Monday, 30 January 2017

Forbidden love in Ireland

In the last days of August 1961 I was conceived in forbidden love. In Ireland.

Patience Cooke was 21, "An intelligent and vivacious young woman who is fond of music, reading and all outdoor activities" has returned to Newtownforbes, Co. Longford to nurse her grandmother through serious illness. She had left for London "as soon as she was old enough" several years earlier and joined the Queen Alexandria Nursing Corps. and spent three years abroad. She is "about 5'2" tall with light brown hair with reddish tints" and has "a lovely Irish complexion and blue eyes". And is a Protestant.

Thomas O'Malley is 24. He "left school at the age of eighteen" and is working on his father's farm. He is "tall and well built with blonde hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes". And is a Roman Catholic.

The two had known each other all their lives.

For reasons that are perfectly clear to me, during that summer "they went about together".

Patience's grandmother recovered and in the autumn she returned to London to resume nursing, unaware that another journey had begun.

She was safely delivered of me on the last day of May in the following year.

Circumstances, and there were many,
heart-wrenchingly many, left me at the Coram Foundation from where I was adopted by Mum and Dad on 11 December 1962. Deo Gracias.

In the last days of January 2017 I returned to Ireland for the first time to celebrate another forbidden love.

We celebrated the marriage of  Billy M Desmond Esq and Dr J. Bernard Lynch.

Billy is a Gentleman and Bernard is a priest.

Just pause for a moment. Say nothing.

Wonder though, as I do, how different things are for Gentlemen, Protestants and Priests, (and even Roman Catholics), since that happy day in 1961.

Every thing in quotes, is documented by the Coram Foundation. To whom, my heartfelt thanks.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

On returning from Istanbul

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not "my" problem. In much the same way, Donald J Trump is not "my" problem. Marine Le Pen is not "my" problem and since Saturday Yahya Jammeh is certainly not "my" problem. Even Vladimir Putin is not "my problem".

(Theresa May is my problem of course, but she's doing far more than I ever could to ensure her place as a footnote in history and I'm inclined to leave her to it. As long as I'm an active trade unionist, member of an opposition party, registered voter and occasional blogger then I'm confident the old "hoisting and petard" maxim will come into play.)

As a human being of the white, male, European, housed and well fed kind I am personally well protected against the sort of nonsense deluded, quasi-religious, narcissistic demagogues spout and the harm they can do.

Not immune, but well protected.

Erdogan though. Because I have friendships, attachments and obligations in Istanbul he gets to me more than the others.

Returning this afternoon two things from my latest visit stay with me.

First, I learnt, with sadness, that late last year formal prayers were said in Aya Sophia for the first time since 1935.

Before you shout and scream at me, some context.

Built as a Christian site of worship, this astounding building later served as a mosque.

(Those sixteen words sum up several centuries of wars, empires and carryings on which could, and do, fill several libraries across the globe btw.)

In 1935, the building was nationalised and became a museum and if you will, a temple to the secular nature of the Turkish state. And a very fine museum it is too. The Viking graffitti is great.

However, last year "in retaliation", for Pope Francis' acknowledgment of the Armenian Massacre, Muslim prayers were said there for the first time in seventy years.

Yup, that's right.  Prayers, as retaliation.  Not good.

To be honest, the cat didn't seem bothered but....

The second thing was conversation with liberal, educated, secular friends who are looking for ways out.

People with good jobs, incomes and lives rooted in Istanbul who had never imagined they would leave.

One of them said to me "People in Istanbul are scared to have sex".

(Turkey is one of the few countries in the world where homosexuality has never been proscribed by law btw, and the person who said this is married with a baby. This is not a "gay" thing.)

All of which of course distresses but definitely does not deter me.

If I can help, with the aforementioned protections, (and a British passport) to look after, if not the whole of Constantinople, then at least my friend's guest house for the duration of the present troubles, then I shall.

It's lovely.  Please come too. It really is safe. For us.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sumptuous Framing

I've recently been enjoying Elton's photograph collection that he and David have graciously lent to the Tate for a brief moment in time.

I commend them to you all.

Today, on I think my third or fourth visit, I noticed for the first time, the curatorial note displayed as you enter the exhibition,

"All photographs are displayed in the frames they are displayed in at the home of Sir Elton John and David Furnish".

I like a bit of gilt as much as the next man.

But a curatorial apology?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


A very encouraging afternoon. My appointment as workplace rep for Unite was recently confirmed. In order to introduce myself, and encourage more reps, myself and one of the full time regional officers visited the Mind Head Office in Stratford this afternoon.

We spoke I think, to every member of staff who was at their desk. And we had a fantastic reception from members and non-members alike. I was a little hesitant, uncertain as to whether quite everybody shares my sense of solidarity with comrades in the tube unions but the support was solid.

On a day when mental health is again headline news, when the consequences of "austerity"  within the NHS are writ large it is encouraging to see the management and workforce at a major organisation such as Mind clearly understanding and supporting wide spread trade union membership.

Working where we do, where we enjoy better T and C's than many, it is important that we, as members of the largest trade union in the U.K. stand in solidarity, through our membership, with members in workplaces far less conducive to health and well being, as well as supporting and representing our colleagues.

If you're reading this and are not a member of a union, why not?