Thursday, 20 November 2008

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross

I was amused to see that OFCOM's web site, complaints section, is still sporting a notice to the effect that it has had over 1900 complaints about the Jonathan Ross & Russell Brand phone calls fiasco and implying that enough is enough. I would be fascinated to know how many of those now voicing their righteous indignation actually heard the offending (pun intended) broadcast.

I must confess that I didn't. However I did take the trouble to look up transcripts on the Internet before arriving at an opinion - unlike the lady who phoned my local radio station. After a tirade telling us how offensive, disgusting and un-funny Russell Brand was, she then admitted that she never actually listened to him - apparently changing the channel whenever he came on, because he was so offensive etc. I have a nasty feeling this is not atypical of the multitude champing at the bit to condemn Ross and Brand, preaching to anyone who'll listen about the "filth" they've heard about but not actually heard. There's nothing like a good bit of righteous indignation to clear out the sinuses and generally allow you to vent your disatisfaction with the world.

My first impression from the transcripts was that it was Ross who started it. I feel a bit sorry for Russell Brand. He's not the first epicene youth to be led astray by an older man and certainly won't be the last. OK, he went along with it but once banter like that gets going it's much harder to stop than it would have been not to start it in the first place.

Did they go too far? Quite possibly, but not so far OTT as to merit the furore now raging. It wasn't a huge amount more than you'd expect from two broadcasters at the forefront of the modern "shock to amuse" school of comedy. A little ill considered, perhaps. About the most intelligent comment I've seen from the hordes of critics is the rhetorical question "how would you feel if Russell Brand claimed, publicly, to have had sex with your granddaughter?" I'm assuming here it was the claim, rather than the sex, which was public.

It's a good question and worthy of consideration, so consider it I did. I don't actually have a granddaughter but I do have a daughter which is a similar sort of concept. My first reaction would, I think, be silly girl. You can't associate with the likes of Russell Brand unless you're prepared to end up under public scrutiny. My second reaction would be wow - look at all that publicity. How can I capitalise on that? I don't think taking deep offense would come very high on my list of priorities but then everyone's different.

Talking of publicity, hands up anyone who had actually heard of the Satanic Sluts before this scandal broke. No? I thought as much. Do you think their ticket sales are up or down as a result of this row? I rest my case.

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

With the imminent arrival of 5th November I thought it was about time for an educational account of what this bonfire night shenanigans was really all about. Read on for a humerous, but historically accurate, account of some goings on in 1605 - all in verse.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.

Copyright © Keith Sheppard, 1996

My story begins quite a long time ago
In the springtime of sixteen-oh-five.
When some angry young men vowed the king had to go,
They could no longer bear him alive.
The reason that tempers were running so hot
Amongst some of King James’ minions
Was that he and a few of his subjects had got
Wildly different religious opinions.
The king was a protestant man through and through,
And he drove all the catholics mad,
For his treatment of such folk, between me and you,
Was really a little bit bad.
The leading dissenter was one Robert Catesby.
His friends gathered round him and cried:
'We agree James must go, so how long must the wait be?'
Mr Catesby stood up and replied...
'Oh please do remember the fifth of November,'
'For that's when the evil King James'
'With his parliament sits. We shall blow them to bits.'
'We shall send the whole lot up in flames.'
'It's a gem of a plan, but there's danger, that's why'
'It's essential that nobody talks.'
'And a gunpowder expert is needed, so I'
'Have recruited some guy they call Fawkes.'
So Catesby and his group of like minded fellahs,
Who all bore the king the same malice,
Put their plan into action by renting some cellars
Which ran under Westminster Palace.
Then into this pit the conspirators stowed
Quite a number of barrels of powder.
It was more than enough so that, should it explode,
As bangs go, there are few would be louder.
Then, for the duration of summer recess,
The gunpowder plotters dispersed,
Believing the start of November was best
For powder kegs doing their worst.
It was whilst the assassins were biding their time
'Til parliament next was in session,
That one of their number committed the crime
Of careless unwise indiscretion.
It seems Francis Tresham's own brother in law
Was a member of parliament so
Of course Frankie warned him 'my lord I implore,'
'When the house reconvenes, please don't go.'
'I hope you won't think that there's something awry,'
'It's just that I think that it's best'
'If you let the first day of the session go by.'
'You look tired and in need of a rest.'
Young Frankie's relation, by name Lord Monteagle,
I'm sorry to say, smelt a rat.
'I'm sure,' he said, 'Frank's up to something illegal,'
'Else why should he speak out like that?'
Suspicions thus roused, on the eve of the day
That parliament met once again,
A search of the buildings was put under way
By some of King James' best men.
They searched and they searched to see what could be found.
They searched the whole place top to bottom.
If only they'd done it the other way round,
Then much quicker would they have got 'em.
For down in the cellars, amongst all the rats,
Was where the king's men apprehended
The unfortunate Fawkes and his gunpowder vats,
With which the king's life could be ended.
In those days, of course, people had no idea
Of a criminal's right to be silent.
Their questioning methods were sometimes, I fear,
A little bit gruesome and violent.
And so it is only a matter of time
Before our friend Guy Fawkes confesses,
Revealing the nature of his would-be crime
And accomplices names and addresses.
So that was the end of the violent schemes
Of Catesby and Winter and Wright
And others whose mark on our history, it seems,
Was giving us bonfire night.
So please do remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot,
When the guy they called Guy tried to blow them sky high,
All that parliamentarian lot.

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