Monday, 29 June 2015

Inverdale v Balding, Part 2

"Wimbledon 2Day": about three seconds were enough for me. The pleasingly retro musical intro to "Today at Wimbledon" was kept, but after that it was all downhill. First, the ominous sound of the 'live audience' whooping for no particular reason, then a glimpse of a Teletubbies-type set, then a full and dire view of said whooping audience, then Clare Balding standing next to them but somehow detached, looking steely and dead-eyed, and saying 'well hello' as if she wanted to be anywhere but there. "Today at Wimbledon" with John Inverdale was a perfect piece of television, the unimproveable cap to the BBC's daily coverage. Axing it was some form of media crime. The only thing to do is bring it back next year, complete with Pimms on the table and its mellifluous host.

Friday, 26 June 2015

John Inverdale v Clare Balding

In its own strange wisdom, the BBC has decided to replace the "Today at Wimbledon" evening highlights programme with a new-fangled 'Wimbledon 2Day' show in front of a live audience. This means replacing John Inverdale with Clare Balding, and altogether getting rid of the cool and mellow daily recollections of previous years in order to bring in a 'fresh' take - so said the BBC representative who handled my complaint at this news. The representative also said the new format would be a sort of Balding 'brand', modelled on her evening highlights show at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Now of course Calre Balding is excellent in her way (mainly horses, or non-highlights Olympics presenting) - but so is John Inverdale excellent in his way. Inverdale was exactly right for "Today at Wimbledon" and so, incidentally, was its title (whereas "Wimbledon 2Day" is just desperate to be relevant and therefore risible). Those Sochi highlights were unwatcheable: bitty, noisy, over-active and yet overly personal and emotional. A very bad combination, and one would have thought they are totally unsuited to the Wimbledon vibe. And that thing Inverdale said about Marion Bartoli two years ago? She wasn' fussed at all, so why should we be? Now that was genuinely fresh: a refreshingly unguarded utterance in an age of Taking Offence.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

'Women and the Church', a fictional scene about the Church of England

From Excellent Women (1952), Barbara Pym; Chapter Six.

The narrator and main character Mildred Lathbury speaks with her neighbours Rocky and Helena Napier about a convert called Everard Bone (Helena's work colleague and the object of her adulterous infatuation):

" 'Of course it's more of an intellectual thing with him,' said Helena. 'He knows all the answers.'
'We certainly want people like that,' I said. 'The Church needs intelligent people.'
'I should think so,' said Helena scornfully. 'All those old women swooning over a good-looking curate won't get it anywhere.'
'But our curate isn't good-looking,' I said indignantly, visualising Father Greatorex's short stocky figure in its untidy clothes. 'He isn't even young.'
'And anyway, why should the Church want to get anywhere?' said Rocky. 'I think it's much more comforting to think of it staying just where it is.'
'Wherever that may be,' added Helena.
I made a faint murmur of protest, but it was rather faint, for between the two of them I hardly knew where I was, though Rocky's attitude seemed the more sympathetic. 'I'm afraid we aren't all very intelligent about our religion,' I said, slightly on the defensive, 'we probably don't know many of the answers and can't argue cleverly. And yet I suppose there's room for the stupid as well,' I added, for I was thinking of the lines in Bishop Heber's hymn,

Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Though obviously He must be very pleased to have somebody as clever as Everard Bone."

This is a clever little passage in itself. It's also, in retrospect, a neat encapsulation of two unproductive views of the Church: one, that it needs to 'get' somewhere (through progressive change) and two, that it should be privately cosy and and irrelevant to public life.

Bert and Ernie as poster boys

Bert and Ernie - what could be more innocent? Sweet, implausible pair of friends who manage to get on despite their differences of outlook (one sunny, one grumpy), staples of Sesame Street, cherished TV companions to countless children. But no! They're both male, they live together, therefore they must be gay. Thus, in the far-reaching culture grab of the rights movement, Bert and Ernie have been co-opted as poster boys for a form of confrontation that is alien to their purpose of amusingly educating pre-schoolers in the art of forebearance. In the Ashers bakery case about the 'queer space' slogan cake (not a wedding cake, as far as I know), much has been made of the company's refusal to write the 'Support Gay Marriage' slogan. Those who agree with them on this point might want to commend them for also, therefore, declining to produce the requested image of Bert and Ernie as a jolly married couple. Sesame Street has more than once refuted the idea of Bert and Ernie as a couple in the sexual sense, notably with the the charming and unanswerable observation that 'they are puppets, they do not exist below the waist'. Wouldn't it be amazing if Sesame Street were to issue a public statement to say they were grateful for the Ashers' bakery stance? Children - or their blameless entertainment - should not be dragged into adult strivings.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Dog on tightropes

That kerfuffle about which dog was walking the tightropes in the final of BGT: can we just agree that training any dog to walk on tightropes is just plain wrong? Did that dog look in any way happy while he was performing this pointless and dangerous trick? I think not.

Our Father

So an organisation called 'Watch' - Women and the Church - wants 'inclusive terminology' i.e. female pronouns and indeed nouns, to signal God's genderlessness and to make women feel more in the loop when in church. The organisation's hashtag rallying cry is that though 'we' now have women bishops, we're only 'just getting started'. This is such a daft an instance of wanting to saw off the branch you're sitting on that it's almost funny. 'Watch' may just be getting started but there will be nowhere to go: there will be no church left to transform when it is gutted of its gendered structure. The gender of the pronouns in the Bible - and from there, in church tradition - is not optional, let alone meaningless. On the contrary, maleness expresses fundamental truths about how the world is made, about who we are as human beings, and most of all about the nature of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Fatherhood of God is the bedrock of the universe. No amount of campaigning can alter that fact. All that gender reforms can accomplish is to sever the intuitive and poetic connection between Our Father and His creation by making the church a place of desolation. This is not progress.