Friday, 29 December 2006

A Gay Yuletide

The last time I mentioned Christmas and the Chorus, we had just started our series of performances at Selfridges. The Christmas season is now well and truely over (only for a short appearance on Sunday on LBC).

Selfridges, as usual, was fun: Unlike any other gig, you get to interact with the audience (albeit in a limited way simply by smiling and waving at them as the slide past on the escalators). This year we did not get a heckler but I did spot a few faces going quickly from a smile to a frown as their owners finally read our name. Most people are however please to hear and see us. We even caused a couple of lesbians to kiss, which was rather sweet.

Celebrity spotting count: one half (no idea which) of Ant and Dec.


Extract of Make the Yuletide Gay 2006, Christmas Medley (6:13)

Wednesday 20th was the busiest day for the us, I think. After our last four short gigs at the store, those taking part had to rush to the Barbican to the tech rehearsal (some pictures available at the Chorus' Flickr pool) of our sold out Christmas concert at the Barbican, hosted by Sandi Toksvig.

The theme of the concert was "party" and as such was rather on the light-hearted side of things. From where I was standing (on the back row, towards the middle of the 170 strong Chorus), it looked and sounded like our best performance since I joined. The audience seemed to agree. Singing in London (mostly to friends and families) usually means that you don't have to win your audience; they are already rooting for you by the time you get on stage. This is great. The audience on that night however, was perhaps the most demonstrative and noisy I have seen while in the Chorus. They loved us!

A positive outcome of this concert is that we got a very decent (even enthusiastic from what I have heard) piece of PR on London Tonight with about four minutes of rehearsal footage, live interview and singing! There will also be a picture of some of "the boys" with Sandi in the Pink Paper later this week. I'll try and post more soon...


Extract of Make the Yuletide Gay 2006, Coming Out on Christmas (3:25)

The next day was rest, although I ended up in Brighton, helping RS a fellow chorine carrying and building (so butch!) a futton sofa bed he had received for the lovely flat he just bought there. We also had a stroll on the sea front and food in a Lebanese restaurant. When I left for the station, RS was in a gay pub taking part in a Christmas pub quiz with people he had never met before and wondering whether Monopoly or Scrabble had been invented first.

Spotted in a shop window: a series of posters screaming "Happy Birthday Santa!"

On Friday, the Chorus was back at the mill. A bunch of us was sent out to BBC Radio1 to take part in their Christmas Party, singing 5/6 musical interludes from our repertoire throughout the day. In the evening, about 30 of us serenaded 150 punters at XXL. We were then free to collapse.

And of course, you already know about my Christmas.


Extract of Make the Yuletide Gay 2006, special arrangment of Silent Night (5:44)

The full DVD of the show is available for sale here until the end of January.

And if you are wondering, Monopoly came first, apparently.


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Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Merry Christmas

A Deserted Trafalgar Square - 26 December 2006, 1.20am

I went to a friend's in Camden yesterday for Christmas lunch. We stuffed our faces with a very nice traditional meal (I can almost see why sprouts are considered a delicacy in this country now), sweets and a little alcohol. We watched some TV (including the Queen) and a couple of films.

Since there is no public transport on Christmas day in London and rather than walk for an hour as I did last year, I had borrowed an old (as in antique) bike from Slightly. It was very enjoyable to cycle in an almost deserted London. On the way back I took the scenic route through Soho, Trafalagar Square and Whitehall. All more or less completely deserted as shown in the picture above.

Merry Christmas, y'all!



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Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Sights and Sounds of London

As advertised in a previous post, The London Gay Men's Chorus' Christmas season is now in full swing.

We had our first too short gigs in a bar in Islington on Sunday in support of the Terrence Higgins Trust. That went ok, if you don't take into account the noisy environment, the lack of a director and the boosing between the two sets.

Yesterday, we started the three day schlep at Selfridges in Oxford Street. This is the third year running that we are doing it (and I am taking part) and it is always good fun. The first set was as usual crap. It's more like a technical rehearsal than a proper performance. We need to get used to the location and figure out how we sound. Good job the Monday morning at 12 are not that busy.

After four sets and a whole afternoon of almost uninterupted singing, I would have loved to go home and... die. Not so, however. We all trudged our way to lovely Camden for a dress rehearsal of wednesday's big concert at the Barbican. Another three hours of singing... With choreography for certain numbers.

That was the "sound" part of the day. It is a perk of the gigs at Selfridges to be able to enjoy a few interesting sights (if you get my drift).

As I was getting home around eleven in the cold and windy night, I suddenly noticed on the other pavement a woman flailing her arms and shouting. It being dark, I wasn't quite sure at first, but I soon realised that appart from a handbag she was stark vulva(?) naked. Of east asian origin, short with thin, normal looking legs but a fat upper body. Her flesh spilling over her tiny hips. Not exactly a pretty sight!

As often after singing (and I had done a lot of that yesterday), I was so wound up that also I was quite tired I did not manage to go to sleep until very late.

I am about to go get my bus to another round at Selfridges to purge my eyes and mental photo album of last night's sight and produce more (hopefully nice) sounds.



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Friday, 15 December 2006

Adam and Ian Tie the Knot

Adam Macy (Andrew Wincott) and Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy) getting hitched.

As I mentioned before, yesterday was a landmark in broadcasting history with the airing of the Civil Partnership of the characters of Adam and Ian in the BBC Radio4 soap The Archers.

I had a meeting so I could not listen to the episode as it was broadcast but I have just listened to it. On the whole a rather underwhelming affair. Not as moving as when Ian proposed to Adam.

What really got my goat, however, was the last scene of the episode. The piece was about the "wedding", as everyone is calling it and how the fathers of both grooms finally decide to attend the ceremony. What was billed as Adam and Ian's big day by the network, a recognition and celebration of gay lives in its own little way, was, at the eleventh hour, highjacked. The producers and writers of the show decided that it would be good to bring things back to "normal" I suppose by having two other characters (a straight couple) become engaged publicly during the after ceremony party.

While I can see that they would probably want to justify this by saying it emphasises the fact that Civil Partnerships are now part of life and on an equal footing with "real" marriages, I think they could have handled this a little better. They could for example have waited for the next episode and have those two characters talk about the ceremony, say how much it had move them before their reminising spurs them to do the same. But no, the producers needed to reassure middle England and undermine what Adam and Ian were doing...

Or is it my turn to be paranoid?

It looks like I am not the only one to have a go at the Archers, for quite different reasons though:
Stephen Green, National Director of the proudly homophobic group, [Christian Voice,] described the storyline as “nauseating.“

He said: “"Personally, seeing a picture of actors Andrew Wincott and Stephen Kennedy dressed up in wedding suits holding their glasses of fizz made me feel quite queasy. It brought home the enormity of the nauseating pretence and perversion of a real wedding which every 'civil partnership' is.

"My hope is that the remaining faithful listeners of 'The Archers', those who have endured the plaintive politically-correct story-lines of the last few years will at last wake up and find something less grating to listen to.”





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Sexual Orientation Regulations - A Letter to Ruth Kelly

If you feel you want to do something in support of the proposed new legislation but are not sure how to, here is the copy of an email from journalist and gay activist Simon Fanshawe including the template of a letter to Ruth Kelly (the minister in charge of the regulations).

Feel free to use it and to let your contacts know. The Christians fundies are being very active against the new regulastions and we need to do just as well.

Previous posts on the subject:
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - part 2
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Saga Continues

See also

Thanks

------ Forwarded Message
From: Simon Fanshawe
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 09:42:53 +0000
To: ""

Dear All

Apologies for a round robin but I am sure that you will want to make your views known on this. It will affect the lives of many of your friends.
The Government has proposed, as part of their commitment to equal treatment for all citizens,legislation to outlaw discrimination against lesbian and gay people in the "provision of good and services". It is designed to tackle the kind of discrimination that lesbians and gays experience on a daily basis. We have made so much progress on equality but while discrimination is no longer and all day event it is often an every day event. The Government recognises that it is an important statement about our society that we treat people equally and fairly.

The Christian Congress for Traditional Values (along with a number of Catholic and Anglican bishops and clergy) has written to Ruth Kelly the Minister responsible for the legislation. She is receiving a large number of letters from them and not enough from people like yourself who believe that fairness and equality is the sign of a decent society. She is committed to carrying through the provisions but she needs our support.

Here is a letter you might like to send (adapted if you wish)


Thanks

Simon

******************************************************************************

To:
The Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP - Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women

E-mail addresses:
Contactus@communities.gsi.gov.uk or kellyr@parliament.uk



Dear Ruth Kelly

I am writing to you to express my support for the government's proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations.

It is quite right for the Government to seek to outlaw discrimination in our society. No one should live their life in fear of being denied equal treatment on the basis of who they are, whether they be black, white, a member of a religion, old or young or gay or lesbian.

I know that there has been some unreasonable attacks on this principle, especially from the Churches some of whom have taken out advertisements defending their right to maintain their prejudice. They may disapprove of what they call "gay lifestyles" (whatever that may be) and they have every freedom to express their view. But they do not have a right to act on it. There are indeed conflicting freedoms in society. We will have to live with those. But there is an underlying right for people to be protected from being discriminated against. I would not support a catholic being denied a job on the basis of their religious faith and similarly I would not support a gay man or lesbian being denied a job on the basis of their sexuality. This is not to privilege lesbians and gays nor members of religions. it is to offer them the decency of equal treatment. In our society you are free to think prejudiced thoughts, say prejudiced things, but successive Labour Governments have outlawed acting on that prejudice.

Some religious organisations have argued that "homosexuals wanting to promote their rights in priority in to the rights of Christians". In fact it is the reverse. This minority of Christians is seeking to assert the privilege of continuing to act on their prejudice. They should not be allowed to do so in a fair society.

I urge you to maintain your commitment to the Sexual Orientation Discrimination provisions and am delighted that you have said publicly a number of times that you would.

Yours Sincerely






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Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Xmas with the London Gay Men's Chorus

Another bout of shameless (self) promotion. As of Sunday, I will be on a roll to Christmas, performing all over London with the Chorus. Here is the bill of fare for you enjoyment. Busy!

Sunday 17 December
Carols @ The Green, Islington, London - 4:30pm and 6:00pm
In support of the Terrence Higgins Trust.

18, 19 and 20 December
Carols @ Selfridges - Oxford Street, London
Monday: 12:00, 1:45, 3:30 and 5:15
Tuesday: 12:00, 1:45, 3:30 and 5:15
Wednesday: 10:30, 11:45, 1:00 and 2:15

Wednesday 20 December
SOLD OUT
Make the Yuletide Gay 2006, Barbican Hall, London - 7.30pm
Great music, both traditional and modern - plus a generous sprinkling of laughter and glitter.
This year the emphasis is on jazz and swing and the party is bigger than ever. We welcome as our celebrity host, the brilliant Sandi Toksvig.
Start your Christmas in spectacular fashion. Reserve your seats now before they all go!
Book online or by phone on 020 7638 8891

Friday 22 December
Fun, Laughs, Good Time, Club XXL, London - doors open at 10pm - £5 on door.
Because the Barbican show sold out so fast that many people will not get a chance to see us, because we like it to so much that we just can't stop singing, we are back for one night only and for a shortened but just as mad and festive version of our Christmas show. There'll be a DJ playing 60's/70's beats before and after the show so you even get a chance to shake a leg with us afterwards...
www.lgmc.org.uk


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Sunday, 10 December 2006

Not So Gay Friendly Tories

Tony Cameron, since his accession to the forefront, has been busy weaving a clearner, friendlier and more liberal image to his party. This has included support for the Civil Partnership Act and a call for more involvment of gay people in political life (see previous post on this).

For a while people seemed to be taken by this although there are signs that this might not be quite the case any more. It is certain however that the new official stance of the party has angered some of its more orthodox members. In reaction to both these facts, it seems the party is about to make yet another u-turn with a call to a return to "Victorian Values. That would be hypocrisy, then. The victorian being renowned for keeping up appearances while they went about their secret lives.

The Guardian article referred to by the previous link also alludes to a recent declaration by Ian Duncan Smith (the previous incarnation of Tony Cameron) in today's Sunday Telegraph regarding Gay couples:

Duncan Smith's report will say family breakdown costs £20bn a year, adding: 'At the heart of stable families and communities lies marriage. For too long this issue has been disparaged and ignored.' Underlining his traditional views, he told the Sunday Telegraph that gay couples were 'irrelevant' to family policy because only 0.5 per cent of Britons were gay. The true figure is six per cent.

Duncan Smith was quick to try and correct the negative impression his decelaration had made:
Mr Duncan Smith later said a factual response had been "distorted into an alleged slur on gay couples". [... he] said his interview with the Sunday Telegraph had been taken out of context.

Here is however the relevant extract of the text of the original Sunday Telegraph article:
He concludes by reiterating: "Two parents looking after a child has got to be what you want."

At this point, it does not seem unreasonable, given recent declarations by Mr Cameron on equal treatment for gay couples, to verify that by "two parents" he means a man and a woman.

Mr Duncan Smith says: "Well, I don't think the gay stuff is anything to do with this because it's all sort of…no… it's irrelevant.

"We're looking at figures about the bringing up of children. When it comes to gay couples they don't even register on the Richter scale of how to bring up kids.

"It's not an issue. We are looking at the issue of who brings up kids and it's men and women that are the issue here."

But Mr Cameron has said that homosexual couples will get as much support from a future Tory government as heterosexual ones.

Mr Duncan Smith says: "How many gay couples have kids? Come on. It's a tiny number. We're talking about the whole universe of the UK bringing up kids while a gay couple with a child is a very small number of people."

Gay adoption, however, has been legal for a while. "Yes I know, but we're not talking about that because the numbers are beyond measurement at this stage.

"If you think that something like half of a per cent of Britain are gay, you are dealing with tiny numbers here. That's not what the report is about. We haven't touched on it, we don't have a view on it, we don't even have a comment to make on it. Just stay on the other issues."

It seems the discussion, for now at least, is closed.
I'll leave you to make up your own mind... I have made up mine: at the very least, they don't care, but it may be more sinister than that.

Update - 11 December 2006
Further information found in the comments section of this post about the irrelevance of gay parents. Admittedly these are US figures but they will give an indication of what is happening in this country.
There were an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 gay and lesbian biological parents in 1976. In 1990, an estimated 6 to 14 million children have a gay or lesbian parent. Between 8 and 10 million children are being raised in a gay and lesbian household. (Source)

(Make sure to read the comments below)


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Friday, 8 December 2006

House Keeping

I seem to have managed to upgrade this blog to the new version of Blogger with too many glitches. This actually went fairly smoothly.

From now, you will notice at the bottom of each post things called "Labels". They work as categories by which to sort the posts on this blog for your enhanced viewing pleasure. All labels relevant to this blog are listed on the side bar.

Those labels are quite self-explanatory but I would to particularly attract your attention towards the "Crème" label, which is a (non-exhaustive) selection of what I think are my better posts. "F-arty" highlights my attempts at artistic expression and "Stuff" gathers orphan posts and other unclassifiables...

I have also taken the opportunity to get rid of some of the stuff that was clogging up the side bar... I hope you like.

Some people seem to be finding the process a little more stressful. Looks like I am going to have to do a tutorial on the phone! What a great Friday evening this is going to be.


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Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Saga Continues

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched an investigation into an advert from Christian groups in The Times newspaper last month which described new gay equality laws as an attack on “conscience. An ASA spokesperson said that there have been 38 complaints. The investigation will take around 6 weeks.

I, myself, submitted a complaint to the ASA about the advert, mostly based on the content of this post. I received a letter telling that they would keep me inform of further development. Watch this space.

In the meantime, Ruth Kelly (a staunch Catholic and the Cabinet minister responsible for equality (sic!)) is reported to be at odds with Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, for his early introduction of the new law in Northern Ireland without any exceptions. Ms Kelly is now reported as wanting to introduce restrictions on religous ground.

And Christians fundies still get the wrong end of the stick. The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship have commissioned an independent opinion poll which they now claim shows that the new Sexual Orientation Regulations are "out of step with public opinion".
More than seven out of 10 in a poll of 1000 adults across Britain agreed with the statement, ‘Any law requiring people to promote homosexual practice should be applied selectively so as to ensure that people with strong religious beliefs are not forced to act against their conscience.’
A statement which has, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with the new law.



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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Synchronicity


Today, St Nicholas' Day, I found myself completely by chance on the relevant street, somewhere in deepest New Cross, "Sarf" London.




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Saint Nicolas' Day

Statue of St Nicolas

Today, 6th December, according the catholic calendar anyway, marks Saint Nicolas' Day (this is also apparently the celebration of Diana's birth, no, not THAT Diana, you poof!). St Nicolas is actually quite an important saint. He is the origin of Santa Claus, the patron saint of children, sailors, fishermen, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, thieves and many cities too. Traditionally, he is represented with three children in a barrel (his legend says that he resurected them after they had been slaughtered and put there to cure by a butcher).

As such this is my Name Day since I am called after him (and my paternal great-grandfather, I think) "Victory of the Peoples" (Νικόλαος, Nikelaos, Nicolas). In all catholic countries, this is the occasion for some sort of celebration. France's version is quite tame and is limited to sending a greeting card simply wishing "bonne fête" to the person concerned.

The picture in this post (which I shot) represents the remains of a statue of Saint Nicolas in a lovely little church in my parents' village.


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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Happy Anniversary, Civil Partnership

Adam Macy (Andrew Wincott) and Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy) getting hitched.

Minister for Equality, Meg Munn calls it one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced by the Blair government. The Civil Partnership Act was one yesterday, although the first ceremonies only took place on 19th (Nothern Ireland), 20th (Scotland) and 21st (England) December 2005.

Since then just over 15,000 partnerships have taken place, a figure that overtakes the government's expectations by several years. There were 14,084 partnerships in England, 537 in Wales, 942 in Scotland and 109 in Northern Ireland.

Read the full report from the Office for National Statistics here.

The interesting thing about this, apart from the obvious demand for and success of the law, is that society hasn't collapsed, as all good religious wingnuts would want people to believe.

However, as I mentioned before, while we have more or less won the legal, there is still a lot of work to be done to make people and society realise that we are not that different from them and therefore should receive fair and equal treatment.

A survey for the BBC World Service looking at the views of young people aged 15-17 in key cities (in total 3,050 people were interviewed around the world in ten key cities including London, New York, Rio, Delhi, Moscow, Cairo, Baghdad,, Lagos, Nairobi and Jakarta) shows that 47% of them are against homosexuals being given the same rights as heterosexuals while 37% backed equal rights. In London, only 36% of 313 young people asked backed same sex rights, 39% were against it (see).

On a lighter note and as I was saying a month ago, the Archers will be holding theirs and probably also "Soapland"'s first Civil Partnership on Thursday 14 December (7.00pm (repeated the next day at 2.00pm), BBC Radio4).

"Soap’s longest running gay romance, involving Adam Macy (Andrew Wincott) and Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy) - pictured -, began in April 2004 with a kiss in a polytunnel that left listeners in no doubt about how the farmer and chef felt about one another. Of course, ragged nerves and family politics are customary at any wedding – and the union of Adam and Ian is no exception."



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Sunday, 3 December 2006

Surreal Santas

picture from http://www.mylondonphotos.com/lbs/santa2005

Christmas is upon us (more or less). If like me, you see in this a reason to be depressed rather than overjoyed, you may want to check those upcoming events to take yourself away from the grim consumerist reality and to more surreal plains:

* Santa Claus Pub Crawl - organised by London Business School Students Association. No date yet.

* Santa Lash 2006 - Starts at Temple Walkabout, on 16 December at 6pm.

If you are feeling more energetic and health conscious, however, I would recommend the first London Santa Run. It will take place in Battersea Park, Wandsworth on Saturday 9 December from 9:30am.


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Friday, 1 December 2006

Tony Blair Speaks Up for World AIDS Day

In a special broadcast on MTV to mark World AIDS Day, Tony Blair said he thought it would be better "if all the churches and religious organisations were facing up to reality. [...] If we have a sort of blanket ban coming from religious hierarchy saying it's wrong to use contraception], then you discourage people from doing it in circumstances where they need to protect their own lives,"

Tony Blair was completely right to tell religious leaders to become more responsible regarding the use of condoms. Not only is the Catholic Chruch against the use of condom, it actually claims that condoms do not work. This was mentioned in the Guardian by Polly Toynbee at the time of John Paul II's death: "Refusing support to all who offer condoms, spreading the lie that the Aids virus passes easily through microscopic holes in condoms - this irresponsibility is beyond all comprehension."

On Any Questions tonight, there was a question about this and we heard Matthew Parris make light of the issue, saying that Blair had no religious authority to tell the Catholic Church what to teach. While he have some sort of a point, I also thinking that the Church's ACTIVE opposition to the use of condoms is simply criminal. Considering the desastrous situation in certain, mostly Christian, developing countries, the very least the Church could do is to shut up and certainly not to tell people they should be chaste, knowing very well that this is unlikely.

This happens at a time where their are speculations as to whether the Chruch may finally relax their attitude.

Not a minute too early!


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Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - part 2

Legible version of the advert. Found on the Christian Institute's website.

Read part one here.

Now that I have been able to see the advert, the full extend of the signatories' delusion becomes apparent. Not only is this law not about sex (as I mention in part one) but it will not force people to do things (like teaching school children about Civil Partnerships, which they probably should do anyway as part of telling about the country's institutions) but solely prevent them from being as maliciously intolerant as they reveal themselves to be in this episode. They clearly seem ready to turn away gay orphans simply for who they are, forgetting, as they so often do their own doctrine of hating the sin while loving the sinner: They very clearly hate the "sinners". Thus proving the need for such regulations.

The advert is full of lies and shows how hysterical those people are about this subject. As I said, the law will not force school to teach certain things, neither will it force those poor Christian B&B owners to shelter transexual couples (Transexual couple are quite rare in the first place) simply because the new regulations apply to sexual orientation only and not to trans people who get separate protection from the Gender Recognition Act 2004, I believe. Transexual are in their minds obviously even more scary then gay people.

The fourth point in the advert clearly refers to those Scottish firemen who, earlier this year, refused to attend a Gay Pride event and distribute safety information. This had nothing to do with them "promoting the [so called] homosexual way of life". This was about them doing the job of prevention, they are payed to do with all tax paying parts of the community. Again, the advert is misrepresenting the truth.

With this advert, the homophobic groups within the Christian faith are once again showing how intolerant and irrational they can be. They indeed show themselves ready to cut their noses to spite their faces by saying that they will "will shut down the youth clubs and welfare projects rather than obey these laws." (Pastor Ade Amooba of Christian Voice in Brixton, South London. One of Stephen Green's little friends, so no surprise there.)

In the meantime, The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said "It will be the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers." My question is why should they other they because you have decided to make them the losers to win your little moral victory?. He is supporting in this the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols who had warned earlier this week that Catholic schools, adoption agencies, welfare programmes, halls and shelters would all be threatened by the pressure to accept "moral standards at present being touted by the Government". (source)

Another way in which you can get involved, further to those suggested on my previous post on this:

Support the goods and services laws - lobby your MP

As Ben [Summerskill, CEO] says [in his message in the same document], these so-called Christians are being very vocal about their concerns about the new laws, and very inaccurate too. So it's really important that lesbian and gay people's voices are heard to say why these laws are so important - to stop the daily discrimination faced in hotels, restaurants and bars, but, more important, to ensure that the public services we pay for are fair.

These laws will mean schools can no longer ignore homophobic bullying, gay patients can no longer receive second class healthcare and local authorities will have to deal with homophobic harassment on their housing estates.

So please send a quick email to your local MP asking them to support the goods and services laws when they come before parliament in the new year. It will only take a couple of minutes but will help MPs realise that this will make a real difference to people's lives.

Go to www.writetothem.com put in your postcode and you will be able to send an email to your local MP. Hearing from our supporters always helps us when it comes to lobbying MPs.
Stonewall eBulletin - 01 December.



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Smoking ban set for July

Smoking will be banned in all workplaces and enclosed public spaces in England from July 1 next year, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced on Friday.

The ban includes all offices, factories, shops, pubs, restaurants, public transport and work vehicles used by more than one person.

Indoor smoking rooms, common in many workplaces, will also have to close and smokers will have to go outside.

Smoking in public will also be banned in Wales and Northern Ireland from next April.

source

Some of my previous on the subject:
* Smoookin!
* Pink Smoke
* Stubbi
* At last!


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Thursday, 30 November 2006

Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again

On Tuesday this week an advert appeared in the Times paid for (a full page advert in the Times is abou £25,000.00, if I remember well) by group of Christian calling themselves "Coherent and Cohesive Voice". This to protest against the upcoming Sexual Orientation (Goods and Services) Regulations (pdf file) (the SOR) which will make it illegal for anyone who provides goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to someone else, to discriminate against that person on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. The regulations also make harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation - and not simply overt victimisation - illegal.

A consultation was launched by the government in March this year, which received, I think, one of the largest number of response ever for this type of exercise (over 2000). The responses were divided between LGBT people and moderate Christians supporting the proposed law and fundamentalist religious zealots who opposed it because it would prevent them to be as bigoted as they want to be. The advantage being slightly on the side of the supporters of the new regulations. As a result, the implementation of the Regulations, which were due to come into force in October 2006, because of the large number of responses which ended in June. The Government have now committed themselves to bringing the Regulations into force in April 2007. This means it is likely that the Regulations will be voted on by Parliament at the latest during February 2007.

Northern Ireland, however, are getting the SOR early (in the New Year). So in response to this, showing great examples of the tolerance the Christian faith is supposed to uphold, some uname zealots have decide to spend their energies and a lot of money into fighting the new law, while they could spend this in doing something more Christian and more useful.

I have not been able to see a proper copy of the advert (other than the one reproduced above) but this is enough to see that as always, they have their priorities wrong and firmly set below the belt. This law is not about sex, it is about equality, freedom and tolerance, three things that some Christians are quite happy to have for themselves but are obivously not so keen to share with others.

The small text of the ad is so bad that it prompted, Meg Munn, an Under Secretary of State (not usually the most locacious type of people) to come out and call it "innacurate", branding it "wild speculations".

Using the same weapons as those dear Christians, I have complained to the Advertising Standard Agency about the advert. Will you?

Alternately you can also contact Ruth Kelly (herself a staunch Catholic) and Meg Munn to put forward the counter-argument, condemn the actions of this pressure group and support the new Regulations.

Emails are:

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women
kellyr@parliament.uk

Meg Munn MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Women and Equality)
munnm@parliament.uk

While you are at it, you might ask them why the "Equalities" section of the "Communities and Local Government" departmental website doesn't appear to mention sexual orientation as part of its range of diversities.

Read further thoughts on this here (link added 01/12/07)


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Free Donation for World AIDS Day

Bristol-Myers Squibb have set up a website with the US National AIDS Fund (financial profile)and have pledged to donate $1 to AIDS research every time someone goes to there and "lights" a candle.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is one of the large drug manufacturers with its hand in AIDS treatment medication. The cost of the necessary medications can be out of reach for many (or most) people who need them. It is so expensive that recent articles indicate the cost of these drugs to be as high as 6% of Botswana's national budget.

It is time that those companies who benefit from this terrible epidemic start helping find a real way to assist those who suffer.

Please forward this to your family, friends and contacts.

It only takes a second to raise a dollar but millions are needed.

Use the link below:

www.lighttounite.org




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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Self Portrait by Others

For some reason, Saturday, Sunday and Monday have seen several people (including myself) using a wide range of words to describe moi. For some reason, I was so receptive to this that I got inspired to turn this experience into what I will pompously call a work of art. And because I spend way too much time with Slightly, this has taken a typographic form.


My typographic consultant (!) however tells me that, although it is an interesting idea, what I have just posted above is not finished. That it is a starting point and that I should "play with it" more. I am not sure what he means and I am not sure I can be bothered but who knows?

As ever, watch this space...



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Friday, 24 November 2006

Camp as Christmas

In a month's time exactly, it will be Christmas, that time of tack and excess. To get in the mood and make yourself jolly, you can come and see me with 150 of my closest gay friends onstage at the Barbican Hall.

London Gay Men's Chorus, Make the Yuletide Gay 2006 - front London Gay Men's Chorus, Make the Yuletide Gay 2006 - back

Prospective audience members could book online or by phone on 020 7638 8891 but it is now apparently sold out.

Other opportunities to see the London Gay Men's Chorus perform (for free) include:
Friday 1 December
World AIDS Day - St Pancras Church, in aid of Cara. - 1.15 to 1.45pm

18, 19 and 20 December
Carols @ Selfridges - Oxford Street, London - throughout the day

www.lgmc.org.uk



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Thursday, 23 November 2006

Pains

Earlier today, I received a reminder email for an event at Waterstones on Oxford Street, tonight. It was the launch of the latest edition of Chroma ("an international queer literary and arts journal". It is published twice a year). Since I have nothing to do, I decided to go along. Four of the authors published in the current issue read extracts of their stuff.

One of them turns out to be a blogger (now included to my blogroll), and I managed to track the following piece which he read and I really liked. It was definitely the highlight of the evening.
ah, sweet pain!
Eyes-to-the-skies it. Glance-at-the-walls it. Four weeks of loving him, of watching him, of being loved and watched by him. Holding him. His hands and fingers. Fingertips. Onto him. Onto his gaze. Into his gaze. Into his any-little-bit-of-him. To hold that. To have that. To have and to hold that. To have that to hold. Having that to hold on to. Having that. Doing that. Pin him down. Play pin him down. Play down. Play hard. Play dead. Play till he pinned me down. Till he would pin me to the point of not playing. To the point of playing for real. To the point of playing till there was no point. To the point of not playing. To the point of screwing. Missing that. To smell. Yes! To have his smell. Smell his smell. Smell his smell on him. Smell his smell on me. The never-get-used-to-that. The never-get-enough-of-that. The after-bath aroma. The first thing of a morning. The last thing at night. Loving the smell of his smell on my bedsheets. Doing that. Waiting for that. Missing that. His laughter. His head-back-eyes-streaming-free-full-frank-full-on laughter. Laughing hard. Laughing long. Laughing in the thick of it. His laugh. His laugh at my laugh. Laughing loud like that. Missing that. Wanting him. Wanting him to want us. Wanting us. Wanting us to want us. Wanting. Never wanting to be naked of him. Missing that. Him. Us.
A Hand Full of Stars, June 2006.
At the end of the event, I overheard something this blogger said to an audience member to that effect that one sometimes end up living for blogging.

I wish someone could tell me how to do that. For about a month, now, I have been "working from home", this means that I spend all my days on my own in my room. I get out of doors two or three times a week (Chorus rehearsal, Weekly-Cultural-Outing-To-Tesco). Sometimes I bump into a flatmate and Slightly is regularly at the other end of the wire (phone or email), as ever. This is my life, now.

And that was me thinking, I had no life at all when I work at the Council! How mistaken.

Strangely though, I am not really depressed about it all (YET!). Time flows in a haze with very little intellectual stimulation. Stimulation of any kind really. Every day like the previous one, and like the next. I feel numb. I take refuge in gay themed films (thanks to µTorrent, I am now well furnished in that department), living by proxy even more than I did when I used to read a lot; something I seem to have lots the taste of. I don't even feel lonely (YET!) and when I find myself with people, where I used to be blank, I now feel ill at ease, a bit apprehensive and I think fear is not fear from the surface.

More than ever I am a wraith in this world, passing unnoticed, leaving no mark. I don't even live for blogging, as you will have noticed from the lack of post recently.

It seems to have stopped bothering me, though. Mercifully... Apathy and contentment huddled happily together under the duvet.


Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Sir Ian McKellen Speaks to You (again)

Here is the second installment of Sir Ian's little speech for the launch of LGBT History Month 2007 at the TUC on Monday.

The first part of this was posted yesterday, together with a short report on the event.


Clip courtesy of Slightly


www.LGBTHistoryMonth.org.uk


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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Truancy with the C'lebs

Invitation to the launch - click to enlarge

Although, yesterday was Monday, I didn't attend Chorus rehearsal last night. Instead, I played truant and stuffed Slightly in one of my pockets and went to the "pre-launch" of LGBT History Month 2007 at the TUC's headquarters: Congress House, off Tottenham Court Road.

I remember attending the first of those events, three years ago in the cinema of Tate Modern and the one last year at the Met's Empress Building in West London. Every year, a series of speakers are invited who make very interesting contributions.

The highlights for me, this year, (out of the 10 speakers present last night) were the interventions by "Dame Ian McGandalf" (aka Sir Ian Mckellen), Allan Horsefall, Ann Marriott and Stella Duffy. Paul Patrick (one of the organisers), who was hosting the event, is also always good fun to listen to.

Apart from being the major screen star that he is, Ian McKellen has been a gay activist for many years and he knows what he is (eloquently) talking about. He warned us that although was had now more or less won the legislative battle (bar a few tweaks of the law, here and there), we were get to what is perhaps the most difficult moment of our struggle where we need to show people, ordinary people, who we are and that we are not as horrible and dangerous and whatever else as they may sometimes think.


First part of extracts of Sir Ian's elocution -
Clip courtesy of Slightly (view part 2).


Allan Horsfall is also a veteran campaigner and a part of of collective history. In 1964 he co-founded the North-West Homosexual Law Reform Committee with Colin Harvey which later became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). He briefly told us how, at the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957, he decided to start challenging the Labour Party's prejudices against doing anything about gay rights because Labour MPs at the time thought the working class (their supporters) were homophobic at heart. This was not his experience (as was indeed that of Rex Batten, whom I heard speak at the launch of his autobiographical novel, last year I think)

He also explained how he found that the (limited) decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 sometimes actually made things worse for gay men with the police showing their displeasure at the new law by making more arrests than before it happen. Regardless, Allan Horsfall took the (for us) bold step to use his personal address to run the campaign. Surprisingly (again, from our perspective), there was no backlash from his local community, although his address was "outed" in the papers.

In his view, the current homophobia rampant in working class minds at the moment is all the doing of the press and particularly the tabloids. I think he may be on to something. Allan Horsfall has his own website: The Gay Monitor.

Having moved some years ago from Nottingham to a tiny Scottish island with a population of 63, Ann Marriott felt a little isolated as a lesbian. Today, she is the Scottish Executive's special appointed (for 2 years) coordinator for LGBT History Month in Scotland. And yes, this year, half of her island's population have to committed to come and organise to an LGBT event! They all seem to be so progressive up there (and I am not just talking about gay rights). As Paul Patrick said after her speech: it almost makes you want to move to Scotland.

A little inconguously perhaps, we then took part in a minute of silence to mark National Trans Day of Remembrance. I say incongruously because it is a US event not a UK one. Still, it was good to remember that we have very cushy positions here in London and that there is still some work to do.

Finally, Stella Duffy wound up the evening before a few drinks. I had already seen Stella "in action" during a Big Gay Read event and she also graciously attended a meeting of my reading group where she held our attention for a good two and half hours.

She is a fiesty, passionate, stirring, articulate, intelligent, funny speaker and because of this, the only book of hers I have read (Parallel Lies, her latest, I believe) was rather a disappointment and a (negative) surprise: a fairly good read, I suppose but a flawed one in need of a good editor and more depth, I think. Still, she must be doing something right: she has about a dozen books published under her belt.

Stella spoke about the need for closeted lesbians (and any LGBT person, really) to come out and testify, get involved, make themselves visible so that people stopping seeing us) as "that interesting lesbian woman" or "that original gay man". A way to reclaim our humanity, I think.

The tag line on a flyer given out at the event said: "Claiming our history, celebrating our past, creating our future". History Month is indeed probably more about our future than our past. It is about visibility but a visibility that, like Stella Duffy said, will in the end giving us annonymity and possibly a new kind of invisibility, where we don't stand out any more because people know about us and have stopped being afraid, defensive and aggressive towards us.

As Ian McKellen said there is not much (if anything) left, for the LGBT people in this country, to march about in the streets (which does not mean we should not remain vigilant) and it is, I think, time to change our attitude.

Things have moved on so fast in the last 10 years (or even less) that, quite understandably, people who have been in fighting mode for several decades seem sometimes to be finding it difficult to realise that the time of struggle is, thanfully, behind us, that the younger generations are taking things in their stride much more than we are, and that it is now time to live our lives for ourselves more, show we are quite ordinary human beings and reach out.

This is what History Month is about.

Slightly has video clips of several of the speakers, he will be posting them piecemeal on his blog over the next few days.


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Being Art

Slides

Last Wednesday, I became a piece of art for a while.


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Being Art

Friday, 10 November 2006

Hi Mum, I'm On Radio 4

Slightly had told me before I had a weird accent. I just thought he was taking the piss. It's true though...

The Inner Temple HallIn February last year, I attended a recording of the BBC Radio4 programme Any Questions? Although I had come prepared, my question had not been selected to be read on air.

Tonight however, in the rather grand Treasurer Office's Hall of London's Honourable Society of The Inner Temple, having study a bit more how successful questions are usually phrased on the programme, I was amongt the 10 people from the audience who were asked to come and sit in the front row.

The panel brought together:
* Lord Falconer: The Lord Chancellor
* Ann Widdecombe MP: Former Home Office Minister
* Martin Narey: Chief Executive of Barnardos
* Patience Wheatcroft: Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
I was number 6 and, in the event, the last to get a chance to read out his question. It ran as follows:
Despite the positive image "Tony Cameron" is trying to spin for his party, are the Conservatives still the "nasty party" for ethnic minorities and immigrants?
You can listen to the question and the responses from the panel here (MP3 file, 3Min40, 3.36MB).

In a perhaps slightly unfair move from Jonathan Dimbleby, the chair of the programme, Ann Widdecombe (a prominent member of the Convervative party after all) was the first to be asked to respond, without any time to think about what to say. Although she called me an "intelligent man", she clearly did not think to like the question at all.

It was (and Dimbleby slightly missed my point there when "translating" and explaining the question) in reference to the recent developments with the A-list system of selection which resulted, as Ann Widdecombe and Patience Wheatcroft both pointed out triumphantly, and in my view misguidedly, in the selection of two minority ethnic candidates. "Only two?", is my reply.

I was also referring to the fact that what I think is the first policy finally published by Cameron and co (quite unsurprisingly) focuses on immigration. The exact same issue that apparently lost them the previous general elections because they focused too much on it.

Contrary to what Widdecombe says in here reply, the term "nasty party" is not the result of government and media led spin but comes from her own party. During her speech at the 2002 Party Conference, Theresa May, the then chairwoman of the Conservatives, stated that the party was then perceived as the "nasty party".

I have to say I find rather amusing the fact of Widdecombe insising the conservative party is not "that kind" of nasty party; implying they are simply another kind...

I am of course myself both an immigrant and a member of an ethnic minority. Just one with a weird accent, it seems.

If you were out and missed the truly historic moment (probably one of the first ever French persons to talk on this almost 60 year old programme), you get a second chance to listen to the show on Saturday (tomorrow, 11 November) between 1:10 and 2:00pm, followed by Any Answers? where auditors phone in to comment on the show.


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Wednesday, 8 November 2006

"Behold The Atheist's Nightmare"



"Seriously [sic], the whole of creation testifies to the genius of god's creative theory"... even, and especially, bananas...


I don't even know where to start with this, another example of some Christian's lack of sense.

Thanks


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Tuesday, 7 November 2006

The Archers Go Pinker

Tonight marks the 15000th episode of the Archers; Radio4's long running soap about the inhabitants of Ambridge, an imaginary village in the English countryside. I don't follow the show as such but since I listen a lot to Radio 4, I can't help but stumbling on it from time to time and I therefore have a good idea of what goes on.

In March 2004, the series featured its first gay kiss. Since then, Adam and Ian's relationship has been developing nicely. They now live together and have been accepted by the community.

In march this year, a report by Stonewall criticised the BBC for the way it represented gay and lesbian people but I have to say that they are doing very well with this one.

Although all soaps have now had gay characters, they do not tend to last very long and are most of the time quite stereotypical (as in Coronation Street at the moment). By contrast, Adam and Ian give a positive and atypical representation of gay men. Of course say don't seem to have much of a sex life but otherwise they are in a stable and loving relationship. They are not camp, bitchy or even funny. They are almost boring, to be honest; like most of the gay men I know actually.

The Archers were the last soap to get a gay kiss but last week they started on the road to become the first soap to portrait a Civil Partnership. In a rather moving and romantic scene, which had me well up on the bus to rehearsal, Ian proposed to an unsuspecting Adam.

The synopsis of last wednesday's episode on the BBC website goes as follows:
Adam thinks he’s promoting Hassett Hills venison to a chef at a restaurant the other side of Felpersham but gets a surprise when he sees Ian there. Ian explains that it’s all a set up. There’s no meeting, only a special romantic meal to say thank you for everything Ian put Adam through with Madds. Adam’s pudding turns out to be extra-special. Ian has arranged for a ring to be brought out on a plate. Ian tells Adam he’s loved him from the moment they met and wants to spend the rest of his life with Adam. Adam never expected a proposal in a million years but thinks it’s a wonderful idea. Of course he’ll marry Ian.
On monday, I trawled the 300 odd messages posted on the relevant thread on the Archers' message board to see the reaction of the listeners. They are usually perceived to be middle class and quite conservative but I was quite surprised the find that the reactions were vastly positive. only 3 or 4 people were complaining about "PC tosh" in the story lines of the programme. The rest actually defended the "gay marriage" story line.

Along the way, the discussion digressed from the defining of the word "marriage" and whether marriage is an exclusively religious institution or not, one person saying that homosexuality doesn't exist in nature which proves that it is wrong while another said that because it exists in nature, it can't be a decent human behaviour (you just can't win!) to parenting and single parent families. Some listeners, considering the ceremony as already over and done with, expressed their expections of seen the two adopting and raising a child.

There has already been hints however (through one character's incredulous reaction to the news) that the ceremony might not happen as smoothly as one might expect.

It will be interesting to see the development in that department but in the meantime, I think the BBC should be complimented for their depiction of these particular gay people, even there is still some work to do in other areas.



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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Sarah Waters' Publishers - Again

Following this episode and after hearing nothing from the publishers, I visited Little Brown's website (Little Brown is Virago's mother company) and sent an email of complaint to all the directors and head of departments whom I thought could have anything to do with this.

In response, I have received the following email:

I am writing to introduce myself as Group Marketing Director of Little, Brown Book Group, a job that encompasses the marketing, publicity and design departments.

I was shocked by the contents of your email and can only apologise that you received such correspondence from our company. You are right to regard this as poor business practice; it is highly unprofessional and in no way reflects the high standards of business conduct that we seek to achieve.

I must further apologise that I am at a loss to explain the circumstance of the email since the person in question left our employment on Friday 29 September. I would like to stress three points: (1) that Clara Womersley is a person of excellent character, that she left our company on very good terms and that her email therefore comes as a great surprise; (2) that the relationship between Clara and Sarah Waters was formal and professional and could in no way be intended to convey the suggested behaviour of Ms Waters; (3) that Sarah Waters insists on seeing all correspondence - by mail or email - that is addressed to her and answers it personally or via our publicity department as soon as she is able.

Sarah is one of the warmest and most down-to-earth authors I have worked with and I would hate you to have been given the impression that being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize would make Sarah think any differently about her readership, which I know she cares for very much.

I am copying in our publicity director [name deleted], to ensure that your original email is forwarded to Sarah. I must warn you that this year is exceptionally busy for Sarah and that she has already decided what type of events she can feasibly fit around UK publication, publication of her many foreign editions, and - of course - her writing. So please can I ask you to be sympathetic if the answer is a 'no'.

I must thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and end by apologising again that you received such a reply from our office.

Yours sincerely.
I find this reply quite satisfactory even if it doesn't explain what happened.

In a separate email from the publicity director who also apologised, I have now learned the Sarah Waters has agreed to attend to the events I have invited her to. I am just not too sure how they want to proceed for this to happen. Trust me, I will keep on nagging them though...

For the rest of the story, click here and here.


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Bad Cops

Following up on this post a few weeks ago, the Advertising Standards Agency has ruled that a Gay Police Association ad breached advertising rules

An ad placed by The Gay Police Association in the Independent, that used an image of the Bible next to a pool of blood to highlight homophobic attacks, breached decency, truthfulness and substantiation clauses of the advertising code and must never be used again, The ASA ruled this week.

[...]

Among the 553 complaints to the ad, headlined ‘in the name of the father’, was that it was ‘offensive and derogatory towards Christians’, could ‘incite violence towards people of faith and fuel prejudice, particularly against Christians’ and ‘implied the teachings of the Bible and Christianity were responsible for and condoned violence against homosexuals’.

[...]

They accepted that the imagery and headline used were primarily Christian, but argued that accompanying text made clear the issues referred to were not exclusive to Christianity. They said it was never their intention to castigate and describe all followers of religion as homophobic.

They pointed out, however, that most of the incidents they recorded were weighted against Christianity, while approximately one-quarter referred to Islam and the Muslim faith. The GPA said the campaign was a one-off and they had no intention of using the ad again.

The Independent said they regretted any offence the ad caused.

They said it was published in the Diversity supplement of the newspaper, in an issue devoted to gay rights, timed to coincide with the Gay Pride march. Following complaints from readers outlining the deep offence felt by some, they took steps to try to make amends: they published a letter of complaint they had received and also commissioned an article for the next Diversity section, which included quotes from complainants and the GPA, to air the matter fully. Additionally, they said they had written to each of their complainants apologising for any offence caused.
A (quick) perusual of the full ruling by the ASA, does not make the condamnation of the ad quite as bad as it is reported in the above article...


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Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Taking On the World

The following post is part of the biggest blog in history (an initiative of the British Library) where it was originally posted.

'One Day in History' is a one off opportunity for you to join in a mass blog for the national record. We want as many people as possible to record a 'blog' diary which will be stored by the British Library as a historical record of our national life.

Write your diary here reflecting on how history itself impacted on your day - whether it just commuting through an historic environment, discussing family history or watching repeats on TV.
More details at History Matters.

Today marked another episode of what seem to be the running theme of this week: getting frustrating by other people’s incompetence.

First thing on Monday morning, I had to walk into town (about 30min’s walk) to get to the Charing Cross branch of HSBC to try and get back my Debit Card. For some reason, the traffic was very bad and the buses were jammed.

My card had been swallowed up by the bank’s cash machine the day before when the said machine decided to crash as I was trying to get some money (the one next door did the same to another customer). The woman at the bank was not very helpful and simply informed me that they could not give my card and that it would be destroyed. Fuming, I went to a branch of my bank to order a new card.

Last Friday, I had rang my Council to try and sort out a problem with the recycling collection. For the past four weeks I had remembered to put out my recycling bags and box three times on the designated day and the collection had not taken place. I was told that a special collection would be taking place on Monday. When I got home, at about 10.40pm, after a rehearsal with my choir, the rubbish was still on the door step, uncollected. This is not the first time I have had problems with collections not taking place and had I had a car at my disposal, someone would be collecting the things from the Town Hall’s own door step this morning.

We I got at work this morning, I rang the Council to see what was happening and I was told that they actually had until Thursday to do the collection (normal collection day is on Friday) and that I should leave my stuff out until then.
Every time I ring them I seem to be getting a different version of things. I told the woman who answered me how frustrating I find the whole episode. I added that I was one of the people who actually want to recycle and that I was now considering giving up. How do they expect to engage people who are not convinced by recycling when they would face so much problem doing is beyond my understanding.

Today I am also hoping (without holding my breath) for a response to an email of complaint I sent yesterday to most of the heads of department at Little Brown (a publishing house). Some time ago, I had sent them a request for one of their author, Sarah Waters (shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize) to consider attending a meeting of the reading group I moderate and perhaps also an event organised by the community group I co-chair. In response, I receive a rude email from one of Little Brown’s staff: “rather sit on hot coals??!!” Not a commercially viable way of treating their customers, in my view.

With all this my blood pressure must be running quite high today and running the risk of soon being able to blog about the NHS and how useless they can be if things carry on that way…


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