Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Wishful thinking on the Olympic clap-o-meter

Lots of activity on social networks tonight about current Chancellor & wannabe PM George Osborne getting booed before presenting a medal at the Paralympics, and ex Chancellor and ex PM Gordon Brown getting cheered.

Brilliant – sounds fantastic. Have a look at the videos and see what you think
Here’s George :

And here’s Gordon :

So what we’re seeing here, is (according to the twittersphere) George Osborne getting the most humiliating reception any politician anywhere has ever had. And Gordon Brown basking in the warm glow of the love that the nation has remembered that they have for him really and they want to have his babies.

Putting aside tribal loyalties though, Gordon’s applause is actually pretty much the polite Olympic/Paralympic cheer. Just about EVERYBODY gets one. If you want to know what a truly rapturous reception for a medal presenter (sorry flower presenter) is like, then the one that Sebastian Coe got before presenting Jessica Ennis’s Gold Medal bouquet took some beating (can’t find a decent Youtube video – guess you had to be there ! (I was !) )

Note that the guy who presents the flowers with Gordon Brown who no one has ever heard of, gets a cheer just as big as GB

Of course George Osborne did get booed. That in itself says something – no one else has been booed that I know of. But does it say much though ?

Booing the chancellor is a little bit like booing  Mr Punch – it’s a tradition – you could almost hear the giggles coming from the crowd.

I remember hearing bingo callers saying “Number 10 – Maggie’s Den” – and everyone in the room shouted back “Not for long !”

A few years later it was “Number 10 – Tony’s Den” – and guess what the response from the crowd was ?

This seems a lot like that to me – sure he’s unpopular – but most of the people booing there were just having a giggle.

This wasn’t a big deal. Not at all.

I sort of wish it had been though.

Meanwhile here’s Jessica Ennis getting her medal – I must have been so close to where this was filmed from, it’s surprising I’m not in the video. One of the best nights of my life

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Phonics – 100% successful ? I’m sorry but that’s simply not true.

I spotted this article on the BBC News website today :  BBC News – Teachers’ unions urge rethink of phonics checks –

Have a listen to the interview half way down the page. It’s an extract from the Radio 4 Today programme (18th June 2012), and features John Humphries interviewing both Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, and Greg Wallace – an executive Headteacher of several prinary schools in Hackney, and staunch advocate of a phonics approach to teaching reading.

It really does make astonishing reading. It’s astounding when Greg claims that he does not know of the other approaches to teaching reading. How did he get through his teacher training then ? It was a compulsory section of my own Bachelor of Education degree.

It’s incredibly rude of him when he suggests that Mary is confused in her understanding of approaches to teaching reading. (Nothwithstanding her Ph. D. in the subject)

The part that is really unbelievably stupid though is when he claims that using  a phonics approach to teaching reading is the only approach that is 100% successful.

He argues that the word “round” can only be accurately decoded by knowing the sounds “r”-“ou”-“n” and “d” which makes phonics 100% successful.

Interesting that.

I wonder if that’s the approach my son took at the age of 2 when out of the blue he pointed at the name on the back of a Vauxhall car and said “Carlton”  ?

Or do you think he’d realised it was the same “picture” as on his Tot’s TV video ? – I know what my money’s on.

 

Have you ever wondered why “Manslaughter” means something very different, and sounds very different, from “Man’s laughter” ?

You have ? Well that’s because you don’t rely on phonics to decode words.

Anyone out there that lives in Milton Keynes ?

Specifically does anyone come from the Milton Keynes districts of Loughton, Woughton, or Broughton ?

Do you know how to pronounce those place names ?

You do ? Well that’s because you’re not relying on phonics to decode the words.

You don’t ? Well that’s because phonics is not 100% effective.

In fact there is only one 100% effective way to learn to read – and that is to memorise every word. Hardly a sensible way forward.

Most teachers know that we need a variety of approaches, and that some approaches are more suited to some children than some others.

T’was ever thus, and T’will ever be.

 

The districts in MK by the way are Loughton – with the -ought- as in out. Woughton – with the -wough- as in Woof ! and Broughton – with the -ought- as in court. If you don’t know the town you can only guess at the words.

 

 

 

 

 

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In remembrance …

I’ve never been much of one for poetry, but the poems of Wilfrid Owen, which I first encountered at GCE O’ Level, in 1977, have always struck  a chord with me :

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918

Portrait of Wilfred Owen, found in a collectio...

Wilfred Owen

November 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro-Life AND Pro-Choice

[ Since publishing this, there's been quite a bit of movement from the Government - See links at bottom of post ]

I’m continually disappointed at the failure of those people who approve of abortion (who call themselves “Pro-Choice“, and are called “Pro-Abortion” by their opponents) and those people who do not approve of abortion (who call themselves “Pro-Life” and are called “Anti-Choice” by their opponents) to engage in any kind of constructive discourse which takes any notice at all of each other’s positions regarding abortion.

The “Pro-Life” argument is this : Human Life is sacred, and to take it away deliberately is an act of murder. Human Life begins at conception, therefore an abortion is the deliberate taking of life and is therefore an act of murder. That is why they oppose abortion.

The “Pro-Choice” argument is this : Human life may well be sacred – but the mother’s life is the one principally affected in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. Human life begins at the moment of birth, and an unborn child is therefore not alive, and an abortion is nothing more than a medical procedure to remove what is technically a part of the mother’s body. This is why they support a woman’s right to choose whether she has an abortion or not.

Now is it just me ?

I can see that there is an eloquent logic in both of these arguments. They are both reasoned positions, they are both admissible arguments, irrespective of whether you agree with either position. I find it easy to respect the thinking behind each of these arguments.

So why can’t the Anti-Choicers or the Pro-Abortionists ?

It’s really not so difficult to understand these arguments, but each side gets ever more deeply into the dismissing the other sides claims as “madness” or even “evil”.

It frankly bores me. There’s no attempt at accommodating each others position, no attempt at a move out of the impasse, no thought of synthesis or reconciliation – just ridicule and venom in equal measure, to and from both sides.

It seems very clear to me that the key issue separating the two sides of the argument is not over whether the mother or the child’s life is more important. It is about whether life begins at conception, or whether life begins at birth.

It seems though that neither side seem to want to address this fundamental difference of opinion. This saddens me.

It saddens me further that it seems highly likely to me that neither position is true. Human Life clearly does not start at birth – since births can be induced prematurely, and babies can be delivered by section, all without harm to the child – if performed at the right time. It’s also unlikely that Human Life begins at conception – other than in an abstract sense. Is a group of cells a person ? Does it have conciousness ? Does it possess – dare I say it – a soul ? I think it’s unlikely.

So the question of exactly when a foetus or embryo becomes a human being is an important one to ask. Unfortunately it’s not one we’re likely to get a definitive answer on – it involves complex moral, religious, and philosophical considerations, as well as complex issues of science and human biology. We might as well argue about angels dancing on the head of a pin.

For me though the argument around abortion becomes simpler when I consider this. Human Life clearly begins at some point between the moment of conception, and the moment of birth – which is quite a long time for a margin of error.

To me abortion doesn’t seem quite right. It seems that when we carry out abortions we are carrying out actions which are at least ethically questionable, and which many people find undesirable.

Neither though does it seem quite wrong. I can not believe that an abortionist, or a woman who has an abortion, is a murderer. They are clearly entering into a procedure in the firm belief that they are not taking a life, and there are many reasons why they should do so.

When it comes to the anecdotal heart string pulling stories that are wheeled out both for and against abortion, I think I’ve encountered most variations of them in my life.

I’ve had female friends who’ve had abortions, and never regretted it for a second, and I’ve had those who’ve spent the rest of their lives feeling guilty. I’ve known those who’ve considered abortion and rejected it, and been delighted with their baby. I’ve never known anyone say out right that they’ve regretted NOT having an abortion – but I’ve seen a few who don’t need to say it – it’s written all over their face frequently.

I could tell you wonderful stories – like my cousin who was told she was expecting a Down syndrome child, and advised to terminate the pregnancy. She did not – and her baby is loved by all the family – and doesn’t have Down syndrome.

A fairy tale ending – but not all of the stories have a happy ending. I’ve taught children with some of the most severe disabilities throughout my career – and though I’m particularly attuned to valuing the lives of all of these children however disabled they are, I also see some of the almost unbearable suffering that some of them endure – and see parents struggling to cope, year after year. I could not judge those parents if they decided to abort the pregnancy of  a potentially disabled child.

I could tell you a story of a girl, abducted by soldiers in Africa, forced to become a sex slave, who then escaped to England, only to be pimped into prostitution on arrival and abandoned when it was realised she was pregnant. She had her baby who suffered severe brain damage and will have severe medical problems and learning difficulties throughout his life. She loves her son dearly but who could have blamed her for terminating that pregnancy ? And who can fail to be moved by her faith and strength of character in choosing not to abort ?

So I find that I’m someone who is pro-Life – I don’t like abortion. I want to promote life, not end it. Though many pregnancies are unwanted, most children are wanted – and I’d hope that my own daughter would be able to feel confident that she could have a child that she would be helped to provide for, should she find herself in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy – she’s 15 at the moment.

I’m also pro-Choice though. I don’t think these decisions are easy, I accept that I may be right or wrong on these issues, and I accept that there are situations which make the issue so complex that it is nigh on impossible to come to a reasoned conclusion one way or another. And I realise that ultimately it will be the woman carrying the child, who will need to make that decision – and will need to live with it afterwards. If that’s the decision my daughter came to, my wife and I would support her and help her all the way.

That the issue of abortion has risen to the surface on social media and in mainstream press in the last couple of days or so seems almost entirely due to the amendments proposed to the upcoming Health Bill made by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, and Labour MP Frank Field which propose amongst other things, to prevent the existing agencies Marie Stopes, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service giving counselling and advice to women considering abortion, on the grounds that as paid providers of abortion services they have a conflict of interest, and are not independent. It has been reported – notably in the Guardian Ministers back anti-abortion lobby reforms  that the Government intend to implement this part of the proposals without legislation, in favour of independent advice – provided by agencies as yet unknown – but it’s widely thought that anti-abortion group Life will be invited to form part of this.

It’s understandable why this has caused a storm. On the one hand it seems entirely reasonable that women considering abortion should be able to avail themselves of as much advice and counselling as they can. On the other it seems ludicrous to brand esteemed organisations such as BPAS and Marie Stopes as biased, in comparison with the lop sided argument they are likely to receive from Life.

I feel that in any open debate this would not be seen as a way forward – there are many sources of truly independent advice which considers all options : The Brook charity for instance is one such source that is widely respected, and BPAS and Marie Stopes could well argue that they already provide impartial advice.

The thing is though that this is not going to be an open debate. It’s going to be tagged on to the much larger – and potentially much more important – debate regarding the Tory proposals to change the NHS. ( See Kerry McCarthy MP’s blog regarding this : Right to choose -v- right to know ) Any time spent discussing changes to abortion law in parliament, will be time not spent discussing the rest of the proposed legislation.

So we now come to see the real political opportunism that Nadine Dorries and Frank Field are using. They’ve managed to bring their proposals to such a state that they could potentially threaten to de-rail the Tories’ show piece legislation that is the Health and Social Care Bill. They know that MPs from all sides of the house will be clamouring to debate and de-rail their proposals on abortion. They know also that David Cameron’s government, can ill afford to waste time on this side show to the main event. They have thus apparently been successful in extracting a concession from the Government in the shape of the proposal to alter the provision of counselling and advice.

Both Field and Dorries are mavericks in their parties, Dorries in particular is a grandstander who delights in being controversial

While Pro-Choicers everywhere seem to be chomping at the bit to denounce them as mad fruitcakes, the pair seem to have pulled off a remarkable coup – extracting a change of policy without legislation from the Government, presumably in exchange for leaving the way clear in the commons to push through the changes to the NHS.

If you really believe in choice you might want to consider whether the new bill will give any of us greater or less choice in our lives, or indeed those of our unborn children

UPDATE : Since writing this it would appear that David Cameron has done a U-Turn on the promise to change the regulations on provision of counselling, without legislation. He’s now saying that this is NOT on the cards, and that Tory ( & Lib Dem) MP’s will be advised to vote against the amendments (although still allowed a free vote) – If they are debated . Quite how much time this will leave for debating the rest of the bill is by no means clear.

Full Details in this Guardian Article : Downing Street forces U-turn on Nadine Dorries abortion proposals . This analysis of the situation is also rather enlightening Abortion advice from Nadine Dorries is classic backstreet politics

 

This all leaves things in a rather uncertain state – perhaps the only certain thing is the Guardian’s assertion that

“The U-turn, stemming from No 10’s frustration about the health department’s handling of the situation, is another embarrassing blow for the health secretary, Andrew Lansley.”

August 30, 2011 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized, women | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Around six years ago, my wife started getting excruciating headaches for no apparent reason.

Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for headache medic...

Unfortunately Bromo Seltzer didn't manage to quite get my wife into a ta ra ra boom de ay frame of mind

They seemed to be non-stop, and whatever she took for them, they never disappeared completely.

Six years later they still haven’t disappeared, and my wife, now out of work, disabled, and almost always in pain because of a condition diagnosed as Hemicrania Continua, is due to be admitted for surgery on Wednesday of this week, in a bid to alleviate her difficulties.

I’m hoping to blog about this over the next few days and weeks to let people know how she gets on, how our family gets on, and to bring her disabling condition – Hemicrania Continua – to the attention of a wider audience – that they may understand it more thoroughly, and hopefully help society become better disposed towards helping people who have it.

So what is Hemicrania Continua ?

Well the dry medical definition is that Hemicrania – or HC – is a rare form of “primary headache” – that is a headache for which no cause can be found – it is that it is. (and if that sounds as if it doesn’t make much sense then do please tell my wife about it !). It’s related to other forms of primary headache conditions such as Cluster Headache – CH . Cluster Headache is usually several extremely severe headaches coming rapidly one after another in a very short time. Although attacks can be very frequent, or perhaps not so frequent, there are periods of respite in between.  Hemicrania is a usually a left sided constant bi-lateral headache – it’s down one side of the head only and may vary in intensity, but is usually ever present. It’s a disabling condition, many sufferers have to give up their jobs, and medication used to treat it can cause a large number of side-effects – some of them very unpleasant.

I could – and will – tell you more about HC  later – but for the time being I’ll leave you with this recipe for Hemicrania Continua from Liz – a Hemicrania Continua sufferer who posts on the Ouch website – Ouch is the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache – and acts as an umbrella group for all rare headache conditions. Please do visit their site.

Here’s the recipe :

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Take some labour pain – increase the strength a little

Add: a burning sensation
a strong feeling of weakness
nausea
some vomiting
sensitivity to light and sound
blocked nose on affected side
blurred vision
slurred speech
drooped and watery eye on affected side

Stir well

Now pull the pain through the corner of your left eye until it goes right through your head so you can feel the pain of it coming out the other side.

Send stabs of strong sharp pain through the top of your head from time to time.

Boil well for at least 72 hours

Simmer for 12-24 hours

Boil again for 12-24 hours

Simmer again for a few hours

Boil again for 12 hours

Repeat this for the rest of your life occasionally swapping sides.

Oh by the way, I forgot to say, while you are doing this you must cook, clean and shop for yourself and go out to work.

Does that sound like fun ?  No ? That’s right, it’s not !

Please check back here to see how my wife and our family get on.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Disability, Election 2010, Family, Uncategorized, women | , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

#NoToAV – please don’t insult my intelligence

AV could cost up to £250 Million

Do they really expect us to swallow this rubbish ?

I just got the #NoToAV leaflet through my door. I’m not committed either way on this – so here’s an opportunity for them to gain a vote.

I pick up the leaflet with the back cover towards me.

“The Alternative Vote system could cost the country £250 Million” – which is about a fiver each for a voting system that is intended to last a century or more. Not bad I think.

They go on : “£91 Million on the referendum.”

That much ? I don’t know – but aren’t we having local elections anyway ? So it shouldn’t cost too much – the polling stations will already be up, etc etc.

Oh and it will cost us that anyway – whether or not you vote AV

Oh and it was an election promise for both Lib-Dems and Labour and a condition of Coalition for Conservatives. So I think we can say that there’s a bit of a mandate for the referendum.

“£26 Million explaining how people should vote”

Really ? I thought you just put numbers in the ballot box.
Anyway ten bob per head of population sounds pretty cheap to me.

“Up to £130 Million on electronic vote counting machines.”
Except that you don’t need them, and there are no plans to buy any.

So it’s just a load of rubbish.

There are some very powerful arguments against the AV system. None of them are contained in this leaflet.

April 18, 2011 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fill in the blanks

I’ve decided to un-park my blog at least temporarily as I’ve been tagged by Kate C (who tweets as @kateab ) who hosts the wonderful “The Five Fs blog” with the “Fill in the blanks” meme.

Only too happy to oblige – so here goes …

I'm a thinker, not a drinker

I am …. a thinker – quite a divergent thinker I’d say. I find my self being interested in things which others see as trivial, and seeing important (to me) links that others miss. I like this. It does of course make me one of the “types” of tweeters and bloggers, which again I like. I like to think that I’m fair-minded and listen to everyone’s arguments – even if I don’t agree with them. Although I’m a Labour supporter for instance, I have no truck with Nye Bevan’s assertion that Tories are “lower than vermin” – I’ve worked with lots of Tories and they’re not. I do find it hard to be fair to Leeds United supporters though !

The bravest thing I’ve ever done… is a hard one to answer – what is brave ? If you do something in haste it tends to be because you don’t have time to think it through – so doesn’t count as bravery, and I’m very well aware that it’s a very fine line between bravery and foolhardiness. If you take a big risk and it comes off, you’re a hero – if it fails, then you’re a fool. It’s mostly luck that makes the difference.

Perhaps brave can be thought of as doing something risky with no regard for your safety – if so then this comes slightly closer to being brave :

When I was in my late teens I went to a lot of football matches. Many of them were away games. All of them were to watch Huddersfield Town.

There was a lot of bravado surrounding all these expeditions. I could go on for hours about the football hooligan related anecdotes, but the most scary for me always happened when you travelled by train to an away game.

This generally involved a football special. The police liked this, since by dropping the price of travel to a ridiculously low level , they could more or less ensure they had 90% plus of the travelling support in one place, on one train, where they could be contained safely (sometimes stuck on a branch line standing still for several hours until they decide we were ready to arrive).

On pulling in to the station, you were once again in the public domain, and it was considered your duty as a Town supporter to make as much noise as possible in as dramatic a way as possible as quickly as you could on arrival.

This meant that everyone wanted to get off the train as soon as they could, so everyone left their seats at the first sign of the station – usually there were loads of people hanging out of the windows anyway.

The trains were usually old ones and had the old style doors – these had a window that could be pulled down, and a door handle on the outside that could be opened by leaning out and twisting. The doors were flung open as soon as the train got alongside a platform – but well before it stopped. As soon as this happened everyone surged for the doors. If you were next in line – you jumped off – as simple as that, which meant that the whole train ‘debussed’ in a matter of seconds.

Not quite the same - but this is what the doors were like

"Get off the train !" - "But it's still moving !" - "Just get off the ****ing train !"

This was bloody terrifying – you had to run along the platform as quick as you could to avoid falling flat on your face, and also knowing that there were people in front of you that might fall over, and people behind you running fast into you as well.

Whilst doing this you were obliged to sing ! Usually the chant was “We’re here again, We’re here again” – as soon as you’d got your footing this changed to “Huuud eeers fieeeeeld, Huuud eeers fieeeeeld”

I never ever bit the dust, but someone always did – usually pretty painful and causing split lips and grazed knees and forearms. But hey ! We were hard ! so what did we care ?

I feel prettiest when. .. Hmmm I’m not sure that I ever feel pretty. I’m pretty much a bloke at heart and pretty’s not really part of my lexicon of self-descriptors. So I’ll interpret broadly. When I was younger I often found myself in York in spring time just as the daffodils were blooming. The sight of the ancient city walls bordered by green grassy  banks and thousands upon thousands of yellow daffodils, in the bright yet weak April sun always struck me as being a living definition of the word “pretty” – and still does – so maybe I can say  – I feel prettiest when I’m in York in the Spring

There is a green hill far away - this one's by York city walls !

Something that keeps me awake at night is… Twitter. That’s the flippant answer – as I sometimes inadvertently find that the time has slipped around to the early hours without me realising, whilst chatting to some total stranger. In a more psychological sense, when I’m working in a school I can never sleep on the Sunday night prior to a new term.  Not ever.

My favourite meal is… Fairly predictable. I remember in the late ’70s seeing ‘Player Profiles’ in Rugby League programmes. Inevitably there was a slot for “Favourite food” and “Favourite drink”, and although the drinks varied a bit (between lager and bitter), virtually every single rugby player in those days had “Steak and Chips” as their favourite meal. it struck me  as being very unimaginative, and I swore that I’d never be so narrow minded when I got older, should I ever be asked a question like that.

Well now I’m older, and I have been asked a question like that. My favourite meal is  – er –  …      …  Steak and Chips !   Sorry !

The way to my heart is… Probably through my stomach, I love to eat – and see meals as a social event as much as a means of taking food on board. I also like to discuss the finer points of just about anything in great depth and at great length, and prefer all of this to be sprinkled with wit and humour – so all achievable in the one restaurant with a bit of planning !

I would like to be.. respected for my ideas, and my clarity of thought. I think I’m a good thinker – I love it when people indicate that they think so too. I truly dislike doing things that are illogical and make no sense just because I have to. Jumping through hoops is not my idea of fun.

So there you are – I’ve filled in the blanks – all that remains is for me to tag some other people – I’ll leave it for now, I like to contact people first. If you want tagging let me know in the comments

Hope you enjoyed it

March 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve been away a while

I’ve not posted anything for a while but will do so shortly as I’ve been tagged by “Five Fs” – expect response to land here soon

March 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m backing Ed Miliband the new Labour leader

The new Labour leader is Ed Miliband.

Congratulations – you have my full support – now let’s sort those Tories out !

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Excuse me, are you gay ?

I spotted this  item on the BBC News website last night BBC News – UK gay, lesbian and bisexual population revealed which revealed the results of a survey of peoples sexuality. According to the survey

“The data showed that 95% said they were heterosexual, 1% gay or lesbian, 0.5% bisexual, 0.5% other, and the remaining 3% either did not know or did not answer.”


The article presented just a brief report on the survey, with no attempt at commentary or explanation – or pictures – but did post links to other reports about the survey.

One of these was to the Mail On Line UK’s homosexual population size revealed: Just 1.5% of Britons say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual | Mail Online Interesting isn’t it how even from the title there’s been a subtle change in tone – now we’re saying that “just” 1.5% of Britons are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Introducing an element of emotion into otherwise fairly factual reporting.

A gay couple are pictured sitting beside a swimming pool. (that's what the ALT Text was on the Mail site !)

Gay Couple as envisioned by the Mail - (picture posed by models)

To be fair the article in the Mail is more or less the same one as the BBC’s and again just prints the numbers, with very little in way of interpretation, It does however give us a nice picture of what we’re clearly led to believe, are two gay men. You can tell they are gay because they are sitting together, with a thermos jug, clearly drinking milky coffee instead of lager, as heterosexual  men would do. The Mail do however specify that the two men are models – whether this because they couldn’t find any real gay men, or because they’ve assumed that all male models are gay is a little hard to tell.

The Sun meanwhile take a different stance with the same information :Just one in 100 Brits are gay | The Sun |News Clearly being of the opinion that such a small minority of the population doesn’t deserve to be given any priority by the Government, the Sun says

“Family groups today said the figures raised serious questions about the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash spent on gay causes.”

I wonder which “Family Groups” they mean ? – well the one they mention is the rather strange “Family Education Trust” whose spokesman  Norman Wells told The Sun

“This survey suggests that previous estimates of 6-9 per cent are wide of the mark and that the number of people who say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual is far smaller than the government and gay rights activists would have us believe. Now we have a clearer view of the real figures, we need to start asking some serious questions about the vast sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on such a small minority and the disproportionate amount of attention they receive both in Whitehall and in the media.”

The Sun, not to be outdone by The Mail, treats us to a picture of a pair of lesbians. You can tell they are lesbians because they are wearing scanty underwear and suspenders, and are frolicking on a bed together. The Sun don’t like sharing their pictures of scantily clad lesbians though, so you’ll need to visit the site. A word to the editor though – these women don’t really convince as lesbians. They look more like a sort of heterosexual male fantasy of what lesbians should be like.

I’ll get on to the “Family Education Trust” in moment but first let’s just think about those numbers. We have a total of 5% of people in the survey NOT saying that their sexuality is heterosexual. Which would make any previous estimate of 6% to 9%, not really that far off the mark at all, and let’s be honest – if someone knocked on your door out of the blue and asked you anything at all – wouldn’t you be tempted to stray away from any answers that might prove embarrassing ? Frankly, I would. In fact as a straight man I’d be tempted to say “I prefer not answer” on principle – because I’m not sure it’s anybody’s business but mine and my wife’s.

For some reason though some people do think other people’s sexuality is their business. Some of these people belong to the organisation that the Sun quotes – the “Family Education Trust”

Family – Education – Trust –    Three words which just evoke all that’s good about the world, so surely this must be an organisation with a sound ethos ?

Well not exactly. This group – also known as Family & Youth Concern http://www.famyouth.org.uk/ really has some strange hang ups about all things sexual. They’ve published for example this report on sex education Too much, too soon : The government’s plans for your child’s sex education which amongst other things, campaigns against sex education in schools, advocates the promotion of sexual abstinence amongst unmarried people, and takes issue with the fact that some people “equate marriage with same-sex civil partnerships and (to) assume that both types of relationship are of equal benefit and stability”.

No ! And there’s me thinking they were of equal benefit and stability. What was I thinking ?

They also criticise some of the foremost players in the field of sexual health education – for instance the Family Planning Association (FPA) and Brook.

Perhaps their most distinctive little essay though  is this : FAMILY EDUCATION TRUST RESPONSE TO THE WOMEN & EQUALITY UNIT CONSULTATION PAPER Getting Equal: Proposals to Outlaw Sexual Orientation Discrimination which attempts to persuade the reader that whilst homosexual people are to be valued, homosexual behaviour is not. So clearly sex is out. Not sure about holding hands though, don’t know about flirting either.

The paper states very unambiguously that the organisation feels that the law should allow people to treat those in heterosexual and homosexual relationships quite differently :

“there is a strong case for allowing service providers the liberty to draw a clear distinction between the two types of relationship and not be obliged in law to treat them as equal”

“teachers and schools should not be required to teach that homosexual activity is on a par with the sexual relationship between a husband and wife”

I could go on – suffice to say that this is not the innocent warm hearted bunch of folk that The Sun would like you to believe it to be.

Meanwhile looking back at the Mail today, they’ve upped the ante on last nights story. This time they run it with a slightly different slant  Only 1 in 100 Britons is gay despite myth but 71% say they are Christian | Mail Online and draw attention to the other aspect of the same survey which had 71% of the sample giving their religion as Christian. They’ve also changed the picture this time to a real picture of a gay couple – MP Chris Bryant, and his partner Jaren Cranney.

Which all goes to show, really that we should not take raw data from surveys at face value without doing a lot of thinking first – as both the original mail article, and the BBC piece point out :

“All the survey’s statistics are considered experimental, or in a testing phase, as they have not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority”

Which means : Take the figures with a pinch of salt, until they’ve  been properly assessed. Try telling that to the Sun or the Mail though.

Seriously what on earth is wrong with them ? Why do they despise everyone who is slightly different from themselves ?

We will go on wondering.

In the mean time, whatever your sexuality, if the phone rings tonight, and someone at the other end asks you about your sexual preferences,  think very carefully before you put the phone down – it might just be a national survey !

September 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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