11 Jan

Kids are the masters now

Having walked down through the piercing blue and gold of a spectacular midwinter spring along the promenade, halfway to Sovereign Harbour, east of Eastbourne – which, for me, is as good as east of Eden – I stood in the wet fish shop ordering my dover sole, kippers, fresh prawns and jellied eels. Bliss – except you couldn’t hear yourself speak out your fishy order for the noise of the dear children around your feet. Screaming, shouting, charging about in a state of hyperaesthesia and hyperkinesis for that they had seen a live fish in a living fish shop

Suffer the little children who have never before seen anything livelier than a chicken nugget or a takeaway pizza

I don’t blame the children for the pandemonium. But their parents, rather than embarrassed, seemed proud of this display of tantrums as good as anything by Gordon Brown, our most forgettable Prime Sinister. Why didn’t the noble dad threaten the little sods with a clip around the ear? Why didn’t he offer to take them to a “movie” featuring the doom-laden sentimentality that we have come to know and loathe as Walt Disney Productions Inc? I’ll tell you why not. Because the kids are the masters now and therefore must be obeyed, accommodated and indulged by every means.

When I was a parish priest, christenings were a torment. Give me a good funeral any day. Or even, at a pinch, a wedding. But they would turn up to the baptism with the sainted little Troy, Sky or Gemma along with a great number of their fellow creatures: Mumsnet mid-twenties airhead wives (or partners of course – you can never be too careful these days); everyone bearing “their” own hysterical and uncontrollable sprogs.

As a poor parish priest what do you do?

Well you try to be as charitable as possible. You bend over backwards to accommodate this efflorescence of modern parenting. You say, “Look, we don’t want to do baptisms at the dark hour of four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon; a hole and corner private party; a mere curtain-raiser for the booze up and the cake. We welcome this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock. So it is desirable that his (or her of course) baptism be conducted within the context of the Parish Communion. We don’t expect young children to be as docile in the service as our oldest churchwardens; and if they get restless, please take them out to the vestry where we have a creche and numerous toys…”

But they do get restless and noisy. And they do get savage. But they won’t take them out. They regard even the idea that they should remove the noisy productions of their own selfish genes as an insult. An infringement of their hideous progeny’s inhuman rights.  And so, of course, the ordinary members of the congregation are unable to hear the words of the service for which they come every week.

Not a word of criticism is allowed against these vacuous suburbanites with their amusing taste in clothes and diet and “music” and above all in the choice of names for their doubtful offspring. And indeed, I sympathise with them. For “kids” are the masters now

I came home with the noise of the fish shop still migraining in my ears to read in the daily paper that parents are now giving their children “ a second birthday” In other words, when a child in the family has a birthday, the other children must be given cards and presents too, so that they do not feel neglected.

O brave new world that hath such people in it it! Or as Sky would say – presented with a cabbage – “Yuk!”

11 Jan

Do let’s teach the slave trade

Another movie, another pretext. The BAFTA nominated film about slavery, which I refuse to advertise here, has encouraged certain “activists” in the media to complain that the slave trade is not being taught in our state schools. Where have these activists been living? My impression is that little else in schools is taught except British involvement in the slave trade. Well, Mullen, you exaggerate: schools do also teach about Hitler, the evil that was Margaret Thatcher and they zealously perpetrate Blackadder fallacies about the First World War. But, yes, I am in favour of more teaching about slavery. I have been a qualified teacher since 1970 with a DES number to prove it, so perhaps I can help by providing some notes…

Britain was for centuries deeply complicit in slave trading. But we were the first nation to abolish it. Moreover, the campaign for abolition began in the 1770s and was conducted by English Christian gentlemen led by William Wilberforce. He declared: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” Slavery was abolished in British dominions in 1807.

The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world’s seas, established the West Africa Squadron in 1808 to patrol the African coast and between 1808 and 1860 they seized 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were imprisoned aboard. The Royal Navy declared that ships transporting slaves were the same as pirates. Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against “the usurping King of Lagos”, deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers. In the 1860s, David Livingstone’s reports of atrocities within the Muslim slave trade in Africa stirred up the interest of the British public. The Royal Navy throughout the 1870s tried to suppress “this abominable Eastern trade”, for instance at Zanzibar. In 1890 Britain handed control of the strategically important island of Heligoland in the North Sea to Germany in return for control of Zanzibar, in part to help enforce the ban on slave trading.

Before they were finally thrown out, Muslim rulers in Spain, Portugal and Sicily kept slaves and as late as the 19th century practised piracy and the enslavement of Christian captives. In Muslim territories, those who refused to convert to Islam and declare loyalty to the Ummah were enslaved under Islamic law. Slavery in Muslim countries continued well into the 20th century and sheiks from Qatar were attended by their slaves at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. As recently as the 1960s, 20% of the population of Saudi Arabia were held in slavery and Islamic authorities did not actually get round to making slavery a criminal offence until 2007  – exactly two hundred years after Wilberforce’s Bill.

Yes please, do let’s have more of this in our state schools. I have only one regret: that in his second great object – “the reformation of manners” – Wilberforce was singularly unsuccessful.

09 Jan

Stop blaming the state for Britain’s obesity, and start eating less and running around more

As posted on the Telegraph on 3rd January 2013

Welcome to the new army of Fat Controllers. Following the national binge, the sordid newspaper supplements are full of diets, exercises and lifestyle fads. Naturally, the Royal College of Physicians doesn’t want to be left out and so has blessed us all this New Year with the recommendation that there should be an anti-obesity commissar “in every NHS trust.” They don’t quite put it like that, but that’s exactly what it amounts to.

The RCP – and I am again translating their euphemisms into the way we speak in the street – blame the Government for our national tubbiness. Government help for those who stuff themselves daily with food items so disgusting as to put you off eating forever is, says the RCP, “patchy.” And there is, apparently, “a lack of joined-up thinking from the government.”

Well, quite. It’s time that someone had the guts – so to speak – to lay the blame squarely where it belongs: of course the Government is entirely responsible for the extravagant girth of the national waistline. It has nothing to do with a tendency to lie on the sofa swigging cans of strong lager and cheap cider all day only reluctantly to arise and go to the supermarket and there pile the trolley with pizzas and pies and sundry processed inedibles which thicken the figure, dull the brain and clog the arteries.

While I’m on this investigative journalism kick, this courageous fault-finding with everyone else but myself and ascribing culpability for all ills to the state, let me say also how angry I am for that the Government has not acknowledged its other responsibilities: for instance, to provide me with a £10,000 watch and my wife with a £20,000 handbag and both of us with a house like wot Wayne Rooney’s got.

But back to the flab. Jonathan Swift, thou should’st be living at this hour – to satirise our nation as a new Lilliput in which the poor die because they haven’t enough to eat, and a new Brobdingnag where the rich die because they eat too much.

What should be the message of these NHS-based, taxpayer-funded “teams of experts” and “obesity champions” to all the Mr and Mrs Gargantua and Pantagruel as they waddle around our great cities between the burger bar and the kebab stall? I don’t want to blind the nation with science, but I’m afraid the advice is extremely technical and hard to understand: EAT LESS AND RUN ABOUT MORE.