying that they should have been consulted and that it is a ‘breach of their human rights to a family life.’


Yeah, nice try guys – but seriously?  If it were a case of someone who died 50 years ago that would be reasonable, but this was 500 years ago!  When 20 or more generations have passed I don’t really think you can play the family card and expect to be taken seriously.  It’s a bit of a game, this human rights stuff – and it shouldn’t be.  Then again,perhaps they have a point on other grounds: perhaps the city of York should have been consulted over where Richard was to be buried.  But saying ‘he’s family’ is really stretching a point: it’d be like discovering the bones of Chaucer and his descendants saying he should be buried near Thames St where he was born rather than in Westminster Abbey.  And in fact less than a century separates Chaucer and Richard, so it’s not too far-fetched an example.

The city of York may have some claims on Richard, but are they more than Leicester’s claims?  I don’t think so, and when you take into consideration what tourist attractions York already has – the Minster, the walls, the stone buildings and numerous museums and stately homes – compared to what Leicester has, I think there’s no contest.  Anyway, we’ve got him and we’re holding on to him, so there!

For other points on this matter, see my previous post:


Kirk out

PS  Did you like my title today?  I was quite proud of that one

Alien Nation?

Mark and I are lucky.  It’s a rare day when a trip to the shops doesn’t result in seeing someone we know, either from church or playgroups or yoga classes or shops or libraries or God alone knows where: someone to nod to, someone to wave to, someone to say hi to, someone to pass the time of day with: even someone with whom to share your problems.  Yesterday on the bus I sat next to someone from church and learned that she regularly swims a mile at Braunstone Baths (sorry, ‘leisure centre’) which amounts to 63 lengths and helps with depression.  Of course meeting people like this isn’t just down to luck; it’s a result of having got involved with things and talked to people; having joined groups and taken an interest in community events – even just taking the opportunity to talk to someone on the bus.  But I know from my time in London that this doesn’t always work.  In London if you get involved with groups it will take ages even to be on nodding terms with other members; and no sooner have you made a friend than that friend moves house.  And woe betide you if you try to talk to someone on the bus – you’ll be treated like this guy:


It used to be called alienation, but we don’t hear that word so much any more.   Perhaps we are all so alienated nowadays that we don’t even see it: alienated from the planet, alienated from work; alienated from the uses of things; alienated from each other: alienated from ourselves.


I’m sure that bankers and CEOs of companies must be the most alienated people on the planet; anyone who can feel so little connection with their own land that they exploit it without paying tax in it; that they are indifferent to the fate of those people who make their profits; anyone who can state so baldly that water is not a human right: anyone who works in skyscrapers and travels in Lear jets, must be alienated from the earth.  I wonder when was the last time their feet touched soil?

Come to think of it, when was the last time your feet touched soil?  Not your shoes – your feet: when I had my chalet I used to go out barefoot sometimes and feel the earth beneath my feet, the grass and the soil, the tree-roots.  I can’t do it here: I’d end up in A&E, both feet studded with glass like some bizarre Damien Hurst creation.  Still, in summer I do occasionally go to the park and walk barefoot on the grass, and that feels good.  You feel grounded; you feel you belong in the earth, like a tree.

Try it – it’s a good cure for alienation.  That, and not being afraid to be the nutter on the bus…

Kirk out

Left Right! Left Unity is Off and Running…

An excellent meeting last night of Leicester Left Unity, a group which was set up in response to Ken Loach’s film ‘Spirit of ’45’.


I haven’t seen the film, but I gather it is a focus for people who feel that the collective spirit that was around after the war has now been lost, sold, broken up or made redundant, and who want to find a way back – as well as a way forward.  For me it was a very encouraging meeting for several reasons: firstly, because nobody there seemed to have any particular axe to grind apart from presenting a proper opposition to the current regime: nobody thinks Milliband et al are a credible opposition and there is a general consensus that Blair was Thatcher’s heir rather than the representative of the Left.  Secondly, though everyone had something to say, everyone was also willing to listen – and thirdly, there seemed to be a general awareness that above all we must not repeat the former mistakes of the Left, which were to allow ourselves to fragment into splinter-groups who seemed to hate each other more than they hated the Thatcher regime.  I came home feeling empowered and encouraged and feeling that, above all it is good to be doing something rather than feeling powerless.

So far so good – and I have been chosen to go with Sheila to a London meeting on May 11th.


I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile if you want to register an interest you can join the group on Facebook or else comment here and I’ll put you in touch.  Meanwhile, to save my blushes, the US right-wing libertarian mag I sent things to has summarily rejected them.  So I say ‘phew,’ and ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ – in that order!

Today I shall be mostly… checking out more places to send stuff.

Kirk out

A Week in December

‘A Week in December’ is a 2009 Sebastian Faulks’ novel which I’ve just finished reading.  It centres on a group of people living in London just before the banking crisis.  These separate lives intersect, sometimes unknown to the characters, resulting in  love affairs, friendships, financial transactions or dinner-party encounters.  A banker sits at his computer for hours on end making deals while his neglected son smokes dope and ends up in hospital after an overdose: a female tube-train driver meets a man and falls in love; a Muslim converted to terrorism crosses Waterloo Bridge carrying bomb components; a posh family hold a dinner-party – these characters and their stories criss-cross the novel and the city affecting each others’ lives and, in some cases, the lives of millions.  The putative bomber recants and dumps his bomb equipment in the Thames, but the banker sets in motion a train of events which will precipitate a global recession.

I didn’t like the fractionated format at first; I found it distracting and alienating, but I guess that’s part of the point: life in London, as I know from my own experience, is like that.  i also skipped whole screeds about the banker’s financial dealings because I struggled to understand them – and what I did understand made my hackles rise uncomfortably.  I liked it better towards the end of the novel when connections were made and the characters’ lives came together.

Men Who Love Dragons Too Much?

St George’s Day today, as if you didn’t know.  St George represents the weirder end of Christian mythology and I’m really not sure what to make of the story, except that I dislike most of what is said and done in his name.  Mark has a video with an unusual angle on St George.  It’s not up yet but I’ll post a link when it is.

The poem for water is starting to come together.  I think it’s important that it should have a chorus, otherwise people may drift and not listen.  it’s going to be hard to get the whole of Bede Island Park to listen to a poem – but I’m gonna try!