Where the evangelical must stay

Advice for a Christian visiting gay-friendly Brighton plus the woman who wonders if she is a witch

Dear Marina,

I will shortly be visiting the gay capital of the UK, Brighton. On looking for a place to stay for a few nights I noticed a couple of websites had a small note 'Gay friendly'. Now I'm not a homophobe but I am an evangelical Christian and don't want to put myself in any danger, if you know what I mean. Should I avoid sleeping at such places? None of the B&Bs or hotels have been advertised as 'Straight friendly', perhaps you could recommend a few? Or should I come and stay with you, you pagan minx?

Love Bruno, Hampton

Jesus wept man. Surely all that happy clapping you subject yourself to has strengthened your resolve against any preternatural urges you may be harbouring. Get out your tambourine and start bashing. This will surely give you the strength to overcome the dangers of temptation.

Should a blast of Stand Up For Jesus fail, however, all is not lost. Indeed as I understand it your belief system thrives on the cycle of temptation, sin, repentance confession and redemption. A spot of flagellation isn’t out of the question either – which could prove popular in the bijou B& Bs of Brighton. Yes Bruno, it’s a win win situation.

I am sorry to say that staying with me is quite out of the question. What with rising interest rates and energy prices I’ve had to sublet all available space – unless you want to sleep in the bath or on top of the piano – but having surfed the net myself I have a couple of suggestions.

Try Paskins Hotel 18/19 Charlotte Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1AG Tel: +44(0)1273 601203 Fax:+44(0)1273 621973. I’m sure they’re not fussy about sexual orientation but they do care about the environment – as will any hotel or B&B carrying the Green Tourism Business Scheme mark.

It’s what Jesus would have wanted. . .

Dear Marina,

I loathe giving my boyfriend oral sex, but I love receiving it from him. He thinks it should be reciprocal. What should I do?

Tongue-tied in Taunton

Swallow hard and indulge him. It’s only fair.

Dear Marina

With new PM Brown, I find myself in a crisis of political disorientation. New Labour died, the Tories come off as wannabe hip grandparents, and the LibDems, well they don't want to compromise and as charming as Ming is - he is a bit old. Is my disorientation justified or am I merely apathetic?

David, Lincolnshire

Apathetic I’d say. If you could be bothered you might acknowledge the tentacles of power that are politics reach far beyond clichés of old leaders, image makeovers and party branding.

Peel yourself off the sofa and go find out who represents you locally. Go beyond that to link with campaigners who can make a difference not only to your community but hey, the wider world as well.

I admit it’s difficult. I mean even our prime minister knows we need to engage people – and then at the first opportunity veers off into a debate on the West Lothian question: deemed by the man on the Clapham Omnibus as about as relevant to his life as the Off Side rule at a Mothers Union conference.

But so long as at least two English MPs sit between the Scots and their goals, no offence will be committed. Which is a shame really, since the Scots have no tuition fees, provide free care for the elderly and use proportional representation for elections. Hence a better class of parliamentarian I believe.

Dear Marina

Help I think I might be a witch. At times of the full moon I feel completely out of character and get a bit manic. I'm a Capricorn, does this make a difference?

Spooked, West London

If you were a werewolf it might. Jonathan Caner reckons Capricorns are deeper than people think. So who knows?

Dear Marina

Since the smoking ban has come in i've been forced outside to smoke and have a Butt pouch to keep my fag ends in when I'm done. Problem is where do I keep the butt pouch on me? I have enough trouble finding pockets for mobile phone and wallet. Is it time for a manbag?

Confused
Isle of Man

Nope, it’s time to stop smoking. Well done by the way for being thoughtful enough to pick up your butts which pose a hazard to wildlife and look awful scattered on the ground.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.