Just what I say: Brian Nicholls

Date: Tuesday 26th September 2017

THE annual launch of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show took place a couple of Saturdays ago with the usual red carpet glitziness and hype. The whole phoney “contest” starts again with Saturday and Sunday nights commandeered right up until Christmas with the only alternative being the X Factor on ITV or Dad’s Army which I’ve watched so many times I know the dialogue backwards.

Television scheduling is reminiscent of the old days which many will remember in primary school when the year followed a familiar pattern of during the last week in October paint a picture of witches followed a week later by paint a picture of Bonfire Night and a month later let’s make Christmas cards.

That’s exactly what we have now. If it’s September it must be Strictly and X Factor and The Great British Bake Off.

This year the big talking point among some after the Strictly launch is no longer about the celebrities which most of us have never heard of that must include a sportsperson or two, a couple of pensioners, soap stars and daytime TV presenters, but about the shock, horror omission of same sex, man with man or woman with woman, dancing couples. The media coverage of the issue would lead you to believe that the lack of one or more such pairings has put equality and human rights back 50 years.

What is the big deal? I don’t get it. In my early lifetime we had that shockingly illiberal and discriminatory law which classed homosexuality as a crime for which men could be imprisoned, the consequences of which led directly to the suicide of Alan Turing, one of the greatest mathematicians and brains of the 20th Century.

A man who saved countless lives by breaking the German Enigma codes in World War II, Turing was judged on his private life and not on who he really was. Society’s treatment of gay people was a disgrace and affront to a civilised society.

We moved on from those times and it is time to move on some more. There was, a few years back, posters on buses and on railway stations which said something like, “OK, so I’m gay … get over it.” Well, most of us “got over it” 40 years before those posters appeared and frankly I always found them patronising and insulting. They made the erroneous presumption that all straight people are homophobic.

Is it really so important to anyone else whether someone is gay, lesbian or transgender? It doesn’t matter and yet on television particularly it seems as if the second or third thing we learn about someone is their sexual orientation.

I still just want to judge someone I meet or see on the TV on who they are and not what they are in the private sphere of their lives. I am heterosexual but I don’t tell everyone I meet just so they know and are in no doubt about it, because frankly I doubt anyone cares.

Equality in race, colour, religion, gender and sexual orientation is achieved only when we stop noticing those things and stop banging on about them.

Why anyone wants to keep telling you they are different and, therefore, by inference you should treat them or think of them differently, is beyond me.

We have moved on but clearly some people don’t want to and for that reason the one thing we can guarantee is that in the 2018 season of Strictly Come Dancing there will be a same sex dancing partnership.

IT is that time of the year again when success, achievement and attaining long held ambitions leads, paradoxically, to sadness.

Yes, it is that time when the latest crop of Cumbrian 18-year-olds fly the nest for the first time and head off (driven by mum and dad) to university. Nothing which appeared in this column or which I broadcast on the radio ever produced the reaction which “kids leaving home” did when it appeared here and was first broadcast quite a few years ago.

This was based on my own daughters leaving home and the great emptiness I felt despite the pride in their achievements and the fact that I had wanted and expected them to go to university from the time they were born.

They never came back to Cumbria and I’ve made it pretty clear what I think of this county and its councils, both county and local, and their economic development plans, or lack of economic development plans to be more accurate.

Their lack of ambition, courage, strategy and intelligent thinking condemns our young people to permanent exile from their homeland, often for ever. Cumbria has for too long been run by well paid people who believe that our past, present and future consists of low paid jobs in the tourist industry. Their thinking never seems to get beyond cafes, hotels and knick-knack shops. Pathetic.

Setting aside the reasons why so many of our kids have to go away, the reason why the reaction to the original article was so great was that it touched a Cumbrian nerve in many parents. We all understand the feeling of time passing in a flash and I remember leaning against the door post of my eldest daughter’s room a week or so after I had driven her to Nottingham and crying all the way home. I remembered her as a baby, then in her first school and brownie uniforms and in plays at school and suddenly she was grown up and gone and I missed her so much it hurt.

I began to get over the depressing feeling that the time it takes our kids to grow up is so short that if you blink you will miss it, only when I realised that I had been fortunate enough not to blink and so didn’t miss it. I saw and shared in both my girls growing up and was never too busy to miss school performances or to do things with them at home.

There is, believe me, no such thing as “quality time” with your family. That two-word phrase is a delusion with which parents who lead “busy lives” convince themselves that they are not, in fact, putting other things such as job, promotion or earning more before what really matters. It is easy to convince ourselves that those long hours at work which keep us away from our children and family are really for our children and family, when in fact all kids really need and want is for us to be there.

The one thing you can never get back is time. I was fortunate but I understand that for those who have different priorities there is only one thing sadder than realising you should have spent more time with your kids when they were growing up, and that is not to realise it.

The newest Ipads, designer trainers and two weeks of “quality time” in Orlando do not a parent make.

BORIS (Johnson) is a back seat Brexit driver while Theresa May has asserted that she is the driver of her party over our exit strategy from the EU but is not having much success in convincing anyone that she can drive or that she knows what a strategy actually is.

She may be, but someone ought to try and convince her to stop switching from left to right hand drive and then back again. Besides, we Brits respond far better to being led than to being driven. We are, after all, not cattle.

I actually no longer blame Mrs. May and most politicians for not knowing what to do or what they want from Brexit, as the vast majority of them argued that Britain would be far better off inside the European Union and that we should not under any circumstances leave it. It must now be very strange and disorienting to try and pretend that it will all be all right in the end, even though they are convinced it won’t.

Never in our history have our elected representatives en masse ignored their own judgements and responsibilities and stuck with a course of action which such a large majority of them know absolutely to be wrong and which will damage the nation they represent. Strange times indeed.