Tuesday, 18 December 2012

my films of 2012 (4)

Dans La Maison (In The House), with Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, directed by Francois Ozon - a talented but dysfunctional 16-year-old boy forms an attachment to the inhabitants of a particular house. His teacher encourages him in his creative writing, and it all goes too far. Witty, and referencing Rear Window, and entertaining. Kristin Scott Thomas is especially good as a neurotic art dealer. In French.

Ruby Sparks, Zoe Kazan, who is excellent, writer and star, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Paris. But - writer who can't write, invent  your girlfriend and then she comes true? Do me a favour.

Quelques Heures de Printemps (A Few Hours of Spring), with Helene Vincent, directed by Stephane Brize. Lower middle class provincial French milieu. A man has been in prison and has therefore to go and live with his mother when he gets out. She has brain cancer and decides on assisted suicide in Switzerland before she goes gaga. Well, there is plenty else going on there. A warm and touching film which is hard and cold at the same time, if that makes sense. Highly recommended. In French.

Paperboy, Zac Efron, directed by Lee Daniels. Well, it's not very nice, what happens. I tried to work up enthusiasm, I really did.

Ides of March, with George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffmann. Fab fab fab. Even though the plot line with the girl who is pregnant is not plausible. Excellent. And also totty heaven.

Three Days of the Condor, with Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, directed by Sydney Pollack, 1975, so blast from past. Stylish and cool, but so dated as to be meaningless.

Skyfall, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, directed by Sam Mendes. Up there with the best Bonds ever. Would have been a fabulous action film even if it hadn't been a Bond, takes you everywhere. Love love love.

Argo, Ben Affleck, John Goodman, others, directed by Ben Affleck. 1979. An attempt is made to get six American hostages out of the embassy in Iran. This is a true story. Who knew? Apparently Bill Clinton made it public in 1997, which passed me by. Anyway, excellent. The Canadians are heroes. Sort of.

Them's me films for 2012 - I do think I saw others, but did not make notes on them, and in particular Holy Motors deserves a post all to itself. Which it will get.

Monday, 17 December 2012

my films of 2012 (3)

To Rome With Love, Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, directed by Woody Allen. Does what it says on the tin. He loves Rome. Enjoyable, especially if you love Rome. Penelope Cruz is completely fab as a comedy hooker. Fun but forgettable, for me.

The Angels' Share, with various young Scottish people, directed by Ken Loach. Our Kenny loves humanity, even the Glasgow criminal underclass. Well, it was quite amusing and not uninteresting. Some of it is in Glaswegian: the French subtitles were very helpful.

The Deep Blue Sea, from the play by Terence Rattigan, with Rachel Weisz, whom I love, directed by Terence Davies. A doomed love affair. Ho hum.

Un Bonheur N'Arrive Jamais Seul - can't translate this title without help: "happy things never turn up on their own" - meh. Sophie Marceau and Gad Elmaleh, both of whom I like, directed by James Huth. A fun romantic comedy. In French.

Les Enfants de Belle Ville, directed by Asghar Farhadi. This film dates from 2004, and was re-released following the success of A Separation, see earlier post. It may have an English title, but I couldn't find one. The "Belle Ville" of the French title is a rendering of the name of a young offenders' institution in Tehran. This film may well be a masterpiece. It is about love and separation and death and reparation. In Farsi with French subtitles.

Laurence Anyways, French-Canadian, directed by Xavier Dolan. The 10-year relationship of a male-to-female transgender person with her (female) lover. Interesting. Made me think. Set in Quebec. In Quebecois French, some of which was subtitled for a European francophone audience (those bits however were easier for anglophone me to understand).

my films of 2012 (2)

38 Temoins (38 Witnesses), Nicole Garcia,, Yvan Attal, directed by Lucas Belveaux. Great stuff. Set in an atmospheric Le Havre. A woman is murdered outside an apartment block. Thirty-eight people could have witnessed the killing. Which of them did? Why are they so silent? In French.

Margin Call, Kevin Spacey and others, directed by J.C. Chandor. Twenty-four hours in the life of an investment bank at the start of the financial crisis. Gripping stuff, stylishly done. This film seems to have been forgotten, unjustly so.

W.E. Andrea Riseborough, directed by Madonna.  The critics hated this, but I enjoyed it. Edward and Mrs Simpson, we know the story - but told from HER point of view, which I do not think has been done in film.

Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson, with Bruce Willis as you may never have seen him before. Two very young lovers and a hurricane in New England. A strange and charming vision, and very funny in places. Something completely different.

De Rouille et D'Os (Rust and Bone), the lovely and wonderful Marion Cotillard, and the hot Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts, directed by Jacques Audiard. In French, but there is an English version now I believe. The underclass, kind of. Killer whales at a water park, bare-knuckle fighters, passion and pain. This one will stay with you, if only for the special effects when Marion Cotillard loses her legs (not a spoiler).

On The Road, the lovely Kristen Stewart, directed by Walter Salles. Every bit as dull and misogynist as the book.

my films of 2012

These are the films I saw in 2012 (at the cinema) in chronological order. With links. Language indicated if not English. First tranche:

The Iron Lady = Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, directed by Phyllida Lloyd  Terrific. And affecting. Meryl Streep's usual staggering performance. Wildly inaccurate re Parliament and some of the political events of the 1980s though. I saw it twice.

J. Edgar - Leonardo di Caprio as J.Edgar Hoover, directed by Clint Eastwood
 Clint has never made a boring film. Here the makeup was probably the star.

Une Separation - Leila Hatami as a wife with a serious dilemma in modern Iran, directed by Asghar Farhadi. Magnificent stuff. A couple at war, a parent with Alzheimer's, class and conflict in the Tehran of today. In Farsi with French subtitles. I saw it twice.

The Descendants - George Clooney as a Hawaii lawyer with an inheritance who is trying to restore his lost connection with his family, directed by Alexander Payne. Families are complicated,and this film is complex. Wonderful performances, real, and no easy solutions. I subsequently read the book, by Hawaiian writer Kaui Hart Hemmings, new to me, which is recommended.

Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows - Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, directed by Guy Ritchie. Load of terrible old tosh. I only went to see it because it was partly filmed in Strasbourg.

Millennium - Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, directed by David Fincher. Pretty good, but once you have seen the Swedish films and the TV series - this film is exactly the same. They tried so hard not to Hollywoodise this totally European story that they made the European film again, which made it forgettable.

More to come. I'll try and post these daily to limit the suspense. I know you can't wait.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

the final frontier...

real space suit
was at a very good little party last night, thank you Sue, at which a number of scientists from the International Space University, which as any fule kno  is right here in Strasbourg, were present.  A real space suit, which has actually been in actual space, was brought out and shown to us.  We were allowed to touch it!  Suddenly I was 15 again and being yelled at by my parents for staying up to watch the moon landings. How I wanted to take my protein pills and put that helmet on.

pic: University

Saturday, 15 December 2012

freedom of expression - is it real?

I do sometimes wonder.  Freedom of expression is not real if it is confined to the expression of views that those who read them are comfortable with. It means nothing then. Following a couple of links led me to this rather impressive blog (in English, he also writes in Arabic) by one Waheed al-Hussaini, of whom I had not heard before. Read it.  He is Palestinian, and was arrested, imprisoned and beaten up, effectively for not believing in Islam and saying so on line.  He was told that society would not tolerate criticism of Islam. He got out and into Jordan, and thence became an asylum seeker in France, where he remains, pending a decision. He says he still does not feel safe. He appears to believe that he is now free to write on line, and so he is. The blog, published in the Independent newspaper's website, is evidence of that. But for how long? The chilling effect of persecution and abuse is well known, even if there is no risk to the writer of being arrested or imprisoned, or worse (try it in North Korea and see how far you get). The Satanic Verses would not be published now, because publishers would not want their buildings firebombed. Jew-hatred is rife. Goose-stepping and Nazi salutes in Brighton, England because it happens to be the location of an Israeli-owned business. This blogger is still doing it, but had to leave his family and friends behind to be able to continue.  How many others would? Would you?

Victoria's Secret - at last they start to get it

The barely literate former councillor John Howarth, prop. Public Impact Ltd. (remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?) has sounded off on misogyny.  An authority on the subject, you might think him.  You would be wrong.  He doesn't actually understand the thing at all.  He was talking about the newly selected Labour candidate for Reading West, Victoria Groulef.  Here is part of what he had to say, fisking in red as always mine:

Conservatives really don’t like Labour people being involved in business, large or small. Evidence for this view?  No Conservative has said this.  They feel it is their territory. It makes them uncomfortable. Incoherent use of pronouns.  And some Conservatives still don’t seem to like women very much either as can be seen by the knuckle-dragging comments to another nudge nudge, wink wink item about Ms Groulef on the Conservative blog Guido Fawkes. Guido is not a Tory, as any fule kno.The item, under the headline “Victoria’s Secret” which for those who have led exceptionally sheltered lives is a popular American lingerie chain, is to be taken even less seriously than is Mr Willis. Guido posted the item referred to a short while after I posted a piece about Victoria's selection.  My piece was titled, er, "Victoria's Secret".  Ms Groulef’s business is no secret and I suspect will benefit from the increase in attention this internet chatter will bring. But what is it about these people – only right wing British men would think there is anything remotely unusual about women liking lingerie. Nobody said there was anything unusual.  Nobody dissed Victoria's business.  You are making this up, John.Try talking to some women, guys! Ah, here we have Reading Labour homophobia.  Jolly good.  Just what the electorate needs right now, hein?  Order of the Dog-Whistle, Second Class.

Jolly good though to see former Cllr Howarth coming out (fnar, fnar) against misogyny.  Been a long time waiting for that, haven't we John?  But now that you have done it, do stick to your guns, won't you?  Don't do a Doddy on Vicky and lock her up in someone's attic if she gets uppity and starts having her Own Ideas now.

And now we see former mayor of Reading Mr C. Maskell (Berk), who links to the post from Special Needs John from which I quote above, and has this to say:

A few days on from her selection she is already attracting a lot of free publicity because she is a successful woman in her own right. If you have ever met a female Tory politician you may have noticed that they are subservient to the Tory male. Insane.  I have met many female Tory politicians and been friends with several.  And no, call me unobservant, I haven't noticed anything going on in the way of subservience to the male.  In which party's interest was our only female Prime Minister elected?  I only ask.  Of course this is a personal opinion but don’t take my word for it, if you get the chance spend some time observing!
So there we have it.  Tories are misogynist, apparently.  (Female Home Secretary (and Berkshire MP) anyone?)  Reading Labour, of course, are not.  Because they've now selected a GIRL in Reading West.  Except that, er, they've got to.  Them's the rules.  Not their choice.  In Reading East, where they did have a choice, they selected - a CHAP.  Oh yes.  White bloke, obvs.  Gotta be.  What they wanted.  When they had a GIRL who was not foisted upon them but chosen, and who won not one election but two, Mr Howarth was recorded as saying "Never again".  When a GIRLwas foisted upon them in 2010 in Reading East they locked her up in Stuart Singleton-White's attic and refused to let her appear in public.  The Taleban could take lessons from them.
However, all the above is unworthy of me, and unkind.  The sheep that is lost, etc.  If a blow is being struck ("Steady on." Ed.) for gender equality, then I congratulate those who have struck it, yes, both of you, present and former Cllrs Howarth and Maskell, the Fat-Arse Boys.  You have seen the light, at last.  GIRLS are OK!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

get rid of what you've got

it's very short

Bob Ainsworth

pic: BBC
is to stand down from Parliament at the next election.  He says it's time.  Well, maybe, but it seems good people like him should stay in politics if they can.  Bob was Defence Secretary for the last year of the Labour Government.  He got to Cabinet at the wrong time, not his fault.  He left school at 15 and worked in the Coventry car industry for 20 years, then got the chance to represent his native Coventry for Labour in Parliament, which he always saw as a privilege, never as a right, as his smugger and posher Labour colleagues often did (step forward, Ed Balls).  I knew Bob ("Uncle Bob" to those who liked him, and we were many, despite the venom to be found on Labour List and elsewhere) best when he was deputy chief whip, in 2003-4.  He was deputy to Horrible Hilary, the vile, crabbed virago, possessing no discernible political intelligence, and nothing to recommend her at all, she having attained her position by virtue of who her father was, misogynist language entirely intentional, yes, I mean Hilary Armstrong, Chief Whip who presided over several of Labour's major disasters.
photo of this ghastly old bag: PA
Uncle Bob did his best to undo the damage that Horrible Hilary was doing, and went out of his way to treat people - all people - with the decency and respect everyone deserves.  And I include Hilary Armstrong in that.  I am treating her with anger and venom.  Some people deserve that too.

I wish Bob well in his retirement, or in whatever he chooses to do next.  Thanks for the drink that time at Conference Bob, and thanks for the chats in the Smoking Room.  I learned a lot from you.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

All about me

Lady Jennie has this meme, so here goes - the questions are hers, the answers are mine.

1. What’s your guilty pleasure? You know what I mean? What do you do that you know is probably not the wisest thing for you but you can’t seem to help yourself?
A  large glass of Alsace Pinot Blanc on weekday evenings 
 as the opening credits roll for Plus Belle La Vie (a soap)
2. Have you ever been able to overcome a bad habit? If so, how?
I stopped smoking in September 2003.  I did it by moving the furniture around so that I was never in the same position as I had previously been, so it kind of broke the habit.  What got me through it was knowing that I only had to do things without a cigarette for the first time once - then it gets easier.  It does, but I still miss it, and I am told that the first 20 years are the worst.
3. What’s your first memory?
Being in a a twin pram with my brother.  I was two, and he six months. He was asleep with his mouth wide open, and I could see down his throat.  I remember wishing I was at the end of the pram that he was, so I could see our mother's face.
4. Have you ever had an experience with a ghost?
Kind of, though I have never seen one.  Where we lived when I was about ten there were stairs to the attic room, which was my bedroom.  The dog would not go up those stairs, and both my sister and my cousin were frightened of them - they said a little old man was sitting there and they didn't want to go past him.
5. Have you ever had a significant dream? One that came true, or one that meant something to you?
We planned a trip to Australia, my first, in 2001.  In the weeks before it I had a recurring dream in which there were flames, and ash, and planes falling out of the sky.  I begged for the trip to be cancelled, because I had such a bad feeling.  Significant other told me not to be so silly.  We flew on 9/11.
6. What’s your most embarrassingly funny memory, and if you dare, your embarrassingly embarrassing memory?
Embarrassingly funny: I spent at least half an hour at a dinner party in 1979 telling the person next to me about someone we had both met, her history, how interesting she was, blah blah, people around us began sniggering - then it came to me that not only had he known her for longer than I had, but that he had actually introduced us, and I had forgotten he had.  Embarrassingly embarrassing: the formal dinner at my university graduation in 1975.  I asked the people near me to pass the wine.  They looked at me hard, but they passed the wine. Only later did I realise that wine was not provided with the dinner.
7. Alright moving on to more distinguished topics. Favorite book. Why is it your favorite?
Two favourites: Howard's End by E.M. Forster and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  The first because it is complicated, and sad, and joyful, and is about a house.  The second because it is complicated, and sad, and joyful, and is about a house. They are both about England.  All the characters in both these books are quite horrible. For some reason that makes me love the books.
8. Last question – most romantic. At what precise moment did you know your spouse/partner was “the one?”
No difficulty.  In 1993, well before we got together, when he told me he was a Leonard Cohen fan.  At that time Lenny was deeply unfashionable, unlike today.  

OK, as you were

Allegations have been made, unsubstantiated and untrue, about the provenance of recent posts on this blog.  Access is now unlimited again, as before, and I shall continue to post whatever I like here.  I do not post about my workplace, never have, and have no intention of ever doing so.  I may however muse on any topic of my choice, and my polite suggestion to anyone who does not like it is, as always - go away and read something else.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

this just in

My musings, which have been appearing here since 2005 (with a brief hiatus in 2009, when forces of evil got it taken down), are henceforth going to appear on a different platform, and in a somewhat different form.  Times change... when this is finalised visitors here will be redirected.  Watch this space...

Monday, 3 December 2012

you're either in front...

Here is Guido, posting about the newly selected Labour candidate for Reading West, Victoria Groulef, and her "Lolita lingerie business".  The picture he uses is...

this one.

You're either in front of janestheone, or...

third to second?

in Reading East Labour were of course in third place in 2010. The national swing should take them back to second, as they were in 2005 when the seat was lost by Tony Page.  Don't think it much matters who or what the candidate is.  Myself, I would have chosen Mr D.P. Singh.  However, because Reading East was not all-woman shortlist, it has to be a White Bloke, so Matt Rodda it is.  Well, good luck with that one.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Victoria's secret

Victoria, pic accompanied a business website interview
Victoria Groulef has been selected as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading West, which is, as the estimable Mark Bennett puts it, a seat which should not have been lost by Labour in the first place.  But that was then, and we move on.  Should be a pretty good election for Labour next time, but 2015 is some way off.  It appears to me that this was the right decision.  So, boys, don't try and bully this one, OK?  That kind of carry-on loses elections, as I hope you have finally understood.  Best wishes, Victoria, do it your way.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Roy McPherson

Island Road, Barrow, where Roy lived
Roy, on right, pictured at my grandmother's funeral in 2002
was a man who was born and spent his whole life in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (previously Lancashire).  Like almost all Barrow men he worked in the Vickers shipyards.  He never married, and lived all his life in the parental home on Barrow Island. Roy was my father's cousin, the only child of my paternal grandmother's older sister Winnie.  He was exactly a year younger than my father (they had the same birthday).  Roy died on 12th November this year, at the age of 81.  Part of my family's history passed away with him, so I wanted to remember him here.  I was rather fond of Roy, and sometimes used to send him postcards from places I had been.  But although part of my roots are in Barrow, and I have been there regularly all my life, ever since my grandmother used to take me there when I was a small child, I have never lived there, and my grandparents and the generation of great-aunts and uncles I knew as a child have all gone now.  So I cannot do better than reproduce below the eulogy given at Roy's funeral by his cousin's husband Eddie,  which I appreciated for its gentleness and humour.

Roy Henderson McPherson was born in Risedale Maternity Home Barrow on 20th April 1931, the only child of Albert (Mac) and Winnie McPherson, and soon went home to 20 Island Road, where Roy would continue to live for the whole of his 81 years.

After attending school, Roy started work in Boots the Chemist but after only a short while was accepted for an apprenticeship as a shipwright with Vickers Armstrong’s. Because of his protected employment status, National Service was deferred until Roy eventually joined the Army in 1952. Roy served in Egypt about the time of the ‘Suez Crisis’. After being demobbed from the military, Roy resumed at the shipyard where his was to remain for the rest of his working life.

In his spare time Roy was quite physically active. He enjoyed cycling and travelled many miles in company with his friends.

Roy also played rugby with Furness Rugby Union Club and after his playing career ended he took up the whistle and refereed local matches as part of the Furness Rugby Union Referees Society. Roy rose to be a referee assessor and was the appointments secretary for the Society. He was rewarded for this work by being appointed a Life Member of the Society.

Roy enjoyed travelling and as well as holidays in Europe with friends, Roy visited his cousin Win and her husband Ted in Africa and also visited another cousin, Pat, in Malta.

Roy was always well dressed and loved looking at the latest men’s clothing in Marks & Spencer and Mister Mr, sometimes travelling to Morecambe to have suits or jackets made to measure at a bespoke tailor.

Roy was very devoted to his mother and when we start to tidy his house we found his mum’s dressing gown and hair net still hanging on a hook on the back of her bedroom door, even though it is 25 years since she passed away

Roy also enjoyed his food and was a very good customer of the food section in Marks & Spencer and was on first name terms with many of the staff. He also enjoyed going out for meals and would always say yes if asked to join in a birthday or other celebration.

Roy took an interest in current affairs and recently much has been in the papers and on TV about same sex marriage. One day during his recent stay in hospital he asked me ‘In these relationships between two men how do they decide which one does the woman’s bits?’ I was wondering how to answer when in all innocence Roy added ‘You know the washing up, cooking and ironing’. That saved me being embarrassed at having to answer what I thought was the question.

When his cousin Win Mills returned to live in Barrow, following death of her husband Ted, Roy became very close to her. The pair would talk on the phone once or twice each day and it was a great loss to Roy when Win passed away earlier this year.

Roy will be greatly missed by his family, neighbours and his many friends. He was a generous, kind and gentle man, of which there are very few about today.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

bad faith

pic:Anglicans On LIne
this is the position that being in bad faith can get you into.  Bad faith is a bit like lying, only not quite.  If you tell a lie it all gets quite strenuous and tiring, as you have to remember to keep your story straight.  If you tell the truth it's much more relaxing, because you never have to remember your story, you just know it.  Bad faith is when you don't exactly lie, but you change the truth to suit yourself.  It's when, for example, you have a meeting and the meeting decides something.  Those at the meeting don't know at the time that a different decision has already been taken, at a higher level of the organisation than the meeting's participants.  When they discover this later, instead of simply noting it, and maybe wishing communication lines were better so that they didn't have their meeting in ignorance of important facts, they change the minutes of the meeting to make it look as though they had taken the same decision as the higher level did.  That, comrades, is Bad Faith.  And sometimes it's worse than lies.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

fixing Jim

as a retired member of BBC staff I received a letter today from the "acting Director-General", Tim Davie, (the letter is dated 15th November) apologising in "profound and heartfelt" fashion to every victim of abuse by Jimmy Savile, and asking me to give evidence to a review set up under the chairmanship of Dame Janet Smith if I have any information in connection with Savile's activities.  The appeal for witnesses makes reference to people "familiar with the culture or practices of the BBC during that time" (from 1964 to about 2007, essentially).  Well, yes I am, as I worked for the Beeb from 1984 to 1997, with one short break.  And I don't think anything I could report would be of interest to this review.  I never met Savile.  I was 30 when I started working at the BBC, so not a vulnerable young person.  But what are they going to do?  Dig him up and hang him?  Genuine paedophiles who have worked on children's programmes at the BBC over the years must be breathing a sigh of relief at this.  There must have been, and must still be, paedophiles working in children's broadcasting - because that is what paedophiles do.  They seek to have contact with children.  Savile was not a paedophile.  He liked girls who had reached puberty, but he liked them young and unprotected, so he cleverly found ways to be allowed to hang around hospitals and children's homes as well as TV studios.  He was a strange and creepy individual.  Everyone knew that.  People who watched him on television knew that.  And best of all, he's dead, so no-one has to go to prison, no-one has to give evidence in court - which might implicate others.  We can't have that.

I wish Dame Janet well with her review.  But all we need to know really is that in the 1960s and 1970s young girls got felt up, and worse, quite routinely, and it was not much disapproved of.  Now, it is disapproved of.  Good.  There has never been a time when it was thought OK to interfere with children.  So "culture and practices" are a red herring.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

letter to women clergy

this is a letter to the women clergy of the Anglican Diocese of Europe (who are many), sent out following the vote that there shall not be women bishops.  I thought it was worth reproducing, and I thank Bishops Geoffrey and David for sending it.  I got it from Bishop David's blog

Letter to the women clergy of the Diocese in Europe

Following on the failure of the proposed legislation to enable the consecration of women as bishops to gain necessary approval in the final consideration vote in the General Synod, Bishop Geoffrey and I have sent the following letter to the women clergy of our diocese: 

21 November 2012

To the women clergy of the Diocese in Europe


Dear Sisters

As a result of the vote in the General Synod yesterday,
there is deep sadness and disappointment felt by so many in our Church, and
bewilderment in the world we are called to serve. For both of us, yesterday’s
pattern of voting raises questions about the processes of the General Synod in
considering this kind of legislation. We know from the results of the diocesan
synods across the Church, including our own, that the Church of England does
want women bishops. The size of the majority which voted in favour of the
legislation at the General Synod yesterday confirmed this. However, as we know,
the hurdle to attain 2/3 of the votes in each house of the Synod is a high one,
and rightly so, when we need to decide on important matters which touch upon
the unity of the Church. In the house of laity there were 6 votes short of this

We have to remember that what was defeated yesterday was a
particular and quite complex piece of legislation. A great deal of work has
gone into this and much of that will not be wasted when, in due course, a new Measure
comes before the Synod to enable the consecration of women to the episcopate
and to make proper provision for those with theological reservations about this.

In the face of the widely shared disappointment resulting
from the Synod vote, we both want personally to affirm and uphold the valued
place that women priests and deacons have in this diocese. As an international
part of the Church of England, very much the Anglican Communion in miniature,
we in the Diocese in Europe are already aware of the blessings that women in
all three sacred orders of ministry bring to Churches of the Anglican Communion
in the Americas, the Pacific and Africa. Moreover, we observe very closely the
fruitfulness of the ministry of women bishops in our sister Churches of the
Porvoo Communion in Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, even while some
other partner Churches do not accept this development.

Let us pray earnestly for a healing of our strains and
divisions and that God will help us to find a way through these difficulties,
with wisdom and with generosity towards each other.

May God also grant us strength to continue to witness
with integrity to the Gospel of love, justice and reconciliation.

Your brothers in Christ

 +Geoffrey                                                                 +David

 Bishop Geoffrey                                                         Bishop


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

back to the kitchen

the Church of England says no to women bishops, and this issue may not be reintroduced for another five years, unless various chairs and vice-chairs call for it. Which I would be very surprised if they do.  Very sad, very disappointed, very much a backward step, it wasn't by much, but it was a democratic vote. The people have spoken.  How I wish they wouldn't, sometimes.  But there you have it.

Friday, 16 November 2012

grossly offensive

Steve Bell, Guardian today
this cartoon, because of the references it makes, is grossly offensive to me.  But I publish it anyway.  Those who complain to the management when I publish something on my blog that they don't like may complain about this Jew-hating shite and have me hauled in.  Anyone?  Anyone? *sound of tumbleweed*

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

cui bono?

yesterday's story about the trial of former MP Margaret Moran can be read here.  She did fiddle expenses, in a calculated and fraudulent manner.  Others have gone to prison, but she will not, as it appears she has had a mental and emotional collapse, and was absent because unfit to stand trial.  It is possible she will be discharged.  Whatever her state of health, it seems to me that if she is to be found guilty she should have a criminal conviction as the others did.  Otherwise justice is not served.  It will of course never be known how many MPs engaged in fraud over their expenses.  It can easily be discovered, and mostly has been since parts of the media got their claws into it, what irregularities took place - although when what was done was within the rules it seems wrong to punish people retrospectively.  I am referring to actual fraud here though.  Falsificaation of documents for financial gain at the taxpayers' expense.  All those who have stood trial and gone to prison have done so as a result of complaints to the police, nearly always made by former members of their staff or associates, within their own party.  As you might expect.  this is true of Margaret Moran too.  It follows that there must be quite a number of others.  Mr Salter, who was one of the few who committed fraud by claiming GBP 1000 a month for four years, from 1997 to 2001, for a London property he did not have, has had no complaint made, and so has not been prosecuted.  I suppose I should have made the complaint myself.  I may still do so.  What do readers think? To commit fraud in this way you need to represent a constituency which is reachable on a daily commuting basis.  Of that ring of constituencies around London, the MPs I knew all, with the exception of Mr Salter and Michael Trend, the then MP for Windsor, had places in London.  Mr Trend was found out - a disgruntled former member of his staff had him followed and saw that he drove back to Windsor every evening - and he had to stand down from parliament.  No need to have Mr Salter followed, he boasted that he went back to Reading every night, but I saw him fill in the claim forms for a thousand a month.  It was the Michael Trend affair which obliged MPs from 2001 on to provide their mortgage documents or rent agreement before claims for London property could be reimbursed.

Here in France things are rather different.  MPs do not have much scrutiny of their expenses.  They also do not have the media snapping at their heels every five minutes.

It's a sad business.  I'm sorry for those who went to prison, and I'm sorry for Margaret Moran.  They are all paying the price for what they have done, as they must.  I hope they all, including Margaret, come out the other side of this.  Paying  your debt to society means just that - once you have had your punishment the debt is settled and you are clean.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

James Walsh says Reading Labour is biased!

For those who have better things to do than pore over the comments on my blog, I give you the following comment, posted earlier today by someone purporting to be James Walsh, who is RATHER CROSS.  I am starting to have lots of fun with this.

ps I am not taking the post down, and will SEE YOU IN COURT if you are so minded. The original has already been on Facebook and Twitter, and this will be too. love and kisses jg.

Dear Jane,

Some serious allegations you make here – I trust you are able to substantiate one or two of them in a Court of Law?

I happen to be the James Walsh you refer to as a “nasty piece of work….who goes in for dog-whistle homophobic campaigns elsewhere” and this description of my character and previous activities came as a most unpleasant surprise to me.

I’m no lawyer but, in this one sentence, I believe you have both defamed my good character and damaged my chances of receiving an unbiased hearing at the forthcoming Labour Party Parliamentary hustings. Pretty serious stuff, I’m sure you would agree.

The recent addition of a comment by “Anonymous” is further evidence that your libel has damaged my reputation.

I take this matter extremely seriously and, as such, will be seeking legal advice on how best to proceed this morning. In the meantime, I suggest you think carefully before you post your scribblings on this blog in future and consider the effect your postings have on innocent people. I am by no means a wallflower, but your description of me and my work is extremely upsetting and completely unjust.

In the meantime, you might like to consider the following two actions:

1) Substantiate your claim that I am a “nasty piece of work” publicly with evidence. You may wish to contact Slough Borough Council, Runnymede and Weybridge Labour Party, Hammersmith Labour Party, Westminster North Labour Party, Bracknell Labour Party or Slough Labour Party during your research. I can also point you toward three or four of your former Parliamentary colleagues, including two former Ministers. If you need more sources should the evidence prove thin, I can point you to others from across the public and private sectors.

2) Substantiate your claim that I “go infor dogwhistle homophobic campaigns” with evidence. Again, please contact the above organisations for your evidence. I have also worked for a gay London-based candidate as his election Campaign Manager and I’m sure he will also be able to help - though perhaps not in the way that you now need.

As I said, I will be taking legal advice regarding this extremely damaging libel. I have taken screen-grabs of the offending piece and these shall be submitted as evidence.

James Walsh
8 November 2012 12:19

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Reading Labour selections

What is below is an edited version of a briefing I received from a well-placed political source.  Just sayin'...

The Reading West selection is between Groulef and Debbie Watson in a sort of New vs. Old Labour way (which seems curiously antiquated). Tony Jones is bigging up Richard Davies for East.  East is, according to a "local source", all about the local candidates but West is Labour's priority. (This is no surprise. Ed.) Davies is heavily backed by the 'young' Labour crowd - the new people that have appeared such as Duncan Bruce, who were all over Matt Rodda in 2011 but had ditched him by this year.    Page has been spotted lurking around Rodda but not Woodward.  James Walsh is a nasty piece of work who goes in for dog-whistle homophobic campaigns elsewhere.  But he won't get it.

Monday, 5 November 2012

a little cultural moment and some smiles

I have been taking photographs, headshots, of the congregation of the church I go to, to make a gallery for the benefit of us all.  Just a little project of my own.  The congregation is British, a lot of them international civil servants like me, and it is also African, a lot of them Nigerian, there are some French, some Pakistani Christians, who are anglophone, a few north Americans (including the priest in charge, who is Canadian of Armenian descent) and some Malgache (from Madagascar), who are francophone.  I have noticed some little cultural differences in people's responses to being asked if I can take their picture.  They are broadly these:
African men do not demur from being photographed, and smile broadly and openly for the camera.  African women do too.  Though every one of the African women, no exceptions, has asked me to show them the picture on my camera as soon as I have taken it.  No-one else has asked.  British men, without exception, make a jocular remark of some kind "Are you getting my best side?" that kind of thing.  British women, without exception and regardless of age, are self-deprecating, "I'm not photogenic". "My hair's bad today", that sort of thing.  None of the Africans, or the French, or the north Americans, says anything like that.  North Americans and French are not very likely to smile in photographs.  The British do, and the Africans do.  I have yet to take any pictures of Malgache people.  Will let you know if there are issues.

Friday, 2 November 2012

who volunteers abroad?

this piece from matador (where I had not looked before,and it is interesting), titled "Only WEIRD people volunteer abroad" took my eye this morning.  Hat-tip Andrew Wilson for putting up a link to it.  It is American, and it cites some research which shows, not very surprisingly, that the vast majority of Americans who volunteer outside the US are white and have a bachelor's degree and a family income above the average.  How else would they have the luxury of being able to do it in the first place?  Of course huge numbers of people, probably most people everywhere, volunteer in some way.  And a lot of those people are poor, and black.  Think of women in ppor neighbourhoods who do unpaid work for their church, or who look after neighbours' children on occasion.  Think, come to that, of people who feed  their neighbour's cat while the neighbours are away.  Volunteering is something most people are willing to do.  Those who reject the very idea, and who are firm in the belief that they will do nothing they do not get paid for, are most likely deluding themselves, but in any case tend to give the impression to others that they are narrow, life-hating and misanthropic.

Anyway, back to the piece, which I recommend you read, and click through some of the links too.  Nowhere that I could see does it stand up the notion that those who volunteer (it is really talking about relatively privileged young people from north America who go and do volunteer work in Africa or similar) are actually weird.  What it does indicate, backed up by research, is that large numbers of them believe that they are useful to the communities in which they volunteer, because they are better at what they do than a local person would be.  That surprised me a bit.  My American niece (OK, her parents are British-born) volunteered with the Peace Corps in Togo several years ago, and was very clear that for her this was going to be a learning experience.  She had never set foot in Africa before that.  She would learn, and if she could be helpful while doing so all to the good.  She took French classes before going there, and remains fluent in French.  My British niece volunteered in Tanzania at a slightly younger age, and for similar reasons and with similar objectives.  Tanzania is anglophone, so she had less need of prior language classes.  I don't believe either of them thought they could do local things better than locals could.  Perhaps it is normal for Americans to think so, as the research behind this piece indicates. Maybe that is what is intended to be understood as weird about those people - that they would think they could run an African clinic better than an African could.  But hey, maybe they are right.  Maybe it is wrong to assume that because someone is local they will be good at running a clinic, or teaching children, or whatever.  Still less that they will be better at it than a non-local because of their origins or ethnicity.  Maybe the wrong question is being asked, or answered.

What struck me here too was the testimony of an American who volunteered in Italy, I think it was earthquake relief.  She sounded scandalised that an acquaintance had been turned down for volunteering for earthquake relief in Japan because they could not speak Japanese.  She herself had gone to Italy speaking no Italian, and described the language barrier as a personal difficulty for her, rather than as a difficulty for the local colleagues she was working with, which it undoubtedly was.  If someone had come to work with her int he US with no English she would have treated it as a personal difficulty for herself, no?  Why did she not take an intensive course in Italian before going there?  Bizarre.  Did no-one suggest it to her? Perhaps readers of a north American persuasion can confirm (or deny) that north Americans really do refuse to learn the language of a place they are intending to spend some time in.

Personally, I have my doubts.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

why oh why?

what's the connection?
plenty of bandwagon jumping has been going on, we are told.  First there was a memorial ceremony in Reading for LibDem former mayor Jim Day - I remember him as Not Safe In Taxis, as they used to say - which, inexplicably, Mr Salter attended, making a speech about himself, which was described by one who was there as "totally inappropriate".  Why was Mr S there?  He was MP for Reading West, which includes the Tilehurst area represented by Jim Day for many years.  OK.  But Mr S spent almost all his time as MP prancing about and doing photocalls in Reading East.  And for quite a lot of Jim Day's time the MP for Reading West was Sir Anthony Durant.  Is Sir Anthony still alive?  If so was he there?  If not why not?  Mr S has form on this.  When a person who has or has had prominence in Reading political life dies Mr S forces himself on the family, pestering the grieving relatives until they give in and let him speechify about himself at the obsequies.  He's even done it to the families of murder victims. Jim Day was mayor, there must have been some civic input into the memorial, so why was Mr S allowed to take it over like this?

The picture, from His Master's Voice, shows an event held (now we're getting back to normal) in Reading East, at the Pakistan Community Centre, at which a German former journalist was promoting her book about her conversion to Islam.  It might well have been an interesting event.  You can see though from the picture that Mr S is not pictured with the author, meaning that he was not directly associated with the event, but he was present there (you can see the publicity behind him) promoting something quite different.  So why was Mr S at this event?  Was the Reading East MP invited to this event in his constituency?  If not why not?

Mr S is promoting a "big get-well card" for Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taleban for speaking out for education for girls.  A bit late to support her now, after she has been shot.  Mr S has visited Pakistan, once to my knowledge, in the company of, and as the guest of, male dignitaries of Pakistani origin from Reading.  Nowhere around that visit did he speak out for girls' education or against the Taleban.  Quite to the contrary, he gave a platform to known Taleban supporters who said they would not let their daughters go to school. And of course we all know that back in the day he marched with the book-burners of The Satanic Verses.  There were informal groupings in Parliament on these matters in my time there, including one which raised money and awareness for girls' education in Afghanistan.  I belonged to this group and donated to a girls' school in Afghanistan.  Mr Salter did not. I currently help to support five children in Pakistan, contributing so that they can attend a school which educates both boys and girls, together.  Does Mr Salter do any of these things?  He did not in his time in Parliament, and had nothing to say on the subject.  So why is he promoting this now?

Why?  Mr Salter has only ever promoted anything, or publicly supported any cause, if he sees it as in his own interest.  The Angling Trust, which Mr S told us loudly a while ago that he was now organising, has gone rather quiet, and it has been weeks since we have seen any pictures of Mr Salter gurning at parliamentary receptions on their behalf.  So I imagine he has moved on to other things.  The question is what?  I thought an elected mayor of Reading had bitten the dust as a notion.  But maybe not.  And maybe he just needs a job.  I remember him saiying, as if it were something profound he had only just thought of, "there's nothing so ex as an ex-MP".

Why?  Not only why is he doing this but why, apart from the usual obligations His Master's Voice has to copy out everything Mr Salter sends them, is his appearance being publicised in this way?  I only ask.

Monday, 29 October 2012

about as pure as a cribhouse whore

people put links up on blogs, Twitter, wherever, and write things like "This is interesting", and I think, "I'll read that in a bit",  And then I don't get round to it, and Twitter has moved on to other topics.  So here I'm reproducing a post from Language Log  about English - which is the language correcting which I make my living (see what I did there?).  Thanks to all.  I think all the correct hat-tips are in there.
Kory Stamper at harm·less drudg·ery responds to a correspondent who is sincerely troubled by the illogic of irregardless ("No Logic in 'Etymological': A Response I Actually Sent",  10/24/2012):
English is a little bit like a child. We love and nurture it into being, and once it gains gross motor skills, it starts going exactly where we don’t want it to go: it heads right for the goddamned light sockets. We put it in nice clothes and tell it to make friends, and it comes home covered in mud, with its underwear on its head and someone else’s socks on its feet. We ask it to clean up or to take out the garbage, and instead it hollers at us that we don’t run its life, man. Then it stomps off to its room to listen to The Smiths in the dark.
Everything we’ve done to and for English is for its own good, we tell it (angrily, as it slouches in its chair and writes “irregardless” all over itself in ballpoint pen). This is to help you grow into a language people will respect! Are you listening to me? Why aren’t you listening to me??
Like  well-adjusted children eventually do, English lives its own life. We can tell it to clean itself up and act more like one of the Classical languages (I bet Latindoesn’t sneak German in through its bedroom window, does it?). We can threaten, cajole, wheedle, beg, yell, throw tantrums, and start learning French instead. But no matter what we do, we will never really be the boss of it. And that, frankly, is what makes it so beautiful.
Of course, language peevers' claims about logic, etymological or otherwise, are oftenillogical. And peeving is often more like adolescent arrogance than adult wisdom. But Kory's presentation of the "language as a wayward child" metaphor is still an instant classic, rivaling James D. Nicoll's 1990 "English as inveterate lexical criminal" metaphor:
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
[via John McIntyre at You Don't Say]

Saturday, 27 October 2012

two girls

those two girls
this picture has gone everywhere in the last couple of days, and I think it's great.  I especially love some of the faces in the background.   This happened in France, at a rally against equal marriage, and the two girls, age 17 and 19, happened to be walking by.  I've just seen them interviewed on TV. They did it to make a gesture, they said, because they thought the people at the rally were motivated by hate, and they wanted to do something that was the opposite of hate.  They're not lesbian, not  that that matters here.  They were roundly abused by people attending the rally, they said, and called disgusting, and worse.  I love them.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Savile, the stars, and young flesh

Plenty has been said about the late Jimmy Savile, the BBC and who knew what when.  Much hypocrisy has been engaged in.  But it's really quite simple.  Savile liked young flesh, when he could get it.  Anyone who knew him personally knew that.  I worked at the BBC from 1984 to 1997, nowhere near the Jim'll Fix It studios, ,and I heard the rumours.  I heard that there always had to be a chaperone present when Savile and girls in their early teens were in the studio.  Well, shouldn't there always have been?  I modelled a bit when I was a child, and there was always a chaperone there.  My son acted and modelled as a child, and there was always a chaperone there.  The chaperones had to be there because everyone knew what men might do to children who had no-one there to protect them. Savile cultivated an utterly eccentric image and bawled his catchphrases so that nobody could see his real face.  It's that simple.

Savile wasn't a paedophile.  No more was Wilfrid Brambell, who was known to be similarly inclined (and who cultivated the image of a leering, dirty old man because - that was what he was.  Clever.)  Those two just liked them young.  Young, but post puberty.  Gary Glitter, now, I think he likes them younger than that.  He went to South-East Asia, where the girls look younger than they do in the West, and where puberty happens later.  And he emerged on to the scene a bit later, when there was less tolerance of such behaviour, so he is now disgraced, as Savile and Brambell were not in their lifetimes. Jonathan King, of course, did not get away with it.  He went to prison in 2001.  But he liked boys, not girls.

I was a teenager from 1967 to 1974.  I was groped, fondled and molested many times.  It happened routinely.  A friend of  your father's giving you a lift home, a man on a bus, a hand up your skirt in a crowded place, nothing out of the ordinary there. I didn't like it, but I learned to deal with it, and I don't consider myself to have been abused. It didn't happen to me so much after I was about 15 - I looked more like a grown woman by then.  And besides, I was going out with boys by then.  Which was a whole other minefield.  You had to let them do enough so you weren't a prick-tease, and not enough to get you called easy.  How glad I am those days are (more or less) gone.  My daughter has been able to have easy friendships with boys in a way that I rarely could back then.  If you were friendly with a boy people assumed it was sexual.  Not any more.

So, that was the culture.  Savile got away with it because men in positions of power could.  Savile protected himself by focusing on young girls who were vulnerable, who did not have parents around protecting them.  The BBC isn't particularly at fault here.  It's wrong to single it out when everywhere was the same.  All that has happened is that conduct like this is now disapproved of.  Rightly.  To prey upon young girls who are not yet used to their own sexuality, who are susceptible, as all young girls are, to flattery and being told they are attractive, is despicable.  But when men could routinely get away with it, they did it.  Not just TV stars  Not just Jimmy Savile.  Ordinary men everywhere.  Men like your dad, behaving despicably.  And the girls, if they got more than a passing grope, were silly little sluts who deserved what they got.

Young flesh is still a commodity, around the world.  It shouldn't be, but it is.

I would only say that preying upon young girls is not paedophilia.  Abusing children is different from, and worse than, what Savile did.  And there is a danger, in this situation in which the BBC is tying itself in knots, of forgetting that.  Human sexuality is not simple.  But knowing what is right and what is wrong is simple.  Though never easy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

hair shirts are being worn, it seems

you can read here some tut-tuttery about MPs travelling first class.  Apparently, these days they shouldn't.  Or only if it is cheaper than standard class.  Which of course it can be, sometimes.  Sig other and I benefited from first class travel from Derbyshire to London in September while on holiday, because we booked well in advance.  When I was an MP I always travelled first class between London and the constituency in Reading, a short journey, because I could.  We had travel warrants to use for that purpose.  My journey was more civilised that way, not because of the quieter carriages and more comfortable seats, but because people knew my face and buttonholed me on a regular basis.  Seems to me that MPs could be organised, book in advance and pay the upgrade themselves to go first class.  I would.  But leave the tut-tuttery.  Those journos get expenses (and fiddle them on a regular basis) and would hate it if anyone looked at that.  There were, and may still be, expenses fiddles which are far worse, and more expensive to the taxpayer, than first class travel.  Such as Mr Salter claiming 1000 pounds a month between 1997 and 2001 for rent on a London property he did not have.  Which is criminal fraud.