“Let’s go to the Princess Diana place,” he said.

29 September 2010

Ever wondered where to go for a decent curry on Brick Lane? If you’re stuck for where to eat E1 you could do a lot worse than ‘The Lady Diana’ place. We had a great time there the week before last, with good quality inexpensive veggie, and non-veggie food, stalking gay guys on a date and on Grindr at the same time, and a lengthy discussion about where exactly the penis on a winged centaur is. iamjasonhall has more:

I was perhaps most impressed with our starters, delicious and fresh vegetable puri and an order of veggie pakora. Small, light and flavorful they were a great start to the meal. Trying to be sensible, our party of four followed this with three mains and two sides (the sag paneer is highly recommended – not too sweet with a lovely bold spinach taste), two naans and a pilau rice. If you like spice, the jalfrezi here definitely packs a punch.

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Queer statistics

24 September 2010

So the Office for National Statistics has released data suggesting that almost three-quarters of a million UK adults say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual – equivalent to 1.5% of the population: 480,000 (1%) consider themselves gay or lesbian, and 245,000 (0.5%) bisexual. London is home to the highest concentration of gay people at 2.2% of the population, while this proportion falls to 0.9% in Northern Ireland.

Of course it’s easy to look at that data and conclude it is much lower than the most commonly used estimate of 5% to 7%, which was cited by ministers introducing civil partnership legislation and implied a non-heterosexual population of 3.5 million.

It was data that surprised me. And it’s data that is – I believe – is being misrepresented as wholly accurate. Here’s some reasons why:

  • 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.
  • Only people aged 16 and over were questioned about their self-perceived sexual identity – a large proportion missing when you consider that their age profile is also much younger than the rest of the population.
  • People were asked to respond with one of four options: heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other. It’s not always appropriate to apply a label with boundaries to yourself. If Stephen Fry would label himself as just 90% gay how could he tick a survey box explaining he fits into one of those four exclusionary categories?
  • Many homosexual people would not be happy to admit to a stranger that they are gay, or bisexual. Sexuality remains deeply taboo to many people.
  • Many gay or bisexual people may be in a heterosexual relationship (maybe married) and not want to admit their sexuality.

Climate Change Conservatives

23 September 2010

I read with interest yesterday about Chris Huhne’s fight to save his Government Department that deals with Climate Change.

Climate change secretary Chris Huhne is fighting to defend his department’s funding and independence, fending off a suggestion that his civil servants should be moved to the Treasury to cut costs.

Huhne is having to resist the Treasury on numerous policy fronts. He has rejected the relocation idea, fearing his department’s civil servants would “go native” if they moved into offices in the Treasury.

Critics assert that this is the Tories true position on Climate Change – the ‘greenest Government ever’ that never ever was… consumptionist, trampling over the environment, uncaring.

It reminded me of something I recently heard about one of the earliest pioneers in the field. A scientist and politician who fought to get Climate Change issues recognised on the world stage who said:

  • But the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.
  • We have become more and more aware of the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.
  • it’s sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it’s sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it’s sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it’s sensible to tackle the problem of waste

That politician? Margaret Thatcher.


Pontificating

18 September 2010

The Pope is visiting the UK. I have been toying with the idea of writing a post about him for a while and couldn’t quite decide what to write. A lot of the people I follow on twitter are very anti-pope. Be they lapsed/reformed-catholics, gays, atheists or humanists. But I don’t have the same problem with him.

He’s been invited as a Head of State by the Queen. We’re footing the State-related bill – he’s paying for the church bits, to put it simply. And yes, his state is a little odd, but it’s still, formally, a state. So if the Queen had invited another Head of State who was doing things people may disagree with – say Bush, or Mugabe – yes, being irritated about that is fine.

Similarly with the Pope’s treatment of gay people, women, his views on condoms and child abuse in the church. Protesting this is fine.

But when it all gets mixed-up with anti-religion feelings I start to feel uncomfortable.

In a speech at Holyrood, Benedict urged Britain to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism”. He said: “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’.” (This was in stark contrast to his strongest comments to date on paedophillia in the church and depoloring of the church’s failure to act swiftly and decisively in the past).

I have a problem with what I, too, would term aggressive secularism for a number of reasons:

  1. Aggressive secularism is wholey negative. It is an argument against religion more often than an argument for secularism. Any argument which is in the negative always makes me uncomfortable. I find people who argue for something FOR more convincing.
  2. People like Richard Dawkin have turned his form of secularism into a quasi-religion, and sought religious-type following of dogma under the auspice of science in the same way the church does under the auspice of faith.
  3. The aggressive secularism arguments are often mis-directed at faith, not the church and ignore the fact that while the two are linked they are not the same. Religious people are the first to acknowledge people are fallible – Priests abuse children, just as Doctors kill (e.g. Harold Shipman). It happens. It is the responsibility of the church to ensure it is handled properly, it is not a fault of faith.
  4. Aggressive secularism is as dangerous as aggressive religion. Indeed one will breed the other.
  5. Religion is, generally speaking, understanding. Christians understand people may have other faiths. Aggressive secularism – by being wholey negative – causes resentment from all faiths.
  6. For all it’s faults, and there are many*, religion has formed a positive basis for the way this country is run, with laws on murder, encouragement of families who care for and look after each other, and rules for how you should treat others.
  7. * = many of the faults of ‘religion’ are not the fault of religion itself, but a fault of the Church’s teaching of it. Such strong animosity towards homosexulaity, for example, or the anti-condom stance of the Catholic church.

I guess my key points are these: If you want to protest, get it right as to what you’re protesting about – the church, or religion? And, that whatever you believe should be fine. You should be allowed to believe whatever you want. But when you start arguing against what other people believe, rather than for what you believe, then that is – quite rightly – called ‘aggressive’.

As the Dalai Lama’s said: “Perhaps the most significant obstruction to inter-religious harmony is a lack of appreciation of the value of others’ faith traditions.”


Night Train!

17 September 2010

Tonight I’m catching my first UK Night Train in order to get to a wedding in Cornwall. It looks like it will be slightly more luxurious that many of the European night trains I’ve taken – I remember for example sharing a tiny cabin with five loud, sweaty german teenege boys going from Berlin to Warsaw, and getting worken up in the middle of the night by a guard shouting in Serbocroat on a train without beds overnight from Budapest to Sarajevo.

The two-person berths look far more acceptable to my partner and me!

And of course, speaking of night trains, my friend Ben the ever-electro music maestro, directed me to this as soon as he heard.


Barclays Cyle Hire

7 September 2010

WordPress users may have noticed not on the ‘tweet this’ button on posts, but the amusingly entitled ‘press this’ – which then tells me i’m cheating. This may be cheating, but as I was on the same failed journey I’m going to repress iamjasonhall’s post about Barclays Cycle Hire:

Sober, I decided I would jump on a ‘Boris Bike’ (erg, surely there’s a better nickname?) to take me home. I wandered up to Soho Square and, sure enough, there were three bikes parked on the north side. Unfortunately, the key in the slot this time elicited only an angry red light and try as I might I could not convince it to give up the goods. Another prospective cyclist flew into what I can only describe as ‘rental rage’ and tried using brute force to extract the two-wheeled bit of public transport. The bike won.

My companion then decided to ring up TfL and see what the deal was. After a good 10 minutes on the phone we were informed that the three remaining bikes where actually ‘locked’ (i.e. unrentable) because the previous users had returned them indicating they were faulty somehow. So, there they would sit, tantalizing any prospective users until such time they were repaired. Fair enough, I thought, better than hiring a bike that breaks down halfway to where you’re going.

So we asked the customer service bod where our nearest option was and, not really knowing any of the street names, walked west down Oxford Street on the basis that “Oxford Street has everything.” Well, let me tell you, Oxford Street does not have everything. It may have a Primark, it may two M&S stores, it may have twenty-eight H&Ms but a cycle hire rack? No.

Fortunately, an iphone was produced and it told us to walk north towards Goodge Street where we discovered a massive rack (easy does it)…with one bike on it. So that’s what the number 1 meant on the iphone app, it all made sense now…

I think the most annoying thing about the Barclays Cycle Hire is the way it doesn’t treat users intelligently. If all the bikes are locked because of a fult, why does it not tell me? If my key won’t work because I haven’t got any more access periods on it why does the terminal tell me it’s an “invalid key” and I have to spend 30 minutes on the phone to an adviser asking why it doesn’t work to find out?

Great stuff London, but sort out the teething problems and it can be brilliant. The technology’s there. And we’re cycling on your roads. Treat use intelligently.


Strikes and Bikes

7 September 2010

There’s a tube strike in London today. You can tell this by people who don’t even live in London complaining about "workshy leftie tube drivers" and people who do live in London just getting on with life. The roads are busier – plenty of cycles, but many more cars. The buses – some of them at least – are busier (east-west routes seem to be busiest).

Most places in central London are walkable. And, if you spare enough time, you can get from Paddinton, Waterloo, Victoria, Euston, St Pancras and King’s cross to most of the West End and even towards the City within half an hour (yet of course it’s those commuters who come in by train that will queue for and clog up the buses).

Boris may not have [yet?] negotiated the promised no-strike deal with Tube workers but thank goodness he continued taking forward Ken Livingstone’s Cycle Hire Scheme (dubbed Boris Bikes) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barclays_Cycle_Hire

I live a short walk from some of the northern-most docking stations on the outskirts of Zone 1 – my station of choice (after correctly guessing the nearest tube station would be closed) was Mornington Crescent. 25 minutes later after battling taxis and drivers who rarely venture into central London I’d successfully navigated my way through Regent’s Park, Portland Place, across Oxford Street to Bond Street, circumnavigating Piccadilly and reaching Green Park (access to the Mall being closed) and swung around Buck House to Victoria. A friendly gentleman was already waiting to pick up my still-warm-saddled bike and take it back the other way.

Even if there hadn’t have been any bikes a couple of buses or a walk would have easily brought me to my location – albeit taking a little while. The exercise keeps me healthy, and it was a beautiful cool autumnal morning. (I might have been writing something very different had it been raining of course).

So all you outoftowners stop blethering about workshy tube drivers and get on your bike – physically, or metaphorically.


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