If you enrol at Philippe Gaulier school for clowns, don’t expect to leave as a comic genius - the school believes true talent is only found once in a generation. But according to professional politic-enthusiasts Bobby Friedman and Rupert Myers, Gaulier never checked the Houses of Parliament. Rife with buffoon-like behaviour, aspiring comedy writers can always cut-and-paste government goings on directly into their shows. But it was Jeremy Corbyn’s earnest and heart-felt plight that moved the two to fill the London stage with a full-length musical.
My first experience with dating apps happened when I was studying abroad: I decided to use Tinder to make friends. I’ve always been a guy’s girl, so I figured that in chatting up a certain type of man, I could establish — or at least feel out — a place for myself in creative London. Presenting photos with my best angles and an About Me that stated I was from New York and a fan of hip-hop and whiskey, I had no problem roping in multiple drink offers from journalists, DJs, and innovators. I was able to bypass the need to peruse blogs and magazines to discover where, and with whom, I ‘should’ be hanging out.
On Halloween we went to a Ru Paul’s Drag Race night. We took care with our costumes – the right level of taste and glitz and contouring. People danced with each other, groups of friends leading others to the main stage, praising outfits, winking; we danced all night. One of the last costume changes saw Sharon Needles come onstage in full David Bowie getup, man dressed as woman dressed as man. The place went wild, then sort of teary; I bawled into my gin. This was Ziggy, and so much of what we were here to celebrate was possible thanks to him. The room was packed with people who used to be the odd ones out, and now hundreds of odd ones out of any, all or no sexual/gender identity were packing the rafters to celebrate that difference, that symposium of irregularity.
On the basis of ‘can’t live with, can’t live without ’em’, we bade farewell to our seasonal pilgrims as they drove homeward toward the border and the first traffic jam of their journey on the A30. Such Schadenfreude was a little unbecoming for those of us who are immigrants, but enjoyable nonetheless. It being a post-New-Year Sunday, a few of us had gathered at random in the Old Doom Bar with our newspapers for a quiet, pre-prandial pint. It is an unspoken rule that we eschew comment on serious news, so it was Mr Danczuk whose misfortunes formed the basis of our discussions. There was a sense of déjà vu about the affair. What is it about middle-aged men that compels them to text or tweet nubile young women in terms that they must – if they thought about it – realise would inevitably be characterised as inappropriate?
The standard perception of Scandinavian society is one replete with liberty and freedom of expression. We think of ‘openness’ as a byword for the Nordic way of life. Sadly, this may not always be the case. Mathilde Grafström is, in her own words, ‘just an ordinary girl from Jutland’s countryside in Denmark’. But beyond her modest and self-deprecating manner, Grafström turns out to be a scintillating photographer of female beauty – a natural beauty with an edge of innocence. 'For some reason I have a talent for spotting beauty in others, when they themselves cannot see it,” she told me in an exclusive interview. “I hope to increase the self-confidence and self-esteem of young Danish women, who often feel surprisingly bad about their bodies.'
We live in a time where there is no longer one concrete set of traits that make somebody a “woman.” How is it, then, that we have no qualms about telling each other what “feminism” is and is not? Despite what the dictionary might say, I think the shooting range that is the internet has obliterated any one definition of what it means to be a “feminist.” In fact, it’s discouraged me from fully believing in the word. Let me start by acknowledging my own basic circumstances: like many of the women writing about this topic on the internet, I am white, have received a liberal higher education, and come from an upper-middle class background. In other words, I am privileged. Born and raised in New York City and spending my life in the theatre, I am very sympathetic to and supportive of the plights of queer women, trans women, and women of color, but I still have no idea what it is like to live in those circumstances, and I can only write about what I know.
It has been a quiet time in the Old Doom Bar. The automated milking is operational, the wild life has gone to ground and the weather discourages outdoor activity other than a quick check on the sheep and cattle. As inhabitants of a west coast borderland we feel particular sympathy for the folk of Cumbria bashed again by the weather. Nonetheless, we are encouraged to believe ‘tis the season to be merry. Hence one evening us ‘boys’ (as the women call us) shared a relaxed evening of general chat and banter in a safe space.
Recent events in Paris have led to a subdued mood in the Old Doom Bar. Even our host’s normally ebullient promotion of his Festive offer has been muted. We watched the France v England friendly in almost neutral spirit and although pleased enough by the England win took little satisfaction from its promise. Rather, we shared the inevitable tropes of sympathy, bewilderment about terrorism and hopes that all sectors of our multi-cultural society would rally behind the cause of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. This slogan seeming much more meaningful than the anodyne ‘British values’ trotted out by our leaders.
There is arguably no greater parliamentary spectacle than watching lords debate pornography. It's a rare treat. I've never seen the matter come up in the chamber before. But we must hope it comes again soon, because this afternoon's debate, launched by famed pornography expert the Bishop of Chester, was far more enjoyable than anything in the cinema. The Bishop began by admitting that his "first-hand knowledge of pornography is very limited", but – as you may guess – this did not stop him from holding very firm convictions on the 'ugly squalid degraded sex' he had been told it contained.
Surveillance and censorship were much on the agenda at The Old Doom Bar this week. This was partly inspired by the presence of a London-based Barrister in our midst. As with so many of his trade he was a fund of anecdote. Much of it either reassuring to those seeking to avoid justice or depressing to those who sought it. It is the same with medicine. Both sorts of practitioners of these professions, once drink has been taken, are apt to cast off their normal considered demeanour and treat their audience to the comic version of their work.