Month: January 2007

My (belated) review of 2006

A few random pointers to the year I’ve just had and the year I want to have:

The best fiction I read in 2006

OK, so it was a major bestseller and is either loved, hated or one people love to hate, but it has to be “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. It was long, it twisted and turned, and yes it was pretty implausible at times, but I was hooked. I have never read such a long book so quickly and I couldn’t put it down.

The best political book I read in 2006

An odd choice perhaps, but it is “Clement Davies: Liberal Leader” by Alun Wyburn-Powell. The period through which Clement Davies was leader was crucial to the survival of the party, and yet he is a leader that most people know nothing about. It was informative but also an easy read, and I also learnt a lot from it.

The most inspirational book I read in 2006

Another odd choice, but it was “NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin & Jackie Freiberg. I had had this book for some years and finally got round to reading it. It was inspiring on the basis that it shows how much one company can enthuse people and it gave me pointers to life and work by showing that you can be successful and enjoy yourself. At a time when I wasn’t enjoying working for a particular employer, it proved to me why I was right to think they were rubbish.

The best single of 2006

This is a toss up between two songs, and yes both of them are commercial but both are very different. The first is “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol which really stirs the emotions and does what I like in a lot of songs, building and building in sound as it goes along before finishing a beautiful flourish. The other song is “LDN” by Lily Allen which is fun, catchy and is pretty strong on imagery. Just what a song should be. As an aside, one other song I should talk up is “Stronger” by Public Symphony which is a beautiful song that is just so relaxing and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.

The best album of 2006

This album came out in 2005, but I didn’t buy it until the end of that year and have then ended up listening t0 it non-stop in 2006 and so it should be my album of 2006 – “You See Colours” by Delays. Delays have continued as a band that does brilliant songs that are catchy but serious and just absorb you completely. I also saw them live this year and they were brilliant. My favourite band and my favourite album without a doubt. The band is completely underated and have not had the commercial success they deserve, and the proof of why they deserve it so much is on this album.

The best thing I’ve done in 2006

Early in the year I went to Monaco. I am not a spur of the moment person, but one of my friends is, and so it was great to be asked to go away to somewhere I’ve never visited. It was the most relaxing break I’ve had all year and it was wonderful to go somewhere warm, sunny and so completely different just before my busiest time of the year. Alas, in 2007 I won’t get the chance to go away early on.

The worst thing I’ve done in 2006

Although I managed to stop this by the end of the year, the worst thing was working for WHSmith. A one-time great company which has managed to return to profitability. But this has only been achieved by cutting back to the bare bones and by becoming a bad employer. Reading NUTS whilst working for WHSmith, shows you how far the company has to go to be a decent employer.

I don’t agree with gay adoption, but neither do I agree with catholic adoption agencies

In the debate over the last couple of weeks about Catholic adoption agencies, there is one thought that I just cannot avoid thinking. That is, that I do not agree with gay adoption anyway. Before I am accused of being some raving homophobe, it is perhaps worth pointing out for those who don’t know – I am gay.

Where I have difficulty is that I believe that the best upbringing for any child is with one father and one mother. I accept that in this imperfect world, that it all too often does not happen. That is not to say that I think children from non-traditional families have not had a good upbringing, most probably have. But when we select adoptive parents it is a huge responsibility and we owe it to these children to pick the ideal circumstances in which to bring up a child – that is a mother and a father in a long-term relationship. My reason for saying that is that I think you need the balance of both and the different qualities that men and women bring to a child’s upbringing to give them the best possible circumstances for their life.

But despite my views on this, a decision has been made by parliament that you do allow gay couples to adopt. Not only that, but catholic adoption agencies accept money from the state to provide a service. If we allow them to opt out of providing the same service to all, and they can pick and choose according to their moral stance, then it will open things up for them to choose to opt out of other services. Banning gay children from catholic schools anyone? Personally, I would not have religious groups getting involved in providing adoption services at all, but if they are providing the service they cannot pick and choose who they provide the service to.

I am surprised in this whole debate, that the Catholic church has accepted so readily that gay couples are able to adopt, and have simply used the stance that they personally do not want to deal with them. Perhaps that is to appear more reasonable. But there has still been one accusation that has annoyed me in the whole debate. Religious groups often call for politicians to take a principled and/or moral stance on an issue, but now when they are (although perhaps not in the way they would wish), they say that they are caving in to the gay lobby. I am actually not really aware of the ‘gay lobby’ taking that much of an active role in this dispute. Instead it is down to politicians, quite rightly, deciding that prejudice against any group in the provision of services is wrong.

To me, though this is not about providing a service. That is far too clinical a way to describe being a parent. In most families life just happens, and it is not perfect. But here we are actually planning for a child’s upbringing and we owe it to that child to plan to give it the best possible childhood. The one counter to my whole argument, is that I agree that it is probably better for a child to be raised by a gay couple than in a children’s home. But that is an exception rather than a rule.

The fall of the one-dimensional celebrity

Perhaps it was inevitable, but at last we are seeing the collapse of Jade Goody – a celebrity who is simply famous for being famous. Whilst we should not seek to justify racist comments by anyone, we would perhaps feel more inclined to forgive if that person had proved their worth in other fields. Alas for Jade Goody that will probably not be the case.

Whilst I would not wish to see Jade’s life ruined by what has happened, I will shed no tears if it destroys her celebrity career. After all she has plenty of other things she can do with her life and she has had a good run at the celebrity circuit so far.

We really must though make sure the blame is laid squarely on Jade Goody and the racism of the other celebrities and not at Channel 4. Whilst Big Brother may be pure voyeurism that brings in the ratings and the profit, it is also a fascinating insight in to how some people think and react to others. Big Brother is brutal, but people know that when they choose to go on to it. I love people watching, and Big Brother is one of its pinnacles. It may not be real life but it is real people interacting.

There are some who are very concerned that allowing the programme to continue without rebuking the celebrities for their racism will allow people to see it as a legitimate thing to do. But I only believe that will be the case if we let Jade Goody win. The best way to educate people is for her to fail and for Shilpa Shetty to win. So I hope that everyone keeps Shilpa in the house and votes for her to win the series. That is the way to show that racism does not triumph.

Perhaps we should also have allowed an audience for the eviction as usual. I usually feel sorry for the way that people are booed when they leave the house, but if Jade Goody is universally booed when she leaves the house that too will send a message.

BBC NEWS: Crowd ban on Big Brother eviction

John Reid

John Reid may well be right that the Home Office is “not fit for purpose”, but now he’s stretching things a bit.  Regardless of the fact that the argument is dubious when Labour has been in power for nearly ten years.  But John Reid decided this week that his reaction to the latest Home Office scandal has been along the lines of “see, I told you the Home Office was a mess”.  It might be, but how long can you rely on that?  I’m afraid there comes a time when you have to accept responsibility.

BBC NEWS: Britons’ foreign crimes ‘ignored’

Currently reading…

I already seem to be failing on one New Year resolution of posting to this website more often. However, the last week has seen me reading voraciously.

033049159801_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_v60598318_.jpgI have started and finished “Gallows View” by Peter Robinson in the last week. This author was recommended to me by my parents. I enjoy thrillers and crime fiction, like a lot of people, but I’ve tended to enjoy the grittier and more realistic crime stories, rather than the nicey nicey pretty little village fiction, or “nice murders” as I’ve heard them described. Peter Robinson’s books are set in the Yorkshire Dales and so I assumed these would be the same. But I was pleasantly surprised. Although my first impression was that they were cliche ridden and full of fairly simplistic dialogue, the book grew on me and eventually I was addicted. The book is also a lot more realistic than I had expected and the characters are flawed rather than perfect. A good read.

086243586202_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_v1056501187_.jpgI have now moved back to political reading with my latest choice – “To Dream of Freedom” by Roy Clews. Ever since I lived in Wales I have had a fascination with Wales as a whole and Welsh politics in particular. One thing that I knew little about though was the terrorist attacks during the 1960s by the more extreme Welsh Nationalists. Although there is clearly an agenda from the author, I want to know the outlook from those closely involved in these acts. People tried to ban this book because of its subject, but I want to know what people on the extremes think, even if I disagree with them. You can only deal with extremists if you understand their motives. But this is also a cause that few understand even though it is so close to home. As an example, many people know that a lot of people in Wales were angry by the building of the reservoirs in Mid Wales, but it is only when you read facts like “forty per cent of homes [in Montgomeryshire] still had no piped water to homes” (from Clement Davies: Liberal Leader by Alun Wyburn-Powell) that you can understand so starkly why there was so much anger.

AMAZON UK: Gallows View by Peter Robinson

AMAZON UK: To Dream of Freedom by Roy Clews