This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.



FOLLOWED BY AN APERITIVO. ALL ARE WELCOME. Via Caravita 7, 00186, Rome, Italy.


Tel. 01509 813078 or 0782 878 1537


Saturdays from 2.00pm to 6.30pm followed by supper 26 February: A Day with Blessed Rosmini

26 March: Workshop on “Prayer and Meditation” 21 May: A Day with Mary

18 June: A day with the Divine Mercy of JESUS Rosmini Today

Saturdays from 10.30am to 1pm followed by lunch 12 February: Do we have a spiritual SOUL? 9 April: What is Truth? 25 June: Moral puzzles

Lenten Lectures Wednesdays at 7pm

9 March: Which Church is the true Church? 16 March: Why go to Mass?

30 March: Awkward questions to Catholics 6 April: Why do Catholics pray to Mary?


‘After women, gays and lesbians, what happens if Clarkson decides to target the God-fearing?’

Against my better judgement – feeble excuse, I know – I took my son to a Jeremy Clarkson event. I have never been that good at all the macho things “real” dads (usually in the stereotypes of Gillette razor-blade ads) are meant to share joyously with their sons. The 90 minutes of a football match, for instance, still feel to me more of a marathon than a visit to the dentist does. But I have always had a bit of the boy racer in me. As a child, I used to force my dad to take me to upmarket car showrooms and persuade the salesman (always a man) to take us for a test drive. I once sulked for weeks afterwards because he wouldn’t trade in his Austin Maxi for a Reliant Scimitar. The boy-racer gene seems to have passed on to the next generation and – even though I try to steel myself not to smile – I can’t help myself laughing with my son at the antics of the Top Geartrio, most recently their ridiculous Christmas special excursion as modern Magi. I know it was in bad taste, but they are just silly overgrown schoolboys.

So, though I initially declined, it ultimately didn’t really take that much arm-twisting to rope me in as one of the responsible adults accompanying a group of just-teenage boys to see the Clarkson road show when it came to town. The fancy cars in the foyer set my pulse racing, though not as much as a Seventies supercar would have. And the “leap-the-caravan” stunt they performed in the main arena – better described as crush-a-caravan – caused me only mild guilt pangs when I thought about how proud my Auntie Pauline used to be of her touring van. But, liberated from the BBC’s post-Sachsgate army of “compliance enforcers” who ensure some standards in episodes of Top Gear, Clarkson’s on-stage banter was pure poison, laced with homophobic and sexist clichés. The modern attitude to such gratuitous prejudice is, of course, to laugh. Or if you can’t manage that, then to shrug it off as harmless: “He’s sending himself up.” Yet what I found unbearable was to watch young boys not only hearing it, but laughing at it. Twice, I agreed with the mother-helper sitting

12 | THE TABLET | 29 January 2011

closest to me that we should get up and leave, but the boys in our care were not so easily dislodged. Indeed, they were more outraged by our suggestion that we head for the exit in protest than they were by Clarkson’s routine. It was a big arena. We were in the middle of a row. And we seemed to be the only ones with a problem. So I lost my nerve. We subsided into our seats and shut up. Mea culpa. For I know that if we

don’t take a stand against toxic prejudice when we hear it, especially in the presence of youngsters, what defence will we have when the attack is on us or our cherished beliefs? After women, gays and lesbians, what happens if Clarkson and his ilk decide, for example, to target the God-fearing? I work for a prison-reform trust and he [Clarkson] recently lambasted all in that field as “lily-livered eco-hippy vicars” who want inmates “treated with tenderness and a lot of Egyptian cotton”. Hard to laugh it off. I bring up Jeremy Clarkson, and

my own failure to take a stand, because he has just emerged in a poll of 1,200 boys, conducted by the Disney XD Channel, as their number-two role model. What an indictment of our much-vaunted tolerance! At least the boys’ first choice, billionaire footballer and underwear model David Beckham, has a conscience. I once visited one of the academies set up under his brand in south London and was pleasantly surprised to find an ethos that tried determinedly to harness that schoolboy dream of the riches of the Premier League and direct it towards improving numeracy and literacy. The picture is equally depressing with the female role models girls have chosen in another recent survey for two teenage magazines: Cheryl Cole (if you don’t know who she is, count your blessings) came out on top. Pope John Paul II was often criticised for his enthusiasm for making saints. I ought to admit to voicing the odd doubt myself. His defence – or that offered for him – was always that he wanted to provide alternative role models, people of faith and stamina who were “signs of contradiction” in the secular age, who offered a take on what constituted success and achievement that was different from that of footballers, TV personalities and singers, and who had the courage to stand up for their beliefs. I wish I’d listened more attentively and taken on board the examples he gave us. I could have done with a fraction of their courage that day in the Clarkson arena.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36