Don’t Tear It All Down, Man

This is a tricky thing to write and I’ve needed to think hard about what I wanted to say.

A few weeks ago, a statue in Bristol was torn from its plinth and thrown into a river. That statue was of noted slave trader Edward Colston and became a focal point of protests linked to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

This act seemed to finally send a message to local authorities around the country that our towns and cities are overdue a stocktake of monuments, buildings, and street names that commemorate people who made their money from trading in human beings.

Now here’s the rub. Since becoming a Victorian obsessive as a teenager (rock and roll), I’ve spent most of my life trying to preserve the monuments and buildings of the past. Whether it’s been petitioning councils, shouting at MPs, joining The Victorian Society, or donating to charities like Save Britain’s Heritage. I’ve been a right mouthy git when it comes to opposing the destruction of stuff made before I was born. So, it would be an understatement to say that the events in Bristol left me conflicted.

On the one hand, I want to see Britain face up to the sins of its past. I want to see less flag-waving and land of hope and glorying and more soul searching. I want us to finally admit that Britain may have ruled the waves but turned those same waves red.

On the other; I want to see our statues and sculptures preserved, no matter how unpleasant their subject matter because those people existed, and those things happened. We as a nation commissioned some of the finest artists in the land to build monuments to monsters. We need to face that reality and not brush it under the carpet.

So, instead of destroying the artefacts of our past, move them to the museums where they belong. Not on raised plinths but at floor level, so we all can look them in the eye and say, “what you did was wrong.” 

Talking TERF

What do you really believe?

That’s a question I have to ask myself every day, along with:

  • Do you believe that there is still no god?
  • Do you believe that science is still a good thing?
  • Are you sure?
  • Do you believe in life after love?

Well aren’t I a big smuggy smug face with all my self-examination? Yes. Yes, I am.

The reason I ask those questions is not because I’m a radiant beacon of self-awareness but because I’m afraid.  It is so easy to be led into a delusion that one is the righteous goodie, when in fact you have slipped unnoticeably into the role of the moustache twirling bad guy. 

For instance, I used to be vehemently opposed to people who are religious.  I believed that anybody who held any religious faith were at best idiots and at worst mentally ill. It took me a long time to look at my own beliefs and realise that I had become a nasty bigot. What does it matter to me if somebody chooses to have religious beliefs? It is only a problem if those beliefs are used by people to do harm. Then let’s face it, those people lose their faith long before they chose to replace it with anger and hatred.  So being angry at religion is a waste of time and energy.  The people who do those things are just using a name of something better than them. They may as well be doing it in the name of Woolworths.

“Praise Pick & Mix!” *boom*

These days I’m rather sanguine when it comes to religious folk. They exist, I exist, and we don’t really bother each other. Except when I hang around church fetes buying delicious chutneys. I love delicious chutneys.

So why am I saying all this stuff with words?

Mainly because I need to confess my intransigence before accusing others of the same.

The others I wish to accuse on this day and at this hour are Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFS),

It is possible, if you have little contact with the LGBT community, that you will have never heard of TERFS. Unfortunately I have, and I want to talk about them.

TERFS are a hate group directed at transgender people. Like the delusional Pick and Mix bombers I mentioned earlier, they are completely certain that they are morally correct  and believe that they are acting in the best interests of the human race.

Their techniques include shouting ‘penis’ at transgender women in the street, hijacking pride parades and accusing trans men of being butch lesbians. They have created websites designed to fan hysteria about the ‘transgenderization’ of children. Sites disguised as educational tools, purporting to give parents the ‘real’ information about the ‘Transgender Narrative’. Yes, I am using a lot of quotation marks.

Their techniques will be familiar to people who have studied the rise of Donald Trump in America and our own home-grown political manoeuvrings around Brexit. Like the National Socialists of 1930s, they believe that they are protecting people from their definition of degenerate beings.

Sadly, like the Pick and Mix bomber their enemies don’t really exist. They have shaped monsters out their own ignorance and stupidity and allowed them to grow and flourish in their own shit.

The greatest of these myths is that trans people are trying to convert children to what they call ‘transgenderism’. They actually believe that trans people are the Borg!

It pains me to see the word feminist used by these people. I was brought up to believe in feminist ideals and I have always endeavoured to be an example of how masculinity can embrace the feminine, even as a cis and gay man. So let me deliver this warning.  If you are a TERF, you are part of the dark forces that are engulfing the world and history will judge you as it has other groups like yours. Is that really how you want to be remembered? What do you realky believe?

Sadly, if you are a TERF you will never read this because I have a penis.

PENIS!

Macaloon

What’s this? A new blog after only a year?
 
Yes, I know I am super slack but these days but I find it difficult to write a blog until I’m excited about something or something has annoyed me to the point of breaking my silence.
 
Well today is about something that has excited me – in a very geeky/nerdy way.
 
Those people who know me also know that I my phone of choice has always been the iPhone. So, whenever the time comes to upgrade I generally go for the next model up. However, in January I decided to throw caution to the wind and instead of ordering an iPhone 7, I ordered a Samsung Galaxy S8.
 
It didn’t stop there, either. Because I had an Apple watch I simply had to order a Samsung watch to go with my lovely shiny – oh so shiny- phone.
 
Yes, it was chunkier than my shiny Apple watch and wasn’t very pretty but it worked well and I got used to its huge and charmless screen.  Then the disaster. Within three days of being full Android, I dropped my trousers.  To be precise, I lowered my trousers to my ankles before being at stool and my phone dropped a whole one inch out of my pocket and onto the vinyl flooring of the gents loo in my office and an arc of cracked glass appeared across the top of the phone’s screen.
 
After sobbing for several hours, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to live with a cracked phone for two years.  So after the empty stable purchase of a glass screen protector, I continued to use the phone for another couple of weeks. When it happened again. Same toilets, same distance. The screen protector shattered, as did the screen underneath.
 
 However, the screen still displayed a picture so I figured that I’d push on, I could tolerate a smashed phone. I am a very tolerant person.
 
Then I leaned against a wall with the phone in my pocket and the screen crumbled to dust.
 
Fuck!
 

Picture of an iPhone 7 Plus Box

So what to do?
 
Well I had three choices: pay Samsung £240 to fix the screen, pay a dodgy company £150 to only replace the glass or throw my toys out of my pram and buy a nearly new iPhone 7 plus. So I bought the iPhone 7 plus.
 
 Picture of an Apple Watch on Martin's Wrist
The new phone duly arrived and it was heavy and solid, it was sleek and beautiful and I vowed never to fall out with Apple products again. Then it escalated. Before long, I’d bought a new Apple watch to go with my shiny phone and shortly after  I spotted an eight year old, battered iMac on eBay and I bought it. It cost less than my PCs video card, so I figured I’d got a bargain and I justified the purchase as a way to save space. Our house is very small and we’re trying to sell it, so a desktop machine than can be put away is an enormous boon. Just like Michael Elphick in Eastenders.
 
 
The iMac was battered, having been dropped down some stairs but the screen had been replaced and everything worked, so I set about it with some Mister Sheen and polished it till it shone, I straightened the dented aluminium case, buffed up the screen and switched it on.
 
It was beautiful. The screen was bright and clear, applications launched like they had been lubricated by divine spunk. Installing software was so quick! Just drag the files into the application folder and no waiting an hour while Windows puts in three thousand registry entries before you can even launch an application. It just works.
 Picture of an iMac
 
Sitting in front of it made me want to make things. So, in one day I created two silly videos, edited a podcast and wrote this blog. That is more creative output than I’ve achieved in twelve months!
 
Though I am worried that I have developed a bipolar disorder and that the my increase in creativity and increased is simply a symptom of encroaching mental illness.  Naaa, it’s just the shiny machine that’s done it.
 
Thinking about it; isn’t Stephen Fry is a a big Mac fan? Mmm Big Mac…
 

We Need to Talk About Devon

On the 3rd April 2017 and after 44 years of living in Halifax I’m moving to Okehampton in Devon.

This has been a devastating blow for my existing plan of living here until old age, dying penniless in a council flat during a heat wave and being cut off my mattress a week later by bored council workers in hazmat suits. However I haven’t given up on that dream entirely and the moment I feel a bit peaky I’m ordering a load of milk, a council flat and heading back up North like a dying salmon.

As decisions go, you would think that moving to a beautiful part of the country and marrying the man you love would be something of a no brainer. However when you’ve never really lived anywhere else, that decision can be incredibly tough.

Those of you who went to university may have experienced this already. However to do it in your mid forties is a wrench. This town is part of me. I know every corner of it. I know how it smells in spring, summer autumn and winter. It’s in my blood and I love it.

This is a failing my grandfather shared. Apart from his wartime service with the RAF he was born, lived and died in Halifax and was unhappy for the greater part of his adult life. Perhaps there’s a lesson there?

Back in the 1990s I had an interview at a temp agency in Bradford. After the usual typing and spreadsheet tests, I was ushered into a room for a chat with a ‘recruitment professional’. She read my application form with surprise

“Is this right? Are you from Halifax?”

“Yes,” I said, nervously

“We don’t often get people from Halifax. They never want work anywhere else.”

It’s easy to see why. Halifax had the headquarters of the Halifax Building Society, the Nestle factory which makes Quality Street, After Eights and Easter eggs and the McVitie’s factory churning out Jamaica Ginger Cake. Then there were a multitude of large insurance companies, small businesses and so many pubs, clubs and restaurants that coach parties would come to the town for a night out. Jobs were everywhere. So working out of town was simply unnecessary.

So here I am packing up my worldly goods, hugging my nearest and dearest and heading down the motorway to the land of Ambrosia.

On Saturday an era ended, when for the final time in my little cottage, we did a five hour live podcast stream for Comic Relief. When it was over I handed the recording equipment to Andrew and Lisa to store in their Harry Potter cupboard in Manchester and waved them and Dill the podcast hound goodbye and a few hours later a slightly drunk Tom.

On Sunday morning the living room that had been crowded with microphones and good company felt incredibly empty and I found myself pre-emptively missing my friends and began to sob, big wet grief sobs, like when you’re a kid and a something makes your world fall apart. Then I had a Pot Noodle.

‘Why on earth are you putting yourself through this?’ I can hear you punching at your screen.

Love, dear reader. Stupid, soppy, romantic, idiotic love.

People do extraordinary things when they’re in love. There’s often no logic to it and in our case we’re breaking all the rules. Our wedding is on a tiny budget and will be organised in about six weeks and we’ve not known each  very long at all. However the one thing that living 300 miles apart has taught us is how to talk to each other. We’ve learned how to communicate. We’re complicated, silly, giggly and grumpy people. He is an optimist who wants to save the planet and I’m a nihilist who thinks it is beyond saving. However, fundamentally we are similar and I want to spend the rest of my  life  with him, or until he gets bored and dumps me for a supermodel.

As some of you may know, the announcement of an impending marrage leads to a sudden flood of unsolicited advice. This is just some  I’ve received:

“You’re going to irritate each other. You need to push through that until you stop noticing the things that irritate you.”

“Walk away from arguments. If you stay and shout it out you can really hurt each other. Go away and calm down.”

“Don’t use something that your other half did wrong in the past to justify something you’re doing now.”

“Remember why you fell in love. Try to remind yourself every day. Tell each other that you love each other.”

“Compromise Martin. You’re going to have trouble with that because you’ve been alone for so long. Learn how to do it.”

“Take some time apart. Make sure you spend time with your friends separately.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. If one of you forgets to buy the eggs, it’s not the end of the world.”

Then there was the sex advice.

“Make time for sex. It’s so important to maintain that physical closeness.”

“Be honest in the bedroom. If they can do better, tell ‘em. If they smell, tell ‘em. I send my husband to the shower regularly.”

“You’ll find that you may fancy each other less as time goes by. Go to a hotel when that happens.” (Not sure what that will do. Perhaps it’s the tiny soaps?)

Then the divorcees chipped in.

“Never let another person into the marriage, they will kill it.”

“You’re partners in a business. Sometimes you need to treat it that way. If they’re causing that business to fail, fire them and go it alone.”

“If they cheat on you once, they’ll cheat on you again. Divorce them. No second chances.”

“Just get a dog.”

“That’s mental.”

Right, I have Marvel Blu-Rays to pack. Last one to the Belstone tea room is a woofter.

x

LGBT History Month 2017

Well it’s here again, LGBT History Month.

Most people will leave this particular aspect of February unmarked in their diary. After all, unless you identify as part of the rainbow alphabet you may be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t apply to you. However, if you dig a little deeper you find that LGBT history is the history of us all. There have been plenty of notable figures over the centuries who have been LGB or T. It was just that they couldn’t tell us at the time. We often only discover such truths when they drop dead and a dusty diary of hidden desire is plucked from the bottom of a long forgotten trunk.

This year is very special one. It marks 60 years since the Wolfenden Report recommended the legalisation of consensual homosexual acts between two men (it was never illegal between two women). Yes, you heard right bitchas! The WOLFENDEN report. How cool is my name now? Yeah, you can touch me. It is also 50 years since parliament acted on the report. OK, it did take a decade to get through parliament. Better late than never I suppose…and the age of consent was set at a ludicrous 21 and stayed that way until 1994. Which makes me technically a criminal. What with that and the home taping.

Anyway, before 1967 homosexuality was very illegal. In fact the police were so obsessed with catching men who touched each other’s winkles, they would hang about in lavatories dangling their own like worms on a fish hook. They still did that until recently..to be honest I think they just liked it.

If you were caught in the bad old days, your punishment would be deeply unpleasant. Between 1533 and 1828, you would be hanged. After 1828 you would probably spend a few years behind bars doing hard labour. Believing as they did, that picking apart tarred ropes and smashing rocks would have any hardened bummer desiring wholesome boobies in a jiffy*.

The first half of the 20th Century wasn’t much better, what with imprisonment or chemical castratration awaiting you if you so much glanced at another man’s meat and two veg. If you happened to be over the sea in Germany during WW2 you may have found yourself in a concentration camp. Which, considering how many Nazi commanders were found in bed with blonde boys during the night of the long knives, was just a little bit hypocritical.

Transgender people are conspicuous by their absence in our history books. Often misgendered or misidentified as effeminate men or butch women, they have been overlooked or forgotten by eager historians only interested in tales of forbidden sexuality. So you may be forgiven for thinking that transgender people are a recent invention, especially as they have only been allowed to change their legal gender since 2005.  It is telling that even now the word ‘misgendered’ is showing as unrecognised on this computer’s spellchecker. However trans people have been around for..well, how long has humanity been around?

Let’s face it. Attitudes to bi people have been in the Stone Age for a very long time. They were considered by many gay and lesbian people to be tourists. Thought to be simply unwilling to commit to a single binary identity, bi people would often find a less than warm welcome in the community. At this point I would like to a tell you that I never shared those views. However I did. In fact I remember once saying to a bisexual man who asked me out in the 1990s ‘sorry, I just don’t trust bisexuals’. What a stupid young man I was. Fearful that we would fall in love and he would leave me for a more convenient life with a wife and 3 kids.

Since then I have examined that prejudice and discovered that bisexuality is not a fear of commitment to one person but simply an attraction to multiple genders. Believe me, if a bi person picks you to spend their life with, you’d better be grateful. Because they had all of humanity to choose from.

So LGBT history hasn’t been a picnic and recent events in the United States have reminded us that people will always want to take hard won rights away. The monsters will be defeated eventually but until then, we all need to be strong. Not only those of us who are part of this community but our friends and allies who are so very vital to permanently securing those rights.

This blog post has only scratched the surface of LGBT history and let’s face it, it’s not just LGBT anymore. The alphabet gets bigger every year with more and more people discovering who they are and adding letters and new colours to a rainbow that will shine on long after Donald J.Trump has turned to orange dust.

*Wholesome Boobies in a Jiffy is the unmade sequel to Se7en.

  1. For some more information here is a graphic sent to me by a purveyor of rude things. 

A Special Podcast

Well it took weeks to write, a day  to record and 26 hours to edit. So I hope you will enjoy this special. We made it for Christmas but it has so little Christmas in it, you can listen to it any time. Christmas is a bad time to release excessively ambitious podcasts as everybody is too busy to listen to them…we did that. So here it is after Christmas. 

You can also grab it at iTunes

And at the podcast website brainjam.co.uk.