Hello, hello, is this thing on?

You know that feeling when you arrive alone at a party where you don’t really know anyone, and you sort of hang around in the kitchen for a while pretending to talk on your phone until you see someone who might be willing to talk to you? Yeah, me too.

Well just this once I’ll try to be the guy who marches straight into the middle of the living room with a crate of beer and a bong, ejects the Goldfrapp CD that had been beiging up the ambience, and replaces it with Ace of Spades, turned up to 11.

So, hello Freethought Blogs! I’m Ally, the newest member of the FTB family, and it is very, very nice to be here.

In a day or two I will post my first proper blog, which will get into the meat and potatoes (not to mention meat and two veg) of my politics, particularly my gender politics. There will be plenty of opportunities to argue about all those kinds of things in the weeks, months and (hopefully) years to come. But it is a bank holiday weekend here in the UK, and it seems appropriate to begin with a bit of a housewarming party.

Being desperately ancient and chronically unhip, I have yet to get into the whole Ask FM wotchamagoogle. But I am told it is all the rage among borderline narcissists and troll-baiters (hello world, you called?) So in the spirit of the times, I open myself here to your questions and impertinent queries. I might edit a few answers into the post here, at least until it starts to get unwieldy.

I’ll give you a few to get you started:

Ally? Isn’t that a girl’s name?

Don’t you oppress me with your binary gender conformity. And no, I’m not a woman, I’m Scottish, (long settled in Manchester)

Why does your blog have such a ridiculous name?

It started as a photoshop joke and spiralled horribly out of control. But when you’re a straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class man explaining gender issues to the world, it helps to be upfront about these things.

What do you call a man with four planks on his head?

I dunno, but Edward Woodward would.

(From Thil) What do you mean when you call yourself middle-class?

Here in Britland, class is something we are incredibly attuned to and it plays out with all sorts of intricate dynamics. I’m very much lower middle-class. Dad was a teacher, mum a home-maker. So I grew up in a family with more books on the shelves than quids in the bank. I went to a mediocre comprehensive school then a mediocre university. I’ve continued to live my life with more books on the shelves than quids in the bank. I live in a ramshackle house in a very poor inner-city area, and my own kids are growing up in the same kind of cash-poor, love-rich household that I did.

The labour I sell is my brain, not my brawn, and that is primarily what makes me think of myself as middle-class. But I have little or nothing in common with the upper-middle classes with their inheritances, trust funds, private schooling & health insurance and useful old-school tie connections. I’ve never been more than a paycheque away from destitution. So in comparison with most people in the national media in the UK, I’m pretty much a filthy pleb with a big ol’ fuck off chip on my shoulder as a consequence.

 (From Artor) Just curious- What’s Ally short for? Are you an Aleister? Albert? Alicorn? Ally-ally-oxen-free?

I’m an Alistair. Or at least I am to my mum when I’ve been naughty.

(From oolon) do you have a comment policy?

Yes, see here. I have no hard and fast rules. There are no specific rules on what words or ideas are or are not acceptable, but that doesn’t mean anything goes. As the great philosophers once said: “Be excellent to each other”

(from Kamaka) Are you an atheist?

Yes. It’s something that feels so natural and obvious to me that it barely warrants mentioning. I tend not to write about it because I never really know what to say. It always strikes me as an odd thing to get passionate about. I’m a rationalist, but I’ve long resigned myself to accepting that people believe in weird and whacky things, like god existing or homeopathy working or Coldplay making interesting music. So long as they don’t attempt to impose such weird beliefs on me, I see it as none of my business.

So I’m not a passionate atheist, but I am a passionate secularist and a passionate believer in human rights. When religious people claim dominion over women’s wombs, little boys’ foreskins, children’s schooling or political decision-making, then I will fight them tooth and nail.

But it is not really the religion / rationalism thing that brings me to FTB. I’m here because I try to apply the same principles of free thinking – ie questioning everything, accepting nothing on faith, demanding evidence etc – to gender politics. Political dogma can be just as irrational and damaging as religious dogma, IMO.

(From Stubby) 1) Which Shameless character do you most resemble

Start of the weekend – James McAvoy’s character (Steve?) in the first series. Although he’s younger and obviously I’m much better looking. We have a similar Scottish/Manc hybrid accent.  By the end of the weekend it’s more like Frank.

(From Stubby) 2) Better insult: tosser or wanker?

Wanker is more for day-to-day usage, like the mild white cheddar, whereas tosser is more like a mature stilton, to be brought out and savoured as you roll it around your mouth for special occasions.

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I hope you feel you know me a little better now. Thanks for all the comments and questions, keep them coming, but it’s past bedtime on this side of the Atlantic. Oh look, there are still a few beers in the crate. Help yourself and let yourselves out. I’ll be back to check on the debris in the morning.

 

EDIT – THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE

Thanks everyone for your continuing comments and welcomes. I feel as if this blog is now well and truly warmed.

I’ve struck a compromise on the threaded / nested comments thing, trying to take on board people’s problems (especially reading on phones) when the responses get narrower and narrower, but also other people’s preference to be able to react to a comment immediately underneath. So I’ve set it so that it will only nest one comment deep. After that you’ll have to begin again with a new comment, identifying who it is you are talking to manually. I’m sure you’ll work it out.

If this is a compromise that pleases nobody but me, let me know and I’ll switch it off altogether.

Just as a little note to let you know my plans, over the next few weeks I’ll re-post a few highlights from my archive from my previous home as new blogs (with original publication dates etc made clear), as I hope these will be pieces you’d be interested in discussing all over again (or for the first time, for many of you). Then once I’ve done that, I’ll transfer my full archive for you to peruse at your leisure.

Thanks again. New post on its way.