Like Drinking? Like Thinking? Then You’ll Love Drink and Think

Once more I must remind you that tomorrow night is Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon.

This month the topic is ‘Should Drugs be a Matter for Choice or a Matter for the Law?’  OH is going to introduce the topic and will talk about prescription drugs, ‘recreational’ drugs and so-called ‘legal highs’.  He has strong views on this subject, but then he has strong views on just about anything, from coffee to the human rights act, so that doesn’t particularly distinguish it from any other topic.

You should come along.  Yes, Drink and Think is a philosophy discussion group, but it’s not specially academic or high-flown and anyone is welcome to come and join us.  There are usually about six or seven men and women who range from the abstract and intellectual to the very down-to-earth.  And then there’s the beer: the Ale Wagon sports several different real ales and since May is Mild Month they should have at least one type of mild on.

I have strong views on mild.  And tea, but particularly mild.  It aggrieves me that mild beer is seen as an old man’s drink when it is mostly very tasty and, as the name suggests, not too alcoholic.  And yet it has become so unfashionable, losing out to trendy lagers and strong bitters, that you can hardly find it.  My favourite is Banks’ Mild which hails from the Black Country.’s-fresh.aspx

I shall hope to find mild of some description tomorrow night.

See you there.

Kirk out

Is the Human Rights Act Turning Your Pension Gay?

Have Brussels bureaucrats burgled Middle Britain?  Does your goldfish have lung cancer?

Not sure?  Try the new Daily Mail headline generator:

It’s loads more fun than regular Daily Mail headlines.  And let me know what you come up with…

In the meantime, can I interest you in a cynical comment?  There are certain people of my acquaintance who can be relied upon in this regard, particularly when you express enthusiasm, commitment or even interest in anything vaguely political.  ‘Ah yes,’ they say darkly.  ‘That’s all very well.  But they were responsible for…’ (insert heinous crime here.)  Usually I avoid such people because, like Chandler in ‘Friends’, they can’t help themselves:

Of course, such people are not true cynics.  A true cynic lives in a ceramic jar in the market-place:

And speaking of markets – Leicester’s least-loved building, its Indoor Market, is to be demolished.  It is a deeply depressing place: those few brave souls who have taken stalls in there sit buried in the darkness and blink at the approach of a customer like POW’s in a cave hearing the footsteps of rescuers; and their stalls sell obscure types of knitwear or horrid tracksuits you wouldn’t even bury a corpse in.  So the indoor market will not be missed: apparently it’s to be replaced with something called a ‘plaza’.  I always thought plaza meant  a square, but it seems that councils, Humpty-Dumpty-like, can use such words to mean just what they choose.  Still, the plans here look a lot better than what we’ve got – but then plans always do, don’t they?  But if they regenerate the area I shall not have a syllable to say against them:

It’s not the Vatican though… but I am impressed so far by the new Pope.  This is rather a novelty – I’m so used to the heartsink that follows the inauguration of a new Primate with every pronouncement on women’s rights, sexual relationships, abortion etc etc etc and which basically signal that nothing will change, EVER.  Yes, the world moves on and, God knows, the entire population could move to Mars – but the Pope would still carry on condemning abortion.  But this one does look slightly different.  I’m not aware that he’s said much yet on the usual issues, but he has nonetheless done some impressive things.  Apart from seeming very personable, he has reportedly eschewed pomp and replaced the usual silver chair with a wooden one and has recently said that atheists can be redeemed just as much as people of faith.

So that’s a good start.

And finally… come on down to the Ale Wagon tonight where I am performing for International Women’s Day for Disarmament:

And now I must get on with Friday.  I may see if the local mosque is open for general prayers for the aftermath of the Woolwich murders.

Kirk out

PS  It wasn’t – but there was apparently an inter-faith event at the central mosque.  So that was good.

The Long Good-Evening: a life on i-player

Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood-morning-good-morning-good-morning-good-morning-good-morning-good-morning!  And yes!  it’s Stephen Fry here welcoming you to another edition of Lizardyoga’s Weblog!!!

And if you’re guessing that I watched QI last night, you’d be right!  In fact it was wall-to-wall quiz shows on an evening where both brain and body were semi-dormant: I had planned to go to a writing seminar at the University but alas! fatigue swept over me like a tsunami and soon an army of brain cells were laying down their arms and refusing to budge.  The sofa practically leapt up and grabbed me and, like the couch in ‘Black Books’, swallowed me whole.  (I’m sure it was in this episode but I can’t find it – still, watch it anyway as it’s good:)

I also viewed Celebrity Mastermind.  I don’t like Celebrity Mastermind as much as regular Mastermind because apart from the so-called Celebs – who I’ve never heard of – being relaxed to the point of cocky, the questions seem so much easier.  Why?  Are celebrities really so much less intelligent than the rest of us?  Mastermind – proper Mastermind – is one of the few programmes which still features odd-looking people and treats them seriously; in other words, it values intelligence over looks.  So I think we can do without Celebrity versions of this, thank you very much.

And then interestingly – very interestingly – QI turned out to be on the subject of Intelligence!  Yes, they’re working their way through the alphabet – or at least, using letters of the alphabet – to choose different subjects:

Actually I can’t find that one now but here’s one on happiness:

Alan Davies is an odd bloke; he’s likeable and seems to succeed in being funny through not being funny.  I can’t quite put my finger on the secret of his success, but he reminds me a little of another Alan I used to know.  This Alan also did magic (Alan Davies played a magician in Jonathan Creek) and told a few jokes as well.

In philosophy we did Locke and finished Hobbes, and I then cycled to the Ale Wagon to put up a poster for Drink and Think, only to discover that they are closed next Monday!  This is a bit of a bummer as we now have to find an alternative venue.

And finally, here’s today’s top spam comment:

Place just one particular heaping tablespoon connected with batter in each pan for each muffin.

An empathetic or sometimes curious child are going to lead of featuring questions.

I particularly like the ‘heaping tablespoon connected with batter’….

Kirk out

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

Listen: here be Dark Matter

Had a rather busy day yesterday, what with compiling a poetry collection to go off at the end of the week, then going to You and Me friendship group in the afternoon and Drink and Think in the evening.  The latter was very good, I thought: a useful discussion which, though it didn’t reach any conclusions, did help to dissect the whole vexed question of Political Correctness and whether or not it has ‘gone mad’.  Amongst other contributions we heard the sad story of someone who was hounded out of a job for using the word ‘Queen’ – not as a homophobic insult (though I’m not sure how insulting the word really is in that context) but meaning the monarch herself, my namesake.  It sounded like a case of someone cynically using legislation to get someone they didn’t like out of a job – and that sucks.  So, too, we decided, was using PC as a means of ticking boxes or looking as if you’re doing the right thing rather than actually wanting to do the right thing or believing in doing the right thing.  It’s knee-jerking rather than conviction – and that, in my view, is where things have gone wrong.  As I pointed out, if I’m the only woman in a particular workplace and people are making inappropriate comments, I want something behind me: I want a framework of legislation supported by social attitudes, otherwise I’m fighting these battles alone.

During the discussion it occurred to me to think about the importance of listening.  This is not something most of us are good at – and I am no exception – but we can practise it, and through practice, get better.  Here’s a great initiative I came across recently:

So here’s an idea: then next conversation you have with someone, make it a rule to really listen – even if they’re talking utter bullshit.  Come to think of it, especially if they’re talking utter bullshit – the harder you listen, the more likely they are to realise that they’re not making sense.

And here’s some space to listen to the universe:





Kirk out

PS  Oh, and the title was just about Dark Matter being a sort of ‘here-be-dragons’ sort of explanation for something when they don’t know what is actually there.

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


Drank and Thank

Well, some good-ish news this morning – Everyday Fiction, who published one of my other stories, have asked for a rewrite following which they will hopefully publish.  The story is called Shop Lift and it got some really good comments but also some criticism about the ending which, if I’m honest, I also thought was weak.  So fair enough…

Last night’s Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon was a little low-key but managed to cover the topic of Superficiality vs Depth in some – er, depth.  Mark gave an excellent introduction which you can see here:

We tried to define the terms ‘depth’ and ‘superficiality’ and to ask whether we can think of these in different terms other than spacial (we only came up with temporal ones – ie ‘fleeting’ and ‘eternal’), whether ‘deep’ things always stand the test of time and whether superficiality can ever be a good thing.  Next month we are debating the question, ‘Are we an arrogant species?’

The Ale Wagon was unusually full last night due to a sports’ quiz happening in the front room – it was good to see a buzz going on.

So that’s it.  Apologies for a short post this morning but I’ve had a late start and I need to get on.

See you tomorrow

Kirk out

Draught and Thought

There was a good second session of Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon last night on the topic of Free Will vs Determinism.  The group seemed to veer towards the determinism end of the scale, whether through a belief in genetic determinism, or in what I might sum up as ‘a combination of Sod’s Law and circumstances’.  However, at our end of the table we tended towards a belief that we have a spiritual dimension, and that free will predominates – though not exclusively – that we have a more than just a little ‘wiggle room’ within that combination of genes and circumstances and whatever else constrains us.  The subject has huge implications for any legal system, and we discussed some of these as, clearly there is no point and no justice in punishing people if they have no free will.

But hey, we can’t help it.


We also touched on the area of talent and levels of competence; and what happens in the mind when we are unconsciously competent and can seem to ‘go beyond’ ordinary consciousness into a state which I would define as meditation.

And that brings me to an area which we didn’t discuss, which is karma.  Many people identify karma with fate, ie something that happens to you and which you cannot alter.  My view – and the general yoga view – is almost the direct opposite of this: that karma is what you are given (or, if you believe in reincarnation, what your previous lives have given you) precisely in order that you may do something with it.  And that ‘doing something with it’ is in essence what you are here for.  In other words, your karma exists precisely in order for you to change it – or at the very least, to work on it.
One thing we did discuss – and in connection with which we might have quoted Hamlet:
‘there’s nothing either good nor bad,
but thinking makes it so’
– was the importance of perception; in other words, that a situation can be transformed by your perception of it.  Facts remain facts, but their meaning is changed according to who is looking.  So that, for example, the Gaza strip is an entirely different place to an Israeli and a Palestinian.  There wasn’t time to develop this idea very far but I’m a great believer in the power of visualisation to bring about change.  Even if it’s only a change in how I feel about a situation, that in itself is a huge advantage – as I was saying the other day about the person who moans continually about not having a car and then gets one, thereby finding a whole new stratum of things to moan about.
It’s the attitude that counts.  I firmly believe that.
Here endeth the lesson.
Today I shall be mostly… sharpening up some poems and getting a couple of other pieces ready to send off.
Kirk out

Drunk and Thunk

The inaugural meeting of ‘Drink and Think’ was a great success last night: about a dozen people turned up at the Ale Wagon to discuss the question, What’s the Point of Philosophy?  We had a wide-ranging discussion taking in Marxism, religion and evolution; and a variety of people from the experienced philosopher to the new and slightly terrified.  All professed to have enjoyed the experience and said they would come back.  Next month we are discussing the topic: ‘Free Will vs Determinism?’ so if you’re free and your calendar is not pre-determined (LOL) come along on November 25th.

There were a couple of comments I would have liked to follow up on.  Someone mentioned that a football team (was it Leicester?) actually have their own philosopher – and I wanted to know more about that, so if you’re reading please comment below.  Then someone else said that before poets die they should have to recite all their work – ALL of it, including juvenilia.  This made me shudder – though fortunately I don’t have any of my juvenilia left.  I do, however, have this poem:

Nothing could be sillier

than my juvenilia

nothing can be dafter

than my adolescent laughter

my sermons as a bride

occasioned splittings of the side

and my maternal orders

caused a skirmish at the borders.

But now that I am old

my very turds have turned to gold

and the words around my wreath

are the dust that I bequeath


Kirk out

That Hideous Strength

Things go from bad to worse.  Last night Mark was listening to the radio, as he always does when going to sleep, and he uttered a loud cry.  ‘What’s the matter?’ I said, imagining muscle spasms or something more serious.  ‘Bloody Count Arthur Strong‘s on AGAIN!’ he burst out.  ‘That’s hideous,’ I commented sympathetically, whereupon he quipped; ‘That hideous strength!’

Here’s the link if you don’t get the joke:

But even Count Arthur Strong in all his hideousness could not dampen my enthusiasm after a brilliant night at Yesim’s.  There were about 20 people in the end; a mix of traditional folkies – some Scots, some English – Chinese singers and players; a Syrian singer of Turkish songs; a storyteller – and me.  I was very pleased with the reception for my Yesim’s Music Circle song (see below) which will be taken up as ‘our song’; also with my ‘Doctor Who’ sonnet (see video from a couple of weeks back).  Instruments included the usual guitars, violins and recorders; also a Middle-Eastern drum (a huge affair with what looked like curtain hooks hanging round the rim); and a ‘mandolincello’ (something like a mandolin but larger and hence lower in pitch.)  I was also given a list of folk clubs in Leicester by Dave, who is apparently the Folk List guy.

After all the excitement I couldn’t sleep.  Bloody annoying.

By the Light of the Beige Moon

Mark insists that the colour of the moon is not grey or silvery but beige.  He has the photos to prove it, sadly.  I hate it when Mark’s right – but the beige conversation reminded me of a beige crimplene skirt I once had (yes, I know).  Crimplene was this wonder-material which sounds great in theory – dries in no time, never needs ironing, doesn’t need hemming – but in practice was so gross that no-one ever wore it as it was like wearing an ironing-board cover.  Which, ironically, you would be able to do if your wardrobe was all crimplene.

Do YOU remember crimplene?

OK here’s part of the Yesim’s Music Circle Song:

‘Sunday evening, come around

drinking coffee, making sound

music circle well-renowned

all at Hayri’s cafe


Jig to reel and fast to slow

pipe and voices, string and bow

three guitars all in a row

all at Hayri’s cafe


We will go from high to higher

Leicester’s own celestial choir

come on people light that fire

all at Hayri’s cafe

There.  That should give you a taste.  If you want more, you’ll have to get yourself down to Yesim’s next Sunday.  But in the meantime, it’s Drink and Think tonight, 8 pm at the Ale Wagon, Charles St, Leicester.

See you there!

Kirk out