(Futura £2.99) have previously appeared in newspapers or magazines. I have to confess. though. that so insipid are they that I wondered what the point was of doing them in the first place. other than perhaps therapy. What was probably intended as gentle wit and sustained poignancy has ended up as feeble puns and half-baked observational comedy. Imagine Carla Lane on a really bad day.
Turn instead to Posy Simmonds. whose Pure Posy (Methuen £4.99) collects her strips from The Guardian into one ﬂoppy package. Posy is a superb illustrator with a rare wit and brushstrokes that are a joy to behold. but after a while you long for a little more bite. Futility and hypocrisy are. after all. two of the chiefcharacteristics ofher middle-class llampstead products. who pit their left-wing. Green ethics against Thatcherism and come off self-righteoust worst every time. In a quaintly British way.
No such crap for Alex. the self-centred. upwardly-mobile yuppie bastard we love to hate. whose marvellous Independent strips return in Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor‘s Alex 11: Magnum Force (Penguin £3.99). Thankfully. Alex never degenerates into polemic. because Peattie and Taylor only have three or four frames to play with and are always careful to have a good punchline up their sleeves. It‘s the same punchline halfthe time. mind you. but they‘re still getting away with it.
Punchlines are commodities that Steve Bell ran out ofa long time ago. If. . .. as seen in The Guardian (Methuen £4.99) and in the new book The Vengeance oflf. . .. lost its way in a self-referential pile-up of bizarre characters. which admittedly works better in book format. where you can keep track of his menagerie. Still. unless you‘re really clued-up on the references. you can go ten days of The Guardian without a chuckle.
Not like the good old Sunday Sport. eh'.’ Abandoning at last all pretensions of newspapership with The Best of Sunday Sport (Sphere £3.50). the SS can now be seen on its proper footing— that is. the only true competitor for Viz. Alexei Sayle must be gnashing his teeth that he never came up with the ‘DIY miracle shocker‘ ‘Virgin Mary Built Our Shed‘. and a dose of the same kind of drugs could do nothing but good for Frank Muir and Denis Norden.
Their You Have My Word (Methuen £4.99) deserves being singled out for stretching an idea to its limits and beyond. The rubric of every single story-ette in their book is a well-known phrase or saying which is distorted to become the payoffof a pathetic shaggy dog story. Hence ‘Never underestimate the power ofa woman‘ metamorphoses through a tortuously contrived plot into ‘Never undress to meet the pa of a woman‘. Apparently they‘ve been doing this sort of thing on the radio for years. Stop them. someone!
Andrew Burnet finds out How To Be Green from the book‘s author. Galloway-based environmentalist John Button.
‘I suppose what happens is that you move from a situation where people could be concerned ifthey wanted. to a point where there is no choice any more.‘ John Button is trying to account for the massive rise in public awareness about environmental issues. which he says goes back about twelve months. ‘From my perspective.‘ he continues. with cautious optimism. ‘we are very definitely well into a revolution.‘
For over twenty years. Button has been among those trying to get the wheels ofrevolution turning. In the 19605. he helped establish an ecology study group with David Bellamy. Later. he set up a Friends OfThe Earth group on the Shetland Islands. Now his main concern is writing. He is a regular contributor to Environment Now. consultant editor of New Consumer and author of four green reference books. the latest of which. How To Be Green. was reprinted (on 100 per cent recycled paper) twice before its publication in September: some measure ofthe failure ofsupply to meet the galloping demand for anything green these days.
‘The purpose of How To Be Green.‘ he says. ‘was to set it all out in one place — very simply. no holds barred — showing what you can do.
Accessibility is the key.‘ There are thirteen sections with headings like ‘Home Conservation‘. ‘Food‘ and ‘Transport‘. each divided into a number of double-page spreads on specific subjects. These in turn offer a few paragraphs on ‘The Facts‘. a briefword on ‘What Needs To Change‘. a list ofpractical suggestions headed ‘What You Can Do‘. and a short section on ‘Who Benefits‘.
The book is certainly easy to use and offers a straightforward if basic guide to greening one‘s lifestyle. ‘There are two reactions the reader can make.” says Button. ‘The first is “Goodness. I didn‘t know that“. and the other one is “Goodness. I‘m doing that already“. which I hope is encouraging.‘ It also contains a staggering number ofstatistics on waste. damage and accumulated hazard. which Button was pleasantly surprised to find he had at his fingertips after his work on other projects.
How To Be Green has. however. been criticised for its lack ofdepth and political analysis. Button counters the first criticism by referring the reader to the book recommendations which appear in almost every ‘What You Can Do‘ section. A ‘Basic Green Library‘ and a directory ofcontacts also appear at the back ofthe book. The implication is quite clearly that green self-education does not begin and end with How To Be Green.
On the subject of politics. he has been deliberately unspecific. The book was produced in co-operation with Friends OfThe Earth. which is keen to preserve an apolitical. non-partisan status. Although he stood as a candidate for the Green Party in the European elections. Button is pragmatic as to how the word is spread. ‘I don‘t mind.‘ he says. ‘what it is that gets us to a
radical revolution; I just know that
it. i... _.
there isn‘t another political party in Britain that‘s anything like radical enough to get us there. At the moment there‘s definitely a need to work on whatever avenue may help.
‘And it depends what you mean by politics. If you undertake some of the things mentioned in the book. you‘re actually being quite subversive to the system.‘
Despite the inevitable bandwagon—jumping for profit. the system. he suggests. may be beginning to subvert itself. ‘I think that once people start thinking. once they start making connections. they don‘t stop. It‘s a little bit like — you know — the East Germans don‘t un-learn freedom. I don‘t think the
British general public un-learn green awareness.‘
‘I speak to a wide range of people in business and politics and so on and it may be commercial gain or political popularity that got them interested in the first place. but I sense there‘s something deeper going on. I think these issues are beginning to touch them somewhere else as well.‘
Those who have been touched are now buying How To Be Green like hot. wholemeal. organic. sugar-free cakes. While undoubtedly pleased. Button now has other things on his mind. ‘I would like to stress.‘ he says. ‘that it‘s only one way of getting the message across. I think I‘d like people to see it alongside Green Pages. which was much more a sort of in-depth survey of the whole thing. and my Dictionary 0fGreen Ideas. which is much more philosophical.‘
He is also involved on a practical level with green education. This fortnight. he‘ll be in Edinburgh twice. to speak at Body And Soul bookshop on Wed 6 Dec. and before that to lead a workshop on green aspects of male/female relationships. ‘It‘s not an obvious part ofthe green movement.‘ he concedes. ‘but of course there are social elements to it. I think people know what they’re missing in Thatcherite Britain — satisfaction and co-operation and community and peace.‘
We conclude by discussing the new book by that celebrated casualty of Thatcherism. Edwina Currie. ‘I haven‘t read it yet.‘ says Button, ‘but no doubt it will be revealing. She was very right about salmonella, but I can’t think why she didn‘t back down
just a bit. Idon‘t know why politicians do these things. . .‘
How To Be Green is available from most bookshops, price £4. 99. John Button leads one of four workshops on the Better Health for Men, Lothian Group ’5 Workshop Day, ‘Men Together’ at Scottish Health Education Group, Woodburn House. Canaan Lane, Edinburgh (further details 447 8044/229 3310), Sat25 Nov, £5 (£2.50); andspeaks on ‘The Green World View’ at Body And Soul Bookshop. 52 Hamilton Place. Edinburgh. 2263066. Wed 6 Dec, 7pm (shop open from 6.30pm ). free.
The List 24 November — 7 December 1989 79