Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tempted by tube chat? Here are my top tips to avoid getting sucked in.


The decision by Transport for London to encourage people to talk to each other on the tube has met with understandable derision from citizens of the Smoke.

The first rule of the UK capital - and the very glue that holds together its social fabric - is that no one makes conversation. Or eye contact preferably.

If you are feeling remotely tempted to wear one of the new badges that signals your willingness to engage in idle banter ('Baby, I'm Bored'), here are some suggestions to help suppress your urges. It's a process a Hampstead psychotherapist would call sublimation and it can come in very useful.

1.
Isn't there another level of Candy Crush you could aim for?

2.
If that's not your type of crush, go back and and re-read Rush Hour Crush in the Metro.

3.
See if you can find a mouse on the platform or tracks. Hold a conversation with them instead.

4.
Ostentatiously do your make-up - a process which can often last quite happily from Theydon Bois to Liverpool Street.

5.
Recite to yourself all the stops on the District Line between Turnham Green and Plaistow.

6.
Practise making general announcements to the carriage about the train being held in the station to regulate the service.

7.
Dial one of your Skype contacts at random using the subterranean wifi network and explain that no one in the carriage is interested in talking to you.

8.
Close your eyes and indulge in a little meditation. We'll wake you up at Morden.

9.
Take physical exercise by swinging on the straps and handrails in the carriage. People will ignore you and carry on playing Candy Crush.

10.
Pull the emergency cord and talk to the British Transport Police at the next stop.

If all else fails, get yourself as far North as possible. Talking there is perfectly acceptable. But I'm talking way beyond Colindale.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Saint Jeremy? We may have to wait a while yet.


Mother Teresa of Calcutta is in the news at the moment, as she’s been elevated by the Vatican to sainthood.

I admit that I’m not fully up to speed with the criteria for canonisation, so I’ve visited the Saints for Dummies web page to check whether Jeremy Corbyn also qualifies. (It’s written by a couple of priests, so it must be kosher.)

My mission has been prompted by the way in which some of Jez’s loyal supporters talk about him online.

Take this example, for instance, of someone writing to the bizarre Corbynista blog Vox Political and comparing the Islington North MP to the author J K Rowling. The Harry Potter author is noted as having the ‘Judas Trait’ about her, which stands in stark contrast to the Labour Leader. 

The correspondent notes that Mr Corbyn is a man ‘who did not let fame go to his head and instead, rather than paying lip service to human suffering, was actually willing to do something to alleviate it’.

It’s certainly a touching portrait of an individual prepared to go the extra mile. To me, it has a saintly quality about it, as God knows I wouldn’t be able to aspire to these standards.

But is it enough for actual, proper canonisation? That’s a whole other question and we’ll come back to it in just a bit.

First, I want travel to Ramsgate in Kent, a place where Jez has apparently just received a rapturous welcome.

Very confusing. 

Was it ram-packed, like traingate? Or was it... err... just Ramsgate?

Anyway, the rally was advertised under the visionary slogan, ‘Another Thanet is possible’. And as the veteran socialist has lived on another Thanet for the past 40 years, that seemed strangely appropriate.

Commenting on the event, one of Jez’s fans on Facebook described him as ‘inspirational’ and she also told us that the sun came out while he spoke.  I wasn’t sure whether there might be some causal connection between the two phenomena. If so, it’s the kind of thing that I reckon a Papal team of enquiry might take into account.

And what about musical tributes? My thinking is that before you become a saint, you’d have people singing your praises. Literally.

There’s plenty of evidence that people do feel strongly enough about Jeremy to burst into song. Some are worthy individual efforts.

In the spirit of communality and camaraderie engendered by Jez, however, the Unison branch of Barnet in north London has created a touching collective foot-tapper– presumably with the blessing of The Specials. 

But enough of my homespun speculation. I am no theologian, after all.

Rev John Tregilio Jr and Rev Kenneth Brighenti are the experts. And they tell us that the first thing to bear in mind, when considering whether someone is eligible for sainthood, is that they don’t have to be ‘sinless’. That’s impossible apparently.

Good news for Jez, as it means that all that stuff about the IRA and Hamas and Hezbollah and so on can be set to one side.

Corbyn is also on strong ground – judging by the testimony of his supporters – for another of the Reverend Fathers’ criteria: ‘evidence of having led an exemplary life of goodness and virtue worthy of imitation’.  Things are looking up.

Here’s an interesting one. You can be considered for sainthood if you have ‘undergone a major conversion of heart where a previous immoral life is abandoned and replaced by one of outstanding holiness’. 

Hmm.  Well, Jez did have a major change of heart on the EU.

He supported it 0 out of 10 in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. But he’d got up to 7 out of 10 during the 2016 Brexit referendum. Does that count?

Fundamentally, however, it seems to come down to miracles. You need a couple of them.

His victory in the 2015 Labour leadership contest was obviously the first, which qualifies him for potential beatification.  He needs another though.  

If he performed the same trick twice, would that be seen as cheating?

Regrettably, we are confronted with what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.

The miracles are judged post-mortem.

In other words, it’s simply not possible to be elevated to sainthood while you’re still alive and kicking. The fact that your political philosophy may have died in, say, 1986 doesn’t count. You have to physically brown bread yourself.

So those who hope for Saint Jeremy to be recognised may have to wait until long after his second term in office, which would finish in 2030. Then, at the age of 81, he’d possibly have another 15 years of blissful retirement on his allotment, while John McDonnell took over.

No calls to the Vatican until, say, 2045.