Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Sexy Harry Potter

No, this is not a post about the gay metatext in the Harry Potter books.

A friend of mine (my scottish ex) wants us to meet from time to time to go the theatre basically because his current partner is not that fussed about the idea. With this in mind, he repeatedly mentioned his desire to go and see a new play at the Guilgud Theatre called Equus which is opening on February the 27th.

I have just discovered why he is so keen...


I saw this pic on the front page of the Daily Mail this morning while shopping at Tesco and so I had to investigate. I have just found out what is going on:

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, now 17, appears bare-chested with a white stallion and with co-star Joanna Christie in photos promoting Equus. He was 11 when he made his first Harry Potter movie, appears completely naked in the play, written by Anthony Shaffer. Radcliffe plays a stable boy in the care of a psychiatrist for his obsession with harming horses.

Producer David Pugh told the British press that Radcliffe had no hesitation in shedding his clothes. “We had never seen him with his clothes off before. We all went ‘Wow!’”

But not everyone is thrilled with Radcliffe’s racy role. According to the Daily Mail, some parents have threatened to keep their children away from the star’s next movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter bares all, Canada.com

Finally a good reason to finally go and see the films (I still won't bother with the books, though).

Radcliffe will also simulate a sex act while naked and astride a horse during the show. Every night 60 members of the audience seated on stage will have a chance to see his... err... talent, close up.

Update: It looks like I have just been very reluctantly talked into going to see the play... Watch this space for a review, if I am not feeling too lazy when the time comes

More pics here.


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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

So Much Hypocrisy in the Gay Adoptions Row

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that faith based adoption agencies would not be given any exemption under the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations. They would however be given 21 months to adapt to the new situation.

The decision has to be welcomed as a victory for fairness. The Regulations are about giving LGB people the same rights as any other citizen, including religious ones. Something which, the Catholic Church should remember, did not happen such a long time ago for its own people.

I am however not sure I understand the need for an adjustment period. It seems to be nothing else but a way to appease the Catholic Church. If, as they claim, they can really not change their minds on the subject of adoption by gay couple what difference are those 21 months going to make? They either go along with the regulations or they don't.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's reaction to the news were most interesting and I thing clearly prove what I was hinting at in my previous post on this. This is not about gay adoption per se but about the Church's loss of influence. The Cardinal complains that a "new morality" was being imposed by the government. There is a clear element of frustration in this about the fact that Christian Churches are not longer in a position to impose their own morality which is being rapidly discarded by most people as obsolete and bigoted.

Murphy-O'Connor is also clearly clutching at straws.

I think normally children should be brought up by a father and a mother and I think that we hold that that is extremely important.

The government has a right to legislate and homosexual couples are also able to adopt in other agencies but we want to hold onto this principle.

This rather confusing (and confused) statement tells us, I think, several things about the rampant hypocrisy displayed by the Christian Churches. First, we are informed that children should be brought up by a father and a mother. Those agencies are however quite happy to let single people adopt, including single gay people. For some unclear reason, they just do not want gay couples to adopt which means that they should be campaigning against gay adoption in general not simply for their own little patch of exemption. However, Murphy-O'Connor has no problem with the idea that gay couple can go to other agencies to adopt.

He was being interviewed on Radio4 this morning where he upped the ante slightly by claiming that other faith based adoption agencies would follow the Catholics' example and wind down their operations. I am a little confused as to which agencies he is talking about. While Anglican archbishops have supported his stance, Anglican adoption agencies seem to have different position on the matter have not signalled in any way that they were preparing to close. Norwood, the only Jewish adoption agency in England, has clearly stated that they welcomed gay couples. Perhaps he is thinking of Muslim agencies. The Muslim Council of Britain unsurprisingly has offered him their support but again we can not be sure of the individual agencies will be doing.

It is good to see that Muslims and Catholics are capable to put the paste behind them over really important issues. Qudos to the LGBT community for being, as ever, such promoter of unity, cohesion and understanding within society.

Another example of hypocrisy comes from the head of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, himself. As he publicly voiced his support to Murphy-O'Connor's hateful stance, news emerged of his longstanding friendship with a Welsh gay Anglican priest, the Rev Martin Reynolds, who with his partner has raised a boy with severe behavioural difficulties. I can't imagine how this "longstanding friend" must have felt.

On the subject of hypocrisy, I have to say that I am not sure of what I think about David Cameron's attitude in this matter. The Tories (with the exception of Lord Tebbit and friends who tried to annul the Northern Irish version of the regulations earlier this month) have been incredibly silent during such a strong controversy. Yesterday, Cameron finally came out in favour of the regulations, saying that if no compromise was found he would vote in favour. He also said that he would allow his party a free vote on the issue. Cameron gave the example of a man and his wife being killed in an accident, and argued that it would be perfectly right for the man's gay brother and his partner to adopt the couple's children.

While this is a welcomed position, it feels also very low key and almost as if Cameron had been waiting to see in which direction the wind would blow before speaking out as a way of making as little waves as possible. Presumably quite a few of his party member are not too please with what is happening and while it is cool to appear to support the gays, one would not want to angry the grass-root...

We have won a battle but not the war. The Regulations are likely to be presented to the House of Commons for a vote next month. We have to remain vigilant. I am sure we haven't heard the last.

To read my (growing number of) previous posts on the subject, please click here or on "Sexual Orientation Regulations" in the right hand menu.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Burns’ Night – A Slice of Scottishness

It looks like Scotland will feature quite highly in the news for me this year; and I am not talking about the elections in May, which may or may not take place but rather of my (and the Chorus') first visit to Scotland at the end of May, as it happens.

Scotland already featured fairly prominently once in my life some 5 years ago. My first boyfriend in this country and the record holder for the longest of what I am reluctant to call my "relationships" (only three months) was (and still is) Scottish. He unfortunately did not impart much of his cultural heritage to me, so last night I was quite excited and intrigued to have been invited by czechOUT (please mind where you put the capitals!) to a Burns’ Night (normally celebrated on 25 January) with the promise that I would also eventually get my first taste of that infamous indigenous delicacy: Haggis. Read about the preparations here and here.

It seems that another theme for the year, after my visit to the pie and mash shop is for me to get deeper and deeper into anthropological and gastronomic exploration of the British Isles.

I must admit now that my understanding of Burns’ Nights was and remains quite hazy. They seem to be a very important part of the Scottish social calendar and are there to celebrate one Robert Burns, some sort of hero up there, mostly known it seems for his poetry (even I had heard of that), although the reason for such adulation remains unclear (even to the autochthones, it seems). There also seems to be a very elaborate ritual attached to those affairs. Last night, I heard mention of a set menu centred around the Haggis, a piper to bring in the said Haggis, party pieces and readings as well as someone having to harangue to the aforementioned Haggis. Considering the central importance of the thing, perhaps they should rename this “Haggis’ Night”? The party last night was, I understand, an informal version of the traditional event.

The company comprised 2 Scots, 4 Chorus members, no women, 3 persons I did not know already, 2 cats, Haggis galore and a multilingual collection of musicals soundtracks. In all there were 8 of us. One of the guests was a new member of the Chorus (He joined two weeks ago) who happens to live with his partner, since their recent move to London, two doors down from czechOUT’s. Another proof, if needed that joining the Chorus shrinks the world quite dramatically. What was quite remarkable for me in those two is the fact that they met 6 years ago when they were respectively 16 and 19 (ages when I was still in the process of coming out to myself) and have been together ever since. Something quite difficult for me to fathom in view of my miserable record in the matter.

We started the meal with a very nice leek and shredded chicken soup and soon amicable and (something seldom found these days, it seems) intelligent conversation started to flow, gently eased by several bottles wine.

And then it was time for It: the Haggis.

It was served nouvelle cuisine style but with the traditional neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and gravy with mince meat. Considering all I heard about the thing, including what goes into its preparation (sheep’s heart, liver and lung), I was a little apprehensive but was, in the end, nicely surprised. If anything, it is rather bland and tasteless; a fault I seem to be finding with most British food. czeckOUT will probably kill me the next time he sees me for throwing Haggis into the British pot, so to speak.

This makes me think, perhaps not very originally, that food is an acquired taste and that we are partly conditioned and taught (personal taste obviously also has its role) to be sensitive to, like or dislike certain tastes by the dominant culinary ways of the country we are brought up in.

Although I am no great fan of it in general, the subtle and not too frequent appearances of the bits of liver were a very nice addition to the overall effect. Like pie and mash though (another apology to czechOUT here for the comparison), I am glad to have tried it and will definitely persist and have it again, presumably in Edinburgh this time.

Desert was another traditional dish for Burns’ Night, whose name, like that of the soup, I have not registered. It consisted of a cup of cream beat up with honey and whiskey, served with oat, raspberries, raisin and peppered oat cakes. Very nice indeed.

Discussion and some singing carried on well into the night and I got home around half past 2. This morning my head is feeling a little woolly and fluffy from the 3 glasses of wine I had (quite a bit by my standards) but nothing too bad.

I have now read up about Haggis and Burns on Wikipedia and I am feeling a little more clued up. I recommend you too follow the links provided in this post.

Bring on the Chorus’ Scottish tour!



Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Comments on the Gay Adoptions Row

This is a revised and extended version of my two previous post on the subject

After the recent demonstrations outside Parliament, the first salvo of the predictable attack on the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations in the delivery of goods, access and services for the rest of the UK, was shot on Monday, quite unsurprisingly, by the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, sent a letter to every Cabinet member with apparent intent of blackmailing the government into giving the Church further exemptions in the regulations to those they already have. Something he has since then denied.

Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, herself a staunch Catholic, had been reported over the week-end to be considering granting the Church an opt-out clause with the apparent support of the Prime Minister. However, several members of the Cabinet have already come out against the move, prompting rumours of a split within the Cabinet. It seems now that the push for the opt-out is coming from the Prime Minister himself whom, it is thought, will probably convert to Catholicism when he leaves office. A Cabinet minister reportedly told a Labour MP that “it's all coming from Cherie” Blair who is also a committed Catholic.

On Tuesday, the Church of England, in the persons of its two highest ranking prelates (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and John Sentamu, Archbishop of York) wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of Murphy-O'Connor's threat.

It seems to me there are several flaws in the reasoning behind these demands for opt-outs and the claims that the new regulations are not compatible with the religious agencies’ activities.

First, the law clearly and simply says that gay people can adopt; and churches, however much they like it to be the case, are in no position to decide that a law should be ignored, even if they think it wrong.

Second, there is a shortage of foster parents in this country. I would think that the more loving and caring couples can be found to raise those children (whether gay or straight), the better.

Third, the Catholic Church's agencies are said to handle 4% of all adoptions; about 200 a year. In 2006, 3,700 children were adopted from care in the UK, with an average age of four years and one month. Of these, 185 went to gay couples. Considering the small figures on both sides (number of children placed by the Churches vs number of children placed with gay couples), it is in any case quite unlikely that church agencies will find themselves in a position to deal with gay couples who will probably prefer to go to a non religious organisation in the first place.

Fourth, as Mrrs Williams and Sentamu are so keen to remind us in their letter, these adoption agencies are providing a public service. They receive funding from the state (taxpayers' money; some of which is coming from LGBT people and families) to perform those services, thus effectively becoming state agencies. They therefore have an obligation to provide their services to EVERYONE without discrimination whatsoever as any public body would in a democratic society.

The fact that they resist dispatching some of their duties so vehemently should perhaps even be seen by the supervising authorities as a signal that there may be other areas in which discrimination is taking place. If they can do it so easily and forcefully against one group, why not against others?

What is certain is that the Churches are shooting themselves in the foot in this instance. This whole business is not going to improve their already tarnished image.

My advise to the Catholic Church and the C. of E. is to get off their moral high-ground and think a little more about their duty towards the children they pretend to be wanting to help, or indeed simply give up.

If those agencies are not ready to welcome and serve everyone, then perhaps we should call their bluff and not expect them to provide any service at all. Let them stop and pass on their rather small burden to the many non-moralising organisations out there, ready to do the job properly.

At the end of the day, however, it seems that this may not simply be about helping children or even religious conscience and homophobia (Sentamu implied that much in an interview on the Today Programme this morning). After all, Churches have made all sorts of compromises and adjustments to their doctrines along the centuries. The much quoted Leviticus, where the Bible's strongest and almost only condemnation of homosexuality is to be found, provides ample evidence of this.

Could it be that religious leaders are simply scared to loose their power and influence? That they simply can not accept the fact that after about 2000 years of moulding society and ruling people's lives in all impunity, other views on life have come to the fore and asserted themselves as valid and legitimate alternatives to their own philosophy?

The world is moving on but these people are apparently quite content to uphold and follow verbatim an often contradictory book written thousands of years ago for different people, mores and times.

Others, and that includes the vast majority of Christians, are thankfully living with their own time.

To read my (growing number of) previous posts on the subject, please click here or on "Sexual Orientation Regulations" in the right hand menu.

This post was published in a slightly different form on PinkNews.co.uk on 25 January 2007.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

And Now the Anglicans Too

The Church of England had always seemed to me to be quite tolerant. I even know of churches in its fold who actively welcome LGBT people. It seems I have been mistaken.

At the very time when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is defending himself against accusations of blackmailing the government, the C. of E. in the persons of its two highest ranking prelates (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and John Sentamu, Archbishop of York) have just come out in an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of Murphy-O'Connor's threat that some adoption agencies may have to close because of the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations.

This argument is actually relatively new in the debate. When the law was changed to allow gay couples to adopt last year, nothing (strangely) was heard from religious people. And when some of them decided they did not like the new regulations, they focused their energy of the rediculous fallacy that Christian B&B owners would be in trouble. You could almost hear nothing else.

When they saw that this tack did not work, they then decided to use one of the oldest tricks in the book when you want to frighten the horses: children. People, especially in the country seem to have viceral, even hysterical reactions when they are told that their children might encur any risk and they don't usually bother to check that this is actually the case before going up in arms and making demands.

So there were are: the ugly gays are out there to get your children. Sorry, the ones you don't want and we can't possibly give them to THEM. Thank god (!) we are here to protect you and those poor children from THEM.

It seems to me there are several flaws in this reasoning though.

First, the law says that gay people can adopt. Who are the Churches to say the law should be ignored?

Second, there is actually a shortage of foster parents in this country. I would think that the more loving and caring couple (gay or straight) can be found to raise those children, the better.

Third, as Mrrs Williams and Sentamu are so keen to remind us in their letter, these agencies are providing a public service. They actually receive some funding from the state (taxpayers' money; some of which is coming from LGBT people and families) to perform those services, thus effectively becoming state agencies. In my opinion, they have therefore an obligation to provide their services to EVERYONE without discrimination whatsoever as any public body would in any secular democratic society.

The fact that they resist dispatching some of their duties so vehemently should perhaps even be a danger signal for the supervising authorities that there may be other areas in which discrimination is taking place. If they can do it so easily and forcefully for one group, why not for another?

If they are not ready to welcome and serve everyone, then I don't think we should expect them to provide any service at all. As I said in my previous post, there are plenty of non moralising organisation ready to do the job properly.


To read my (growing number of) previous posts on the subject, please click here or on "Sexual Orientation Regulations" in the right hand menu.


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Catholic Attack on Tolerance

The first salvo of the predicted attack on the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations in the delivery of goods, access and services, was shot today quite unsurprisingly by the Catholic Church. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, sent a letter to every Cabinet member basically trying to bully or blackmail the government into giving the Church further exemptions in the regulations to what they already have.

Very fine tactics to use, if you ask me, as a responsible institution perporting to give vulnerable youths a positive moral example.

In his letter, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service."

He said the closure of the Church's seven agencies would represent a wholly avoidable "tragedy".

The Catholic Church's agencies are said to handle 4%, or about 200, of all adoptions a year. However they handle about a third of those children judged difficult to place.
[source]


Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, herself a staunch Catholic, is reported to be considering granting the Church an opt-out clause with the apparent support of the Prime Minister. However, several members of the cabinet and other Labour personalities (Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary and current Leader of the House of Commons, David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, the Environment Minister, Peter Hain, the Nothern Ireland Minister, Angela Eagle, the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda and even Blairite loyalists such as Tessa Jowell (Culture Secretary) and Lord Falconer (Lord Chancellor)) have already come out against the move.

I have to agree with Murphy-O'Connor though: this is wholly avoidable. The Catholic Church simply has to get off its (rather shaky, at the best of times) moral highground and think about its duty towards the children they pretend to be thinking about. I can't help be notice that Murphy-O'Connor does not seem to be thinking about the discriminations incurred by those children, should his Church abandon its work.

At the end of the day, however, I believe that the Church is shooting itself in the foot in this instance. As the BBC website reports, they only "handle" 200 adoptions a year. Surely there are other more tolerant and open minded agencies out there in a position to stand in and let the Church wallow in its smug bigotry. This is not going to improve their image.

After all gay people were given the right to adopt a year ago (December 2005) and what the law allows, a minority Church is in no position to oppose or change, however grievious the thought may be for its members. As I mentioned in a previous post: this is is wider than simply religious conscience. After all Church have made all sorts of compromises and adjustments to their doctrines along the years (simply read the much quoted Leviticus, where the Bible's strongest and almost only condamnation of homosexuality as an abomination is to be found, to find evidence of this). No, religious leader are simply scared to loose their power...

News flash: they already have.

Futher reading:
* Kelly in new storm over gay law, The Independent - 21 January 2007
* Catholics refuse to accept gay adoption law, The Times - 23 January 2007
* Children are ignored in gay adoption row The Telegraph - 23 January 2007

Previous Posts:
*The Lords Vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations
* No Comment Needed
* Christians: "Get Over It and Get On With It"
* Further "Christian" Attacks
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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Monday, 22 January 2007

Tonight I saw...

Maxxi Jazz, the black rapper from Faithless. I was on my way back from rehearsal with the Chorus, like any Monday evening. We had had our own little brush with fame. A small team from Big Brother's Big Mouth (a new programme around the show, I am guessing, not having a TV) joined us at our usual rehearsal venue to film a few shots of us singing and interviews of some members. This will apparently be braodcast tomorrow at 10...

Maxxi Jazz was outside the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town. He probably couldn't get no sleep (ha!). There was a woman with him possibly Sister Bliss or Rollo's sister Dido... I don't know... I don't look at girls...


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Saturday, 20 January 2007

IT Doom and Gloom

Just when I was thinking that my life couldn't get more atrophied, my internet access died on me.

I am doomed!

That was on Monday morning. I am currently using pay-as-you-go dial-up as emergency life support; logging in twice a day to check for possible important emails. Salvation may not take place until Monday or even Tuesday. Or perhaps even later if the techies f*ck up more.

All this because Orange, my ISP since August last year, have suddenly "realised" that I do not have a broadband account with them and turned off the flow... That doesn't stop them from sending me emails and bills...



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Thursday, 18 January 2007

To Beard Or Not To Beard (Ha!)

THE beard

Now with added picture as per request in comments. Don't say, I don't spoil you!

In the past week or so, I have been lazy with my shaving. As a result I am now sporting a beard.

This is not the first time that I experiment with facial hair. When a was at university, I had a goatee for about 7 years. And up to last week I had a little wisp of hair under my lip complemented by sideburns. I also had to grow a beard for my appearance as an Orthodox Jew in Nine Dead Gay Guys.

In any case, "hirsuteness" seems to be quite en vogue at the moment, at least on the gay scene.

This interesting thing about this is the people have been rather complimentary about my new look. First they tend to ask if it is new and when I (so far) cautiously reply that I am being lazy and will probably get rid of it soon; they say that it looks good or they like it. The fact most of the people who said that were members of the Chorus which is itself a notorious bear heaven, might give a hint as to reasons for this.

This could also simply be a case of them being polite. How often do you hear: "Oh! You look better like that" once you get rid of something in your appearance you thought was ok.

The beard itself has proved a little itchy so far but things seem to be getting better in that department. I now have to make the decision whether to keep the beard or not. I must say I rather like the idea of keeping it at the moment. At least for a while.

Decisions, decisions!

Originally posted on 17/01/07 at 14:32

Friday, 12 January 2007

BAd Boyz 2007

I have just been asked to join a team effort in the writing of an unofficial blog around the next venture by the London Gay Men's Chorus (of which I am, of course, a member). Last year, we (I too, for that matter) went to Wales for the first time. This year it is Scotland's turn with a concert in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow later in May this year. The provisional title for the show is Bad Boys.

Here is a link to my first offering on the new blog.

http://badboyz2007.blogspot.com/2007/01/youtube-fame-welcome.html



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The Lords Vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations

With Thanks to Craig Nelson for the quote (interesting links to comments in the Guardian from his post too):

Here is a link to the breakdown of the voting in the House of Lords as well as a link to the Hansard report of speakers [transcript of Parliament debates].

Of particular note are speeches by Lord Smith, Lord Alli and Lord Lester.

Interesting that the majority of the votes against are from Conservative peers and that a large majority of Conservative voting Lords were against. Clear and uncontrovertible evidence, if any were needed, of the probability of any Tory Government (even with Cameron at the helm) enacting any socially progressive legislation at all.

All of the Labour and Lib Dem peers who voted were in favour.


Previous Posts:
* No Comment Needed
* Christians: "Get Over It and Get On With It"
* Further "Christian" Attacks
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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No Comment Needed

Thought for the Day, 12 January 2007

The Rev. Dr Giles Fraser


The Rev Dr Giles Fraser is the vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford. giles.fraser@parishofputney.co.uk

As a Christian I'm protected by the law against discrimination - and I'm grateful for it. No one can legally deny me access to goods and services because of my faith. No one is allowed to put a sign up in their hotel window that reads 'No Christians' - or 'No Muslims' for that matter. Discrimination on the grounds of race and gender is equally outlawed. All of which is an unambiguously good thing. As indeed, I believe, is the extension of these provisions to include sexual orientation. For no one should be allowed to display a sign that reads 'no gays' either.

Some Christians, however, are strongly resisting this legislation. They argue that being obliged to provide goods and services to gay couples makes them complicit in what they regard as sin, and that this complicity compromises their deeply held religious convictions.

For some, however, these so-called 'religious convictions' are little more than a mask for prejudice. Why, they argue, aren't these same Christian hoteliers up in arms at a legal obligation to provide hotel rooms for unmarried couples? After all, conservative Christians believe sex outside marriage to be equally a sin, yet they haven't been protesting about this. Indeed, many of them may well believe gluttony is a sin, but they haven't been campaigning for Christian waiters to have the right to refuse fat people extra chips on moral grounds.

No, there is real inconsistency in the way some Christians apply the argument from complicity. Moreover, this inconsistency is indicative that they are treating homosexuality as a special case. In other words, this inconsistency is a tell-tale mark of prejudice.

And the sad truth is, there'd be little need for this sort of legislation if there wasn't so much prejudice about - both in the church and elsewhere. Indeed, it's worth saying that discrimination doesn't only shelter behind religious belief. There's prejudice outside the churches and mosques too. For the idea that this is an argument between Christian prejudice and secular enlightenment is a lazy media distortion that likes its arguments simple and binary.

Within the church there is real debate and much disagreement. Many Christians don't think homosexuality is a sin in the first place. In fact, I believe it a God-given gift - sure, it's a gift that can be abused like any other - but often it's a channel of grace, a means by which some human beings show love and commitment and hospitality, just like anybody else.

There's a hymn we often sing in church that goes like this:

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind
And the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind
But we make his love too narrow with false limits of our own
And we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own.


Further reading:
* Faith groups are misrepresenting sexual equality rules, say critics, Ekklesia.
* Anti-gay rights activists do not represent most religious opinion, say critics, Ekklesia.

Previous Posts:
* Christians: "Get Over It and Get On With It"
* Further "Christian" Attacks
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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Thursday, 11 January 2007

Christians: "Get Over It and Get On With It"

It is not very often that I find myself agreeing with religous people. I was all the more surprised this morning while listening to Thought for the Day on Radio4 to find myself not only nodding but even quietly clapping at what the Rev. Joel Edwards, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, was saying.

On their website, the Evangelical Alliance is calling the Regulations a "threat" but while "strongly support[ing] the right of concerned Christians to protest outside Parliament, the Alliance is not convinced that in the present case this type of response is necessarily the best way to express their understandable and real concerns about the threat posed by the regulations."

On the whole the Alliance seems quite happy with the regulations and only expresses concern that the wording of the regulations is too open too interpretation and might make the doctrinal exemption unworkable. They are not asking for further exemptions or a repeal of the regulations. This is I think the position or something very close to the position held by the vast majority of Christians.

The huge amount of media coverage given to the controversy around the Sexual Orientation Regulations made me forget that the 2000 or so people who attended the protest in Westminster the other day are nothing but a tiny, blinkered minority whose faith is both atrophied and calcified.

Rev. Edwards' basic message this morning was that "Christian rights and freedoms are not as important as serving people." Reminding people of the story of the Good Samaritan. That is to say, you might not like the regulations but they are not that bad after all and in any case you have better, more important things to do. Get over it and get on with it.

Here is the full text of the programme:
Jesus had very little to say about sex. Paul on the other hand said quite a lot about it. And by the 4th century, Augustine - arguably the most important Christian theologian of all times - was so tormented by his own sexuality and guilt that his own Confessions would have made front page in any tabloid.

Anybody who thinks that the Christian Church is preoccupied with morality and human sexuality can be forgiven for one very good reason: it's because we are!

But then so is the gay lobby. In fact I think in the sex-obsession war, gay and lesbian people win hands down.

So when the Government introduces a piece of legislation called the Sexual Orientation Regulations no one should be surprised if the headlines paint a picture of an all-out war between the leading contenders in the sexuality debate.

But this debate is about a lot more than sex and sexuality. It's a conflagration of competing rights between people of faith and the gay lobby. How will we conspire together to protect the gay community from injustice - without kicking Christian conscience to touch? And the government which applauds itself on its own equality track record is uncertain precisely how to referee this democratic competition.

Frankly on both sides of the argument the stakes are high.

Christians are anxious about losing power and influence. They're worried about losing the freedom to believe. But they're also worried about something else: losing the freedom to serve. Because there's a lot more to Christian faith than sex.

Serving is the thing.

In the New Testament Jesus told the classic story of the Good Samaritan in which a Samaritan found a battered Jewish enemy by the roadside. Rather than walking on the other side, the Samaritan risked his own life to rescue and find accommodation for him - presumably in an enemy Samaritan inn. Remarkably the inn-keeper said 'yes' and the Samaritan left his enemy having paid his hospital bill in advance.

In finding justice for the gay community the Government has a serious obligation to respond to the sensibilities and real fears of the faith communities.

Undermining faith is not just bad politics; it's an act of social vandalism.

But if they don't Christians will still serve. For that is what Jesus would do. For Christian rights and freedoms are not as important as serving people.
[reference]
Christians should not stop to serve because Jesus would not. This should be food for thought for those bishop of the Anglican Church (like The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali) who threatened to do just that in order to try and blackmail the government to rescind the regulations.

Where I stopped nodding and clapping is when Mr Edwards said that the "Gay Lobby" thinks more about sex than fundamentalist Christians. Yes, gay people do think about sex but certainly not in the obsessive way so Christians do. And certainly don't go on about it in the public arena, unlike Lord Tebbit, for example, who never misses an opportunity to mention sodomy, even within the most inconguous contexts.

Unlike some Christian people, gay people are not talking about sex when asking for those regulations. They are talking about respect, equality and tolerance. It is about treating people as individuals equal to other individuals not as hated stereotypes or second class citizens. Things that those Christians are quite happy to have for themselves but are obivously not so keen to share with others.

In the event, I think that, although for some people this controversy is really about homophobia, for a great number of prominent Christians, this is about lose of power and influence. They simply can not accept the fact that after about 2000 years of moulding society and ruling people's lives in all impunity, other outlooks on life have come to the fore and asserted themselves as vilid alternatives to their philosophy. They can not be content with getting on with their own lives, the way they want without the chance to impose their ways on other people.

The world is moving on but these people are still content to follow verbatim an often contradictory book written thousands of years ago for different people, mores and times. Others are thankfully living with their own time.


Further reading:
* Faith groups are misrepresenting sexual equality rules, say critics, Ekklesia.
* Anti-gay rights activists do not represent most religious opinion, say critics, Ekklesia.

Previous Posts:
* Further "Christian" Attacks
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Further "Christian" attacks

The fundamentalist Christians (despite the claim that this is a multifaith movement, it is clearly overwhelmingly led by marginal Christian groups) have lost the vote last night for the annulment of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, but one can certainly expect a repeat of the farce in the coming months as the regulations are extended to the rest of the country.

Already, a Judicial Review has been launched into the way the regulations were brought to Northern Ireland.
On Monday 18 December the High Court in Belfast granted leave for a judicial review of the Sexual Orientation Regulations (Northern Ireland) and set a hearing date for March.

The legal action was taken by The Christian Institute and five Christian denominations from Northern Ireland representing 15,000 Christians in the Province. It argues that the Sexual Orientation Regulations interfere with the rights of religious groups to act according to their religious beliefs under the Human Rights Act, and that the public consultation process was flawed.

The centrepiece of the Northern Ireland regulations is a special harassment provision. Under the new law churches or charities can be sued for harassment if they create an "offensive environment" for gays. The definition is so loosely drafted that critics fear that public disagreement with gay rights or homosexual practice could easily be construed as 'harassment'. In addition, under the regulations, the burden of proof is reversed so that those accused are guilty until proved innocent.
[from the Christian Institute website]
There were 1,710,300 inhabitants in the Province according to the 2004 estimate, most of whom are at least nominally Christian. 15,000 people (even if the figure is true) hardly constitutes a majority.

The paragraph on harassment appears to be rather economical with the truth. Having read the relevant passage of the regulations, it seems to me (bearing in ming that I am no lawyer) that harrassment is not solely taking place through the "creation of "an offensive environment" for gays" but when
(3)A person ("A") subjects another person ("B") to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in these Regulations where, on the ground of sexual orientation, A engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of —

(a) violating B's dignity; or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.
[reference]
This seems altogether different and more serious to me.

As for the reversed burden of proof, it does indeed seem to be required by the regulations and it seem to be going against the observance of the presumption of innocence as defined by the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 6(2) of the European Convention (now the source of English law). However, it seems that it is a fairly common legal practice endorsed by a decision of the House of Lords in Johnstone [2003] UKHL 37.
Article 6(2) did not stand alone, observed the House of Lords: it was subsumed within the guarantee of fair trial provided by Article 6 as a whole. A reverse burden did not necessarily preclude a fair trial. It could, as was the case for the trademark offence considered in Johnstone, be a proportionate response to a serious and current social or commercial mischief.[reference]
On the same page, the Institute asks: "why should a homosexual rights protestor have legal powers to sue a Church minister for what he says about Church membership?". he shouldn't and he won't. The regulations include a so-called doctrinal exemption which means that religous organisations can (justly) discriminate in the provision of religious services and that includes membership or any non-commercial activity undertaken by the group within the limits of it religious action.[see the relevant section of the regulations].

Case dismissed, methinks...

In the meantime,
a criminal action for blasphemy against Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, and producer Jonathan Thoday has begun in respect of Jerry Springer the Opera.

Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, laid information before Horseferry Road Magistrates this morning, Monday 8th January 2007. It is two years to the day since the broadcast of the musical on BBC2 and six months to the day from when it finished its tour in Brighton last year.
[from a press release by Christian Voice]
Are they never going to let up and spend their energy, time and money to some worthwhile charitable cause, like helping save the dying african children the Christian woman I talked with last night at the demonstration got so emotional about?

Further reading:
* Faith groups are misrepresenting sexual equality rules, say critics, Ekklesia.
* Anti-gay rights activists do not represent most religious opinion, say critics
* Discrimination law controversy By Jon Silverman, BBC Legal affairs analyst

Previous Posts:
* Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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Manze's - A Slice of Englishness

the counter

Yesterday was a busy day indeed. Before going to the demonstration, I spent some time in deepest Deptford with Slightly. We had a bit of work to do on our new project LIVE.PLAY.RIDE. (more about that soon, I expect). We met at the Witcomb Cycles shop and then he took me to Manze's an "authentic" pie and mash shop he has been harping on for ages.

His ("famous") gran used to work there and they apparently do the best pies in the whole world. Slightly had tried to convert me to pies and mash some time ago by taking me to a now defunct shop in Greenwich. I can't say I had been impressed as the was rather tasteless (note to the Brits: you don't necessarily need to boil something to make it edible).

So we walked up the colourful and rather exotic Deptford High Street almost all the way Evelyn Street. The shop itself, appart for a soft drinks chill cabinet, seems in the time wrap since the beginning of the last century: narrow wooden benched, marbletop tables, white tiles on the walls and sawdust on the floor. Deliciously quaint.

The sitting area

On the wall (left hand corner of the picture above), a framed picture commemorates a visit by Clement Freud who is apparently a regular. Slightly also proudly informed me that "everybody" has been here (Churchill, Noel Coward). The shop apparently also has some old document showing that it provided pickled pies to Captain Cook on his first journey. Slightly, himself, seems a little like a son of the house and the hostess asked him at length about his gran. We leave without paying: on the house. Not that we would have broken the bank, everything is so cheap.

We went and sat towards the back of the shop not far from the open door to the kitchen. The muffled sounds of what seems to be the World Service waft towards us. To complete the experience, we are treated to bits of the opening music for Eastenders (probably a trailer), God Save the Queen when the Service hands over to Radio4 at 2pm and just after the news, of course,The Archers. How much more English can you get?

Pies and mash, liqueur and gravyFinally our plates are here (we already have our mugs of tea): Two pies and one mash for slightly with liqueur and one pie and two mash for me with gravy as my first encounter with liqueur was not the most successful. Manze's apparently have their own secret receipe for the stuff which makes "everybody go wild" on it (dixit Slightly's gran). This is indeed much better stuff than on my previous experience, although I still find the pie and gravy a little cloying. I supposed it is an acquired taste and I might indeed now be willing to work on it a little more.

On our way back to his place, Slightly found a bought (for 50p) a metal teapot in a charity shop, the likes of which are used at that old favourite of ours, Wong Kei.

Once we had told her of our experience, Slightly's gran was magnanimus enough to dub me a "proper Londoner now" and advised me to "keep up with the pies".

Manze's
204 Deptford High Street
Deptford SE8 3PR
map

Almost across the street, you can find Goddard's; another renowned pie and mash shop.

Two days, later, Slightly is catching up and has posted about our visit to the shop: here.



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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo

I am still a little cold almost an hour after I got home. But looking back and having listen to the news, it was all worth it.

The World Tonight on Radio4 have just reported that after 3 hours of debate which were unusually well attended, the challenge to the new regulation lost the day by a majority of 131. 68 Lords supporting Lord Morrow's motion to annul the regulations.

Crowds singing

Outside of the House of Lords where I found myself tonight, there were "hundreds of people" (again according to the BBC but I would say about 2000) demonstrating in support of the motion. Of those, there were about 100 gay and lesbian people in total who had come spontaneously to show their disagreement. Linda Bellos, Ben Summerskill and other Stonewall people, someone from Outrage! and gay Christians were in attendance too.

Considering the amount of free publicity achieved by the event in the media today (and that included the unusual inclusion by BBC News of all the details of location and times on its website), I don't think the turn out can have be deemed much of a success by the organisers.

This was supposed to be a multi-faith affair but it was overwhelmingly led by “Christians” and had a distinct evangelical flavour (about half of the attendance was black). People singing and brandishing placards (reading "Cry Freedom", "Christians Awake" or "Back the Bible"), applauding speakers (including Rev. George Hargreaves, who in a past life wrote the very gay song “Not So Macho”, in a Guantanamo style boiler suit!). Non-Christian demonstrators can’t have felt very welcome and included.

The (mostly) Christian demonstrators

Children had of course been drafted and brought to the fore. The old confused spectre of the paedophile always at easy and comforting reach. Some Christians managed to tear themselves from the chanting crowd to come and chat with us who were standing silently on the side. Lively but mostly good mannered debates ensued. There were unfortunately a few shouts and rude words from a couple of gay guys during a heat aside with a Christian woman.

I found myself talking shortly to a born again man who seemed fairly reasonable I had a longer conversation with Amanda, a thin blond woman in her early forties. She seemed nice enough but, together with her elderly friend had this particular brand of religious zeal that make people seem a little deranged. The fact that the older woman kept repeating that god had created me and loved me did help.

As was made clear in the protracted debate on the regulations, there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on the Christian side. Amanda and her friend didn't know about the Christian Institute which is at the forefront of the opposition to the regulations; neither did they know about their inflammatory advert in the Times some weeks ago. Amanda finally told me that she was there because she fears that her freedom of speech will be taken away from her. She seemed to have only a hazy idea of the regulations but when I told her that she would still be able to SAY what she wants, she did not want to believe me.

In the end the argument from the people I met is that homosexuality, in their view (supported by the Bible which in turn is the word of god) is a sin. They see the law as forcing them to be unchristian by allowing something they disagree with.
This is compounded by the fact that sex should for them only take place within the holy bonds of matrimony and there you go: you can’t have two gays in one Christian B&B room (which seems to be the main contention here)… They all said they would also ban adulterers if they knew about them.

There doesn’t seem to be any rational basis to their point of view, which means you can’t really argue with them or hope to get them to see the light (so to speak).
Rainbow

On the whole, as could have been expected, no one was convinced by the other side's argument. I want to hope, however that I (and other elements of a discussion he was taking part in) gave something to think about to (rather handsome) black man. He first seemed to consider homosexuality as a choice but when I asked him if he could bring himself to desire a man, he became silent. Later, he asked us gays how we had known we were gay. Again our answer seemed to make him pose for thought.

Slowly around 8pm, the demonstration slowly disbanded allowing people to rejoin the coaches they had been shipped on. As I was getting ready to leave myself, someone I know told me how on arriving he had heard a woman on the other side of the road saying to her companion that she was a member of the House and, on seeing the signs marked "freedom" in the crowd, that those must be a counter demonstration. Quite ironic really.

Interviewed by Gaydar Radio

A slightly different version of this post was publish on PinkNews.co.uk on 10 January 2007, with the header: It was not just protesters out last night in Parliament Square. Blogger Nicholas Chinardet went along to meet the enemy, and was surprised to find some of them confused about the actual nature of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Here is his account of events outside the House of Lords last night.

Further reading:
* Another account of the demo, with (better) pictures.
* Discrimination law controversy By Jon Silverman, BBC Legal affairs analyst

Previous Posts:
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again


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Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament

Tonight, in the House of Lords, there will be a debate on whether a Humble Address should be presented to Her Majesty praying "that the regulations laid before the House be annulled". The regulations in question are the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 which were introduced on 01 January.

The purpose of Regulations is to make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation unlawful in the provision of goods, facilities and services, education and public functions in relation to Northern Ireland. Similar regulations are under consideration for England, Wales and Scotland, but these have not yet been finalised. They are due for April this year.

Christians, Muslims and Jews will demonstrate outside Parliament today against new regulations whicht they claim will force them to "actively condone and promote" gay sex.

A petition signed by 10,000 Christians will also be handed to the Queen asking her to use her "position and power" to stop the Government introducing the laws.

The Christian Institute has also started a Judicial Review against the Regulations on the grounds that the consultation period was not long enough. The government however received one of the largest number of responses for that type of document ever.

The torch-lit rally, due to be attended by Christians, Jews and Muslims, is to be held in Old Palace Yard, opposite the St Stephen's entrance to the House of Lords, from 1730 GMT to 2000 GMT.

It is due to start when the Lords debate the motion. (Faith rally over gay rights bill, BBC News)

Unfortunately, there is no word anywhere of a counter demonstration but I think I will try and go, just in case... If you believe in true freedom, join me there!

It is important to remember that the regulations already include doctrinal exemption for churches meaning that they can discriminate in the provision of their "religious services". This is, I think perfectly acceptable. What is not however is for them to want to discriminate whenever they want.

Audio files:
* Interview of Maurice (Lord) Morrow, who is challenging of the regulations at the House of Lords today on Radio 4's Today Programme this morning. (3.38 min, 3.33Mb, mp3 file)
* Interview of former Tory lord chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Labour MP Angela Eagle on Radio 4's Today Programme this morning. (9.05 min, 8.32Mb, mp3 file) - Read a summary of the interviews.

Related Articles Today:
* Christians and Muslims gear up for their big night out - Pink News
* Religions united in opposition to gay rights law, Jonathan Petre - The Telegraph
* Homophobia, not injustice, is what really fires the faiths, Polly Toynbee - The Guardian
* Should religious beliefs bow to gay rights?, James (Lord) Mackay - The Telegraph

Previous Posts:
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again



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Sunday, 7 January 2007

Bonne Année 2007

While the Brits are clearly obsessed with sending cards. Christmas and its orgiastic card sending, the fact that Royal Mail can barely cope and have deadlines for the sending of post around that time of the year are only the tip of the iceberg for the Brits have cards for almost all possible occasions. The French are much more restrained in that department, however.

The sending of cards is generally limited to Name Days, Birthdays and wishes for the New Year (you have the whole January to send your cards). NO, my dear British readers, nothing at Christmas!

That's my excuse for not sending any cards at Christmas anyway...

The above picture (and yes, it is the same I used here) is the visible result of having at hand a picture of an empty Trafalgar Square very early on Boxing Day, Photoshop, bad typographic skills (that is what Slightly says anyway and you have to give him that: he has a few good reasons to say it), and obviously too much time on ones hands.

For the record, a tree is given every year to London by Oslo (Norway) in gratitude for its support during WWII. This has been going on since 1947 and the tree in the picture is therefore number 60. The Chorus did not sing under it this year (we were probably too busy) but in 2004 and 2005 we sung there in support of the RNIB.

The picture then become an e-card I sent to my French contacts and a few lucky Brits too.

Since I seem to be furaging in my archives a lot these days, below is one I made earlier, probably for New Year 2004 and again based on one of my pictures. Protect your eyes for negative radiations.


In 2001, I used the the figure 2000 and placed pictures of objects or places that summed up the important events of the that year: The escutcheon of my regiment as I finished the National Service that year, Big Ben Tower for my moving to London and probably a third image which escapes my tired mind at the present.

This wonderful example of creative energy was sadly (?) lost to posterity in the Big Meltdown of my previous computer about 2 years ago.

As far as I can remember, I lazily sent normal snail mail cards in the intervening years.

Anyway, this post is a long and convoluted way to wish you all a happy, prosperous and safe new year. Best wishes.



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Saturday, 6 January 2007

La Peute Bête

I am currently designing a website for an illustrator friend to show off his work and hopefully get more.

Yesterday, I was scanning picture from a children's book he illustrated a few years ago. I will use them for the portfolio section of the site but also to illustrate the site itself and make more lively.

As I was doing this, I was reminded that I used to draw too when I was in my teens. I even considered making it a career at some point. I have no idea what could have made me think I could have done that!

I haven't touched a pen for several years now, I am sure and looking for examples of what I did at the time, I could only find the following yellowing photocopy of a pen drawing (from a black and white picture, so that was quite easy) I did around 1990, I think. All the rest (and there isn't much anyway) is at my parents' house.

La Peute Bête, Aujeurres, Haute-Marne
The picture represents the Peute Bête. A fantastic creature whose legend escapes me, which was immortalised in stone as the central fountain of a village not too far from my parents'. The statue apparently dates back from the 18th century.

"Peute" is a local patois word meaning "ugly". "Bête" means "beast". No need to explain why it is called that way!

You can see a picture of the fountain here.



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Friday, 5 January 2007

Witchhunt in Poland

As I mentioned recently, the Polish government, led by the Kaczynski brothers, has gone all out against communists and homosexuals.

It seemed that because of the facts that 95% of Polish are Catholic and that Law and Justice, the Kaczynskis' party, is very conservative and based its electoral success on Catholic values that members of the Church would not be worried by the government's attempts to "cleanse" the country.

When you open Pandorra's box, however, things have a tendancy to go pear shaped and out of your control. This is how, about a month ago, Gazeta Polska, published allegations that the upcoming Archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, had been an informer for SB, the security services, for 22 years during the communist era.

Rzeczpospolita (a very prominent paper in Poland) and other publications claim to have found Mr Wielgus's file in the archives of the communist secret police, which have yielded evidence exposing several prominent priests as former collaborators and led investigators to conclude that about one-in-10 Polish clergymen passed information to the security services.

While he denies the allegations, Wielgus is due to be sworn in in one of the highest offices of the Polish catholic church this week-end and is under great pressure to withdraw or at least to postpone the ceremony. Although the Vatican is still supporting its nominee for the position, it has launched an investigation with the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which is responsible for dealing with the country's communist past. This can not but be an embarrassment for the Chruch which takes great pride in the fact that John Paul II, the former Pope, of Polish origin, had a role in the end of the communist block.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Further (unrelated) bad news for the Catholic Church come from the US where the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane has agreed to pay at least $48 million to people molested by priests, as a part of a deal to emerge from bankruptcy. The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004, citing claims by abuse victims of about $81.3 million, against assets of $11 million.



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Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Petr's Cup

He had bought it in a tourist shop in Prague not very far from that bridge with the statues on the parapet that has appeared in so many films and adverts under borrowed identity that it has become familiar to lots of people who don't even know where it really is.

It was only a few months before he left the family restaurant with the French name and his small cosy flat in the centre of the city with the big aquarium. He liked the cup as soon as he saw it. The deep blue of its glazing, the myriad white fish that turned into a foaming sea if you stared at them for too long, the squat trustworthy shape, the broad rim. Handmade.

From then on, he had been drinking his morning coffee in the cup and when he closed his suitcase on that cold last morning, he washed the cup carefully of the morning brew and slipped it among the t-shirts so that it did not break on the long trip to the western end of Europe.

England...

First, it was Bath. A small drowsy city that only seem to wake up in summer under a flood of tourists. The quite streets with their striking architecture. A little provincial, but with its own strong personality. Not so very different from Prague, after all.

Then, it was London. The Big, dirty, grimy Smoke; full of noise and people; full of dreams and opportunities. Some good and some bad. You can get lost easily in London. Not just geographically. People don't really care. People are egoistic and mind their own business to the point of being rude and inconsiderate. A lonely place, for sure, but an exciting one.

All along, he had cradled the cup in his hands every morning over the breakfast table; whispering to it his hopes for the day, for the future. How wonderful life is. What had happened at work with that guy with whom he didn't get along without being quite sure why. His next idea for a drawing, the creative outlet that sort of kept him sane despite the mundanity of his day job.

The cup filled with thoughts as it emptied of coffee.

Now it was time to go back though. Time to return to the bridge with the statues and the aquarium without the fish. They had all died. And he could not take the cup with him. Bringing it back brimming with his hopes and dreams would be a little like admitting defeat. And it wasn't defeat. Life was still wonderful. He had also changed, grown as a person. This wasn't going back after all but moving forward. The man he had, ironically, met in a café in London and fallen in love with over countless emails across the continent was waiting for him.

Still, the cup had to stay.

And so, that day, the second of the new year, he carefully placed the cup in a nice blue box in a nest of silver wrapping paper. He tied a silver ribbon around it and placed it into a black plastic bag before going out. He was going to give the cup to that nice, sad guy he had met some weeks ago at a dodgy party. Somehow they had become friends since then; always ending up discussing some serious subject everytime they met. He had tried to pass on his secret: that if you repeat it to yourself often enough, life does become wonderful. In return, his new friend had given him practical informations and showed him parts of London he had not even suspected existed.

They met at "their place", as he liked to call it, at the very public foot of the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus and they slowly walked to "their café" in Soho. They had ordered, receiving their beverages in cardboard cups (because the dish washer was down). Once they had settled down, he placed the plastic bag on the table.

"Here, Zefrog, Merry Christmas."

Blue cup and box
Thank you again, Petr. Merry Christmas to you and best of luck.



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