• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

Who’s the boss?

When you’re at Glastonbury, it’s everyone but the Man.

InternautCartoon
Cartoon/Bruce Eric Kaplan/The Cartoon Bank


From the rebellious anthems of the Pyramid stage to the dubious fumes of the Stone Circle, Glastonbury Festival must surely be a Tory’s idea of hell. On the contrary, insists Steve Hilton, former senior adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Far from being a “left-wing utopia”, the event offers Conservatives “a model for radical policy reform”, writes Hilton in the Spectator. Some might find the surroundings distasteful, but “you’ll find terrible music, dirty people, drugs of various kinds, political lectures and disgusting food everywhere. It’s a question of taste. Personally, I love Glastonbury.”

The festival “operates according to a principle that many politicians – especially Conservative ones – hold dear: ‘trust the people’.” The temporary population of 150,000 is an exemplar of self-reliance. “There are no rules. No officious busybodies popping up every five minutes to tell you that you can’t walk here or sit there. No well-meaning government ‘initiatives’ to ‘help’ and ‘protect’ you.” It all produces not anarchy, says Hilton, “but order: democratic order created by people, rather than the maddening, soul-crushing bureaucratic order we experience daily in modern life. It leads to better standards of behaviour, a civility that is sorely lacking in our bossed-about world.”

bit.ly/NZLGlasto

It seems unlikely that Danish politician Alex Ahrendtsen would much like Glastonbury. Incensed at overuse of foreign phrases, the culture spokesperson for the right-wing People’s Party has mooted a new tax on English words in advertisements. The recent “Do It for Denmark” campaign, for example, which urged patriotic couples to travel overseas and improve the birth rate, would have faced a decent bill. “We want them to stop communicating to us in English,” said Ahrendtsen – in Danish, naturally, but helpfully translated by the Copenhagen Post. “It irritates me considerably.”

Alas, his idea has failed to gain traction. Rivals were quick to ask “what should be done about words like computer, jazz, bacon and pulled pork”, all in common usage, reports the Local. One MP reacted by enunciating, in English, “no more taxes”. Another, Jeppe Mikkelson of the Social Liberal Party, appraised the idea using one of the most evocative nouns in the Queen’s English: “Bullshit”.

bit.ly/NZLdenmark

bit.ly/NZLdenmarkbs

When it comes to marriage proposals, clarity, on the whole, is paramount. But Matthew Dick wanted to be cryptic. Specifically, he wanted to propose to Delyth Hughes through the Times’ cryptic crossword. Its editor obliged, leading to “one of the most unusual editions in its 85-year history”.

Among the clues were “‘Will you marry me’, say, that’s forward also rude!”, for which the eight-letter answer was “proposal”, and “Pretty Welsh girl widely thought not to be all there”, the six-letter answer being “Delyth”. According to the BBC, Hughes “did not say anything for 30 seconds, before jokingly saying ‘No’, followed by ‘Yes’”. She said it was a “typical” gesture on the part of Dick, who is “a smart-arse at the best of times”.

bit.ly/NZLxword

bit.ly/NZLxwordyes

There’s nothing cryptic about Catriona Stewart’s assessment of such stunts in the Glasgow Herald. These days, the columnist complains, proposals seem to require “a flash mob, the stopping of foot traffic in major shopping centres on bank holiday weekends and a professional videographer to record the whole thing. You might even bring a football stadium to a stop, if you don’t have enough friends or money to arrange 40 singers bleating Stevie Wonder outside the poor woman’s place of work.”

Such public displays of proffered matrimony are “a form of emotional abuse”, she argues. What of the risk that the individual being so dramatically bidden might “feel press-ganged into saying yes”? Not to mention the “emotional equilibrium of the poor bystanders”.

Mind you, Stewart is perhaps not the world’s most romantic soul. “I always wonder why,” she confides, “it’s not sufficient for one [adult] to say to the other, in the privacy of your own home and at your leisure, ‘It might make good financial and legal sense to sign a contract meaning we get half of each other’s cash when we break up.’”

bit.ly/NZLproposals

Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook.