Making friends – the 5-year-old way

(This column appeared in the Herts & Essex Observer in August 2016)

AH, the school holidays are just flying by – though not exactly at sparrowhawk speed, more one-winged heron carrying a sack of potatoes.

That said, the six-week hiatus doesn’t fill me with dread, the way it does some parents. Toby being an only child certainly helps in this regard. If I had to keep multiple children fed, entertained and generally content for nearly 50 consecutive days, I’d begin to resemble the dessicated, eye-bagged husks I see pushing around double buggies or trying in vain to referee mini-MMA bouts between their various offspring.

But I have to admit, even with a child (singular), this break is taking its toll.

Matters aren’t helped by the Olympic Games. As a sports journalist, I’m putting in some gruelling late shifts in the office. I’m not asking for sympathy – 98 per cent of you will have jobs more pressurised than watching sport and writing puns about it.

Yet with Fran working too, my days are filled with Daddy Daycare duty, so sleep is at a premium.

For some reason, we’ve gone all out this summer to keep him occupied.

This week it’s football camp, last week it was a swimming crash course, with a day trip to Diggerland in between.

That means me getting home from work at 2am, then getting up at 7am almost every day. My brain don’t be functioning good on such little shuteye, eh?

Mind you, the boy is a joy and great company for a five-year-old. It’s not just me who thinks so – his peers seem to agree.

On day one of swimming, for example, a boy in his class struck up an immediate conversation based on the icebreaker of them both owning the same Spider-Man towel.

For adults, the coincidence of having the same (not necessarily superhero) towels might be deemed worthy of a slightly awkward nod or even too embarrassing to acknowledge at all. (I suppose if you’re two grown men with Spider-Man towels, you’d be more likely to be the type of person who’d use it as a conversational gambit).

Yet in the two minutes before class started, the boys had moved on to names, ages, where they lived, favourite films, schools, school uniforms, what else they’d been doing in the holidays… They were best buds before even hitting the water – and asking “Do you want to come to my house?” before they got out.

The boy’s mum and I engaged in more circumspect chat, gradually becoming comfortable enough to exchange numbers for the pre-arranged playdate after five days. This was in spite of the fact that I was becoming more and more sleep deprived – and therefore dishevelled and monosyllabic – as the week wore on, so kudos to her.

What is it that changes our approach to making friends? Something alters as we grow older and we lose that pure, unadulterated joie de vivre, the delight in talking to anyone and everyone, and the belief that anyone and everyone will be happy to talk to us.

I suppose, over time, it becomes apparent that it’s NOT worth taking the time and energy to converse with everybody who comes your way.

Toby proudly asserts that there’s literally nobody at school he doesn’t get on with, whereas I think most of us grown-ups would happily belt around 40 per cent of our colleagues in the face with a frying pan if it didn’t come with disciplinary action.

It’s easy to write off childish naivety. But as adults, we’ve gone too far in the other, cynical, direction. I know I have.

In this age of social media, I have become notably more antisocial. I’m happy to have discussions online with anybody. And yet there have been occasions when I’ve seen Facebook friends at the railway station, for example, and waited at the other end of the platform because I couldn’t summon up the energy for face-to-face smalltalk.

Is that bad? I saw another mate on the train last week and we had a cracking catch-up, which really made my day.

Perhaps the difference is degrees of friendship. Social media have lumped friends and followers into one homogenous block and it’s worth taking time to remember that true friendships, the kind which will make you laugh, reminisce and lift your spirits on the commute to Liverpool Street – rather than ‘friendships’ that make you exhale wearily at the thought of maintaining – are the ones into which you should put your energy.

You often hear parents bemoaning the fact their kids have better social lives than them. A lot of that is to do with the fact they are more sociable.

Yes, we adults are time poor: we work, we have chores, we have to take our children to sports groups and JCB-inspired theme parks. In many cases, we no longer live in the vicinity of our best mates.

It does take effort to nurture the most valuable friendships but it is worth it – vital in the long run.

Yet we also need to find a balance in the trade-off between maintaining the truly great, longstanding relationships and making new, local friends you’re going to see on a daily basis.

That’s why I’m not ruling out the five-year-olds’ tactics. If I see you at the pool and you have the same towel as me, prepare to get your chat on.

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A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF… MARGARET COURT

A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF… MARGARET COURT
As imagined by DAVE BROMAGE

 SATURDAY

STREWTH! I’m getting loads of flak about my open letter to Qantas, saying I wouldn’t fly any airline that promoted the sin of gay marriage.
Yup, it’s strictly homophobic airlines only for me from now on. That means shunning any company with a name I suspect might be slang for homosexual acts – so that’s a no to Bangkok Airways, Alitalia, Scoot and Aer Lingus. Ugh.

      SUNDAY

NOW I’m copping it for another letter I wrote about tennis player Casey Dellacqua having children with her ‘partner’, Amanda Judd – especially for putting scare quotes around the word ‘partner’. It’s very important that people realise I don’t hate gay ‘people’. I ‘love’ them. They are just abominations in the eyes of the Lord who will burn for eternity because of their wicked ‘lifestyles’.

MONDAY

DON’T these people know who I am? I won 24 Grand Slam titles for goodness’ sake.
I suppose with the name Court, I was always going to be a tennis star. Nominative determinism, they call it. It’s why Alan Ball went into football, Peter Bowler became a cricketer and why there’s a Russian athlete called Maria Syztematicdopingallova.

 TUESDAY

ANDY MURRAY joins in the criticism. Wind yer neck in, Murray, ya great dull drongo.
Tennis isn’t like it was in the olden days when you had characters with personalities. I phone Ilie Nastase and he agrees. Back in the 1970s, it wasn’t frowned upon to deny gay people their rights, or make racist jokes about unborn babies.
Happier times.

 WEDNESDAY

AS a tennis player, the only way I know how to deal with a hostile homosexual lobby is by hitting back with a fierce heterosexual smashy.
In an interview on Christian radio, I say transgender people are the work of the devil.
You’re either a boy or a girl  – it’s black and white. Just like the word of God in the Bible, or the sorely missed policies of apartheid-era South Africa. Oh… what?! I suppose the Leftists will have a go at me for that, too?
I also say the LGBT people are “just like Hitler” because they target the minds of children.
But I can’t spend all day ranting, I need to go to a primary-school prayer group, so I can tell four-year-olds they’ll be tortured for ever in Hell if they don’t do as they’re told.

THURSDAY

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA calls me a bigot. But the fact tennis is full of lesbians is all her fault. Back in the day, there were only a couple. Then Martina took some of the girls to parties, Billie Jean King played K.d. lang songs in the dressing room and it snowballed from there.
You might say you can’t turn someone into a lesbian but that’s a lie. I know because I had a lucky escape when Billie Jean showed me that Brookside episode with Anna Friel. I felt a definite, sinful tingling in my foo-foo – but I ran from that room and never went back. Get ye behind me, Satan!

 FRIDAY

DONALD TRUMP pulls out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. He doesn’t believe recent weather disasters are down to carbon emissions. He’s right! We all know who’s really to blame, don’t we…
*narrows eyes at the gays*

I watch Australia’s cricketers in the Champions Trophy. Former Aussie Luke Ronchi is now playing for New Zealand and I’m furious. No way should he have batted for both teams.

Charles Darwin and genocide – a rebuttal

A friend posted a link on Facebook to an article What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin.  He called it an “exposé of the implications of the evolutionary worldview.”

The article is here: http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/what_your_biology_teacher_didnt_tell_you_about_charles_darwin

I’m all for challenging my beliefs and this is, on the face of it, a thought-provoking piece. I read it with consternation that one of my heroes could actually be “a very bad man indeed”. And then I did some research.

Below is my riposte to most of the points made in Moore’s article. I do not claim to be a biological expert and if there are any evolutionary biologists or indeed Creationists who want to put me right in the comments section, I am all for that!

So let’s begin…

‘…I feel I have to point out that he wasn’t a British hero but a British villain. You don’t have to be a bible-thumping evangelical to question whether Charles Darwin’s thinking deserves to be given a bit more thought.’

Woah, woah, woah! First up, what is meant by “Charles Darwin’s thinking”? Presumably this is an entry level into attacking Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but science doesn’t work like that.

Whether Darwin was a stark raving mad white supremacist (which, as we shall see, he wasn’t), it still wouldn’t make the Theory of Evolution – supported, corroborated, bolstered and proven as it is by the following 150-odd years’ worth of scientific study and investigation, including by those seeking to disprove it – any less factual.

Indeed, no scientific claim in history has been more vigorously tested. Were anyone to disprove the Theory of Evolution or in some way ascertain that it is in any way false, that person would become as world-renowned as Darwin and would have riches and honours lavished upon them. It’s not happened.

Positing that Darwin was “a villain” as a means to refute the Theory is a clear fallacy.

“Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honour to the British thinker who justified genocide.”

This is a big claim. And it doesn’t stand up. Darwin never ‘justified genocide’ and the examples made by the author in this piece can be explained.

‘Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal book in 1859 was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’

Moore seems to use this full title of Origin as a GOTCHA! moment, but it’s disingenuous to claim this.

Humans are mentioned once in the book – and that’s mostly to say that he will discuss them in some point in the future.

Darwin used ‘races’ more generally, using the term in relation to plants and animals (which Origin is virtually solely about).

Elsewhere he talks about races and sub-races of cabbages, for example. This does not make him racist towards cabbages.

 ‘He followed this up more explicitly in his later book The Descent of Man by spelling out his racial theory: “The western nations of Europe … now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilisation … The civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races through the world.”’

‘Today, most British people are, thankfully, pretty embarrassed by the racist rhetoric which undergirded the late-Victorian British Empire. What is astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism.’

Firstly, in relation to that last sentence, it is clear to note that he is not advocating, nor justifying genocide. He is pointing out that genocide will happen. Looking at the way the Native Americans and Aborigines were wiped out by white colonial Europeans (largely Christians, I point out, apropos of nothing), we can see that he was right.

Again, it is disingenuous to say Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave these people the idea that they were superior and should therefore eliminate the natives. Certain peoples were wiping out other peoples long before Darwin was around.

Indeed, in the Bible, God not only advocates genocide but orders it, giving the Jews precise instructions on how to do it: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2.

There are issues with Darwin’s phrasing, for sure. “Civilised” and “savage” are not ‘nice’ terms for describing different races. However, it is important not to judge too harshly the words used by 19th Century people by comparing them with 21st Century values.

While it is still disconcerting to see someone describe different races in this way, it needs to be put into context. In Darwin’s time, with a burgeoning British Empire spreading as if contagious, the differences between biology and culture were largely unknown. It wasn’t until later in the 19th Century that the concept of “Nature and Nurture” was introduced.

Indeed, while Darwin seems to be disparaging of “savage races”, his Theory of Evolution, based as it is on the idea of common descent from shared ancestors, proves that human beings (Homo sapiens) are all equally evolved.

And yet culture plays its part in how humans live. So white Europeans moved ahead in terms of construction, medicine, writing, travel, weaponry etc, and therefore stole a march on their fellow humans who lived elsewhere.

As an example, an aborigine moved at birth to Western civilisation would be able to grow up perfectly normally, be able to be taught to read, be familiar with new inventions, and live longer and healthier than if they had remained in their “uncivilised” homeland.

This is because culture and biology are not related. Darwin never once suggested the white race was superior to other races due to biology.

If he was racist, then it was a cultural, not biological racism. I do not condone this in the slightest but, in mitigation, this was the overwhelming viewpoint of the time in Victorian England, wth its imperialistic haughtiness becoming stronger all the time.

‘Whereas the British Empire of the early nineteenth century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce who sold badges of black slaves which proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Charles Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy instead. Four years after Darwin published his Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. He argued in his paper ‘On the Negro’s Place in Nature’, published in 1863, that “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.” Christian reformers had spent decades in the first half of the nineteenth century teaching Britain to view non-European races as their equals before God. In a matter of years, Darwin not only swept God off the table but also swept the value of people of every race in God’s eyes off the table with him.’

The author, as with the likes of James Hunt, confuses Darwinism with Social Darwinism. The latter, despite bearing Darwin’s name, has nothing to do with Darwin, nor the Theory of Evolution. Latching on to the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’, and using it to support genocide and white supremacism just goes to show the lack of understanding these people have of the Theory and biology.

‘What has been forgotten is his contemptible attitude towards the Aborigines he also found there due to his beliefs about natural selection. When The Melbourne Review used his teachings to justify the genocide of the indigenous people of Australia in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. Charles Darwin simply commented that “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilised over a savage race”.

It’s certainly not untroubling that Darwin reacted in such a seemingly cold and detached way to the genocide.

‘Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Charles Darwin’s thinking as the justification for white expansion across Southern Africa. He was so inspired by the thinking of the Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade in his book ‘The Martyrdom of Man’ that he later confessed that “That book has made me what I am.” What it made him was the architect of one of the most brutal and immoral acts of European expansion and genocide in history. He wrote in 1877 that I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race … It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best, the most human, most honourable race the world possesses. (John Flint, Cecil Rhodes p. 24).

The very fact Rhodes used “Anglo-Saxon” race shows that he did not understand the Theory of Evolution and the atrocities he comitted cannot be put down to Darwinian thinking because, as stated, the Theory shows all Homo sapiens are equally evolved.

‘I could have pointed out the ways that Hitler and his Nazi philosophers used it to justify wars of expansion and horrific holocaust.’

Darwin often gets the blame for inspiring the Nazi eugenics and the Holocaust but the accusation is baseless. Indeed, the two links usually used as evidence are the fact that his half-cousin Francis Galton WAS a white supremacist who coined the word ‘eugenics’, and Darwin’s correspondence with Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and champion of evolution.

However, it would be unfair to hold Darwin accountable for the sins of his half-cousin. And secondly, Haeckel was not the inspiration for the Nazis eugenics programme, as is regularly claimed. In fact, the Nazis dismissed his work entirely. Their atrocities were not done in the name of Darwinism at all.

‘The British example is enough to make us question whether Charles Darwin was truly a British hero at all. At the very least, we should strip him of his place on our £10 banknote and stop protecting his thinking from the scrutiny it deserves to receive in school classrooms, on TV documentaries and in the corridors of power.’

There are two arguments going on here. Should we venerate a man who said occasionally racist things in incredibly racist times?

And two, should his Theory of Evolution be dismissed as a result of these things?

Firstly, despite Darwin’s occasional lapses into cultural, Eurocentrist racist rhetoric, he was actually more progressive than most of his peers at the time. He was stridently anti-slavery, coming into conflict many times with the pro-slavery captain of HMS Beagle, Capt FitzRoy.

If we are to dismiss the work of everyone who lived in Imperial Britain, which was an inherently racist place in an inherently racist time, then we are to wipe out huge swathes of scientific discovery. The Theory of Evolution has enabled us to learn more about the world, and has been the catalyst driving every major medical advance in the past 150 years.

Again I shall point out, even if Charles Darwin ate babies for breakfast, it doesn’t make the science behind the Theory of Evolution any less solid.

‘Who would you rather discover was right all along? The Christian reformers of the early nineteenth century, like William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury, who argued from belief in divine creation that slaves should be set free and that children should not be forced to work themselves to death in the factories for having been born to the wrong parents?

Pitting Christian reformers of slavery and the anti-slavery Darwin at polar opposites of the scale is misleading and insulting.

Were the likes of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury really driven by Christian beliefs? Their arguments for ending slavery seem more Humanist to me. They certainly don’t come from the Bible, which, as we know, has long lists of rules about how to buy and treat your slaves. I particularly like this beauty from Exodus 21:20-21… “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

‘Or Charles Darwin, who argued from his belief in a godless beginning to the universe that natural selection was a virtue and that, consequently, acts of genocide were part and parcel of the way the world was always supposed to be?’

This too is disingenuous claptrap, as the author is inferring that any biological scientist or anyone who even believes the Theory of Evolution to be true, automatically thinks that genocide is OK, even virtuous. This is insulting nonsense.

Firstly, natural selection is not, and has not been argued as being, a virtue as such. That it is just the way things are, is true.

However, this does not justify genocide and does not mean genocide is merely part and parcel of life.

For one of the the most incredibly interesting things about evolution I find, is how morality has evolved over time. Basic morals – like Do not kill; Do not steal etc were not handed down on stone tablets on Mount Sinai but rather have been ingrained in us through millions of years of biological evolution. Those weird little mammals you see on Walking With Dinosaurs soon discovered that if they were murderous or violent or unfaithful or showed signs of kleptomania, they’d likely be shunned from their society and would be less likely to survive long enough to pass on their genes. We have evolved along these lines.

However, biological evolution among big animals like us is soooo slow and sooooo imperceptible, that genocide is not an evolutionary thing. It is a cultural thing. And as a Brit, like the author, I realise we now live in a culture that should be more tolerant, more caring and, yes, more civilised, ironically, than the culture in Darwin’s England.

That means opposing genocide on moral grounds. Morals evolve quicker than biology in some cases, and they are different according to different cultures – for example treatment of women, gays etc.

We can argue against genocide. It is not something that is the way of the world. Morally today, the idea of genocide is repugnant and rightly punished severely under international law.

Darwin’s detached views on the topic are hard to take, sure, but he lived within a different culture. And he certainly didn’t advocate or justify it.

Godlessness does not mean we should embrace genocide. Yes, it seems more than likely that humans are generally meaningless in the context of the Universe. But it does not mean humans cannot and do not create their own meaning – that other people, nature, hobbies are not meaningful to us.
The premise that without a God for which there is no evidence and who doesn’t intervene in human affairs, we’d all be murdering on a massive scale, doesn’t hold up.

 ‘In the words of Jesus Christ himself: “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.’”

Yes, but Darwin’s fruit is not that genocide is AOK. His teaching, in terms of the Theory of Evolution, is sound. And this would be the case even in the event that Darwin was “a British villain”.

Altogether now, boys and girls (The problem with feminism)

(A version of this column first appeared in the Herts & Essex Observer in August 2016)
IT may surprise some of you to hear that I don’t set out to antagonise anyone while writing this column. But even I can appreciate, as I sit in front of my laptop, that an article with the working title ‘The Problem With Feminism’ might raise a few hackles.
It begins, dear reader, with me getting involved in an online spat. (“No, Bromage,” I hear you yell, “that is soooo unlike you.”)
Well, it’s true – and it came in the wake of Team GB’s magnificent hockey gold medal in Rio.

Amidst the celebratory status updates and haliographic tweets came a complaint. Why were these women – and female athletes in general – being referred to so regularly as ‘girls’?
This nomenclature was being used not only by media dinosaurs such as the Inverdaleosaurus but also by Kate Richardson-Walsh, the captain of the Olympic champions.

“When sportswomen refer to themselves as girls,” moaned the self-appointed language police officer, “it gives interviewers licence to describe them in the same way.

“Referring to women as girls undermines what they achieve.”

Well, referring to female scientists or politicians as ‘girls’, perhaps. But sportswomen? No, it doesn’t – any more than Chris Hoy referring to the “team pursuit boys” undermines Bradley Wiggins and Co’s accomplishments.

Sportsmen and –women have always and will always refer to each other as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’. It’s a quirk of language, of human nature, that we use infantilisation to express friendship and camaraderie.

When I asked the complainant for an alternative, the reply was ‘women’. That’s it.

Calling British soldiers in the Middle East ‘Our Boys’ is not to belittle them. Nobody in history has ever gone on a “Women’s Night Out” – or if they have, it didn’t involve much letting down of hair.
When playing sport (playing – therefore inherently childish to some degree) it is even more understandable that the terms ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are used.

Richardson-Walsh’s “I’m so proud of these girls” and Wayne Rooney’s “I’m so pleased for the lads” are being used in the exact same context. That’s equality right there, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps not. As sure as night follows day – or maybe knight follows dame – an accusation of “mansplaining” was made… by a man, ironically.
Now, I’m aware “mansplaining” exists. But, all too often, accusations of mansplaining are used as a tool to shut down debate.

“Even if a discriminated population occasionally over-reacts to language used in a non-discriminatory fashion,” the man mansplained, “it will be because that language CAN be and HAS been used in a discriminatory fashion and it’s not your place to tell them that it’s not so.”

Er, with respect, this is utter bilge.

Of course the word ‘girl’ can be used in a disaparaging way. Yet the same is true of virtually any word – ‘woman’ included. See ‘bloody women’, ‘women drivers’, ‘stop being such an old woman’. But nobody would advocate a moratorium on the word ‘women’ just because it features in certain undesirable phrases.

It is understandable that such over-reactions occur. But for the politically correct language prefects to forbid anyone from calling them out leads us down a dark path where context becomes irrelevant. And once words can be blacklisted (if, indeed, I’m allowed to say ‘blacklisted’) regardless of context, we paint ourselves into a corner, linguistically.

Context is everything. I’m all for pushing to make uttering the phrase ‘throw like a girl’ a more eyeroll-worthy offence. But greeting a group of female friends with a cheery ‘Hi, girls’ is not the same thing.
If there is a sexist stigma to words such as ‘girls’, then let’s work to destigmatise them rather than wrench them from the vocabulary altogether.
Otherwise, we’ll be able to call men ‘boys’, ‘blokes’, ‘lads’, ‘guys’, ‘geezers’, ‘dudes’ and ‘bros’ but we won’t be allowed to describe women as anything other than ‘women’, without being perceived as sexist. How terribly po-faced.
I’m not advocating a return to the commonplace use of ‘chicks’ or ‘birds’ (although, again, in context, it would be churlish for anyone to moan about calling GB goalie Maddie Hinch “one awesome chick” for her penalty shootout heroics). Yet ‘girls’, particularly when framed in the colloquial, friendly way it was during the Olympics, is innocuous. 

Social progression has come a long way in a short space of time. Not long ago, there would have been a lot more focus on the hockey players’ looks.

Finding offence where none is intended hampers the cause. That’s particularly true when you’re criticising a vocal feminist, openly gay, hard-as-nails double Olympic medallist for being unhelpful in the fight for equality.
In terms of role models for girls (actual, literal, under-18 girls) and minorities (hell, even majorities), it’s hard to imagine someone more inspirational than Richardson-Walsh.
And this is my gripe with the current state of the feminist movement.

Often, it goes after the wrong targets, picks the wrong battles, alienates those supportive of their cause.
This is not a trait limited to feminism, either. I see it across a lot of the Left and among minority groups battling for equality.
I’m regularly rendered agog by some of the more visceral attacks launched by trans-activists at their allies for some perceived minor trangression in terminology used, for example.
Of course, on a more public level, the Labour Party is taking this self-destructive behaviour to new lows. The viciousness of the rival factions on the Left is uncomfortable to witness and counterproductive. Those who cherish social progress and liberalism should unite as best they can, rather than descend into civil war.
I might not agree with the views of the Right, but I have to admit they know their enemy and target their foe with a ruthless efficiency that puts the Left to shame.

Those who see social justice and equality as desirable need to stop sniping at each other if they are to tackle those who wish to deny it. It’s time to band together – both boys and girls.

A Week In The Life Of Eddie Jones

(As imagined by DAVE BROMAGE)

SUNDAY

THE Vunipola brothers both have knee injuries. Well, carrying around that sort of weight has got to put a strain on the old joints.

It’s a blow. Mind you, it means there’ll be more food to go around at dinner time! Have you seen the rest of my squad? They’re positively malnourished.

We’re big favourites to win the Six Nations but I know to my cost how complacency can make you slip up. So I order rubber safety mats in the showers for all.

MONDAY

I’M getting a lot of flak for saying in an interview that I’ll be reincarnated as an otter. But I bloody love those little critters.

We’re quite similar. Otters might look cheeky, cute and chubby-cheeked… but rile us up and we’ll have your fricking fingers off in a heartbeat. 

Also, I’m quite elusive and the best way of tracking me down is by searching for the pungent, fishy faecal deposits I leave in my wake.   


TUESDAY

FORMER Scotland coach Jim Telfer says I’m arrogant and disrespectful like Donald Trump. 

Well, I HAVE made England great again. Bigly. 

Telfer’s problem is he’s just a loser. Sad.

He’s even called Twickenham fans ‘poshos’. It’s totally unfair and inaccurate. I tell the head of the England Supporters Club what Telfer’s said and he damned near chokes on his black-truffle caviar blini.

WEDNESDAY

MIKE BROWN reckons his designer girlfriend Eliza Woodcock has made him a fashion icon. Hmmm, your head still looks like a potato, son. Now it’s just in a more expensive jacket.

George Kruis is the latest injury in training, following Anthony Watson.

“Hey, you either go tough or go home. If you want non-contact, play volleyball,” I tell my players. An hour later, I’ve got a rebellion on my hands. Maro Itoje’s set up the net and the lads refuse to get off court.

THURSDAY

IT’S great that Joe Marler is available to play for us just three weeks after breaking a leg.

He’s put it all down to drinking two pints of milk a day, while I reckon it’s got something to do with all the sea air he gets down in East Sussex.

Certainly beats the usual rugby-player routine of drinking aftershave and breathing in the smoke from the farts you’ve just lit.

FRIDAY

RUMOURS abound of cocaine use in rugby but there’s nothing like that in our squad. Our uber aggression and inflated egos are all natural, I promise.

Not like those football wimps. I read about Saido Berahino testing positive for MDMA. Suspicions were first raised when he was sent on a three-month training camp to Ibiza.

Berahino grew up in Burundi, which is ranked as the second unhappiest place on the planet. Behind Stoke.  

SATURDAY

WE may get called arrogant but it’s hard to be modest when you’re as terrifyingly brutal as we are.
I’ve been building up talk of war this week, because I figured that was all I needed to do to make the French surrender.

Mind you, for a while it looks like we’re the kind of soldiers who shot themselves in the foot. Luckily, Ben Te’o wins it for us in the end.

Fifteen in a row! No one can beat us! And I mean that in a real sense, not the Jurgen Klopp sense.

A Week Of Daft Sports Opinions

In a departure from the usual service, DAVE BROMAGE reviews a week of sports-based opinions, which are – to be frank – utter nonsense…

SATURDAY

OPINION: The London Stadium should be demolished to stop crowd trouble
OPINION HELD BY: Paul Fletcher

IT’S been extra lairy down at the ‘Ammers this season. Why? The new stadium, obviously. It’s that athletics track, you see? You’d think being given one of the most iconic stadia in the world for free would make fans happy but no. Just the sight of that red tarmac strip makes beered-up yobs so full of rage that they can’t help throwing pint glasses and punching visiting – and often home – supporters in the face. In true East End fashion, they only hurts their own (and them’s what deserves it).
The evil, bewitching athletics track is the only conclusion we can draw for this. It’s not like West Ham have a history of violence so infamous that they made a Hollywood movie about it. Or that, as recently as May, they gave Manchester United’s team bus a ticker-tape reception – albeit using coins, bottles and masonry when they ran out of paper.
The only solution, so says former Burnley chief exec Fletcher, is to knock down the entire stadium and start again. I’m envisaging a chilled-out paradise, with the uncomfortable plastic seats replaced by massage chairs close enough so fans can stroke the wingers’ hair as they gambol down the flanks, while a panpipe version of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles plays over the Tannoy.
Damn the Olympic legacy. Damn it to Hades. We all remember the London riots started in 2012 when shot put fans kicked off because their faves were out in that green bit in the middle.

SUNDAY

OPINION: Telling your boss to “F*** off” is fiiiiine
HELD BY: The FIA

SEBASTIAN VETTEL put the F back into F1 at the Mexican Grand Prix, with a mid-race, expletive-filled rant at cocky teenage upstart Max Verstappen.
It’s not uncommon for an 18-year-old lad, filled with the sense of invincibility which comes from passing his driving test, to drive like – to use Vettel’s words – “a c**t”. So I can fully imagine Verstappen, whose inflated ego has been further validated by being paid £25,000 a race, is a total nightmare.
Yet Vettel didn’t just vent his ire at the Belgian boy racer, he subsequently told race director Charlie Whiting to: “F*** off. Seriously, f*** off.”
FIA president Jean Todt launched an investigation into whether Vettel had brought the sport into disrepute… then decided the German shouldn’t face any punishment. At all.
It prompted all the other drivers to yell: “What the f***? Are you f***ing kidding us, you f***ing idiots?”
The precedent has been set, though, so there’s nothing the FIA can do.

MONDAY

OPINION: England and Scotland should not wear poppies
HELD BY: Fifa

THE FA rightly asked the question: “Why is the poppy banned as ‘a political symbol’, when Ireland were allowed to wear a badge commemorating the Easter Rising?”
“Were they?” responded Fifa, before looking into it and fining the hell out of Ireland. Well, that didn’t quite go to plan. Sorry, Ireland.
Of course, the poppy is not a political symbol. At least not until next year when anybody not wearing one can be jailed for six months.
The FA – showing hitherto undetectable ballsiness – is determined to defy the ban. England players will wear black armbands with a poppy insignia when they take on Scotland next Friday.
That doesn’t go far enough for me. If you really want to stick it to Fifa, go the whole hog and change the entire kit. Get Wayne Rooney sitting on the bench like this guy…

poppy-man-2

TUESDAY

OPINION: Religion is not to be mocked
HELD BY: British Gymnastics

LOUIS SMITH mocked Islamic prayer in a video. And everyone knows you mustn’t mock prayers because otherwise they won’t work.
Ahem.
Aaaanyway, despite apologising, putting up with daily death threats, going on a UK-wide tour or mosques and being publicly flogged on Loose Women (as June Sarpong rang a bell and shouted “Shame” repeatedly), Smith landed a two-month ban for blasphemy from British Gymnastics chiefs.
He broke their code of conduct, which is presumably chiselled on to a stone tablet from the 7th Century and states that: “No gymnast shall mock any religion, suggest praying is silly, laugh at the idea of suicide bombers receiving 72 virgins in the afterlife, or deny the existence of fairies, unicorns or flying reindeer.”
Conclusive, then – and definitely not a case of Islam receiving special protection. Definitely not.
After making their ruling, British Gymnastics chiefs probably went out to watch award-winning musical Book Of Mormon. Hahaha! Stoopid Mormons.
Depressingly, despite having the muscles of a daddy-long-legs, the agility of an ancient sycamore and an inelasticity which makes it impossible for me to touch my upper shins, let alone my toes, it’s my antitheistic columns which are most likely to stop me representing Team GB on the pommel horse.

WEDNESDAY

OPINION: Jamie Vardy is not a natural goalscorer
HELD BY: Michael Owen

BECAUSE lucky Vardy scored 28 goals last season by closing his eyes, hitting and hoping. It’s easily done, really.
It’s a bit embarrassing when someone labels a prolific scorer of goals as “not a natural goalscorer”. Just ask Glenn Hoddle, who once said the same thing about… erm… Michael Owen.
The notion of a naturally occurring goalscorer is an intriguing one. You either score goals or you don’t. If a player scores lots of goals over the course of his career, then suggesting he’s somehow done it unnaturally is just plain weird, Michael.

THURSDAY

OPINION: Ex-Olympic fencers shouldn’t make rules on Brexit
HELD BY: The Daily Mail

GENERALLY, this isn’t actually a bad rule. UNLESS, since their Olympic appearance, those fencers have spent nearly 30 years studying intently the minutiae of British constitutional law, as Sir Terence Etherton has. In which case, it’s fine.
The Mail didn’t seem sure we could trust fencers to be impartial on European matters. En garde? Épée? Flunge? All sounds very French…
Sir Terence and his two fellow wiggy mates ruled that the Government must consult Parliament before pushing the big red Article 50 button.
Theresa May is appealing against the ruling because she can’t accept that she lost, refuses to get over it, and is now hell bent on going down different avenues until she gets the result she wants. Brexiters back her fully.
Both May and Boris Johnson have said that the judges’ decision changes very little and that the emphasis is still very much on getting out of Europe as quickly as possible.
They have approached Jose Mourinho for advice. Hur hur hur.

FRIDAY

OPINION: David Moyes was actually pretty good as Man United boss
HELD BY: David Moyes

OH Moyesy, you can be forgiven a touch of schadenfreude at Mourinho’s United foundering in Europe and lying below Watford in the Prem table.
But you’d look less of a div expressing it if you hadn’t just set the record for the worst start in Premier League history.
Think it through, Davie, yeah?

Catholic Church 0 Bromage 1 (Catholic og)

POPE FRANCIS, Mother Teresa, Bloody Mary, Cardinal George Pell, the Borgias, Joseph Ratzinger, the Spanish Inquisition, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Virgin Mary, the scary monk played by Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code, the Singing Nun, erm, God, Father Dougal… can you hear me? Father Dougal, your boys took one hell of a beating!

It’s an upset to end all upsets to be sure, but apparently in my last column I successfully managed to bully the Catholic Church – the largest denomination of the largest religion on the planet. Go little ol’ me!

According to David Morson’s letter to the Observer on February 11, my outpourings were “a chilling reminder of the worst form of inflammatory and bullying rants designed to galvanise opposition to minority groups by some 20th Century authoritarian regimes”.

And there I was, thinking I was merely arguing that religious institutions should not indoctrinate children in state-funded schools. In reality, I was coming over all Adolf Hitler. Remember him? The guy whose Roman Catholic upbringing forged his belief that the Jews should be punished for their Christ-killing ways?

What form did this alleged bullying take? Did I give the Pope a wedgie and steal his lunch money? Did I threaten Catholics with eternal torture in the fiery pits of Hell? That would have been out of order.

No, a little light mockery and calling out religious leaders for targeting the ductile minds of children was enough to get me chucked in with the likes of Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and the Kim dynasty.

It takes mere milliseconds these days for certain religious quarters to whip out the victim card in the face of criticism.

Firstly, I’m not apologising for having a dig at religious “fairy tales”. For example, the Catholic tenet of transubstantiation – the belief that wafers and wine literally transform into Christ’s flesh and blood inside your body – is clearly nonsense, should be rightfully mocked and has no place being taught to children as fact even outside of taxpayer-funded schools. If you don’t want your beliefs ridiculed, don’t hold ridiculous beliefs.

That Mr Morson went on to insist that the Catholic ethos is not only compatible with but also beneficial to science is laughable.

Tell that to Giordano Bruno. No, wait, you can’t, he was burnt at the stake by the Catholics for questioning transubstantiation and believing the Earth went round the Sun.

In the case of the Catholic Church, whose record on child welfare has in recent years been shown up to be (understatement alert) a bit iffy, the myth of a war on religion is a diversionary tactic, an example of DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender).

Indeed, there was something peculiarly apt, if rather sobering, about the fact that Mr Morson’s letter was published on the same day the Vatican (possibly still punch-drunk from my withering, bullying attack)  issued guidance to its priests that the clergy were not obliged to report child abuse.

Now THAT’S a chilling reminder – that powerful institutions must be held to account and that people shouting “persecution” where no persecution exists should not make us feel cowed into giving these organisations a free pass.

After all, many religious people have reconciled themselves with the idea that the vast majority of humans will end up suffering for eternity.

To quote the fantastically forthright critic of religion Helen Pluckrose: “If your religion states an intention to do me horrific harm, how dare you claim you are the one being victimised by my verbally expressed disapprobation?

“If I were supporting a regime that intended to round you up and subject you to horrendous brutality for not sharing my worldview, I am sure you would have something to say about this.”

I don’t write my religious-bashing columns for the likes of Mr Morson, in any case. I write them for those who may be wavering in their faith, confused about why the stories they were taught in their childhood don’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny. I’ve been there.

I’m not arrogant enough to think I could deconvert anyone, but I hope I can offer some comfort to anyone worried about the consequences of losing their faith. It’s fine. Genuinely. In fact, it’s more than fine. After the initial, short-lived, feeling of embarrassment that you were taken in for so long, it’s great, freeing, and opens up a world of awe and opportunity.

The angry letters in response to my columns, however, replete with logical fallacies, occasional vitriol and repeated irrationality, do more to show up religion as an ill-thought-out human construct  than my writing could ever do.

I’ve spoken to a surprising number of readers about the confused word salads that my columns provoke and one phrase crops up over and over: “That letter was a bit of an own goal, wasn’t it?”

So, please, do keep responding. Here’s another through ball – feel free to boot it into the back of your own net.