Saturday, 12 February 2011

Play nicely Martin

There must, as they say, be something in the water. First we have two football bods being rude about female match officials, then Jeremy Clarkson and his droogs mocking Mexicans and now Martin ‘son of Kingsley’ Amis has had a go at children’s authors. You may have missed the last. It was in a TV interview with Sebastian ‘literary writer’ Faulks in the course of which Amis fils stated that he would require to be ‘brain-damaged’ before he could write a book for children.

What is it about children’s books that so irritate Britain’s intelligentsia? I assume it has something to do with Harry Potter being so successful but I don’t remember Roald Dahl getting it in the neck in this way. He would be criticised for being too dark or otherwise unsuitable, but I cannot recall anyone saying that he must have suffered some kind of mental collapse between writing all those ‘tales of the much as we expected’ (as Peter Cook called them) and James & The Giant Peach.

As always when one of these attacks on children’s books pops up, I am reminded of Philip Pullman, a writer who, as a friend once said about Derek Jarman’s films, I don’t really like but I’m very glad he’s there. His reply to someone’s query as to when he was going to start writing grown-up books was to comment that an equivalent was to ask a paediatrician when they were going to start doing grown-up medicine. He also once smugly noted that when the Dark Materials trilogy, which deals with the existence of God and the role of religion amongst other things, was top of the children’s best-selling charts, the best-selling adult’s novel was Does My Bum Look Big In This?.

Which is nice.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Make Room! Make Room!

During the debates over healthcare in the United States recently, it was interesting to see the misconceptions that young nation has about the NHS. Remember all that talk about ‘death panels’ deciding who lives and who dies? It got to the point where one was required to point out that Dr Shipman was the exception, not the norm. But we in dear old Blighty should restrain from mocking too much. We too have our own fiercely held beliefs that must seem peculiar to those not blessed to dwell among us. This was borne out recently by a survey that Radio 4’s been burbling on about concerning immigration. Apparently we don’t want any more immigrants on the grounds that the country is, in some way that I for one have not noticed, ‘full’ and furthermore we don’t want the immigrants we have got to receive any care or attention from the aforementioned NHS. So far, so Daily Mail. Then it gets weird because it turns out that we do want immigrants after all, but only if they are doctors or carers for the elderly.

Is this really a good idea? Maybe I’m a wuss in these things, but I am leery of being treated by someone who is denied the very care and treatment that s/he is giving me. I can see there being ‘potential issues’, as a manager I once had used to call foreseeable consequences, arising.

And then there’s this business of the country being ‘full’. This one’s been doing the rounds for as long as I can remember but it seems to be peaking at the moment. A lot of this, I suspect, is a result of the disgraceful scaremongering during the last government by the party previously known as Labour, but it seems to be also driven by all those southern shandypants who can’t tell the difference between the United Kingdom and South East England who get into a tizzy every time they can’t get a seat on the tube. Fret not my little metropolitan friends, once the housing benefit caps come in there’ll be loads of room. Curiously Holland does not think it's full despite having a higher percentage of immigrants and being smaller than us and, indeed flatter. Must be the waffles.