Excuse me for Living

May Day arrives in all its glory accompanied by a fresh set of formal apologies. Just as well as we might all forget ourselves and start running about having unbridled fun, forgetting about inclusivity and diversity, saying the wrong thing to people and jumping into rivers in a dangerous fashion.

The first forced grovel this month came when Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson apologised for calling a journalist of the Wardle Whittell Agency, an ostrich during a post-match news conference. He also had the temerity to refer to the representative of Her Majesty’s Press as ‘stupid’ and ‘daft.’

‘I apologise for last night, Ian,’ said Pearson today, sounding like an errant lover. ‘I wanted to do it straight away in front of the cameras.’ Somehow the injured journo found it in himself to forgive.

It brought back memories of my own time as a reporter, where I was often referred to as a C*** by members of the public, other reporters and the editor. One reader wrote in saying he hoped I got stomach cancer, while Max Bygraves said I had ‘bad breath.’ Another man who ran a mind-control exegesis group said he wanted to be left alone with me for half an hour, he didn’t sound happy and I am glad to say the paper turned him down.

I’m still waiting for apologies from them, apart from Max who is dead. Until I get them I cannot achieve closure and the effects are almost as bad as Rolf Harris putting his hand on my knee, which he never did. That is bad though too, because if he had done, I could have got a story out of it, and an apology.

The second apology today has come from the academic world. The publisher of a science journal has apologised after a peer reviewer said two female researchers could improve their research in gender bias in the science of biology by seeking help from ‘one or two male biologists.’

The review of her latest recent research paper sent to evolutionary geneticist, Dr Fiona Ingleby, a student at the University of Sussex, read: ‘It would probably be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal peer review from, but better yet as active co-authors) to prevent the manuscript from drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions.’

Dr Ingleby received this review along with a rejection letter, and is now making a huge fuss. The worst of the tragedy is that the cheeky heretic who wrote this report, cannot be traced. Its gender remains unknown, so it cannot be forced to apologise. The BBC World Service where I first heard this story, expressed great concern about this, and breaking away from the usual BBC impartiality, said the idea that such a report could be written was, ‘fantastic.’

The review is of course in part a joke, an ironic comment relating to the good Dr.Ingleby’s research subject, but no one, apart from the people who responded later on Twitter could see that. A lot of women do not understand irony, but I know I really shouldn’t say that. Heresy is after all, no laughing matter. It used to be a burning issue, and we are heading that way once again. On Friday, May Day 2015, I saw a group of Morris Men, yes men, shamefully no Morris Sisters in sight, dancing on Broad Street in Oxford, right near the spot where the Archbishop Cranmer was burned to death for heresy by Mary Tudor, in 1556. She didn’t get irony either. I know which spectacle I would rather watch.

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