Tag Archives: politics

The decline of British television comedy. The elitist iceberg of Brexit and Trump.

The Grouchy Club Podcast

Below is a short extract from the 100th Grouchy Club Podcast in which the (yes she certainly is) controversial comedy critic Kate Copstick and I ramble on about anything that takes our fancy, occasionally stumbling into the subject of British comedy. Occasionally, too, we stumble into cyber-trouble.

This may be one such example.


JOHN: There is a sort of bizarre snootiness in comedy where the Oxbridge elite…

COPSTICK: Oh yes…

JOHN: …who, by-and-large, don’t get (big) ratings for their shows – are very snooty about people who do get ratings. For example, Benny Hill.

COPSTICK: Yep…

JOHN: …who at the height – the height – of his fame and his ratings success and his foreign sales for Thames Television – He must have been churning money out like nobody’s business for Thames Television – was dragged into – was it Brian Tesler’s office? Someone’s office… and told they were getting rid of him because he was in bad taste.

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: He was staggeringly popular. I heard that when he died – I dunno if this is an urban myth – Chinese television broke into their broadcasts to announce it as a newsflash.

COPSTICK: I’m sure that’s absolutely true.

JOHN: But I mean he was staggeringly popular. They didn’t like him because they said he was sexist.

COPSTICK: But I think that… I’m going to get a bit political here, John…

JOHN: Oh God! We’re going to be in trouble!

COPSTICK: Only mildly…

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: …and fleetingly.

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: Just fleetingly.

JOHN: That’s never stopped her before.

COPSTICK: I think that is exactly the same thing – talking about the Oxbridge elite and all that running TV, so they say what gets dumped because they don’t like it – They are the ones whose voices are out there but Benny Hill had gazillions of viewers – I think that’s exactly the same thing we got with Brexit and the Trump vote – because the people at the top…

JOHN: This is Copstick!

COPSTICK: …the people at the top are completely unrepresentative of the mass of the voting iceberg that is underwater. And somehow, when the bottom mass of the iceberg rises up and votes for Brexit or Trump, it’s all Oh! Shock! Horror! How can this have happened? Well, it happened because it was always there. You just weren’t listening to it.

JOHN: Also, I was talking to someone the other day and said that, in my erstwhile youth, when they had sitcoms, they used to have them on at 8 o’clock or 8.30 at night or 7.30 at night. Nowadays, sitcoms are on at 10.30 or 11.00…

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: … because, in my youth, the sitcoms got massive ratings and now the humour, the comedy is not getting big ratings because it’s being scheduled and programmed and decided on by people who don’t like what the public like.

COPSTICK: Which is why Mrs Brown’s Boys is the highest rated…

JOHN: Yes and that’s only on at 10.30 because he keeps saying Feckin’ or something, doesn’t he?

COPSTICK: People are very snotty about it: Ooh! Mrs Brown’s Boys!

JOHN: I saw one episode and thought: Oh, that’s not really for me. But, of its type, it’s well done. I mean, Mrs Brown’s Boys and My Family must be, recently, the biggest sitcoms on…

COPSTICK: Absolutely. And surely somebody somewhere in some television company must see that.

JOHN: There is a lot of Emperor’s New Clothes going around.

COPSTICK: Ooh!

JOHN: I have to say Vic & Bob – sorry – I never ever thought they were funny. There was one pilot for, I think, Granada, which I saw and liked: it never got made into a series because no-one else liked it, but I have never ever ever thought Vic & Bob were funny. They were always in minority slots and, when the BBC I think it was tried them at peak time on a Saturday night they came a phenomenal cropper. With good reason. Because they ain’t funny… (LAUGHS) …in my populist opinion! (LAUGHS) But what do I know?

COPSTICK: I have almost stopped watching comedy on TV because there is very little that appeals to me and makes me laugh.

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Simon Jay on the inauguration thoughts of the OTHER President Donald Trump

Simon Jay - Donald Trump

Simon Jay’s show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

Simon was at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

For about nine months, Simon Jay has been getting noticed for his one-man show Trumpageddon in which he riffs as the esteemed President Elect, who gets inaugurated this Friday.

“Are you doing anything to celebrate?” I asked Simon via Skype this morning.

“I’m going to go on Facebook Live,” he told me, “and, at 5.00pm (UK time), as you watch the inauguration on TV, you’ll be able to hear his thoughts streamed via Facebook Live –  as voiced by me.”

“When you first started doing Trump,” I said, “you must have thought: I want Trump to be elected President because I can get a four-year-long act out of this.”

“I was hoping he would LOSE for two reasons. One, obviously, for the good of the planet. But also because, genuinely, I think he has a very limited shelf-life as effective satire. It will become less effective.”

“Well,” I suggested, “there are three possibilities. One: he will get shot. Two: he will get impeached. Three: he might turn into a good President because you don’t want a nice, principled man as President. Jimmy Carter, apparently nice man: ineffective President. Richard Nixon, a right shit: internationally, a pretty good President.”

“I think that’s a little over-simplistic view of American politics!” laughed Simon.

“That’s my speciality,” I told him. “The trouble is Trump is not a hard, cynical politician. He’s a little schoolboy throwing tantrums and trying to bully people… So do you feel an affinity to him? How do you ‘become’ Trump?”

“Well,” Simon told me, “it’s like drag. You put on the orange make-up, put on the suit and red tie and flop the hair about.”

Simon Jay being made into Donald Trump

“It’s like drag. You put on orange make-up and flop the hair”

“You wear a wig as Trump?” I asked.

“No! It’s my own hair. Unlike him, I actually use my own hair.”

“He wears a wig?” I asked.

“It’s monkey glands,” Simon replied. “Implants, like Elton John. Trump’s hairline goes in two different directions. Half of it grows from one angle and the other half from another angle. It’s like M.C.Escher hair.”

“And his psychology?” I asked.

“He’s so easy to play,” said Simon, “because he thinks everyone loves him. No matter what happens or what I say, I will be loved – so it’s perfect. It’s a wonderful narcissistic power trip.”

“How,” I asked, “do you put yourself inside his mindset?”

“I just go blank,” explained Simon. “It’s a kind of Zen state, because he doesn’t say anything particularly. His verbal mannerisms are just so airy, it’s almost like Beat Poetry – the same couple of phrases and words over and over again. It’s not like thought, is it?”

“He really IS like a school kid stamping his feet,” I said.

“Well,” said Simon, “if you look at his childhood, he used to bite his nannies and attack them. Terrible anger issues.”

“Have you,” I asked, “watched Alec Baldwin do Trump on Saturday Night Live?”

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump in NBC’s Saturday Night Live

Alec Baldwin in NBC’s Saturday Night Live

“Yes. It is really interesting to see Saturday Night Live go a bit further in its takedown of a politician, but it’s still nowhere near like our satire. We are a lot more horrible to our politicians. Saturday Night Live say: Oh, Trump is obsessed by money and is a bit sexist! On Spitting Image, we had Thatcher as Adolf Hitler, gassing people! They could be a bit tougher. When Tina Fey did Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, it was still a nod and a wink and the real Sarah Palin actually appeared with her.”

“Trump has gone wrong on the PR,” I suggested, “by attacking Saturday Night Live. Politicians have to be seen to laugh with comedy digs.”

“But maybe Trump is very clever,” Simon replied. “Everyone is reporting: Look at him! He can’t even take a joke! That distracts people from the politics: Look! He’s appointed this cabinet that are going to roll-back so many things. They’re pro-life, anti-gay, racist. People are talking less about that when they’re talking about him and Alec Baldwin.”

“So,” I asked, “how do you differ from Alec Baldwin?”

“I’m nowhere near as famous!” laughed Simon, “and I have nowhere near the same influence.”

“Will you be doing 20-minute spots in comedy clubs as Trump?”

“No, because it’s not an impression; it’s a whole hour-long show. It’s a characterisation in its own surreal world. So seeing it for a few minutes would not work in the same way.”

“Is there a risk,” I asked, “that you get so typed as Trump in the next four years that Simon Jay will lose-out as a performer?”

“Yeah. I’ll do other projects. I want to go to the Edinburgh Fringe and do Trump AND something else. Everyone is advising me against doing two shows again, but I would like to.”

“So your Trump show at this year’s Fringe…?” I prompted.

Orange is the new black in the US Donald Trump Simon Jay

For voters in the USA, it seems orange really is the new black

“The Trump thing has been taken on by a proper producer now – James Seabright – so it will be more packaged and slick though it will still be the same raw, slightly unpalatable truth it was last time.”

“Any reaction so far from the man in the Trump Tower?” I asked.

“No,” said Simon. “Part of the previous show was a bit where I was molesting a rabbit and I got the audience to take pictures of it and said: Can you Tweet the pictures to me? meaning me. But some people sent them to the real Donald Trump. So he maybe has a lot of photos of me looking like him, molesting a rabbit, but I have had no complaint from him yet.”

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I am approached by a UK political party

A mug shot with Lord Toby Jug (right)

A real political mug shot – with Lord Toby Jug (right)

It ain’t often that I get a press release from the leader of a British political party.

But, into my Inbox plopped a missive from Lord Toby Jug, leader of the Eccentric Party of Great Britain, who recently launched a bid to take over the leadership of UKIP.

Diane James quit as leader after just 18 days in charge and then there was that unfortunate incident at the European Parliament, where UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe was reportedly floored in fisticuffs by fellow UKIP MEP Mike Hookem. He then subsequently collapsed and was hospitalised with a suspected bleeding brain.

“The post of UKIP leader,” says the official Eccentric Party press release, “was made for a seriously deranged fruitcake like Lord Toby.”

The man himself says: “I’ve got my UKIP membership card now and party posters. I am a fully paid-up UKIP member. I even had the decency to send a personal £100 donation to Nigel Farage to have a good night out on the ale.”

He continues: “I think I am the best qualified for UKIP, since I was a schoolboy boxing champion at West Ham Boxing Club. I am now prepared to take on Nigel Farage’s puppet Paul Nuttall in the leadership contest. Once elected, I will personally dissolve the party before it inevitably implodes.”

Lord Toby founded the Eccentric Party of Great Britain after splitting with the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, has been contesting elections for decades and will be standing in the by-election at former Prime Minister David Cameron’s parliamentary seat. He ran unsuccessfully for the Labour leadership last year.

He says he was “stunned” when he found his application had not been weeded out by UKIP.

He is standing for UKIP leader with the slogan:

DON’T BE A MUG VOTE LORD TOBY JUG

Let’s hope he can bring a bit of sanity back into British politics.

ukipcard_lordtobyjug_cut

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The Brexit vote to leave Europe was a lie. Percentages were more like 10/90.

The pencil is more powerful than the pen?

The pencil is more powerful than the pen or the sword?

Yesterday, I was travelling in an Overground train in London and got chatting to someone who works as a plumber. Let’s call him Peter (not his name).

Peter the Plumber is maybe in his late twenties. I could be way out. He could be in his early thirties but, if I had to guess, I would put him at maybe 29 years old.

We bonded on a lot of things, though not everything.

He thought the police were corrupt from bottom to top. He thought the court system had nothing to do with justice and was a game for lawyers and judges. He thought the drug laws were ridiculous – it is legal to willy-nilly prescribe variations of heroin and cocaine for medical purposes but not marijuana.

He said he did not vote in elections because the whole political and ruling system was corrupt. If he were to vote for anyone, he told me, he supposed it would be Jeremy Corbyn. I suggested maybe the Green Party and he was not averse to that but, as he thought the whole system was unworkable, there was no point.

I suggested, if there were a candidate or a party he thought had the correct policies and beliefs, then, by voting for them and increasing their majority even by one, he was giving them more profile and more visible backing – he should vote for them even if he believed they had no chance of winning.

“Like Jeremy Corbyn,” he suggested.

But he is not going to vote in elections because he believes the whole system is corrupt.

“Why do they give you pencils to mark the ballot paper in voting booths?” he asked me. “The people who mark you down as having voted and the people sitting outside the polling stations have pens. Why do they give you pencils to vote with? Pencils are more expensive than pens.”

I said I thought it odd that, as far as I know, when policemen write down statements, they are required to do it in pencil not pen. (I could be wrong that it is a requirement.)

brexitmapbbcHe said he did not believe the Brexit vote to leave the European Union was correct. The vote was 52% to leave. “I think the real vote,” he told me, “was more like 90% to 10%.”

“In which way?” I asked.

“To leave,” he said. “No-one I know wants to be in Europe. The Scots have it right. They want to leave the UK because they don’t want this other place making decisions for them. They want to make their own decisions.”

Let’s leave aside the fact that a high percentage of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

Given the fact that many people who voted ‘Remain’ in the Brexit referendum find it unacceptable that there was a ‘Leave’ vote because everyone they know voted ‘Remain’… I thought it was interesting that youngish Peter The Plumber, who shows all the signs of being a true Corbynite and an anti-Establishment Left-Winger could not believe that the ‘Leave’ vote was as low as 52%.

Everyone thinks they are ‘normal’ and average and that their mostly self-chosen circle of friends and acquaintances are the norm. Everyone thinks they know what the majority of ‘normal people’ think.

Everyone is almost always wrong because they see and hear in their own bubble of ’normality’.

And, yes, I know if I write ‘everyone’ I should not write ‘they’ and ’their’ – I should write ‘he or she’.

But let’s not be pedantic. It is normal to use ‘they’ to mean ‘he or she’. Isn’t it?

Well, it seems that way to me.

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Filed under Europe, Politics, UK

Five random UKIP members talk

The UKIP logo

Ages ago, my eternally un-named friend objected to the fact that, in my blog, I have often quoted people saying things I don’t myself believe. “People will think they are your views,” she told me.

Well, I reckon, that’s their problem. If they can’t read reported speech without getting confused, they ain’t worth bothering about.

I think it’s interesting to listen to other people’s views if you don’t agree with them – perhaps especially if you don’t believe in or agree with them. There is very little point listening to people whose opinions are exactly the same as yours.

I went to Albania in 1979 and North Korea in 1986 and 2012 but I really don’t think you could call me a hardline Marxist-Leninist or a Kim Il-sungist or an Enver Hoxhaist.

Thus this blog…

I was in a local coffee shop today and, at the next table, were five people of a certain age – well, five fairly old people. They were members of UKIP (the UK Independence Party), discussing who to vote for in the UKIP leadership election.  

This is what they said…

As context, some demonstrators recently stopped flights at London City Airport by sitting in the runway.


UK results of the 2014 European Parliament election. Districts where UKIP received the largest number of votes are shown in purple. (Map by MrPenguin20 on Wikipedia)

UK results of the 2014 European Parliamentary election. Districts where UKIP received the largest number of votes are in purple. (Wikipedia map by MrPenguin20)

MAN 1
I do believe, if we sat across the motorway, like some other people have… If we do that, if we get the publicity and we then have somebody clever with words to stand there, being arrested, standing there saying: This is why I am doing it. Give us our country back! Give us our democracy! That is a power above politics.

WOMAN 1
I just read in the Daily Mail that they’re trying to bring in a rule that they (immigrants into the UK) can only come in if they’ve got a job, first of all. and they’re not going to get free benefits.

MAN 1
That was then. What Theresa May is saying now is: I’m not telling you. Her own party is saying: Mind your own business. The reason being is I think that she has to wait for the people jerking her strings to decide. What she’s done so far is everything you would do if you were going to cheat us. It’s no good saying: They promised this and they promised that. Actions are louder than words and the actions of the Tory Party are: Up yours! You’re not getting it! and we’re going to delay, delay and obfuscate and we’re going to compromise. I’m sorry. I don’t believe a word any of those Tories say.

WOMAN 2
I don’t believe a word any politicians say.

MAN 1
Exactly. At least Labour is honest enough to say: We’re against this and we’re going to have a new Referendum, which I suppose they are not. They are anti-democratic.

WOMAN 1
Look at all the U-turns they’ve had.

MAN 1
Owen Smith has said that’s what he’s going to do if he gets in. You know where you stand with Labour. They’re anti-democratic, hard Left and don’t give a damn for the working man. They haven’t done for a generation.

WOMAN 2
None of the Labour lot care.

MAN 1
The Tories – They don’t come out and say: This is what we want. That little spin man from advertising (David Cameron), he did a grand job of re-marketing what was and still is The Nasty Party. And then he put shedloads – billions and billions – into the laps of African dictators and gangsters, just to show that We care… We care to waste your money. We never did anything for the ordinary people in those African countries. They didn’t get it.

MAN 2
They never do. They never, ever get it. It’s all siphoned off.

MAN 1
He knew that and he didn’t care. A load of black peasants – they’re even worse than our oiks. They say: We’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that. We’re not gonna have immigrants. We’re gonna stop them if they don’t have a job. That’s a heck of a lot harder than saying: Here’s the points system. Make your application. We will process it. Yes you can come. No you can’t. That is EASY! That’s the way the Aussies do it.

MAN 2
It’s fair.

MAN 1
When they say We cannot do it while Australia can do, it is a lie. A nasty little lie.

MAN 2
If it meets that criteria, it doesn’t matter what they’re like. If they haven’t got a criminal record, if they’re not this, if they’re not that – the basic criteria – then they’ve got a basic job coming. They’re welcome. No problem.

MAN 1
Part of that points system IS that you’ve got to have a job.

WOMAN 3
And all the riffraff from…

MAN 1
Anyway, let’s get back to who is going to be the least obnoxious or the best person. I’ve been making some notes on this and, frankly, I’m confused. Patrick O’Flynn is a man I respect. Diane James? She’s got some background. One of the things that’s funny about her is that picture. She’s quite a good-looking young woman there, but she’s a bit older now.

WOMAN 1
Why can’t we get Farage? He was the only one. They will be a pale imitation…

MAN 2
They’ll be a shadow.

MAN 1
Apparently she came a very close second in the Eastleigh by-election. She’s the Justice & Home Affairs Spokesperson. She’s on the NEC… There’s Elizabeth Jones… Oh no, I’m getting them mixed up. It’s Elizabeth Jones who had that really nice picture. Airbrushed or whatever they do nowadays.

MAN 2
Airbrushed?

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The vote to leave the European Union: democracy v totalitarianism v bullshit?

DailyExpress, 25th June 2016

The result of the Brexit vote was surprising.

The reaction of many on the ‘losing’ side has been interesting, if not surprising.

There was a 52%-48% vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU on a high 72% turnout on a national vote that was always said to be a ‘simple majority’ vote. As it happened, there was a 4% gap between the two sides.

People are now being asked in the interests of “democracy” to sign a petition to Parliament saying that the Referendum (presumably retrospectively) should only count if there is at least 60% in favour of the UK leaving the EU on a turnout of more than 75%.

The Scotsman, 25th June 2016

If the vote had been the other way round and people were going about trying to get this signed, they would be called Right Wing Fascists who had no respect for the democratic process.

I was also interested in a Facebook post which said:

“No but seriously. What kind of idiot political system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change when it isn’t supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive, and even a huge wave of anti-establishment populism can only muster 51.9% support for it in a referendum?

New York Post, 25th June 2016

“In the USA you can’t get a constitutional change unless it’s supported by the president, two-thirds of both houses of congress and 75% of the states. I know that’s making it tough to deal with the stupid bits of the US constitution, but at least you don’t get mad shit like this.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the answer to the question:

“What kind of idiot political system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change when it isn’t supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive and (it gets) 51.9% support in a referendum?”

…is Democracy.

The answer to the question:

“What kind of system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change voted for by the electorate to happen only if it is supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive?”

…is Totalitarianism.

What that says about the US is a matter for them.

Just to clarify matters, I studied British Constitution at school (it was a specific exam subject and, yes, it was a long time ago) and I am profoundly against holding any referenda in a representative democracy.

I think the legislature and executive should decide everything in a representative democracy but, if the executive in a representative democracy decide to hold a referendum then that is their choice.

The answer to the question: “What kind of system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change voted for by the electorate to happen only if it is supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive?”

…remains Totalitarianism.

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Political killings in Kenya and in the UK

On Friday (in London) I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with comedy critic Kate Copstick on a bad line from a noisy cafe in Nairobi.

Copstick is in Kenya until this coming Friday, working with her Mama Biashara charity, which helps deprived individuals and groups to start up their own small legitimate businesses to support themselves; and also deals with medical problems.

Here are some more highly-edited extracts from her diary entries which appear in full on the Mama Biashara Facebook page.


Mama Biashara logo

TUESDAY 14th JUNE

Equal opportunity rejection yesterday… A Presbyterian organisation turned down my pleas for help and we were told that the Moslem children of Kibera would rather be worm-ridden and scabby-headed than have us help as I am ‘unclean’. Not even an infidel. Unclean. To be fair, that is actually quite true at the moment

Doris calls to cancel our afternoon de-worming in Kibera. She says she has been warned off because there is a LOT of tension following some members of the government publicly calling for the shooting of the Leader of the Opposition. Doris has been told to leave if she wants to be safe. So she leaves. Shortly thereafter I get sent a photo of a woman’s body burning on the streets of Kibera.

David and I sit in a massive jam on Moi Avenue caused by the fact that a matatu sacco has its stage there and, on a small two lane road, one lane is permanently blocked solid with parked buses. Ten of the buggers I counted. Why is it allowed? I wonder aloud. I am told: It is not allowed. It is against the law and by laws and City Council rules. But these buses are owned by MPs and so no one will touch them.

In the city centre, everyone is talking about the Kuria – the guy who started all the hate speech and calls for Raila to be killed – and his cronies. Nairobi is not happy.

WEDNESDAY 15th JUNE

A woman burned to death in the streets of Kibera.

A woman burned to death in the streets of Kibera, Kenya.

The government have put six of the hate speech MPs in the cells. The opposition want theirs released immediately as it was the government MPs who started it all. I fully expect one of them to threaten to scweam and scweam until he ith thick. But, instead, they threaten more disruption.

On Facebook yesterday, I posted a fucking picture of a woman ON FIRE in Kibera. They went crazy in Kibera a set a couple of random people on fire because they were the wrong tribe. NOT ONE COMMENT ON FACEBOOK !!! WTF are people about?

I mean, I know that the Orlando massacre was horrific and appalling and now all right-thinking people are standing in silence in Old Compton Street because – of course – that will change everything and not just because it will make THEM feel better. But for fuck’s sake. Sorry. Rant over.

Has America come round to the disappointing realisation that Orlando might just have been old-fashioned homophobia and not new and exciting and politically useful terrorism?

THURSDAY 16th JUNE

A new Mama Biashara juice bar

A new Mama Biashara juice bar recently opened in Nairobi.

As the picture I posted on Facebook of an actual woman on actual fire during riots in Kibera got not one reaction, I thought I would revert to something nicer in the hope that people will notice. This is part of a Mama Biashara Juice Bar. And this tiny space is home to sixty business people : chapati and coffee sellers, sugar cane juice makers, fresh fruit salad and juice sellers, samosa makers and boiled egg peeps. Mostly funded yesterday and raring to go.

I go to the market at Junction to collect stock. Worryingly, Evans – who is making two chess sets for us – has not returned from Kisii. And his phone is not going through.

Online, I read about the MP who has been shot and stabbed in the UK. Bloody hell!

For once, the craziness in the UK exceeds the craziness in Kenya.

Here, all hell has broken loose because some MPs were calling for the assassination of the leader of the opposition. In the UK, they have actually killed an MP. These are bad times. I feel like watching a Shirley Temple film or going to see Spencer JonesHerbert, just to reassure myself that there is sweetness around somewhere.

And my wonderful Uncle Bob has had a stroke. And a child has been eaten by an alligator (or something) at Disney World. And a magpie is stealing blue tit chicks in my stepsister’s garden in Scotland.

Back in my Nairobi home, I discover we have no water and I lug a jerrycan round to my cell so I can wash some clothes. Oh yes. That is how we roll here at Mama Biashara. My hopes of having hot water explode with my kettle on a dodgy plug, so a cold wash has to do. Then I organise the pile of de-wormers, malaria medication, painkillers and calcium, cod liver oil and garlic, multivitamins and cough syrup to be sent to Jayne in Awendo and Julius in Western.

Thence to bed. I play Solitaire obsessively every night, because it is about creating order out of chaos it is incredibly therapeutic for my fraught mind. I have wildly scatological dreams. A first for me… and not in a good way.

FRIDAY 17th JUNE

The administration block of Kenyatta Hospital

Administration block of Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi.

There are a couple of things I have forgotten to mention and one new horror to regale you with.

It turns out that Joan’s account of there being no more free ARVs for HIV+ people in Kenya is true. Médecins Sans Frontières is withdrawing from most places – Homa Bay has gone and Kibera is on the way out. Their clinics are being taken over by the Kenyan Health Authorities which means paying for everything and being treated by doctors who are – in general – doctors in name only.

Felista was also called to a meeting by the NACC (National AIDS Control Council) along with all concerned parties in the Dagoretti area to be told that the ARVs have almost run out completely and there are no more testing kits. It is one way, I suppose, of keeping your HIV infection stats looking chipper – just don’t test people.

In other news, a news crew (Kenyan) got into a small room in Kenyatta Hospital (the biggest in Eastern Africa… A beacon of light and hope blah blah blah) where 36 people were crammed in various stages of injury. These are people who had been injured in an accident and brought to Kenyatta Emergency Department. When it transpired after a couple of days that they could not pay their bill, they were dumped off the ward into this small room. Just a room – absolutely nothing that could be construed as an amenity – and relatives have to bring them food and clothing. No beds, just the stone floor. Some still bandaged up. A couple still bloodied. One bloke has been there for a year.

SATURDAY 18th JUNE

Copstick with Mama Biashara co-worker Felista

Kate Copstick (right) with Mama Biashara co-worker Felista

I am still angry with the world.

There is a new girl whom Felista wants me to see. Also the dormitory floors are oozing water. And the gate is falling apart.

The new girl – Shiko – was rescued from her uncle. She was sent to live with him after her parents died. She was beaten and locked in a back room. She is mentally impaired because of the appalling traumas she has been through – including being trapped in that locked room when fire broke out and being very very badly burned. It is impossible to tell how badly. Her scars are horrible and she has almost lost a hand. She exhibits quite a lot of obsessive behaviour – as a lot of the badly-abused kids at Felista’s do when they arrive – and eats paper. But she responds to stroking and when we put some music on she dances with me.

Another girl, Muthoni, came to Felista utterly broken after ten years of sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle from the age of five. The uncle has not been imprisoned. He said that, because he ‘married’ her when she was thirteen (and had already been abusing her for eight years) it was all OK. The police agreed.

Muthoni is now a bouncing, healthy, happy teenager. She is very cuddly – sort of like a large seven year old – and she can now see men without screaming. Recently, she has told Felista she wants a husband.

So there is great hope for the new girl Shiko. And Muthoni is looking after her.


MAMA BIASHARA EXISTS SOLELY BECAUSE OF DONATIONS. COPSTICK RECEIVES NOTHING AND SHE COVERS NONE OF HER EXPENSES IN ANY WAY. THE MAMA BIASHARA WEBSITE HAS DETAILS OF THEIR WORK.

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