Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Bigots never won fair maids. Calling people bigots won even fewer.

Gordon Brown calling this woman a bigot in 2010 played no small part in landing us with what Norman Tebbit recently characterised as a 'dog of a coalition'.

And now Stonewall are in financial bother for the same thing.

Barclays are threatening to withdraw their sponsorship from Stonewall's annual awards ceremony this year if the award for 'Bigot of the Year'  is not withdrawn.

Apart from the very poor shortlist, that particlar award has probably run its course.

Would it be ever so radical to suggest we stopped the name calling, figured out that Barclays do far more harm than the odd dotty cleric and grew up a bit?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Loveliest of trees the cherries now

Loveliest of trees the cherry now...

And they were lovely. Insofar as I ever grew up, I did so in this street; only we called it a "road", Bower Road, Hale, Cheshire.

My first paid job was as Head Chorister in the church you see in the far distance and my second, was delivering milk, from the float you also see.

However, there was a dark side.

At the back of the house, my french penpal, who we learned to call Freddie, kept my sister captive in a cage, with a rabbit.

I forget for how long but I'm told she is now free.

I forget the rabbits name.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

An eye opener

I first moved to Tower Hamlets in 1979 when I was seventeen. I've lived elsewhere since.  I have tried rural Cambridgeshire, monastic life in France and Hell's Kitchen in New York, and at least a dozen places in between. I enjoyed them all but time and time again I have returned to Tower Hamlets.

I often ask myself why.

This evening I gained some insight.

An extraordinary exhibition of photographs by the likes of Andrew Grainger, Abdul Hamid, and several others, who were either not born or elsewhere when I arrived, has captured the spirit of this amazing place.

As Abdul Hamid says : "I like to draw links between words and pictures to create small stories that people can read into."

I urge you. Go see the pictures. Talk to the people who created them. And wherever you live, learn how to root yourself as they have done.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Half a lifetime ago

Half a lifetime ago my best friend and I resolved, that whatever else was happening in our lives, we would have dinner together on the third Saturday of October.

We have just done that for the twenty fourth time.

There is no appropriate photograph to accompany such an event. So here is one of me picking my nose when I was eight.

Monday, 15 October 2012

What did you do in the storm Daddy?

A quarter of a century ago tonight the great storm swept across southern England. Many of us have our memories and as much as anything it behoves us to remember the twenty two people who died that night.

I have my own particular memory. It was that night, with spectacularly bad timing, that I left the Franciscan community in which I was a novice. I had fallen in love with the Bursar and we had chosen that night to depart.

We borrowed a car and drove from the Friary in Dorset to friends in rural Kent. We were an hour or so ahead of the centre of the storm but it was certainly wet and windy.  I was still driving on a Provisional Licence with ‘L’ plates. As with so many momentous occasions in life it is hard at this distance to distinguish between fact and reconstruction, but I do recall the Magic Roundabout in Swindon being an interesting learning experience.

We arrived at Chiddingstone vicarage in the early hours of the next morning and went to bed.

When we awoke the next morning any thought of rest and recuperation or the chance to reflect on what we had done was banished.  All roads to the village were blocked by fallen trees, the vicarage garden resembled a Canadian logging station.  Genuine care and concern was proffered by our friends for as long as breakfast lasted and then we were handed chain saws. We chopped and sawed and carried fallen trees for three days.  No time for navel gazing and that was a jolly good thing.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Luncheon, censorship and pillow biting

I shall lunch at the National Liberal Club tomorrow.

It is a fine place and supposedly where, in the 1970's, Norman Scott found himself biting the pillow whilst being buggered by Jeremy Thorpe. I understand such dastardly allegations were never proven in court so I should be a little bit careful. But. (Anyone under 45 may need to engage with the internet to discover that the Liberal Party did, once upon a time, mean something more than " I agree with Nick".)

At the time, my Great Aunt Catherine had forthright views on buggery. She once memorably shared them with the room. Me being a teenager, she believed me to be asleep. I wasn't. That's another story.

I shall lunch  tomorrow to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of a little recognised but important milestone in our struggle to challenge such views.

In 1992 a book was commissioned by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). It was a book to aid those of us, not only afflicted by Christianity but by a homosexual identity also.

At the last minute, under pressure from George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury (and lately a star turn in Birmingham) the book was banned by SPCK.

A to do and hoo ha ensued. Placards and battle lines were drawn. Trouble occurred. But, two decades ago - the book was  published by people with more courage

Raise a glass with me tomorrow to the people, not least Dr Elizabeth Stuart, who made it all happen.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The next Berlusconi?

Anyone who stands for election on a ticket called "Dream" should be distrusted.

Anyone who seeks to govern a country with a GDP less than half his personal wealth should be distrusted.

This man is to be distrusted.

However, within a year, and probably sooner, he will have total control of a country I visited earlier this year and where I left a little bit of my heart.

Some decades ago I pissed off people who knew better than I, by asserting that the election of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe would not end well.

The election of Bidzina Ivanishvilli in Georgia will not end well.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Wigtown Book Festival

Coming down from a week on the Galloway moors I was lucky enough  to spend an afternoon at the Wigtown Book Festival.

I attended a discussion on the legacy of Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring' published fifty years ago and held by many to have heralded what we now call the 'Green Movement'.

The Wigtown Festival is very special. It is small, intimate and hospitable to both participants and audience in equal measure, in ways larger festivals simply cannot be.

It runs until the end of the week. Too late for this year? Then do give serious consideration to next.  It's a doddle to get to if you live in south-west Scotland. If you are unfortunate enough to live elsewhere, then it and its surroundings, will more than reward whatever effort you need make to get there.

I'll see you in the bar of the Bladnoch Inn.