Friday, 22 March 2013

Happy birthday, Mr Shatner


The man who gave the world James Tiberius Kirk is arguably Canada's greatest export. But who wants to argue when we can enjoy his rendition of a prog rock classic?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Fox Populi

My friend Kate Fox, the radio poet of the people, has a new book out. I think it's very reasonably priced and chock-full of fascinating stuff. There's humour here, because Kate is a witty person who thinks tangentially about almost everything. If you've heard her on Saturday Live on Radio 4, you'll know her already.


Some people are sniffy about 'funny' poems. The opposite of funny is unfunny, and the opposite of serious is trivial. While some of Kate's poems mention trivial things, they are seldom 'merely' humorous. At the launch at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle she had the audience laughing, often, but thinking all the time.

Indeed, the series of poems that round off Fox Populi - 'Only Connect' - riffs brilliantly, and at times hilariously, on the idea of mesmerism in the past and present. We move easily and weirdly between writer and proto-feminist Harriet Martineau, prostrate in Tynemouth in the 1840s, and a modern call centre worker. Brilliant stuff.

Wot, No Pot Pourri?

I had a chat with a progressive Catholic the other night. I was in the pub and he just turned up, someone I'd known for a few years. Anyway, this young (about thirty) man, someone with an Oxbridge degree. under his belt, someone working on a Ph.D about 17th century English diarists, was full of opinions about the new pope. Suffice to say that, for one churchgoer, Francis I is not a harbinger of reform and enlightenment.

My young friend's view is that religion ought to be about tea and cake and generally being nice, and all the dogma about abortion, civil rights etc is a pain. This may not be a very sophisticated theological position, but a. we were in the pub and b. it makes a lot more sense, considered rationally, than all that stuff about a virgin knocking up a ghost and so forth.

My friend's attitude to religion was enlightening because, as a very intelligent adult, he clearly felt attending church is a good thing if it makes people happy, and that's essentially 'what it's for'. He told us about a priest brought in from the Congo (not sure which one) who - via a translator, as he only spoke French - gave a hellfire and damnation sermon at a typical English Catholic Church. It was 'politely received', so to speak.

I have heard it claimed that priests and ministers from Africa will be swarming to the Old World to re-evangelise the largely pagan Europeans. I suspect that it will be tricky if their approach sets perdition above pastry.

Starting Over

I used to have a blog called The Door in the Wall, which was tainted by some sort of malware that I - being inept - couldn't rid it of. So it's gone now, and I'm starting again. That blog wasn't especially popular, and I don't expect this one will do especially well either. It will, however, give me the chance to write about things other than ghost stories and related weird fiction, which is what I do at my other blog.

If you are reading this, well done! You are part of a tiny, tiny minority that is unlikely to grow.