In a somewhat odd turn of events, although it says Spring on my calendar, when I look out of the window I see flowers instead of snow. (There could be a simple explanation for this: in trying to decipher a letter from the hospital to my GP recently, depending on which scale they’re using, I’m either asymptomatic or dead. Though for the purposes of this post, let’s just assume it’s the former.) And with it being 2015 – so I’ve been led to believe, but you should never really trust anything governments tell you – it’s apparently time for a General Election.
Accordingly, without further ado, or writing to the The Times in the traditional manner (these days only the 1% can afford to subscribe to the thing), I am delighted to announce that I’ve just seen the first kitchens of spring.
What’s that, you ask? Am I a little cuckoo? (No, it’s just the way I’m standing. © Morecambe and Wise, 1976). Far from it, dear reader! Just peruse any national newspaper online (quite a few of them are still free, even ones with words in them) and hundreds of pictures of an array of culinary accessories, American refrigerators and counter tops (NB. Does the PM have counter terrorism tops?) leap out at you, with the motley leaders of the motley main political parties affecting to appear relaxed in the foreground of a room they’ve just this minute located since the photographer arrived, whilst clinging to a mug (no, not the Deputy Prime Minister, how dare you think such a thing), and smiling at his wife. Or smiling at the mug and clinging to his wife, depending on how attractive the tabloids have rated her. (Very Important Stat before a General Election, obviously.)
These ‘top politician at home’ photographs are accordingly pored over by journalists, with their John Lewis and Fortnum and Mason catalogues to hand, helpfully telling us how much the politicians’ appliances cost, and the name of the cow that produced the milk for the £186 a kilo Tibetan goats’ cheese, hand-crafted by sherpas for 8p a week, which can be spotted on the top shelf of every Tory MP’s shiny Smeg. Obviously, the message is that you can tell a lot about a professional politician from (one of) his kitchen(s), as the Labour leader, Ed Milisecond, discovered from the backlash which followed from his decision to be snapped in his servants’ kitchen – all bare walls, empty counter tops (which is counter to normal counter top behaviour) – instead of the family kitchen downstairs, in which he sits at the end of every day at his designer table, bacon sandwich on a collectable Liberty fine bone china plate, with his head in his hands.
And so, as I studied Politics, and thus am aware at degree level no less of how important kitchens are in the political arena, I’ve decided to share mine with you. But first…
…many people have expressed curiosity as to why I didn’t go into politics myself after university; they all receive the very same response: a cry of: “What kind of girl do you think I am???!!!” and a swift expunging from my list of Facebook friends. However, I do know it’s of interest as to what exactly one studies on a politics degree, so here’s a summary of what we were taught at my alma mater (objectively rated in the top 3000 universities in the country, a whole 3 places up from McDonalds Hamburger University in East Finchley, where you can supersize your degree for an extra thirty thousand quid to build a new research centre for acne).
WHAT YOU LEARN ON A POLITICS DEGREE
1. How to lie (obvious, but important)
2. How to claim expenses
3. Where the subsidised bars are in the House of Commons (to the nearest 25)
4. Advanced criminal accounting (crucial for home-switching to best effect)
5. Where to source the best floating duck house
6. How to obfuscate when asked the same question 900 times on a political programme (Paxman, You’re A Political Animal, Aren’t You? BBC, 1989 – 2014)
7. Body Language, with particular reference to not touching your nose every time you say something
8. How to rub people up the wrong way after a couple of cheap bottles of vintage claret in the subsided bars, with particular reference to police statements
Anyway, back to my kitchen. Well, working as a political satirist (didn’t you know? Tsk. It’s my day job), it’s obviously vital for me to have a politically neutral scullery. And so I have a blue kettle, a red clock, some yellow bananas (somehow appropriate, methinks), and a few green herbs. As for anything purple, well, you won’t find anything remotely reminiscent of UKIP, no matter how hard you look. (Although I have been known to have a couple of kippers for breakfast.)
Thus, you can rest assured that everything you read on this blog is 100% independently researched academically, and assiduously analysed with empirically-collected data. As for who I shall be placing my cross next to on the ballot paper, well, there’s something I learned in the third year of my politics degree, which I regard as the pinnacle of my education, and will carry with me until the day I die; it’s how to spell:-
NONE OF THE ABOVE
This past week, when terrible, almost unimaginable events have taken place in Paris, and millions of people around the world congregated to show solidarity with those who were murdered for no other reason than they took up a pencil, or happened to be born into a particular faith, my eyes have been opened to the ignorance and intolerance emanating from my own personal circles.
My background: I’m both Jewish, and a satirist. I’ve been one of those things for 30 years, the other for a sight longer. My experience of the latter has given me a varied CV in theatre and television, in print and in radio, where I was responsible for producing BBC Radio 4’s Week Ending during the first Gulf War, the only satirical show to be aired anywhere in the country during the conflict; broadcasters and networks usually panic at such times, generally preferring to replace anything potentially contentious with re-runs of Friends, so the series drew much interest from the media, and was acclaimed by both the public and the industry alike. Thus, I like to imagine I have something of an idea of what political satire is and what it’s meant to convey. Not to mention its importance in a democratic society.
My being Jewish, on the other hand, has afforded me lifelong membership of an exclusive group I never applied to join, closed to most people unless their names were put down before birth. A society from which it is impossible to resign, the tearing up of my Gold Star of David membership card and cancellation of my subscription are impossible to effect, and I’m on a hiding to nothing when it comes to resisting a strong urge to play the violin.
My politics? They’re my own, and totally unconnected with my being Jewish. In fact, largely, they’re the very opposite of what any common or garden anti-Semite would expect them to be. But hey, what does that matter? Accident of birth is enough to foment depraved hatred. Apparently.
Naturally, I wasn’t slow in declaring ‘Je Suis Charlie’, in company with millions of others, on social media; quite apart from anything else, I lived in Paris a few decades ago. But interesting accusations soon ensued…was I aware that satire “mocked people for the sake of mocking them”? That satirists “went out of their way to make people mad”? That, as one person put it, although she believed in “everyone’s right to free speech”, she didn’t agree with “how everyone *uses* that right, and [she doesn’t] support Charlie’s goals or modus operandi.”
Hmm. Tricky one. Since Charlie Hebdo’s goals and modus operandi are to exercise freedom of speech by publishing a satirical magazine, I’m not entirely sure how these things would come to pass without publishing a satirical magazine to exercise freedom of speech.
A lot more satire-bashing followed, much of it from those who were ‘whole-heartedly behind freedom of expression’, but who also somehow believe that Charlie Hebdo brought this bloody rampage upon itself. Would I, as a fellow satirist, have published some of the material that appears between its covers? No, I wouldn’t. But that’s a difference in style, in sensibility, in choosing to use a hammer to crack a nut, or otherwise. Though we all write about nuts.
And then, from another left field entirely, probably to the left of the last left field, one of my esteemed Twitter followers (I only have esteemed Twitter followers) chastised me for posting a very short line on the breaking news that a kosher supermarket was under attack. When I say ‘posting a very short line’, I mean purely a line of information; no humour or jokes or satire involved at all. So why the rap over the knuckles? My reporting of this terrorist atrocity was supposedly ‘helping the terrorists’.
Shall we get something straight, here? The non-reporting of a major atrocity is muzzling the press and diminishing democracy, and is bowing down to those terrorists who seek to abolish freedom of speech, even in countries where freedom of speech is enshrined in law. And I’d very much like to know how much the violent hatred of others by vicious madmen intent on inflicting the whole world with their repressive, medieval dogma would dissipate by a lack of reporting of breaking news and ongoing incidents. To the nearest 0%. (That should be a clue).
And isn’t it their right for citizens to be able to monitor the activities of the police, the military, the security services for which they pay, and which are supposed to keep them safe? Would it be right to sweep under the carpet the failures of the almost-simultaneous – almost by some 15 minutes – raids on the kosher store and the printing press, which were supposed to be simultaneously simultaneous? Do we trust governments WITH unrestricted reporting of the news, let alone without?
I was once at a talk given by Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, in which he pronounced satire as being “one of five things which has brought the UK to its knees”. I can’t quite remember what the other four were, such was the steam emanating from my ears, fogging up my brain, but when it was time for questions from the audience, I firstly thanked Sir Bernard for his contribution to my income for the past couple of decades (not sure he got the joke) and then offered to purchase a one-way ticket for him to fly to China or North Korea, where the trade in satire is non-existent, for some reason.
Much of the criticism of satirical material comes, of course, from those who are incapable of understanding it, be it for reasons of their aiming to be first off the mark to be offended by something, or simply their inability to discern irony. But this does not mean satire should be prohibited, just because there are those who don’t appreciate or get it. Do the easy-appeasers of groups who threaten violence against those who dare disagree with them actually care that they are according them the upper hand? Aren’t they a little too acquiescent, carrying out extremists bidding by passively tossing their pencil sharpeners into the bin? Or is it the done thing these days to agree with the people carrying the largest weapons? If so, best acquire an accurate tape measure the next time you venture outside. If we’ve learned anything during these past horrible days, isn’t it that in the end, la plume est plus puissante que le Kalashnikov? (And if you don’t believe me, count how many people took to the streets in peaceful protest yesterday).
It’s not enough to live in a society which merely declares it champions freedom of speech, if freedom of speech is not exercised on a regular basis – it’s crucial to the healthy functioning of a democracy. And if you don’t publish something because someone, somewhere, will be offended, you won’t be publishing anything, because jihadists, Neo-Nazis, ayatollahs, Kim Jong-Un, Princes Charles and Andrew, redheads, left-handed people, Leeds supporters, will all feel hard done by at some point. But that’s tough. Somebody asked me if we have the right to offend people. I’d rather say we have the right to freedom of expression, and that everyone has the right to be offended.
If you still don’t get it, here’s what not to be in 2015 so you don’t upset anyone:-
Jewish, a satirist, a Muslim, a non-Muslim, a Zionist, a non-Zionist…
As for satirists and journalists, I’ve compiled a list of the topics it seems we’re currently permitted to write about:-
Charlie Hebdo, for those who’d never heard of the paper prior to last week, but who are somehow experts on it now, has no time for religion of any flavour. They lambast all religions with equal fervour. They are appalled by incitement to hatred and violence, especially by those intent on imposing their own extremely narrow, idiosyncratically intolerant ideas on the rest of the world. Every religious group is lambasted with the same disdain, but they sacked a cartoonist in 2009 for being anti-Semitic. They speak out freely against anyone endeavouring to restrict or abolish the rights of those who reside in a free nation. They campaign on injustice, on poverty, on stupidity.
Pencils are not lethal weapons, and do not inflict mortal wounds. At least, not in any of the primary schools I attended. However, I don’t remember many Kalashnikovs being handed out in assembly.
The political framework of France is based on politics outranking religion; religion, of course, is tolerated, but only in a private capacity. French citizens have the right to follow whatever religion they like, but not expect the state to be swayed by the particular beliefs of a faith, especially if they go against the democratic rights prescribed in law for the population at large.
Those unwilling to think about satire, to consider ITS rights, or understand what it is or stands for, are missing the point that satirists are usually the most right-on members of society there are. They’re commenting on inequality, on the oppressed, the violated, the forgotten. Charlie Hebdo, with the plainly powerful weapon of satire, are on the side of the dispossessed, the marginalised, the abandoned dwellers of the banlieues. They’re standing up for equality, freedom from racism and bigotry. “They are the solution, not the problem”. (See link below). Yet they are the ones – and not the vile, Right Wing bigots, of which there are more than a few in France – who have paid a price for their socially-inclusive dreams of justice and morality.
Those who are quick off the draw to castigate them (see what I did there?), and what they do, may not realise the irony, but they’re having a laugh.
RIP all who died. If nothing else, let’s hope your death educates those who are all-too-willing to give up rights they don’t quite understand. *
* This article will give you an idea of what life becomes without freedom of speech. Read it while Raif Badawi weeps.
And here’s a link to a brilliant piece which contextualises the vile atrocities at Charlie Hebdo along with the other awful events of last week in Paris.
A Few Lines On Today’s Royal Tidings (where’s the Poet Laureate when you need them?)
The Duchess of Cambridge once more up the duff,
An heir and a spare, let’s hope that’s enough.
And once more the retching, the head down the pan,
It’s really not easy being a republican.
It’s the heady summer months of the sporting calendar, when soaring temperatures cause soaring tempers at the soaring price of Wimbledon strawberries and cream (£40.30! Advantage The All England Club!), and Angry Murray sorely bites the dust, rather than a juicy Fragaria, in a semi-final; when grown men in lycra so tight, it severely compromises their marbles, congregate for the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire (yes, I know Yorkshire wants to secede from the UK, but ‘Je vais aller au pied de nos escaliers, mon canard’ might be taking things a little too far); and excitable Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez, literally sinks his teeth into a World Cup game because ‘he lost his balance’. Still, at least he left an impression on the other team.
But what can we learn from all this? Never one to waste an opportunity to educate the British population on
how to leave the country the importance of politics, here’s the AmuzeNewz guide to all the facts and stats you need to know about Team Westminster.
N.B. Readers from overseas are simultaneously fascinated and bemused by our aristocracy, who stretch as far back in history to the very days when duplicitous behaviour, greed, and fornication for self-advancement were first invented. A popular misconception is because the word ‘COUNT’ is the first syllable of ‘country’, the land is ruled by such titled noblemen; it is important to realise, however, that the true pronunciation of ‘country’ is ‘cuntry’, which should give you some idea as to the kind of person to be found at the top echelon of British politics.
THE AMUZENEWZ GUIDE TO ALL THE FACTS AND STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TEAM WESTMINSTER
Right Wing. Has been wearing the No. 10 shirt for the past few years, but if current form is anything to go by, it looks like he might soon be on the benches.
DUNCAN SMITH, Iain
Very Right Wing. So totally unbalanced, he makes Suarez look like a champion tightrope walker. Ever on the attack, he is known for his vicious, unprovoked fouls on players from poorer, less-priviledged leagues.
Originally a centre half, Clegg has more recently been running alongside the right wingers, to the consternation of season ticket holders. It was rumoured he was trying to set up a 5-a-side team, but that this had to be abandoned because the players on the pitch would vastly outnumber the fans in the stands.
Red Card for foul language, inspiration of the modern day chant of the crowd addressed to the referee: “You don’t run this fucking football match”.
Referee. Often in the press thanks to the questionable antics of his WAG, Sally. Once a week in the clubhouse he endeavours to explain the offside rule to anyone who’ll listen. Which is no-one. Favourite intonation: “I run this fucking football match”.
Consist of back benches, cross benches and very cross benches.
Goals – 0
Own Goals – 4,768
Paedophiles – Embargoed until 12th Never
One of the most gratifying things about writing a blog on topical matters is the opportunity it affords to explain highly-complex geopolitical events in a manner simple enough even for politicians to understand. And that’s without pictures. So here’s the Ukrainian Crisis in a nutshell. (Never heard of the Putin Nut? It’s found all over Northern Eurasia, and appears to be spreading).
UKRAINE IF YOU WANT TO
Crimea was until very recently composed of 58% ethnic Russians, 24% Ukrainians, and 12% Crimean Tartars (otherwise known as Cream of Tartar, the elite echelon of the ethnic group, who are noted for an easy ability to stabilise eggs, along with a robust sense of humour known the world over as Tartar Sauce). However, at time of writing, post illegal and thus non-existent referendum, in which 95.5% of votes cast would have elected, had the referendum existed, to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, Crimea currently appears to be 95.5% Russian. Proving that an effective means of Tartar removal does exist after all.
During its history Crimea has been ruled by the Cimmerians, Bulgars, Greeks Scythians, Goths, Huns, Khazars, Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, Ottoman Turks, Golden Horde Tartars and Mongols; the Venetians and Genoese, the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, Germany, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Romulans, Klingons, Malcolm Glazer and the East Sheen Acacia Close Residents Association. (Next AGM at No. 7 on August 4th. Please confirm attendance with Shirley for cupcake reasons). Whatever makes the Crimeans imagine they have no friends is anyone’s guess.
Anyway, the most pressing question of serious global import is obviously: what will Crimea be performing at the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest? (And who knew President Obama took an interest in such matters?)
Answers on the back of a weak sanction, but ten roubles it’s the title of this blog post.
P.S. It’s the Chorno by-the-way.
CHRISTMAS IDEAS FROM AMUZENEWZ
Never mind those you love, let’s not forget those you hate
1. A must-have for every Portuguese/Russian Jewish satirist, Good Tidings and Great Joy – Protecting the Heart of Christmas is a tome on the meaning of Christmas as seen by Sarah Palin, one of America’s most
stupid stupendously ambitious politicians. It’s a 200-odd page (and they are indeed odd, believe me) bible of anti-secularism. We’ve forgotten what Christmas is supposed to represent, Ms Palin proclaims, as she scratches beneath the surface of this seasonal celebration – something she maintains should not be called ‘a holiday’, but ‘Christmas’; a word which has been airbrushed out of the dictionary (a gift once given to her by her parents instead of a Sony Walkman, but which taught her “words matter”. If only they’d given her some IQ tests the following year) by atheists and non-believers. Christmas doesn’t mean shopping (read all about it in Good Tidings and Great Joy, only $22.99 from Amazon, buy it now!), it means shooting things (a gun is an excellent gift, opening up a whole new world of accessories!): the breeze, non-Christians, gays…
Why, Thomas Jefferson himself would be standing with her, were he able to stand, in her quest to counter the ‘War on Christmas’ waged by “those who would want to try to abort Christ from Christianity.” Leaving, er, ‘ianity’. Which is about as close to sanity as the former Vice-Presidential candidate gets.
From the woman who recently intoned in an interview: “I love the commercialization of Christmas, because it spreads the Christmas cheer”, this book is a testament to the strict moral framework she’s instilled in her children, Trig, Track, Ku, Klux and Klan.
So pistol whip the parsnips, snipe a few sprouts, execute some
liberals bread sauce, and celebrate the life of Baby Jesus, who would also be standing alongside Thomas Jefferson were he 1. alive, and 2. not a baby.
God Help You Merry Gentlemen.
(Is it a 12 bore for a turkey? Or is that just gobbledegook?)
2. As if there was ever any doubt, this past week has confirmed that the nation’s favourite buxom chef (no, not Paul Hollywood, he’s a baker, get with the jargon) has a nose for expensive ingredients. Which explains the swift follow up to Nigella Lawson’s last venture, Nigellissima, with her surprise new autobiographical volume, Nigellsniffia. Whilst the former makes an attractive coffee table book, the sequel will undoubtedly be a favourite in the smallest room in the house, and it comes with an attractive tin foil wrapper. Little wonder people can’t wait to whip out their credit cards.
I’m euphoric that I can share with you some exclusive recipes Nigella bade me look after while she went off to powder her nose:-
Grab some petty cash, buy a large bag of coke.
COCA COLA CAKE
Cake your nostrils with white powder, sit back and enjoy.
Take a large bag of coke, throw the onions in the bin.
Umm, delicious. Man.
3. Mary Baker’s Berry Recipes.
SPECIAL HAPPY HOLIDAYS OFFER FOR SUBSCRIBERS TO THIS BLOG!
Joan Collins’ Her Passion For Life has just been published. Send us £109.65 and we won’t mail it to you.
This is the story of Chris and Vicky. Chris was married to Vicky, which he remembered in campaign leaflets for the 2010 General Election, when he wrote how important family was to him, but forgot a couple of months later when he set up home with Carina. Chris also forgot he was driving when he was given speeding points, but luckily Vicky remembered she’d forgotten she was driving instead. But then Vicky forgot she’d remembered she was driving after she’d forgotten, and told Vince, Miriam, Lord Matthew, Nick’s closest aides, the lady in the post office and Sooty that she’d remembered she’d forgotten Chris had forced her to take his points, something that Vince, Miriam, Lord Matthew, Nick’s closest aides, the lady in the post office and Sooty deny ever having forgotten they’d remembered.
Confused? It’s a good job the sentencing judge on Monday won’t be.
Next Time: Nick remembers he forgot he used to be a Liberal Democrat, and Lord Rennard forgets he forgot how liberal he’s been with his sexual advances towards every woman on the planet, in a democratic kind of a way.