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The Rotherham horror

Thursday, 28 August, 2014 1 Comment

Back in 2010, Julie Bindel was on the case. But people didn’t want to hear. Snippet:

“Often giving the girl a mobile telephone as a ‘gift’, the pimp is then able to track her every move by calls and texting, which eventually will be used by him to send instructions as to details of arrangements with punters. The men sell the girls on to contacts for around £200 a time or as currency for a business deal. ‘I was always asked why I kept going back to my pimp,’ says Sophie, ‘but they flatter you and make you think you are really loved. I thought he was my boyfriend until it was too late to get away.’ Another tactic of the pimp is getting the girl to despise and mistrust her own parents in order that he can achieve total control over her. The pimps routinely tell their victims that their parents are racist towards Asian people and that they disapprove of the relationships because the men are of Pakistani Muslim heritage, not because they are older. Some of the parents I met were racist, and some had developed almost a phobia against Asian men, fuelled by the misinformation and bigotry trotted out by racist groups in response to the pimping gangs.”

Bungalow blight in Ireland

Wednesday, 27 August, 2014 0 Comments

In the 1970s, a book titled Bungalow Bliss topped Ireland’s bestseller list and the country’s built landscape has never recovered, so devastating was its impact. Lincoln Allison, Emeritus Reader in Politics at the University of Warwick and Visiting Professor in sport and leisure at the University of Brighton, brought his inquiring mind to Ireland recently and in The Irish Free Variable he cast a cold eye on the bungalow blight. Snippet:

“Booms come and go, but the permanent and negative legacy of the Celtic Tiger can be seen in its littered landscape. There was rash of building unaffected by any notion of planning or of a proper demarcation between town and country. In England we had the 1935 Restriction of Ribbon Development Act to stop farmers selling the country land next to the road to developers. In Ireland there are ‘Modernised vernacular dwellings’ everywhere: naff bungalows, in other words. Right opposite Yeats Lake Isle of Innisfree: bungalows. On the slopes of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain (which I climbed — a tough one): bungalows. At the end of the Dingle Peninsula where the Atlantic breakers meet the land, which should be a wild place: bungalows. Bungalows from which nobody could possibly commute, or shop, or do anything much except at extreme cost to the planet’s resources. Bungalows with no pattern to them, like gigantic litter.”

Bungalow blight

After ‘Before The Dawn’

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014 0 Comments

The first reviews of the Kate Bush first night in London are in. The Mirror:

Bush’s long time away from the stage has evidently left her determined to add something more than song performance to the live experience. A lighting rig amplified with the sounds of helicopter rotor blades soars over the audience belching more smoke, Bush’s drowned character appears in a drawing room theatrical scene as she and actors play out mimed exchanges harking back to her earliest dramatic roots. But at the heart of the artful contrivance and outlandish effects the assertion of the simple verities of love longing, domesticity and family life were given full reign. There was undoubtedly only one artist who would have had the bloody mindedness, nerve and beautifully skewed imagination to pull it off.

As they had lived well, they died well too

Monday, 25 August, 2014 0 Comments

Basque fairy tales have a tendency to end with the formula “As they had lived well, they died well too.” Take the example of Beauty and the Beast. In this version, the beast is reptilian:

“There appears then an enormous serpent. Without intending it, the young lady could not help giving a little shudder. An instant after the serpent went away; and the young lady lived very happily, without lacking anything.”

Summer lapses away

Sunday, 24 August, 2014 0 Comments

Upon the death of Emily Dickinson in 1886, her family discovered forty hand-bound volumes containing nearly 1,800 poems. She had lived for all of her 55 years in her father’s house, most of them in almost total seclusion. Today, she is recognized as one of the greatest poets in the English language. This gem is appropriate on this brisk August day as one can sense the summer slipping away.

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone —

And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

Emily Dickinson (1830 — 1886)

Tom Rosenthal

Saturday, 23 August, 2014 0 Comments

“Everybody has a song in them,” says Tom Rosenthal. And he adds, “If you’ve ever made breakfast, you’ve created something. If you’ve ever told a lie, you’ve created something. If you’ve ever dreamt at night, you’ve created something. To be alive is to be creative.” Rosenthal is an original and a creative songwriter.

The Ferguson Schadenfreude

Friday, 22 August, 2014 0 Comments

After watching the situation in Ferguson making headlines in Spain’s El Pais, Portugal’s Publico, Denmark’s Politiken, France’s Liberation and Germany’s Der Tagespiegel, Die Tageszeitung and Die Welt, the writer of the Democracy in America blog at The Economist ponders the protests and declares that “the level of attention they are drawing in Europe is frankly bizarre.”

What’s behind the Ferguson fascination. The answer is as simple as it is revealing:

“Part of the attraction of the Ferguson story for Europeans may be a bit of Schadenfreude enjoyment of America’s racial woes. Europeans got tremendous political mileage out of America’s racial conflicts in the 1960s, using American racism as a negative pole to rally support for counter-American projects both on the Gaullist right and on the socialist left. In recent years it has been Europe that has struggled with anti-immigrant racism and an integration model that seems to work much worse than America’s. Europeans weary of criticism over rising xenophobia may be relieved to see that America still has its own troubles.”


The annual Gatsby reading

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014 0 Comments

Reading The Great Gatsby is an annual Rainy Day event. Here’s a favourite snippet:

“By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

The Caliphate Delusion

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014 0 Comments

Ghaffar Hussain, managing director at counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, nails it. Snippet:

The Caliphate is a political construct of the past that bears no relevance in the modern world from a theological or political perspective and most Muslims around the world realize that. Seeking to resurrect such an entity is no different to Italians seeking to bring back the Roman Empire, it is illogical and unworkable. However, the fact that sane and seemingly rational people are calling for such a thing in the modern world is a sad indictment of the state of political thought in Muslim-majority societies.

From “The Caliphate Delusion: the political construct that bears no relevance in the modern world” in Left Foot Forward.

Dear Prime Minister, Iraq and IS

Sunday, 17 August, 2014 0 Comments

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, writes to Prime Minister David Cameron. Snippet:

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

The inaction of Cameron and Obama in the face of Islamic extremism is very disturbing, and their apparent embarrassment in addressing the plight of persecuted Christians is alarming. Once again, the West is sleepwalking towards a catastrophe.

Daphne Guinness

Saturday, 16 August, 2014 0 Comments

Along with being an heir by direct descent of Arthur Guinness, the 18th-century Dublin creator of the dark beer that still bears his name, Daphne Guinness is an artist who has experimented with fashion, design and photography. Now, she’s turning her hand to music and her debut album is set to be released next month.