Santa or St Nicholas?

When my mother taught in a Scottish Primary School, she used to gather the children together, about this time of year, and ask them to put up their hands if they believed in Santa Claus. Of course, some (maybe the ones that were good at Maths) smiled (or maybe frowned) and kept their hands down – and were surprised to see my mother raising her hand.

Then she would teach them all the more human but still wonderfully kind saint of Smyrna, known today, in English, as St Nicholas and whose name and whose generosity gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus. My mother maybe didn’t spell out in detail how this generosity (of paying poor families’ dowries) enabled young women who were poor to escape prostitution, but the schoolchildren certainly understood that they too could believe in the good Santa Claus and that the magic of kindness exceeds that of being able to fly about the chimneypots.

The reaction of some children to this kind of revelation is one of impatience. Why tell lies in the first place? If a story is to tell a truth, why not just tell the truth, plain and simple? This is certainly the message of Richard Dawkins (who also values children with autism but not those with Down’s).

In that case, why get married? Why not just have sex for pleasure and procreation? In 2008 in Scotland there were a series of video clips entitled, “It’s Time”, as part of the equal marriage campaign. A lot of that campaign involved telling stories and anyone who has ever attended a wedding knows that story-telling is an integral part of such celebrations – they may occur in the readings of sacred scripture as well as in the Best Man’s Speech!

NY-based science journalist Matthew Hutson reported in May 2012 in Psychology Today that: “Scientists who study religion have come to agree that belief in God (or gods) relies on everyday social cognition: our ability—and propensity—to think about minds.” He goes on “Which means if you are autistic, and unable to “mentalize,” you would be an atheist. New research published today in PLoS ONE provides fresh evidence for this claim.”

Linked and controversial study of the ‘extreme male brain’ finds that the ability (or propensity) to mentalise and to empathise are gendered.

Why am I telling you all this?

It’s no secret to my followers on Twitter that I’m currently writing a book on AIDS hypotheses. It may be a surprise to some that there are more than one – and that both main hypotheses (drugs & HIV) were initially under serious consideration by the CDC. What has been a great surprise to me, as I’ve intensively read the wealth of evidence that the HIV hypothesis is on shaky ground, to say the least, is the vehemence of the denial of the multiple ways in which this hypothesis is problematic.

I don’t want to go into those here. For those interested, see my forthcoming book, Silence & Dissent: Expert Doubt in the AIDS Debate, read the 722-page detailed tome entitled Inventing the AIDS virus, or look up the extremely erudite work of the Perth Group who have opposed the prevailing view for decades.

The angry denial that the HIV hypothesis is extremely (or, at all) problematic takes many forms including vindictively rejoicing on the death of those who held an opposing view and who resisted taking antiretroviral (anti-HIV) drugs at least until overwhelmed by well-meaning friends and family. This denial fails to observe their comparatively longer survival than their former recreational drug-taking peers diagnosed at the same time who started on these ‘therapeutic’ drugs immediately.

I’m not writing this to argue.

I simply wonder why on Earth anyone (especially anyone diagnosed as HIV+) would not want to have as much information from the most qualified minds freely available to them. It’s not. Or rather, it is but it is ignored. Like the advice that HIV is a clinical diagnosis and not one to be made from a test kit (which are extremely fallible but the numbers of false positives are hidden in the larger figure of those all tested rather than in the smaller figure of those found HIV+ and ‘confirmed’).

In the topsy-turvy world of big pharma-backed research, rather than demand proof for a hypothesis – so shaky that it was first announced at a press conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, that it depended on a virus proved to be stolen and that the researcher it was stolen from subsequently stated that is was not the sufficient cause of AIDS – proof is demanded for its rebuttal.

Proof there is, and in abundance, but why is it not being accepted?

Perhaps because this version is much more reassuring, especially for those who feel secure when everything is quantified and predictable:

‘HIV causes AIDS. Scientists can test your blood for HIV. Doctors can medicate you for HIV and provide you with numbers and even graphs that show your CD4 cell count going up (that’s a good thing) and your viral load going down (ditto). You can trust the medication. It may have some side effects but be positive and, hopefully, you’ll live long and prosper.’

This other version isn’t reassuring at all:

‘AIDS isn’t even a thing. It’s just whatever whoever wherever says it is. The test? Well, Western Blot is a fudge, ELISA is a soup and none of the proteins used is specific to HIV anyway. Anyway scientists can test your blood for HIV all they want but the most even they can claim to come up with is HIV antibodies (which could also just be antibodies to almost anything). Antibodies don’t kill you but whatever the doctors give you for HIV probably will as after some years (longer now, thankfully) of painful side-effects, you’ll probably die of liver failure and be written out of the statistics cos it’s not AIDS-related. The numbers and graphs they give you, about your CD4 cell count and your viral load are kinda just made up. Big pharma doesn’t give a rat’s arse about you or anyone, they just want money. Best thing you can do is stop taking the tablets. You may still have some side effects until they’re out of your system but be positive and, hopefully, you’ll live long and prosper.’

Life is all about choices. Thank God, this is not a choice I’ve had to make but I do know people who have. So, if you were told that you were ‘HIV positive’, what would you do? Would you choose the comfort of quantified information that (ignoring the persistent proofs of unreliability) the pharmaceutical industry offers?

Or would you want to learn as much as possible about this condition which that industry claims you have? Would you be angry that expert researchers have been no-platformed because they dare to doubt that industry? Would you be surprised at the level of vitriolic ad hominem attack these scientists have faced, and the damage to their reputation and careers that their principled stance has cost them?

The difference between the story of Santa Claus and that of St Nicholas is that the first is familiar, reassuring, schmaltzy and frankly unbelievable (if you think about it) and the second is complex, disturbing, historically and culturally value-laden and very, very human.

If you’re going to an AIDS memorial service tomorrow, follow the money. Find out who its sponsored by. Ask yourself why. Then keep asking questions until you, personally, are satisfied with the answers.

saint-nicholas-871289590212M42

Thanks to Vera Kratochvil who has released here photo “St Nicholas” into the Public Domain.

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Sex, Lies and HIV

They seem like two open and shut cases. Two young strong gay men, one Black, one White, one American, one British, one a College wrestler, one a hairdresser, both (apparently) repellent in character and (evidently) attractive enough to persuade multiple other young men to have sex with them, ‘bareback’. In one case, the persuasion not to use condoms may have been aggressive. No, it wasn’t the Black guy. In the same case, condoms may have been sabotaged.

Why were they prosecuted? Because both tested positive for HIV antibodies, at least some of their sex partners also tested positive for HIV antibodies and at least one had recently tested negative. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Or was it?

Although the report on Darryl Rowe by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales today is fairly concise and factual, the reaction on UK media has ranged from an icky fascination with Rowe’s DIY cure for HIV to the inevitable I told you so’s about ‘gay plague’. On the other side of the Atlantic, there was, of course, the usual homophobic and racist reaction to a sexually active gay man with the compounding sin of being Black ramped up by plague panic but this was accompanied by a grave concern – absent in the UK media – about the ethics of HIV criminalization laws.

Michael Johnson was initially jailed (2015) for 30 years for the twin crimes of “recklessly infecting and recklessly exposing a sexual partner to HIV” but after appeal (September 2017) the sentence was reduced to ten years. Darryl Rowe has been charged with the twin crimes of causing grievous bodily harm and intent to commit grievous bodily harm. I’m no expert on Common Law (we have Civil Law in Scotland and I’m no expert on that either) but I doubt that Rowe will face 30 years, or even ten, for GBH. Ironically, whereas Rowe was accused of post-coital taunting of his passive sex partners (and cutting the ends off condoms) Johnson was only ever found guilty of reckless behaviour.

Is that it?

Not according to the author of Are You Positive? an informative novella written in 2008, updated in 2010, by Steven Davis, centred on a fictionalised version of one of the many trials in the USA of men accused of recklessly infecting another man or woman with HIV. Davis centres his story on the evidence of expert witnesses who testify that, among other quirks in the official version, the notion that antibodies equal active virus was unheard of before HIV.

There are many, many quirks in the officially accepted story that HIV causes AIDS. Among them is the fact that the original statement, made to the press by Margaret Heckler, then US Secretary of Health and Human Services, in April 1984, was: “HIV is the probable cause of AIDS” (italics mine). When Dr Kary B. Mullis, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, now used to identify HIV proteins, sought a scientific reference for this statement, his search was in vain. Peter H. Duesberg, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berekely, points out that Karposi’s sarcoma, the once iconic disease of AIDS (watch Philadelphia) was so clearly linked to gay men’s use of poppers to facilitate passive anal sex that even the gung-ho virus hunters of the US Centres for Disease Control investigated it in 1981 and in 1991 (briefly) considered taking KS off the growing list of diseases associated with AIDS.

All of which is beside the point.

Jessica Matthews reports (originally on http://www.cnbc.com):

In six U.S. states, individuals living with HIV who are found guilty of knowingly exposing a partner are required to be registered as a sex offender. They can face felony charges, or felony-level punishments, in 32 states.

She goes on to give the establishment medical view of progress in antiretroviral therapy:

But as breakthrough HIV drug treatments and medical studies show there is essentially no risk of sexually exposing someone to HIV while taking antiretroviral drug therapy (ART), states are being forced to play catch-up to the science, and stigma, of the AIDS virus.

ART – or even HAART for those coinfected with Hepatitis C – is certainly better than AZT, the first HIV treatment which is now recognised as responsible for countless deaths (and now routinely prescribed to babies who have HIV antibodies). What Matthews omits to mention is that there is a great deal of risk – especially of sudden liver failure – to anyone on even the newest anti-HIV drugs.

My point is that judicial deliberation is based on the evaluation of evidence, not on maintaining a cosy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, not on performing a convenient public relations exercise intended to calm the general population as the government is seen to be doing something, and not, especially, on no-platforming unfashionable expert witnesses simply because they refuse to do all of the above.

Darryl Rowe is nobody’s hero and Michael Johnson does seem, at least, selfish. But the former should not be prosecuted for refusing drugs officially acknowledged to be harmful, the latter should not be prosecuted by a Bible Belt mentality that still sees all Black young men as rapists, and neither should be prosecuted for crimes of bodily harm when the only universally acknowledged bodily harm associated with HIV is that caused by antiretroviral ‘therapy’.

crossed-fingers

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his photo “Crossed Fingers” into the public domain.

Post-referendum speech by President Puigdemont: translation of complete text

Unofficial rough translation from the Catalan by Alan McManus @gumptionology:

Document: The complete text of the speech by [President] Puigdemont

El Nacional

Institutional Declaration by the president of the Autonomous Region [Catalonia]

Palace of the Autonomous Region, 04.10.17 [3 day after the Referendum]

 

Welcome compatriots,

We come from some especially intense days, full of emotions and of experiences that will remain engraved on our memory. Once more, the people of Catalonia demonstrated yesterday that they are united, that they are one single people, that fight for the defence of the values of democracy, and do so as they always have and always will do things: with civility and in peace. There have been very symbolic images that help to understand this idea of fraternity and universality with which Catalonia faces its national challenges: persons with Spanish flags and starred [Catalonian] flags sharing fraternally the same cause [democracy]. The rejection of violence, the rejection of the unjustifiable repression by the police force [Spanish Civil Guard, not Catalan Mossos] against the civil population peacefully gathered in the defence of their civil rights that are basic to them.

In this way I would like to praise the courageous attitude of the hundreds of thousands of Catalans who yesterday mobilised in a [general] strike without precedent in our country. They did this without causing incidents, overcoming fears and menaces and, above all, being faithful to the peaceful attitude with which we wish to express ourselves always. Because of this we have to feel strong if we are united and maintain ourselves in this attitude. For all the violence that some wish to practice against us, deeds that are nowhere unacceptable and which have been rejected by many people and rejected with much concern in Europe, we have to maintain ourselves as one people. With differences, with discrepancies, with mistakes and, sometimes, because this also has to be said, with great uncertainty. This does not mean that we should mistreat those who, due to impotence, to fear or cowardice, want us [to act] in another manner. You do not know the admiration in which our people are held everywhere in the world for this attitude [which is] so civilised and so determined.

Disgracefully, not everyone wants things to go well. There are those who attempt to present the Catalan claim [to Independence] as something illegitimate, illegal and criminal. There are those who think that following ballot boxes, ballots and voting is an inexcusable requirement of the rule of law, and that all’s fair in impeding a people in being able to express themselves and being able to decide [for themselves]. We are all very tranquil and serene, and above all very comforted: what we have done, what we are doing and what we will do is what other peoples have already done and what other peoples will do in the future. We follow a path democratically marked by the will of the citizens, and so anywhere this is fought it should begin to be comprehended and respected. [The next 2, italicised, paragraphs are in Spanish not Catalan]

For this reason I want to address the Spanish citizens who in these days have expressed their commitment to the demands of the Catalans; citizens who have sent us their friendship and their solidarity, much valued in the moments in which we are living. Certainly the Spanish authorities should explain better what is happening in Catalonia, with more thoughtful views that help to understand a political problem that we know is complex.

Even so, I am grateful for the effort that we note directly from many people to accompany the Catalan people in our claims. We are one people, who love the languages we speak, who have no problem with identities, nationalities and cultures, who want to continue contributing to the development of the Spanish state and who will never ignore the enormous wealth that diversity represents.

We are, in effect, a society enormously cohered by diversity. Because of that, the message that the Head of State has decided to direct to a part of the population we cannot share nor accept. The King makes his own the discourse and the politics of the government Rajoy that have been catastrophic in relation with Catalonia, and deliberately ignores the millions of Catalans that do not think as they do. He deliberately ignores the Catalans that have been victims of police violence that has frozen the heart of half the world. The King yesterday lost an opportunity to address all the citizens to whom he owes his crown, and to whom he owes the respect incumbent upon him by the Constitution. A Constitution that grants him a role as moderator that in any case he has not had, and that yesterday he firmly declined. Neither has he taken any interest in getting to know the opinion and the view of the Government of the Autonomous Region in any moment of this crisis, and has accepted the assumption of an inadequate role that merely seeks to level the decisions that the Spanish Government makes while they plot to liquidate the aspirations of sovereignty of the Catalan people. Aspirations that he does not doubt [should be] treated as criminal and illegitimate, and against which he uses resources without limit.

I would like to address myself directly to His Majesty, in the language that I know he knows and speaks: like this, no. [The following is in very formal language as it is addressed to the King of Spain. Accordingly, I have translated vostè not as ‘you’ but as ‘Your Majesty’]

With Your Majesty’s decision yesterday Your Majesty disappointed many people in Catalonia, who appreciate Your Majesty and who have helped Your Majesty in difficult moments of the office [the Crown]. People that expected of Your Majesty another tone and a call to dialogue and to concord. As President of the Autonomous Region I believe it necessary to address myself to the whole of the citizenry, to everyone, whatever they think, to guarantee the dedication of the Government that I preside over to protect the whole of the citizenry, to keep watch over their rights to express themselves lucidly and to respect their decisions.

We [President & Catalan Government] do this with the dedication that we assumed at the beginning of the mandate. A dedication to do it with a door open always to dialogue and to respect for the other. We will not move from this, and I wish to guarantee to the citizens that listen to me that my Government has not deviated one millimetre from the dedication to peace and serenity, but now firmly, with which we wish to take action.

Because of this I repeat what I said on Monday: this moment demands mediation. We have refused various proposals in the last hours, and we will refuse more: you [formal: His Majesty and His Majesty’s Government] all know first hand my disposition to take on a process of mediation. I have repeated that this is necessary so many times. Peace, dialogue and accord form part of the political culture of our people. However, we have never rejected any positive response on the part of the State on any of the options of mediation that are already on the table, and I believe, with all sincerity, that it would be a grave irresponsibility not to attend the pleas sent from people from within and without Catalonia and the [Spanish] State that this conflict is managed by politics and not by the police.

Yesterday we neared [I’m uncertain of the sense] our historic desire. On Sunday we managed to hold a referendum despite a sea of difficulties and repression without precedent; yesterday we gave an example of the process of a general strike; and I am sure that these very days will become the best face of our country when the institutions of Catalonia apply the result of the referendum.

Meanwhile we maintain confidence and the exclusion of all provocation and all intention of violence. We do not want that at home nor anywhere else. We will make ourselves strong in dignity and we will be a people capable of making possible the dream that is proposed.

[translator’s note: glosses, added for sense, are mine; glosses in bold, added as explanations, are also mine]

row-of-john-deere-tractors

[Thanks to Linnaea Mallette who has released her photo ‘Row of John Deere Tractors’ into the Public Domain]

Document: El text íntegre del discurs de Puigdemont

El Nacional

Declaració institucional del president de la Generalitat

Palau de la Generalitat, 04.10.17

 

Benvolguts i benvolgudes compatriotes,

Venim d’uns dies especialment intensos, carregats d’emocions i de vivències que ens quedaran gravades a la memòria. Una vegada més, el poble de Catalunya va demostrar ahir que està unit, que és un sol poble, que fa pinya en la defensa dels valors de la democràcia, i ho va fer de la manera com sempre fem i volem fer les coses: amb civisme i en pau. Hi va haver imatges molt simbòliques que ajuden a entendre aquesta idea de fraternitat i transversalitat amb què Catalunya afronta els seus reptes nacionals: persones amb banderes d’Espanya i banderes estelades compartint agermanadament una mateixa causa. El rebuig a la violència, el rebuig a les càrregues injustificables de les forces policials contra població civil pacíficament concentrada i la defensa dels drets civils que ens són elementals.

En aquest sentit voldria posar en molt de valor l’actitud dels centenars de milers de catalans i catalanes que ahir us vau mobilitzar en una aturada sense precedents al nostre país. Ho vau fer sense incidents, superant pors i amenaces i, sobretot, essent fidels a l’actitud pacífica amb què ens volem expressar sempre. Per això ens hem de sentir forts si estem units i ens mantenim en aquesta actitud. Per més violència que hi vulguin posar alguns, fet que no és acceptable enlloc i que ha estat rebatut per molta gent i rebut amb molta preocupació a Europa, nosaltres ens hem de mantenir com un sol poble. Amb diferències, amb discrepàncies, amb errors i, a vegades, perquè també ens ho hem de dir, amb grans encerts. No deixeu que ens ho malbaratin els qui, per impotència, per por o per covardia, ens voldrien d’una altra manera. No sabeu l’admiració que com a poble estem recollint arreu del món per aquesta actitud tan cívica i tan compromesa.

Per desgràcia no tothom voldria que les coses ens anessin bé. Hi ha qui pretén presentar la reivindicació catalana com una cosa il·legítima, il·legal i criminal. Hi ha qui pensa que perseguir urnes, paperetes i votants és una exigència inexcusable de l’estat de dret, i que tot s’hi val per impedir que un poble es pugui expressar i pugui decidir. Estiguem tots molt tranquils i serens, i sobretot molt reconfortats: el que hem fet, el que estem fent i el que farem és el que d’altres pobles ja han fet i d’altres pobles faran en el futur. Seguim un camí democràticament marcat per la voluntat dels ciutadans, i això enlloc de ser combatut hauria de començar a ser comprès i a ser respectat.

Por eso quiero dirigirme a los ciudadanos españoles que en estos días han expresado su compromiso con las demandas de los catalanes; ciudadanos que nos han enviado su amistad y su solidaridad muy valiosa en los momentos que estamos viviendo. Seguramente las autoridades españolas deberían explicar mejor lo que ocurre en Catalunya, con visiones más ponderadas que ayudaran a entender un problema político que sabemos que es complejo.

Sin embargo, agradezco el esfuerzo que nos consta directamente de mucha gente para acompañar al pueblo catalán en sus reivindicaciones. Somos un solo pueblo, que ama las lenguas que habla, que no tiene ningún problema con las identidades, las nacionalidades y las culturas, que quiere continuar contribuyendo al desarrollo del Estado español y que jamás va a prescindir de la enorme riqueza que representa la pluralidad.

Som, en efecte, una societat enormement cohesionada en la diversitat. Per això el missatge que el cap de l’Estat va voler adreçar a una part de la població no el podem compartir ni acceptar. El rei fa seu el discurs i les polítiques del govern Rajoy que han estat catastròfiques en relació amb Catalunya, i ignora deliberadament els milions de catalans que no pensem com ells. Ignora deliberadament els catalans que han estat víctimes d’una violència policial que ha glaçat el cor a mig món. El rei va perdre ahir una oportunitat d’adreçar-se a tots els ciutadans a qui deu la corona, i als quals deu el respecte perquè així li encomana la Constitució. Una Constitució que li atorga un paper moderador que en cap cas no ha tingut, i que ahir va declinar amb duresa. Tampoc no ha tingut interès a conèixer l’opinió i la visió del Govern de la Generalitat en cap moment d’aquesta crisi, i ha acceptat assumir un rol inadequat que només busca aplanar les decisions que el Govern espanyol fa temps que estudia per tal de liquidar les aspiracions de sobirania del poble català. Unes aspiracions que no dubta a tractar com a criminals i il·legítimes, i contra les quals usa recursos sense límit.

Voldria adreçar-me directament a Sa Majestat, en la llengua que sé que coneix i parla: així no.

Amb la seva decisió d’ahir vostè va decebre molta gent a Catalunya, que l’aprecia i que l’ha ajudat en moments difícils de la institució. Gent que esperava de vostè un altre to i una apel·lació al diàleg i a la concòrdia. Com a president de la Generalitat crec necessari adreçar-me al conjunt de la ciutadania, a tothom, pensi com pensi, per garantir el compromís del govern que presideixo de protegir el conjunt dels ciutadans, de vetllar pels seus drets a expressar-se lliurement i de respectar les seves decisions.

Ho farem amb el compromís que vam assumir a l’inici del mandat. Un compromís de fer-ho amb una porta oberta sempre al diàleg i al respecte cap a l’altre. No ens mourem d’aquí, i vull garantir als ciutadans que m’esteu escoltant que el meu govern no es desviarà ni un mil·límetre del compromís de pau i serenor, però alhora de fermesa, amb què volem fer les coses.

Per això reitero el que ja vaig dir dilluns: aquest moment demana mediació. Hem rebut diverses propostes en les darreres hores, i en rebrem més: totes elles coneixen de primera mà la meva disposició a emprendre un procés de mediació. Ho reiterarem tantes vegades com faci falta. Pau, diàleg i acord formen part de la cultura política del nostre poble. Tanmateix no hem rebut mai cap resposta positiva per part de l’Estat a cap de les opcions de mèdiació que ja hi ha sobre la taula, i crec, amb tota sinceritat, que torna a ser una greu irresponsabilitat no atendre els precs que envien gent de dins i de fora de Catalunya i de l’Estat per tal que aquest conflicte s’encarrili des de la política i no des de la policia.

Avui tenim més a prop que ahir el nostre desig històric. Diumenge vam aconseguir fer un referèndum enmig d’un oceà de dificultats i d’una repressió sense precedents; ahir vam donar un exemple en el seguiment de l’aturada general; i estic segur que en els propers dies tornarem a ensenyar la millor cara del nostre país quan les institucions de Catalunya haguem d’aplicar el resultat del referèndum.

Mentrestant mantinguem la confiança i l’aïllament a tota provocació i a tota intenció de violència. Ni la volem a casa ni la volem enlloc. Fem-nos forts en la dignitat i serem un poble capaç de fer possible el somni que es proposi.

www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/document-text-discurs-puigdemont_198696_102.html

A Murder Has Been Arranged

Hilary Lynas, as always, was hilarious as soon as she walked onstage as the nouveau-riche Mrs Arthur, picking up the pace of A Murder Has Been Arranged by Emlyn Williams, performed by the Kirkintilloch Players. We were glad of the slow start (ably introduced by Tamara Horsborough as the deceptively dedicated Miss Groze and by David Mitchell’s avuncular Cavendish and Sheila Todd’s crosspatch Mrs Wragg, in counterpoint) as the plot then got rather thick rather quick.
It takes skill to turn an audience against such a charming figure as Arran Summers’ Jimmy North – AKA Simon Richardson AKA Richard Simonson – and Mrs Arthur gave it her best shot but we all love young love (even when there’s an inconvenient older-but-rich husband) and the warmth of the lovely Lady Beatrice Jasper (Tierney McLeod) overcame the frost from Mater and maid alike. Sir Charles Jasper himself (Gordon Brown) was all urbane dignity and his serene acceptance of the risk of being fooled by his young wife was quite touching.
Enter the wickedly fun villian in the form of Maurice A. Mullins (Craig McEwan) and the eerie character, known only as ‘A Woman’, whose performance by Anne-Marie Connor had us on the edge of our seats. The stage was set and the eleventh hour approaching…
Special mention must go to Tamara Horsborough for the complexity of the role of Miss Groze in this very complex play but to explain that would give the game away! Also to the deft production by Ian Atherton and Bette MacKenzie, and the seamless stage management (if it wasn’t, we didn’t notice) by Iain Carmichael, the atmospheric lighting by Graham Carmichael and the moody music by Gordon Jahn. The attention to detail in the set, props & sumptuous costumes drew us deeper into the spell.
Another great night by the Kirky Players, enjoyed as much by my mother and neighbour as by myself, showing once again the joy of community theatre.
A Murder Has Been Arranged is on at the Turret Theatre, 7:30 pm each night till Saturday 14th Oct. Tickets from www.kirkintillochplayers.co.uk

murderarranged-17-180

Poster by Kenwil/ Ian Atherton www.kirkintillochplayers.co.uk

St Francis, AIDS & Bad Pharma

When I worked for the Iona Community, sitting in the cold Abbey in summer or in the freezing chapel of St Michael in winter, we would recite this prayer every Friday morning:

‘Take us outside, O Christ, outside holiness, to where soldiers curse and nations clash, at the crossroads of the world.’ (Iona Abbey Worship Book, p.20)

Theologically it doesn’t make a lot of sense and the alliteration covers an assumption widespread in the Community that while male aggression is the curse of the world, female empowerment is its salvation. Yet it is an arresting image. To step outside the cosy piety of churchiness. To risk misunderstanding of our motives, indeed vilification.

However, performing a grand gesture isn’t always laudable, no matter our motives. When I was a Franciscan novice, I was very attracted by the story of St Francis stripping off his fine clothes and throwing them at the feet of his father, in the Residence of the Bishop of Assisi. In this place (the ‘Room of Renunciation’) Pope Francis stated:

“The Christian cannot coexist with the spirit of the world, with the worldliness that leads us to vanity, to arrogance, to pride.” (OSV Newsweekly)

Nowadays I am ready to admit that Franco Zeffirelli’s filmic presentation of the beauty of Graham Faulkner may have had something to do with the attraction of this scene. I, now, also feel much more sympathy with the father – who surely only wanted to lavish his love on his only son and to set him up securely in turbulent times.

The other, earlier, scene which moved me was Francis getting off his high horse, giving his cloak to a leper and kissing him. Brother Sun, Sister Moon was filmed in 1972 and by 1984 (fateful year) the paperback edition of St Francis: A Model for Human Liberation was out in English. I’m not sure if it was the author, Fr Leonardo Boff, who first said that, ‘if St Francis was around today, he would kiss an AIDS victim’.

Following his example, many saintly people have done exactly that, St (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis among them. Liberation theologians from South America have taken St Francis out of the birdbath and shown his piety to be far more radical than the smug spirituality of ‘being kind to animals’ (while eating them and being complicit in their torture for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries). St Francis is a model of solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed.

In 1984 it became clear that there was a new category of marginalisation. Dr Robert Gallo patented ‘the AIDS virus’, ELISA and Western Blot test kits (which give different results for the presence of the sections of the proteins taken to be HIV antibodies) were hastily manufactured and people all over the world began to receive AZT, a chemotherapy drug that interferes with the most basic cellular functions. Within months many were dead.

Since then, antiretroviral drugs are not so lethal and people on them are living longer. Just stop and think about that sentence for a moment.

Dom Hélder Câmara, archbishop of Olinda & Recife in North East Brazil, famously said:

‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.’

Similarly, when you comfort those supposedly dying of AIDS, they call you a saint. When you ask why they are dying, they call you a ‘denialist’.

For over 30 years, the biomedical scientists who constitute the Perth Group (based in the research facility of the Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia) have been asking two simple questions:

  • Where is the scientific proof of the existence of HIV?
  • Where is the scientific proof of the hypothetical link between HIV and AIDS?

These questions remain unanswered. Other biomedical scientists have raised dissident voices, most controversially Professor Peter Duesberg, member of the American national Academy of Sciences, and Dr Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize winner. More controversially still, in 2000, President Mbeki of South Africa sought advice and organised a conference of biomedical scientists, two-thirds of whom were of the establishment view on HIV/AIDS. These refused to debate the dissident view and vilified the President for daring to question the findings and remedies of the international pharmaceutical industry.

As Dr Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos of the Perth Group has said, the burden of proof is not on the dissidents but on the scientists who have made the claim that HIV exists and that it causes AIDS. This claim has never been substantiated (both scientists credited with the discovery of ‘the AIDS virus’, Gallo and Montagnier, have repudiated their original positions) and every other related biomedical establishment publication is based on it. Other eminent biomedical scientists, such as Professor Gordon Stewart of the University of Glasgow, have challenged this claim on epidemiological grounds.

The reaction of most good, fair-minded and compassionate people to the news that there are still eminent biomedical scientists who dispute this claim is one of disbelief – usually followed by ridicule and unflattering comparisons to Flat Earthers and other conspiracy theorists. Yet, as Professor Peter Duesberg painstakingly points out (in his book Inventing the AIDS Virus which has detailed references) this is not the first time that the well-funded ‘virus hunters’ of the pharmaceutical industry have brought about huge iatrogenic harm. Dr Ben Goldacre (who is not an ‘AIDS dissident’) shows comprehensively, in Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients, that:

‘Doctors around the world – except in Norway – are taught which drugs are best by the drug companies themselves. The content is biased, and that’s why companies pay for it. For decades people have stood up, shown that the content is biased, written reports against it, demonstrated that weak guidelines fail to police it; and still it continues.’ (Bad Pharma, 2012, p.320)

Inspired by the saint of the marginalised, is it possible for us to step outside of our drug-funded respectability, to risk being ridiculed and vilified, being considered lacking in compassion for the sick – to ask why it is that our unexamined piety is killing them?

Brother Sun 6-1

Photo source: Brother Son, Sister Moon via DarkUFOBlogspot

a love letter to vegetarians

Where you live

(where it gets you)

Where I live

(where I’m coming from)

Today

Dear Friends,

First I want to salute you and to thank you for all that you’re already doing for animals, for human health and for the planet. Whether you’ve been vegetarian for days, for weeks or for months, you have already saved the lives of many animals and meaningfully contributed to the fight against high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, land abuse, poverty, climate change and ecological disaster. If you’ve been vegetarian for years, then you remember when this was much, much, harder, when you weren’t only considered uncool but a socially awkward freak and when you had to not only put up with the severe limitation (or non-existence) of vegetarian options when dining out but the constant verbal harassment of omnivorous friends, acquaintances and total strangers who felt totally justified in listing the varieties of dead animals they would and wouldn’t eat, their inexpert opinions on nutritional health and their unethical take on the hypocrisy of vegetarians (as opposed to fruitarians).

No matter how long you’ve been vegetarian, you may also have had to put up with being criticised and lectured by vegans – and for that I sincerely apologise. (If you’ve been lectured by fruitarians please just put up with it. I’m not sure how long these good souls survive and, like Mayflies, we should appreciate them while they’re still here.)

I turned vegetarian when I was eight and for many years (even until I turned fifty) I would tell people this then exclaim, “my goodness, that’s twenty years!” and for one glorious moment be 28 again. But when I was 28, being vegetarian was really hard (and when I was 8 it was Hell!): soya mince was pretty tasteless but the only meat substitute, the usual ‘vegetarian’ option in restaurants was fish, salads were awful (I’m Scottish and people wonder why I lived for years in South American and Mediterranean countries) and the reaction of waiters and chefs to the question ‘is there ham stock in this?’ was often either astonishment or belligerence.

Nevertheless, I persisted. Waveringly. For some years I ate fish (so was, technically, an ovo-lacto-piscatarian) after spending time in a Mexican fishing village and justifying my choice with the thought that I was really against vivisection and factory farming. Three times I tried to turn vegan but, although it was fairly easy at home, I just couldn’t take the hassle outside. As I even bought my shoes and belts in charity shops (so I wouldn’t contribute to the leather industry) I felt fairly ethically consistent.

Fairly. Vegans got to me not only because they were often so self-righteous (especially the ones who’d been vegan for approximately 5 minutes!) but because their ethics had already convinced me. All I needed was a gentle (not aggressive) push. That came in the form of a short Youtube video made by vegan Jains. These lovely people, asking forgiveness for any harm that the making and showing of this video may have caused, speak simply and from the heart: the dairy industry depends on the killing of male calves and industrial egg production on the killing (often by mechanical grinding up) of male chicks only hours old.

Namaste. The divine light in me salutes the divine light in you. In the end, whatever the words we use to describe our ethics (or our spirituality) it’s all about compassion. You have already opened your heart so much and I love you for it. Open your heart still more. Don’t worry if you can’t be consistent. We’re all human. Don’t worry if some days it feels like a bit of a bind and you wish you were more organised (or that other people were more generous in their opinion of you and provision for you).

Nevertheless, you persist. The world needs you to turn around just a little more and by this conversion to educate, to liberate and to heal so many hearts. Try turning vegan. For greater goodness and for even more love.

Namaste, Alan

a-cow-peers-over-a-hedgerow

Thanks to David Bollard for releasing his photo, A Cow Peers Over A Hedgerow, into the public domain.

WOKE

I first encountered the activist sense of the word woke on Twitter – used by a young gay man whose partnership with an ally has quite simply revolutionised LGBT-inclusive education in Scotland (and provided the followers of the campaign with a rather touching bromance). I don’t feel qualified to judge whether he’s woke or not, but he’s certainly not asleep! My next encounter with this usage was on watching the Netflix series Dear White People – which if not its origin has certainly popularised the usage. The series follows on from the 2014 film of the same name and it was, I must admit, at first a disappointment. The film was so punchy and I didn’t mind the very obvious lectures in Black American history scripted as conversation because I was learning things I didn’t know in an enjoyable way – and that’s good education in my book. The series continued with this style but it seemed at first to rather run out of steam plotwise and instead to spend a lot of screentime on the beautiful body of the patrician Black character Troy – with accompanying gasps of pleasure from his female entourage.

Then everything changed. In a horrible scene, when all the previous action (two men pushing each other around, in the middle of a lively mixed-race party, in an argument over who can use ‘the N-word’) stops; all that can be heard is the terrified breath of a Black man as he slowly reaches for his student ID, pleading with the two White Campus Police to keep their fingers off the trigger of their guns pointed at him. I’ve described this character simply as ‘a Black man’ because that is all that these trigger-happy cops see. In a push-about between US and THEM, the White cops totally ignore the combatant whose skin colour they share, other and ostracise and are prepared to execute this beautiful young man whose intelligence is already established on campus, whose activism is unselfishly motivated by knightly service to his lady love (currently attached to a White guy) and whose only crime was to insist that an insult re-appropriated by his community should not be repeated by those outside it.

This series, this film, and these kinds of killings only happen in the US of course. And everyone knows that Americans are crazy. So here in Britain, and especially in Scotland, we don’t need to think about it. Because it doesn’t happen here.

I wish that were true, rather than being something that I tell myself because the truth is so inconvenient. As inconvenient as the thought that Cressida Dick was promoted to head the Metropolitan Police after (denying) ordering the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, and that the unnamed officer who shot this unarmed man five times in the head (only following orders) in a tube train in front of terrified passengers – did so not because he had run in terror, nor because he was wearing a bulky jacket, or texting, or changing buses in a rush to get to work, or even because he was a person of colour but because the head of the Metropolitan Police and the unnamed officer and many of the White cops in the UK and UK Borders officers are violently, murderously, racist.

But in Scotland we know that these kinds of killings only happen in London where everyone is crazy. Or Birmingham perhaps. Or Leeds. Not in Glasgow. I know that we’re not racist in Glasgow. Especially not in Glasgow’s West End where I work with international students and used to live. And not even in Royston, East End, fondly known by my father’s generation (growing up there) as ‘the Garngad’. Home of the displaced Irish, they famously raided the local dump and rained down blocks and bedsteads on the Orange Walk when they dared to change their route – and didn’t do again. I laughed at that story. I didn’t think what it would be like to be at the receiving end.

I didn’t think because it’s inconvenient. Scotland needs self-confidence, self-determination. We don’t need contrary voices. Like that of my Iranian friend who lives in Royston and tells me that it’s ‘the Irish’ who are the worst racists. Because I can hide my ethnicity in several envelopes. When it suits me, I’m European, then British (rarely does that suit me!) then Scottish, then Irish. My surname isn’t Scots and neither is most of my ancestry a generation or so back. Scots Catholics feel about Ireland the way Tolkien’s elves feel about the lands beyond the Sundering Seas. We treasure the Emerald Isle. Just don’t ask us to live there.

So when my Nigerian boyfriend told me he’d narrowly escaped being beaten up by 15 White youths, in Royston, I was annoyed. He’s 6 foot 1, plays mid-field defence in football (soccer), as well as being an intelligent College student devoted to helping asylum-seekers, he’s currently the most handsome and the fittest man on the face of the Earth (I’ve checked). What business has he to go around Glasgow almost getting himself beaten up?

And when he told me that his friend, on another occasion, had not escaped. That he’d dragged himself, bleeding, into his highrise flat. And lain there for three days. Because he was an asylum-seeker. And didn’t have free access to medical care. In the UK. Where everyone, supposedly, has free access to medical care. I started arguing.

And then I looked it up. It’s true. People seeking asylum in the UK are being refused free access to medical care. Even though this is illegal.

He died.

Somehow his friends got to him and somehow got him into A & E.

Where he died.

Racist people who look like me and my racist country governed by people who look like me contrived to kill a man who looked like my boyfriend.

He died.

People die. Black people die. All the time. We, dear White people, are killing them.

My friend Kelvin, who runs a church where everyone is welcome, preached a sermon on Sunday (6th August 2017) about the Transfiguration. You can watch the video clip under Latest Sermons. Kelvin mentioned many things: Moses as liberator of slaves; Elijah as prophet of the oppressed; anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; our image of God; Jesus not as enthroned King but revealed in love. And I recalled the reading, from Matthew 17: 1-9. The disciples are afraid at what they see…“but Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise and do not be afraid.’ And when they opened their eyes, they saw no-one but Jesus.”

I once asked a Black Caribbean friend what White people could do to help Black people best. Her answer was simple: “Love us”. At the time, I thought it a rather impractical answer. I don’t now.

When we are touched by love, when we are woke from our fear and open our eyes to behold our fellow human beings in truth. What shining glory is before us, transfigured?

Reggie DWP

‘Reggie’, Dear White People

Guerrilla Litter-Picking

Like many men my age I’m liable to sound off a bit. On occasion. For good reason. And there are many good reasons to be angry about many real issues. However, anger can become a default emotion for many men my age. It’s the other side of depression and (perhaps) it’s better out than in. Inward anger is linked by the more holistically minded to many bodily symptoms of ill health – and even the most Cartesian of medical minds admit that stress induces high levels of cortisol with a knock-on effect that’s not only bad for the waistline but is linked to Type 2 diabetes etc.
Grumpy is a stereotypical attribute of older men but vary the adjective a little and other stereotypical irascibilities come into focus: peevish, waspish, nippy, surly, petulant, bitchy, thin-skinned, aggressive, high-maintenance, demanding, hard to please, not amused. There are many manifestations of habitual anger and a bit of wordplay will ensure that’s there’s one demographically suited especially for you.
Nowadays many of us feel that we are justified in having anger as a default reaction to the wrongs of the world. We would all be quite happy if not for the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, if not for climate change denial, if not for cruelty to animals, if not for racism and homophobia and misogyny, if not for the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, if not for Teresa May and Donald Trump. If only these things would change, we would get back to being out usual bubbly happy-go-lucky selves. If only.
And just Zenning out or doing yet another spa weekend/ Tough Mudder/ Marvel Comics Movies binge/ (insert favourite displacement activity) can feel a bit of a cop-out. What do we do? What can we do? In the face of all that’s wrong, isn’t that the basis of our communal, continual, ever-present, exhausting, anger?
And for those of us whom the powers-that-be (higher, lower or just purgatorial) have tasked with the burden and duty and privilege of caring for a specific vulnerable person (or several at once) then all these political concerns become so personal that at times it’s simply unbearable.
And that’s when I take my trusty Ben for a walk. Along the banks of the beautiful Forth and Clyde canal. Which winds beside the remains of the Antonine Wall, one of Scotland’s most unknown, unprotected, and uncherished cultural legacies. And on that walk through this place of Victorian and Roman imperial heritage there are empty bottles of Buckfast (cheap fortified wine made by English monks) and cans of beer and their plastic rings and the supermarket plastic bags they came from, tossed about. If they haven’t already been smashed/ thrown into the canal or set on fire along with the grass.
And it usually makes me angry. But tonight, I found myself thankful that the local youth had had the grace (this time) not to chuck the bottles at the stank just below the swings. An empty bottle is better than a broken one. And on my way back, Ben still sniffing and gambolling about – because his default emotion is either highly energetic or very lazy joy – I picked up the plastic bags, snapped apart the plastic beer rings and put them and the cans and the bottle in the bags, took them home and recycled them.
It’s not much. It’s just guerrilla litter-picking. I don’t do it all the time. But when I do engage in this little sporadic and disorganised warfare against hopelessness, I can feel my cortisol levels drop and my grumpy face relax. A little.
There are so many of us. We have such energy. Just think what we could do. Just think what we do do. Now and Zen.

old-bridge-on-canal

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her photo Old Bridge on Canal into the public domain.

Get Real!

It may seem counterintuitive (that’s academicspeak for downright daft) to take as the main topics of the same book such diverse debates as those over transubstantiation and transgender – and metaphysics? How could that ever leap off the shelves!
So why do it? Why write 40 thousand words on distinctions between levels of reality, on shifting patterns of value and conflicting hierarchies of morals – including a 6 thousand word science fiction story to illustrate the point?
I wrote Trans/Substantiation: The Metaphysics of Transgender because I’ve had the benefit of decades of pondering the truth, and the helpfulness, of our common views on reality (they are various). Although this book started life as an academic essay I wrote for a university RE Department when I was a doctoral candidate, I’ve increasingly felt impelled to share the insight I’ve gained into the potential for a more ecumenically acceptable philosophical framework for the Eucharist – because it might help limit the ridicule, exclusion, confusion, bullying, rejection, pain, scarring, sterility, and suicide, faced en masse or piecemeal by so many vulnerable people in the furious current controversy over trangender.
‘Vulnerable’ is a key word in this book, which portrays no-one as villains. I quote Susan Jeffreys and I quote Judith Butler, Kate Bornstein and P. Califia. They all have wisdom to impart. So many people are both hurt and angry, and angry about others like themselves getting hurt – not just by people like their opponents in this debate (like each other, basically) but principally by nontransgender men. Like me.
So I’m very conscious of my privilege in writing this book, I acknowledge the fact that my ease with academic sources and languages has come from years of tertiary education in the UK and abroad (where I learned the languages) and that my White face has been welcomed by some who would not welcome others – and if I can pass as an assumed middle class heterosexual of Caucasian ancestry that assumption is no less potent for being in error.
Mostly. Because things change. Panta rhe said the pre-Socratics: everything flows. Even mountains. They just do it slowly.
The problem with metaphysics isn’t that it’s unreal, it’s that it’s invisible. How we believe reality to be constructed is so fundamental to our mindset as individuals (actually, as groups) that we fail to see it as a belief at all. Life, the world, the universe – it just is! It is what it is! Where’s the mystery in that?
For a start, that New Agey quote currently mouthed by sharp-suited managers did not originate in some MBA programme (although it’s probably included in several) but in the patient perception of an Ottoman mystic named (in the West) Rumi. The names means Roman, which meant European, which meant (in his case) Turkish.
Things aren’t always what they seem to be. Or are they? That’s a metaphysical debate in itself. The reality of experience, of private perception. As compared with some abstract mathematical public dimension that we, vaguely, imagine to be the realm of empirical science. It’s not. Empiricism isn’t actually theoretical at all. It’s just a measured way of gathering data. Which just gives us data. Not theory, not truth. Data. Then more data. That’s it.
Theory happens when scientists fall asleep, when they take baths, when they are so bored, lolling about their mother’s kitchen as boys that the only thing that draws their attention is the movement of the kettle lid as the steam comes out.
Robert M. Pirisg, the greatest and most misunderstood philosopher of the 20th century (one that actually philosophised, rather than simply repeating the ideas of others, cleverly) provided great clarity in his roman-a-thèse novels. I just shoved that bit of French in to impress you – and I bet it worked. The French wouldn’t be impressed, as roman means novel and thèse is just thesis. So these books tell a story and also teach. Clever. Entertaining. At the same time. It’s called rhetoric and academics (who do it all the time) officially hate it.
There’s a lot of rhetoric in this book because it’s a social pattern of value designed to combat the resistance of static quality (inertia, basically) to new ideas. Because new ideas don’t just force us to confront new perspectives – they force us to confront the ones we already have. The ones we take as self-evident. Like empiricism being theoretical. And we can really resent being told that we may only be partly right. And that they, our utter avowed enemy (because if there’s one thing we’re not it’s one of them!) might be partly right too. Then we might have to give our identity badge back, leave the club, stop giving the handshake.
Don’t read this book if all your online friends and followers agree with you about gender. According a value to voices outside of your echo chamber may be too much for you at this point in your life. Do read it if you are at all concerned that perhaps your views on gender might be hurting someone else and if you’ve recently disagreed with someone on a topic dear to your heart but still respect them. Do read it, also, if you’re fed up going to interdenominational weddings and funerals and seeing the sad sight of half the congregation sat in the pews at communion – or humbly going forward for blessing rather than bread.
Things change. Reading this, you might.

Snowflake2

Trans/Substantiation: The Metaphysics of Transgender is on Amazon, in print & Kindle version with a free online sample (click on my name to see the other version if they aren’t yet linked) and in various formats on Smashwords (premium quality) and many national and international online retailers.

Thanks to Piotr Siedlecki who has released his photo, ‘White Snowflake 2’, into the Public Domain on: www.publicdomainpictures.net

Oor Ain Wee Show

It was the rehearsal from Hell. My burning question, ‘Are we to have our photos taken before we don our costumes?’ went without conclusive answer (everyone had an answer but none of them matched) least of all from the photographer who, for – some reason unbeknownst to me and, I suspect, him – was wandering about dressed for the Pirates of Penzance when it’s not part of the Programme. And, like everyone else, lost in learning lines.

In fairness, everyone else who was still learning lines was doing so with chairs in hand (sometimes several) which they were attempting to carry through thresholds – such as the rarely-shut door between Dressingroom A and Dressingroom B, the narrow passage past the toilets, and on and off stage. In several simultaneous directions of travel, including up and down.

My most sane moment before I finally fought my way onstage was halfway up a ladder with the Wardrobe Mistress, comparing medical symptoms of stress, looking for bunnets. Although, having a quiet word with a Pixie (in the middle of a shrieking press of bodies) while I wielded nail scissors to cut the pockets open in my jaikit, unaccountably still sewn shut, was similarly soothing. We may, admittedly, have had two completely distinct conversations but at least I had managed to find a place for my personal props.

Having been told, definitely, that I may or may not be required as the Drunk and the Respectable Gentleman both, and that I perhaps absolutely had no business with a chair, I found myself playing both and carrying one Off. Blocking changed (admittedly, I’d missed the last rehearsal) I discovered that if I entered Centre Left, rather than Up Left, purporting to be searching for a body, it made little sense as it was now right in front of me. At least that body could be seen, as distinct from the one I fell over in the pitch dark during a Quick Change, who was busy arranging chairs. He was very good about it, when I saw him in the light later, and we determined that on future exits I would hug the curtain – rather than him.

Scene over, I made my way into the auditorium and such was my state of mind that it took me halfway through a sketch where things fall apart to realise that it was intentional. I was still recovering from the stress of constantly running after articles of costume that I had momentarily laid down on a chair now being carried off through various thresholds.

Not that things were any calmer onstage. My scene producer had to step lively to avoid an incoming chaise-longue just when she thought it safe to enter, in a lovely dirndl dress. Although that may have been her Panto costume and I was confused, like everyone else. Ignoring the frequent audible stage whispers of ‘Quiet in the Wings!’ I sat through various scenes, and even laughed, then went off to wash the dishes. Cups, unlike my fellow members of the Kirkintilloch Players, tend to stay still and don’t shriek.

We finally got that photo taken and I must admit that it looks okay. And the old theatrical wisdom is that ‘If the Dress is a disaster, it’ll be alright on the night’ (technically it was a Tech but it may still count). I hope so. Just as long as no-one shouts ‘Good luck’ or quotes The Scottish Tragedy. Apparently we’re already sold out. I hope people know that chairs will be supplied!

See the website www.kirkintillochplayers.co.uk for info about the company, upcoming shows and links to other Scottish amateur theatre companies. Even when nerve-wracking and bewildering, ‘Am Dram’ is great fun, the theatre in general rejoices in equality and diversity – and allows us to ponder the unsettling fact that our social roles that we perform and value so highly may, in fact, be rather insubstantial.

vintage-drama-poster

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image ‘Vintage Drama Poster’ into the Public Domain.