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September 2009

Illegal immigrants swamping the country

Something must be done!

Have you ever seen a Ring Necked Parakeet? Here's one, in case you haven't. Full Latin name Psittacula Krameri. Apparently.

Chances are, if you live in the south east of England, you've seen one. Or two. Or bloody hundreds of them, everywhere.

In Streatham, there were a few nesting on the Norbury side of the common, at what is known as the "white house". They turned up about five years ago and we thought they were very interesting new neighbours, adding colour to the local community with their interesting squawking.

Then there were more of them. Then last year you started hearing them all around the common, and in the last few months, the screeching sound of their delightful tune can be heard occasionally in the wildlife haven that is the long stretch of gardens between our road, and the one that backs on to it.
On the ride in to town, I can hear them between Streatham and Brixton, on Kingsland Avenue, and this year - Hyde Park. they're breeding like rabbits! they are unstoppable, I'm telling you. They're taking over the country with their weird foreign ways.

Apparently there are thousands in Richmond, and then, blinking heck, we went for a country walk a while back and found them along the banks of the Thames at Wraysbury. The RSPB's estimation of a few thousand may be, as the saying goes, 'woefully inadequate'.

They're everywhere! Taking our jobs, getting priority when it comes to nests. We should hound them out, send them back to where they came from!

So my question was, to the venerable organisation, the RSPB, is this green menace displacing our beloved wild birdies, who ordinarily, are totally ignored by the great British public, but I'm sure they'll all jump on to some sort of Daily Mail sponsored cull of these bloody foreigners if need be?

Here's the answer. It came ages ago, but I forgot to post it up:

"After habitat loss, non-natives represent the single
biggest threat to biodiversity and species survival. Defra (Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are currently undertaking a
review of non-natives, and their effects on native wildlife. There are
some concerns that Ring-necked Parakeets may be outcompeting native
hole-nesters (Starling, House Sparrow) for nest sites, but this
anecdotal evidence needs to be backed up by hard science before any
control programme could be undertaken. Needless to say, we await Defra's
findings with interest!"

Aha! So even the RSPB is examining culling! Well, to be fair, I asked them whether anyone had discussed culling yet (mindful of the genocide of the grey squirrel population that is currently being undertaken). Seems monstrously unfair to the Sparrow, which is already way down in urban areas, to be forced out by some carnival costume toting, screeching foreigner.

So there you are. There's nothing new on the Defra site. There is an interesting review on the 'Rose Necked' (same thing) Parakeet here (it's PDF) if you wish to know more about our shrieking neighbours. It dates from 2007, and suggests the population was 20k then, and even further, suggesting a 30% cull on an annual basis to keep the numbers down! 2 years later, there is silence. Not a pop of a gun in earshot. Parakeet pie has not appeared in Sainsburys.

The strangest thing was when I was pointing some out to Nora, I realised that they were in no way more interesting to her than say, a crow was. To nora, there have always been green Parakeets. And that's plain strange.

More rumblings from the racists at the BNP

Well here's some good news.

The BNP who were absolutely not involved at all, definitely not, in organising an anti-Islamic 'fundamentalism' march through Luton on Sept 9th (ie: basically anti-Islamic *anything*) will still no doubt be thoroughly pissed off that all of their members who were involved in organising said march - in their own time, and with nothing to do with the party, of course, have been thwarted in their desire to march through Muslim neighbourhoods shouting racist abuse at the perfectly peaceable people who live there.

Searchlight, through their "Hope Not Hate" website orchestrated a mass letter writing campaign, and in, well 1 day actually, 14k emails headed their way toward the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.

Alan Johnson was a postman in Slough and a Labour Party activist when my Dad, John, was variously merely a councillor and also Leader of the Council. At some point or other, The National Front applied for permission to march through Chalvey, which was the centre of the local Asian community, and coincidentally, also the ward my Dad represented (this may have contributed to a life long love of decent Indian food, by the way). John basically blocked them and told them to fuck off, in no uncertain terms, informing the Police that if the BNP were allowed to march, then there would be a massive demonstration coming from the opposite direction.

It's easy to forget how vile and ever present in urban areas "NF" graffiti was in the seventies, as indeed were skinheads. At least you could see the stupid, racist thugs. Now the BNP are hidden behind closed doors, taught to be circumspect.

Anyway. John was on the local news, which of course he loved, and was pretty good on, as I recall. He was very media savvy and always spoke in short sentences when he was on the news. He was wearing his thick black framed glasses and had his thick black wavy hair all over the place. I wish I had that video.

Anyway. Rather obviously, I was one of those 14k people who mailed letters, but instead of emailng the stock letter and tweeking it a bit, I reminded Alan Johnson of that time, and how the only thing to do to these fuckers is tell them they're not wanted. I've no idea if he read the letter. It would be nice to think that some wonk noticed it was personal, and passed it on.

What I also said to Alan Johnson was - even though it was potentially dangerous, and even though I've got two small children, my own sense of righteous anger was compelling me to get on a train on Sept 9th to protest against those racists and help protect the locals from attack. And if *I* felt like that, think of how many tens of thousands of youth types, unencumbered by responsibility and kids would be feeling the same. Oh dear.

So Yay for Alan Johnson! He told them to piss off today!

Meanwhile, there are three bi-elections coming up apparently. Barnsley, South Oxhey and Sandwell. South Oxhey's in Hertfordshire and looks like it might be relatively easy to get to on the train from London. Searchlight are appealling for campaign funds, of course, but putting in a few hours on the ground, talking to people might be no bad thing. Searchlight need very average looking, non-studenty-activisty type people to help make their message convincing on the street. When I was giving out those leaflets at tooting that night, it felt fantastically liberating to be spreading a positive, inclusive but angry message for people to act - without being encumbered by party politics. It feels good to contribute, is what I'm saying.

Email Searchlight, if you're relatively close to one of these constituencies, and see what you can do to help.

You know it makes sense.

The joys of climate change

Do try not to panic:

"As Arctic ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up"

"Antarctic glacier thinning fast"

That should read "...faster than everyone thought".

I wish someone could answer the question for me: as to whether the MIT and the British Meterological Society reports of late 2008, both of which suggested 5 degree heating by 2100 as an extreme but possible outcome are now being superceded by events moving quicker than were thought previously.

...because that's been the case with every other major survey and meanwhile, we drift on like idiots toward Copenhagen as if that's somehow magically going to resolve the matter. My only hope is that there's going to be so much frightening news before December that everyone there is going to say You know what? Fuck it, we've got to say yes to everything. Now.

Fighting that feeling back down in to "Must Get On With Life" territory.

Yes. Interesting.

as Mr Barker (waves) pointed out whilst I was away, I am down to do a few minutes at this year's Interesting. Time for you to take a look at all the other interesting people who are talking about, or doing interesting things. The lovely Ms's Meg Pickard and Alice Taylor will I've no doubt be both funny and accomplished in talking about stuff. I can't wait to see what Mr Gisby is going to conjure up. And Denise is going to do something too. Hooray! I don't really know the other people. Who knows, there may be a post-Interesting 'thing' where we all mix with name tags on. Or not. I think... not, on balance.

This is all part of me kicking myself up the backside and getting up and Doing Something, which is not to say I've been lazy for the last few years, but just otherwise engaged or being somewhat deflated by events that took it out of me somewhat.

So I've chosen to speak in front of several hundred people. Russell let the cat out of the bag slightly by saying who it is about, but then I didn't tell him not to! I was going to introduce Mr Arthur Jefferson, talk about his life and what he did, then say at the end "Oh, and by the way...". not that it matters particularly. What I like about him is, I've known of him, and about him for a long time. I'd like to write a post about him now because I find him ...well.. "Interesting" for a number of reasons but I'll have to save it obviously.

I can in no way hope to do as well as, for example, Roo did with his talk about Lego, or James and his WoW geographical analysis or indeed, the large number of other speakers this year. However, I'm going to give it a go. I got myself a deliberately short slot in order that I didn't go blank or get overcome by nerves in 10 minutes. There's a hell of alot I could say, which means I'll have to cram it in a bit, or let alot of it go. I'm prepping my research atm.

As part of my re-reading, I've been looking through Simon Louvish's book about the boys, which does a sterling job of filling in the colour in the characters surrounding Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy. I very nearly suggested doing a talk about Leo McCary, who was an extraordinary character. I'll have to do a post about him instead. McCary, of course was not just one of the regular roach writers / Directors / 'do-ers' but he quickly went on to direct surwely one of the top ten comedies of all time, "Duck Soup" which I challenge anyone to watch without spurting their drink out and laughing loudly at. Again, and again. Anyway, I'll save it all and do a proper post as a way of helping me prep.

Meantime, any of the copious 13 1/2 regular visitors to this 'ere are welcome to give advice on standing up and public speaking to a non-immediately familiar audience. I will be using slides, but only with photos on, and only about 2 of them, so they're largely irrelevant. When I say welcome, by the way, that's more of a plea than a casual suggestion.

Meanwhile, the question is, am I nervous at the prospect?

Ahahahaha. Oh, I'm calm as the jelly I'm holdi...whoops... sorry, hold on... I'll be with you...oh, bugger...

"Reporting on comedy's new offenders wasn't intended to offend"

Before I went on holiday, I wrote an angry piece with an acutely Google friendly title (deliberately so) about Rich Herring, with regard to a piece written in The Guardian about the "New Offenders" that featured him and several other comedians.

I had read it earlier that day after my friend Nick referenced it on Twitter, and mailed Rich a sort of "Jeez, that's a bit strong, isn't it? What sort of people are going to come along off the back of that?" email, after which I thought "Doh!". Making people feel uneasy by saying the first thing that's on your mind is the worst kind of anti-diplomacy, pre-Edinburgh. Part of anyone's (except the actual gag artist) role around Ed is maintaining a sort of positive buoyancy of the "Fuck it, he's an idiot, ignore it" type. Standing on your own in front of hundreds of folk every day is intensely nerve shredding, hence the need for more than several bars at most venues.

But it struck a nerve. One of the reasons it did is because I wrote a piece once about the comedian Mark thomas, who I admire greatly, under some pressure by a pushy editor to make it controversial and dynamic. I had a perfectly amicable chat with Mark, then wrote a bullshitty thing (in part) because I felt undermined and nervous. (I was never blessed with supportive Editors. That's one of the reasons I gave it all up. that, and being continually skint.). Anyway. I felt awful about it, re-read it several hours after emailing it over (using the wacky system of Compuserve mail over a brand new 14.4 modem) and was nearly sick with horror at it. So I phoned up, left a message, did a quick re-write and was told that it had already gone to the printers. Whether that was rubbish or not I would not know. Needless to say, Mark never spoke to me again, and I don't blame him. I did pluck up the courage to email him a sincere apology for being a young, impressionable twat, but it was a long time afterwards. I explained the situation and was immensely grateful that he accepted my apology. It has stayed with me as a bump in my conscience, but at least after that the bump receded slightly. So reading this badly written piece made me wonder if Brian Logan had been put in a similar situation. Apparently not, which makes me sad because it's so obviously cock-eyed. He does though, suggest something which is wholly erroneous, and given that he's writing an apology for cocking up  the first time, I'm surprised he didn't think more clearly about it:

"I wrote an article which I (and many others) think says one thing, and which Herring and Burns (and many others) think says another. When the subject is racism or sexism, sensitivities run high. Words can be misinterpreted; good intentions may not be enough. "I'm still not sure about everything I am saying," Herring writes today, "I find out by debating it onstage." And I find out by debating it on the page."

But he didn't, though. The original article was not accompanied by a Comments section. It was not a debate, it was a one way polemic. There was a fairly fundamental point in what Rich was saying: being a stand up, one enters a discussion with the audience (whether you want one or not). In placing the deliberately provocative in front of them, in a real-time setting, you are deliberately provoking a reaction. If that's what Brian Logan thinks he was doing, then he shouldn't be surprised that he did provoke a one (I'm not too keen on his description of why he used the work "puported" either).

I'm not sure whether writing a big post with such an incendiary title was a good idea, but given that people still seem to be using search terms that revolve around the subject my guess is that having something that rebukes the article clearly is no bad thing. Whether I was the person to write it is another question.

...and relax

We had beginner's luck camping. Glorious sunshine for 10 days. I am brown, which is a state so alien to me that I find it quite disconcerting looking in the mirror.

Spending a week and a half with the kids was heartbreaking to rip myself away from. They were both, with a very few exceptions lasting only minutes, fabulous to be with. The amount of smiling that's been achieved of late has lightened my heart.

For Flickr'ers, some evidence will emerge when I can get the photos off my stupid, cruddy phone but in the meantime, I would like to inform gentle readers of two places of loveliness within the Suffolk borders: The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has a couple of weird display areas with falcons and owls tethered in what look like kennels which I didn't feel particularly happy about but they seem to do good work, had some gorgeous birds and we saw two excellent, close-up displays. The "Under the Pier" show on charming Southwold Pier is a fantastic little discovery, which I won't tell you too much about except to say it was all designed by the brilliant Tim Hunkin. I would not rush to go visit specially, but if you happen to be visiting the Suffolk coast then do go.

When your gorgeous daughter wakes in her tent bedroom and smiles a giant smile at you as she watches you, what you do, see, is you go in to see her and lie down on the camp bed next to her, she puts her arms around you and you snug together, smiling, for about ten minutes. Not a word spoken the whole time.

Then you go and greet the sun shining day together.