I guess we all know that sex sells newspapers that was why I cheekily mentioned everyone’s favourite three-letter word the other day when I wanted to grab people’s attention for a piece about poetry.
World news today is dominated, or should be dominated, by the dreadful happenings in Sri Lanka, with the possible implication of India in the slaughter of those 20,000 Tamils as an act of revenge for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi; Afghanistan where the deaths are still piling up; Pakistan where the offensive against the Taleban is escalating; Burma where the outrageously unfair trial of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is in mid-flow. There is also room for President Obama’s scheduled visit to Egypt to start his much needed warming of relations between the Muslim World and the West.
But we have really put all these stories to one side, as they are most certainly doing in Italy this morning, for the latest titillating revelations concerning their Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
We all know that he has an eye for the girls and “girls” is the appropriate word to describe some of the “bikini-clad” and “topless” guests who were photographed through one of those prurient paparazzi long lenses at Silvio’s Sardinian pleasure dome.
His wife is divorcing him because of his relationships with teenagers which she considers inappropriate for a married 72 year old head of state.
This New Year’s Eve party certainly seems to have gone with a swing. The cache of photographs is said to have included a veritable harem of scantily dressed girls but also, there are other photographs, taken last May, which were maybe less enticing for the septuagenarian playboy, the naked former Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek in the garden with his family.
Maybe they were trying to give international summit meetings a new look.
First the question of “girls” and “minors.”
That the females in question were attractive and unencumbered by too many clothes seems beyond dispute but their ages have not yet been confirmed even though the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, reminds us that in Italy the age of “consent” is 14.
Let’s assume then that, like some of our expenses-fiddling MPs, no one was breaking any rules, and let’s allow people to have a bit of fun in the sun but I have to admit to a tinge of jealousy that nude parties were at all practical anywhere on New Year’s Eve. Sardinia, I am noting, seems a good place to avoid those gloomy English winters.
So I am afraid that I am not shouting out in outrage about the news of Signor Berlusconi’s abilities as a party thrower. I suspect that those topless girls were no more revealing than their contemporaries who happily display themselves on most Mediterranean beaches and I am pretty sure that these party-goers were just as happy to show off their assets. I won’t intrude into Prime Minister’s Berlusconi’s more weather-beaten attractions but I suspect that his most alluring bits are his power and his money.
Topless girls, naked prime ministers, well, what next! It is, of course, just the stuff for the tabloid newspapers across the world. Well, for most of them. The only trouble is that in Italy, a certain Mr. Silvio Berlusconi has a proprietorial control over the nation’s media and he is trying to ban the pictures. Now that is the real scandal.
Actually a few more naked summits between our Presidents and Prime Ministers could be a good thing.
Let’s leave out the topless teenagers even if it is only because the age of consent is so different in different countries , 13 in Japan, 16 in the UK and the USA but 14 in Germany and Italy. Though consent, of course, means sexual intercourse, and no one for a moment would accuse Silvio Berlusconi of that. Would they?
We are going to hear a lot about the proper behaviour of our leaders and politicians though. The age of Puritanism is well and truly on us as far as our public figures are concerned.
As the, apparently, fully clothed British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said on the radio this morning, all this financial fiddling in Parliament “offends all my Presbyterian principles.”
Now this is where my problem starts.
I realize that it is unlikely that I would ever get to see a Gordon Brown Hogmanay party crowded with “bikini-clad and topless girls” but part of me thinks that he might just be more likeable to his electorate if he wasn’t so…….so……well, I have to say it, so Presbyterian.
That stern voice this morning, the voice of moral certainty and high-minded disapproval of human frailty, well it just brings out the rebel in me.
The Brown administration, which I would much rather have than a David Cameron alternative, just doesn’t work for the electorate and his manner just doesn’t work for me.
I am sure that he is a very nice man but he would be so much more successful if he could take just a pinch of Berlusconi’s wickedness. Silvio has plenty to spare, he has much too much wickedness of any one single person. Teacher’s pet, David Cameron would benefit from a little light sinning too.
On the subject of Presbyterianism, my ancestry is from off the West coast of Scotland, a Hebridean island called Islay. I went there some years ago and, apart from having a very good time, drinking their world class whiskey, seeing some magnificent scenery and basking in the Summer wind and rain, I went to the very beautiful Presbyterian Church at the middle of the town of Bowmore where my great grandparents and great great grandparents and great great great grandparents were married.
It was a moving occasion. I felt that strong tie of history and genetics sitting alone up in the gallery with the regular Kirk-goers underneath. All was fine until the minister began his sermon.
It was that voice again. The voice of disapproval and, I have to confess, the voice of authority echoing from my childhood. All my heckles rose and my sympathy went out to all of those ancestors who had had to endure that grating tone that was really saying: You are a sinner, stop doing the things that you enjoy, the things that excite you, the things that make you thrilled to be alive.
It would have been offensive to have left mid-service but I never went back.
Later on on that visit, I went on a graveyard tour hoping to find the graves of some of those great or great great grandparents. I had no luck until I went to the very last possible site. A little walled cemetery over-looking a loch and beyond that the open seas. I found nothing and I was about to go when I looked at a small mound near the wall with the loch. An instinct made me scrape away at the grass with my boot and, I guess, inevitably, I struck stone.
It was a grave. After a lot more work, I managed to read the inscription. “This place belongs to…..(Wolfgang’s great great grandfather).”
I heard his voice and identified with the sentiment. This place, at least, is mine, beyond the interference of others, beyond those moralising tenets which still rankled for me, his great great grandson nearly one hundred and fifty years after his burial there. It said leave me in peace and it would have said don’t point your telephoto lenses at my parties either.
I know I may have got him wrong but I don’t think so.
So sorry Gordon Brown, maybe you need to loosen some of that Presbyterianism, some of that moral certainty and then, just maybe, you might understand the rest of us too.
That doesn’t mean you have to admire Silvio Berlusconi, he is a rat, of course, but even Jesus was more broad-minded than many members of Mr. Brown’s Kirk. I can’t quote him precisely but it was something about let him he who hasn’t sinned cast the first stone. The word sin covers too many things in Presbyterianism, most of the things the rest of us see as perfectly normal and acceptable. Last week there was more moral indignation when the first openly gay minister was appointed in a Presbyterian church. The appointment, though, is much more encouraging than the outrage.
Maybe, one day, leggy blondes, well-endowed models with or without bikinis might just receive that invitation to one of Gordan’s parties. Some how, I doubt it. Shame.