The Thought Police Dismisseth Us

There is much debate at the moment about policing our thoughts; in fact we are probably only a whisker away from yet another compound verb: to thought-police.  But this is nothing new: people were policing thoughts about sex for hundreds of years, especially during Victorian times when even the legs of chairs would get covered up lest men get lustful thoughts about a shapely calf.

People didn’t only police thoughts about sex.  Where certain forms of expression are taboo, thought-policing (there, I’ve done it myself now) cannot be far behind.  Hence servants, for example, would likely censor rebellious thoughts about their employers – or women about their husbands.*  When I was a child you couldn’t swear in public, and when a show-jumper called Harvey Smith raised two fingers at the cameras, he was hauled over the coals for it.

In the age of deference the Royal Family never needed to worry about policing the press, because they policed themselves.  After all, it’s not that long since the offence of sedition was abolished (2009) though in practice it was defunct long before that.

Nowadays nobody is hanged, drawn and quartered for treason; nor are they imprisoned, as poor old William Blake was (probably falsely) for sedition.  But careers can be ruined and lives made impossible by a reckless tweet or a drunken misdemeanour; and last year an MP accused of sexual harassment killed himself:

So I reckon we have about the same level of self-policing; it’s just that the areas and the punishments have shifted.  But there’s a problem: whereas in the past it was pretty clear what was taboo and what wasn’t, nowadays it can get a little confusing.  Some things are obvious, such rape and molestation; but some aren’t.  Is it OK for a boss to ask out a female subordinate?  Is it OK if I tell a black guy his dreadlocks are amazing?

As it happens I did offend a guy recently by not realising he was Jewish.  I was looking for a beanie-type hat (I have to say his skull-cap didn’t look very traditional) and when I asked him where he’d got it he said frostily he’d bought it online.  When I said I was looking for something similar he said, in tones of ice, ‘you could try some Jewish websites.’

Then again, how was I to know?  The guy wasn’t dressed in traditional Jewish gear, he didn’t have a beard or long hair; he was just standing in line at the supermarket in a t-shirt and jeans.  He could have just said, ‘I’m Jewish and it’s a skull-cap,’ whereupon I would have apologised, instead of spending the rest of the day feeling foolish.

I guess we’re still working these things out.  But complaints about self-policing are not new: I remember people back in the ’70’s moaning about not being able to use the word ‘gay’ any more.  Gay people retorted that it was a fair swap, since they’d given back the word ‘queer.’  (Mind you, they’ve taken it back since and amended it…)

Yep, it’s a minefield out there.  But just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean we can get away with being an arse…

Kirk out

* in fact the killing of a husband by his wife was until 1826 a form of ‘petty treason’ as distinct from ‘high treason’.



Lawrence Limericks are Here

I once wrote a series of limericks about DH Lawrence’s changing fortunes.  It seemed to me very sad that Lawrence was so reviled in his lifetime for simply speaking the truth – as he saw it – about sex: and that now, since the zeitgeist has completely overtaken him, the poor man is all-but forgotten.   I know, I know – limericks are not exactly the most appropriate form for such a writer – but perhaps that’s the point.

Lawrence Limericks
They don’t give a fig about Lawrence
now sex is cascading in torrents
it’s harder to credit
that folk who’d not read it
once looked on his work with abhorrence.

They don’t give a damn about Dave
the Messiah who came up to save
our bodies from virtue
that bodice can hurt you
– but now he just spins in his grave.

His family christened him Bert
but sadly considered it dirt
the stuff that he wrote
‘it’s filth’ – and I quote
a word which must surely have hurt.

He flirted with Bloomsbury briefly
they loved his costumery chiefly
Virginia’s impressed
by the man with no vest
but his chest was infected with TB

And that was his downfall at last

though critics continued to blast

the hot air of the priggish

his fame grew quite biggish

respected in spite of his caste

but he died when the war was yet young

the Battle of Britain begun

while we stood alone

his spirit had flown

the air could not enter his lung.

And then, in the sixties, reborn!

The Chatterley verdict’s ‘not porn’

now naked men tussle

in films by Ken Russell

they no longer held you in scorn

But now? Now that Harry’s met Sally?

It doesn’t take much to get pally

and everyone’s grabbing

to have what she’s having

and that’s not at all up your alley.

And so, DHL, RIP

much better than sex on TV;

a seer of souls

hauled under the coals

a painter of flowers

and soul-mate of ploughers

whatever death gives you

your beauty outlives you –

for those who have bodies to see.

Kirk out

Life After Cohen

Too blown away to write much.  Utterly destroyed by the concert last night – as I said to Mark, it’s like the best sex you’ve ever had, prolonged for about two hours.  That was how I felt afterwards – exhausted, replete, ruined.  This man has ruined my life.

There’s so much I want to say about the concert that I’m going to save it for now.

If you’re not a Leonard Cohen fan you may want to avoid this blog for a few days – or weeks.  i intend to go on about it at length.

What more can I say?  I love the man.  He is the soundtrack to my life.

I’d Rather Have a Cup of Tea

This is of course a quote from Boy George, every mother’s favourite gay pop star. quotes/b/boygeorge377789.html

Whether it was true, or whether he said it to make himself less threatening (gay men being otherwise seen as leather-wearing sex-maniacs) I don’t know. Anyway,  today’s poem is about teasmades and it’s called by the above title.  Incidentally, I should explain if you haven’t come across a teasmade, it’s an electrical device with a clock, a kettle and a pot. You fill the kettle until it clicks, put tea in the pot, set the timer – and it wakes you up with a cup of tea.

I think they probably only exist in Britain.

Toodle pip!

PS incidentally the name Teasmade used to be the trade name of Goblin, who made them. There’s a company who makes them now but the ask everyone plaintively not to call them Teasmades but “Tea Wakers” I think they’re fighting a losing battle there – teasmade is the only possible name for such a device. It makes you think of Narnia, and Mr Tumnus and John Betjeman.

That really is it. I have to go and be normal for an hour as I have a class this morning.


Am I twirly?

I’m an aging woman who’s too old to see

Why sex was once forbidden and is now compulsory

Couple of lines from a poem I wrote a while back.  The other day I  caught sight of a bloke’s t-shirt on the bus.  Most t-shirt slogans don’t make any sense – this one unfortunately did.  It said:

It ain’t gonna suck itself.

I thought about it for a second, then wished I hadn’t.  After I got off the bus, I thought of my reply:  You suck.  By the time he’d worked out the anatomical impossibilities, he’d have got the message.

Am I twirly?

There are just too many short story competitions.  I can’t decide which one to go in for.  Yesterday I read the winning entry for one and instantly decided not to enter (I won’t say which one it was).  But from the judge’s comments it was clear to me that they hadn’t got a clue.  Sorry if that sounds arrogant – it’s what I think.

But am I twirly?

In London, they are called Wombles, in Liverpool, Twirlies.  What are they?  Pensioners with passes.  They get on the bus at 9.25 and say, “Am I twirly?”  Which all goes to show that bus drivers are poets under the skin.  Oh, and that they have an awesome respect for members of the community they serve.

(see post Jan 17th 2010: High Taw Tawk Propah-leah)

Got to go – the bus won’t wait!

Oh – one of my favourite poems about buses – Wendy Cope (see