Wednesday, February 28, 2007

AL GREEN-Take Me To The River

Time for some music, I think. After mentioning the Talking Heads' fine version of this song in my last post, I couldn't really pass over the Al Green original.

It's true that my band could approximate (but never equal) the early Talking Heads sound, but we could never have got anywhere near this!

Just incredible...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Business or God

Recently, I discovered that ex-Talking Head and now-music legend, David Byrne, has a blog, and a very interesting one it is too. I am a fan, and the band for which I used to play guitar and sax and write songs, Pure Television, did several Talking Heads covers - Psycho Killer, Heaven, and Take me to the River, which, though an Al Green song, we tried to play in the TH way.

In a recent entry, he is in Savannah, Georgia, and he writes:

I went into the convenience store by the gas station to get a beer to nurse in the room. The door to the chiller wouldn’t open and the sullen-faced young black man behind the counter said, “No beer on Sunday”. OK. As we walked across the street to the hotel Malu asked me why no beer on Sunday and I explained that it was a religious law. That the church didn’t want people drinking on Sundays and the church still meddles in the affairs of the country in general sufficiently that they can cause such laws to be passed. We get used to it. She looked at me in shock, incredulous that some mysterious entity we have nothing to do with could be dictating aspects of our lives. I told her in NY liquor stores only recently began to be open on Sundays. Business beats God in NYC.

Isn’t it true that business, in this respect, might also make us just as “incredulous that some mysterious entity we have nothing to do with could be dictating aspects of our lives”? After all, opening shops and selling alcohol seven days a week is just as much an ideological act as closing down for a day, a deliberate (and, in many cases, recent) change in tradition.

I’m not arguing for the reintroduction of a Sabbath Day. I wish DB had been able to get his beer and I might well have felt like one myself on a hot day in Savannah, Georgia. But it's true that people now organise part of their lives around Sunday shopping in my home city. It must be one of the busiest days of the week in Tescos. Business or God? We always seem to place ourselves at the mercy of something.


It’s Lent, a time when Christians are supposed to practice self-denial and everyone else looks on, or not, with bemusement. But Aisha requests that we join in with NUNS – No Unnecessary Needless Shopping – until Easter Sunday on 8 April. I’ve had to exempt tickets for StAnza events (not much point being at a poetry festival and not going to anything), but other than that, I’ve signed up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

StAnza Highlights

Here’s what I’d like to see at the StAnza Poetry Festival. In practice, I doubt I’ll manage all of this. But I’m about to prioritise and book tickets for the ones I least want to miss.

Of course, if anyone reading this is coming, don’t forget my spot on Sunday 18th March at 11.30am-12.30pm, along with Lyn Moir and Diana Hendry.

Wednesday 14th

2.15pm Translated Poets: Italy: Vivian Lamarque, Marco Fazzini
5pm Reading: Polly Clark, Jen Hadfield
8pm Reading: Sean O’Brien, Mimi Khalvati
10.30pm Open Mic

Thursday 15th

11am Showcase: Eric Gregory Awards: Fiona Benson, Retta Bowen, Frances Leviston, Jonathan Morley, Eoghan Walls
2.15pm Meet the Artist: Jill Turnbull and Roy Fisher (Gael Turnbull exhibition)
3.30pm StAnza lecture: George Szirtes
5pm Reading: Jenny Jospeh, Michael Laskey
8pm Reading: Gwyneth Lewis, Roy Fisher
10.30pm Open Mic

Friday 16th

10am Discussion, Homelands and Exile: Ruth Padel, Jackie Kay, Gwyneth Lewis, George Szirtes
11.30am Dead Poets Session: Alastair Reid reads Robert Graves, Mimi Khalvati reads Elizabeth Bishop
2.15pm Meet the Editors: Magma, David Boll, Tim Robertson, Laurie Smith
8pm Reading: Ruth Padel, George Szirtes

Saturday 17th

10am Masterclass: George Szirtes
12.30pm onwards: Poetry Pamphlet Fair
3pm Poetry Film: Bye-Child
3.25pm Meet the Artist: Bernard MacLaverty
5pm Reading: Mario Petrucci, Pascal Petit

Sunday 18th

10.15am Poetry Film: Poets against the Bomb
Afternoon until 4.30pm: 100 Poets Gathering
5pm Reading: Imtiaz Dharker, Jane Yeh
8pm Reading: Mark Strand, Jorie Graham
10.30pm Festival Finale: The Tuberians (world music)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Shore Poets

Tonight I’ll be at the monthly meeting of the Shore Poets, which is usally a good evening’s live poetry. The line-up includes Dorothy Lawrenson whose chapbook I read a few weeks ago, Diana Hendry who is headlining the event at StAnza that I am also reading at, and also Harvey Holton, who has recently written a book of translations into Scots from the contemporary Chinese poet, Yang Lian – and Holton also writes his own poems in Scots.

At the Mai Thai cafe bar
The Tun, 111 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AE
Sunday 25 February, 7.45 pm
Admission £2 / concessions £1

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Great Poetry Exchange

There’s still time to participate in the Great Poetry Exchange. If you have a poetry book or chapbook, or can cobble one together with a printer and stapler, then register and get something in exchange.

I know there are bloggers out there who write excellent poetry, some of whom have written excellent books, but who aren’t participating. So come on! What you get in return could be brilliant or could be rubbish, but the gamble is all part of the fun.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Epigrams on Poets

I picked up a book of epigrams and epitaphs at a second-hand bookshop. There is a lot of good stuff in it. Here are four short verses on poets:

On Peter Robinson

Here lies the preacher, judge, and poet, Peter
Who broke the laws of God, and man, and metre.

- Francis, Lord Jeffrey

On a Certain Poet

Pride in his pity, artifice his praise
A mask his virtue, and his fame a blaze;
Insult his charity, his friendship fear,
And nothing but his vanity, sincere.

- Anonymous (!)


Yes, every poet is a fool:
By demonstration Ned can show it:
Happy, could Ned’s inverted rule
Prove every fool to be a poet.

- Svévole de Sainte-Marthe


Sir, I admit your general rule
That every poet is a fool:
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

- Alexander Pope

(nice one, Mr. Pope!)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fife? Rife? Strife?

I did some revision on a sonnet earlier this morning, one I wrote a few months ago called My Friend, Marie. It was one of these poems that was almost working – but not quite – and being on the brink is never sufficient.

Part of the problem was its Petrarchan structure and a stupid –ife rhyme I’d chosen in the octet. Do you know how many –ife words rhyme perfectly? Not many. I’d used wife, knife and life. So I had fife, strife, rife, and not much else to play with, to finish off the octet. The line I’d drafted was the poem’s main weakness – far too bland and obvious.

This morning I found something much better, but I'm now reflecting on whether I’ve achieved the desired meshing of form and content, or if the form has scored a point against the content. I don’t want to post it here, as I may be about to send it to a magazine, but it strikes me (not for the first time) that a single word or phrase is enough to kill off an otherwise strong poem.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Serge Gainsbourg

Linking to that video of Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg the other day on this blog made me wonder whether it’s still the case that most British people (and Americans too maybe?) think of two things when they think of Gainsbourg:

first, his infamous hit with Jane Birkin, Je t’aime (moi non plus), which became both the first foreign language song to reach number 1 in the UK singles chart (at a time when that chart meant something), and the first song to reach number 1 after being banned from the radio and TV, and:

second, his infamous encounter with Whitney Houston on live French TV (and you don’t need to understand a word of French to know what’s going on here), in which Serge plays up his drunken-womaniser image to the full. Whitney’s astonished expression and the TV host’s desperate attempt to cover things up are jaw-dropping.

But Serge was so much more than these two incidents. Views tend to polarise around him: either he is virtually a god, and his many faults are ignored, or he is the most evil, mysogynistic bastard who ever walked the planet. The truth is (obviously, I hope) far more complex. He was a genius, one of the greatest and most creative songwriters and lyricists of the 20th century, and at times he must have been funny, stimulating, and terrific company. At other times, his excesses (and you only need glance at photos of the later Serge to guess how many litres of alcohol he must have consumed in an average day) must have made him impossible to live with.

He was brought up as part of a Jewish family in Paris and, as a child, was made to wear the yellow star under Nazi occupation. He escaped from Paris, and later began to make a living as a bar piano player. His songs soon began to attract attention. He fused the traditional French ‘chanson’ with elements of cool jazz and rock and, in time, also with reggae, North African music, early electronica, and hip-hop.

His song Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965, sung by France Gall.

The fabulous L’Anamour, from 1968, is one early example of fusion.

Serge was never far from controversy. Halfway through one of his finest songs, Je Suis Venu te Dire que Je m’en Vais, a woman starts to cry. The woman is Jane Birkin, and it’s reported that Serge, without her knowledge, taped her real tears of grief at a family death, and then dropped them into his song.

In the late seventies, Serge went to Jamaica and recorded (with Sly and Robbie no less, with Rita Marley on backing vocals) Aux Armes et Caetera (audio link only), a reggae version of La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, which outraged several right-wing groups in the country. Before a concert in Paris, Serge was threatened with death if he went ahead with a tour to promote the album. His response was not only to play the concert, but to open his set with the offending song. And he lived…

Gainsbourg then bought the original manuscript of La Marseillaise. He proved to his critics that his version was, in fact, closer to the original. The manuscript has the words "Aux armes et cætera..." scrawled in for the chorus!

Despite not being particularly eye-catching, Serge teamed up with some of the most beautiful women of his era – sometimes just to sing, sometimes for a little more.

With Jane Birkin lying on top of the piano, here here's a fantastic video of 69 Année Erotique.
With Brigitte Bardot, having a bit of a laugh, here’s Comic Strip
And trying to cuddle up with close friend and screen legend, Catherine Deneuve, here’s Dieu Fumeur de Havanes . Catherine appears well able to handle this kind of attention…
Finally, a fantastic live version of La Ballade de Johnny by Jane Birkin and Vanessa Paradis.

He died in 2 March 1991. At his funeral, French President, François Mitterrand, said of him "He was our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire...He elevated the song to the level of Art." His reputation in France today has never been higher. And the word appears to be spreading through the rest of the world too, despite resistance in the UK to anyone who doesn’t sing in English. I wish that wasn’t the case. My French is terrible, but I can still hear why Gainsbourg is acknowledged as one of the great songwriters, lyricists and performers. Bands like Belle and Sebastian, Pulp, and many other groups have been listening to Gainsbourg too.

Monday, February 19, 2007


On Shakespeare’s Cymbeline:

“To remark on the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon facts too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.” (Dr. Johnson)

“The chief mark of the experimental imagination in Cymbeline is to be found in its verse. The words are packed densely; instead of flowing out in sentences, they seem to break off individually, like drips of quartz under the hammer; they reach the ear in a rhythm that is abrupt and yet elegiac, angular yet gentle.” (John Wain)

“'It is for the most part stagey trash of the lowest melodramatic order, in parts abominably written, throughout intellectually vulgar, and, judged in point of thought by modern intellectual standards, vulgar, foolish, offensive, indecent, and exasperating beyond all tolerance.
There are moments when one asks despairingly why our stage should ever have been cursed with this "immortal" pilferer of other men's stories and ideas, with his monstrous rhetorical fustian, his unbearable platitudes, his pretentious reduction of the subtlest problems of life to commonplaces against which a Polytechnic debating club would revolt, his incredible unsuggestiveness, his sententious combination of ready reflection with complete intellectual sterility, and his consequent incapacity for getting out of the depth of even the most ignorant audience, except when he solemnly says something so transcendently platitudinous that his more humble-minded hearers cannot bring themselves to believe that so great a man really meant to talk like their grandmothers.
With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Cymbeline was Lord Tennyson’s favourite Shakespeare play. When Tennyson died, a copy of Cymbeline was found on his bed beside him, and was then buried with him in his grave.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Favourite Movies

C. E. Chaffin mischievously tagged me to set out my favourite movies of all time. I usually ignore tags, but thought I’d do this one. But this list is what came to mind today. A good third of it might change by tomorrow as more movies come to mind. I have seen a lot of movies in my life. These are in no particular order – titles and directors.

1. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder)
2. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
3. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
4. Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch)
5. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
6. Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair)
7. Crossing Delancey (Joan Micklin Silver)
8. L’Ora di Religione (Marco Bellocchio)
9. Amarcord (Federico Fellini)
10. L’Ultimo Bacio (Gabriele Muccino)
11. Lost Highway (David Lynch)
12. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
13. The Quiet American (Philip Noyce)
14. Abri Los Ojos (Alejandro Amenabar)
15. Cristo si è Fermato à Eboli (Francesco Rosi)
16. La Tregua (Francesco Rosi)
17. Ararat (Atom Egoyan)
18. Naked (Mike Leigh)
19. La Vita è Bella (Roberto Benigni)
20. Crimes and Misdemeanours (Woody Allen)
21. Raining Stones (Ken Loach)
22. Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch)
23. Betty Blue (Jean-Jacque Beineix)
24. True Stories (David Byrne)
25. Faraway, So Close (Wim Wenders)

Bonnie and Clyde

For some reason, I can’t seem to post this to my blog. It’s Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot performing Bonnie and Clyde.

Before MTV takes over the world and imagination finally leaves the building, here's how good a music video really can be (if MTV were behind this video today, they'd no doubt tell Serge and Brigitte to ditch the cigarettes, but not to drop the guns).

The coolest music video ever?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

10,000 Maniacs - What's the Matter here

"I'm tired of the excuses everybody uses, 'He's your kid, I'll stay out of it...'"

From In My Tribe , one of the best and most under-rated albums of the 1980s.

Friday, February 16, 2007

D-Day at the National

At this very moment, John Burnside, Alice Oswald, and Lee Harwood, the judges of the UK National Poetry Competition, are arguing out their final shortlist from the mound of poems in front of them – not all 9000 or so entries of course – but whatever remains after the sifting process so far.

They’ll settle on 13 poems, and choose a first, second and third from those by the end of this afternoon. The remaining ten will receive commendations. But in a crafty twist this year, “to create an air of excitement, they will keep the order of the winners a secret until the award ceremony on 26 March.”


But good luck to all of you reading this who entered. I sent in some poems, but my chance of picking up anything two years in a row are slim. In fact, I have my doubts that anyone has made the shortlist two years running, although I believe Ros Barber has been short-listed on three separate occasions. One of these days, Ros is bound to win it. It's clearly only a matter of time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Never-Never

I’ve read a little of Kathryn Gray’s collection, The Never-Never (Seren, 2004).

Some excellent poems in it, and a few of them can be found at Limelight.

The first poem there, The King's Head is really strong, with that shift towards the end adding a hint of mystery. The other two poems are less 'instant', but are both very good.

And I love the cover.

The Pox

My daughter has chicken pox. Not a bad thing to get it when you’re 4-years-old of course. She was a bit hot and drowsy at first and off her food, but now she’s fine, playing away, and her rash is very mild so far. I got it when I was 17, the day of my History Higher exam, which I sat with a temperature of over 102 degrees. The next day I felt ill, was covered in spots from head to foot, couldn’t sit my Latin, and was off school for two weeks.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here's a Good Idea...

…from HappenStance Press – E Gift Certificates, which are “an ideal present for poetry lovers, and are redeemable exclusively online. After purchasing a certificate, you can email the amount purchased to friends via the links provided automatically in the store, sending as much as you want to as many people as you like up to the amount purchased. The recipient can then shop as normal, and enter the gift certificate code at the checkout to pay for their purchases.”

The certificates are valued at £5, £10, and £20. A £20 certificate will buy 6-7 chapbooks! And they are all very good, I promise.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reflections on Translating Quasimodo - Part 1

Translation is a hard art. Before I began translating poems, I thought that was simply a case of finding words closest to the original words and then stringing them together. But it’s not so simple.

In my translation of Quasimodo’s Snow, I had many decisions to make, even though Snow is a short poem. In L3, the poor ones are chiusa within the soldiers coats. My “trapped” may be a bit strong. Is that what Quasimodo means? Or is it just that they are wrapped in them, dwarfed in coats to big for them? Or in some way the coats act as a metaphor for people closed off from each other, or from the world? I made the decision for “trapped.”

Then in L7-8, I had a real problem and I may not have translated it correctly. I went for “Strike/ at my forehead, strike towards my heart.” The Italian is “Battete/ sulla fronte, battete fino al cuore”, literally “Hit/ on the forehead, hit until the heart.” But whose forehead(s) and heart(s)? Is he exhorting the “dead” to beat on their own foreheads and hearts? “Fronte” and “cuore” are both singular but can refer to a generic plurality of foreheads and hearts. Or is he referring to the foreheads and hearts of the poem’s “we” – Quasimodo and whoever he is with at this moment, or perhaps humanity in general? Or is he thinking of his own forehead and heart - he, the narrator, the poet?

I went for that last option.

Oh, you dead. Strike
at my forehead, strike towards my heart.

However, I noted later that Jack Bevan, who translated Quasimodo’s poems for Penguin (remember the days when Penguin published stuff like this?) for the Selected Poems in 1965, went for the dead - a very different meaning, and I always suspect other translators know something that I don't know (especially those published by Penguin). My Italian can be really dodgy at times. Bevan writes:

…Ah, these dead ones! Beat
your foreheads, beat right down to the heart.

And finally, we have the final two lines, and the tricky image of the closure. Quasimodo writes:

Che urli almeno qualcuno nel silenzio
in questa cerchio bianco di sepolti.

Literally, “That someone at least may howl in the silence/ in this white circle of those having been buried.” Does Quasimodo really mean that there are graves arranged in a circle? Or is “cerchio” being used to connote completeness, like a circle, and by extension, a metaphor for the earth? And it was problematic to find a translation for “sepolti”, a participle being used as a noun, “the having been buried.” That image of burial was important, connecting the snow and the dead. I went for:

Someone should at least cry in the silence,
in this white sphere of the buried

Jack Bevan leans more to the literal:

Let someone, at least, howl in the silence,
In this white circle of buried ones.

There are no final answers. Each translation must stand as a poem. The translator can only hope against hope that he has communicated something of what was in the original writer’s mind.

Monday, February 12, 2007



Evening falls: once more the earth departs –
the images we love, trees,
animals, the poor trapped
in soldiers’ coats, mothers
whose tears have dried out their wombs.
The snow on the lawns shines at us
like a moon. Oh, you dead. Strike
at my forehead, strike towards my heart.
Someone should at least cry in the silence,
in this white sphere of the buried.

- Salvatore Quasimodo, 1947 (my translation)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

New Review of The Clown

When The Clown of Natural Sorrow was published, HappenStance sent out copies to magazines which had previously published my poems, in the hope they might review the chapbook too.

Well, this process takes time. But there is a review by Jim Burns in the latest edition of Ambit, issue 187. And it’s really good, easily the most positive review I’ve had. It’s not online, but if you have a copy, it’s on page 89. If I ever run into Jim Burns, the drinks are on me.

Friday, February 09, 2007

How to Write Great Images

If you want to learn how to write memorable, surprising images that will make readers think, followed by a sharp intake of breath, read Tomas Transtromer. Here are four examples from The Deleted World collection, and then one from The Great Enigma.

A storm from the north. It is the time of rowanberries.
Awake in the night he hears – far above the horned tree –
the stars, stamping in their stalls.


The child’s eyes grow wide in the dark
and the storm howls for him.
Both love the swinging lamps;
both are halfway towards speech.


The house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.


The tugboat is freckled with rust. What is it doing so far inland?
It’s a heavy burnt-out lamp, tipped over in the cold.


In day's first hours consciousness can grasp the world
as the hand grips a sun-warmed stone.


Of course, seeing how it's done doesn't necessarily make it any easier to do by oneself...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Developing a Manuscript

Another busy week, and I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. I’ve been wanting to post more chapbook reviews on this blog, but haven’t had time to write them. They will come soon. I’ve had two reviews to write for the next issue of Sphinx, which I’ve just sent in. I also plan to work on a review for another publication. I have a couple of poems fermenting in my mind that might suit a certain magazine. And I have this Patron Saint of Petrol Stations idea for a poem, which is a scrappy mess of notes at the moment. The title was inspired by Jim Sheard's list of Valentine gifts one might pick up from petrol station shops on the 13th February.

The other night, I went through all the poems not included in my chapbook and noted the ones that might conceivably be good enough for a future collection. The next stage is to find a ‘concept’ that appears to hold a large group of them together (I have a few ideas) and try to shape the collection accordingly. Then I’ll revise these poems until they resist all further tampering. I may write a few new ones as well.

It looks like it’s going to be book-length, about 60 pages. I’d consider self-publishing, and I’d definitely consider another chapbook publisher (and shorten the length accordingly), but I’m going to try to interest ‘commercial’ (sounds funny when applied to poetry!) book publishers first. I have a few in mind – those who have published books I’ve read and enjoyed. Some will likely be way out of my league, but I’m going to have a shot anyway.

But first the choosing, the shaping and patterning, the revising. At the rate I’m going, I might have a book out by 2016 or so.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Poetry and Public Relations

If ever you get commissioned to write a renga (collaborative Japanese-style poem), remember Andy Philip’s cautionary tale, and prepare yourself to smile from within your white dressing-gown and slippers.

Bizarre! Really...
Poetry and PR don't mix. That's an age-old truth.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Deleted Poem

gone for now...

Bible Scholar Me

Well, here’s a surprise.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Complete nonsense of course...

But courtesy of Terminal Chaosity, here’s a much wittier quiz from Dan Halberstein.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Deleted World

I’ve just read The Deleted World a new collection by Tomas Transtromer (translated by Robin Robertson), Sweden's greatest living poet. Only 15 poems, most of them short, which hardly seems worth a book.

But there’s no filler. Every poem is terrific, testimony to a stark, haunting vision, which isn’t content to rest on easily won melancholy. It's secular, but the spiritual is present as much in the absences as in the presences. I'll try to write more about it soon.

From A Winter Night, which starts with “The Storm puts its mouth to the house/ and blows to get a tone”:

A darker storm stands over the world.
It puts its mouth to our soul
and blows to get a tone. We are afraid.
the storm will blow us empty.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Valentine's Day Romance and Gifts

I received a promotional email from Amazon this morning asking whether I “need some inspiration on what to buy for Valentine’s Day.”

Amazon have plenty of ideas, but I’m not so sure about the inspiration – iPods, pots (pots?), games consoles, digital cameras, CDs… and books, the first on the list being Jed Rubenfeld’s novel, The Interpretation of Murder, which may be a good read, but seems a curious choice for Valentine’s Day.

No poetry. Not even Neruda! Where has romance gone? And what would you like to give or receive on Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shilpa Wins, and Life Beyond Big Brother

So Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty, won Celebrity Big Brother with 63 percent of the public vote, after a turbulent time in the house when she was the victim of alleged racist bullying by three other housemates – reality show contestant Jade Goody, model Danielle Lloyd, and singer Jo O’Meara. Shilpa seemed like a nice person and deserving winner. But in the aftermath of the programme, several things have disturbed me.

Big Brother presenter, Davina MacCall, felt Shilpa had won due to her lack of desire for revenge. Shilpa had a generosity about her and had been quick to forgive those who had given her a hard time – this was true. What disturbs me is that the UK public don’t extend the same forgiveness. Since the three tormentors have left the house, they have been the target of anger and hate. Their careers have been wrecked. Jade Goody, reportedly, fainted due to stress-related anxiety a few days ago. So while we may pick up the phone and vote for the face of forgiveness, we don’t forgive. It’s as if we want someone to do the forgiving for us, so that we don’t have to.

It’s a kind of faux-theological narrative. Shilpa on the sacrificial altar of the Big Brother house, enduring the suffering of racist bullying, forgiving those who don’t know what they are doing. She forgives on behalf of all those who can’t or won’t.

The Sun newspaper had a headline, Shilpa Wins for All of Us. We are now cleansed. Each vote for Shilpa has pronounced us Not Guilty. As for the three evildoers, well, they can burn in Hell. And The Sun, fresh now from its campaign against the terrible racists, can get back to the business of telling us how those awful asylum seekers are using up our taxes, and how the UK will fast become an Islamic state if all good materialists don’t stand up to defend our 'traditions'. But don’t worry, we voted for Shilpa, with The Sun's fervent backing, and that now makes The Sun, and us, OK.

I'm not defending the behaviour of the three women, nor am I saying they shouldn't account for their actions, nor that their apologies weren't due. Indeed, I disliked all three of them. But let's not get carried away. Imagine how many people's lives would be in ruin if they were sacked from their jobs and hauled out for public humiliation because they had at one point in their lives made a racist comment. How many Sun journalists would hang onto their jobs?