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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

28 June - Canary in a Coal Mine

It's never ceased to amaze me, how over the years, the Fire Alarm always goes off when the weather is cold, or rainy or both. I work at the moment in a fabulous new buildiing with air conditioning which, like all air conditioning, doesn't work properly, being cold in patches and hot in summer. I think that's part of the problem. When its cold, and the toast burns in the kitchen, the windows are kept shut and off goes the smoke alarm. This is followed by staff picking up umbrellas, coats and handbags as we stand in the designated area which acts as a wind tunnel and freeze.

The best incident though was over 10 years ago. I worked in a chemical firm in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. People from Swad aren't the brightest stars in the sky, but they are the hardest working people I know, and really are the honourable working class. They say about people from Swad that they are 'Derbyshire born, and Derbyshire Bred, Strong in the arm, and soft in the head'. This particular company employed mostly women - before the Minimum wage, it was an ideal job, paid for Christmas, and holidays where the man was the bread winner, working in Pits and Pots. (Town motto: 'The earth our wealth'.) The men for equally low skilled jobs earned twice as much, but it could never be proved that any law was broken, and no ship needed to be rocked. They were proud of the fruits of their labour, even so and accepted their role in life. People in offices just didn't work as hard in their eyes. (Care workers in Councils suffer from the same problem. Looking after a human being is minimum wage (usually done by women, and yet people who empty bins (usually men) earn at least twice as much. Care of a human being is worth less, just as women need less money to get by on.

After a period of heavy rain, a hole appeared in the park next door to the factory. It was over 8 feet wide and 16 feet deep. It was fenced off while a variety of men from the Council, Health and Safety and the Coal Board stared down it. Eventually, a couple of weeks later, after much head scratching, they decided to fill the hole.

I don't know what people know about mines, but one of the major dangers is coal gas. Canaries were sent down. If they fell off their perch to the cage floor, there was gas. If they carried on singing there wasn't. This was replaced by the Davy Lamp. Except, I learnt recently, that in Durham, where the replacement lamp was designed by George Stephenson and only used in the Durham coalfields- hence the term Geordie to describe the people up there.

A couple of weeks later, one of the women in the factory smelt gas. We evacuated, but couldn't find the source. The Firemen from the Station round the corner put in an appearance as well, (much to the delight of the women, who only saw them when they were selling their bedding plants, in May, and had a firemen's calender on the wall in their workplace). We also knew when it was close to home time, as the Fire Station alarm went to put out chip pan fire in Newhall.

A couple of days later there was a huge explosion in the yard and a 8 inch thick man hole cover was launched 20 feet in the air to land on top of the safety cage on a fork lift truck narrowly missing the driver. If he had done as he'd been told and been on the outdoor one as he should have been, he would have been killed, but no one worried about his misdemeanour, in this case, pleased that he was OK, a bit shook up and in need of a clean pair of underpants.

The whole building was evacuated to find the gas leak. Of course, even though the flammable chemicals were kept in a bund outside, that was to blame, according to the officials. Only no one could find how the flammables could get to a warm enough temperature in November, that would get the liquids to become gaseous enough to become explosive.

While the firemen, police, British Gas and the factory manager tried to sort the problem out with a variety of test equipment, we stood outside, for over two hours, without coats, in November. We couldn't go home as keys etc. were inside. (You don't pick up personal belongings to leave when there's an explosion). Women don't do cold, and so what seemed exciting, very soon became miserable.

The cause of the explosion was never found, but I really do believe that capping that old collpased mine shaft in the park meant that the gas had to go somewhere, had gathered in the drain until it had reached a critical level, and then escaped through the only available route - the drain cover.

Canary in a Coal min was an obscure Police Album track, I think from the 'Message in a Bottle' album.

Monday, June 27, 2011

27th June - Trumpton Riots

I've spent a lot of this weekend watching Glastonbury. I love it. Bands that have been nowhere near X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and any other show that sells your soul for fame. I don't like every band. I've still got Sunday's shows to watch, but so far my highlights are Primal Scream, Jimmy Cliff, BB King and Tiny Tempah. I love the eclectic mix, but it wouldn't be a blog from me unless there was some element of a rant in it.

So here it is, (and it applies to any outdoor event/special occasion that is on the BBC) Wimbledon included. In the Glastonbury shows, I want to hear the music. I am now woefully out of touch with modern bands and trends and I want to hear them, not the opinionated DJ's presenters. If the nation had a choice between an extra song by whatever artist or listening to the views of Mark Radcliffe or the Kiwi bloke, there would be no contest. At Wimbledon, gaps at the end of games used to be filled with Doubles matches - now they are barely featured. The majority of tennis players in this country play doubles and those that watch tennis for 2 weeks a year would also enjoy the variety of shots without the grunting that goes on in Singles. But I digress.

I've done Glastonbury. Loved the music but hated the toilets. They were cess pits then, a tent with a wooden bench over a pit dug into the field. By Sunday, they were full, and the day's action was downloaded at the Burtonwood services on the way back up the M5. I didn't wash or brush my teeth for 3 days. Again showering with random strangers of both sexes did not appeal - especially as they were solar powered and it was cloudy (but not raining) for two days.

I went with 2 people from work and one of their friends. I drove, and when we got there, the other girl in the group disappeared to find her boyfriend, returning at 10pm on Sunday when it was time to go home. The other two were lads, a lot younger than me, so they went off into the distance, leaving me alone for most of the weekend. I didn't see that as a problem, as I could plan the groups I wanted to see, without compromise.

In my all time top ten live performances, two bands feature from this Glastonbury. The Pogues followed The House Martins onto stage, on the Friday. Still an up and coming band, Shane MacGowen still had all his teeth and was a coherent drunk, as opposed to the LSD ravaged incoherent rambler he's become. They were on the Pyramid stage at teatime, and the place was rammed. they really got the crowd going, and then they broke out into 'Streams of Whisky' and the crowd surged backwards and forwards , up and down like a rough sea. The spray was provided by the hundreds of beer glasses that went up in the air, everyone was soaked. Their good time North London/Irish punk folk was a completely new sound and even though I've seen them about 5 times since then they never made the heady heights of that gig.

The other highlight for me was Half Man Half Biscuit. They were an Indie band from Liverpool, who wrote witty wistful songs about times gone by. Songs like 'I love you because you look like Jim Reeves,' and a song that I can't remember the title, but the first two lines were: 'My girlfriend looks like Peggy Mount, what am I supposed to do? I'm up the creak without a paddle and I haven't even got a canoe', (it may even be the same song, so I'll mention another, 'All I want for Christmas is a Dupla Prague away kit' - a song all about Subbuteo). Their biggest hit, and one of my favourites, was 'Trumpton Riots.' They were on the second stage on the Saturday afternoon, after Frank Sidebottom (a singer with a Papier Mache head - big song: 'Rocking with Rita') and before 'I've got a Fuzzbox and I'm going to use it' (Spirit in the Sky). The bands at that Glastonbury were the cream of the Indie scene. There was a wire fence holding the fans back from the stage, and when this number came on, it all surged forward. I was pretty near the front to join in and as the crowd moved forward the fence came down. The whole thing was so Heath Robinson, and yet no one got hurt, even when the bouncers brought in Dobermans to keep the crowd from the stage - there very nearly was a riot to rival that at Trumpton. Funny how very few people got hurt before Health and Safety and ambulence chasing lawyers isn't it?

Of course the drug scene was a lot simpler and less chemical then. In fact there were a lot of weird and wonderful things. The Hash Flapjack had no effect whatsoever, but the mushrooms on the burger not only led to an upset tummy, but lightening hitting the Pyramid stage when headliners the Psychadelics Furs were on - imagined or not - I will never know.

On the Sunday afternoon I went to see Billy Bragg. Perfect for a warm sunny day - very chilled. The 1986 World Cup Quarter Final was on that very evening and there were giant screens to watch it all. The nation expected once agian. England hadn't played well in the tournament so far and Billy sang 'New England' and dedicated it to the football team. To be fair, they then played really well against their opponents, Argentina, but the Hand of God or Maradona thought differently.

I swore then that I would never go again - I just need my comfort too much. Every year I watch again and think just maybe a Winnebago would solve all the problems.

Trumpton Riots - from the album 'Back in the DHSS' - if you ever find it buy it. Half Man, Half Biscuit's greatest moment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

24th June - When Worlds Collide

In sport there was once the sense of Corinthian spirit. You played for enjoyment, and winning was a bonus. The camaradaries experienced on the sporting fields, helped build the team spirit within the armed forces and the world of business. People enjoyed success, and would ensure that their team mates would enjoy it to. Businesses spend millions a year on trying to build teams within their business to emulate what came naturally on the sporting field.

We still hold these ideals in our sport. Our sportmen are our heroes, we cheer on our teams, we enjoy associating ourselves with them to feel a sense of belonging. They are wholesome, focussed  and clean living, famous for their on field expolits only.

In music and the arts, we like to see creative passion. We like the tortured souls and their imperfect personalities. It is seen as a sign of their genius. No one bats an eyelid, when a singer checks into rehab for drink or drugs abuse. It is part of what has made them a genius. Louis Armstrong was addicted to cannibis - he smoked it on the toilet, with a crossword. Lady Day was a heroin addict - would Good Morning Heartache sound so soulful if her voice was not affected by heroin? Mick Jagger the erstwhile sex machine wouldn't have had so much kudos without the Mars Bar.

As sport has commercialised, (players at the top of their profession have always been paid, even if nominally amateur) they have joined the ranks of celebrity, as they have tried to maximise their earnings whilst in the public view. Sport has always been a short career, but was seen as the way of life and 'better than working for a living'. Sportsmen managed to build a second career like the rest of the population has had to adapt to, as publicans, businessmen etc. Now even an average sportman sells his image rights, and neer has to work again.

The boundaries are blurring between showbiz and sport. Both court celebrity. We are, however, more accepting of the foibles of showbiz, we want our sportsmen to be role models. Many sportsmen don't seem to have grapsed this. Brand Beckham, as much as I hate what he is, an average international player, that never really set a World Cup alight in the same way as Messi, Pele, or Maradonna did, is the most famous footballer in the world. He is famous even where football isn't played. Clever agents have him promoting everything. Beckham isn't as stupid as his whiny child-like voice suggests. He realises the responsibility that comes with sport and fame, and has led a relatively quiet family life. (Apart form Rebecca Loos, but even then it blew over relatively quickly.)

Other sportsmen do not seem to have understood the game quite as well. Danny Cipriani was a wholesome rugby player with skills that Jonny could only dream about before he found celebrity with the daily-getting-younger Kelly Brook. George Best had skill Beckham could only dream about, but preferred Miss Worlds and alcohol. Gavin Henson seesm incapable of understanding that he is a sportsman first and a celebrity second, and is prepared to gamble everything any Welsh boy dreamed of, on a reality tv show. Prior to Charlotte, he lived rugby, after, rugby seems to be a sideline to the celebrity culture he has bought into. Mike Philipps is guilty of crass stupidity, which maybe why Duffy dumped him. If he had drunk in a less public place, and ate in a more salubrious restaurant, he'd have probably been given a lift home by the police, not to the station. We judge these young men differently to the way we judge our showbiz stars. Throw a telly out of the window, eat a bat and Ozzie's sales become greater. Play a bad game after being refused a Big Mac and you destroy the dreams of a nation.

PS. Apparently the Welsh Squad are being trained in Hot Yoga. This allows better 'cool down and stretching' after training. Ryan Giggs is a practitioner, and he puts down his longevity to the move known as 'The Cat'. On commenting to my Welsh Friend about this, she said that she thought Ryan preferred 'Doggie', and that his sister in law was better than Amy Winehouse as she could cope with 2 Giggs in one night.

(I'll get my coat.)

When Worlds Collide - Biffy Clyro not the tone-deaf Essex builder.

24th June - Wall Street Shuffle

Yesterday was spent on a Business Start-Up course. I am trying to work out in my head, if a couple of deals will come off, I'd be better off self employed rather than employed.

I have a simplistic view of money and risk when it comes to business. Loans are OK providing you know how to pay then back within your business model. You lend what you can pay off. Simple.

On this course was a man in a similar position to me. About to be made redundant, he too was looking at setting a business up based on his skills. He has a spare house bought on a 'Buy to Let' Mortgage. He earned a bit of profit, by selling at the right time. He believes that there is still a market to be had out there, and so while he has still got a job, he has maxed out the mortgage on his house to get a deposit to do it big style. Apparently his wife is, in his words, is close to suicide. Somehow he had persuaded her to sign off the forms as well.

With this deposit, he took himself off to a bank and lent £200,000. (yes that number is correct). He bought a re-possession for £60,000 - terraced house, 2 up 2 down, and a detached for £104,000. Neither are in a desirable neighbourhood, (sorry if that sounds snobbish), but true. It is unlikely that re-selling will make him much, especially in the current stagnant housing market, should his business need to release cash quickly. He has rented both out, but in the glut of rentals, the tenant managed to force his rent down by £25 a month. He reckons that he will make £100 a month, from both, so not really very much for the level of debt taken on. (I mistakenly believed that, as a ball park figure, you should expect a return of at least 15% on the value of your business each year. In my eyes, unless he is earning £20,000 a year, then the money would be better off sitting in a bank. (That figure would also be after loan payments).

As the day unfolded, it appeared that he had thought about his business model less and less. He had no real steady income (losing his job soon) to pay off the loan, so would need to work to pay off what his business needed. It also appeared that he was 'doing' up the houses to increase the re-sale value. All on £100 a month profit.

Interest rates at the moment are 1/2%. Fantastic rates never to be repeated again. The banks are charging businesses horrendous rates, both for small and large businesses, mostly into double figures. Most reasonable businesses see the base rate and say 'On your Bike'. In my head, only the idiots would accept such horrendous terms, knowing that the low rates will not be around forever, and the interest rates may rise again. Most people are trying to get rid of debt at the moment, as they too believe that rates will ventually have to rise, and or want to off-load their own personal debt. However, it appears that the banks are still prepared to lend on what appears to be flawed logic.

We are now in a world where legitimate businesses are not prepared to lend at usuary rates of interest from the banks. The risk stupid are still lending. I thought that caution was the word on the streets as far as lenders and borrowers are concerned. It appears that is not the case. Like Greece, there maybe an after shock to follow.

PS I would just liek to state on record that I think the Buy to Let market is morally corrupt. In a world where first time buyers led the property buoyance of the market, i.e. the young, they are faced with a world where independence costs. They now have to find 20% deposits rather than 5%. They now have to pay sums greater than a mortgage replayment would have been, to live independantly, and also have to try and save for their own chance to get on the property ladder. Many that would have got on in their 20's 20 years ago, find the door shut. Possibly forever. Meanwhile, their parents' generation has dried up the source by exploiting them. The market is stagnant and this is economic progress?

'Wall Street Shuffle' - 10cc. a song about corrupt markets. I believe that we have more 'hurt' to come.

24th June - Physical

I like it when I get to the gym early, as I have chance to chat with the other ladies. As with any group of middle aged women, it inevitably gets down to body shapes, or bodily functions. Last night a woman was telling us about a programme on one of the obscure Sky channels. The programme was about pensioner gym bunnies and body builders, who were obsessive about keeping their body shape, and were still entering competitions. However, it doesn't matter how fit you try to stay, gravity inevitably takes over, and flabbiness becomes a problem, regardless of the level of training. One old guy who was ripped, still had a mutton top. When asked what he does to overcome it, he says that he uses Preparation H, as it tightens the skin.

This provided loads of hilarity about how much Preparation H would be needed to overcome baby belly. Then one woman owned up to using it to lift her eye bags. We envisaged a scenario where Preparation H would sell out at Boots on a 2 for 1 offer. Once this hidden beauty secret was known, Preparation H would have to be sold in 1kg tubs.

The conversation moved onto fighting baby bellies, and the indignity of childbirth. My grandmother told me that to make childbirth easier, you should keep yourself regular. I'd also heard a story of a friend who had defecated on the delivery bed. I was paranoid about doing this, and so I ate industrial quantities of fruit, drank gallons, and diarised my movements. Needless to say, I was pretty regular, but in the latter days of pregancy, where space in my body became a premuim, this became harder and harder. I saw not poohing on the delivery bed a success, but it left me with piles (hence the link).

The temperature in July 1990 was around 88 degrees when I gave birth to G. To replace lost fluid, the midwife offered me tea or coffe. I drink neither. It was no surprise to me when I projectile vomited into the grey party hat in front of me.

Another woman boasted about her lack of stitches, another asked the midwife to put a couple extra in, so that she could experience the 'pleasure' her friends had raved about. I had several stitches, my midwife proudly told me that she'd embroidered 'Made in England' 'down below'.

All giggly, we went into the Step class. A late comer, asked us what we we're laughing at. Preparation H, we replied. It removes bags. 'Ugh' she said, 'I couldn't use that on my face'. 'Ahh, we said, 'it also reduces baby belly'.

'Right', she said, 'I'm off to the Chemists on my way home.'

Olivia Newton John, famous for being the only women to be linked with Cliff Richard, had a mega-hit with this in the early 80's. legwarmers and sweat bands became really trendy, even outside the gym as a result.

Monday, June 20, 2011

20th June -part 2 The Gambler

I know that I've posted before today, with the provisional England squad being announced, I think it justifies me commenting on it, as they will the boys I'll be supporting. They will have my full support while I am  there, but I am a little disappointed not to see a few flair players and a few young Englishmen for at least the warm up experience.
Mind you at least, so far, we don't have problems with players appearing on reality shows or kicking off when a scrum half didn’t get his fries with his burger.

The squad announcement:
Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Good club player, obviously a Bok – why is there no English player better – i.e. there is but he’s not in his late 20’s so therefore in Johnno’s eyes can’t be good enough. Should be Kitchener from Worcester. A young talented English player.

George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Just no. David Paice from Irish a better hooker as a fourth choice hooker, but obviously not from Tigers so Johnno not interested.

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), He’d be in my squad.

Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), so would he.

Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), and him.

Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Oh dear, a lock who’s done OK but is injury prone. However he fits the main criteria of being Johnno’s mate from Tigers.

Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Why didn’t Wales/Ireland beat us to it as he has a Welsh mum and an Irish dad. Would prefer the nutter from Quins - Joe Marler.

Nick Easter (Harlequins), well that’s the game plan decided then. Up the jumper and slow ball. Penalty machine. Feel better if other nations hated him, as then I’d know he was a threat, but they don’t.

Hendre Fourie (Sale Sharks), Why why why? Better English players – such as Saull, Sarries and Dowson (Saints) . However fits Johnno’s other criteria for selection, i.e 30 and from the Southern Hemisphere.

Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Would be my captain. Everyone hates him, which is reason enough for me. (mind you I wish Johnno could pick Britz as a hooker. If he’s going to pick 30 year old foreigners – at least there would be some eye candy.)

James Haskell (Unattached), Unattached should be followed by for a reason. Blond and a bimbo when it comes to rugby brain. Had more chances than any other player and still hasn’t done it.

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Shoe in. I bet he gets injured, having to do the work of both the locks, and half the back row.

Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), He’s lovely. I met him in January and we had a real laugh, so should be in for that reason alone.

Lewis Moody (Bath Rugby), Will be injured as he’s picking too many up now.

Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Would probably be in my squad, if he had a hair cut.

Tim Payne (London Wasps), Would even be in Burton’s side if left to me. The worst scrummager in the Premiership, he’s fitted with roller skates, so he can go back even faster.

Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Hooray – but won’t be on the plane because he’s English and in form. Johnno will go for Fourie.

Simon Shaw (London Wasps), Starting to smell of wee.

Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Injury prone, and out of form – owes England big time, but I’d probably pick him.

Matt Stevens (Saracens), Just immense this season. Deserves his place. Shown great character in coming back as he’s took a lot of jibes for his coke use.

Steve Thompson (London Wasps), I wish he was banned. Known as Banjo for a reason.

Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Reserve at the end of the season for Tigers, who picked Jordan Crane for all the big games. However Jordan is English and Waldrom isn’t – Tigers, big, 30 and a journeyman Southern Hemisphere player – bound to get picked. PS Dowson is English and versatile across the back row – better choice over both of them but not a Tigers player.

David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Ok as a squad man.

Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), In my squad.

Joe Worsley (London Wasps). Used to like him but he’s been injured all season – Dowson would be my choice.

Delon Armitage (London Irish), Two disciplinary offences this year. Has turned from being a star player to an idiot – also not performing well. Alex Goode would be my choice as he is versatile and could cover Fly Half as well.

Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), I know he’s good because the Welsh hate him.

Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Just no. can’t defend, is slow, looks like a lock so shoe in for Johnno.

Danny Care (Harlequins), would pick him as 1 of the three, but not as good as he thinks he is. Too easy to read. His impression of a meerkat behind the pack  is a good one though.

Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), sadly his best days are behind him. A winger that can’t score, but is solid in defence – a certain Johnno pick.

Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), scarily out of form. I hope he finds it during the warm up games. A limited 20 year old (Farrell, Saracens) showed him up in the Prem. Final.

Riki Flutey (London Wasps), One very good season, but what’s he done since the Lions tour. Should not be near the squad. However he is a 30 year old journeyman Southern Hemisphere player. Would pick Barrit (Saracens above him, but Sarries beat Tigers and must be punished.

Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), See Ashton. The weight of expectation may slow him down, as apart from Ashton no one else is capable of attacking.

Shontayne Hape (London Irish), 30 year old journeyman etc. etc. If on the weird off chance we play New Zealand, can he honestly say he will give his all. (His all isn’t very much either. Meanwhile, Anthony Allen, Jordan Turner Hall and Brad Barrit are watching it on tv. )

Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), At least he offers something different in terms of creativity. Clegg or Farrell for me though.

Ugo Monye (Harlequins), getting back to form, but can consider himself lucky.

Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), great exciting and scores tries = there for the warm-ups.

Joe Simpson (London Wasps), fast as anything and also can play on the wing.

James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby), not as good as he was, should have been in the squad 3 years ago. Will get injured in the warm-ups.

David Strettle (Saracens), the better Sarries winger James Short isn’t even in the Saxons or the U20’s. Will do OK though.

Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), One can hope he gets injured. There because Johnno wants a knighthood. Since he’s been injured, Gloucester have scored a hatful of tries. Henry Trinder his Gloucester team mate breaks a line. Can't pass, can't break a line, and his defence isn't as good as it used to be. If you watch re-runs of 2003, he was the weak link in the side.

Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), If I was Scotland, Argentina et al and he gets picked, I’d just wind him up through the roof, and watch him fly. His punishment for GBH was influenced by Johnno. Should have had the book thrown at him. Trinder a better option.

Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Won’t go though unless there is an injury. Different style of scrum half.

Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), dropped because he couldn’t change the games in the 6 nations. On the bench to bring on for a last ditch drop goal. See comments re Flood/Hodgson.

Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers). Worryingly out of form, perhaps because he’s had too much contact with the genius of Wells and Ford (England coaches.)

So overall not that impressive. Uninspiring, but as World Cups since 1991 have been won by teams playing tight, I can understand where Johnno is coming from, but a bit depressing all the same. The teams that won in these years, actually had an A and a B game. In this squad there is just an A game. Team shirts will be looser, as the ball will be carried in them a lot.

The Gambler - Kenny Rogers. The team song from the last World Cup.

20th June - We don't need this fascist groove thang

When I was younger, my grandad gave me a piece of sage advice (not the only piece - he was a pretty sharp cookie). He said that many fights in pubs are started by talking about politics, or religion, so never discuss them if you want to keep friends and stay out of trouble. On the whole, I've tried to obey that advice. You get a feel for what friends' politics are, but have never really asked them outright. I have friends with many political views from left to right, red to blue, with the occasional green and orange thrown in. What has struck me over the past maybe three or so years is the increasing disillusionment by all, in what passes as politics these days. There are common themes amongst the comments made though.

My friends are mostly educated, middle class (although many consider themselves to be working class because they earn a living), have jobs, kids, mortgages. elderly parents/relatives. They fear more for the future than they ever have. This to a person, seems to be caused by the incompetance of politicians of all parties to deal with the real problems of society, rather than come up with their madcap Islington (Notting Hill etc.) dinner party politics.

The first thing that people resent is the number of skivers our society supports through the benefits system. Yes there are genuine cases, but there is a sgnificant number - £2.6m people too ill to work - I'm sorry I don't believe that level of disability in a modern society, too idle to work. There are many ways of motivation - read any management book - most agree, in simplistic terms that carrot and stick is the best way of getting the best out of people. here's an idea - cut benefits, and to help people get back into work, give them the 'missing' benefits as a wage for delivering a service. Its easier to get a job from a job. Many of the people I know with disabilites are proud of the jobs they have, and some have made the most of their disability - I know two lovely women who are both profoundly deaf, who have made their lip reading and signing a business, selling it to conference and media markets. A disability isn't a barrier. Idleness and attitude is.

The mass under-achievement of kids. It is no co-incidence that educational standards are lower than 30 years ago, and probably lower again than 50 years ago. There was a system called grammer and technical schools then. Bright working class children were educated with middle class children and picked up their mores. Social mobility was at its highest. If a child shows sporting prowess, they are quickly given every sort of coaching to achieve their potential and yet we throw our kids regardless of ability into the biggest schools possible at 11 - remember when secondary schools had 500 pupils not two thousand? - in the name of equality and efficiency. With a geographical rather than ability split, working class children (if their parents work) don't see another side, another's aspirations and only have their parents' distorted views on the world.

Pride - my grandparents on both sides were working class, my parents had little, but my granparents instilled their aspirations to make a better life for themselves through an education or a trade. They didn't have much, but they had one thing that money can't buy - self-respect. There was always a meal on the table - home prepared. Food wasn't wasted and eating out was limited to fish and chips on an occasional night out. They dressed up for this night out, and saved for what they needed. Pride cannot be bought or indeed taxed. I don't buy into this view that the working class can't afford to cook a healthy meal. I don't buy into the view that they have no aspirations - if you are hungry, you find work. You become enterprising. Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) in the paper at the weekend talked about the cleanliness of everything they had, even though they lived in rented accommodation in Camden.

The globalisation of our town and city centres botheres me. Starbucks and Costa coffee are often picked on. When I was growing up, as teenagers we went into cafes that were owned by small businesses. The Chef was one, and if you had a bit more money, we met in Birds cafe. Happily Birds still survives - the quality of its bakery was enough to meet the challenge of Starbucks and supermarkets. In New Zealand, which many consider to be the equivalent of Britain in the 60's, on my visit in 2005, there were still small businesses and shops to support. I wonder if that still is the case in 2011. I walked through the area of Burton yesterday, where there is a significant immigrant population, mostly Pakistani origin. They had barbers, grocers, garages. Somehow they have managed to avoid globalisation by trading amongst themselves. It is possible, or are the rest of us too lazy to support local businesses?

That is part of the problem. Wanting everything now is another. My grandparents replaced, and didn't chase the latest gizmo for the sake of it. It wasn't necessarily always saved for, I remember the 'Friday man' calling, but generally on 'big ticket' items, they went without until they could afford it. The looked for quality and value, to ensure it lasted. Now Governments in the name of growth have encouraged us to replace everything before it is broken. They have encouraged banks to lend cheaply and beyond the means of the people paying back. Remember the days of mortages being 2.5 times the mans's salary? perhaps inflated house prices are due to  being able to lend 5 times joint salaries. The banks don't mind - more interest for them. The sellers don't mind, they can inflate prices. (As an aside, where are all the boasters at the moment - you know the ones that tell you how much they've made on their house since last year?) We bought British, because that way we were supporting our businesses and peoples' jobs.

If I formed my party, I would repeal the Human Rights Act. Well intentioned I'm sure, but with rights come responsibilities. If you break a law, you take the consequences. If you live beyond the mores of society (footballers take note) then you take the consequences of your actions. You do not have the right to live off the taxes of hard working people, you take responsibility for your own life. If you trip over a broken paving stone, do it as it was in the past, look where you are going, don't sue. The ambulence chasers are making us all risk averse, and lacking in reponsibility.

Capitalism as a model is broken. Socialism has never really worked - people are motivated by money and sadly greed. Supporting the weakest creates more weak. Chasing profit for money's sake only, doesn't work either. The clever management at Northern Rock, RBS, Southern Cross have proved that. Punch Taverns had a fantastic estate of property, but mortgaged it to raise capital - they over geared and then when people could no longer afford to go out, Punch could've sat tight, or sold a few off, instead they have huge loan repayments. Investment bankers have forced Boards to chase short term profits and this has led to off-shoring, job losses etc. In Victorian times Burton had several breweries that were the equivalent of Google. They put back into their local communities, building a Town Hall, Sports and Socila facilities for their members but also for the wider community. Where possible, they bought and used local suppliers. They became rich, but they gave back to those less fortunate than themselves. The nearest we have now to that business model I think is the Co-Op. Profits given back to their members via a dividend. British farmers and suppliers supported, and where possibly Fair Trade suppliers from abroad. Profit is not the dirty word. It's what is done with those profits, and how it affects people around them is.

We waste money on illegal wars to protect our oil supplies, and yet our elderly are left without proper care. (Funny how Blair's kids didn't join up, and the Royal family's son's did - and saw active service in Blair's illegal war.)

So, we grew up wanting a different world, even hoping to change the world ourselves. Instead we have politicians who don't have the balls to make the sweeping changes needed. many aren't qualified. 40 years ago, Labour politicians came from the public sector or unions. They were time served, and understood the world they lived in and wanted to change it. Conservative politicians came from the world of business, and sometimes agriculture. They too wanted a better world to their model. Now politicians come from politicians, they have no real life experiences to work with. Politics is not a career, its a vocation and a way of giving back. As a consequence the lack of real world experience has led to opportunism, such as lawyers and ambulence chasers with the Human Rights Act.

There must be another way of managing the world. A new world model. Perhaps its chaisng votes that stops inaction. Personally I think that the party that sorts the benefit cheats out will gain rather than lose votes. The party that supports decent business practices, and rewards those that do the right thing in their walk of life. (that goes for nurses as well - you can get off your backsides and talk to patients you know and check they are OK, rather than sit beyhind a desk talking about sex lik eyou did when my gradnmother and aunt were seriously ill.) I hope one day to see signs of it. sadly I don't think I will.

The title is a Heaven 17 song - disco song with a hint of conscience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

17th June - Oops I did it again

In the grand scheme of things, I don't have a great sense of tact and diplomacy, and unintentionally I offend people by saying the wrong thing, because I've not thought through how what I say might be heard. Most of the time it is not meant to offend, but I usually do end up apologising.

Over the years, I've heard some great one liners, and retorts, that should be captured for posterity. Again names removed to protect the guilty.

I heard a story about a woman who at a night club in Cardiff, pulled someone significantly younger than herself. Not wanting to seem 'too old', she told him that she was 6 years younger than she really was. (40 is a difficult age for a woman - 30 something not so much so.). The following morning she drove him to his home in Merthyr Tydfil. The journey took them past the memorial of the children killed in the Aberfan disaster. (For younger readers, this was when, after several days of heavy rain, a coal slag heap became unstable and slipped down onto a school. Over 100 children were killed that day. A whole generation lost due to the poor management decisions at British Coal.) The young man in question noted the significance to his previous nights bedfellow. 'Ah Yes,' she replied, 'I remember Blue Peter covering it and our school teachers getting us to write a letter of condolence.'

The other story also has involved a liason without trousers. Someone I know pulled a young man 30 years younger than herself. On staying in a hotel, overnight, her friends went to meet her the next morning. 'Don't worry about breakfast, there's a McDonalds by the Hotel', I said. Quick reply was ' Oh yes, she can have an Egg McMuffin and he can have a Happy Meal'.

Discussing a woman who had  a 'face for radio', and was miserable with it, a crime on tour, even in the grim surrounds of a Balckpool B and B, a mate described her as 'being hit by the ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down'.

Even G gets in on the act. Watching the Lions in 1997, at the tender age of 7, the panel on the television were discussing how good Neil Jenkins the Welsh Fly Half who unfortunately was balding, ginger and had sticky out ears. 'Aah he said, 'a face only his mother could love.'

A short blog today, but stories that make me smile. 'Ooops I did it again' was by , Britney Spears I think. A woman with a car crash of a life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15th June - Spirits in a Material World

Now that I am on the train everyday, I have chance to compare with using the car to go to work. Even if I had a car, I cannot afford to park at the station as it costs £5.70. The bus costs £1.40 one way. The ticket costs £13.90. G picks me up - 6 miles round trip@ HMRC rates of 45p a mile = £2.70. So that's between £18 a day and £22.30 to get to work to wait out my notice. Of course I do get a free paper, the Metro. A season ticket, soon to be purchased would give me a free journey a week.

As a comparison, in a car, it would be 62 miles @ 45p a mile = £27.90, so cheaper there (perhaps).

I have to earn £130 a week gross before I even start paying bills with  the official RPI rate of 5.7%. And where does that figure come from? Petrol =20p a litre more expensive than last year, Food bill £20 more expensive than last year, Energy prices £20 a month more expensive than last year. Personal RPI - nearer 20%.

I now get up nearly an hour earlier, start my journey 20 minutes earlier, arrive 10-15 minutes later. In the evening, I have to wait about 20 minutes for the train to leave, and would arrive home about an hour later than I would do in a car. So until I leave, I'll lose two hours a day, of relaxation time. Last night I sat down at 9pm, 18 hours after I got up. Very little personal time to do things like pay bills, socialise clean the house. I do get to read a book as well as the Metro though. At the moment it's William Cobbett's Rural Rides, which was a 19th century blog. In it he is as frustrated at politician's mismanagement as we are today. Then you bought your seat in parliament voted for by male landowners only. Today we have 'policy experts' who end up in parliament, so it is still not representative of the community at large. He also complains about the country's elite being in non-jobs, creaming off the taxes of hard working labourers. For that substitute politicians and everyone else. Same rubbish, different century.

Anyway, this morning I read that on the overhead gantry signs on roads, along with useful messages such as 'speed kills', (no it doesn't proximity kills), 'don't drink and drive', 'fog' (this is ironic in two ways - 1, how can you see it if indeed there is fog, and 2. the sign is usually left on when the fog has cleared, so the driver doesn't know whether he is going to drive into it or not. This is usually the same for an accident warning - it can be hours after before the sign is switched off. The latest message to be included is 'You could be on the train'. Where the Rail companies are going to put people I don't know, as many are standing already anyway. This is the crux of the immigration debate. Nothing to do with where people are coming from, their race, creed, and any other divisive traits that politicians hide behind, so that the issue is never discussed properly. It really is this simple, where are they going to be put? We have over crowded roads, trains, NHS.  They are wanted because they pay taxes for politicians to squander and businesses to deflate wages. Despite the Daily Mail complaining that house prices are not rising, a whole generation will not own a house until middle age, if at all, due to the silly prices especially at entry level, where 2nd homes and 'buy to let' have dried up supply. Compare the number of 'To Let' signs with 10 years ago, in towns without a university - I would suggest that they have increased exponentially.

Regardless of political views, the individual is now lost in the state. Too much of our wages go to support the infrastructure that politicians have ignored while chasing madcap schemes (High Speed Rail 2, Afghanistan, wind energy) and businesses have externalised costs - the road network is now for moving imports around the country, that we used to make ourselves. (see previous blog for my frustrations on that one). We work to live, even survive, just as Cobbett's labourers did nearly 200 years ago.

Spirits in a Material World - Police. I don't have the answer but there's got to be more to life than this treadmill that we are all on.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

14th June - Mirror Man

The new Marmite rugby player is Gav the Chav. Gavin Henson has the ability to split the public view. His public profile is closer to a footballer than it ever is a rugby player, even though he is a girlie back. For non-rugby followers, Gavtan was voted most promising young player in 1999. 10 years on we're still waiting for him to deliver on that promise. In 2003 he didn't go to the World Cup because he was seen to be a disruptive influence. In 2007 he was injured so understandably at 29 he knows that this World Cup is his last chance.

His main claim to fame is that he tackled an 18 year old, who was picked too early for England. An 18 year old who went onto play in a World Cup Final, making a telling break that could've altered the course of the game, if the TMO had given a different decision on whether a try had been scored or not. Still Gav the Chav tackled him, dependant on view, with a tackle that was borderline illegal. The other thing he did, was, in front of a home crowd, kick a penalty in which Wales beat England. Took balls to score it I admit, but the continued euphoria of a 2 point victory is frankly pathetic. It wasn't a drubbing. It was against a very poor England side with amateur selection and tactics. You won, get over it. Live on your past history, but it won't solve your current problems.

I read Richard Hill's autobiography. In it he complements many players but one he makes a point of singling out. I saw it with my own eyes three times. The first time was at the Wakes team hotel before the game with England. Other players willingly signed autographs for the young fans around. Laughed and joked with them, Gav ignored the lot, even when asked. The second time was in Wellington, at the Lions Hotel, July 2005. The Lions players were coming back from training and we were collecting autographs. Well G was with me collecting them with me telling him who to ask. (Yes I was that coward.) The players had forgotten their national rivalry and were mixing. A couple of Welsh players with an Irishmen and Scotsman, having been for a coffee. An Englishman walking with a Welshman to visit a tourist attraction. Then there was Gav. On his own with his own cronies, in a corner of the Hotel, not acknowledging the fans or his team mates. Richard Hill a quiet non-committal sort of player, commented on it in his autobiography, as did Dallaglio. Gav was and is above all that team stuff. His own book of that year celebrated his role in the Welsh Grand Slam. He won it for Wales with a tackle and a kick. His book did not go down wekll with his team mates.

The third time was a Heineken pool game between Sale and Ospreys. He warmed up on his own. He didn't need his team mates to motivate him, and he had no role in motivating them. I can't remember the result, but I think Sale won. The only thing I remember is that Gavtan's shorts were pressed and of a different style to the rest of the team. Probably designed specially to go with the tan, 'back, sack and crack' waxing, and hair gel. Poseur.

A University friend taught him Maths. In a previous year Rob Howley had also been taught by her. Rob took the trouble to tahnk her for his grade. Gav the chav didn't make friends with anyone. Didn't need to. He was going to be a superstar. He apparently was 'charmless' to quote her.

He disappeared from view for a while. Injured I think. He turned up at Tigers where he elbowed a prop in the face. Real cheap shot. Banned for 10 weeks. Straight back and not playing again. Wales struggled in that 6 Nations. His presence was missed.

By this time he was reproducing with the Chav queen of opera Charlotte Church. They met in Chip Alley. Class. At 20 she'd already got through 3 loser lovers, and seemed to be able to spot them a mile off, so no wonder Gav appeared on the horizon. Very quickly they had 2 babies making a family of 4 babies. Charlotte grew up, and realised two babies were enough and dumped him.

He was injured for a long time. Roughly 18 months. Instead of focussing as Jonny Wilkinson did on getting his mental attitude and body right, he played on Charlotte's boat for 6 months. He thanked Ospreys for their loyalty by asking to be released from his contract to play for Saracens, it being closer to his kids (who were still in Cardiff). This co-incided with him being on Strictly Come Dancing, where he managed to stay in a week longer than the self proclaimed carthorse Ann Widdecombe, and so couldn't play for Saracens until after Christmas. He then complained that he wasn't being picked in his best position and very soon left by mutual consent. Off to Toulon he went to resurrect his career. Game two, in which he played well, he decided to slag off Jonny Wilkinson. A player who was injured for 4 years and despite his high profile in the UK, especially Engalnd, manages to keep himself out of the papers. Jonny may not be the best player in the World, Gavtan, you are right, but he's achieved far more than you have, not only on the pitch, but also off it, with his strength of character to come back. And in an arguement, real rugby players would recognise that and defend him. Good team player there as well, (not) and guess what Toulon don't want you - you are too difficult to manage.

Still such is the need for creativity in Wales beyond an ageing Shane Williams, that the coach gives you another chance, even though you haven't got a club. So what is the obvious thing to do. Go on a stupid reality show again 'The Bachelor', where you will find your true love out of 25 potential desperate wannabe WAGs. And although Wales will be in World Cup training, in Wales, you will be in the South of France filming. Hope you find some charm soon, or I can see the girlies dropping out very quickly, other than the desperate. True Love would be playing in the only chance of a World Cup you have, focussing in on the only thing you are good at. I wonder what team spirit is like at the moment among those players who would walk on broken glass to play for their country, and have given up their summer to do their best.

In this blog, I am annoyed with myself for bothering with someone who has done nothing to warrant dicussion. He's a waste of air. He reminds me of Gascoigne or Best without the talent. At least they both received plaudits from players and fans, even if their characters were essentially flawed.

Mirror Man - Human League. because it is there where he sees his only true love.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

9th June - You're So Vain

Having given up on driving for a while, (ideally forever but I don't think I can get away from needing a car on a long term basis), I am now using public transport on a regular basis. When it moves on time, its actually quite a leisurely experience, but then again, I get on the train before the Tamworth commuters and therefore that entitles me to a seat. (£19bn for High Speed 2 - try putting a third carriage on the rush hour trains to acheive value for money!! - no money for that though is there?)

It does take longer, though, but affords me the pleasure of reading the Metro in the morning. How can you sum the Metro up as a newspaper. I've read it, but couldn't answer one question on current affairs, unless its to answer the question, What famous Footballer was seen as Mary Poppins, but is actually a serial adulter that doesn't even see his brother's wife as being out of bounds? Answers on a postcard, please, but his name rhymes with Ronnie Biggs. The culture of the WAG really bothers me. Land a footballer and you land an easy life, you can become a model (or may have started as a model). Not a Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss, showcasing some of the exciting fashion designs, but some obscure lingerie company or 'Loaded'. (Phil Collins was the face of many a knitting pattern, but he's more famous for his music.) You aren't there to be admired or demonstrate a design, you are there to be leered at. You cheapen your sex, and actually your sexual allure. You are a living breathing rubber doll, there to satisfy some of man's baser urges. (That's fine lads - we need your baser urges to run as we all want sustainability of the human race, and someone needs to be the hunter.)

Footballers, bless them, are not paid for their brain power. They often are removed from their normal lives, put into sheltered club accommodation, have every need pandered to and obviously have more time and money than their wildest dreams. They no longer have something to ground them, or remind them of the normality of everyday life. As every need is met, and they have silly women throwing themselves at them, nothing really has a value. The 'perfect' women to match their perfect baby Bentley, house in Cheshire/Surrey etc. These women, know that to land a footballer, however it works out, they will earn money off them.  Whether it be selling their story to News of the Screws, being paid 'hush' money, child maintenance, or the life time winner - marriage - job for life or handsome payoff if divorce looms.

Women have always wanted to look their best for certain occasions. In the past, we made the best of what God gave us, although make up, good choices of clothes, corsetry and dieting helped to enhance the appearance. These were always external enhancements and we are our own worst critics. However, this is no longer good enough for young women, as they chase their vision of beauty. Natural is definately out. The new vision of beauty comes in the following form: orange fake tan and bottle blonde. (Ladies, everyone knows that real blondes tend to freckle or go pink in the sun, so the orange fake tan looks just that - Fake.) As for the hair - the eyebrows give it away, and that's before men discover that the collar and cuffs don't match. Then the real gravest of sins: plastic surgery. What doctors created to hide the horrors of the First World War, and burns victims has been taken over by vanity.

'There used to be a saying among men 'that more than a handful is enough'. G-H cups is not normal for 99.9% of normal sized women. The aspiration of a Barbie figure is actually demeaning your own self esteem. Jordan is the subject of ridicule for most thinkiing people. If there is anything to admire about her, its her ability to find ways of earning money from very little talent, and her care for a son with multiple disabilities. In other words her character - not her body. By having surgery to alter your body to attract men, you are not their equal, and can never be. They will never respect you as a person. You are a breathing rubber doll to them. In landing a footballer, you will achieve instance celebrity and wealth, but you cannot have self -respect, or be a person in your own right.

Attracting a man is not a crime. Love and family are the cornerstones of our society. Having breasts that don't disappear under your arms when you lie down, and risk your future health will not ultimately get you these things, however superficially you think you've got them. How many footballers wives promise to 'stand by their man' (Ironic that this song was written by one of the most surgically enhanced singers - Dolly Parton), when they stray with some bimbo who has thrown herself at him? Of course you will girls, be a doormat, it pays well. You are just legalised prostitutes, not equals in a lifelong partnership. Kick him out and stand up for yourself. That would be the right role model for young girls. Let them see that you can take control, that you are not to be treated badly, by anyone. Let them see that you can cope without your meal ticket. You'd probably find that men would respect you more for that than your size G plastic boobs. There is more to life than what you own or look like, that doen't bring real happiness and security.

Our mother and grandmothers ancouraged us to be confident in ourselves, our personalities, develop our talents to the full. Being rich wasn't the game, fulfillment was, whether that was as a mother, a career, or a happy marriage, or all three. Plastic Surgery is not a talent if you receive it, rather than the surgeon. The Metro this morning, really made me give up on my sex and their ability to be good mothers to their daughters. A woman who has spent £50,000 on herself to achieve her ambition to look like Barbie,  was front page news in the Metro for giving her 8 year old daughter a voucher for £5000 worth of plastic surgery when she is 16. That is a pre-pubescent child, who as yet doesn't even know what her body will look like, and may not be fully developed by then, already thinks that she will be imperfect. That's really a way to encourage a fully rounded person as a mother. Tell her that she needs to look better. I'd put her on an 'at risk' list, for child cruelty. I daren't even think what this could do to paedophiles.

Today I have chosen the Carly Simon song 'You're So Vain'. Mick Jagger or Warren Beatty - who knows, but they made the most of their talents and not looks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

8th June - Boom Boom Boom Boom

I've started to watch the Chicago Code on Sky. Not because I'm a fan of police dramas, although this one has got potential, but because I'm a fan of Chicago. I fulfilled a pipedream to go there last year for my 50th birthday. The desire to visit came for many reasons, primarily a love of the film The Blues Brothers'. Apparently it bombed at the cinema on its release, although I saw it twice in 3 months. I've also owned two videos of it and now have a dvd of it as well. Somewhere I also have the sequel Blues Brothers 2000 - same story line updated, but again with some real legends in singing and or reprising their roles. In it Dan Ackroyd goes on a Karen style rant about modern music being souless and manufactured, and the passion he puts into that, should put it in one of the all time movie quotes, unfortunately though as it is a musical comedy, it can't possibly say anything of any relevance, unlike Forrest Gump: 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you are going to get'. If that is the case, is the Strawberry Creme when your house catches fire, killing your dog - just really doesn't work as believable - how can anything sweet represent the worst of life?

Anyway, back to Chicago. Whilst the Blues is associated with the Deep South, and Jazz with New Orleans, it is Chicago that recorded and commercialised the music. First place to record Louis Armstrong, Birthplace of Chess Records -Etta James, Little Walter and Chuck Berry. Instead of becoming a Musuem to music, it constantly celebrates and enjoys the music, not the history behind it -holding free music Festivals throughout the year. While we were there, there was a Jazz Festival. Whilst much of it was a little too improvisational for my taste, there were afternoon sessions of more traditional fodder. Black Folk and Blues music also have festivals. The Locals take picnics, tourists eat ice creams and relax, and there are little markets, selling obscure and perhaps unavailable music for the whole weekend.

It is also a sporting mecca for me. Many years ago, Channel 4 used to have American Football on, and it took off in the UK - Sunday teatime tv. One of the stars at that time was 'William 'The Fridge' Perry. 300lbs body weight coming at you. Unstoppable. Supposed to be a defensive back, but played the 'prop like' role of the one yard flop over the line, when in the offensive mode (attacking in English). It gave me a new team to support - 'The Bears'.

Then there is also the tallest building in the world (in its day - Sears Tower) to go up. The Art Institute that trained Walt Disney, and Wrigley Field - far more exciting that New York. Wrigley Field was an iconic stadium that I wanted to visit for a long time, but actually going there, for a Cubs game, made a real comnnection for me. A family club,quirky, welcoming, with great history, but now also constantly flattering to deceive. It reminded me straight away of The Baggies. Loveable but ultimately failures.

We also visited Buddy Guy's Blues Club. Unfortunately not in the evening as we had a minor with us. But even at lunchtime, the place was atmospheric, with a local blues artist entertaining the few people that were in there. We also went to the Gospel Brunch - think James Brown in the Blues Brothers - it was this sort of show that inspired that scene. The energy from the (young) choir was incredible, especially from a young women with a deep contralto voice. The vibrations from the voice could shake a building's foundations. The Pastor leading the choir, got so into it, he almost levitated.

Same venue later that day, we saw Crowded House to a packed House of Blues audience. Unfortunately it was all standing, and despite my best pleas, I couldn't get a chair  for my mum. Standing for 3 hours isn't easy for a 20 year old let alone someone in their 70s. However, my mother had other ideas. She went missing for about 20 minutes, just as they announced over the PA that there were no re-admissions. 'Oh dear', I thought, 'I'd better try and find her.' As I was walking down the stairs towards the foyer to find her, she walked past me with a 20 something bouncer, completely ignoring me. 'Hang on', I thought, 'What is she up to now?' (She has past history). There was a crowd at the front of the balcony, that the bouncer parted for my mum to walk through. He threw someone off their seat and sat my mum on it. (She later told us that she had been chattinig to the manager downstairs.) So she had the best seat in the house. In the circle, facing Neil Finn, while he sang. It didn't end there though. My mum was talking to a man in the crowd next to her, who when Crowded House were belting out their classics, was perched on the shelf around the front of the circle. All of a sudden 2 bouncers went wading into the crowd by her and pulled him out. He was very drunk, and had sent all the drinks on the shelf flying. It turns out that my mum had been talking to him, and he was a Brit. 'Where are you from?', he asked.
Non- committal, my mum answered 'England'.
'I know that, where?'
'I know Birmingham, where?'
Fed up by this time my mum answered, 'Yoxall'.
'I know Yoxall, my wife and I have been to Hoar Cross Hall'. Adulterers out there, there is no safe place.

Boom Boom Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker - featured in the Blues Brothers and recorded in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

7th June - Ever Fallen in Love?

Today's blog is so complicated I'm not sure I'm going to pull it off. I know that it will take longer than other blogs to type, although it is shorter than most of my ramblinigs. Years ago I used to work for a company that made aerosols. It was one of the jobs I enjoyed the most, with great people to work with and for. I'm always pleased to see them in the street, and I think I've enjoyed a similar reception from them.

The inter-relationships when I was there, made me think that I should write a soap opera for television. One of the supervisors (K), wanted to go out with the lab technician (S). She was engaged to someone else outside of work. Meanwhile the Factory Manager (P) was having an affair involving cling film with (R). I'd say use your imagination, but after 25 years I've still not worked it out! Anyway, S broke up with her fiance to go out with K. For many months it was a passionate affair - drove me spare as S worked for me and talked of nothing else. Then P ended it with R (perhaps the cling film had run out - but I think it was his wife beginning to smell a rat.) K had chased S for so long that he realised that the dream wasn't all it was supposed to be and started looking in the direction of newly available R, whilst still with S. Everyone else knew but S. It made working with her very difficult as she kept asking for advice. How do you say, 'He's sleeping with someone else' and keep motivation up. In the end, I advised R to force the decision out of K. K finished it with S and went public with R. Phew!!! I think that made sense.

That seemed complicated until last night. The previous week, we had bumped into an ex Burton Player (R) in the Sun at Richmond. He asked to be remembered to everyone. So at last night's club meeting, I mentioned R wished to be remembered to those that knew him. That caused a degree of hilarity in the corner of the room where I was sitting. Then C explained why. R had been married to K many years before, but the marriage had ended. K then went out with S and married him. That marriage also broke down. Meanwhile R had an affair with M's wife, which broke the M marriage up and eventually R moved down south, with wife 2, soon to be ex wife 2. We believe wife 3 stuck. C and family were invited to a wedding, when queuing to congratulate the newly wed couple, her mum said, 'This feels weird, wasn't K married to R first, and I was at that wedding as well? 'No mum, ' C replied, 'That was wedding 1, this is wedding 3 - you missed out S (wedding 2).' We believe K is now on marriage number 4, and others commented on how R had other affairs, on what seemed a regular basis.

My dad, a Police Inspector in town, from Newcastle - under - Lyme, who served most of his working life in the Black Country used to say that he'd never known such a place for sexual shenanagins as Burton. It certainly seems to be the case.

And they say Eastenders has complicated unbelievable scripts!

To give it its full title: 'Ever Fallen in Love with Someone (you shouldn't have fallen in love with)? was the Buzzcocks biggest hit. Pete Shelley, the main man, is cited as an influence for many other bands such as Stone Roses. His sensitive lyrics conflict with the fast moving guitar music. I loved them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

6th June -The Way to Amarillo

I spent the weekend painting. 8 hours on Saturday painting the fence, and winning the battle against Ivy - somehow, like Afghanistan the war will never be won. At least my battle won't cost lives or limbs. There's a saying by whoever that says the height of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing even though it isn't working. Here's an idea. The money the UK Government is spending on the war (and other nations), why don't we all just pay the Afghanistan farmers to grow something other than Opium? After all, the British couldn't win the North West Frontier in the 19th Century, the Russians failed miserably in 1979 and the Americans followed suit shortly afterwards. Militarily, its and impossible country to attack - the forces are fighting the Taliban in ideal Guerilla conditions - mountains and rocky outcrops. The Biased Broadcasting Corporation, should spend more time on reminding us why we're there. How women are stoned to death for being raped, how girls aren't educated. The nearest I got to understanding what it was all about was watching the film The Kite Runner.

That was just one of the thoughts that ran through my mind as I listened to the radio on Saturday. The other was about Tony Blackburn. In the late 70's he became increasingly irrelevant as a DJ, as he refused to play Punk and New Wave. Given a second chance on BBC2 playing the Chart Hits from previous years, 1978 was featured. I thought great, my era. However, his grudge continues. Instead of playing one of the all time great songs, Patti Smith 'Because the Night' he played the Eurovision Song winner of that year. From Israel, which isn't even in Europe, it was a song that sounded like 'I want to be a Polar Bear'. (Ah ba ne be). OK, both were moving down the charts, but I would bet anyone between 47 and 55 were sorry that Patti Smith wasn't played and sorry that this was. He slagged off 'What a Waste' - Ian Dury, by saying don't know what that was all about. Well Smashy, what are you all about, your job is to reflect the music of that year, not the Mid Atlantic crass you preferred. He also didn't play Blondie, 'I'm always Touched by your Presence Dear'. The charts at that time were full of Bee Gees songs; he managed to play all of those though. The music was very diverse at that time, but it was almost as if Punk and New Wave didn't happen in his world. Well, Tony, it did, and your attempt to air brush history didn't work, and neither did you for many years as a result of you being unable to play what the listeners wanted. (Must have something to do with the name, as I can think of another Tony B. who airbrushed history.)

Friday's blog was about the Paris Tour, and thinking about that one brought the following year's Scotland Tour to mind.  Again we travelled up on the coach. Leaving at 9am from the club, as the driver put the coach into gear, the first 'click, ssshhh', was heard. Well, I have another confession to make. I wanted to look as though I was one of the alikadoos, having a drink as well, but my four cans lasted all the way to Scotland. 6 hours, and for most of them I was hugging an empty can. Simple to look part of tha gang. We were staying in jockey's quarters at Hamilton Racecourse. Being Scotland, it had rained, and going down to the accommodation, the coach got stuck in the mud. We only had about an hour before the first game. We tried to move the coach but it became even more stuck. I had an idea. I'll go to the Fire Station across the road, and ask them to use their winch on the front of the Engine. And being brave there will be all those hunky firemen. Yep, in these politically correct times, the station commander was a woman. I think if there was me and George Clooney on a desert island, he'd be a eunoch, such are my powers of celibacy. Anyway, it became apparent that it would also be dangerous for the fire engine to get down there as well as it may get stuck as well, and then would be unavailable to deal with real emergencies. They did come though. (On Friday night, two of us went from the gym, across the road to the Fire Station to remove a forgotten security tag from a handbag the instructor had purchased. These firemen really do deal with the emergencies of life).

Anyway, we went to the game in a series of taxis (should the collective noun be a hail of taxis?), dressed in the tour theme of Little England. Now I don't know this programme. Apparently it was a comedy, but I googled a character and went as Babs, so had a bubble wig and a dressing gown on. J has a nighty and a little cardy, as Ann. Apparently her computer said no, which apparently is funny?!! Being Scottish, the coach could resist it, and wore an Australian rugby shirt, obviously purchased for the 2003 World Cup Final, underneath he had a navy 1967 T-shirt. However, he realised that his masters were fun to be with and broke his arm getting out of the taxi at 3.30 in the morning. He did come in useful in speaking the local lingo to convince the Chinese restaurant to send round the set meal for 35 later on that evening. We had left handed drinking, which isn't a problem, for me as I drink left handed anyway, but to Ann, it was, as she ended up drinking penalty half pints of wine. On top of a Scotch pie, which seemed to be boiled meat surrounded by boiled lard, and boiled pastry, wasn't a digestable mixture, and she left the coach which had caught us up by this time, rather quickly. She retired to bed, and whilst there, her son had a number one, two days after having his hair cut at Toni and Guy for silly money. Being lads they couldn't quite do the job properly and he ended up looking like he'd been on chemo, with tufts of hair left on random spots on his head.

For me, I always enjoy seeing the bonding develop between the lads, and them take charge of their own tour. This happened at Tibshelf services on this tour, when the DJ of the group took his boom box into the service station forecourt, surrounded by the team, they sung the tour song, 'Is this the way to Amarillo?' Number one in the charts at the time, by Peter Kay, but those of senior years may remember Tony Christie's version.

Friday, June 3, 2011

3rd June - Light My Fire.

A few years ago we toured Paris as a rugby team. Well the boys were doing the playing, we were the alikdoos.

We left on Maundy Thursday from the club, having had a little tipple before we left. The Vets were also leaving that day for Ireland, and with Ireland being notionally dry on Good Friday, their little tipple involved a large number of drinks and hitting town, and they were already in a much worse state than us when both coaches left in the early hours. The coach trip down to Dover for us was a long one, and knowing that sleep was about 28 hours away, the sensible ones refrained from starting drinking too early. That wasn't the case for some of the dads, who will remain nameless. When we got on the ferry at 7am, some were already tired and emotional while others ate a hearty breakfast. Call me lightweight KW, we'll see later won't we? NB the initials are just coincidentally mine as well.

Drinking for the rest of the adults commenced when the sun passed over the yard arm - with still another 7 hours before the game. We all had Easter Bonnets as a tour theme. This showed up my lack of handicraft skills - just sewing a couple of chickens onto a baseball cap seemed a good idea to me. The stuffed rubber chicken that one of the dads had just had that hint of sexual perversion that perhaps was inapprpriate for a children's tour. Removal of the hat meant a tour forfeit, and watching the early offenders Morris Dance at the Service Station left several French families bemused at the eccentric English. When we arrived at the club Ris Orangis, we were concerned that our 14 year olds would be playing boys who arrived on scooters, smoking Galloises, and needing to shave. However, when the Brits are underdogs they usually beat Johnny Foreigner, and especially the French. (Why are there so many tree lined avenues in France? To stop the Germans from getting sun-burnt when they march on Paris.) The hospitality was great, even catering for the parents, who by this time would have indulged in eating Shergar, again just like the French did years earlier.

We retired to our airport hotel, with the space age cubicles for bathrooms which cut down the time needed to sh1t, shower and shave as it could all be done at one time. Of course that was only after we had drunk the bar dry.

We had doctors on tour, often the worst drinkers, so why do you get a lecture when seeing the doctor about your vices as theirs are much much worse. KW, who had by now exceeded 24 hours drinking fell out of the lift, banged his head and lay bleeding on the floor. The 2 doctors declared him dead, so legally he can be buried, but he remains uninterred visiting the club regularly. On one floor, the doors opened and RM was standing in the doorway eating Pringles. The doctors stole them off him and the lift doors shut on RM without the Pringles. Do re-constituted potato count as one of your 5 a day? - obviously as a doctor was eating them, they must do.

The next day we visited Stade Francais for the stadium tour. Again our satisfaction at winding our neighbours up was complete with the boys' rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot on the pitch to the guide and a steward.We then got on the coaches when the afternoon's drinking started. Being a tour legend and alikadoo, meant that I had learnt to pace myself, unlike two of the other mums who used the Easter Traffic jams to clear the bus of any wine that was on the coach. We amused ourselves with singing a variety of songs. Music Man went on for ages, although it is doubtful whether any of the lads knew who Lord Mountbatten, Airey Neave, or Nikki Lauda were. One of the 2 Winos, LM, used the mike to sing 'Man I feel like a woman' by Shania Twain, but her real piece de resistance was the title song 'My Heart will go on', the dreadful dirge from 'Titanic' which was accompanied by lager flavoured sea spray, whilst she sang. Can't remember the name of the club, which I should do as I have their calender at home 'signed' by their first team, but our late arrival was welcomed with open arms. They were really pleased to see us as we had arrived nearly two hours late. They must have thought we weren't coming.

Being three 'single' women, meant that we didn't pay for another drink, as our French hosts were more than generous. My half of lager was matched by JA's half of white wine, and LM's half of gin, with a smattering of tonic. The host team played in blue, and we played in white, and so 'Allez les Bleus' was countered by 'Allez les Blancs' France v England and I think les Blancs won. The corniness in me would say that the game of rugby won again, as the hospitality was second to none with a barbeque and free drink for ladies.

We were so late we had to go straight to the Renault Restaurant on the Champs Elysees for food. LM by this time didn't know what continent she was on, let alone what city she was in. The gurgling meant we all knew what was coming, and MT provided the nappy bags which we hooked over each ear. The smell of baby lotion was enough to start off the regurgitation, although it didn't catch it all. When we got to the restaurant we sat her in a chair, while her long suffering husband bought her a change of clothes. NB as obscure as it seems, its actually an excellent place to eat and I have since returned there for food.

Meanwhile on one of the other buses, the late KW had left something in his bag, and crawled into the coach hold to get it. Somehow the hold door got closed and it was only half an hour later when the coach driver tried to find out where the knocking was coming from was he discovered, Must have been spooky hearing a dead man knocking from his coffin!

G would rather forget the next day. In fact I still don't think he's forgiven me. Instead of going to Euro Disney with the lads, I dragged him round Paris sightseeing. Except it was foggy and cold. We went to Musee D'Orsay, which has a fantastic collection of Impressionist Art for a 14 year old boy to enjoy (Not), and then the highlight of the day, walking around Pere Lachaise to see Jim Morrison's Grave. I don't really know why he wasn't impressed by the roses and half smoked doobies on his grave. They weren't on Edif Piaf's, or Abelard and Eloise's graves. Still I bet EuroDisney wasn't as good as the ones in Florida and Cailfornia that he's visited, and Mickey Mouse would have been Michel Souris.

And so we left Paris. Touring with boys is an interesting study in human relationships. They all start off quite tentatively, not always interacting with each other, but by the end they have really bonded well. On the return trip, they'd found a way of rigging a coin machine, so that its bounty of bouncing balls could be retrieved without payment. The parents spent the rest of the journey to Calais waiting for the blue lights to come on behind the bus. The sight of them bouncing all over the service station car park didn't give the game away to the owners - maybe they weren't there, but I do think it probably was a lucky escape.

This bonding on the tour came into its own on the return ferry journey, as they asked customer services to look for their team mates 'Phil McCavity', and 'Ben Dover'.

Light My Fire - The Doors - one of many Jim Morrison classics.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2nd June - Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3.

I've really tried not to go off on one about politics, and my opinion on Councils, as it could only be seen as me being bitter and twisted as redundancy looms. Today's news out of Birmingham City Council has taken the biscuit. I've felt the urge several times to write a blog about the externalisation of costs - so that the consumer doesn't pay at the till, but in other ways. Think cheap goods in Primark. Made in Pakistan by some orphans for a bowl of rice a day, they are shipped over to the UK in containers and then onto the stores via huge warehouses. because of poverty in the Third World we have a huge Overseas Development budget to fund education in Pakistan for instance. Why not just pay a fair price for the goods? We put the goods in warehouses on roads that are badly rutted by lorries. We pay through the nose for our roads to be repaired. I read once that the damage one articulated lorry causes on a road is a thousand times what a car would do, but their running costs are not a thousand times more. We then pay for the goods in the shops to assistants only paid minimum wages. So we no longer have a textile industry, so skills gone there, although the job losses were a long time ago, there may be some on the dole, paid for by us. We make up the wages of minimum wage staff with tax credits, and yet we think we've got a bargain when we buy the £5 shirt at Primark. The company makes the profit, we pick up their stripped out costs. Genius.

We wouldn't expect our public services to go the same way would we? In the cause of efficiency and cost savings, Birmingham City Council has outsourced some call centre services to India. 160 jobs in Birmingham gone. Will there be a reduction in Council Tax - no. Will those Council Tax payers have to pick up the costs of their unemployment - yes. That's rate relief, rent relief, and dole, as well as potentially some re-training. You couldn't make it up. I suppose its robbing Peter to pay Paul, as Birmingham Councils's budget will reduce but Birmingham Job Centre budget will increase. So externalising of costs will end up probably costing the taxpayer more. I bet they still haven't factored in the loss of trade in local businesses. You know the sandwich shop, the newsagents and coffee shop will be noticably hit, but these people won't be buying new cars, tellys, clothes or whatever in Birmingham any time soon.

Food at a similar crisis point. We all want cheap food, but now farmers are stopping farming as a result, particularly in dairy. We want high welfare standards with low cost, so given a choice we buy the cheap overseas imports. meanwhile countries around the world such as China, are buying vast tranches of land in Africa to feed its population. A perfect storm is on the way. Food shortages will force the price up, governents will keep what they grow and rear for their own population, and Britain has let farming die. Higher prices, if at all available, are on the way. The Chinese Government and others know that a hungry population is an angry one and will retain food for their population to stop revolution. We will not have the farmers to bale us out this time, growing trees and biofuels provides profit not food.

We have accepted that businesses to make profit have stripped out so much of the internal costs to externalise them, so we pay anyway. The fact that the Councils are now doing similar, to move the costs onto other public sector departments is obscene. My grandmother used to call people who chased showy things as having a fur coat and no knickers. We all want cheap goods, cheap food, so we look good, and give the impression of an affluent lifestyle, but if all our jobs go abroad, in the private and public sector, we won't be able to even buy these cheap goods. The fur coat will blow open and the lack of underwear (infrastructure) will be revealed. You heard it here first.

Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3- Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Because today's news makes me want to get back in my bed. (I never had the pleasure of seeing him in concert, but saw the Blockheads with Phil Jupitus singing a couple of years ago and they were one of the tightest bands I've ever seen. Brilliant.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

1st June - Whisky In the Jar

Ever had that dream where you are in a public place in your 'jamas' or even naked and you can't hide? A few years ago I was told about this story, by an acquaintence of mine.

'A' had been on a course in Dublin. As is quite common for universities these days to generate income, she was staying in Trinity College student accommodation. Trinity is a lovely Georgian building in the centre of Dublin. It stretches back quite a way, firstly around a quadrangle of Georgian buildings, and then past a cricket pitch and a rugby pitch, along which there is a series of Halls of Residence.

On courses I have been to for both work and 'pleasure', there is a real culture of finding 'new best friends' in the bar. This seems to mean that drinkiing has to go on until the early hours to prove how sociable you can be, and to impress the boss. It almost becomes a competition. By the time I had been on several courses with the Open University, I got to the point where it seemed pointless. They aren't really friends, they aren't really work-mates and actually using the evenings to catch up on the copius amounts of reading required.

'A' had fallen into the drinking buddies circle. After a week of Guinness, late nights, early mornings it was taking its toll. On the last night, after a lengthy drinking session, 'A' retired to bed. Because it was quicker and easier, 'A' stripped off to her birthday suit and got into bed. In the middle of the night she awoke to find that she was standing in the corridor of the Hall of Residence, not knowing how she got there. (this she deduced at a later date, was as a result of choosing the room door rather than the bathroom door, when a call of nature came.)

Naked and locked out of her room, she looked around for something to protect her modesty. She couldn't knock on doors as it was the middle of the night, she didn't know which ones were occupied, and which ones had women in. (Knocking on a man's door naked in the middle of the night would probably be one of most men's fantasy.) There was a small kitchen, but there were blinds, not curtains and not a lot else. Looking round there was a bin, with a black bag in. Hastily she put holes in for arms and head and put it on. It was big enough to cover her modesty, to walk to the Porters Lodge at the front of the building to be let in.

The walk was a long one, past a rugby pitch, cricket pitch and across the quadrangle at the front. The Porter saw the problem and put 'A' in the back room, whilst he radio'ed his colleague to come to the Lodge. The other porter had a van, and took 'A' back to her room.

On the way, the Porter couldn't stop laughing. 'I'm sorry,' he said, 'I'm getting married next week, and I was wondering what to talk about. Looks like you've just given me something.'

'Whisky in the Jar' - Thin Lizzie, a revival of an old Irish folk song, about losing everything.

P.S. for those of you who don't like whisky or whiskey, try Power's - its lighter and sweeter, with a bit of an orange after-taste.