The Excommunication of St Cadbury

Poor old St Cadbury.

Once the revered Christian saint of chocolatey goodness; now a despised infidel having stabbed Jesus, Christianity, Easter and no doubt the Easter Bunny firmly in the back. A whole Christian doctrine of Immaculate Eggs bestowed upon all believers at Easter time, as originally told by the Bible in the story of Jesus, St Cadbury and the Chocolate Factory (Wonka 4:15-32).

Who could have believed after all these years that in 2016, according to the Daily Telegraph’s John Bingham, the word “Easter” had been “quietly dropped from Easter eggs”? To make matters worse, at the head of this heinous, secretive and cowardly act was none other than St Cadbury himself, clearly egged on by the Dark Lord Nestlé. (Sorry. I have to allow myself one egg based pun.)

Immediately, St Cadbury’s Twitter feed was targeted by devout Christians everywhere, leaving many parishes across the country to wonder where they had been hiding during Sunday mass all this time:

“Shame on greedy St Cadbury for dropping the word Easter from our choc eggs”

“Disgusting you’ve dropped the word ‘EASTER’ #BoycotStCadbury (well the truth is if I didn’t like your choc so much I would lol!)”

“Is it true that you are banning the word  from your Easter eggs because it offends other religions?”

“St Cadbury – So my fiancé informs me your removing #Easter from your eggs in the future? I find this disgusting we have had Easter eggs 4 yrs”

“Well, St Cadbury,  why not stop selling chocolate altogether in case you offend people who don’t like chocolate?”

Outraged Christians overwhelmed St Cadbury who, as if blind-sided by the criticism could only muster the mealy-mouthed reply:

“Hi there, we haven’t removed the word ‘Easter’ from our products, it’s on the back!”

 A collective sound of mass self-righteous jaw dropping was heard far and wide across the land. What had happened to St Cadbury? OUR ST CADBURY!!! He of the Immaculate Eggs bestowed upon all believers at Easter time and to this day readily available at retail outlets for a huge profit! On the back indeed! ON THE BACK?!! Why this sudden relegation from the front to the back?

Despite no evidence suggesting the word “Easter” had ever been particularly or consistently prominent on the front, back or sides of such eggs since those biblical times of old; (largely because they only appear at Easter and tend to come in a large, clear, egg shape so that even the most moronic of dullards could hazard a guess as to what they are!) In stepped The Archangel Louise Mensch to drive out the now excommunicated former St Cadbury: (Notice I’ve resisted cheapening this story by not using “eggs-communicated” there keeping to my word about only one egg based pun.)

“St Cadbury. It’s Easter Day. Maybe ease up on the insults to Christians by telling them Easter is now “on the back” eh?”

And so, as it was prophesied in Charlie 16:1-7: “The nation’s moral compass, Hopkins, will be too busy striking down lefties, migrants and child sex abuse victims. So, the lesser Hopkins, AKA Mensch shall drive out St Cadbury from this great nation and free the people to worship through stuffing their faces with the Holy chocolate just as Jesus would have wanted us to do.

As for John Bingham of The Daily Telegraph? He slipped away silently, back into the darkness, his work on Earth done until the next opportunity to awaken the “political correctness gone mad” brigade with more spurious facts of an unspecified origin.

Best of Order…Please?

I was intrigued to read an article in the Edinburgh Evening News today about how the comedian Kevin Bridges had a night of his sell-out tour ruined by hecklers constantly, well, er… heckling during his performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse recently. The article’s author, Brian Ferguson, who was in attendance said, “Frankly, it was the worst-behaved audience I had witnessed in 25 years of attending events.” For those watching, solely to be entertained by Kevin’s latest stand-up tour (as well they might have not unreasonably expected), having forked out £30 for the privilege, it was probably a night to forget.

Things get worse when you realise this seems to have become a familiar problem for Kevin at other gigs; such as those in Derry, Arbroath and even, as can be seen via Trip Advisor of all things, Ludlow. (There were no such issues for “The Searchers” who performed at the same Ludlow Assembly Rooms venue with a “great atmosphere”.)

Is this just a problem for Kevin Bridges though? Perhaps the demographic he appeals to is that of a loudmouth, drunken, lout? It appears not! Brennan Reece was “throttled” in Northwich, police had to remove a man disrupting Celia Pacquola’s set in South Wales and Michael McIntyre had his show interrupted in Darlington by a woman who “kept using her phone”.

Trawling the internet there are thousands of instances of disrupting audience members. Of course, there have always been hecklers, but more recently there seems to have been a slip in what some people deem to be acceptable behaviour. Some of this is encouraged by venues who allow taking drinks into gigs as well as serving them beforehand and during the interval which leads to anything from people wandering in and out to go to the toilet during a performance to the kind of behaviour seen in Edinburgh. It’s almost as if some people seem to have forgotten basic manners and can’t actually distinguish what may or may not be just plain rude.

It’s a cultural shift which is not just affecting comedy gigs, but other areas of our lives too. Indeed, in some cases this shift has been encouraged and actively courted. Darts for example. The sport of darts was losing appeal, viewers and sponsors at a rapid rate during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Nowadays, it’s big business, largely thanks to the promotional skills of Barry Hearn. The Premier League of Darts sees the big arenas sold-out across the country to watch the likes of Phil “The Power” Taylor and “Mighty” Michael van Gerwen. The TV coverage has blossomed and there is no doubt that interest in the game has hit new heights.

dartscrowd

Yet, despite this, what has been done to the game of darts? Darts crowds have always shouted, cheered and if you like, heckled. It was controlled though. For the most part, common courtesy for the players dictated that all the jeering and shouting happened between the throw of the players and not when they were actually concentrating and throwing their darts. During throws there was a hush. A silence. A respect for the players. If the crowd overstepped the mark there was a phrase that the referee would use that would compel them to regain their senses and have respect for the two guys at the oche: “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Best of order please! Game on!”

I love darts but I can hardly watch it now as an ignorant mass, barely watch the game, (in fairness there’s not much you can see in such a large venue, especially when you’re pissed!) dressed in their comedy fancy dress, with their hilarious home made placards, drinking, screaming, chanting and at times abusing players throughout the game. Quite often timing their collective wisdom of jeers and bully-boy booing directly when a player is throwing or about to throw. Yes, darts is popular and growing and has a massive appeal, making lots of money. Is it actually better off for it though in sporting terms? Not for me it isn’t. It’s sold itself down the river to the lowest common denominator and is contributing to a cultural dumbing down of what’s become acceptable. Sadly other sports also seem to be following darts’ lead. The word “sport” will soon be a misnomer, unless preceded by the word “blood” as any sense of “sporting” behaviour and respect dies a very ugly death.

Elsewhere, ITV’s X Factor has provided some of the most uncomfortable viewing seen on British television since Keith Chegwin stripped off in “Naked Jungle”. The “Six Chair Challenge” section of the auditions process has been just short of a scene from the Hunger Games. It has been brutal. Again, a hyped up crowd seemingly completely comfortable to take part in a collective blood-letting, screaming abuse at contestants for telly ratings.

Is it any wonder that in Great Britain in 2015 someone can feel completely comfortable, on a packed bus, to scream racist abuse at an elderly man with a walking frame or a woman on an equally crowded bus feels equally as comfortable racially abusing a pregnant woman?

You may sneer at the link I’ve suggested, just then, between comedy shows, sport, television and two criminal instances of racist abuse. The point I’m making though is that in our daily lives, the line about what we deem as acceptable through our popular cultural influences is being degraded. What was once rude, unsporting or vulgar is beginning to become almost normal. Check out social media. Facebook and Twitter regularly indicates what a growing minority deem as an acceptable way to engage with others. It’s often not very pretty.

More “out of order” than “best of order” you might say.

Britain Loves an Underdog… Sometimes.

The British love a sporting underdog. We revel in a “giant killing” in the F.A. Cup, unless it’s our team being slayed of course! We watched in our millions late into the night when Dennis Taylor, the plucky Irish funster, beat Steve Davis the boring, safe, winning machine in the last frame on the final black. More recently we cheered on Garbiñe Muguruza as she went toe-to-toe with Serena Williams in this years Wimbledon Ladies Final as she threatened to make an impossible come back from 5-1 down in the last set.

There’s an overwhelming feeling of the British sense of fair play when it comes to sport and we like to make heroes out of the unlikeliest people. Step forward Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards and any junior football team paraded annually in the local press for going a full season without winning a game and getting thrashed every week 62-0 but never giving up, tuning out every week and with the goalkeeper suffering repetitive strain injury from retrieving the ball from the back of the net so often week in, week out.

Strange then that this sense of fair play and supporting the underdog doesn’t seem to apply in other aspects of our country. London Underground workers staged a strike last week over Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce night trains. Whilst this may seem a good idea it’s somewhat of a vanity project for Boris and something he basically announced on the fly, without discussing with anyone about how it might work and probably more problematically how much it might cost.

Transport for London’s proposals to drivers terms and conditions for pulling off Boris’s night trains see drivers faced with rotas where the amounts of night shifts they face are totally set apart from any realistic work-life balance one might expect. Imagine if you suddenly faced the prospect of having to change your hours of work from the daytime to the middle of the night. Particularly, if you fancy spending time with your family when you’re not working. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be too impressed?

Surprising then the amount of vitriol against the tube workers from many in what seems to be a tale of the underdog, in this case the ordinary working tube driver, against the establishment figure and Bullingdon bully boy Boris Johnson. Ah! But look at how much they get paid and ooooh! Look at their holidays, those greedy tube drivers! Why do tube drivers get paid more than nurses? Greedy, overpaid, underworked tube drivers!!!

Strange how when we look at ordinary working people and what they are worth compared to other ordinary working people we seem to reason that X gets paid more than Y so X is totally underserving and should be only getting paid the same amount as Y. It’s the race to the bottom and the politics of envy.

The ordinary working people of Britain should be looking at the tube drivers and underground staff and lending them their full support against Boris and his tax avoiding top earning, Tory donating friends. We should applaud them too in that their perceived high wages and generous terms and conditions shouldn’t be a stick to beat them with but a model for us all to follow and fight for. The RMT Union is a strong one, perhaps the last of its kind. It shows just why all ordinary working people should join a union as a matter of course. Together, through a union, ordinary workers can be heard and have a strong powerful voice against poor working practices and the attempts by employers to treat their staff unfairly. Instead of envying tube staff, we should be using them as the model to springboard fairer wages and terms and conditions for all.

David Cameron wants to opt out of the European rules on employment rights. Those rights entitle you to fair hours, annual leave, sickness and maternity benefits, redress against unfair dismissal and so on. At a time when unions have been vilified by a right-wing media and membership is on the wane we now find ourselves in need of them more than ever as workers rights that we have all become accustomed to are under threat. London Underground workers should inspire us not anger us. Whilst austerity continues to bite, whilst the vulnerable are attacked, whilst the rich get richer and contribute the least to society as a whole and whilst the political classes merge into a faceless force for the few and not the many; let’s support Underground staff in their battle with Boris.

It’s actually a battle we all need them to win before they come after us next.

Prickly Heat

At long last summer in the UK has arrived. Get the barbecue out, set sun factor to 50 and dust off those shorts folks because we’re having a heatwave!!! Wimbledon is here, the ice cream van owner is finally smiling and turn up Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” up to the max for some “fun and laughter”.

Actually, on second thoughts, best scrub the Cliff Richard bit, just to be on the safe side!No matter though because it’s officially a heatwave and time to get out those paddling pools, fill the coolbox up with ice and get the super-soakers out for some fun in the sun. Sounds great doesn’t it? It’s what we’ve all been waiting for hasn’t it? – Well, hasn’t it?!!

Perhaps not. Barely day one into this festival of sunshine and the naysayers have been out in force droning out the common British phrase, “It’s too hot!” They go on and on and on about it too. “It’s toooooooooo hot! Oh my,it’s tooooooo hot!” they say, “Oh I’m melting in this! It’s just tooooooooooo hot!!!” These will be the same people who a few days earlier will have been moaning about how wet it’s been and constantly asking the question, “where’s summer?” Waxing lyrical about how summers were better in the 70s and dismissing global warming at a stroke.

Ok, so you think you can avoid the naysayers perhaps? Possibly, but it seems these people all work in the media too. Aside from the obligatory two kids together with an ice cream shot and a scantily clad, bikini shot of Emma (22) and Claire (19) from Kent enjoying the beach, the papers aren’t exactly to sold on the weather either.

The list of sun-related problems we’re about to face makes you wish it was Christmas already (which helpfully is only 25 weeks away – hurrah!). Here’s what we need to be on the look out for as we go into “meltdown”:

  • Just surviving is going to be an issue. This hot spell only means one thing. – Death! Heatstroke, exhaustion, skin cancer, dehydration, killer bees, crazed terrorists and drowning. Probably best staying in then and seeing this out.
  • Infrastructure. It can’t cope can it? Not in this heat. The roads are going to melt like they’d been laid by the Devil himself at the Core of Hades. Trains aren’t going to fair much better either, the tracks are going to be buckled so much that a single from Liverpool to Manchester could see you ending up in Middlesbrough. Let’s face it nobody wants that!
  • Foreigners. If they’re not trying to kill you then at the very least they’re going to spoil your holiday with ferry strikes, road blockades, air traffic control disputes and generally not being able to speak English!
  • Water. No man is an island they say but thankfully Great Britain is, surrounded by water and with plenty of rain for the other 50 weeks of the year. Expect a hosepipe ban in place by the end of the week.
  • Idiocy. Let’s face it if there’s one thing we Brits are good at it’s summer idiocy. If it’s not jumping from high ledges into shallow water, or all day drink-fuelled nuisance or the classic leaving dogs with the windows shut in the car until they become a Korean delicacy. Let’s not forget the discarded cigarette that will turn half of the Yorkshire Moors to dust too. If there’s one thing we can rely on in this hot spell it is the rise of the idiot.
  • Extreme Weather. If it’s not enough that the heatwave is destined to kill you one way or another than if there’s one thing a hot spell will bring with it is thunderstorms and heavy rain. Classic cathedrals, iron waving golfers and Wile E. Coyote are all at risk from being struck by lightening. Then there’s the torrential rain and flash flooding destined to see people stranded in their cars, sheep stranded on small hills and Paul Daniels marooned in his house in the middle of the Thames unable to escape. (I thought he was a magician?) Despite this the hosepipe ban will remain in place for another three weeks.
  • Facts. Heatwaves bring stats and lots of them. If it’s not the torrential rain that will drown you, it’ll be the stats. Highest temperatures, (since records began), lowest water supplies, (since records began) greatest humidity, (since records began) and so on. Who started these records anyway? Is there a record of this? (since records began) and is there a record (since records began) of when the records began, since when records began there was probably no record of this. – (Incidentally, if I hear just how many portions of strawberries and cream will be consumed at Wimbledon this year one more time my blood, if it isn’t already in this heat, may just boil.)

So, there we go then, day one of the heatwave and just thank God you’ve survived it. Make sure you’re well prepared for the apocalyptic meltdown that we face over the next few weeks and remember be careful! It’s an arid, barren, melting-pot of boiling, burning death out there and frankly it’s just too hot!

Feeding the Beast. (Instantly)

Sue Perkins waved an enforced and indefinite goodbye to twitter this week as the Motor-freak Lunatic Fringe showered her with death threats on the popular social media tool. Her crime? She was linked, falsely as it happens, as the favourite to replace the prophet Jeremy Clarkson as the new Top Gear host. Clarkson’s disciples can’t bear any non-Clarkson replacement for Clarkson, particularly as Sue Perkins happens to be a woman and a lesbian. It’s probably just as well that she isn’t black or Muslim as burning effigies of her could well have littered some of Britain’s streets and social media timelines.

Makes you proud to be British doesn’t it?

You get hounded off twitter with death threats for having the sheer arrogance to be punched by Lord Clarkson for not providing any hot supper to his holiness. Then, for actually not being Clarkson or conforming to the bigotry of the Jesus of Chipping Norton, you can expect exactly the same treatment, if not worse. The story wasn’t even true, indeed Sue Perkins herself said of presenting the show that she, “couldn’t imagine anything worse than doing it.”

Ah, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story!!!

In 2015 that old media line probably couldn’t be more relevant. In the old days, before social media, the internet and making a career out of being a rent-a-gob scumbag like Jon Gaunt or Katie Hopkins there wasn’t much stuff about that was instant. Even instant stuff wasn’t that instant. There was instant coffee, but you still had to wait for the kettle to boil and stir the coffee in the hot water and even then bits of it would still float about the top. Similarly instant custard wasn’t quite so instant, you still had to get the amounts right and boil water and stir etc. Instant cameras were probably a bit more instant but then again you still had to wait for the picture to gradually appear and maybe have to shake the resulting photo about a bit, requiring some effort and possible wrist injury, for an image that wasn’t that great in the end. By today’s standards that definition of instant would probably be subject to the Trades Descriptions Act.

Nowadays, patience is thin and instant is king. People want stuff. Lots of it and they want it not in the future, not now, but then, just then. They need to access stuff “at the touch of a button”, “as quickly as possible”, “instantly”, “superfast”. There’s no time to waste, you must have your stuff now and be ready to move onto the next thing, and the next thing. Who wants to click on something more than once? Just give me it now, one click, speculate as you like, just give me it now before my finger falls off with repetitive mouse click injury.

There’s no time to actually research anything and form a well balanced view. We have 60 second news for God’s sake! There was a time when the opening titles of a news programme lasted longer than 60 seconds let alone the whole news bulletin! It’s instant though isn’t it? Forget any actual detail, or balance or heaven forbid actual facts. Here’s 5 news stories and the weather in 1 minute now go away and get back to watching Celebrity Flag Waving Extra with Stephen Mulhern.

Modern life has become a slave to the instant. The instant soundbite, the instant speculation, the instant social comment, instant news. In return everyone can react instantly too. We’re encouraged to instantly vote, to feedback instantly and so there is a prevalence to take information in instantly and to instantly like, hate, comment and worse still abuse.

There is a notion amongst a significant minority to read something on the internet, social media or to Google something and hit the first link that takes your fancy and believe everything in there and react instantly to it. I think some people must just move from outrage to outrage, spoon feeding themselves a diet of indignation and moral disbelief. Life has gotten faster and there’s no time to do any research anymore or to actually stop and think about consequences or hurt feelings. There’s a whole host of cowardly, faceless, “keyboard warriors” out there who revel in this new world of the instant and the ease of access that social media brings and joyously troll their way through anybody who doesn’t fit to their own personal tastes.

Don’t think this hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s being gleefully used against us. Corporate companies, politicians and media groups know it and use it to their own advantage. The same lies, rumours and spin used over and over again to be liked, retweeted and shared until it becomes the truth as people can’t be bothered to find out what the facts might actually be. Look at how popular Britain First has become on Facebook. It doesn’t out itself per se as the fascist, far right, thug merchant organisation that it truly is. You actually have to do a little research to become au-fait with that. However, it constantly churns out memes and messages about Britain and the flag and the armed forces and lies about how badly done to white British folk are done to compared to foreigners. People who by and large wouldn’t class themselves as racist or thugs or fascists gleefully like and share this far-right nonsense without batting an eyelid. It callously uses the image of Lee Rigby for its own nasty propaganda, fully aware that’s his family condemn them for using those images and his name for a fascist cause that he didn’t and would never have supported. Ah, but people won’t find that out though will they? They’ll just see the plausible message and the picture of a dead soldier and click like or share in a second. You don’t actually need to think about it, just scroll and click. (We won a war remember against fascism, that’s kind of one of the reasons we have an armed forces.)

Britain First Lite or UKIP as they are more commonly referred to has Nigel Farrage declaring himself as a “man of the people” and “anti-establishment”. “Oooooh! Look at Nigel there all dressed in tweed and with a pint in his hand everywhere he goes!” people say, “He’s one of us isn’t he? Wearing all that tweed and drinking pints of real ale all the time, whatever he does, anywhere he goes, ever. Ah yes! There he is, good old Nige and that glorious tweed that we all wear don’t we? Drinking ale, good British, real ale, in pints, wherever he goes, not litres like in France but proper British pints for tweed wearing, common sense, men of the people. There he is, “The Fage” educated at public school in South London and going on to work in the City, trading commodities, perhaps tweed or real ale, just like us, Mr Anti-Establishment himself, ready to ditch workers rights and really putting two fingers up to the man, ready to dismiss us unfairly with no cause to redress whatsoever…”

The Establishment are cynically luring working class people, in a time of austerity, to blame everybody but themselves for cuts in public services, low wages and an unprecedented housing crisis. Protecting their own (bankers, non-doms, corporate tax-avoiders) whilst blaming immigrants, “benefit scroungers”, attacking the disabled and the working poor. Classic divide and rule. Retweet, share, like and believe. Just don’t check the facts.

Someone on my Facebook timeline, a young, white, working class male, argued that Clarkson was “one of them” and “spoke for people like us”. That of course will be the same Jeremy Clarkson who writes for The S*n, is a close friend and neighbour of David Cameron, supports fox hunting and was one of the invited guests to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

There is a whole beast out there feeding us constant information in an instant. It is a bigger beast than ever before and it’s growing. It is largely unmoderated and completely accessible. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and social media and that very accessibility and freedom. We are all feeding it in some form or another, I am doing it now by writing this. It is a beast though and it can bite. Someone feeds it some nonsense about Sue Perkins and the beast bites and claims another victim.

Don’t believe everything you read. Never has this been more relevant and true in today’s society. Except it should probably be extended to read:

Don’t believe everything you read, or see liked, shared, favourited, retweeted, blogged or googled.

There’s a beast needs feeding, right now! It’s hungry and ready to bite.