As a child my grandparents introduced me to the ‘Carry On…’ series of films. From an early age I was as scared by the totally non-scary Oddjob in ‘Carry on Screaming’ as I was amused by Barbara Windsor losing her bra during exercises in ‘Carry on Camping’. Even today, I still laugh at the double entendres and puerile humour of Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams et al.
I was both interested and pleased to see a feature in the Birmingham Post last year that asked people to send in their ‘alternative’ English cultural icons. Alongside 1970s football hooliganism and Raleigh Chopper bikes were the ‘Carry On’ series of films.
Then in a separate poll for the BBC, Kenneth Williams’ “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me” line from ‘Carry on Cleo’ came out as the nation’s favourite comedy one-liner. It obviously wasn’t just me that held the ‘Carry On’ films so dear.
This weekend marks the 19th anniversary of my relocation to the West Midlands: first arriving in Stourbridge on the first weekend of January 1990.
How things have changed..!!??
Since 1990 I’ve had three children, got married (and subsequently divorced), had various jobs (from working in a UCI Cinema through stockbroking for Charles Schwab to co-authoring a report for the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia), completed a degree at the University of Wolverhampton followed by the successful completion of my PhD at the University of Birmingham. Between these I’ve had many trials and tribulations that are not the sort of thing that need to be repeated here…!!!
But two things that haven’t changed: the first that I still identify myself as a Londoner (more precisely, as someone from Bermondsey); the second, that I haven’t lost my (strong) Cockney accent.
Why is this…?
If ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was born on Christmas Day, then if the scientists and astronomers are right, it is likely that this will have been on June 17th rather than the 25th December that most of us associate with it. As The Daily Telegraph explained:
…researchers claim the ‘Christmas star’ was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single “beacon of light” which appeared suddenly.
If the team is correct, it would mean Jesus was a Gemini, not a Capricorn as previously believed.
Australian astronomer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago.
It revealed a spectacular astronomical event around the time of Jesus’s birth.
This month’s chunk of Birmingham Post lite…due for publication on Thursday 11th December 2008. Inspired by previous posts under the ’12 Posts of Xmas’ series:
“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…”. Whilst Band Aid’s superstars may have sung those words in an attempt to reassure, I increasingly find myself far from reassured at Christmas.
Every Christmas I’m always a little afraid of what the festive season might bring. Beyond the normal horrors of manic Christmas shopping, visiting relatives and unwanted presents (given and received), there are the now annual news stories of Christmas, Jesus and almost everything else being banned under the tabloid slogan of ‘political correctness gone mad’…!!!
This year though I found myself reading newspaper articles about research undertaken by the think-tank Theos about how much Britons know of the Christmas story. Overall, only 12% have a detailed knowledge of the nativity story. Having said that, certain parts are better known than others with 73% knowing about the appearance of an angel to Mary, the same being able to name Jesus’ birthplace.
Beginning earlier each year – this year it officially began on July 27th when I saw my first Christmas card for sale in a shop – the rampant commercialism of Christmas is such that if we are unable to get the latest Playstation/ Wii/ X-Box (delete as applicable) we will be officially deemed ‘bad parents’ by one and all by the morning of Boxing Day. Our consumer tendencies don’t even get a rest on Christmas Day itself either. Last year, whilst 2.8 million people attended a Church of England service, 3.7 million logged onto the web to spend more than £52 million in the ‘January’ sales. Maybe they were all looking for the Playstations, Wiis and X-Boxes they couldn’t find beforehand. All pretty depressing.
This month’s chunk of Birmingham Post-lite (published 13th November 2008).
I celebrated the end of the Dubya era by watching a special screening of Oliver Stone’s, “W”. Stone could have easily pilloried George W., yet he prefers to present an image of the 43rd US President that is both amusing and frightening: someone whose qualities, character and life you’d dismiss were it not something that we had all lived through. Angry, aggressive and overly envious – as equally uncultured, boorish and coarse, natch – “W” presents a driven and extremely patriotic man who not only wanted to exorcise his own demons but those of his father also.
With Dubya’s demise, came the euphoria of Barack Obama’s overwhelming victory. Feeling much the same as I did in 1997 when Labour came to victory with an equally impressive victory, I hoped that the same sense of disappointment I feel now about Labour does not mirror how I’ll feel a decade on. Mr O, please take note.
Some of those feeling the greatest hope at Obama’s win have been African-Americans. Their expectation was most eloquently voiced by the rapper Jay-Z: ‘Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Continue reading