As a tribute to James’ memory we will be publishing a selection of his Digested Month pieces over the next few Sundays. This is one from December 2022:
Don’t go breaking my heart, I couldn’t if I tried” duetted Kiki Dee with Elton John on the 1976 Christmas Top of the Pops. But now the festive treat is no more: killed off by the BBC. Heartbreaking, but also an act of cultural vandalism the like of which has not been seen since they binned off the Hairy Cornflake et al.
Whilst the BBC’s axing of this iconic live show may not be equivalent to Hitler’s purge of “degenerative art”, it’s certainly the end of an era. Fifty seven Christmases of jumping down from the dinner table groaning with viands to cheer acts like Alvin Stardust’s coocachoo sneer, or cock a snook at complete losers like Peters & Lee. Even Mum took time out from dropping the Christmas turkey on the kitchen floor to join in the fun, her eyes glued to Freddie Mercury’s ‘sharing’ satin trousers.
Of course, none of us had Freddie down as gay, the same a few years later with George Michael in Wham. But then, nor did we know that Leo Sayer hails from Shoreham. Life was so much simpler in those days.
It was TOTP that prepared me for becoming a secret agent able to withstand any amount of interrogation to get me to confess which one of the house dance troupe Pan’s People I fancied the most. What I can now reveal after all these years is, it wasn’t Babs.
T S Eliot’s take on culture wars
T S Eliot is probably best known to modern audiences for Cats, poems turned into a smash west-end hit by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But in his poem The Hollow Men written in 1925, he’s hit another nail on the head: the current noise around gender issues, culture wars; the feeling slighted, insulted, disrespected, cancelled etc.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form shade without colour,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion
Which deserves more attention? Whether Eddie Izzard, who identifies as a woman, should be allowed to use the Ladies? Or whether there are any public toilets left for people, gender notwithstanding? Harry Kane’s heart may be in the right place, but how does wearing a tacky looking watch in rainbow colours that cost over half a million quid, help?
Symbolism has its place, but pales in comparison to the real thing. In the recently released movie She Said, two investigative reporters make the difference. It tells how New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual harassment. It’s a brilliantly made film starring Zoe Kazan and British actor Carey Mulligan, who perfected a much lauded American drawl for the part.
Private school genie is out of the bottle
We underestimate the extent to which the rich and famous depend on us arguing amongst ourselves to protect their iniquitous hegemony. They thrive in the shadows, they writhe in the spotlight. At long last Labour has seen political capital in challenging the absurd tax exemption private schools enjoy.
And oh boy, did even the Opposition’s modest sally strike a nerve! Into the light of the Commons blinked Rishi, blathering how Labour was “anti aspiration”, like he was talking about a deodorant. On BBC’s Question Time more apologists were trotted out to claim Labour were out to scrap public schools. And in a bizarre inversion of Brexit, they threatened a tsunami of displaced privately educated kids engulfing state schools; presumably all of them being Turkish. No hang on a sec, that would be…
BUPA’s money-saving dodge: use the NHS
The NHS crisis driving more and more patients into the arms of private healthcare providers was tackled on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. They interviewed a GP who works for Spire, the UK’s second largest private healthcare provider, who said that private healthcare was “helping the NHS because they have less patients to deal with”.
This would appear to be at odds with the experience of a friend of mine who recently began cancer treatment. They’re insured with BUPA and received an Oncology Support brochure which offers ‘NHS cash benefit options’.
The leaflet goes on to say: ‘Some of our customers choose to receive their cancer treatment in the NHS instead of using their private health insurance policy. If you choose to do this, we may be able to offer you a cash payment for not claiming on your insurance for private cancer treatment.’
There appears to be nothing new in this, as the Daily Mirror reported back in 2014. In the intervening eight years I wonder how much treatment time has been taken from NHS patients over that time, and how much money BUPA has saved through these ‘cash benefit options’.
So here it is Merry Christmas …
… everybody’s having fun! That’s what the groovers were doing down at top Sussex music venue the Lewes Con Club – rockin’ out to all-girl tribute act Slady, fronted by self-styled Gobby Holder, performing Slade’s seasonal classic Merry Xmas Everybody. Enjoy! Have a cool yule, and C U in 23.