Sunday, 29 November 2015

Well, here's the thing. The western world seems to be evolving into a society which is more fragmented than at any previous time. I'm not talking rich and poor, as the those graph curves seem to be edging ever nearer. I don't mean education either. Our state school system may be well short of ideal, but it offers a fairly substantial plate of sustenance, even if many diners at the table only pick at their food, and reject most of it.

No, I am talking plain, old-fashioned common sense. If ever there were a misnomer, it is that one. "Common" ? Not likely, as it is becoming as rare as ….well, you can provide your own simile. Choose from rocking horses, hens, billiard balls - the choice is yours.

Now, you may have associated the tortuous pursuit of yoga with those who macrame their own underpants, buy only ethically sourced muesli and regularly demonstrate on our streets against such evils as fox hunting and heterosexuality. Well, my friends, you have been wrong before, and you are doubly wrong now. According to that powerhouse of intellect and cutting edge research, The University of Ottowa, yoga is a shameful practice because it has been appropriated from a culture which has, to use their own words, "experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy" So, be told. Try jogging. Or, better still, stay in bed.

Following on from that, I am sure you would join me in the wholehearted condemnation of those racist, imperialistic, capitalist running dogs in Norwich - in particular the management at Pedro’s Tex Mex Cantina - who almost caused an international incident by handing out sombreros (made in China) to students who came along to a Mexican themed party night at the University of East Anglia. Well, if you really wanted to insult Mexico and its rich heritage, what's the first thing you would do? Why, don a sombrero, of course! Thank goodness for the UEA Student Union. As its spokesperson said, "At the student union we want all members to feel safe and accepted, so at all events we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language or imagery, which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ablest."

 I'll end with a few thoughts on nationality. What makes someone British? Birth? Residence? Maybe a heartfelt belief in and support for the country's values? Many of us have blinked in disbelief at some of the so-called 'British' men who have featured in recent news bulletins. Which one of us could have failed to shed a tear at the tragic demise of Muhammad Jassim Abdulkarim Olayan al-Dhafiri (Jihadi John to you)? A loyal citizen of the UK, and as British as, as…..well, as British as a Bedouin camel-driver's loincloth. 
 I wept throughout the long and brutal imprisonment of that other plucky British cheeky chappie, Shaker Aamer. Held in detention in the hell-hole of Guantano Bay, he was clearly one-of-us from the top of his tweed flat cap to the tip of his hand-crafted brown brogue shoes. Any allegation that he was active in Afghanistan, leading a unit of fanatical jihadists against British and American troops is clearly a big, fat lie.

I realise that sarcasm can become wearing after a while, so let's be more literal. There are two very British young men - Wisbech men, too -  who, unaccountably, are having great problems in getting citizenship. Is it that they have just returned from Syria or Afghanistan? Maybe it's their record of speaking out against our way of life, and seeking to overthrow our values? Ah, I know - they have demonstrated on our streets, advised our soldiers and police to burn in hell…? No? Well maybe we should hear from them in their own words, and I will publish those, and add my disgust at the way in which they have been treated, in the next blog. Until then, here's a photo of the first of these chaps.

To be continued .....

Saturday, 7 November 2015

"We will remember them." Four resonant words which close the fourth verse of seven, in Laurence Binyon's 'For The Fallen'. The irony is that his famous poem was written in September 1914, and the real gut-wrenching truth about the war was many months away from being demonstrated. Thus far, the fighting had been very much on nineteenth century lines. It was a mobile war. Cavalry still trotted around the action. The French still went to war in blue coats and red pantaloons. The British Expeditionary Force still wore soft caps into battle - it was only the 'cowardly' French and Germans who wore helmets. The catastrophic death toll had yet to make a real impact on households in Wisbech, or Valenciennes, or Ypres, or Bremen.

"We will remember them." I intend to. I will commemorate every single man's name from the Wisbech WW1 War Memorial, alongside a photo of where he is buried, and his regimental cap badge, plus such details as we know about his life and death. These will be posted on Facebook, on the day that each man died. Some men spring to life from the page. Others remain just names etched in stone, their faces, voices and personalities lost to us over the passing years.

 "We will remember them." Whenever I visit a WW1 cemetery in France or Belgium, what hits me between the eyes is the youth of the men who lie below the manicured turf. Many never reached their thirtieth year. There are a few grizzled veterans in their forties, but they are exceptions. These are sons, brothers and husbands. They marched off to war. Most never saw their home town again. Often, men were incurably shattered by gas, steel, disease or lead. They were carried home to die, and a walk in Wisbech cemetery will show you just how many died with, one can only hope, their loved ones beside them.

"We will remember them." An interesting first verb, there. Not "should", "must", "might" or "could". Instead, a defiant, and resolute "will". Binyon, sitting in the late summer haze of September 1914, could never gave dreamed that his words would still have an impact, a century later. So many English writers and poets have been inspired, almost perversely, by the tragedy of The Great War, but the lines that speak the loudest to me, are in some ways, the most quietly spoken. In his 1964 poem, MCMXIX, Philip Larkin says,

Those long uneven lines

Standing as patiently

As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,

The crowns of hats, the sun

On moustached archaic faces

Grinning as if it were all

An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached

Established names on the sunblinds,

The farthings and sovereigns,

And dark-clothed children at play

Called after kings and queens,

The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs

Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:

The place-names all hazed over

With flowering grasses, and fields

Shadowing Domesday lines

Under wheat’s restless silence;

The differently-dressed servants

With tiny rooms in huge houses,

The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,

Never before or since,

As changed itself to past

Without a word – the men

Leaving the gardens tidy,

The thousands of marriages,

Lasting a little while longer:

Never such innocence again.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Well, here we are again. Another six weeks slip by like mucus down the throat of a flu sufferer, so what's new in my dark and dingy Islamophobic cave? Well, first up, I was heartened to read that most learned and august chronicle of truth and righteousness (or should that be lefteousness?) The Morning Star is up in arms about the millions of innocent Muslims in Rotherham who are going to "boycott South Yorkshire Police" over the apparent demonisation of the Muslim community in the town. Remember the Muslim 'community'? C'mon, you must do - this was the 'community' who looked the other way when thousands of already damaged teenage white girls suffered even more damage at the hands (and God knows what else) of some of Allah's finest

I wonder what boycotting South Yorkshire police actually entails? Maybe if a Muslim is caught with his hand in the till, or another part of his anatomy in something else that where it has no right to be, the culprit will simply say to the arresting officer, "Nah, mate - yer out of order. We're boycotting you blokes, innit?"

Or maybe if those terribly educated and scholarly fellows from Britain First decide they want to make their point by spraying the door of the Jamia Masjid Abu Bakr mosque with pigs' blood, the local worshippers will turn police investigators away, on the grounds that the Boys In Blue are currently "boycotted" by Rotherham Muslims. Remind me to take out a Fatwah against any police force within 100 miles of Wisbech, so I can reject their speeding tickets on the grounds that it offends my religious sensibilities.

On to happier matters. I hope that you shared my joy, bordering on delirium, when I learned that one of my childhood heroes, Shaker Aamer, has been released after 14 long years in detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Imagine the scene - there he was, happily going about his philanthrophic business (yes, really) in Afghanistan (as you do) and then those nasty Americans come along and drag him off to a prison camp, for no other reason than that he had been in the employ of the late lamented Osam Bin Laden (Peace Be Upon Him). Well, Shaker will certainly get his revenge on we infidels. Not only did he arrive back 'home' (he was born in Saudi Arabia) in a private jet, he will probably be in for compensation of around £1000,000. Then, because he is deemed a threat to security, he will be monitored day and night, at vast expense, by British security. Personally, to be held without trial is damned bad form, if you ask me. You have to remember that the nasty infidels who met their end on 7 July 2005, and those frightful cads Lee Rigby and Alan Henning, all were afforded the most rigorous and painstaking Islamic jurisprudence.  

One of my terribly politically incorrect friends posted an inflammatory photograph on social media recently. It claimed to show a bunch of Islamic chaps and their offspring, demanding beheading as the only fit reward for anyone who dares criticise Islam. I gave them a right mouthful, as you may imagine, and explained that this was only enthusiastic rhetoric, and was not to be taken literally.

Imagine my disgust, when someone, quite disgracefully, replied with this post, purporting to show a happy Islamic chap, gleefully holding his infant over the headless corpse of an unbeliever. And as for the other cove helping his little son hone his dribbling skills with the head of one of those vile Shia sorts....? Well, he got short shrift from me, as you can well imagine. Has he not heard of Photoshop?