“Bring me Mary Bale’s head on a plate!”

28 08 2010

If I receive one more Facebook message about giving money to the RSPCA to support Lola the cat, or putting Mary Bale in a box and chucking her into the ocean, I think I will give up on this world and throw myself in a wheelie bin!

I imagine you’ve heard about this ‘vile grey-haired cat hater’ from Coventry. If not, go ahead and watch the video. The lady has become an overnight international hate figure, and I have received countless links on Facebook asking me to petition for her arrest and donate money to the RSPCA.

A couple of thoughts:

First: When someone sends me a link to a video of a slightly deranged pensioner hurling a cat into a bin, and I see that 43,000 people like it, I don’t know what to make of that!

  • Is that 43,000 people who like and support the (presumably tongue in cheek?!) calls for her death?
  • 43,000 people who like what she did and support her cause?
  • 43,000 people who like the RSPCA and have donated to them on the back of this news item?
  • 43,000 people who just found it funny and couldn’t care an iota about the moral issue?

There’s just something infuriating about seeing so many people expressing their inflammatory, hyperbole-laden opinions with no sense of accountability or follow up. It winds me up. If Facebook has become the ‘agora’ of our day; where people gather to debate the intricacies of serious ethical issues, God help us all!

Second: Let’s keep this in perspective. Mary Bale is not worse than Hitler. And don’t let any of my Jewish friends see that ridiculously insensitive name for a Facebook group. I can just about stomach calling her the Purrminator. That made me smirk a little (before feeling guilty at being amused by such a ridiculous pun).

Consider this:

  • On that same day, approximately 548 human foetuses were discarded in the UK. They didn’t get have the good fortune of being rescued when a passer by heard a faint whimpering.
  • On that same day, approximately 464 people slept on the streets in England. How many more have to eat out of bins on any given day because they can’t afford to feed themselves?
  • The RSPCA gets roughly £115million of donations each year and is one of the richest charities in the UK
  • Shelter receives £24.5m of voluntary donations a year
  • In the same week in Vancouver a homeless man fell asleep in a bin, which was then picked up by a rubbish truck. The man was about to be crushed in the compacter when a bystander heard his screams and alerted the driver. He survived, but with broken bones, and still no home to return to.

I’m not anti-pets. I’m not anti the RSPCA. If this serves to up the awareness of animal cruelty, fine. If people want to give their money to animal-related charities rather than human ones, well I prefer that to a complete lack of charity! I don’t agree with causing animals pain. But please… some perspective.

(And if you dare to click that you ‘like’ this post, you’d jolly well better qualify that!)

Rare Steak and Reformed Theology

18 08 2010

Today I’ve begun reading Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. We’re told not to judge books by their covers (which is good advice when a cover is as nasty as this one!) but how about the first page? Can we judge it by that?

The initial quote at the very beginning of the editor’s preface gives me a good sense of where we’re heading:

‘The persuasion that the whole of a man’s life is to be lived as in the divine Presence has become the fundamental thought of Calvinism. By this decisive idea, or rather by this mighty fact, it has allowed itself to be controlled in every department of its entire domain. It is from this mother-thought that the all-embracing life system of Calvinism sprang.’

This book is going to be like a rare bloody steak! That quote alone is dense and oozing life-blood. It cannot be swallowed quickly but must be chewed slowly. It takes effort, but tastes good. It needs to be savoured.

I’m excited about getting into this book, but sense it’s going to take a lot of thought and re-reading of sentences.

There are times for a good steak dinner, and times for soft fast food. When you sit down to eat you’ve just got to know which you’re about to be served, and choose your knife accordingly.

Kuyper is the former, and a Sabatier is most definitely in order…

Wash your mouth out with soap!

11 07 2010

I know the nature of blogging is that it tends to be fairly one way – author to audience. So forgive me for contravening the norm, but I’d like to ask you a few questions!

I’ve recently been pondering the problem of profanity in art. As an artist and a Christian (who is personally convinced that swearing is an unhelpful and unhealthy practice for a believer!) I’ve been wondering about where to draw the line with regard to what I would be willing to say for the sake of my art.

My thoughts are myriad. For the moment I’m giving nothing of my position away… But I wonder if I can ask you a few questions and get some alternative perspectives before I try to put my ponderings into words.

A few preliminary comments, and then the questions:


  • I’m after your opinions and gut reactions, but if you can back them up with experience and Scripture all the better
  • I’m primarily an actor and a playwright, but am happy to hear from people who engage in other disciplines.
  • I am mainly thinking of secular work. I am not imagining an F-Bomb in a kids’ nativity service!!
  • I am here concerned mostly with profanity, but there are of course inter-related subjects: nudity, violence, immorality of all sorts… Feel free to comment on those if you wish
  • When you comment, do let me know if you would rather I didn’t make your comments public
  • If you are going to include swear words in your comments, for illustrative purposes, please star out the middle letters


  • Is it ever ok for a Christian actor to swear?
  • Is it any worse for a Christian writer to swear than an actor, since he is then causing others to swear?
  • Are there some swear words that are more permissible than others? How can a performer/writer know where to draw the line?
  • How about blasphemy? Are there any circumstances under which it would be ok for a Christian to blaspheme whilst in character?
  • If you are in a play where others swear (even if you don’t have to) does your involvement condone their language? Are you guilty by association?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!!

The Language of Lateness

29 06 2010

Jenny is Late

Katie is Late

Shareen is Late

I am sick and tired of seeing these ladies’ lifestories depicted on billboards as I ride the escalators at the underground station day in, day out. For one, I don’t even know if they’re real. But here’s my big gripe:

They’re not late – they’re pregnant!

I have strong opinions on abortion. But laying those aside for the moment, forgetting the science, the ethics, the psychological effects of the procedure, and focusing purely on the marketing strategy behind those adverts – when I see those posters it makes me sick.

It’s the rhetoric that does it. The choice of words. How dare they take a highly complex, intricate, dare I say ‘miraculous’ biological process like ‘life’ and reduce it to an inane, everyday, pedestrian term like ‘late.’ Sure; they’re both monosyllabic, four letter L-words, but one connotes mystery – the other, the mundane.

Wordsmiths and rhetoricians need to understand better the power of their words. One word, but with so much latent potential. The pen truly is mightier than both the sword and syringe. As soon as you say ‘late’ you evoke feelings of negativity, frustration, personal inconvenience. Are they good grounds for termination?

I’m not saying that everybody who undergoes abortion does so out of such trivial motivations, and I don’t want to make light of the people who go through the agonising decision process under extreme circumstances. But tell me, how would those hypothetical, stock examples that are constantly thrown at pro-lifers, feel about having their traumatic circumstances described in such pedestrian terms?

Lynda was raped by a complete stranger, without any provocation. She is deeply traumatised and is undergoing extensive counselling. She feels that the child will be a constant reminder of her deeply upsetting experience.

Anna has being trying to conceive for many years. After finally succeeding, she has now discovered that her pregnancy poses a serious threat to her life. If she were to continue, she would face a high chance of dying in childbirth, and would likely lose the child also.

These, and other such examples, are regularly cited to show the apparent ‘inhumanity’ of pro-lifers, who would, presumably, argue that Lynda and Anna should not go through the abortion process. Lynda and Anna have endured awful experiences and need comfort, support, counselling, guidance, genuine love, acceptance, and impartial advice. They are both victims; one of an evil crime, and one of a twist of genetics. Or as Marie Stopes would put it – they are ‘late.’

I’m just saying, irrespective of your moral stance, it’s a totally inappropriate word to describe this life-changing experience! It justifies the trivial, and trivialises the painful. How many lives will be ruined, and children aborted because someone decided ‘late’ was a more acceptable term to describe the early stages of pregnancy? I plead for some common sense – for people to see through the rhetoric, and for the advertising companies to take responsibility for the power they wield.

And if the escalator ever grinds to a halt and I find myself with a sharpie to hand, I may dabble in a little rhetoric of my own:

Jenny has been inconvenienced, and has better things to do with her life

Katie never stopped to wonder if the loser she was sleeping with would stick around to raise a child

Shareen is in need of love, support and guidance