31 Aug

Is the faux-estuarine seer here?

The brilliant faux-estuarine seer Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser came on Thought for the Day for our further enlightenment. Of such incandescence was his thought that the wireless was briefly on fire. He started by talking about the Notting Hill Carnival – that annual celebration of druggery and thuggery before which honest men board up their shops against the looters and at which  the police traditionally ignore gross acts of violence and the ingesting of illegal substances – out of respect for diversity and our multicultural utopia

Come to think of it, the carnival is mono- rather than multi- and the word culture is inappropriate here unless, I suppose, we are using it according to the usage of the pathology lab..

But the BBC’s in house semi-sacerdotal Trot went on to discover a far more profound meaning of carnival. After much ferretting around in the archives of the bleedin’ obvious, the seer took us back to the carnivals of the Middle Ages, to the Feast of Fools, the Festival of the Boy Bishop and the Lord of Misrule. Gratuitously, and out of the copious resources of his unsearchable understanding, Dr Fraser informed us that these were high days when the usual hierarchies were turned on their heads, the lowly were exalted for a day or a weekend and the high and mighty were put down.

The seer thought that this was a jolly good thing and that we could all – especially the church – do with a lot more of this role-reversal.

What he failed to notice, however, is that the reason we don’t keep these feasts of social inversion, insubordination, rudeness and ubiquitous oikishness as special days in our calendar is because our society, and particularly the church, is now like that all the time.

Perhaps, Dr Fraser, the Church of England and the rest of the nation might actually invert the inversion and, for just a couple of days in the year – it would be impossible to do it all the time of course – be serious, dignified, noble, reverent, God-fearing and proper?

By the way, I wonder if, when he becomes leader of our great nation and inaugurates misrule as a fundamental principle of society, Jeremy Corbyn will appoint the faux- estuarine seer as his chaplain?

20 Jul

Just a little point, Ms Klein…

Something has gone very wonky with the BBC Promenade Concerts series. These summer concerts used to consist entirely of music, but now they contain material which is hostile to music..

For example, this summer when you tune-in to the Proms, you might find you’re hearing “The Ibiza dance party” presented by the “disc-jockey” Pete Tong. This is billed as “a musical homage to Ibiza, home to hedonistic dance clubs for twenty-five years or more.” If that is not quite to your taste, you can catch a RadioIXtra Prom programmed by the BBC’s “urban music station” and featuring the “rappers” Wretch 32, Stormzy and Krept & Konan in “a grime symphony.”

I suggest that this programming amounts to false pretences. The Proms, since their founding by Henry Wood in 1895, were always meant to provide musical excellence in a variety of styles – from Monteverdi to Anton Webern – but to exclude stuff which isn’t music at all.

You are perhaps offended by my outrageous elitism? Certainly, Suzy Klein, a presenter on Radio Three, disapproves of me. She says, “Classical music listeners who criticise the diverse line-up are self-elected snobs and scaremongers.”

I own up: I am an elitist – because I’d rather be an elitist than a mediocratist.

It is said – nay, bleated – “everyone has a right to their (sic) own taste.” Indeed they have. But that does not mean that everyone’s taste is as good as everyone else’s. As there is literature, to be contrasted with pulp fiction, so there are standards in music: and it is precisely the great composers who determine what these standards are.

Ms Klein adds, “Fondness for classical and grime genres is not mutually exclusive. I love dancing to an addictive club anthem as much as I adore listening in the stillness of a concert hall to a Brahms symphony.”

With the utmost respect, Ms Klein, that is not the point. Of course it is logically – though not, of course, aesthetically and critically – possible to enjoy both Brahms and “an addictive club anthem.” But we do not look for these things in the same place.

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone?

The fact is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of radio and TV stations which provide pop and rock music 24/7. The rubbish is inescapable. Every TV documentary, every sports programme, every Hollywood movie, is stuffed full of it. Why is it too much to ask that music lovers should be allowed one sane repository – Radio Three in general and the Proms in particular – which remains free from this noise?

Ms Klein says that, because she likes both Brahms and “an addictive club anthem,” that it’s acceptable to feature them both in the same concert series.

No it isn’t. I’ll tell you what, Suzy, you wouldn’t ever get that the other way round: I mean, you’re never going to hear a Brahms symphony on a rock music station.

So, if there are indeed “self-elected snobs and scaremongers,” there are also self-elected oiks and philistines.

Filth is everywhere.

19 Jul

In yer face

O dear God, what are we coming to?

A near relative of Don Lock, stabbed to death after a minor traffic accident in Sussex, came on Radio Four to give thanks for that “We have been completely inundated. People have tweeted to say that they’ve replaced their own image on their Facebook page with that of Don.”

And have we come to this? I thought we’d reached the bottom when expressions of grief and sympathy at the time of the death of the People’s Princess in 1997 chiefly consisted in the bestowing of more flowers than you’d need for the Chelsea Festival in front of Kensington Palace. And more than half the population glued to images of funerals on TV, relieved only by the sight of hundreds of gross sentimentalists running out into the street to throw teddy bears at passing hearses.

But that was restraint compared with what we have today.

We inhabit a gadgeteered, narcissistic, sentimental bedlam. Institutionalised me-ism. The word selfie says it all. I recall Dr Johnson saying of a particularly odious contemporary: “That man would roll in the gutter – if only someone would look at him.”

Nowadays, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor, we roll in the gutter at the drop of a hat. 

People replacing their own mugshot on Facebook with that of a deceased person they never met? That cannot possibly be sincere. 

In better days, if we were informed of the untimely death of an acquaintance – never mind a perfect stranger – we would quietly express sympathy and perhaps say a prayer for the repose of the departed soul. The words decency and in order come to mind. Now we do something akin to setting up a gaudy advert – the electronic equivalent of shouting one’s virtue from the rooftops.

It was the Scribes and Pharisees, lovers of such outward show, who came in for Jesus’ severest condemnation: “Be not ye like unto them.”

And that close relative, why did he feel the urge to give a press conference, as if he were a chamberlain in the royal household bringing news of the death of the prince? Grief and bereavement used to encourage us to withdraw, to reflect and above all to be silent. Again the word respect comes to mind.

A death should be mourned, not tweeted.

We have lost all rational use of the word private.

How much further into this vulgar process of electronic abstraction do we have to go before we shall no longer speak to one another as we used to speak in the street, but only the gadgets will do our talking for us?

The Greek drama provided that the most tragic scenes should take place offstage. The word they used for this was obscene

If even parts of the Greek tragedies were regarded as obscene, what words are left to describe our universal mawkish obsession with the gadgets?  

18 Jul

Princess Elizabeth and the Hitlerjugend

Was the Queen a member of the Hitler Youth when she was Princess Elizabeth, aged six?

You might be led to think so if you turn to the seven pages dedicated by The Sun – sister paper to The Times’ – to showing the young princess making the Nazi salute. I don’t think so. The princess, with her sister Margaret and her mother Queen Elizabeth, were clearly egged on by Uncle Teddy – the inadequate creep and narcissistic dandy who was soon after to abdicate the Throne and travel with the sybaritic gold-digger Mrs Simpson to be photographed giving help and comfort to Adolf in Berlin.

The year was 1933, when Hitler came to power. His election victory was on all the front pages and obviously the Nazi salutes were part of an ill-considered party game or charade concocted by the treacherous Prince Edward.

Princess Elizabeth’s attitude towards the Nazis can be inferred from her enthusiastic active service during the Second World War in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) – the women’s branch of the army.

What, apart from bald sensationalism, could have persuaded The Times’ sister paper to make a song and dance out of this trivial incident eight decades old?

A nasty streak of republicanism, that’s what. There is plenty of anti-monarchy stuff in the British press, amounting to a colossal gesture of ingratitude for the unsurpassed devotion to her people and country which the Queen has demonstrated  throughout her life.

If the toads and snides in the Murdoch organisation are looking for the hint of treachery, they are looking in the wrong place. But I can tell them where to look.

In the 1930s the traitors were the whole British political class and establishment; every political party supported the appeasing of Hitler who was given a free hand to take what he wanted in Europe.

There was one man, with a very few colleagues and friends, who saw that  that toadying to Hitler would not bring peace but catastrophe.

If you’re looking for signs of treachery in 1930s Britain, don’t pick on a child’s silly charade.

The very emblem and image of treachery was that picture of Neville Chamberlain waving his piece of paper, while foolishly proclaiming “Peace for our time!”

04 Jul

The sage Russell Brand

I can’t promise to do every day what I am about to do but, just for once, let me be the bringer of glad tidings. The philosopher, sage, seer and political genius and all round offensive loudmouth creep Russell Brand has declared he is off to Syria. I’m sorry I am not able to bring you the further good news that he won’t be coming back.

His Syrian expedition raises a serious question: can we afford to lose this man who works so hard to add to the nation’s merriment?

Brand alleges that the British government is using Islamic State, as an excuse to impose terror measure on the “domestic population.”

He adds: “The threat of IS is conceptual and abstract, unless you’re in Syria.” That sentence is inane even by Brand’s high standards of hyperbole. How about the thousands massacred by IS in Mosul, those slaughtered in the Kuwait mosque last week or the people murdered on the beach in Tunisia? Incidentally, Brand says the one minute silence for the British people killed in Tunisia was “bullshit.” 

He says the threat from IS is only conceptual but “the threat of David Cameron is real.”  

He says British attitudes towards Muslim youth are to blame for all the young men and women leaving the UK to join IS.

“What frame of mind would I have to be in to leave my house in f***ing East London and say, ‘Right, I’m going to the desert to kill some people?” 

Happily, I can answer that question. The state of mind that persuades young Muslim men to become murderers for IS is psychopathic fantasy – just as the corresponding state of mind in Muslim girls who go off to be sex slaves is wishful thinking. Wait until these lasses get there and see how they’re treated by their gallant “husbands”!

This is the Russell brand who said, “I like threesomes with two women, not because I’m a cynical sexual predator. Oh no! But because I’m a romantic. I’m looking for ‘The One.’ And I’ll find her more quickly if I audition two at a time.”

Why stop there Russ? Become a Muslim and you can have four.

Oh dear, if he goes to Syria we shall lose the spiritual teacher who said, “Say I feel all sad and self-indulgent, then get stung by a wasp, my misery feels quite abstract and I long just to be in spiritual pain once more – damn you tiny assassin, clad in yellow and black, how I crave my former innocence where melancholy was my only trial.”

He’s a student of human psychology as well: “The most insightful thing I ever heard, was overheard. I was waiting for a rail replacement bus in Hackney Wick. These two old women weren’t even talking to me – not because I’d offended them, I hadn’t, I’d been angelic at that bus stop, except for the eavesdropping. Rail replacement buses take an eternity, because they think they’re doing you a favour by covering for the absent train, you’ve no recourse. Eventually the bus appeared, on the distant horizon, and one of the women, with the relief and disbelief that often accompanies the arrival of public transport said, ‘Oh look, the bus is coming.’ The other woman – a wise woman, seemingly aware that her words and attitude were potent and poetic enough to form the final sentence in a stranger’s book – paused, then said, ‘The bus was always coming’.”

Let him go – this Brand is well past his sell-by date.

But before he goes off to kill or be killed – or both – let me quote his one saying which will be a true prophecy once he signs up to IS:

“Life is not a theme park, but if it is, the theme is death.”

15 Mar

An every day story of psychopaths

The newspapers and TV continue their obsession with the three “vulnerable,” “straight A” Muslim girls who, on the proceeds of jewellery they stole from their parents, went off to Syria to join the enthusiastic representatives of the religion of peace and love. I hope this media obsession continues: we could have a new alternative soap opera on our hands here, even more exciting than The Archers whose writers and producers – though they are pretty good at producing lurid plot lines – have not yet got around to burning the village church in Ambridge or beheading the Rural Dean of Borchester.

The three “vulnerable” young ladies are now well set up in Raqqa where they live in houses confiscated from members of the local population. Here they await the arrival of their husbands-to-be, blood-soaked psychopaths of Islamic State. I do hope that, courtesy of continued co-operation between the IS website and the British Press, we get to see the arrival of these handsome young men and that there will be video footage of the weddings: the jihadi grooms in their fetching black masks and their brides smiling effulgently  – we imagine  – under their Halloween costumes.

It won’t be long before the children come along. In the nature of the case, we shall not of course see videos of their Christenings or Bar Mitzvas, but it is to be hoped that we might be let in to the boy children’s instruction in general misogyny and wholesale iconoclasm; and even that we might receive first-hand reports of the girl children’s genital mutilation.

Then at last will come the great day when the whole family goes out on a picnic during which the excited kids get to watch their very first beheading. The older children might even be allowed to participate.

This brilliant new soap opera will require a signature tune, of course: Dum dee dum dee dum dee dum; Dum dee dum dee da da: Smite the kuffars dum dee dum; Allahu dum dee Akbar

18 Feb

Infantilised pedagogy

I can manage only so much spiritual exaltation at a quarter to eight in the morning, so that’s why I needed a second cup of tea before listening to Lucy Winkett deliver her oxymoronically titled Thought for the Day. It began with that infantile pedagogical device, so beloved of the clergy: first, patronise your listeners by finding some item in the news and then stitch on to it a spiritual “message” so that we thickies will understand. Alan Bennett’s spoof sermon on Beyond the Fringe comes to mind with its “Life is like a tin of sardines. You open the tin and consume the sardines therein, but there’s always a little bit left in the corner, isn’t there? is there a little bit in the corner of your life? I know there is in mine.” Although Bennett’s offering was at a rather more elevated intellectual level than Ms Winkett’s contribution.

Back to the infantilised pedagogy then. She began by telling us about the planned expedition to send people to Mars. Those going would require courage and perhaps even a little foolishness, she said. And then she packed the real spiritual punch. Lent is like that trip to Mars. ‘Cos Lent too is a journey – geddit, thickies?

I weep, because this sort of stuff interferes with my attempts to earn a living, part of which I do by writing satirical articles for the newspapers. But, given the likes of Ms Winkett’s sermonettes, satire becomes impossible, for they are living parodies.

Best to stop talking about her then and think for a minute about Lent. This penitential season has become a consumerist gimmick. It features in the same sections of the newspapers that cover dieting and lifestyle. Are we to give up biscuits or booze?

As John McEnroe used to shout, “You cain’t be serious!”

Let us suppose for a minute that Lent is a time for trying to think and learn more about God. I know that sounds bizarre, but I ask you to entertain it, if only for a moment. How might this be attempted? In The Book of Common Prayer, the Psalms – all one hundred and fifty of them – are printed, a few to be said every morning and a few every evening in the month. You could read them each day, before breakfast and before supper. They are a treasure house of rare devotion and the Prayer Book uses Miles Coverdale’s sublime translation. I had a Jewish friend who could read the Psalms in their original Hebrew; but he claimed Coverdale’s version was an improvement – in much the same way that Scott Moncrieff’s translation of Proust is said to be better than Proust himself

So I suggest reading the Psalms. Then you can think about going to Mars – or at least you might eat a biscuit.

But if you must insist on giving something up for Lent, I suggest you give up Thought for the Day

14 Dec

Wimmins’ Freak Show

Dear Ms Garvey,

I have long been a devotee of Woman’s Hour, but something strange and unwelcome has happened to it lately. The programme has plunged into self-parody and turned into something like a satire on wimmin. Yesterday, for example, I caught the last half hour. It began promisingly with an interesting feature about a woman brewery worker who secured promotion for herself by her competence and hard work.

But after this it was all macabre and surreal. We heard form a woman who, thirty years ago, had joined the anti-nuclear protestors at Greenham Common and we learnt how she subsequently left her husband and turned into a lesbian. Well, it takes all sorts, I suppose. What was so disappointing about this item though was the lack of any intelligent examination of the unilateral disarmament supported by the Greenham women. No stray word of criticism or counter-argument was allowed to intrude. The women were spoken of in revered tones, as if they had been saints or goddesses. An intelligent thing to do would have been (at least) to ask the question, “But what if nuclear deterrence prevents world war? After all, the only country ever to have suffered nuclear attack was Japan – which did not possess a bomb of its own.” Instead, we had to endure what sounded like a grisly, sentimental sapphic love-in.

Next there was a trailer for BBC Sports Personality of the Year in which your listeners were urged to vote for a woman. But what if there are women who actually think that the best candidate is Lewis Hamilton, or that golfer whose name I forget? Isn’t it really rather sexist (and insulting) to ask your listeners to vote for a woman as it were a priori and without consideration of merit?

Then came a woman novelist who drank coffee and smoked a lot. She was mildly chided for her love of “the ciggies.” But what made me laugh was her admission that she smoked because she deplored political-correctness – when the whole of the rest of the programme was political-correctness incarnate!

The show ended with an item which had me transfixed in a sort of hypnotised stupefaction: teenage sex – though I hear the approved term is “gender” – change and a Woman’s Hour play about the subject. The extract we heard was so corny and gooey it might have been Kern Loach meets amateur dramatics.

All documentary and magazine shows benefit from the occasional oddity, but when the whole lot is so weird and untypical of what most of us take for ordinary life, then it merely becomes a freak show. And that’s a pity.

All good wishes

Yours sincerely

Rev’d Dr Peter Mullen

08 Oct

The British Caliphate

Now here’s a strange thing: the media are usually obsessed with politics, but they’ve been very quiet ahead of the Clacton by-election to be held tomorrow. Why this odd neglect amounting almost to an aversion? It could be of course that the papers and the BBC are looking to their priorities and they would rather fill more pages and programme hours with their other favourite subjects: celebs and pop music. But really that’s not the reason they have all gone quiet about Clacton. The elephant in the room is Nigel Farage and they’re all pretending he isn’t there

The media hates UKIP

They hate UKIP because that is the one party they cannot manage. There is a sort of pretend rivalry involving Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems and this is played out daily in parliament and in the media rather like a game show. Of course The Guardian supports Labour and the Telegraph thumps the tub for the Tories. And everyone knows the BBC is full of lefties. And so they squabble over the garden wall like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But it’s not a very serious squabble, because the media knows it can rub along very well with the three main parties. For, behind the speeches, the policy documents, the PR and the windy rhetoric on what are alleged to be the main issues concerning the country, all three parties are in broad agreement. All three will have to say something about the deficit. All three will promise additional funding for the NHS. All three will go in for pious utterances about educashion.

And whichever party is in power, nothing will change.

But in Clacton other voices are being heard – or rather not being heard very much, owing to the media’s dislike of what these voices are saying. Actually, the BBC’s neglect of tomorrow’s election is not total. There was one short item on Today this morning – tucked away after the sport and just before Thoughtlessness for the Day. A woman in Clacton said she was concerned about immigration, the way it is out of control. She was articulate and knew whereof she spoke. Out of control immigration, she said, is not a problem of foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs and our benefits. Immigration out of control is, she said, “…about the changed character of our country. There are no go areas now.”

She didn’t mention that other elephant in the room: the elephant that is even bigger than Nigel Farage. Well, she didn’t mention it by name. I will. The elephant is not called Jumbo or Daisy. The elephant is called Islam.

The Clacton woman added, “I’m glad I’ve had my life. And my children – they’re not going to have any children of their own.”

She is right. The character of the country is being changed. There are no go areas. And the Clacton woman is not the only one to have noticed this. Bishop Michael Ali – the only bishop who speaks his mind –  probably the only bishop who has a mind – has said it too.

Where are these no go areas then? Not around Hampstead, The Barbican, Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster where the metropolitical elite – that cosy menage involving the politicians and the media types – live, move and have their being. Not in the sleepy villages in the Home Counties. Not in Upper and Lower Slaughter. Not in Grantchester where our posh new TV vicar lives.

Try Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Stepney, Leicester, Bradford, Dewsbury, Batley, Oldham, Rochdale, Blackburn, Accrington and some suburbs in all our major cities. Here, and in many other places like them, is where you will find the no go areas. And here’s a note: there are now more Muslim schoolchildren in Birmingham than indigenous whites. Immigration has continued unchecked for two generations and recently the rate of immigration has increased alarmingly. I should say catastrophically, for it is probably now too late to avert its consequences. The spurt in immigration over the last decade owes largely to Tony Blair who gleefully encouraged it, saying, “We’ll rub the noses of the middle class in diversity!”

Thus what started as a device to irritate the Tories has actually ruined the country.

And we don’t get diversity. Diversity would mean people of many different backgrounds rubbing along together. That’s not the reality. The reality is ghettos created by mass immigration of the members of an alien and separatist ideology. When such a condition obtained in South Africa, the lefties expressed their detestation. It was called Apartheid. And that’s what we now have in Britain – thanks, incidentally, to the policy of our Tories, Labourites and Lib Dems who, while they condemned Apartheid in South Africa, were busy creating a similar reality in our own country. Only they don’t call it Apartheid in Britain. Here it’s called Multiculturalism.

Perhaps Nigel Farage will be our Nelson Mandela? But how many years must he spend in the wilderness – or in jail – first?

Have we got space for three elephants in the room? The third jumbo is the very high birth-rate among Muslims. The Education Secretary says,”We have a baby boom and need to create 500,000 new primary school places.” No baby boom among the indigenous whites where it is 1.9: parents not even providing their own replacements, so to speak. Muslims do not like our way of life and so they absent themselves from it and wait patiently for the time when there will be enough of them to change it everywhere and in every respect.

They – and we – will not have much longer to wait. Give it a few more years, a lot more mosques, a little sharia (which Rowan Williams is so fond of), a little more of the contempt for electoral propriety we saw at last May’s elections in Tower Hamlets, and Britain will resemble the sorts of shambles we now see all across North Africa and the Middle East.

But don’t forget – if you don’t like the way things are going, you’re not allowed to say so.

That’s Islamophobia.

29 Sep

Lefties, letters and lit crit

Why the persistence of this delusion that good writing flourishes when there is a left wing government?

In a recent article about Anthony Burgess, Irvine Welsh writes, “There are notable exceptions, but generally speaking the embracement of a reductive conservative political philosophy seldom heralds an era of flowering for an artist.”

I can attach no meaning to his use of the word “reductive,” but Welsh is certainly right about the notable exceptions. Plato under the rule of a strict oligarchy. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in Tsarist Russia. Nietzsche under Bismarck. Eliot, Pound, Wyndham Lewis and T.E. Hulme all wrote in a very conservative period. Sisson says somewhere that, in paying due respect to such fine writers as these, the lefty critics always feel somehow they have to make excuses for their politics as if this were some sort of inexplicable lapse. Do the lefties never notice that it was these conservatives who did the really original work in the English literature  of the 20th century? They don’t come much more conservative than Pound and his slogan was “Make it new.” There is a good reason for the fact that it is the conservatives who are actually the avant garde. For conservatives are traditionalists and it is only those who understand tradition who can develop the tradition. Has Welsh not read Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent – an essay which discusses precisely this truth?

Most of the world’s great literature – and its music and visual art – was published under “reductive” dictatorships. Or are we to imagine that Bach lived on hand-outs from The Arts Council?

Welsh says, ”Burgess read, wrote, drank gin… lambasting socialist Britain with its high rates of taxation. For this we must forgive him.”

These are words spoken from a very great height and I must say it is unusual to hear absolution pronounced by a leftie lit crit with such a restricted awareness of what actually goes on in the world of English letters.

One thing is clear though: Welsh, as a writer, is the living refutation of his own argument.