Monday 20 September 2010

Bye, Bye, The Pope Has Gone Home

The Pope went home yesterday and I, for one, am glad that he has gone. His visit was themed “Heart Speaks Onto Heart”; though I found it more as an old man, who is frighteningly out of touch with the real world, preaching at us in a patronising tone.

Events before his visit showed little sign that we were going to see a “listening” Pope. Only days before his visit, the Pope said gay marriage laws “contribute to the weakening of the principles of natural law” (sic) ( The day before his visit, one of his closest aides, Cardinal Walter Kasper, called Britain a “Third World State” (sic) (

While he was on our soil, The Pope again attacked Britain’s "aggressive secularism". Yet, this "aggressive secularism" has done far more good then the Catholic Church’s traditional prejudices. It has been "aggressive secularism" that has enshrined many legal protections for minorities in Britain, including protection from discrimination on grounds of religious belief; whereas Christians, at the same time, have been demanding the right to discriminate against whoever they choose. I know which side has given more to our society.

The Pope has expressed his “sorrow” over the abuse of children within the Catholic Church (, but that’s all. He has not apologised for the systematic cover-up of this abuse (of which he was part when he was a Cardinal), nor has the Catholic Church taken responsibility for this cover-up which lead to many more children being abused. Add to this that the Vatican holds secret records on their paedophile priests and refuses to release them to the authorities. Also, The Pope said the victims of this abuse should be given emotional and spiritual help, though he offered no resources from the church to do this. The Catholic Church is obscenely rich, they could easily spare the resources to do this but again they remain silent.

This visit was supposed to encourage us all to turn back to “traditional” Catholic believes, but a YouGov poll has found that British Catholics don’t even believe the Pope teachings. Only 11 per cent believed gay sex was morally wrong, while 41 per cent said that both straight and gay relationships should be celebrated, the poll found. Seventy-one per cent thought contraception should be used more to prevent pregnancy and STDs ( So what was the Pope hoping to achieve, or does he ever stop and ask real people what they think? I very much doubt it.

Well, The Pope is gone and we (The British public) are left to pay for this four day circus. This Papal visit did little to help us here in Britain, he certainly offered no help with all the problems facing us as a nation, yet the country will have to pay over twenty million pounds for having him on our soil for four days (!!). Next time he can pay in full if he wants to visit Britain, or else stay at home...


Saturday 18 September 2010

Rain and Bad Religion

It is no secret that I am not a fan of the Catholic Church, their treatment of human rights turns my stomach. I have blogged many times about the ways they treat people. Like many things I feel strongly about, my feelings have overflowed into my writing.

Penance on a Wet Thursday Morning is a short story of mine that deals with a woman’s grief over the cot death of her infant child, but her Catholic faith offers her no comfort. It is another one of my dark and downbeat stories, but telling a tale I feel very strongly about.

Hard-line religion screws up so many different people. As a gay man, I’ve seen the damage done to people by religion just because of their sexuality. But religion screws up people in many different ways. The Catholic Church’s treatment of women’s reproductive health is one of their great shames, their opposition to contraception and condom usage is both crazy and oppressive. The damage and poverty caused by this stance is one of the Catholic Church’s many sins against humanity.

Penance on a Wet Thursday Morning has been published as a featured story on the Author-Exchange website, it can be found here: If you read it please leave a comment here or on the Author-Exchange website. I always value any feedback.


The Manchester of the North

Last week we went on holiday to Manchester (The exchange rate being a victim of the Credit Crunch we decided not to go abroad this year). It’s a city we’ve visited before, it’s also a city that I grow up near to. Over the years, though, it’s a city that has meant different things to me.

As a child Manchester was a student town to me, because my brother went to university there. All I knew of the city was the route along the Mancunian Way (The elevated road that runs along the south of the city) to the university and the block of flats that was the student accommodation. The rest of the city was a mystery, we only went there is see my brother. Those visits were special to me because, as a six and seven year old, riding the Mancunian Way was so different, nowhere we went to had roads that were elevated, it was like the freeways I saw on American TV shows.

After my brother left university we rarely went back to Manchester, my mother didn’t like the shops there and that was the main reason to visit any place for my parents. My mother had a belief that the quality of something automatically went up if it was bought in an open air market. The few times, as a child, I did go to Manchester all I remember is the tall and dirty concrete buildings there.

Coming out as a teenager in Liverpool, the 1980’s, Manchester seemed like a gay paradise. It had a wide selection of gay bars and clubs, it had its own lesbian and gay centre, and there were even lesbian and gay shops. It made Liverpool’s tiny amount of gay resources seem even more pitiful. The only problem was that I had no transport, replying on public transport and trying to enjoy gay night life wasn’t always easy, the rush back to the station for the last train.

When I left home and moved to London I almost forgot about Manchester, London offered all I wanted. Then, in 1999, Channel 4 aired Queer as Folk, set around Manchester’s gay village on Canal Street. This opened my eyes to a lot of the changes Manchester has undergone over the years, and it reminded me what Manchester had once been to me. That was the year we had our first holiday in Manchester.

For us, it is the perfect place for a holiday. There’s culture, there’s shopping, there’s so many places to eat we were swamped for choice, easy public transport links, and more on top.

Over the years this city has changed so much for me, or is that I’ve changed? I think it’s something of both. Places do change but what we want from a place changes too.


P.S. The pictures illustrating this blog were taken by my partner Martin, while we were in Manchester. More of them can be found at his blog,

Sunday 5 September 2010

I Am Not Alone

It’s no secret that I don’t want The Pope visiting Britain, later this month, but I especially don’t want taxpayers having to pay for it. The costs for it are estimated to be £12 million pounds and could be much more. Surprise, I’m not alone in feeling this.

A poll, published by the think tank Theos, found that 77% of Britons think taxpayers should not help pay for Pope Benedict’s visit. They also found 79% had "no personal interest" in his visit ( Add to this that there are people calling for The Pope to be arrested for his part in the cover-up of the child abuse by Catholic Priests and this could be the most unpopular visit by any religious leader.

What is the Catholic Church doing about this? What are they doing to relieve people’s genuine concerns? Answer, nothing.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has said it is “right” that UK taxpayers should pay for the Pope's visit ( This is after one of his aides called Britain a "selfish, hedonistic wasteland". The Archbishop distanced himself from the remarks but I’m sure we won’t be hearing that the aide has resigned or been sacked, any time soon.

Why isn’t the Catholic Church trying to engage with people who don’t want The Pope here? Instead they are telling us off and saying they have a “right” for us to fund The Pope’s visit. They are so distant, talking down to us as if they are still feudal lords telling us want to think.

I am sure when The Pope is here he will lecture us, at least once, about how “Godless” and “heathen” we are. I am certain he will make negative and even homophobic references to British gay rights legalisation (especially The Equality Bill and Civil Partnerships); this is the man who said that homosexuality is a worse threat then Global Warming (Sic...). I don’t want my taxes going towards paying for this charmless hypocrite to do so.

I don’t want The Pope visiting Britain until he has proven he is worthy to be visiting us, and I don’t want to have to pay for it. But the Catholic Church isn’t listening to me, they don’t seem to be listening to anyone but themselves...


Into The Woods (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)

Fairy Tales aren’t easy.

Stephen Sondheim’s fairy tale musical, Into The Woods, has a simple premise. A childless baker and his wife must lift a curse that has left them barren. To do so they have to go into the mysteries woods and bring back, for the witch who cursed them, a cap as red as blood, a cow as white as milk, a slipper as pure as silver and hair as yellow as corn (Little red Riding Hood’s cap, Jack of Jack and The Bean Stick’s cow, Cinderella’s slipper and Rapunzel’s hair). So the baker and his wife go into the woods and mix up everyone’s stories.

By the end of the first act all their stories are neatly tidied up, they all have what they want (Cinderella and Rapunzel have their princes, Red Riding Hood has her wolf skin coat, Jack is rich, and the baker and his wife have their child) and they all live happily ever after. The second act deals with the consequences of the characters’ action. To get what they want each character has to do something dishonest or corrupt (not doing what they’re told, pretending to be something they’re not, deliberately lied or stole) and now their actions have come back to them. There’s a giant loose in the kingdom intent on revenge and characters are rapidly being killed, not all by the giant. Eventually, the survivors band together to defeat the giant, but even then things aren’t returned to normal. The survivors return to a shattered world.

The themes of this musical very much reflect the time it was written in, the 1980’s, a critique of the yuppie greed principal, the end justifies the means (Only recently, we saw this with the banking boom that lead to the credit crunch). Here that greed has its consequences. Many people have expressed their disappointment with the second act, they liked the interwoven plots and tidy ending of the first act; they don’t like the chaos and death (many of the musicals popular characters being killed off) plus the downbeat ending. To me, though, the musical would be incomplete without this ending. The first act has set-up the different acts of dishonesty practiced by the characters, the second act shows the very messy consequences of these acts – for every boom there always comes a bust. In the world of fairy tales, and drama as a whole, actions always lead to consequences, to leave this out would led to an ultimately unsatisfying story.

Into The Woods contains examples of some of Sondheim’s best song writing. Here are songs that full of irony (“Agony” and it’s reprise), songs that mine deep emotions (“Our Little World”) and even songs with tunes that refuse to leave your head (The title “Into The Woods”), yet all of them come very much out of the characters. These songs, if performed out of the context of the musical’s plot, loose so much. The song “Hello Little Girl”, song by the wolf as he stalks Little Red Riding Hood, has more menace, sexuality and plot then the whole of damn Twilight series (!!).

This year is Stephen Sondheim’s eightieth birthday and this production is a fine present for him. Both musically and technically this production lives up to the promise of the material. The acting, though larger-than-life as the writing demands, was the perfect pitch, mixing broad comedy with pathos that gripes at the emotions; also there wasn’t bum note song here (so often actors are shoe-horned into a musical for their fame or looks, then their singing voices are poor at best). Out of a company of strong performances those of Hannah Waddingham (as The Witch) and Jenna Russell (as The Baker’s Wife) stand out. Hannah Waddingham plays The Witch as two different characters, a waddling gargoyle before her transformation, and as a strutting vamp who speaks the unacceptable home-truths as the post transformation character. Jenna Russell makes The Baker’s Wife the emotional heart of the piece. In the first act she’s the one pushing her husband forward to get what they want, to make their moral compromises, to lift their curse. In the second act, she’s the first to realise the threat the giant poses.

The costumes have a very stylised 1950’s feel, tailored tweed jackets and pinched waist dresses, which gives the impression of a children’s story illustration from the time – ideal for the style of this musical. The set is simple, if not basic, consisting of different platforms and walkways; but it was the setting of the theatre that made the perfect setting for this musical. The Open Air Theatre is housed in Regent’s Park and surrounded by tall trees, these trees form the perfect back-drop to Into The Woods. The set merges with these trees, Rapunzel’s tower actually being placed in one of them.

As a child I always found the endings of fairy stories strange, the idea of “they all lived happily ever after”. I wanted to know anyone could manage that. I once got into trouble, in Junior School, for asking this. When I first Into The Woods, back in 1990, I found it met that childhood need in me... Since then, it has remained of my favourite musicals.


Thursday 2 September 2010

“The devil made me do it.”

My feelings for the Christian Church aren’t a secret or positive thing (Just check out some of my previous blog entries), so it won’t come as a surprise that I’ve had a short story published about the uneasy relationship between sexuality and Christianity.

The Devil To Blame ( is about a young gay man who’s caught, mid-love-making, with his boyfriend by the pastor of his church. That said don’t expect the usual “Nasty Christian” and “Poor, Helpless Gay Man” story. This is one of my short stories with my usual jaundiced view of life.

It is published on the Gay Flash Fiction website (, one of the several stories of mine to appear there, and I’m so happy about that. They “get” my writing and I’ve only had positive experiences working with their editors. So many other publications want you to have jumped through many hoops before they’ll even look at your work, that it’s such a pleasure working with a publication that actually wants to get the best out of your writing.

Do let me know what you feel about this story, I value any feedback.


Wednesday 1 September 2010

It Was Twenty (Plus) Years Ago Today.

It’s no secret that I don’t have a very high opinion of Christianity, I’ve seen so many sins and evils committed in the name of Christianity, so much prejudice excused as Christian belief; yet there are still many good people who are Christians, unfortunately their voices are often drowned out by the bigotry. On Monday, some of those good people made their voices heard.

Peter Tatchell, veteran gay rights campaigner, spoke at the Greenbelt Christian festival, held each year at Cheltenham Racecourse. He spoke about "queer freedom in Africa”, especially the homophobia of some church leaders there. At the end of his talk he received a standing ovation (

In my early twenties, over twenty years ago (!!), I went to the Greenbelt Festival, but I found it a very different place. Any mention of homosexuality, and most times there wasn’t any, was the “traditional” negative line. I attended one seminar called “Sad To Be Gay” (sic), which draw the conclusion that any expression of a gay sexuality was a sin.

Things have certainly changed since I was last at Greenbelt, there are Christians out there who aren’t toeing the “party-line” of the Church’s homophobia. Unfortunately, the homophobic ones are still shrilly vocal. Lisa Nolland, on the Anglican Mainstream website, back in April, called for Christians to boycott Greenbelt just because Peter Tatchell would be speaking there ( She said it wouldn’t be a safe place for children, again linking homosexuality and pedophilia – that old and nasty lie.

Some Christians are moving away from the Church’s homophobia, and that should be applauded, but there’s still a very long way to go…