A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

LGBT lessons, sexual/religious identity, and jalapenos (jalapenos are the important part – sort of).

By Reza Abbasi

 

I’m bisexual; and a lapsed Christian.

Also, right-handed – if it’s of interest. It bears scars from a lifetime of origami.

Being Bi – and right-handed, for that matter – is not something that I chose to be; and certainly wouldn’t have done during adolescence, given how awkward it made life.

I didn’t really accept it until quite recently; when I realised it was a blessing, in its way.

Kind of. Give or take.

 

My reasoning is thus: potentially, you could love anybody. And also be turned down by anyone, as well. So, it sort of balances out.

In a way, therefore, I play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium of our cosmos; without which the universe itself would cease to exist. I find that quite reassuring.

But anyway.

 

My handiwork, this.

 

I kind of knew from a fairly early age that I wasn’t straight – after watching an episode of Eurotrash; of all things.

Specifically, a segment on the Israeli Eurovision contest singer, Dana International; who I thought was quite gorgeous. Then I found out she was transsexual; and also still gorgeous.

Which got me thinking. And thinking was a rare experience for me, in those days [1].

I had hoped it was just a phase – only it wasn’t. And, in time, I grew to not so much accept it; as ignore it, then repress it, and pretend it wasn’t really there at all. Then kind of accepted it. Then got bored; and watched a movie instead.

 

Dana International: where it all began. She is, though, isn’t she?

 

There weren’t LGBT lessons when I was at school – which was a fair while back; but not that long ago, relative to the sum of humanity’s existence. Perhaps because Section 28 still applied [2].

Instead, there were biology classes – devoted to the subject of sexual reproduction. With diagrams depicting urethra; and explaining where the seminal vesicle is located.

Just the ticket, if you ask me. But clearly, times change; and this is no longer considered adequate.

Ultimately, this has seen a number of schools introduce LGBT curricula – which, in turn, prompted a series of hostile protests; from a number of Muslim parents, and a few Christians, concerned about the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle among students [3].

 


The type of explicit, homoerotic material actively promoted in schools, before Section 28 was repealed.

 

So are these fears well grounded?

Is it possible to merely read one or two books about different relationships between men and women; then be converted to the whole rough and tumble of frivolous same-sex passion?

Well, consider the fact that after no more than one history lesson about Yorkshire’s Viking heritage, I lived as a seafaring oarsman for a full six months. Even now, I find the temptation to indulge in piracy, or build settlements, almost too inviting [4].

 

Our Viking heritage: an average day in Yorkshire.

 

This is largely beside the point, however.

LGBT education is not really about promoting any aspect of homosexuality: be it romance, legislation, or fabulous moustache parades – for men or women alike.

Instead, the aim is to encourage acceptance of difference; and discourage bullying.

Much the same can be said of religious education.

Irrespective of somebody’s own personal identity, learning about someone else’s upbringing and beliefs helps people to better understand one another; rather than having contempt for the differences between them.

Which does not seem particularly unreasonable. More reasonable than encouraging children to torment each other, at least.

 

I also think there are parents who are concerned about the prospect of their own children growing up, and being gay, not because they want them to be miserable and repressed; but because they care about them, and want them to be happy.

Only they’re afraid that homosexuality means they won’t be.

That instead of falling in love with somebody, and enjoying a fulfilling family life, it will pave the way for an unchaste and debauched lifestyle: of Bronyism, tart repartee, exquisite interior design, effetely-sipped coffee, and dubious fashion choices aplenty.

Well, maybe. Sometimes. For a while.

In the same way that religiosity sometimes leads people to dress in a fashion which seems strange; and express viewpoints that others find barbed. Or do far worse things.

But not very often.

 

Not me, but Sylvia does bear a distinct likeness, to be fair.

 

It should go without saying that not everyone who is Muslim will be identical; and that holds equally true for anybody who falls under, or onto – or over? – the LGBT spectrum.

Same-sex attraction does not betoken promiscuity, any more than heterosexuality precludes it.

In my case it means being rejected by men, as well as by women. Which is less colourful than it may sound.

So, moving on.

 

I’ve had one sexual partner in life; and I’ll leave the sordid details therein to peoples’ own imaginations (you wouldn’t believe the kind of things they were into, incidentally) [5].

They were a social worker, who helped in the rehabilitation of addicts. They had a banjo, as well, which I tried to teach them how to play [6].

Or, to look at the issue another way: I am the most boringly ordinary person who ever lived. My personal rainbow would comprise seven shades of grey – and, on days of particular excitement, maybe a strand of beige.

Religion, race, sex, and sexuality are not all that there is to anyone. You can have all of these traits, and still be as mundane as me – if you try [7].

 

The great spectrum of mundanity.

 

Homophobia and racism are two sides of same dehumanising coin. If you add sexism, that would make three sides of the coin – although I’ve never seen a three-sided coin, admittedly.

Maybe a different comparison would be more helpful. And that’s where chilli peppers factor in (I told you they were important).

I used to dislike jalapenos, on the grounds that they were gross, and unpalatable; and ruined any plate of nachos they adorned. I eat them with pretty much everything, now.

That’s how I roll [8].

 

Oh yes.

 

People can change. Be it their views, tastes, ideas, or identity. It happens.

There will be people of any age, but especially when young, who realise they are gay, bi, trans – or any variation thereof – at some stage.

It’s a change that can’t be altered; and happens of its own accord. It’s not a temporary phenomenon, they’re not ill; and it’s not due to any failing for their parents’ part.

Unlike growing up listening to Celine Dion records, which – let us be brutally honest here – would suggest that something has gone wrong somewhere.

However.

Some children have two mothers, or two fathers – at times due to their parents’ orientation; and at others, because their parents divorced, and re-married.

Not all families are the same – and plenty of seemingly normal households are dysfunctional; or downright weird [9]. None of which necessarily stops people caring about each other.

 

Islam teaches the concept of Adab: the need to have courtesy and respect for other people. And to regard them as relations – if not in faith, then at least in humanity.

Likewise, LGBT lessons teach the same thing, in their way. Namely, that being mean to people who are different doesn’t really make the world a better place.

Regardless of what branch of humanity anyone belongs to, we probably all seem slightly odd to someone else. But whatever differences exist between people, we still have more in common than divides us.

Like a shared experience of being whinged at, for supposedly proving a subversive minority; while not usually being that interesting.

Or being placed under pressure to give up our own identity, in order to fit in, somehow.

And the same capacity for being hurt, by those who are afraid of difference. Which is what seems destined to generate so much needless misery among people, when they can’t help but be different [10].

I think love and empathy are more worthwhile than hatred, or fear.

They’re more fun, too.

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

[1] If you’re not familiar with Eurotrash, it was a highly sophisticated comedy series: immaculately researched, impeccably scripted, and intellectually rigorous.

The quality of its presentation was matched only by the sheer breadth and scope of its informative content.

Just the kind of high-quality cultural programming I used to watch, as a teenager.

 

[2] Section 28 of the Local Government Act began in 1988, and forbade the promotion of homosexuality in state schools. It also proscribed teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. It was finally ended nationwide, in 2003.

Its reasoning had been much the same as that of the present furore – only rooted in the supposed preservation of Christian identity and family values, rather than their Islamic equivalent.

I belonged to various Christian youth groups – which were not quite at the cutting edge of education on the subject of sexual development. Instead of diagrams, we got proverbs.

At school, most homophobic bullying centred on heterosexual boys being horrible to each other on the knowingly baseless grounds that they were gay, somehow. I don’t think you need to be directly on the receiving end of bullying to be affected by it.

 

[3] It has been suggested that the No Outsiders programme is linked to the UK government’s Prevent strategy – and is treating Muslim pupils as a potential danger; therefore triggering the current response from their parents.

That is not supported by any currently available evidence. Instead, the belief seems to stem from a presentation made in 2015; rather than the No Outsiders programme itself.

Nor is it the actual focus of the points being made by the protesters, which are overtly centred on LGBT lessons; rather than any other aspect of the programme – such as disability equality.

Suffice to say, the two men leading the demonstrations do not have children attending the schools in question.

It appears that the parents protesting against the No Outsiders programme believe it is designed to undermine their own religious identity and personal values; but that does not appear to be applicable.

Instead, two sets of people who are often treated as second-class citizens in British society, seem to be at loggerheads; in a dispute over contemporary British values. Which is both a bit sad, and kind of funny, if you think about it.

 

 

[4] Admittedly this is standard behaviour among the men and women of Yorkshire.

Only, instead of marauding, looting, feasting – and pillaging – our endeavours are mostly devoted to tutting, and complaining about the cost of things.

Some stereotypes are accurate. Acutely so, at times. This is one of them.

 

[5] Mainly reading books, and going for walks. Really quite disgraceful.

 

[6] I didn’t actually know how to play one – I just made it sound like I did. Picture thrash-metal banjo, and you’re about there. There are even people who play death-metal tambourine, as it happens.

 

[7] It takes time, and effort; and it’s not worthwhile – but it can be done.

 

[8] It’s tangential, but I also used to find Scotch bonnet chillis too hot. But not anymore! I use them to make vegetarian chilli all the time now now.

While it may incur wrath from a few antediluvian types – who are more than a smidge stuck in their ways (not that I judge) – I would recommend experimenting with chipotle paste, too.

This can be expensive; and some disparage it as nothing more than a mere lifestyle choice – encouraged by illicit cookery books. But it is worthwhile, in my opinion. And my opinion is correct.

 

[9] The Royal Family, for instance. You really don’t get much more conformist and simultaneously warped than them.

 

[10] I think some misery in life is needed, because where would goth music be without it? Nowhere. That’s where. Nowhere at all.

The Right-Minded View: Theresa May’s Resignation

 

And so it came to pass.

Arguably the most competent British Prime Minister to hold office, since her predecessor resigned, has now stepped down.

Theresa May was all things to all people. Not merely proclaiming that poverty is bad, but continuously voting to increase it, as well. Thereby covering both bases.

And while the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have said one thing – as her Ministers said the opposite; May could be relied upon to say exactly the same as both.

Of course, that strength and stability of leadership met its truest test in the General Election of 2017.

May’s many admirers in the press – some fresh from being a guest of Her Majesty’s Government themselves – lauded her as a safe pair of hands, who was parking her tanks on the Labour Party’s lawn.

And consequently destined for triumph.

A 74 seat Tory majority beckoned.

Wait, 96 seats.

No, 100 seats.

In fact, at least 100 – and that’s even with the 27 the Conservatives were likely to lose to the awe-inspiring Liberal Democrats.

It could be as many as 150 seats.

Maybe even a 200 seat majority for the Tories.

212 seats.

Even Conservative commentators found themselves feeling sorry for the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as May’s politics of audacity heralded imminent glory.

And they were magnanimous in their vindication, at the outcome of the vote: as Labour suffered a disastrous improvement of fortunes; and May gained an impressive lost majority.

Some might say May’s politics proved somewhat less audacious than foretold; but no majority is better than a bad majority, I would venture.

 

Theresa May’s defining legacy, however, will be Brexit.

Specifically, the task of delivering a red, white, and blue Brexit.

Or at least one leaving many people feeling blue – with white-coloured flags fluttering aplenty; and countless red faces in evidence. Which is very nearly the same thing; if you think about it.

On that score, May’s achievement stands peerless. Straddling the competing demands of Conservative MPs, and reality, like a veritable colossus.

After two years of relentless, uncompromising negotiation – combining pluck, and determination, with the very best of Britishness – May managed to talk the EU down to no more than its original demands.

Many said it couldn’t be done – but by jingo, it was.

What’s more, May has generously – and graciously – bequeathed this particular chalice, to an equally deserving successor in the Prime Ministerial stakes.

Be it the one who didn’t know Britain was an island. The one who misled Parliament, and resigned. The one who also misled Parliament, and wouldn’t resign – but then did. One of the ones who misled the public, via a well-known bus advert.

Or simply one of the many who needs showing on a doll which parts of someone else’s body they’re not allowed to touch, without permission.

‘I Am Britain – Now So Can We!’: extracts from the unauthorised autobiography of Nigel Farage

 

“Shut up, I explained” – Nigel Farage during the EU referendum of 2016

 

On his personal upbringing

“Unlike liberal elites, who grew up on prestigious council estates – and were educated at exclusive secondary moderns; my own beginnings on life’s journey were far more modest.

I was raised in the humble confines of Dulwich prepper; and didn’t even inherit the old slush fund until the age of 21.

And yet, after graduation, I went on to prove that it is perfectly possible to succeed in life; without any hardwork or talent being necessary, in the slightest. All one needs is the right kind of moxy” (p. 2).

 

On his reason for entering politics

“Unlike the rest of the world, Britain is a normal country. And I intend to see it kept that way” (p. 43).

 

On religion, and Britain being a Christian nation

“I am not a religious man, but my wife is. According to her, God supports Brexit – and favours British safety standards – as much as the next fair-minded chap” (p. 36).

 

The seven-time Parliamentary contest runner-up turned heads with an elegant ensemble from the 1850’s.

 

On relations with President Trump

“People can say what they like, but Donald Trump has achieved as much in the first 3 years of his presidency as most US presidents could only manage in the first 3 weeks of theirs” (p. 67).

 

On the importance of freedom 

“Tax avoidance is an expression of basic British liberty. In fact, pay cheques should come with a tick-box option: would you like to pay taxes on your income – Yes/No” (p. 19).

 

On etymology 

“I don’t know what ‘xenophobia’ means – but it sounds suspiciously like unwholesome foreign nonsense, if you ask me” (p. 11).

 

On Political Correctness

“You can’t even make derogatory generalisations about entire ethnic groups without being called ‘racist’, these days” (p. 56).

“I, for one, have had just about enough of this, quite frankly. Islamophobia is an imaginary concept, invented by Muslims who want to ban Christmas; then impose compulsory Sharia Winterval safe-spaces, and women-only swimming sessions, on the stouthearted yeoman of this once proud land” (p. 57).

 

“and right away, you’ve got them by the jaffas” – Farage explaining the art of public speaking, in 2017.

 

On Europe and sexual politics

“The Channel Tunnel must be narrowed by 3 inches, forthwith: allowing sleek British trains to enter Europe; but excluding the unwholesome foreign-variety of carriage from gaining entry to our country.

And I’m not sure why feminists complain about so-called ‘man-spreading’ – it’s
the way we’ve been sitting on public transport for millions of years” (p. 17).

 

On law and order 

“No one abhors the overbearing machinations of the nanny state more than I; but this is one area where a clampdown is, frankly, long overdue. It really is high-time that crime was made illegal.

If anything we need more laws – and stiffer penalties for breaking them.” (p. 75)

 

‘Dial F for Farage’ – the upcoming film noir biopic of Nigel Farage’s Ukip leadership contest victory, in 2006. Starring Hugh Laurie as the titular MEP.

 

On what’s wrong with modern Britain

“I don’t know what a ‘selfie stick’ is, and quite frankly I do not want to know. If anything this whole phenomenon merely serves to show everything that is wrong with our country, these days” (p. 97).

 

On the EU Referendum of 2016

“If what I hear on the doorstep is anything to go by, then at least four quarters of all Britons support Brexit; and the remaining third are likely to be sympathetic to the cause – only too afraid to say so in polite company” (p. 18).

 

On things changing 

“Sadly, London is no longer the country that I grew up in. One need only cast the most cursory of glances around to work out why Brexit was embraced by the Great British public.

German biscuits, French pastry, Italian pasta – instead of traditional British food, like Tikka Masala.

This is perhaps why an overwhelming 4% majority of people voted to leave the EU – so that sanity might be restored to these isles, once again”  (p. 22).

 

On the BBC’s left-wing bias

“I stopped watching Match of the Day a long time ago; but I will stop watching it even more now” (p. 432).

 

Farage was unable to gain a single appearance on the BBC throughout the entirety of one Thursday afternoon, in April 2019.

 

On the Single Market 

“What we have gained in trade, we have lost in freedom. This is reflected in the fact that well over five fifths of all British laws are now made in Brussels” (p. 78).

 

On the monarchy

“Republicanism is contrary to the natural order of things. It is the animal kingdom, after all – not the animal worker’s republic” (p. 70).

 

On his new Brexit party

“While most politicians offer voters the world on a plate, only we offer them the world on a British plate” (p. 234).

 

On briefly sporting a moustache 

“On the whole, the moustache has peaceful, welcoming connotations. The beard, by way of contrast, seems to suggest arms trader, or sugar-daddy – possibly even a professional librarian” (p. 65).

 

It may surprise you, but this is actually Nigel Farage – a master of disguise, as well as British statecraft.

 

On people making fun of his moustache 

“I am not deficient in an appreciation of the humorous, but I confess that I fail to detect anything akin to pleasantry in the outrage” (p. 66).

 

On people favouring experts and expertise over Brexperts and Brexpertise

“All shows what poor form it is to let your brain develop too much” (p. 101)

 

On breast-feeding protests

“A most singular and distressing occurrence. No man has ever wanted to see women in a state of undress” (p. 45).

 

On the short-comings of modern satire

“Someone should jolly well restore comedy to rights – with time-tested jokes about the frivolity of women; and the exotic customs of foreigners.

An unwillingness to plow this comedic furrow is likely to be the very reason why Britain has been little more than a full-blown communist state, since 1979” (p. 11).

 

A little something called patriotism

 

On British history

“I once read something or another on the internet about the history of Roman Britain. So far as I could make out, the fall of Rome’s Empire was due to two things:

1) a lack of proper border controls.

2) paying £350 million a week to the EU, instead of devoting it to the NHS” (p. 33).

 

On a post-Brexit trade deal with America 

“We will get to enjoy the very cheapest produce that chemicals, hormones, genetic patenting, and intensive living conditions – for both animals and workers – can possibly provide. Britain will be a paradise on earth” (p. 26).

 

On his own political legacy

“Everything I had been saying about the EU for years – whether it happened to be true or not – has now become mainstream politics. And with such luminaries as the current government at our nation’s helm, the sky is Britain’s oyster” (p. 356).

 

“I have sold Brexits to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook: it put them on the map” – Farage on the campaign trail.

 

On Brexit

“When we leave the EU, we can revoke India’s independence, take back control of the Suez canal; and write stiff letters to our various former colonies in Africa.

Tell them to stop this messing about – stop this self-governing hankypanky – and pull their socks up; then report back for Empire, promptly, at 7 AM the very first morning after Brexit.

Get the world back to the way it ought to be, I say; make it all ship-shape and British once again – then everything will be just fine” (p. 98).

 

On his career in politics

“Unlike careerist politicians, who merely turn up at Parliament for the sake of money, I hardly ever attend at all.

Admittedly, certain discrepancies in my personal expenses-claims have arisen, on occasion. But I think that allowances should be made, until such a time as patriotism becomes tax-deductible” (p. 178).

 

Action shot of Farage hard at work in the European Parliament.

 

*

 

All quotes taken from ‘I Am Britain – Now So Can We’ by Nigel Farage (Random Nonsense; 2019).

Source for all photos: internet.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party – and the august lance of British destiny!

Nigel Farage is not only the thinking chap’s Brexiteer; but holds compelling claim to being the most successfully unelected candidate in British Parliamentary history.

It is perhaps that tenacity, buttressed with a robust flair for crafting vivid analogies – though these admittedly defy any and all branches of human knowledge – which have seen Farage retain his traditional safeseat of Question Time South, for ten full years and counting.

And I think we can safely say that Farage took the correct attitude towards Johnny Euro from the outset!

What with his firm but fair assessment that none of his fellow MEPs had ever worked a proper job in their lives.

The assembled ranks of ex-surgeons, former schoolteachers – and retired coalminers – simply had no comeback to that whatsoever!

How many of them had ever worked as stock-brokers in the commodities trade? None but Farage, I would venture.

And for those of us who have long since tired of experts, Farage consistently demonstrates a refreshing absence of any expertise, whatsoever, on every last subject he expounds upon.

The type of people who read books are fond of saying that “the only easy thing in life is being wrong – and it is hardly worth the effort”. Well, one man differs: Farage makes the effort!

So, lead on Nigel, I say. And with Farage at the tiller, Johnny Euro won’t mess with old Blighty again, by jingo!

Brexit debate condensed

You can’t just ignore one half of the country, and hope to make progress. Which is why the other half of the country must be ignored, in order to move things forward.

MPs should vote for Theresa May’s deal – on the premise that she resigns as Prime Minister. And she needs to quit, because she’s not capable of getting MPs to vote for her deal.

Government MPs can hardly be expected to know the meaning of ‘meaningful’ votes. Understanding simple concepts falls well outside the scope of their competence.

If there’s one person who’s responsible for Theresa May bringing our country to the verge of disaster, it’s Jeremy Corbyn: a hard-left Brexiter; who is trying to sabotage Brexit.

Quite frankly, it’s preposterous to think that a change of government is the solution to this debacle – which was created entirely by the current government.

The Conservative Party conducted the referendum, and they alone are overseeing its outcome – but this reflects poorly on everyone except Conservatives; because it was everybody else who failed to prevent the current scenario unfolding.

And finally, referendums are a terrible way to resolve complex issues. Which is why we need another referendum, to resolve this complex issue.

The Right-Minded View: Labour Party MPs quit. Truly a watershed moment in British politics.

Today marks a watershed moment in British politics.

No fewer than a solid handful of MPs have quit the Labour Party, complaining about Jeremy Corbyn. Marking the single greatest realignment of the political landscape, since the last time several MPs quit Labour, complaining about Jeremy Corbyn; not too long ago.

Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chukka Umunna, Ann Covfefe – and the others, whose names I can’t recall offhand. These are huge figures of the Labour Movement.

Giants, even. Heroes. Heroes – who traversed British politics, with colossal strides.

These people were the Labour Party. The Labour Party was them.

And to think that these MPs have finally reached breaking-point – have just darn well had enough – a mere two years after they began briefing journalists about their intentions to defect; and then started receiving donations to fund their endeavor.

Nor could it be a more principled stand. If there is one thing that these MPs simply will not abide, it is racism. Prejudice. Common xenophobia.

If what I read in the papers is anything to go by, then the Labour party started being a hotbed of racism, the very instant it elected a life-long anti-racism campaigner to be its leader.

One who refuses to listen to the very real concerns that the same news outlets express, every day, about foreigners and minorities. Concerns which most of the seven MPs themselves have long insisted must be listened to; voting accordingly.

And they are only too right to balk at Labour’s acceptance of Brexit, as well – quite rightly drawing the line at Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to simultaneously support and oppose Brexit.

Now, admittedly, they all voted to conduct the EU referendum of 2016. What their critics fail to realise, however, is that democracy might be all well and good – but not if people are going to be silly, and vote the wrong way. No.

No. Then their elected betters must take back control.

The way I see it, what this country is crying out for is a credible, electable, moderate, sensible, pragmatic, electable, aspirational, moderate, credible, electable Centrist party. Pragmatising electably from the centre of the centre; and saying “yesnomaybe” across a wide range of issues, right now!

And how Corbyn can possibly hope to manage without future input from the tactical masterminds who devised the EdStone, is quite frankly beyond me. He clearly owes them a debt of gratitude; if not a big apology.

 

Food for everyone’s thought, there.

A brief guide to euphemisms in political-journalism

 

Important intervention: a trite observation; a vague statement of the obvious

Coordinated: ad-hoc; badly organised.

Furious row: pointless bickering

 

A reliable source: an unreliable source of information

A senior source: a source abusing their position of trust

Latest opinion poll: latest made up numbers

Polling very badly: polling well

 

Win: lose

Triumph: lose badly

Son of a humble bus-driver: a crook who had to leave their previous job in banking, due to misconduct

Park tanks on opponent’s lawn: make insincere pledges for personal gain

Moral high ground: the political gutter

 

Centre ground: hard-right economics

Radical centre: hard-right economics

Centre left: committed to hard right economics

Moderate: right-wing

Prudent: right-wing

 

Liberal: right-wing, but not afraid of homosexuality

Pro-Europe: right-wing – but prioritising money over racism, by a narrow margin

Extreme left: left-wing

Radical: mild

Not really radical at all: quite radical

 

People: big business and major banks

Peoples’ vote: a lobbying effort conducted in the interests of big business and major banks

The needs of the nation: the profiteering of big business and major banks

Patriotism: serving the interests of big business and major banks

 

Impressive: feeble or unconvincing

Increasingly impressive: embarrassingly feeble or unconvincing

Forced to: chosen to

Chosen: been compelled by circumstance

 

Confirms: repeats a previously disproved claim

Accessory: innocent bystander

Standing by: being left powerless by events

Doing nothing: working tirelessly

 

Noble and difficult: self-serving and unpopular

Healing divisions: sidelining the public

Bringing people back together: overruling the public

Cross-party effort: stitching the public up openly

Achieving consensus: stitching the public up discreetly

 

Resistance: grifting; grandstanding

Rebel: an MP who never rebels

Next time: never

Next time might: will never

Next time might vote to prevent: will never under circumstances vote to prevent

 

Increasingly unlikely: already confirmed

Unchanged: constantly vacillating

Position has not altered: position has been substantially altered on a number of occasions; and is now back to where it was originally

Come a long way: gone around in circles

 

Seeking: supplicating

Demanding: pleading

Insisting: begging

Renegotiate: continue to demand something which has been rejected repeatedly

 

Genuinely: insincerely

Clever: dishonest; manipulative

Woo: attempt to bribe

 

Hard-left Brexiter: somebody who opposed and campaigned against Brexit; and has sought to mitigate it ever since

Worst opposition leader in history: one of the most effective opposition leaders in history

An opposition that doesn’t really know how to oppose: an opposition which has repeatedly inflicted defeats on the government

Ought to be taking full advantage of this situation: was severely damaged by this situation

 

Fascinating: tedious

Importance : triviality

Pointless: worthwhile

Unmemorable: significant

Stand with: issue platitudes

 

Easy: impossible

Impossible: easy

Only too easy to imagine: impossible to visualize

Impossible to believe: easily envisioned

 

Refused to answer: wasn’t willing to answer a trick question

Refused to deny: wasn’t able to answer a trick question

Seemed to u-turn: reiterated a previous statement which had been ignored

 

Civility: not disputing the claims of journalists

Incivility: pointing out flaws/inconsistencies in a journalist’s output/logic

A nightmare: a minor inconvenience

The political class has let us all down: the politics I have always supported are now beginning to jeopardize my own interests – it’s not fair

Inside Out – A Romantic Comedy, In Several Acts.

Main Characters: Li (Chinese-English), Tom (White-English), Jo (White-English), Ben (Black-English).

Miscellaneous characters: Tom’s mother, two repairmen, Maeve, the world’s least helpful shop assistant, café staff/customers, nightclub patrons, actors in a Christmas pageant, a venerable Chinese man, a food-stall vendor, and the people of my home city.

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 1

[A rainswept city street, in Hull; at the onset of Winter.

Tom enters through the unexpectedly unlocked door of his flat, and stands in the hallway. The interior looks bereft; as if denuded by an uninvited guest].

(Tom) Not again.

[A muffled bump sounds. The kitchen door opens]

(Mother) Hi!

(Tom) This is a pleasant surprise.

(Mother) Really?

(Tom) No.

(Mother) I’ve tided up for you.

(Tom) I do wish you wouldn’t.

(Mother) Somebody has to.

(Tom) They really don’t – I am a grown man: I can manage housework.

(Mother) Nonsense! I like doing it. It reminds me though…

(Tom) Yes.

(Mother) …have you thought about getting married?

(Tom) No – I have explained this. I’m not in a relationship with anyone.

(Mother) That’s hardly a reason!

(Tom) Well, it kind of is.

(Mother) Nothing to stop you finding someone, if you make an effort.

(Tom) There is, actually. Lots of things, as it happens.

(Mother) Nonsense. Did you know you can get mail order brides, these days?

(Tom) What?

(Mother) Would you like me to look into it for you?

(Tom) No – thank you.

(Mother) Only, I know you tend to be a bit embarrassed about this sort of thing.

(Tom) I am unusual that way, admittedly.

(Mother) I don’t see why.

(Tom) I’m sure some men would welcome their mothers perusing a catalogue, and selecting a marital partner for them; but everyone’s different.

(Mother) It’s okay if you have some niche interests.

(Tom) I don’t, thanks.

(Mother) I was discussing this with your father…

(Tom) Why, exactly?

(Mother) …and he made some good suggestions, really – by his standards.

(Tom) Look, I honestly don’t…

(Mother) Even your sister agreed.

(Tom) Liz, or Em?

(Mother) Well, both did, as it happens.

(Tom) It’s good that they could agree on something.

(Mother) It is, isn’t it?

(Tom) Was there anyone else you mentioned this to?

(Mother) Of course not! Well, Mr Johanssen, actually – and he says…

(Tom) Wait, your neighbour?

(Mother) He says you can get all sorts from mail order, these days.

(Tom) What was he referring to – out of interest?

(Mother) I…don’t actually know; but he was really quite enthusiastic. I didn’t wish to inquire further – not my business, of course.

(Tom) No; of course not.

(Mother) But it sounds quite promising, wouldn’t you say?

(Tom) No. No I wouldn’t.

(Mother) There isn’t a need to be old-fashioned about these things. Not in this day and age.

(Tom) I think that some fashions are old for a reason. This happens to be one of them.

(Mother) What? Anyway, you can’t be alone your whole life.

(Tom) Why not?

(Mother) Because I worry about you; and I won’t be around forever.

(Tom) I know – I’m grateful. I won’t say for which part.

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 2

[The office building of a local paper. A diminutive woman of a certain age, called Maeve, is walking along a short corridor; in the direction of a small office.

Its door is slightly ajar, and the disembodied voices of two repairmen can be heard emanating. They groan intermittently. Maeve stops outside, with her back towards the wall, and listens].

(Workman 1) If you just push it into the rear, you should feel a click.

[Maeve looks shocked, and blushes]

(Workman 2) Like this?

(Workman 1) Not like that, no. When it’s in right, you’ll feel it start to pulsate.

(Maeve) “Pulsate”?

(Workman 2) Pulsate?

(Workman 1) Vibrate.

(Maeve) “Vibrate”!

(Workman 2) I can’t feel anything at the moment.

(Workman 1) Well, just reach around, and then slot it into place. Jiggle it back and forth a bit, if you need to. Work it in and out.

(Workman 2) Here?

(Workman 1) Not in that one – the other one.

(Maeve) “Other one”?

(Workman 2) Bear with me – I’ve not done this before.

(Workman 1) Well, there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?

(Workman 2) Nothing’s happening.

(Workman 1) It will.

[Maeve presses her back against the wall]

(Workman 2) Still nowt.

(Workman 1) Take it out, and give it a rub; then push it back in again.

(Maeve) “Give it a rub”?!

[The momentary sound of vibration is audible]

(Workman 2) [Moans with satisfaction]

(Workman 1) There you go.

[Maeve winces again]

(Workman 2) Is it supposed to be glowing like that?

(Maeve) “Glowing”?

(Workman 1) It does that sometimes. Just hold it in, a moment longer. Give it time to get flowing properly.

[Maeve sinks down the wall onto the floor, cringing, and clutching her necklace.

Li enters the scene – wearing a dress emblazoned with a traditional Chinese pattern; but the design is contemporary and Western]

(Li) Are you okay, Maeve?

(Maeve) [Starts, and stands up] Oh! It’s disgusting – that’s what it is. Utterly disgraceful! Like Sodom and Gomorrah this place. And going on in full earshot of unsuspecting people! Anyone could have walked past here – anyone at all!

[Workman 1 steps out of the office. His overalls are not quite over all, at the rear]

(Maeve) Sordid miscreants!

[Maeve exits]

(Workman 1) What’s her problem?

(Li) I’m really not sure I could say. Have you managed to fix the printers yet? 

(Workman 1) Give us chance, love – we’ve only just got started.

(Li) Didn’t you arrive here an hour ago?

(Workman 1) You can’t rush this sort of job. It needs doing properly.

(Li) Okay – but do you know when you’re likely to be finished?

(Workman 1) Hard to say. Could be any time between now, and the end of the day; easy.

[Li departs]

(Workman 1) [Tuts] Women [shakes head].

(Workman 2) What was her problem?

(Workman 1) Just that time of the month, I suppose. Always much ado about nothing.

(Workman 2) When will we be finished?

(Workman 1) Twenty minutes; give or take. Might go for lunch before then, though.

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 3

[A nightclub; where Ben works as a barman. Tom is sat opposite Ben, on the other side of the bar. Music plays loudly in the background.

Tom gazes at various women in the club; and then glances at the men close to them, who are much more prepossessing than him. Ben notices]

(Ben) Nothing to stop you just taking a chance, once in a while, mate.

(Tom) It’s not that simple.

(Ben) Sure it is! If you like the look of someone, why not just go up to them and say hello?

(Tom) Lots of reasons.

(Ben) Such as?

(Tom) Reasons. Lots of them.

(Ben) Okay. How about the lass in the green coat, there?

(Tom) I’m too old for her.

(Ben) You’re not that old.

(Tom) I’m not that young, anymore, either.

(Ben) What about them, then, with the bow?

(Tom) I’m too short for them. What if they wanted to wear heels?

(Ben) So, how about the one in the tan jacket; on the seat then?

(Tom) I’m too pale. It would be like they had a specter haunting them.

(Ben) So what about them with the braids, then?

(Tom) Be serious.

(Ben) I am being serious!

(Tom) Women like that are never single – and even if they were, they would hardly be interested in somebody like me, now, would they?

(Ben) How do you know?

(Tom) Let’s just leave it, please.

(Ben) If you’re going to be so picky, you’ll never find anybody.

(Tom) That really isn’t the issue – I’m not the one who thinks anyone’s beneath them.

(Ben) How can you be sure they think that?

(Tom) Well, if you were a woman, what would you think of me, as a man?

(Ben) If I was a woman?

(Tom) If you use your imagination. I assume it would be necessary.

(Ben) Okay. Well, your handwriting is illegible.

(Tom) That’s true. I’m good at typing, though; so it evens out.

(Ben) Your taste in music is not the best.

(Tom) I don’t agree; but to each their own.

(Ben) Your dress sense is terrible – there really is a lack of effort being made there, lad.

(Tom) Fair enough. I suppose.

(Ben) Your eyebrows do that thing, where they sort of meet in the middle; but don’t quite manage it.

(Tom) Fine. I guess.

(Ben) When you shake someone’s hand, you clasp it with both of yours.

(Tom) Well, that’s hardly anything.

(Ben) I’m only telling it like it is – from a woman’s point of view. Women usually like men to be a bit more…manly.

(Tom) Like what?

(Ben) You know – for men to be good at…being men.

(Tom) That’s really clarified matters. That’s incredibly helpful.

(Ben) You know what I mean. It would be wonderful if a woman found meekness attractive. But that’s just not how we are.

(Tom) We?

(Ben) I’m playing the part.

(Tom) You don’t think that somebody should see beneath the surface?

(Ben) I’m saying, ultimately, you just have to learn to live with yourself; one way or another.

(Tom) Meaning…?

(Ben) Some things you can change – some things you can’t; and you can’t be something you’re not, now, can you?

(Tom) Are you still acting the role?

(Ben) That’s my view as a man; and as a woman. So to speak. Best of both worlds, there, mate.

(Tom) Okay; but if you can’t avoid being a certain way – and people don’t care for you as you are – then where does it leave you?

[Ben replies “no man’s land”; but his words become lost in the opening roar of a new song]

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 4

[A bustling café; lunch time]

(Li) I don’t mind being alone.

(Jo) Really? I mean – really?

(Li) I would prefer it if things were different; but they’re not.

(Jo) If you don’t want to be alone, then you have to go out, and look for someone. No-one is going to just walk right up to you. Not men, these days, anyway.

(Li) How many men would be interested in someone like me?

(Jo) Well, how many of them do you need to be interested in you?

(Li) One would suffice; but even so.

(Jo) There are men who will be, I’m sure. If you just give somebody a chance; and let them get to know you, properly.

(Li) That’s what bothers me.

(Jo) Why?

(Li) You know why.

(Jo) I do; yes. But why not take the initiative, and see where it leads? Make something happen?

(Li) It’s not that simple.

(Jo) Sure it is! Well, okay, it isn’t. But it still is; even if it’s not.

(Li) It didn’t end so well the last time I met someone.

(Jo) No; I know it didn’t.

(Li) I don’t want that to happen again.

(Jo) Okay – but what do you want?

(Li) Not to wind up in a hospital, again.

(Jo) I know.

(Li) He didn’t seem that way, at all, Jo. And then…

(Jo) What you see isn’t always what you get.

(Li) I thought he knew…when I tried to explain…he could have just let me leave. I wanted to. Well, I didn’t; but still.

(Jo) You can’t always run away.

(Li) No.

[Jo reaches over and takes Li’s hand. Li tries to return the gesture, but knocks a paper cup full of coffee off the table, into Jo’s handbag]

(Li) Sorry.

(Jo) It’s alright. Actually, no it’s not – because my phone was in there!

(Li) Sorry!

(Jo) It’s alright.

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 5

[A clothes shop, on Whitefriargate]

(Tom) Must we do this?

(Ben) Yes. Yes we must.

(Tom) Why though, really?

(Ben) It’ll be good for you.

(Tom) I know nothing about clothes. Couldn’t you just find something you’d think was right, and then…

(Ben) I see – because I’m a black man, I must know a lot about clothes?

(Tom) No; of course not.

(Ben) I see – because I’m a black man, I must not know a lot about clothes?

(Tom) No! Look, are you going to help, or not?

(Ben) I might. I might not, now.

(Tom) I don’t even like clothes, really. What kind of person would care about something so silly?

(Ben) Consider the lilies?

(Tom) Consider the sow’s ear, you’re trying to refashion.

(Ben) Sometimes you have to open your mind, a bit. Just look around, and see what takes your fancy. Then, go for it.

(Tom) Okay. Fine. The shirts over there look quite decent.

(Ben) That’s the women’s section.

(Tom) Are you sure?

(Ben) Since when do men wear lace negligees?

(Tom) Why not just wear what you like, though?

(Ben) You can wear what you like – if that’s your thing.

(Tom) It’s not; but still?

(Ben) Because if you want to make the right impression, you have to follow the rules.

(Tom) The rules?

(Ben) The rules.

(Tom) Elaborate; please.

(Ben) Rule one: keep it muted. Don’t wear too much of it – but express yourself, freely; and make it vibrant.

(Tom) Rule two?

(Ben) Aim for subtle and meaningful; but be striking and novel.

(Tom) Is there a third rule?

(Ben) Stand out from the crowd; but blend in with everyone else.

(Tom) So, in terms of actual clothing?

(Ben) Light shirt – dark trousers. And a tie.

(Tom) But why?

(Ben) The rules!

(Tom) Who invents these?

(Ben) People.

(Tom) Who, specifically?

(Ben) Just…people.

(Tom) Why can’t you change the rules?

(Ben) Look, just get whatever you want. I won’t be the one wearing it, will I? [Walks away, briefly]

(Tom) I don’t know what I want. [Looks around] I’m talking to myself. I’m still talking to myself. In public; with people looking at me. Thinking I’m unusual.

(Shop Assistant) Are you alright there? Is there anything I can help you with?

(Tom) I don’t know what I’m looking for.

(Shop Assistant) Well, what are you looking for?

(Tom) I don’t know.

(Shop Assistant) But what are you looking for? I mean, what is it that you’re looking for, exactly?

(Tom) I really don’t know.

(Shop Assistant) Well, okay – but if you need help with anything, just give us a shout.

(Tom) Is there anything you can help me with?

(Shop Assistant) What do you need help with?

(Tom) I’m not sure.

(Shop Assistant) When you figure it out, just let me know, and I’ll be happy to help.

[Li enters the scene]

(Tom) Actually, I don’t mind these trousers – and this shirt; but they don’t really look right together. Have you got anything which is the same; but different?

(Shop Assistant) Like different colours, but the same designs?

(Tom) No – I mean, haven’t you got anything that looks the same; but just looks different, somehow?

(Shop Assistant) I don’t know, mate. I only started working here eight months ago.

(Tom) Okay, but say you were going to wear a tie with them – not that I like wearing ties – but if you had to, what would be the best colour?

(Shop Assistant) Whichever, really. They’re all fine.

(Tom) Sure; but just as an example?

(Shop Assistant) Well, we have a two for one offer on ties at the moment, if it helps. Or maybe not, actually. Might’ve been last week, that, come to think of it.

(Tom) This really isn’t helping.

(Li) You need a spot colour.

(Tom) A spot colour?

(Li) The trousers are grey, and the shirt’s white – they’re both neutral tones. So you need a colour which contrasts with them.

(Tom) Why?

(Li) It brings out the qualities of the other two. Such as they are.

(Tom) But like what, exactly?

(Li) Like blue, or red. Or purple – which would suit you better. Although it looks a bit dull as a colour scheme – but to each their own.

(Tom) It is dull, isn’t it? I really don’t like men’s clothes at all.

(Li) You could always experiment with the ladies’ range.

(Shop Assistant) That’s on the other side of shop.

(Tom) I know – thanks. No – thanks. I won’t be doing that. People think I’m unusual as it is.

(Li) Anyway – it’s up to you to wear what you like.

(Tom) Do you work here? I mean – for longer than eight months?

(Li) No; I just like clothes. This is a good time of the year to find something different, and new.

(Shop Assistant) New stock’s in next week. No – might be the weekend, actually, that. I can find out, if you like?

(Li) I’ll come back next week, thanks.

[Li departs; Ben returns]

(Ben) Who was that?

(Tom) I don’t know.

(Ben) You didn’t think to ask?

(Tom) I didn’t know who she was.

(Ben) That’s generally why you ask. You don’t think maybe she would have liked you to find out?

(Tom) I doubt it.

(Ben) Maybe invite her somewhere, sometime? She was making the first move, there?

(Shop Assistant) It’s certainly possible.

(Tom) I didn’t even know who she was.

(Ben) That’s why you invite someone out. That’s the reason behind it.

(Shop Assistant) It’s right, that.

(Tom) What if they were already with someone, though?

(Shop Assistant) That’s a good point, actually.

(Ben) They could just say no. It’s not the end of the world.

(Shop assistant) True. Hadn’t thought about that.

(Tom) Would it be right to ask somebody out, when you don’t even know who they are?

(Shop Assistant) I know who she is.

(Ben) Really?

(Shop Assistant) Sure. She comes in here all the time – she writes that fashion advice column for the paper. I mean, I don’t know that much about clothes…

(Tom) Really?

(Shop Assistant) … no; but it’s worth reading all the same. Some good tips in there, actually.

(Ben) Like what?

(Shop Assistant) Like what women like, and the like. Like that.

(Tom) Like, what women like? Or, like, what they…like?

(Shop Assistant) Yes. No. Are you going to buy those, then?

(Tom) No, thank you. Yes, actually. No.

 

 

Act 1 – Scene 6 

[Friday. Jo has taken Li to the nightclub where Ben works. They sit down in a seated area; with cocktails in hand]

(Li) Maybe this isn’t the best idea.

(Jo) Why not just stay a while, at least; and see what happens?

(Li) Okay.

[The flimsy plastic cup Li is holding splits. The drink spills down the dress Li is wearing, and ice cubes scatter everywhere]

(Li) Of course that would happen.

[Li stands up, and begins to wring the dress out – but it is obviously soaked and stained. Jo clears ice cubes out of her hand bag, into a nearby bin. Li sits back down on an edge of the wet seat; legs crossed at the knee]

(Li) Can we just go, please?

(Jo) Sure – but give me a moment, here.

[Jo dabs the contents of her handbag with a tissue]

(Ben) Look.

(Tom) I know.

(Ben) So? Why not just go and talk to her?

(Tom) Why would she want me to, though? I mean she’s with someone. They look like they’re about to leave, anyway.

(Ben) Do you want to go and talk to her?

(Tom) I do, but I don’t.

(Ben) Well, then, go and say something – before she leaves.

(Tom) Okay – I will. No – no I won’t.

(Ben) You will.

(Tom) Fine – I can do this. I can. I really can.

(Ben) You can.

(Tom) I can’t. Are you sure it’s a good idea?

(Ben) For crying out loud – just go and talk to her!

(Tom) And say what?

(Ben) I don’t know. Something.

(Tom) Something?

(Ben) Something!

(Tom) Okay – something. Like what?

(Ben) Will you go. Go.

[Tom walks towards the area where Jo and Li are seated; then looks back at Ben – who ushers him on tidily]

(Tom) Hi [awkward pause]. That’s all I’ve got.

(Li) It’s enough to start with.

(Tom) I wanted to…thank you…for talking me out of buying that awful outfit the other day. In the clothes shop – the one with the clothes.

(Li) I remember it.

(Tom) Great! So…thanks.

(Li) It’s okay.

(Tom) I didn’t experiment with the women’s clothing.

(Li) There’s always next time.

(Tom) Yes. No. But I did buy a tie – although I know women wear ties; these days. Some do, at least. It was a man’s design though. I think; anyway.

(Li) Okay.

(Tom) Not that I don’t think, that you can’t…can I get you a drink? I mean – to say thanks. I have…[checks wallet] this much money. Which isn’t a lot. And the drinks cost a fortune in this place. But I know the barman – he’s okay. Usually. So it’s okay.

(Li) Maybe some other time; it would be nice.

(Tom) It’s okay. I’m…sorry.

(Li) No – I meant, maybe some other time, it would be nice.

(Tom) Not to worry.

(Li) No, really, I meant…

(Tom) I understand.

[Tom walks away]

(Li) [Voice drowned out by music] Don’t leave, please. I would like…

[Jo looks at Li disapprovingly. They both depart. Tom returns to the bar, and retakes his seat]

(Ben) So, how did it go?

(Tom) Like I expected.

(Ben) Bad as that? Impressive. Sorry, mate.

(Tom) It’s okay. Thanks.

(Ben) Can I get you a drink?

(Tom) It’s okay. Thanks.

 

 

 Act 1 – Scene 7 

[A bright Saturday morning; in Trinity square. Tom is standing amidst the front row of a small crowd. It has gathered to watch street performances; as part of a Christmas market-festival, being held outside the Minster.

One act is the Green Ginger Ensemble. It comprises a troupe of actors wearing costumes, and masks: some heroic, some grotesque; some animalistic, and some comical.

Musicians play in the background. Flutes trill. Drums beat.

Li and Jo are at the market, exploring the more esoteric clothing on sale. They notice Tom].

(Jo) Why not just go up to him? I mean, really – why not?

(Li) It wouldn’t be right.

(Jo) Why would it be wrong?

(Li) You know why.

(Jo) Find a way.

[Jo and Li approach the area where Tom is standing; and join the audience – in watching the onset of a shadow theatre production. An unseen puppeteer begins to work the strings.

The curtains part, and reveal a calm ocean.

Three fishermen board three fishing boats – and sail into the waves; on a journey to the Land of Near & Far. Their quest is to rescue a princess – confined in the palace of a sorcerous Wu.

The Wu emerges, becloaked.

The Wu takes a tear from the eyes of the princess. It pearlesces; then forms an iris, which awakens into a dragon.

From wood, its horns splinter into being. Metal sharpens into claws, and water threshes into a tail. Earth broils into its roar; and fire flares to form its breath of ice.

The Wu commands the dragon to obey; and the creature spirits its creator up to the crest of the mountain, on which the palace stands.

Perched upon the dragon’s shoulders, the Wu holds a teacup in the palm of one hand; before swirling their crooked fingers in its contents. They blow over the surface of the cup.

A tempest begins. It engulfs the ocean and the mariners.

Tidal waves rise from both sides of the sea; and scatter the boats east and west. The sky darkens – and a blizzard unfurls; turning the water into a tumult of mist and rime.

The Wu blows on their teacup again. The sea winds roar, and billow into the fishing vessels – which sink one by one; leaving the matelots stranded in the bitter depths.

The skies lull, once more. The sun glimmers; and the Wu returns to their palace.

Two mermaids emerge from the deep, and rescue the stricken men – placing one fisherman on a life raft, formed from debris; before taking the remaining sailors gently away into the fathoms with them. 

A golden phoenix descends from the sky, and lifts the lone fisherman upwards, mounted on its back; seated between its burning feathers. Together, they wing towards the Wu’s palace.

The Green Ginger actors whirl in the background – the shadow puppets twirl in the foreground. Their momentum increases as the musical tempo crescendos; faster and faster and faster.

The fisherman and phoenix alight on the roof of the palace. The princess unlocks the palatial gates from within. She mounts the Wu’s dragon steed; and the two charges wheel away against a firmament of setting sun and budding moon.

But the Wu is not finished; and uses their teacup to unleash another commotion.

Lightning flashes, and thunder cracks. Gales squall, and the sun devours the moon; then disintegrates. Emptiness fills the sky. All is subsumed in darkness, and starlight.

The fisherman and princess, on their dragon and phoenix mounts, fly through the sparkling gloom.

They encircle the Wu – who is transformed into icicles by the dragon’s breath; then engulfed in flames, from the tail-feathers of the phoenix.

The Wu convulses, and explodes into fireworks. The acting troupe burst firecrackers. The smoke of each scene clears.

The fisherman and princess have returned to the palace. They stand facing one another; their hands in each others’ hands.

The dragon and phoenix ascend into the sky, and whorl. They pattern the air with yin and yang – against a backdrop of the milky way; bridging heaven and earth.

As one, the music stops, the actors become motionless, and the shadow theater curtains close.

The audience applauds.

The actors take off their masks, and bow; then withdraw from the scene in silence. The crowd disperses; and people wander on to view other attractions, elsewhere in the festival.

Tom, Li, and Jo remain in place. After a moment passes, Jo discreetly nudges Li forward, towards Tom]

(Li) Hi.

(Tom) Hi. I’m Tom, by the way. I think I forgot to mention that yesterday; in between giving you the rest of my life story. What’s your name?

(Li) Li. Would you like to invite me out sometime?

(Tom) I would; yes.

[Awkward pause]

(Tom) Sorry – I see. Where would you like to go?

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 1

[Tom and Li are leaving a Cantonese restaurant together. They exit its door to the sound of customers talking, and dishes being scraped with cutlery; then begin walking through Trinity square.

An old Chinese man, worse for wear – and serenading the moon in his native language – is leaning on a lamp-post. He looks at Li, then addresses Tom imploringly as the pair walk past; before resuming his reverie]

(Tom) What did the message in your fortune cookie say?

(Li) “All that glisters is not gold”.

(Tom) Can’t argue with that – I suppose. Where is it you’re from?

(Li) Here.

(Tom) You know what I mean.

(Li) My parents came from Hong Kong. They had to leave when things changed [Li is wearing a necklace; and points to its crucifix pendant]. They’ve not returned, since.

(Tom) Have they wanted to?

(Li) Sometimes. They’ve never felt quite at home, here; somehow.

(Tom) Do they miss living there?

(Li) Not the country, so much – but the people: their friends. Neighbours. Family. They miss those.

(Tom) They haven’t found it the same here?

(Li) Not quite. Some people are friendly; but some…maybe not so much. Plus, they can’t speak English very well – my mother, especially. It isn’t always so easy for them to fit in. Things can be difficult, sometimes.

[A full moon is in the night sky. The Minster bells peal for midnight; and snow begins falling. Tom puts his overcoat around Li’s shoulders.

The snowfall continues – descending onto the city: onto the square, the surrounding streets; and the people walking through them. The lamp lights glisten. The world turns silver, and quiet].

(Tom) Do you speak Chinese?

(Li) Some.

(Tom) What was the man we saw earlier saying?

(Li) If England want to prosper, they need a more creative midfielder.

(Tom) That’s very true.

(Li) It’s very late.

(Tom) It is. I live not far from here – would you like to come home with me?

(Li) No, thank you. It wouldn’t be right.

(Tom) I’m sorry – I hadn’t meant to be forward.

(Li) It’s not like that – it would just…

(Tom) It’s okay. You don’t need to explain. I can still walk you home.

(Li) No, please – thanks. It’s only around the corner anyway. It’s….

(Tom) It’s okay.

[Li hands Tom his coat back, and departs. The snow gives way to rain; and sleet begins to mire in the gutters. The lamp lights flicker. The square and its surrounding streets grow empty. Tom is left standing alone]

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 2

[It is early morning; before dawn. Tom and Ben are seated in a café – with only the staff for company]

(Tom) I said the wrong thing, didn’t I?

(Ben) Maybe. It might be that she’s just more…traditional about all of this. You need the blessing of her parents beforehand – that type of thing.

(Tom) Perhaps she just doesn’t like me that way? I didn’t expect that she would, really. I can live with that – it’s okay; I just hoped that she did.

(Ben) Maybe she knows.

(Tom) Knows?

(Ben) You know.

(Tom) I haven’t said anything, though.

(Ben) Women notice the small things. Whether you want them to or not. Maybe that’s the problem – she’s twigged; and thinks you’re not being honest with her.

(Tom) Twigged? How?

(Ben) Intuition.

(Tom) Really? Intuition?

(Ben) Sure! Like when our lass sussed I was beginning to have a problem with drink – well before I even suspected.

(Tom) That was because you kept going home drunk, from work.

(Ben) True; but still. Women pick up on these things.

(Tom) You think it would be a problem, if she does know?

(Ben) Well, again, maybe she’s just old-fashioned.

(Tom) She doesn’t seem that way.

(Ben) Or her parents are. Some folk are a bit behind the times – it’s not their fault. It’s just their upbringing.

(Tom) Maybe.

(Ben) You can’t change someone.

(Tom) Well, no; but someone can change – if they just look at things differently.

[Ben looks at Tom]

(Ben) Go for it, then. What have you got to lose?

(Tom) Aside from dignity, the respect of my peers; and her?

(Ben) How many of those do you currently have?

(Tom) Fair point.

(Ben) Look, if it’s not to be, it’s not to be. It sucks – but you can’t change what you can’t change.

(Café assistant) Here’s your change.

(Tom) Thanks – you keep it, actually. As a tip.

(Café assistant) Sure? It’s three pounds.

(Tom) How much? Nevermind – it’s okay.

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 3

[The same morning; the same time. Li is seated opposite Jo, in a crowded and noisy café]

(Li) I think he knows.

(Jo) I’m sure he does. I mean, he’s a man; but I’m sure he’s figured it out, all the same.

(Li) Do you think he would care, if he doesn’t know?

(Jo) I suppose – but do you think he wouldn’t know, if he cared?

(Li) I guess. Do you think he doesn’t know?

(Jo) I don’t know. Do you think…?

(Café Customer 1) [Looking up from newspaper] Would you girls not shut up?

(Jo) We’re not girls; we’re women. So why don’t you shut up?

(Li) Please, Jo.

(Café Customer 1) No – you shut up!

(Café owner) Hey – don’t talk to the women that way, you.

(Café Customer 1) Shut up.

(Café owner) No, it’s my rez – you shut up.

(Li) Please – let’s just go.

(Café Customer 2) Why don’t you all shut up?

(Café Customer 3) Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up!

(Café Customer 1) You shut up.

(Café owner) I can’t believe you don’t shut up.

(Café Customer 4) Shut up you.

(Café Customer 1) You shut up.

(Café owner) Shut up, all of you!

[Li and Jo both depart]

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 4

[It is mid-afternoon. Li and Maeve are both in a small office – seated at computers; with their backs turned to each other.

Outside, the sun is shining brightly; as can be seen through the window behind them. The room is noiseless save for the sounds of a radio, and typing.

The computers’ internet-connection crashes. Both Li and Maeve mutter their frustration at the same time; each saying “honestly”.

They turn around on their chairs, to face one other; and sit in silence for a moment]

(Li) Maeve. Are you going to the Christmas party?

(Maeve) No; no.

(Li) You have other plans?

(Maeve) No.

[There is a pause. Li looks at Maeve’s grey/brown hair, and grey/brown outfit]

(Li) Have you thought about dressing with more colour, Maeve? It would make a world of difference.

(Maeve) Wouldn’t know where to start!

(Li) Well – you have green eyes. Red would bring their hue out. So would yellow. Orange would work.

(Maeve) [Shakes head]

(Li) You could try something subtle, like jade – as a complimentary shade. It would look quite striking.

(Maeve) No – no. I don’t have anything like that, anyway.

(Li) Your figure’s not too different to mine – I have some things you can borrow, if you’d like.

(Maeve) No; thank you. I appreciate the thought; but there isn’t a point, really. I haven’t quite got your…I’m not so young, these days [Maeve gestures towards her greying hair].

(Li) You can always change that. There’s a whole rainbow to choose from, there.

(Maeve) [Hushed] It is dyed. [Unhushed] You can’t conceal your roots forever, though.

(Li) No; I suppose not. Here.

[Li takes off a mandarin-coloured silk neck scarf, which has an inlaid golden Chinese pattern; and gives it to Maeve, tying it on for her].

(Li) Silver hair makes a woman look handsome, Maeve. I think the style could do with being updated a bit, though.

(Maeve) A bit?

(Li) A bit.

(Maeve) Would you like a cup of tea?

(Li) Yes; please.

(Maeve) Will you come with me?

(Li) To get the tea?

(Maeve) No – to a salon!

(Li) Of course.

(Maeve) Ta.

(Li) It’s okay.

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 5

[It is dusk. A stall, manned by a female vendor, is selling a variety of cooked Chinese foods in Trinity square; as part of the Christmas market.

Tom is looking at the menu. Li approaches from behind him, without his notice].

(Vendor) What can I get you?

(Tom) I’m a bit lost, to be honest. What would you recommend?

(Li) You could try the chǎolìzi.

[Tom turns around]

(Tom) That sounds a bit…exotic. What is it?

(Li) Chestnuts.

(Tom) Right. Okay.

(Li) Would you like it if I came around for dinner?

(Tom) I would; yes.

[Awkward pause]

(Vendor) She wants you to invite her.

(Tom) [To the vendor] I know – thanks. [To Li] Do you want me to invite you? I mean, as before?

(Li) You just have to give me a day; and a time.

(Tom) Yes. Of course. When did you want me to invite you around?

(Li) Tomorrow night will be fine.

(Tom) Okay. So, that’s when you want to come around? Not when you want me to make the invitation?

(Li) Tomorrow night at seven would be fine.

(Tom) Great. What would you like me to make for dinner?

(Li) Anything will be fine; I’m sure.

(Tom) Anything, specifically?

(Li) Really – anything will be fine.

(Tom) But just as a sort of general idea…?

(Vendor) Chestnuts?

(Tom) Chest…no.

(Li) If you could make five-colour rice, that would be fine.

(Tom) I think the word ‘if’ is doing a lot of work in that sentence. But okay.

(Li) Okay.

(Tom) Okay. Unless there’s anything else that you’d prefer? Like soup?

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 6

[Tom’s flat – ornamented with Christmas decorations; including a small tree, adorned with dried fruits. It is late Sunday evening.

Li is wearing a Cheongsam, and a silver serpent hairpin. Tom and Li are both washing their dishes, after dinner]

(Tom) I think I know why you were upset the other night; outside the church.

(Li) I wasn’t upset. It just became a bit awkward – I’m sorry.

(Tom) There’s nothing to apologise for.

(Li) I should explain.

(Tom) Really – it’s okay. I know. I mean, I know people can see these things different ways.

(Li) You know?

(Tom) Sure. And people can find it difficult to accept, sometimes. It can be awkward – even, say, with parents who want the best for you. Maybe especially with them.

(Li) They don’t always find it easy when some things change.

(Tom) No. It can be hard for them to adjust.

(Li) But it’s not something that you find unusual?

(Tom) Well, I suppose I did, a bit – when I was younger. It’s not exactly what you’re used to.

(Li) No. I guess.

(Tom) But it doesn’t change who you are, or anything. Well, it does – but, it doesn’t.

(Li) You can’t help growing up a certain way.

(Tom) Exactly. And everyone’s upbringing is different; so, things can get a bit…complicated, sometimes.

(Li) Some things you can change; and some things you can’t.

(Tom) Right – you are as you are. It can make matters less than straightforward, though – between people; I know.

(Li) How long have you known?

(Tom) Maybe not always; but, of course, I did eventually realise – and then it seemed obvious, all along. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It really doesn’t.

(Li) You don’t think it’s so strange, now?

(Tom) No, no. Not at all, anymore. Besides – I think if you care about someone, then you like them regardless, anyway.

(Li) I agree. It’s not something that has to come between people.

(Tom) No; of course. People always have plenty in common. Underneath. Everyone’s different, but they’re still…the…same. You know what I mean.

(Li) I do! Would you like me to make some tea?

(Tom) How is tea made in China?

(Li) With a kettle.

(Tom) You know what I mean!

(Li) There are different ceremonies. Sometimes it’s made to show respect, or gratitude; or to apologise, and seek forgiveness.

(Tom) Other times?

(Li) To revive relations, within families; when people have grown apart. Or to create a new bond between one person and another.

(Tom) Okay; so how would we do that?

(Li) One person fills a cup halfway with water – and the other person pours the second half in.

[They each pour water into the same cup]

(Tom) Not usually in an octopus mug, though?

(Li) It serves the purpose.

[The teacup falls from Li’s grasp, onto the floor. It breaks; and the liquid is strewn]

(Li) Sorry.

(Tom) It’s okay – I can clear that up later. Actually, I’ll sort it now. Actually no – it can wait. It really can. I’ll clean it up.

(Li) Where’s your bedroom?

(Tom) It can wait.

(Li) Are you sure?

(Tom) No. Sorry.

(Li) It’s okay.

 

 

Act 2 – Scene 7

[Tom’s bedroom. The curtains are open. The room is lit only by moonlight.

Tom and Li are kneeling opposite one another, on the bed – atop its scarlet sheets. 

Tom removes Li’s hairpin. Li kisses Tom, and leaves a trace of lipstick on his mouth.

Tom undresses.

Li undresses – placing the clothes to one side. 

It becomes clear that Li has a male body.

There is an awkward moment, before both people speak simultaneously]

(Li) I’m sorry – I thought…

(Tom) I’m sorry – I thought…

[Li walks out of the bedroom, with the clothes]

(Tom) Bugger. Bugger!

[Li walks toward the flat’s front door. Tom emerges from his bedroom doorway, holding Li’s hairpin]

(Tom) Don’t leave.

[Li stops still, and then turns around to face Tom – the dress, and a lace negligee, clenched in hand]

(Tom) Please. I would like it if you spent the night with me. We don’t have to do anything, if you don’t want to. You could just be my guest for the evening.

(Li) You want me to stay?

(Tom) I have some pyjamas you can wear. They’d look better on you than they do on me, anyway.

(Li) You don’t think I’m…unusual?

(Tom) That’s not what I think, at all. Not in a bad way, at least.

(Li) But when I took my clothes off…you…

(Tom) It just…wasn’t what I was expecting. But it’s okay. It doesn’t change anything.

(Li) I don’t understand. You thought I was…female; but you don’t have a problem with me being…?

(Tom) You don’t know?

[Li looks lost]

(Tom) I’m bisexual. I thought you had twigged…I mean, I thought you knew.

[Li shakes head]

(Tom) I wanted to say something – but it’s not so easy to find the right moment.

(Li) No.

(Tom) Plus, it’s put some women off in the past. Not only women – but…

(Li) It’s okay.

(Tom) I was hoping you’d like to be my girlfriend – if that’s the right word.

(Li) I would like that. It’s what I want.

(Tom) Is ‘girlfriend’ the correct term?

(Li) I don’t know. If it’s not, then what is?

(Tom) I don’t know. What do you want to be?

 

[Ends]

 

 

If you would like a soundtrack for an imaginary film version of this play (because, why not?) – or if you’d just like to read it anew, and have something to listen to:

 

Captain – Keep An Open Mind
(Act 1 – Scene 1: opening)

Altered Images – Don’t Talk To Me About Love
(Act 1 – Scene 1: playing on the kitchen radio in Tom’s flat, as his mother opens the door)

Lloyd & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
(Act 1 – Scene 2: playing on the printer-repairmen’s boombox)

Skunk Anansie – Hotel TV
(Act 1 – Scene 3: the music playing in the nightclub as Tom is talking to Ben)

My Bloody Valentine – Soon
(Act 1 – Scene 3: the music which drowns out Ben’s words)

Camera Obscura – Troublemaker
(Act 1 – Scene 4: playing on the café’s jukebox, as Li is talking to Jo)

Red Snapper – The Rake
(Act 1 – Scene 5: playing on the clothes shop’s PA, as Tom and Ben enter the building)

XTC – Love At First Sight
(Act 1 – Scene 5: playing on the clothes shop’s PA, when Li enters the scene)

Darling Buds – So Close
(Act 1 – Scene 6: the music playing in the nightclub, when Ben and Tom notice Li and Jo)

Pretenders – Message Of Love
(Act 1 – Scene 6: playing when Tom walks up and talks to Li)

Vashti Bunyan –  Winter Is Blue
(Act 1 – Scene 7: being played by a group of folk musicians at the Christmas festival)

Siouxie And The Banshees – Spellbound
(Act 1 – Scene 7: musical accompaniment to the shadow theatre/masked actors performance. Imagine the tune being played on traditional Chinese instruments, if you will)

Kitchens Of Distinction – Mad As Snow
(Act 2 – Scene 1: as Li and Tom are walking through Trinity square)

Patrick Fitzgerald – What Is Fruit?
(Act 2 – Scene 2: playing on the café radio, as Ben is talking with Tom)

The Sundays – Your Eyes
(Act 2 – Scene 3: playing on the café radio, as Li is talking to Jo)

The Cure – Close To Me
(Act 2 – Scene 4: playing on the office radio, when Li and Maeve are talking together)

The Shop Assistants – Somewhere In China
(Act 2 – Scene 5: playing on the vendor’s stereo, at the chestnut stall)

Lush – Thoughtforms
(Act 2 – Scene 6: playing on the radio in Tom’s kitchen, while Tom and Li are washing dishes/making tea)

Cranberries – Linger
(Act 2 – Scene 7: bedroom scene and ending)

You can, of course, compile your own songlist – as you wish

 

 

 

*

For my friends

*

(And everyone else as well, obviously)

*

Goodbye, Bonnie – AKA Confused Dog

 

Goodbye to my lovely and wonderful friend:

Why won’t Jeremy Corbyn simply stop Brexit? It defies reason.

It really is a mystery why Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t simply give the word, and instantly reverse Brexit. It’s not as if the task could be any easier.

All he needs to do is moan about it a bit: tut now and then, while giving a roll of the eyes – say it’s a bad idea, and all that. Then everyone will live happily ever after.

For proof – look no further than the barnstorming success of the Liberal Democrats in this very venture; after they adopted a Remain or Die approach to electioneering – and promptly reaped the dividends.

In the General Election of 2015, the Lib Dems faltered to a measly 7.9% of the vote.

But in the contest of 2017, they romped home to an incredible 7.4% of the vote.

If only Corbyn firmed-up his plans in like manner, and stopped putting principle before power (or power before principle, I can’t remember which one applies now) then he might enjoy the same enviable record.

And let us not forget that this is all his doing in the first place.

True, the Conservative Party decided to conduct the referendum. While their ministers campaigned for Brexit; and virtually the entire press kept saying European migration was a terrible, uncontrollable menace – even though they knew it wasn’t true.

But if Corbyn had only rated the EU 7.6/10, instead of 7.5/10, then the United Kingdom would still be in the EU. Admittedly, it still is in the EU – but this is beside the point.

It may very well be the case that the Tories bought a Parliamentary majority – ensuring they would have more votes than all of their opponents combined; so any policies they pursue cannot be defeated by opposition MPs.

But that is a pretty basic impossibility to defy.

Yet does Corbyn make the effort to invert mathematics? I think we all know the answer there.

What’s more, he perversely refuses to support a second referendum – even after the first one went so well; meaning that a sequel would be more than welcome.

In sum: Jeremy Corbyn clearly owes us all a big apology.

For shame.