There is a joke that while the rest of the world has four seasons, Britain has five: the August silly season when the entire Westminster village—ministers, MPs, assorted minions, lobbyists and lobby journalists—goes on summer holiday, leaving newspaper desks struggling to fill pages. The result: a spate of stories culled from obscure surveys that wouldn’t normally get a look-in. So, now we now know that atheists too can be racist (who would have imagined that!); that the more ‘intelligent’ a person the more he/she is likely to secretly harbour social and cultural prejudices while pretending to be a bleeding liberal; and that ‘George’ remains at the bottom of the heap of popular names for boys, belying breathless predictions of its imminent chart-busting potential after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose it for their little prince.
This summer has also seen too many British men behaving badly and being caught in the act—starting with millionaire art dealer Charles Saatchi photographed with his paws around his wife Nigella Lawson’s neck. “But I was only playfully making a point!” he protested. An estimated 1.2 million British men share Saatchi’s ‘playful’ definition of the indignities they inflict on their wives and partners. That’s the number of women who reported abuse at the hands of their husbands/boyfriends last year. When not bullying their own mate, they are on the internet, abusing other women. Some of Britain’s most high-profile women have reported being stalked and threatened with rape and/or death by male internet trolls.
The distinguished Cambridge classicist, Mary Beard, was bombarded with such “vile, misogynist” abuse that, she says, it left her feeling “a sense of assault as though from a punch”. And all because someone on Twitter didn’t approve of her appearance (“a vile, spiteful excuse for a woman, who eats too much cabbage and has cheese straws for teeth”) and support for immigrants. Labour MP Stella Creasy, feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman and Time’s Catherine Mayer have been among other victims of Twitter abuse, prompting an apology from its UK boss Tony Wang. So, has the British male become more misogynist? Or was the notion of chivalrous gentleman a myth—like the one about the Raj as a ‘civilising’ mission?
Down & Under
It says something about the state of the Australian cricket team that even diehard Aussie-bashers have developed a sneaky soft corner for this newest underdog and quietly wish for it to win the final Ashes Test. Barring a few extreme, partisan supporters, no fair-minded sportslover enjoys a wholly one-sided contest. In fact, players themselves struggle to work up enthusiasm.
To be fair, Australians still have a lot of fight (if not the old swagger) left in them and came tantalisingly close to winning the third Test. I had some sympathy for demoralised Australian fans, who shouted, “cheated by the weather!”, after rain stopped play.
For the greater glory of cricket, it is important that the once-great Australian team doesn’t go ‘down under’. International cricket is already the poorer for the fall of the mighty West Indies and Australia must not go the Windies way. So, I was at the Oval, cheering the Aussies. What the heck!
Virago, the trailblazing feminist publishing house, is 40 and its publisher Lennie Goodings is bravely trying to generate a media buzz. But with the British feminist movement hopelessly divided and Virago itself no longer the independent spirit it once was—it’s now an imprint of Little, Brown—it doesn’t have the same the old appeal in a climate where the very idea of a separate women’s publishing house seems redundant to many. Still, Virago remains a symbol of one of the most successful struggles of the 20th century—and one that its pioneers should be proud of. Happy birthday, Virago.
The British pub, once the hub of local social and cultural life, faces an existential crisis, thanks to a new drinking culture away from ale and beer, and the arrival of fancy gastro-pubs. Traditional pubs that serve only beer and the so-called ploughman’s lunch are closing down at an alarming rate, with some 26 closing down every week. The availability of cheap booze at supermarkets is also blamed for the decline of a quintessentially British institution. Such is the concern that the government has decided to exempt smaller pubs from certain taxes. Pub owners have launched a campaign, telling all that “it isn’t unhealthy to have one or two beers” a day. Cheers to that!
Apocryphally, in an unnamed London club, all of its staff is called George to save members the trouble of remembering their names!
A London-based journalist, Suroor’s forthcoming book is India’s Muslim Spring: Why is nobody talking about it?; E-mail your diarist: hasan.suroor AT gmail.com
We in India,' do playfully make a point to our spouse"
more often than the Brits do.
>> There is a joke that while the rest of the world has four seasons, Britain has five ....
But we have 6 seasons: vashant, grishm, varsha, sharad, hemant and sisir
May be we are not part of world it appears.
"There is a joke that while the rest of the world has four seasons, Britain has five: the August silly season ..."
The British of course are pre-disposed to claiming a lot, given the the sun did not set on their empire, as far as I am aware the Americans too have a "silly" season ... they of course have a lot of silly hollywood come out then to keep the populace .... "fat, dumb and happy".
"... that the more ‘intelligent’ a person the more he/she is likely to secretly harbour social and cultural prejudices while pretending to be a bleeding liberal;"
May be they surveyed the India governing class and elite holidaying in the UK :-)
> "...the more ‘intelligent’ a person the more he/she is likely to secretly harbour social and cultural prejudices while pretending to be a bleeding liberal".
No surprise to us Indians!
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