Comedy & Humour

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Comedy & Humour

Theresa May Brexit Suicide float provokes mixed feelings in Norwich

Brexit Suicide float arrives in Norwich

Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

On the eve of BBC Question Time in Norwich, not just one political demo but two protests against the Government took place. One was anti-austerity/Tory and gathered outside The Open where filming was taking place.

The other was anti-Brexit whose centrepiece was a German carnival float with the sensitivity of a French Charlie Hebdo cover in the spirit of Spitting Image satire – how about that for European unity!

French artist but UK resident for 30 years, Laure Olivier Minns, drew attention to the sad state of the satirical statue, in an interview with the Norwich Evening News:

“Look at the state of her head already, it’s a sign that she isn’t strong and stable.” – Laure Ollivier Minns, EDP

Questionable Taste

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside the Norwich Forum, photo by Katy Jon Went

The humour was not to everyone’s taste, and as someone who has experienced suicide attempts, I found the subject matter challenging. The image of Theresa May shooting herself in the mouth was meant to be about Britain committing political suicide by Brexit. Instead, the image was profoundly personal evoking strong reactions.

Perhaps, it should have been Britain shooting itself in the foot, rather than the mouth, it may even be seen as an own-goal. Some erstwhile Remainers refused to attend the rally as a result, others like myself had mixed feelings.

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float going past Open and Anglia Television in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

During the evening I had several conversations with passers-by about suicide but few about Brexit. One car driver stopped and said he agreed with what we were doing and supported Remain but having lost a family member to suicide found the imagery distasteful.

Another person found that it conjured up allusions of male-on-female violence. I critiqued that view and pointed out that male suicide by gun is a much higher figure than female suicide fatalities. Well, it created a debate, but perhaps not the one intended. Much as Antony Gormley’s recent rooftop-edge human sculptures up at UEA.

Laure defended the choice to bring the float to Norwich and use it as one expression among many of people’s feelings about Brexit. She said:

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float: Laure Ollivier Minns, Katy Jon Went, Joan Pons Laplana L-R

“The message is clear: BREXIT IS TOXIC. And that I guess is at least something we all agree on. So this May’s float might not be everyone’s cup of tea in terms of ‘bad taste’ for some, however, I truly believe that it is so important for FREEDOM OF SPEECH to be respected and protected.

Visuals such as the float or other creative means like some ingenious cartoons show humour through carrying angry voices and it is a way to soften anger too strong for words and at the same time be totally spot on in delivering a strong message. Humour is so important to cherish and use through tragedies and political dilemmas to also lighten up the atmosphere. Likewise many creative placards that are conveying strong messages through cartoons of sorts, make an important impact in seconds and make people smile relating to that message or/and provoke a reaction. So what? I think it should. It is a way to be heard.

Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went

We can’t expect everyone to agree on each of those creative means to carry our voice forward and it does not mean that the placard of Billy-next-door is a reflection on what we all stand for. We all have our own individual way of expression, shared by other groups or not, and we should remind ourselves that we are marching for the same goal: Pro-EU / stop Brexit > which are both about MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD whatever slogan one chose or art form used.”

Nonetheless, the satire also made the point that most provocative art and humour do, that life is sometimes messy and uncomfortable, opinions differ and divide; it was certainly a talking point – whether it was Remainers shooting themselves in the foot with a tactless float, or Brexiters committing political suicide, we’ll have to wait and see…

Düsseldorf Carnival Brexit Suicide Float

The satirical Karneval float created by Jacques Tilly depicts the British Prime Minister with a ‘Brexit’ gun in her mouth first debuted Düsseldorf Carnival in February and was subsequently used by the Unite for Europe campaign and March 2017 events in the UK.

The float is currently on a British tour and arrived in Norwich on the same day as the BBC’s Question Time took place at The Open.

Satire or Serious Message?

Düsseldorf’s Karneval regularly features political satire but this year with Donald Trump, Netherlands’ Wilders, France’s Le Pen, Turkey’s Erdogan, along with Britain’s Brexit, there was plenty of material.

The stodgy stereotypical image of German humour is clearly way off the mark as these floats were right up Charlie Hebdo‘s street and could have walked off the Spitting Image TV set. Humour, like art, both protests and provokes. I hope the conversation shifts away from the rather visible satirical attack on Theresa May and instead remains about the political and personal damage that Brexit may do to European relations and EU nationals living here, as well as threats to Britain’s prosperity and cultural tapestry.

Norwich Anti-Austerity Protest

Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, "Cripple the System" Quote
Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, “Cripple the System” Quote

The serious message about austerity and cuts and their impact on the disabled, the poor, and the most vulnerable was also protested outside the BBC filming by Vince Laws, Jan McLachlan, Tim Hughes and many others.

“If the system cripples you, you must cripple the system” – Oscar Wilde

OK, so Vince made that one up, but the #fakenews quote got you thinking and googling its source! What Oscar Wilde did say was – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”.

 

Comedy & Humour

RIP Carrie Fisher – Actor, Author, Mental Health Advocate, in her own words

Carrie Fisher, died 27 December 2016

Carrie Fisher will be mostly remembered for being Princess Leia in Star Wars as the Space Western princess with a gun and rapid riposte to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo when he needed a put-down. It didn’t stop them having a recently revealed off-screen romance. Also, off-screen was her battle with the darker forces of addiction and bipolar mental health. Her website records her in the way she’d prefer to be remembered as an “actor, author” and shamelessly, a “mental health advocate”, her site listed mental health resources, and she was active in promoting mental health awareness.

Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist (2016)
Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist (2016)

For the record, she starred in 44 films from Shampoo (1975) to Star Wars: Episode VIII (2017), wrote 7 books, and well over half-a-dozen plays, scripts and screenplays.More a signature action than her Leia buns and Avenger/Charlie’s Angels-style with

Even more a signature action than her Leia buns and Avengers/Charlie’s Angels-style gun-aloft pose, her middle finger was often shot up at the press. She was a hero for her honesty, humour and heart, the media needs to treat mental health better.

As someone who battles and “sur-thrives” with Bipolar Affective Disorder, aka manic depression, myself, I find so many echoes in her statements on mental health, and her activism in helping others through honesty and sheer guts – or clitzpah, female “courage bordering on arrogance”, as a friend puts it.

A fitting tribute is, therefore, to remember her in her own words:

Carrie Fisher Quotes – In Her Own Words

“I really love the internet. They say chat-rooms are the trailer park of the internet but I find it amazing.”

On Writing as Therapy

Carrie Fisher, Shockaholic (2011)
Carrie Fisher, Shockaholic (2011)

“I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there’s something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it’s not something that you’re in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience.”

“I always kept a diary – not a diary like, ‘Dear Diary, we got up at 5 A.M., and I wore the weird hair again and that white dress! Hi-yeee!’ I’d just write.”

“Writing is a very calming thing for me.” 

I can echo those thoughts, totally! Writing slows my racing pacing thoughts down, coming up with the language that accurately and emotional reflects my thoughts on myself, life, the universe and everything, is a process that is cathartic, creative, and better than CBT.

Her humour

Whether scripted stand-up comedy or unscripted ad-lib, Carrie was quick witted, sharp, funny and could turn the tables on an interviewer. A vital skill in the harsh world of Hollywood and media criticism.

“I brought along Gary” (Carrie Fisher’s dog) “because his tongue matches my sweater” … “I think in my mouth so I don’t lie” … “what music makes [weight loss] worthwhile?” Not to mention some beautiful flirting with “DNA jackpot” GMA’s Amy Robach!

The humour, the jokey OCD matching, the flirting, she was my kind of inappropriate unboundaried, humourous getting-into-trouble, woman.

“There’s no room for demons when you’re self-possessed” via Twitter (2014)

“I googled myself without lubricant. I don’t I recommend it.” on David Letterman (2009)

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve got my nose pressed up against the window of a bakery, only I’m the bread” – Postcards from the Edge (1987)

“Pure lust is an oxymoron” via Twitter (2016)

On Life and Being Herself

“I am a spy in the house of me. I report back from the front lines of the battle that is me. I am somewhat nonplused by the event that is my life.”

“I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.”

Again, one feels like an actor in one’s own drama, there is sometimes a feeling of distance from the actions one takes, as if one were only playing a part, however grand a role.

On Body, Weight and Aging

“I don’t like looking at myself. I have such bad body dysmorphia.”

“I think of my body as a side effect of my mind.”

“I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say ‘Get younger,’ because that’s how easy it is.”

“There were days I could barely struggle into a size 46 or 48, months of larges and XXLs, and endless rounds of leggings with the elastic at the waist stretched to its limit and beyond – topped with the fashion equivalent of a tea cozy. And always black, because I was in mourning for my slimmer self.”

“…when I do lose the weight, I don’t like that it makes me feel good about myself. It’s not who I am.”

“Along with aging comes life experience, so in every way that is consistent with even being human.”

On Mental Health & Bipolar Mood State

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking (2008)
Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking (2008)

“I’m very sane about how crazy I am.” – Wishful Drinking, (2008)

“I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. It’s better than being bad at being insane, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?” – Wishful Drinking, (2008)

“Anything you can do in excess for the wrong reasons is exciting to me.”

“I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital.”

“Drugs made me feel more normal.”

“I went to a doctor and told him I felt normal on acid, that I was a light bulb in a world of moths. That is what the manic state is like.”

“I have two moods. One is Roy, rollicking Roy, the wild ride of a mood. And Pam, sediment Pam, who stands on the shore and sobs… Sometimes the tide is in, sometimes it’s out.”

The manic mood ride that is Roy and the pessimistic panic that is Pam, is very familiar. I’ve not heard anyone else echo my experience of drugs making one feel normal. I tried weed, ecstasy and minor drugs like that, even smoking and drinking, but they didn’t do anything for me, indeed ecstasy made me responsible, hyper-sensible! 

On Surviving and Thriving

“Ive [sic] stopped trying to take things a day at a time. I now take 2 or 3 days at once—hoping it’ll cause a blur effect & I might look younger.” via Twitter (2015)

“I don’t want to be thought of as a survivor because you have to continue getting involved in difficult situations to show off that particular gift…”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That’s my word for it.”

Boundaries and Bad Judgements

“The world of manic depression is a world of bad judgment calls.”

“I’ll never be known for my work with boundaries.”

“Mistakes are a drag, because you get in the area of regret and self-pity.”

Fortunately, it’s not all bad boundaries and manic mistakes, and the following day come-down into reality and realisation that one has overstepped, overdrawn, overdone it, and occasionally overdosed. Manic can be fun, or at least hypomanic can, with just enough awareness to feel empowered, energied, extrovert and not yet into the territory of relationship, finance and employment self-destruction.  

“The manic end of is a lot of fun.”

On acting as if all is well

“One of the great things to pretend is that you’re not only alright, you’re in great shape. Now to have that come true – I’ve actually gone on stage depressed and that’s worked its magic on me, ’cause if I can convince you that I’m alright, then maybe I can convince me.”

“Stay afraid but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

“I’m fine, but I’m bipolar. I’m on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I’m never quite allowed to be free of that for a day.”

She is free now, “drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra“. Whilst she was “nonplused” about her life, we are far from nonplused at her death and feel the disruption in the force in 2016, which has been a traumatic year of loss. RIP Carrie, Princess, Queen, General and very human being, “May the Force be with you.” 

Postscript: Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain, died aged 84 of a stroke within 24 hours of Carrie.

Comedy & Humour

Britain’s first openly gay Rabbi Lionel Blue hitchhikes to heaven

Rabbi Lionel Blue, 1930-2016

2016 is racing to lay claim to as many great names as possible, Zsa Zsa Gabor, who died yesterday, had a great 99-year 9-marriage innings, and Rabbi Lionel Blue at 86 has just downed his pen and mic. He fell in love with Judaism, Marxism and even Christianity, but will be remembered for his love of life and for being the first British rabbi to admit to his love of men. The grandson of Jewish Russian immigrants he grew up in the East End of London during the racism and hatred of Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler.

Lionel Blue, Hitchhiking to Heaven (on Amazon)
Lionel Blue, Hitchhiking to Heaven (on Amazon)

One of his several autobiographical books was titled “Hitchhiking to Heaven” and with grace and good humour he’s finally arrived there, if and wherever that is. A question he himself asked having explored doubt and faiths extensively in life. Another book of his was entitled “My Affair with Christianity“. It was not his only flirtation with other beliefs and ideologies, and his home testified to many stops along the journey in Hinduism, Islam and more.

“I began to discover that heaven was my true home and also that it was here and now, woven into this life.”

Judaism and Homosexuality

When he came out as gay, people were more interested in the affairs of his heart, not his soul. He’d been open about his homosexuality since the late 1960s and many knew about his private life through the 1970s, but it was in 1980 that he officially confirmed it, so becoming the UK’s first openly gay rabbi. He did so partly out of shame at not having supported a troubled gay contact of the manager of the sauna he frequented, nor having attended her funeral, for fear of a spilling over between his spiritual and sexual, sacred and secular, separated lives.

Of Judaism’s attitude to homosexuality, Rabbi Blue said in a 2004 interview:

”Well, the Orthodox Jewish tradition used to regard homosexuality as a terrible sin, but now it’s looked on as a sickness. Progressive Jews, though, accept it as a reality in varying degrees and most try to find a blessing ceremony for couples which is inclusive.”

So, has he never been threatened with excommunication? ”No. But for 15 years I ran the religious court for the Synagogues of Great Britain which meant that I would have to be part of any excommunication machinery, and I’ve never been so masochistic as to excommunicate myself.” – Sunday Herald, 2004

As a student at Oxford, his hidden homosexuality had led to loneliness, depression, and a suicide attempt. Possible refuge in Christianity had led to his mother threatening to do the same!

“‘Lionel, you’re doing this to spite us. I’ll kill myself and your father will kill himself too.’ I realised that I wasn’t quite up for murdering my mother and father, so I backed out.” – Independent

Later, he’d visited Amsterdam and found sexual freedom there, but it was his third faithful relationship with Jim, a former undertaker, that became his longest lasting of over 30 years until his death in 2014.

He combined the sacred and the secular, with a pan-spiritual, homosexually inclusive, here-and-now society, syncretic faith that in a way, he once said, was his own made up religion. Indeed, he irreverently addressed his God or guardian angel as “Fred”

Thought for the Day

Described by Radio 4’s presenters and book reviewers alike as “engagingly meandering”, Blue was down to earth in his search for heaven and happiness. On the introduction of same-sex marriage debate in 2012 the leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, described it as “grotesque” and immoral on Radio 4, even akin to slavery. Rabbi Blue had the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot not long after and used it to poke gentle fun at heterosexual marriage as “mixed marriage”! On Twitter, he was regarded as having disarmed the Cardinal’s comments and having countered “bigotry with a gentle dignity that you just can’t beat”.

On another ‘Thought for the Day’ he spoke to students about success and failure, stress and faith:

“I remember asking a God I didn’t quite believe in to turn my failure into goodness. To my surprise my worldly failure opened a spiritual door in me. It’s when you lose your footing in life and your false pride goes down the drain that you learn mercy and compassion and what it’s like at the wrong end of the stick. My advice to my students and you dear listeners is Make friends with your failures – they may be the best teachers you’ve got.”

“I had the mother of breakdowns in my second year. Being gay was criminal so I rejected my body, and as a Marxist I no longer believed in my soul. So my mind had to bear life’s burden alone and it cracked. I even toyed with religion, asking a friendly prior what I needed to become a monk and forsake the world. A low sex drive he said frankly and another fantasy hit the dust.” – BBC Radio 4, Thought for the Day, 6 June 2011 

Fears for the Future

Despite growing up in the 1930s and witnessing anti-Semitism, he remained hopeful, and yet “frightened”, of what he saw as recent echoes of those times now.

“I see the same signs that accompanied the end of the Weimar republic and the rise of the dictators. Currencies in trouble. Swastikas at football matches. Massacre at Srebrenica. The search for scapegoats, the rise of media demagoguery. Loving ourselves but not our neighbours as ourselves. The endemic problems of European tribalism, economic and spiritual. Heaven and hell are very close, and the devil is in the detail.” – BBC Radio 4, ‘Thought for the Day’, 10 June 2012

He finished that particular ‘Thought for the Day’ with a joke and a “foody spiritual note” with a misquoted saying from Lao Tzu:

“Govern a state as you would make an omelette, with care.” 

The Chinese Taoist philosopher actually referenced a “small fish“, but the point is well made, and perhaps enhanced by Blue’s updated version.

Humour and Scripture

Having once taught classes on humour in the Hebrew Bible I know full well how much satire, sarcasm, innuendo, and punning, there is in Jewish scripture. Blue saw humour as a way to counter economic and personal depression. In a 2010 interview he told the Jewish Chronicle:

“Humour is the unofficial scripture of Jewish life. It takes away the anger and bitterness and replaces it with kindness and charity. That was the scripture my audience could accept”

He joked about death as brushes with mortality, and he had a fair number of those from suicide, to two cancers, and a couple of heart attacks. He described himself in old age as “crumbling nicely”.

“God comes closest to me in the comedy and tragedy of human life.” – Independent

He will be best remembered for his gentle honesty and genial humour.

Comedy & Humour

Political Dystopia as UK living in Groundhog Day & Back to the Future era

UK Political Groundhog Day

Can you believe it? Nigel Farage is back in charge of UKIP, again – for the fourth time. We also have Maggie ‘Theresa May‘ Thatcher redivivus in charge of the Conservative Party (MT/TM same initials!). Jeremy Corbyn is also the second leader Labour has had in a year. OK, so the previous one was also Jeremy Corbyn! I feel like I’m living in political Groundhog Day.

Theresa May Margaret Thatcher Number 10 Composite
Theresa May Margaret Thatcher Number 10 Composite

UKIP’s fourth-time-around leader

UKIP saving the Pound
UKIP saving the Pound, one cent devaluation at a time!

Admittedly, or allegedly, only a temporary reversion, but after Diane James’ 18-day stint as leader, Nigel Farage has returned to the helm of UKIP.

“UKIP without a leader is more electable than Labour with one” – Nigel Farage

Neil Hamilton as an alternative UKIP leader, currently leader in the Welsh Assembly, would be a “horror story” say Farage and Hamilton in a comical show of unplanned unity.

Financial Markets and Economic Prospects

GBP v USD 2016 post-Referendum Exchange Rate
GBP v USD 2016 post-Referendum Exchange Rate

And whilst the FTSE-100 reaches new heights for the multinational wealthy with shares and global reach, the Pound is crashing towards Sterling parity with the Dollar ($1.27) and ignominy with the Euro (€1.13).

Back to the Future over the EU

John Major launched his fatal Back to Basics political message and policies in 1993, but Theresa May’s message feels more like back to the 80s or even the 70s – before 1973 when we joined the EU. Now we are leaving it. When we joined, Britain was keen to avoid creating a rift between pro and anti-Europeans:

“Above all we should avoid creating a new, semi-permanent rift in British society, between pro and anti Europeans.” – The Guardian, 1 Jan 1973

Post-Referendum and with Brexit’s Article 50 due to initiate by March 2017, we have created exactly that with a very divided and divisive 48% Remainers and 52% Leavers society.

Currency falling backwards and downwards

DeLorean Back to the Future DMC Car
DeLorean Back to the Future DMC-12 Car

The Pound has only been this low once before in 60 years, back in 1985, when Back to the Future was released and the already defunct DeLorean (1983) was ironically the posited future of flying cars and time machines. In fact, without any irony at all, DeLorean or rather the new DMC is making fresh models of the DMC-12 car this year!

Recreating the Past rather than a Future

We seem to be recreating the past, rather than an inclusive or “brighter future” for all of Theresa May’s talk about injustice and inequality – because it’s selective inequality she’ll help, and selective education she’ll promote. And if, we can’t trust Nigel Farage to actually resign, Boris Johnson to keep on message for longer than 4 days (Theresa May’s joke at the Tory Party Conference, 5 October 2016), how can we trust that “Brexit means Brexit” or hope that it doesn’t. We seem to be living in the past, having chosen to withdraw from European cooperation and community, back to tariffs and protectionism, back to a low Pound, xenophobic racism and divisions, and peddling failed political slogans that could have been ripped from 1970s/80s politics and posters – indeed during the Leave EU campaign some were. Theresa May, in her speech, ridiculed ‘citizens of the world’, as many Remainers describe themselves, as citizens of nowhere, even if it was in the context of criticising global corporations:

“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” – Theresa May, Conservative Party Conference 2016 (speech in full)

This reminds me of George Orwell’s dystopian idea of citizenship in 1984! As for me, I’m a #proudcitizenoftheworld:

As was discussed today on TalkRADIO, for which I was interviewed, we are in dangerous territory here, using jingoistic language to appease the right whilst seemingly stealing centreground policies, but only for the few who are hard-working British citizens, not the “low skilled immigrants”. Immigrant wealth-creators are welcome but not “wealth consumers“, said Liam Fox at a fringe event. So that’s no more asylum seekers or refugees then?

Theresa May also turned the tables, saying that now Labour is the “supporting voices of hate…the nasty party”. Yet her language is more reminiscent of UKIP’s xenophobia than any kind of utopian equality. Even The Times said of her speech that “The Tory conference was largely immigration policy by Ukip.” It’s a scary future not a bright future we are being presented with.

Comedy & Humour

Rule Britannia as Brexit Armada & Sir Bob get shouty over EU Fishing Policy

Nigel Farage Leave Flotilla fires upon Remain

A small fleet of pro-Leave campaign fishing boats formed a flotilla at sea and set sail/steamed/chugged up the River Thames towards Tower Bridge, only to be met by a Remaining Boomtown Rat threatening scurvy. Sir Bob Geldof boomed out words and music while one of the Brexit boats fired the first shots – well, started a water fight. This is grown up politics, after all. It makes one wonder if giving the vote to 16 year-olds might result in a more mature response. Rats produce natural vitamin C whereas us pale-skinned limeys need to import it from Spain and elsewhere!

This about sums British political debate up sometimes – except the outcome is way more serious than the silly dinghy shouting match makes it appear. Perhaps Sir Bob should organise a EuropeAid concert? As it is he accused Nigel Farage of being a fraud for his membership of the EU fisheries committee and attending just 1 of 43 meetings! Hypocrisy to then turn around and support the fishing industry.

Will all the Brexiters and Remainers please stop SHOUTING exaggerated claims of Armageddon if we RemaIN/Leave. Read some of the fact checks here.

Even more pictures of British bath-time play here and here. British politics really is a blend of Yes Minister, The Thick of It and Spitting Image.

EU Common Fisheries Policy Under Fire?

Our fishing Navy won’t be great again or Rule Britannia, whether we leave or cleave. Few people want to work the hours fishermen do, consumers still want to pay the cheapest prices and supermarkets will still demand the cheapest sources. We’ve barely got an actual Navy anymore to patrol our coastline against some imagined future Spanish fishing Armada.

Nobody owns the sea, and fishing quotas are healthy to prevent stock depletion such as that of Bluefin tuna. We actually already have a good deal as the UK only possesses 13% of the EU’s total sea area, but is allocated 30% of the EU’s current fish quotas.

Here is an economic argument that the EU Common Fisheries Policy has helped not harmed the UK.

An Island Nation & its Dependents needs EU

Brits living abroad in EU
Brits living abroad in EU

Both Gibraltar and the Falklands are likely to vote IN as three-quarters of the latter’s exports go to the EU and continual border negotiations with Spain for the former are eased by EU membership whereas Brexit would close the border again.

Having lived in Spain, just 5 miles from Gibraltar, I appreciated EU rules and interventions, and the benefits of multicultural detente. Spain has by far the largest proportion of Brits living abroad – there are as many Brits living in Europe and European immigrants living and working here. Spain is a country we need good relations with, not to mention pescaditos fritos, boquerones, and oranges!

Spanish Armada ships

 

Comedy & Humour

History of Pranking from ancient Rome & Persia to Medieval April Fools Day

April Fools Day, RIP Ronnie Corbett

Spoilers are okay after midday, but sadly it was no April Fools Day joke that the biggest little man of comedy, Ronnie Corbett, to whom even Miranda Hart “looked up to”, died at 85, yesterday – if only he’d held out another day the Internet would have been awash with April Fools lingering doubts. It seems appropriate to light four candles (aka ‘fork handles’) in tribute and say with him:

Ronnie Corbett
Ronnie Corbett

“It’s good night from me – and it’s good night from him.”

He was all about double entendres, misconstrued meanings, and great comic timing:

“West Mersea police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms.”
“We’ve just heard that in the English Channel, a ship carrying red paint has collided with a ship carrying purple paint. It is believed that both crews have been marooned.”
“There was a fire at the main Inland Revenue office in London today, but it was put out before any serious good was done.”

A History of Pranking

The job of kingship has historically been a stressful one, and alongside advisers and seers, royalty often had court jesters around to lower the tone and raise the mood.

April 1, All Fools Day
April 1, All Fools Day

In the late 14th century Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set on March 32nd, a nonsense date, i.e., 1 April. Whilst this may be a copyist’s error, the tale itself is full of comic irony.

April 1st jesting is attested throughout the early 16th century in French and Flemish customs and several origin stories suggest it was due an end March to 1 January calendar change in Britain or France.

The first British reference is in 1686, and in 1698 people were tricked into going to the Tower of London for the annual “washing the lions” – a fake event that was still conning people as late as 1857!

On the eve of April Fool’s 1864, the Evening Star of Islington, London, announced that a “grand exhibition of donkeys” would be held the next morning at the Agricultural Hall. Next day, a large crowd gathered outside the hall until they realised that they themselves were the donkeys on display!

While it goes by the name of All Fools, April Fools’ or April Fool’s Day, as well as Poisson d’Avril “April Fish” in French, it’s been around much longer. In earlier times and different calendars, our current 1st April would still have coincided with the advent of Spring and the end to the darkness of winter. So it is a season to be celebrated and it seems from of old to have attracted festivities, pranks and jokes.

Ancient Persian Sizdah Bedar

Nowruz, the 13th day of the Persian New Year falls on April 1/2 and in Iran this is still a day for jests going back over 2500 years, possibly the oldest pranking tradition in the world. It is called Sizdah Bedar “13 Bedar” and may be part of the origin of April Fools but it is uncertain how it may have spread from ancient Persia. The 13th of the month Farvardin is celebrated as a day to “go out”, be-dar in Persian, and have fun outdoors and pray for spring rains, indeed at midday the defeat of the Demon of Drought by the Angel of Rain was celebrated. Zoroastrian beliefs that “laughter and joy symbolize the throwing away of all bad thoughts” account for some of the merriment on Sizdah Bedar. There are also some beliefs that Sizdah Bedar meant “13 going out/getting rid of” and unlucky 13 and all its bad luck was disposed of on this day.

Roman Hilarity

The Roman festival of Hilaria, held on March 25, also had similar themes of joy and jest. March 25, until a few centuries ago (the French moved their calendar and year-end in 1564) was New Year’s Day and part of a week-long festival until April 1. “The Day of Joy” (Hilaria) celebrated the resurrection of Attis, Cybele’s consort – Cybele was mother of the gods. The whole Agdistis, Attis, Cybele, Galli mythology and worship is full of interesting gender asides…

Modern Era

Back in 1957, before the British were so accustomed to pasta, the BBC’s Panorama programme broadcast a documentary hoax showing spaghetti growing on trees which convinced many, especially with the serious authority lent it by anchorman Richard Dimbleby!

The great spaghetti spoof harvest joke ranks no#1 in the Museum of Hoaxes top 100! Other hoaxes have included Alabama changing the value of Pi to a biblical value of “3” or Burger King making a “Left-handed Whopper”.

In 1976 National Humor Month was founded by comedian and author of 53 books on humour, Larry Wilde, Director of The Carmel Institute of Humor. “It is designed to heighten public awareness on how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one’s life.”

Most newspapers carry at least one April Fool’s story buried somewhere in the paper and it is fun to guess which it is. Sadly, our crazy world means that many real stories appear to be jokes but are not.

Last year saw organic giraffe milk being offered at Paignton Zoo, Dodo and chips being eaten in 18th century Bristol leading to their extinction, and Yoyo the macaroni penguin laying a golden egg – and, no, its name wasn’t the April Fool, Eudyptes chrysolophus is a yellow crested penguin drawing its name from an 18th century Dandy fashion dubbed Maccaronism, a “flamboyant or excessive ornamentation”.

Political Jokes

In modern times, there are comedians everywhere, including and especially in politics, well jokes anyway. There seem to be more fools trying to lead countries and even some comedians considering election, e.g., Sandi Toksvig, Eddie Izzard and in Italy, Giuseppe Piero “Beppe” Grillo.

If only Donald Trump’s views on abortion, women, Muslims, Mexicans, immigration, equal marriage, etc, were an April Fools Day joke, as it is he and his views are the joke that Democrats and rational people worldwide must hope fall flat rather than get elected.

 

Comedy & Humour

ST&G’s Map of Naughty, Rude or Silly Place Names in Norfolk and the UK

UK Map of Dodgy Names

Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick have produced a map of silly, rude and NSFW (Not Safe For Work) United Kingdom place names. Up and down the inland aisles and coastal isles of Great Britain some 1400 naughty names have been enumerated including around 300 “Bottoms” such as “Scratchy Bottom” in Dorset. In East Anglia alone there are “Two Mile” and “Six Mile Bottoms”, along with a “Cat’s Bottom”.

Cheeky Map of British Bottoms
Cheeky Map of British Bottoms

You will also find among the names of ill repute and comic creation: “Booby Dingle”, “Cock Burn” and “Fanny Burn”, “Twatt”, and numerous “Cocks”,  “Dicks”, “Knobs” and “Willies”. Not to mention “Crotch”, “Minge”, and a “Bushygap” in Northumberland only a stone’s throw from “Cockshot”!

The Orkneys and Shetlands both have several “Twatts”, a “Ladies Hole”, “Sodom” and “Loch of Bottoms”.

Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick

Marauder's Map, Mischief managed, Harry Potter
Marauder’s Map, “Mischief managed”, Harry Potter

The cartographer map specialists Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick, sound like a shop on Diagon Alley in Harry Potter although this is no Marauder’s Map tracking living people up to mischief, just a record of mischievous names given to places by people now dead, since most wouldn’t get past the planning stage nowadays. If you are reading this as work tapping “Mischief managed” won’t help!

The makers take their work seriously, saying:

“Researched, designed and made in Great Britain, our maps boast a precise measure of pedantry, a small portion of innuendo, and an uppity pinch of pomposity. They are carefully calibrated to entertain, delight and – on occasion – cause the odd mouthful of tea to be spat out.”

Norfolk and Norwich’s Naughty Names

 Naughty Norfolk Names Map
Naughty Norfolk Names Map

Norfolk’s own: “Stiffkey”, “Slutshole Lane”, “Cock Street”, “Two Mile Bottom”, “Cat’s Bottom”, “Gaywood”, “Booty Road”, “Dick’s Mount” and “Cucumber Corner”!

Norwich also had a “Gropekuntelane”, now Opie Street, which was written in Latin as Turpis Vicus, “Shame Street”. The long-known and used word, ‘cunt’, has been in use since at least 1230, and ‘grope’ of sexual touching since 1380, but their use in street names describing areas of prostitution died out after the late 16th century. Sniggering, on the other hand, will never die out.

Slutshole Lane, Norfolk
Slutshole Lane, Norfolk
Comedy & Humour

Sexist soft-touch patronisingly Pink Ladyball released for Women’s Football

Patronisingly Pink Ladyball for Women’s Football

Unbelievably, to encourage women in sport a pink sparkly soft-touch football is being marketed in a “pretty pattern that is designed especially for a woman’s grip”. Sigh! Women are more likely to be put off football by the sexism and homophobia in sport, unequal pay and media coverage, rather than the colour and texture of the ball!

Unless this is a major satirical spoof, it ticks every possible patronising pitch possible: “pretty” check, “pink” check, “sparkly” check, “soft” check, “easy” check, “glamorous” check!

Ladyball pink football kiss

Serious Proposition or Irish Joke?

It’s being made in Ireland, and it’s tempting to think that it is an Irish April Fool’s joke were it not January and endorsed by a real sportsman – Ger Brennan, an All-Ireland winning Gaelic Football player. Surely, it has to be a farcical fake designed to challenge rather than collude with sexism in sport?

In fact, their Twitter feed is full of jokes, disbelief, and amazingly, apparent appreciation. Lots of “ball” jokes and since one of the founders is female, a lot of poking fun at female stereotypes, or are they deadly serious?

Their modern media, PR and advertising, seem to be everywhere in Ireland and yet their tagline soundbites are out of the pre-feminist dark ages:

“Don’t break a nail, break boundaries with #Ladyball” “Our ladies sure are pretty in pink! #Ladyball” “Ladies, the wait is finally over (&we don’t mean the one for the ring!) Introducing #Ladyball!” “Our pink #Ladyball has silver accents to help you sparkle on the pitch!”

 

Ladyball Official Launch Spec

Sexy or sexist female footballer with lady ball
From the Ladyball website – an adapted shutterstock image rather than a real photoshoot, suggestive of a spoof?

From the Ladyball website comes this:

Ladyball is the concept led by a group of aspiring entrepreneurs who have made it their personal goal in life to encourage girls to play more team sports, and to bring a feminine touch to the all too masculine world of sports! The idea for Ladyball came from personal experience when one of the creators tried various ball sports as a weight loss measure and found the regular (or as we like to call them “man-sized”) balls heavy, cumbersome and difficult to control. It was then (as Oprah would say) she had an “aha moment”; what if there was a ball designed just for women, a soft, trendy ball that could enhance natural feminine abilities and make it easier for girls to play? After a lot of market research we found that there really wasn’t anything like that available, and in the majority of cases women just had to make do with balls meant for men. In order to fill this gap in the market and with the hopes of making team sports more accessible to women, the idea for Ladyball was born! Since that day we have spent countless hours researching and designing our creation. We want to revolutionize the way ladies play sports.

These women are kitted out in Ladyball’s branding but inappropriate footwear:

Reaction on Twitter

Ladies want a “lady-ball” so they don’t break a nail, suggests a retweet by the makers:

Yet other tweets still believe it to be a spoof or social experiment, one journalist received a press release and was stumped not to find a punchline at the end of what they assumed was a joke:

Pink Balls

It’s not the first time pink balls have been introduced. Last November saw a premium game played with a pink ball and which led a male sports commentator to say:

“The pink ball is the prettiest, clearest projectile we have known. Its iridescence allowed superb pictures on television” – ESPN

Kookaburra Pink Cricket Ball
Kookaburra Turf Pink Ball

This was cricket, however, and male cricket at that! It was first introduced by Kookaburra in 2006 for a Cancer charity event but is now being used in some day-night matches for visibility. Mark Nicholas watching the Test at Australia’s Adelaide Oval went on to wax lyrical about the colourful aesthetics of the game:

“colours are an almost subconscious attraction – the way in which white clothing, for example, has such clarity against the green field and how a clear blue sky wraps itself so brightly around the canvas that the game creates.”

In cricket, at least, despite divided opinions, it is regarded as an innovation here to stay, but nothing to do with gender stereotypes.

Satire, PR Stunt or Sexist Stereotype?

It just, could be, that their advertising ‘genius’ is a girlie girl who loves sparkly pink. Just because pink is a female stereotype, doesn’t mean girls can’t be seen in pink, but to my mind this sets sports equality back years in perception, at least. The truth, if this is even true, will be whether it increases participation and gives the boot to received wisdom about women’s football. Not wanting to spoil the spoof or burst the ball of fun that this possibly serious-point making set-up appears to be, fact-checking flagged-up alarm bells and other mixed metaphors. Just trying to investigate their quoted ” patented Eazi-Play technology” drew a blank. Scottish football agrees although sees it as a hoax that “Highlights Discrimination in Sport” and “sexism in football. So, I call fake rather than foul, in this instance. Indeed, in the last few hours, Munster Hockey seem to have confessed to creating the challenge to sexist stereotypes, some assume an announcement about women’s sport is imminent and others are now doubting the spoof creator’s claims as just trying to get in on the act! It’s either a marketing marvel, comedy gold, or an unevolved sexist disaster. It just could be, the best advert for hockey yet:

The Munster Branch has this morning confessed to the creation of the Ladyball. We never expected it to get so much…

Posted by Munster Hockey on Friday, 15 January 2016

“we would like to apologise for nearly breaking the internet. However, we have been successful in making a very valid point. Men’s and women’s sport should be equal – same rules, same equipment and same goals. Hockey is one of the very few sports where men and women are on a par with each other in terms of coverage and recognition. So if anyone out there is looking to take up a sport that treats everyone as equal maybe hockey is the sport for you.”

Whether Munster Hockey were in on it or not, the @theladyball_com Twitter account has now also confessed to the ruse promoting women’s gaelic football (LGFA) along with Lidl sponsorship, “a lighting rod for the discussion of attitudes to women in sports and an amplifier for voices of support”.

Comedy & Humour

Gayle, Boycott & the non-PC world of sexist & homophobic humour in Sport

Geoffrey Boycott Bingo

Geoffrey Boycott is still struggling with the modern age it seems as heard on Test Match Special this morning during the England-South Africa cricket game:

“Pitches are like wives, you never know how they’re going to turn out…Best not say that to ‘our Rachel'”

Presumably, the Rachael mentioned is his wife Rachael Swinglehurst, but another Rachael might have something to say about attitudes to women as cricketers, or in sport generally. Rachael Heyhoe-Flint is England women’s team former captain and premier cricketer who did so much to promote women in the sport, including being the first full female member of the MCC, not to mention also playing hockey for England.

Cricket commentator Mark Nicholas, who worked with Boycott, told his biographer that “sometimes Geoff can be so rude you just want to punch his lights out”. Something which Geoff would call “being forthright” or “blinkers on”, and for which he has apologised.

Some more non-pc quotes from Geoffrey, having become part of the lingo of Boycott Bingo, which some argue should be boycotted:

“Me mum could have caught that in her pinny”
“My gran could have hit that with her broom handle”

Equally, one could argue that we take sexist humour too seriously – but humour often sits in reality, and it’s not men we should be asking if they find it funny, but women and wives. Theresa May, is apparently a big fan of Boycott.

There is indeed a “corridor of uncertainty” with Boycott as to how likely it is a case of ‘tongue in cheek’ or a ‘foot in mouth’ expression, when he said the following, of his wife, it was meant to be endearingly funny:

“She’s lucky to have me. I keep telling her. I could have got fulltime help in and less lip.”

Beefy was not immune to not getting to grips with evolved equality:

“I don’t ask my wife to face Michael Holding, so there’s no reason why I should be changing nappies” – Ian Botham

Chris Gayle’s Alleged Sexism

Chris Gayle West Indies Cricketer
Chris Gayle West Indies Cricketer (2005)

With Chris Gayle (mis)taking the opportunity of an interview with an Australian female sports interviewer, Mel McLaughlin, to flirt, patronisingly rather than in any sense endearingly, some sportsmen are still struggling to shed the image that it is a heterosexist no-go area for women and gay men. Gayle called McLaughlin “baby” on live camera, he argued cultural differences later, as faux-apology. An interview with Boycott in 2011 described Geoffrey as liking “to call a spade a shovel and a woman ‘love'”, another cultural difference, are West Indies and West Yorkshire closer that previously thought?

Gayle’s behaviour was described as “sexist, not sexy” and contributing to why, despite:

“almost everything about sport [having] improved in the past few decades, yet still women are unable to simply turn up to work and do their job properly without being slobbered over by lecherous simpletons like Gayle.”

The same writer, male in fact, reported with disbelief on how women in motorsports were essentially meant to be “good sports” which he summarised as “silently accept[ing] being sexually harassed” and turning a blind eye. I would add that women are expected to be good sports in the sense of laughing off inappropriate testosterone-fueled banter rather than be “good at sports”.

Coming Out as Gay in Sport

FIFA, has this week fined five South American football bodies for homophobic chants at their games. Meanwhile, Qatar – awarded the 2022 World Cup, has just banned the film The Danish Girl for its trans depiction as “moral depravity”.

Coming out as a gay sportsman, in football, rugby and cricket, especially, is rarer and harder than coming out as a gay Tory cabinet minister. As Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives leader quipped, “it was easier coming out as a lesbian than coming out as a Tory”. A gay male footballer still remains a taboo beyond even that. Part of the issue for people is that the atmosphere of sport can still so often seem like some men behave down the pub, “Blokesworld mindset“, after a few drinks too many, and the overly “laddish” environment can discourage the full participation or spectation of all members of society.

Comedy & Humour

Safe Alcohol guidelines from Nanny State unlikely to change my Wine intake

New Safer Alcohol Guidelines

New “safe” alcohol guidelines from Nanny State have been drawn up, where “safe” means none, like a nun, more abstinence than absinthe. Beer takes a battering and wine is to be watered down. Livers up and down the country are leaping for joy!

Having a glass of wine at Rare Steakhouse and Grill
Having a glass of wine at Rare Steakhouse, as opposed to rarely drinking

I’ve always been a wine-drinker, but with food at the dinner table from an early age. It created a responsible drinking habit – again with the nun references!

I did try teetotalism for three months at University and pigged out on pizza instead. My partner is more into total-tea-ism.

I actually, never get drunk, well extremely rarely and unintentionally. I drink for pleasure and only with food, never to get drunk. I prefer to stay in control and able to appreciate the taste.

Tongue in Cheek Comment

Actually, all of this is tongue in cheek, wine sloshed around the palate stuff – I just hate being told what to do. Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer recommends a cup of tea instead of a glass of wine so expect a tax on tea sometime soon. Tea duty! Perhaps we should have a Boston Wine Party or a new political movement like the American Tea Party movement, the British Wine Party movement!

It all seems to be part of the austerity cuts and equalities agenda. Men’s drinking has been cut to the levels of women as it turns out male livers and female livers were not gendered at all and after several female livers took the UK Government to the European Court of Humourous Rights the Government out of spite decided to reduce men’s limits rather than raise female limits to an equal level.

Furthermore, the hypocrisy continues as Parliament is choosing to keep its bars open to serve more than the daily drinking allowance to MPs drunk on their own power.

It’s all clearly an anti-LGBT ploy (or conceivably out of concern for our health and wellbeing – which is an anagram of “binge well”) since it turns out LGBT people are nearly twice as likely to binge drink compared to the more sober hetero/cis population!

A History of Safe Drinking Limits

1984 was a positive drinking utopia compared to now. That year saw the first guidance on gendered drinking produced in a pamphlet called That’s the Limit. Safe limits were defined as 18 “standard drinks” a week for men and 9 for women. At least we now have drinking equality! One standard drink was defined as one alcohol unit – a concept that would be introduced in the next edition. The pamphlet also defined “too much” alcohol as 56 standard drinks a week for men and 35 for women. 1987 saw these limits revised down to familiar 21 units a week for men and 14 for women, with “too much” defined as 36 units for men and 22 for women. That is until today where it has been revised down to zero units for safe drinking and 14 as a recommended maximum should you still feel the need.

BBC Booze Nationality Calculator

The BBC website has devoted public money to shaming us further with their online booze nationality calculator which clearly makes no allowance for sexuality as a factor.

French wine drinker - new alcohol guidelines
French wine drinker – new alcohol guidelines

You drink like you’re from France, which is the joint 18th heaviest-drinking country in the world…You are on course to drink about 20.7 litres of pure alcohol over the year, which is 25% more than the average for men in the United Kingdom, and 200% more than the average for women.”

It turns out either I’m French or a bisexual/lesbian British woman but not a gay man.

A Choice between Risk and Pleasure

Drinking more than 14 units *may* increase your risk of dying from an alcohol-related condition by about 1%. That compares to more risky behaviour like a bacon sandwich or watching television for an hour!

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, University of Cambridge, said:

“These guidelines define ‘low-risk’ drinking as giving you less than a 1% chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition. So should we feel OK about risks of this level? An hour of TV watching a day, or a bacon sandwich a couple of times a week, is more dangerous to your long-term health. In contrast, an average driver faces much less than this lifetime risk from a car accident. It all seems to come down to what pleasure you get from moderate drinking.”

Another tempting pleasure might be the latest research from Harvard and the UEA  suggesting that a high intake of blackcurrants and a few glasses of red wine could be “sexual superfoods“.

Drinking and Cancer

If wine is so bad for you, presumably most of Europe is dying of cancer, as opposed to stress and anxiety and other smoking and eating habits contributing to poor health outcomes. Other studies into the flavonoids, resveratrol and polyphenols in red grapes have shown wine’s heart protective benefits.

Actually, the Danes and French (big smokers) do unenviously top the cancer league however Portugal (36th) and Spain (34th) who drink more than Britain (23rd) come lower down the table. My plan is to drink more Malbec as the Argentinians come 49th. Clearly, other lifestyle factors are at work.

For women breast cancer risk from all factors but including increased drinking does rise from 10.9% to 12.6% (up to 14 units/week) to 15.3% (14-35 units). Similarly, bowel cancer rises for men and women by around 30% to 7-8% risk once 14 units are exceeded.

Allegedly, there are still health benefits if you are a woman over 55, I’ve never looked forward to ageing so much before! New #alcoholguidelines suck! I need a drink!

Christian drinking, well with a vicar at Greenbelt
Christian drinking, well with a vicar at Greenbelt