Pope Francis in Armenia


The centre of Yerevan (Armenia’s capital city) has never been so quiet. Streets are closed off around the temporary stage on the south side of Republic Square, where Pope Francis will this afternoon address dignitaries and whoever can find standing room within earshot of the loudspeakers.


Armenia was the first country in the world to become officially Christian, beating the Roman Empire by 79 years.  As in Russia, religion has become an important signifier of nationality, and virtually every Armenian is a follower of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenian Church belongs to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which diverged from Roman Catholicism after the Great Schism of 1054 – the eleventh century equivalent of Brexit.  So a visit by the Pope is a big deal.  It represents a handshake between two branches of the Christian faith – a demonstration of unity of purpose in a fragmented world.

But more than that, in April Pope Francis described the killing of over a million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as ‘genocide’, for which he was reprimanded by the Turkish Government which immediately recalled its envoy to the Vatican.  His first act on landing in Yerevan yesterday was to visit the Genocide Memorial.

Armenia wants international recognition of its proud history, its victimhood and its legitimacy as a nation.  Armenia also wants acceptance of the claims of the Armenian enclave Ngorno Karabakh to independence from Azerbaijan.  Frankly, Armenians cannot understand how anyone could disagree with this interpretation of history and international law.

It is easy to understand why Armenians attach such importance to this visit by someone of Pope Francis’s political and moral standing, and his implicit endorsement of their world view.



That’s a new word: Intrusic.  It means ‘intrusive music’.  I’m getting increasingly stroppy about musical accompaniments to television programmes that do not need them – documentaries for example.

It’s often difficult to understand what people are saying anyway because of their different accents; or their insistence on sprinkling their speech with redundant words such as “So”, “Like” and “Y’know”; or the distraction of their waving their hands about (see randomly selected photos below).  Adding music to the mix just makes it harder still.  If anyone from the BBC or CNN or some similar organisation reads this – please stop it!

Handwaving1 Handwaving2

It’s mainly broadcasters such as the BBC World News channel that I have in my sights because they are specifically targeting an international audience.  If I have difficulty understanding what people are saying in my native language, what must it be like for someone listening in their second, third or fourth language?

You get my point.  Stop it.  Now.  All of you.

Factual Error!


Factual errors don’t bother Donald Trump, but I just can’t rest easy knowing I’ve published something untrue.  It happened in the Two Statues post a couple of weeks ago, so I published a correction.  And it’s happened again with HM4MEN – not just an error in my post about HM4MEN but an error in the virtual pages of the very book itself!

But this time, instead of pulling the book off the virtual shelves and correcting it, I am going to give my blog readers a chance to find the error and win a prize.  The first person to find and correct the error in a comment posted to StroppyGit.com will get a free copy of my next novel ‘Bobby Shafter’ and a post extolling their cleverness!

I should add that this offer applies only to the specific error that I myself have spotted, not to any other real, imaginary, illusory, supposed or alleged error.  OK?



Are you a man with sole responsibility for managing a household?  Or do you know a man in that situation?  If the answer to either question is Yes, you should buy my latest e-book:


It’s at Amazon, Apple, Kobo and all the other major e-book retail platforms and it’s priced at a derisory US$1.99.  Since it’s an e-book I can hardly say, “Hurry while stocks last,” but I can say, “Hurry before I realise that it’s grossly underpriced and whack it up to US$2.99.”

Breaking News


Muhammad Ali died 9 days ago. The BBC World News TV channel classified this sad event as ‘breaking news’, cancelled normal programming, and broadcast hour upon hour of commentary and historical footage of Md Ali’s career until his funeral 3 days ago. Then we had live footage of a hearse driving slowly through Louisville.


Meanwhile momentous news from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and elsewhere took second place. Now that news takes second place to brawling football fans in France – but I’ll save that for another post.

I mention the BBC because that’s my preferred news channel at the moment. But CNN and Euronews (my other sources of English language TV news here in Armenia) were no better.

Don’t misunderstand me. I remember listening to the fight between Cassius Clay (as he was then) and Henry Cooper (Our ‘Enery) when I should have been studying for my A Levels. I recognise that as sportsman, activist and iconoclast Md Ali was a towering figure – a true celebrity before that term became debased.

There’s good reason to review a great person’s life, achievements and influence in a couple of documentaries, which those most interested can choose to watch. But the extent to which the airwaves were given over to this one event was, to my mind, excessive and showed poor judgement on the part of the programmers.

Tampon Tax


Two years ago someone in Australia went public with the idea of exempting tampons – known in the trade as ‘feminine protection products’ I believe – from GST (Goods and Services Tax, the Australian equivalent of VAT).

This was presented as a gender equity issue, which was clearly nonsense. But politicians were fearful of opposing a noisy interest group which had potential support from half the electorate. So Joe Hockey, the then-Treasurer who had attracted howls of outrage for announcing the end of the Age of Entitlement, said that he’d consider it; and the Labour Party embraced it, saying that GST on tampons was ‘an anomaly’.

The photo below (by Alex Ellinghausen) shows demonstrators dressed as tampons dancing in front of Parliament House in Canberra.


Now Bill Shorten, Leader of the opposition Labour Party, has publicly and unambiguously rejected that policy. During an election campaign, with the polls the two major parties neck-and-neck, that shows a degree of courage and leadership and rationality that Australians have been longing for. Click here to see the clip of Bill Shorten (pictured below) giving this straight answer to a straight question.


Good on you, Bill!



There is a buzz of excitement in the literary world today. For the first time ever, all three books of The Eeks Trilogy are available in a single e-volume. Entitled ‘Goldiloxians’ it is for sale at Amazon/Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and other e-book retail platforms at the absurdly low price of US$4.99.

Goldiloxians-72dpi-1500x2000 (2)

Why such excitement? The Eeks Trilogy is thought by some to be the first example of an explosive new literary genre, which concentrates on human responses to change brought on by scientific and technological advances and speculates on the future path that our species will choose. This new genre has been called Social Science Fiction.

Don’t be unprepared when the conversation at your next dinner party turns to Social Sci-Fi. Be the first to say, “I suppose you’ve all read ‘Goldiloxians’?”

First Rock Concert


Mrs SG and I have seen a lot and done a lot in our time, but until a few days ago we had never been to a rock concert. We like rock-and-roll music, we like being in an excited throng of people enjoying a common experience, we like (in Dame Edna Everage‘s immortal words) colour and movement. But we’d never been to a rock concert.


So when a colleague alerted us to the imminent arrival of the Ukrainian band Okean Elzy (pictured below) for a 1-night stand in Yerevan (where we are at the moment) as part of their world tour, we saw an opportunity for a new experience. We also saw an opportunity to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their unequal struggle to defend themselves against their rogue neighbour.


We bought tickets online and went to the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex, arriving with 15 minutes in hand to find our seats – which were very comfortable by the way – and observe the rest of the crowd. To cut a long story short: the show started more than an hour late, the volume of sound was well above our pain threshold and at the back of the stage there was a battery of lights that flashed directly into the audience’s eyes. So we sat in our comfortable seats with our fingers in our ears and our eyes shut tight.

We left before the end of the first number, and as we went out into the blissful quiet of an Armenian summer evening we saw latecomers still arriving. Presumably they had been to rock concerts before and knew that they always start late.

In my professional roles as consultant and author, respect for my customers (clients and readers) is paramount. Why should rock musicians treat their customers with such disrespect? Why do their customers put up with it? Why do people pay large sums of money to be kept waiting and then to be deafened and blinded? It makes me stroppy, but more than that it puzzles me.

PS  I am not a music critic and I offer no opinion on the quality of Okean Elzy’s music. They’re very popular in Ukraine and elsewhere in the CIS, so they’re probably very good. I regret that their style of performance precluded my hearing them.