Sunday, 30 August 2009

Let Frank Turner Live!

I left quite a lengthy comment on Frank Turner's blog at 11:21 am today.

It's on the vexed issue of illegal downloads. Or rather, on an issue that I don't think should be vexed at all.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Jonathan With A 'J'

Jon Spira is a good friend of mine. I also find him very interesting. I think you will too.

Radio Oxford Replay

My interview on BBC Radio Oxford is available on iPlayer. Here's the link. I come on at 0:34.

Monday, 24 August 2009

London Society 8

This isn’t true.

I saw the chaps again the other day.

We had an improbably nice meal in a public house called “The White Swan” on Sunday. Norman Lamont told Julian Clary that if he’s really serious about joining the Army (Julian: “I AM serious”) then he’d better get used to rather stodgier, more proletarian fare than he’s become accustomed to.

So off we trooped to a somewhat rough part of town. Norms was in his element – I know his game well by now – and was chatting up the toughs at the bar within seconds of our arrival. He was kind enough to pay for the whole shebang though, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

Julian said that it has become a gastropub, and so all became clear – we weren’t slumming it at all. The place has just enough “authenticity” (none of it ethnic, thankfully) to keep the natives content, but they’ve hired some French whiz to do the cooking. It might be bangers and mash on the face of it, but it’s a work of art. You can say one thing and one thing only for the Frogs – they know about food and drink.

The booze flowed, as it always does. Julian protested that he needs to get in shape ASAP, but Norms said “wine and spirits don’t count.” Although that’s balls I must say that Norman is looking fitter than ever. He’s stuck to the wrestling with much more vigour than I’ve seen from him before. (I always knew he’d fail to make it to the very top in politics; you simply have to put the hours in.)

After he’d had a few, Norms slapped one of the local rapists on the arse and told him that he could sort the economy out in a trice “if they’d just give me my old job back.” Then he launched into a tiresome explanation of where it’s all gone wrong. I switched off at that point, as it doesn’t affect me in any way, and I couldn’t give a damn about the fortunes of bankers. Ghastly, feverish ratboys the lot of them.

Julian has set up a mini assault course in the garden. He was DEEPLY upset when Norms bounded over it like an Andrex puppy. Even Roy Keane – who is of course a natural athlete physically if not spiritually – was impressed.

Julian meanwhile was foiled by his desperately weak upper body. His arms are incredibly spindly, and Felix the Black Personal Trainer said that his “core strength” is inadequate as well. Felix has prescribed trunk exercises, whatever that means.

Roy burst into tears in the evening. When asked what was wrong, he said that he couldn’t understand why Julian wants to kill people. Julian stammered that it’s more complicated than that, but Roy was having none of it. "NO IT ISN’T, NO IT ISN’T!” he bellowed (most unlike Roy to raise his voice or lose his cool). “That’s exactly what it’s like. If you wanted to help people or see the world you’d join the Red Cross.”

I tried to smooth things over by sharing my observation that the Forces don’t appeal to me because I don’t want to get blown to bits myself, but that only served to upset EVERYONE.

Norms is not a natural diplomat, but he came to my rescue by leaping up and demanding that Felix help him demonstrate his latest “move”. We were all so flabbergasted when Norms lifted Felix (who must weight at least 18 stone and is about 6’6) over his head before hurling him to the floor (with quite a thud) that my faux pas was forgotten.

I sometimes think that these get-togethers are just too overwrought to be worth the candle, but Norms and Julian are my oldest friends and I would miss dear Roy, who simply doesn’t socialise anywhere else. He is currently managing Ipswich City, and I couldn't sleep soundly knowing that he only had Norms, Julian and a bunch of Norfolk yokels for friends.

Felix isn’t a bad sort either. He told me that he wants Norman and he to get matching tattoos and that Norms is up for it. I don’t think Julian will like it. Nor will Roy, who simply loathes body art. He can't bear the thought of others suffering, even when it's self-inflicted. BLESS HIM.


I have left a comment on a ConservativeHome post. Here's the link. Comment comes at 16:33.

In Or Out?

There are more questions than answers
Pictures in my mind that will not show
There are more questions than answers
And the more I find out the less I know
Yeah, the more I find out the less I know

Johnny Nash

It’s good to have firm opinions. Indeed it’s vital. None of us could function without being, at times, utterly decisive. Sometimes in politics making a decision and sticking to it is more important than how the decision was arrived at – whether rationally, arbitrarily, drawing on experience or tossing a coin – and sometimes following it through is right even if the original decision was wrong.

A refusal to take a firm view can be every bit as stubborn as the opposite. Often it is ludicrous and offensive. Truth and falsehood exist; so do right and wrong. Moreover, adults really ought to have a broad view on their political stance. To have no preference between socialism and capitalism is pretty half-witted.

Yet politics, like the rest of life, can be mightily complex. Having firm values from which we will not deviate doesn’t obviate the need to take each case as it comes. You can still be a free marketeer and believe that some things are best done by the government – and be surprised that, say, administration costs in parts of the public sector are lower than in the private sector.

And on occasion, if you want to be intellectually honest, you have to throw your hands up and say: “I simply can’t decide where I stand.” It’s one thing when it’s a matter of great specificity, but another when it’s a fundamental issue. It’s troubling. But I’m going to embrace it, and 'fess up:

I can’t decide where I stand on military intervention.

I can see powerful arguments for intervening heavily. I believe that moral values are universal, that females should be educated, that capitalism is better than socialism, that non-medical circumcision is wrong, that the death penalty is obscene, that the happiness of themselves and their loved ones should be the driving force for everybody, that no-one should be compelled to worship, and that suppressing people’s freedom is abominable.

Sanctions don’t work, as a rule, as the ruling elite continues to live the high life while ordinary people suffer.

That being so, if other courses of action fail, I can see the merits in removing dictators by force. I’m not bothered by what the UN thinks, given that it is overrun by anti-Semites and communists. I don’t have much time for any argument that starts with the words “Saddam Hussein was not a good man, but ...” He was lot worse than unkind, and dismissing his crimes so airily is revolting.

And I certainly think that there are times when, to put it clumsily, a bit of killing can prevent a lot more killing.

On the other hand …

… where do you start? People are oppressed in their millions all over the globe. All of China. Much of Africa. Cuba. North Korea. We can’t afford to intervene everywhere, so how do we pick where to do so?

And will they thank us if we do get involved? Recent experience suggests not. There is a profound danger that countries which pose zero risk to the UK will start to pose rather more if we start shooting their inhabitants.

I think every country would be better off – morally, spiritually and financially – if it were a liberal democracy. But that doesn’t mean we should try to impose such a system by force. Isn't it rather illiberal to tell people to be liberal? And democracy is no guarantee of liberalism. Hamas shows us that.

We have paid an enormous cost in blood and treasure in Iraq. The British and American governments long ago lost their nerve and ceased to claim this was an act of self-defence. They segued, not so subtly, into defending the invasion on the grounds that it was a humanitarian venture.

I wouldn’t volunteer to risk my life in a war where my country’s liberty was not at stake. I struggle to make the leap to believing that any British serviceman or woman should be compelled to do so. I honour their sacrifices. I quite agree that we depend upon our Armed Forces to do exactly what they’re told to do. But we, as civilians defended by a civilian-run military, have a duty to form a view about where and how our service personnel are engaged.

Of course they are other ways of intervening. The UN can do it, and so can mercenaries. The latter takes out the compulsion problem, but leaves a lot more questions unanswered.

So all in all, this is one I’m going to have to reflect upon.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

BBC Oxford

I will be on BBC Radio Oxford tomorrow (Friday) at around 10:30am.

Through the magic of science, I will be interviewed about contemporary comedy from my home.


By George Strait

If there's a plane or a bus leavin' Dallas
I hope you're on it
If there's a train movin' fast down the tracks
I hope you caught it
'Cause I swear out there ain't where you oughta be
So catch a ride catch a cab don't ya know I miss ya bad
But don't you walk to me

Baby run cut a path across the blue skies
Straight in a straight line you can't get here fast enough
Find a truck and fire it up lean on the gas and off the clutch
Leave Dallas in the dust
I need you in a rush
So baby run

If you ain't got a suitcase get a box or an old brown paper sack
Pack it light or pack it heavy take a truck take a Chevy
Baby just come back

There's a short cut to the highway out of town why don't you take it
Don't let that speed limit slow you down go on and break it

Baby run cut a path across the blue skies
Straight in a straight line you can't get here fast enough
Find a truck and fire it up lean on the gas and off the clutch
Leave Dallas in the dust
I need you in a rush
So baby run

Monday, 17 August 2009


I have a post on ConservativeHome today, in which I say that all politicians should be treated equally.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

London Society 7

I have just come back from another stay with Julian Clary and Norman Lamont.

We got up to the same old shenanigans - Norms is still very into wrestling and insisted on showing me all his latest moves. There is a certain constancy in his eccentricity that I find oddly comforting. Julian is as mouselike as ever, which makes his latest news all the more extraordinary.

He is utterly determined to join the Army. Yes, you read that correctly. This lamb of a man feels he has a moral obligation to do his bit for Queen and Country. It wasn't my place to tell him that he is wildly unsuited to military life, but it did get me thinking about my own lack of service.

I did consider signing up when I was a lad. The uniforms are splendid - at least for the officer class - and the Royal Navy appealed for a while. But ultimately I was put off by a crippling phobia, so it simply wasn't an option.

I have a dreadful fear of dying.

And that is an occupational hazard in the Forces. Getting shot in the head, being blown up by a bomb, being murdered in an ambush - all these are very real possibilities. Clearly that suits lots of chaps. But it's not for me.

Sometimes these phobias are conquerable. Roy Keane's football career nearly came a cropper because he couldn't bear getting muddy. He told me once that he used to pray for the day when all pitches were made of Astrograss.

In the end Roy overcame his fear. He is a better man than me, in many ways.

Disclaimer: The above ain't true, readers.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Sky News

I'm back on Sky News tonight, between 7pm and 7.30pm.
It really is nice to be on the telly. And they're very friendly.
Update: Here is the link.

Monday, 10 August 2009

I Am Also ...

... directing an improv show.

Credulous fools that they are, The Four Gallants asked me to assume the role of director of their October show about Byron, Shelley and others.

I have neither done improv nor directed before. They're quite mad. But more than quite talented. My plan is to surf the tidal wave that is their talent and take an obscene amount of credit.

Gelastic Band Productions are responsible for the show. Check 'em out.

The Film

I'm sorry not to have posted for a while. I've been rather busy with work and job applications - and with the film!
I have been captivated by the whole experience. There is excellent camaraderie on set, and things that someone who's done this a few times already might take for granted - like watching people put down gaffer tape to show me my mark, hearing all the lingo, consulting with the designer on what to wear for each scene - seem magical to me.
I think that we've done a good job so far, and I really believe in the project. My director and producer are heroically putting me up in their flat at weekends so I can avoid getting up at a torturous hour (6.45 is a doddle when you're doing something you love but 4.00 wouldn't be), and Kris is keeping us fed and watered, as well as acting as a runner.
Might it all get old if I did this regularly? I don't think so. I still enjoy walking past and through the Houses of Parliament, and the mere sight of a stand and a mic are enough to make my heart soar.
Oh, and everyone was very understanding and forgiving of the fact that we had to abandon a scene because I was corpsing so much.
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