Upon discovering that Sinéad O’Connor has converted to Islam, I was about as shocked as a Yuletide shopper hearing the opening bars of Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ while picking up last-minute stocking-fillers. It had to happen, didn’t it? Douglas Murray attributes home-grown Islamic conversion to the retreat of the secular West from spiritual life — the Search For Meaning — but I don’t give the clowns that much credit. A vast amount of male Islamic conversion takes place in prison — suddenly thugs have the blessing of a higher power to torture, rape and kill — and with women I think it’s often a combination of grieving for fading physical attractiveness and attention-seeking: ‘Look at me in my lovely special modest costume, you sluts!’ What I find particularly offensive are those perfectly sane women who voluntarily hijab-up — the Swedish politicians visiting Iran, the American feminists on the Women’s March — while all across the Muslim world heartbreakingly brave women are paying with their liberty and lives in order to break free of the shroud of submission. What sort of woman identifies with a religion which supports the oppression, torture and murder of women who dare to want freedom? The sort of woman who writes love letters to serial killers on Death Row, I reckon. Will Sinéad get around to that one next?
I’m keen to see the new film about Queen. Freddie Mercury wasn’t a normal old girl-shy gayer but rather a swashbuckling sexual omnivore. He once remarked to a teenage Carrie Fisher as they lay in bed together after sex and she said she’d presumed he was 100 per cent gay that ‘A bloke like me needs extra.’ Bisexuality has got a bad rap in recent years, chucked in with look-at-me sexual preciousness such as polyamory and pansexualism, but in its raw form there is something attractively rough and ready about it:‘ I fancy that — let’s be ’aving it!’ As Freddie said: ‘Men, women, cats — you name it, I’ll go to bed with it.’ Indeed, he went so far as to dedicate his album Mr Bad Guy to one of his cats (Jerry) followed by the tag ‘Screw everybody else’. That Jerry must have been really good in bed…
Though in theory we’re free to swear more, it’s all strangely joyless, removing our adolescent glee in smut by insisting that anything is sayable, so long as it’s on the approved list. You can say the C-word (insulting to women though it is) but not the T-word (insulting to pretend women as it is) on TV. I miss the dirty words of my pre-PC girlhood. Whenever I mention this on Facebook, the thread comes to gloriously lewd life as respectable, respected grown-ups revel in rudeness as they name their favourites. ‘Nympho! Flasher! Randy! Sex maniac! Bum bandit! Living in sin! Knockers, knackers, leg-overs!’ Millennials think they invented sex, but they’re right up there with the Victorians when it comes to coining boring words to describe mucky delights.
Sometimes it seems that our free western society — which without doubt provides the best lives for the greatest number of people — veers between genuinely worthwhile moral crusades (abolition of slavery, female suffrage) and pointless nagging. Take the current fuss about the alleged loneliness epidemic. I’ve got no patience with people who say they’re lonely, unless of course they’re ill and/or house-bound — just go out and get a volunteer job. Three years ago, when my son committed suicide, I started working at my local Mind shop and I can honestly say that it did more to return me to my naturally effervescent state than sex, religion and politics put together.
It’s no secret that my career has been up the creek for several years, principally because I was on the warpath against left-wing anti-Semitism and bullying trans activists long before people caught on to the evils of both of them. I had to some extent been written off as a loony. I was happy with my semi-retired life, and I didn’t need the money, but I’ve been a writer since I was 17 and it’s been lovely to have another unexpected bash at a different branch of it as I did recently with the play I co-wrote with Jane Robins, People Like Us. It sold out before the first performance, is likely to be revived early next year and has netted us a nomination as Most Promising Playwrights in the Offies. This is not, as I first imagined, for my heroic contribution to sales of alcohol over the past year. The Offies are the Off West End Theatre Awards. Considering I’ll be 60 next year, I’m very happy to be Promising at last.
Julie Burchill is currently writing a musical, Hard Times On Easy Street, about a love triangle set against the savage gentrification of Soho.