Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Here come the girls!

In the latest of a long-running series of TV adverts for Boots, the High St chemist chain, a married couple are in bed. The wife is reading and the husband starts to snuggle up to her amorously. "Not tonight," she says. "I have a..." At that point he smiles smugly and rattles a packet of paracetamol.

You can tell a man devised that advert. Any woman worth her salt would have instantly changed tack and claimed a totally different ailment from a headache. No man would walk into a pharmacy and buy Vagisil!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Diary of a glass-half-empty person 26

I had hoped that my life, along with that of Consuela (my Tejana maid) would be peaceful and undisturbed. However, I reckoned without the lurker upon the opposite hilltop. Remember him? No? The person who had been stalking us for months, on whom we sprang a dawn ambush, whom we reported to the Police, and who subsequently walked free when the wheels of Scottish justice ground to a sudden procedural halt? Och, you must remember him! Aye, aye, the chap who cracked on that he was Wes Studi.

Well, the bugger’s back.

No lurking now but brazen openness. It seems we only have to step out of our tepee and he’s there, on the opposite hilltop, binox on a tripod, Thermos flask in one hand and a cheese-and-pickle piece in the other. He’s on Twitter foreby, updating all-and-sundry about what he’s doing and, more intrusively, about what we’re doing.

Last week the ‘flash mobs’ started. Hordes of his followers turned up and made a day of it.

Consuela’s answer to all this is simple. “Give them something to look at,” she said to me the other day. She had been rummaging in the extensive cellars here at the tepee (honestly you would not believe what we can pack into such an apparently small space), and had found our bikinis. When I asked her what she imagined we could do with them she said, “The weather’s warming up, let’s give them some bikini-aerobics to look at – show them we don’t give a monkey’s!”

Consuela is fast becoming fluent in British idiom.

However, I have to say that I declined to participate. Consuela has a large bust and a flat stomach, whereas I am her diametric opposite in those respects. The upshot was that she has been going out solo to do her bends and stretches. She had been doing it for a week when we received a visit from the Police. An impossibly young man and young woman wearing high-vis stab-vests hung about with radios, telescopic batons, handcuffs, fly-whisks, saucepans, bath-plugs, and so on turned up at the flap of the tepee. I made sure Consuela was downstairs and quiet.

“There’ve been complaints’” they said. A cup of Earl Grey and some shortbread rounds softened them, as did the sight of this inoffensive, plain, middle-aged woman in joggers. I think I convinced them that I was the injured party in the matter.

The following day’s flash mob was effectively ‘kettled’ for ten hours on the opposite hilltop by a large number of Tayside’s Finest.

As my friend Lucy says: “Revenge is a dish best served cold… with a cherry on top!”

Saturday, 2 April 2011

'Any Questions?'

(with apologies to the BBC)

Bumblepuppy: Good evening and welcome to this week’s ‘Any Questions?’. I’m Jonathan Bumblepuppy, and tonight we here in the gymnasium of the Simon De Tatting Upper School as guests of the Tattingham Parents-Teachers Association. On the panel tonight are the Right Honorable Humphrey Bumfrey-Pomfrey, Conservative Member of Parliament for Tattingshire South, and a Junior Minister in the Department of Harrumphing; the Right Honorable Elaine Gork, Labour Member for Tattingshire North, and the Labour Party’s Shadow Spokesperson on Specious Affairs; Barry McPork, the Australian entrepreneur; and lastly Marie Marshall, writer, poet, and anarchist. Could we have our first questioner please?

Member of the audience: Brian Tronk. Would the panel condemn the violent behaviour of a minority of people on yesterday’s protest march?

Bumblepuppy: Let’s make this clear for the listeners at home – you’re referring to the march which took place yesterday in Tattingham against the Government spending cuts, during which a breakaway group of anarchists occupied the premises of the Grabitall Bank on Tattingham High Street and a security guard suffered a cut lip?

Member of the audience: That is correct, yes.

Bumblepuppy: Marie Marshall, do you condemn the violence?

Marshall: That’s not really a fair question…

Bumblepuppy: It’s a perfectly fair question and a perfectly straightforward question. Do you condemn the violence?

Marshall: As I say it’s not a fair question…

Bumblepuppy: Do you condemn the violence?

Marshall: … because if I say no, then you will have made it look as though I simply condone violence; and if I say yes you will have cornered me into appearing to condemn people with whose ideas and aspirations I might broadly agree. That’s why it’s not a fair question.

If we look at history we find that violence has always been a part of human conflict, you could almost say that it is an inevitable consequence of any confrontation, with very few exceptions. So when anyone, an individual or a group, decides to confront something they feel is wrong – for example an oppressive regime, a corporation which pollutes the environment, or even a High-Street bank which has had billions of pounds of public money pumped into it and decides to pay its CEO a bonus of half-a-million – by direct action, there are two things that they must realise and deal with. Firstly they have to take responsibility for their actions. They may be acting because of something someone else has done, but they are responsible for the direct results of what they do. The people who occupied the Grabitall Bank have to take full responsibility for the smashed windows and furniture and for the security guard’s cut lip. That’s the adult thing to do. And by the way it is the diametric opposite of how governments behave – a government would say, “Yes seven civilians were killed during our air strike, but the regime of General Gadaffyduck must take the blame…” and so on. It’s the old “A big boy did it and ran away” syndrome!

The questioner has mentioned the security guard’s cut lip, by the way, but neither he nor you have mentioned the fact that thirty-four of the occupiers needed hospital treatment after riot police stormed the building. Again, the police might have stormed the building because the occupiers were there, but the police are responsible for that decision and for its direct consequences. Like I said, that’s the adult attitude.

Secondly, as the storming of the bank shows, anyone who takes direct action will inevitably find themselves in confrontation with vested interest or with ‘the powers that be’. Direct action is most often against the law. Emma Goldman said “No great idea in its beginning can be within the law”. So any direct action taken will bring down the law upon their heads, usually in the shape of the forces of the law – yesterday it was our own police – and they will find their action suppressed, repressed even. At that time they have a decision to make – how do they meet that suppression? Do they resist passively like Mohandas K Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, or actively like, say, Nestor Makhno or Buenaventura Durutti? It’s up to them – another decision to make, another responsibility to take.

Bumblepuppy: Let me get back to the matter of condemning violence, then. What do you think they should do? Should they use violence or not?

Marshall: It isn’t for me to say…

Bumblepuppy: But I’m asking directly for your opinion.

Marshall: … and I’m saying that it isn’t for me to say. It’s not my place to dictate to people how they should act or react. That is their responsibility alone. I can’t take it away from them. People must decide for themselves.

Bumblepuppy: I see. Humphrey Bumfrey-Pomfrey?

Bumfrey-Pomfrey: Harrumph… well… may I first say how despicable I found Mzzz Marshall’s total failure to condemn violence… harrumph… the totally unacceptable violence… harrumph… bravery of the police… harrumph… She and her red-flag-waving cronies…

Marshall: Black flag.

Bumblepuppy: You’ve had your say, Marie Marshall, please allow someone else to speak.

Bumfrey-Pomfrey: Thank you Jonathan. Now, as I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted…