Sunday, October 04, 2009

Well done, Ireland!

Buíochas le Dia! Common sense has finally prevailed in the Republic of Ireland as the populace voted on Friday to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. I'm interested by Brian Lenihan's comments that what he calls "junk politics" (a wonderful, apt term) was coming from the far left rather from the far right.

It's intriguing how opposition to "Europe" is not necessarily a party-political matter but can manifest itself in all political corners. For instance, here in Finland, again, confusingly and somewhat nonsensically, it is the parties of the left that most vocally object to the Treaty, whereas in the UK, euroscepticism is almost exclusively part of the far-right agenda (espoused by the Tories, the odious UKIP and the even more odious BNP), while it is the Labour party that has tirelessly tried to ratify the Treaty and integrate us with the rest of Europe – which is, after all, our rightful place.

Out of a glorious sense of schadenfreude, I would have loved to have seen the looks on the faces of Cameron and his disciples as exit polls began appearing in Ireland. This article in the Guardian gives us a fairly good indication of what that look might have been. Poor Dave... Left with the prospect of becoming PM but not actually being able to do anything about the Treaty. Not only that, he's now faced with the dilemma of whether to hold a referendum on the Treaty after is has already become law. What a ridiculous idea, not to mention an utterly pointless endeavour.

It goes without saying that certain loony elements [certain...?] on the far-right of the Tory party are calling for a referendum even if the Treaty has passed. I suppose they have to do this so as not to lose face. They erroneously claim that a No vote in such a referendum would "rule the Lisbon treaty null and void in the UK and withdraw us from its provisions". This demonstrates how little they understand of the ratification process and, not surprisingly, the contempt in which they hold European law. But what if Cameron doesn't hold the long-promised referendum, fruitless though such a thing will now inevitably be? Won't he be accused of going back on his promise, of denying the British people their say? I dare say it won't go unnoticed that these are the same accusations he has been throwing at Gordon Brown since the day he took office. A tricky situation indeed... Poor Dave. Let's just hope it does put a damper on the conference, eh? At least the presence of all his new Eastern European bedfellows should cheer him up. They sound like jolly nice fellows to me.

Cameron is also facing controversy over the presence at the party conference of controversial MEPs Michal Kaminski, the Polish leader of the new Conservative group in the European parliament, and another member of the group, Roberts Zile from Latvia, who are both accused of having far-right links.

Last night it emerged that another of Cameron's European allies had been accused of holding extreme views after backing anti-gay legislation in Lithuania. Valdemar Tomasevski, an MEP and a member of the Tories' European coalition, voted for a Lithuanian law on 16 June that bans discussion of homosexuality, not only in schools but in any forum open to young people.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Last 12 Months: An Abridged Version

Hello… It’s exactly a year since the last time I posted on The Late Review, giving new heights to the word ‘late’. The reasons for this hiatus are long and various, but suffice it to say that plenty has happened in the intervening 365 days. A few of the highlights:

• On the work front, last summer I translated a very long book about the history of Raseborg (which was the primary reason I stopped blogging for a while). This 270-page epic managed to eat up most of my time until the middle of September.

• My translation of Matti Yrjänä Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love was finally published by Arcadia Books. A number of good reviews appeared, including this one in the Independent.

• In November I started working for the quarterly magazine Welcome to Finland, translating articles and correcting the (often extremely bad and funny) English of others. This job seemed to take over my life every time an issue came around (160pp each), so you can imagine I wasn’t exactly devastated when the editor informed me that they were letting me go because they’d found someone who would translate it cheaper! Apparently that’s the way people conduct their business in the cutthroat world of Finnish journalism…

• The up-shot of all this – and of being turned down for an artist’s grant by the Finnish Cultural Foundation – means still having to eke out an existence until something more interesting comes along… Oh well.

By virtue of my own sheer laziness, the renovations to my bedroom have taken over five months. The house has been in chaos and I’m still sleeping in the living room. All that remains is to give one wall a final coat of paint and to affix the skirting boards, then we’re done. Photographs will follow shortly.

On the artistic side of things, singing has rather taken over my life. In August I joined the Incanto Vocal Ensemble, conducted by my good friend Jukka Jokitalo – meaning more rehearsals and less time for blogging! I have continued taking lessons with the wonderful Kirsi Telaranta and since Christmas have been concentrating, as far as my solo voice is concerned, on developing my countertenor.

In February, American tenor Charles Kamm – who was visiting Finland for six months and, among other things, sang with and conducted Incanto – and I sang Purcell’s marvellous countertenor duet ‘Sound the Trumpet’ (performed here by countertenor Alfred Deller and his son Mark). Spurred on by this, we decided to have a go at Britten’s ‘Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac’. This culminated in a concert far more ambitious than either of us had imagined. In association with the Metsoforte Choir, we and the enormously talented pianist Timo Latonen put on, in May, a concert with the following programme:

• Britten: ‘I know a bank’ (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
• Tippett: Songs for Ariel
• Barber: Hermit Songs
• Britten: Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac

In July my composition Resonance for violin, strings and horns (composed last autumn, yet another reason for not blogging…) was performed at the Brinkhall soi festival by my friends from the Refugium Musicum Chamber Orchestra, and I performed an aria from Handel’s Messiah at a Sunday service in Turku Cathedral – a wonderful experience. Imagine my delight when, later that day, a woman stopped me in Stockmann’s in Turku to ask me whether it was me that had sung at the cathedral that morning! Rest assured, there will be plenty of posts about singing in the coming months.

And, not to disappoint, there will be lots of posts about politics, Finnish, British, American and otherwise. There’s certainly plenty to comment upon, what with the deplorable results of the European elections in June; the rise of the fascist Perussuomalaiset and the charges for incitement against their ‘intellectual’ henchman Jussi Halla-aho – now relieved of his duties; the Kokoomus turning a blind eye to the racist comments of their own candidates in the lead-up to the elections; the exit of the British Conservative Party from the EPP to join ranks with homophobes, racists and climate-change deniers across Europe and the looming return to neo-Thatcherist misery in Britain; the attempts to impose creationism, via the Trojan horse that is ‘intelligent design’, on pupils in certain US states; the assault of the far right on all that is good about the Obama administration; and so on (and so on).

So, apologies for the inordinate wait. I hereby promise to keep any faithful readers I may still have regularly up-to-date with any thoughts that pop into my head and seem worth sharing.