Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle – 18.1.19

0 Comments 18 January 2019

It’s not that old iPod shuffle anymore. I’ve finally got a portable telephone that can hold old my music and twice as much again and it’s that baby who is going to play 10 songs at random today. And for no reason at all, I am going to tell you what they were.

So welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

  1. Cellophane by Wondermints. From their epic album Bali. You should hear the title track, the majority of which is waves washing over a beach. The best band who never made it.
  2. Patience by Take That. When they all knew they could never make it alone, Gary got the band back together and made this. If you ask me, they’ve rather overstayed their welcome now, but given the overall sum is vastly more significant than the individual parts, who can blame them for milking it for so long?
  3. Endless by Toto. From their Isolation album. I think it’s Marmite, that is absolutely wonderful. Unless you don’t like Marmite (or Toto).
  4. Concert Pitch by Empire of the Sun. One of the greatest Aussie bands. This washes over you. Gorgeous.
  5. Seven Falls by Laura Veirs. I don’t know how to categorise her stuff. It’s folky, country-ish and above all lovely. From her 2018 album The Lookout
  6. A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procul Harum. Fancy having a record as good as this for your first hit single? What next? Carry on playing it for the next 52 years? Oh yes!
  7. Faithless Love by J D Souther. Such beauty from the Californian songsmith.
  8. Seven Naked Valleys by Graham Coxon. His solo stuff is criminally underrated. This is high class rock and roll from the Blur Man.
  9. How Much I’ve Lied by Gram Parsons. From the album cleverly named GP, here Gram sings along with the divine Emmylou Harris.
  10. Find the River by REM. I’m a big fan of mid to late period REM, even when they went a bit quiet. Automatic for the People is a stellar record.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

The don’t knows have it

0 Comments 18 January 2019

With the country still at war with itself – although hopefully not literally just yet – it is fashionable to criticise one’s fellow voters as being stupid, ignorant or worse. Given my academic and professional record, I can see why people describe me that way. I’m not going to call anyone stupid or ignorant in this blog. In fact, I suggest that some 41% of the electorate are the smartest ‘don’t knows’ in the land. They don’t know who the best PM is between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

I would suggest that the 41% represents quite a coalition of voters, not just the don’t knows. As a bit of a political anorak, I struggle to work out who out of May and Corbyn is the worst. Both have taken mediocrity to a new, miserable low level. I’m not sure I could put up a convincing argument to say which was best.

David Cameron unquestionably wins the award for worst PM ever. Forget his efforts at flinging austerity at the poorest people in the land – most Tory PMs do that – or making the lives of the sick and disabled even more miserable than they already were. Calling a referendum on our EU membership set the country on fire, a fire that is set to burn for years, possibly decades, to come. History will look poorly back at a man who inflicted massive division on the country in what was really a narrow, party political insight. As leaders, though, May and Corbyn sink to new levels of ineptitude.

Neither the PM or the leader of the opposition (LOTO) are great thinkers. They have no new ideas, always assuming they have any ideas at all. Neither can think on their feet, one – Corbyn – reflects the narrow far left of Labour politics (and beyond), including a long held desire for a hard Brexit, whereas May has no obvious political philosophy at all, other than sucking up to the basket case hard right Brexiters. They are the worst of the worst.

May languishes on 36% as best PM in the polls, presumably supported by those who think she is not as bad as Corbyn, rather than much better. The amazing aspect for me is that an amazing 20% of the electorate – that’s literally one in five voters – think Corbyn would make the best PM. Far be it for me to belittle the views of these voters – in which I include May’s supporters – but I ask this simple question: what are they thinking about?

Love or hate someone like Thatcher – and I still hate her as much as I did when she was still alive – no one can deny the impression she made as PM. Even though she single-handedly destroyed our manufacturing base, privatised most of the things we owned, ran down the NHS and schools and encouraged everyone to be greedy and sod everyone else, you would not compare the wretched Maybot to her. And whilst Tony Blair’s name is not perhaps what it was when he became the only Labour leader to win an election (three, actually) since I was first able to vote in 1975, can anyone see Corbyn, the Magic Grandpa himself, a man with a horrible history of meeting and indulging actual terrorists, as well as never having held a meaningful role in politics until he accidentally became Labour leader, running the country? The 41%, of whom I am one, have no doubt. No chance.

If anything shows the vacuum in British politics whereby we are devoid of leadership, direction, vision and actual policies at a time of cataclysmic change. An unprincipled Tory PM, who is a closet remainer but now campaigns for the hardest possible Brexit and an unprincipled accidental LOTO who pretends to support remain but is, and has always been, the hardest Brexiter imaginable, to all intents and purposes, in the words of Nick Cohen, a disaster socialist, someone who needs a societal and economic disaster to introduce his brand of socialism in one country.

I can’t vote for any of this lot and neither can at least 41% of voters. But things will become much clearer in the next few years.

Soon, the Tories will ditch May and if they are fortunate choose someone who can walk and chew gum at the same time, appears vaguely competent and has some idea of what he or she is doing. If Labour stick with Corbyn, prepare for electoral catastrophe for the people’s party, especially when Magic Grandpa’s cult following wakes up to the fact that he’s no good and that everything they saw in his bizarre assent to party leader was merely smoke and mirrors and a rehash of the failed far left politics that sank Labour for 18 long years from 1979.

May is terrible, Corbyn is even worse but the best of them all is don’t know. Or quite possibly no one at all.

Eclectic Blue

Sending out a DIY SOS

0 Comments 17 January 2019

When I think of the word vermin, I often apply it to those who I probably shouldn’t. Liars, shysters and the like, not to mention crooked politicians. When I watched DIY SOS tonight, I realised I might have misapplied the word.

Simon Dobbin, a loving father of three, is a Cambridge United football fan. After a game against Southend United in 2015, he was viciously attacked by so called Southend supporters and suffered a catastrophic stroke and a brain bleed. Now, he is severely brain damaged, paralysed, unable to walk or talk and needing round-the-clock care.

The positive side was Nick Knowles and his team rebuilding the family home in order to aid his recovery and to live his life at home, rather than in a care home. Scores of people worked for nothing, as they do on this inspirational programme, and did something wonderful. But.

The 12 men – men? – who caused his life-changing and almost life-ending injuries were sent to prison. Oh good, I thought. Justice was done. But was it? They got around three years each. Three years is a long time, although I doubt that they would serve that long. Given the trial was in 2017, they’re probably free men again. Simon Dobbin will never be free to do anything. His family have had their lives changed for life. I’m afraid my initial emotion when I read this was anger. The lowest low life on the planet.

And then one of Simon’s friends spoke to Knowles and explained simply that the attackers didn’t bear thinking about. They weren’t worth the effort. In such a powerful programme, this was arguably the most powerful part of all, the belief that good would always triumph.

I had thought of reprinting the names of the cowardly scum who attacked Simon, but realised it would be pointless. These were such pathetic knuckle-draggers some of them might even revel in their notoriety. In truth, my only sadness is that there won’t be a hell for them to go to, so I hope they suffer the equivalent of hell on earth.

Thanks to the BBC for sharing the story about Simon Dobbins. The light has seen off the dark. I’m celebrating the people who change lives for the better out of altruism and kindness.

Eclectic Blue

Ant’s back in the nest

0 Comments 17 January 2019

Fair play to Ant McPartlin, the artist formerly known as Ant, for returning to ITV to help present the new series of Britain’s Got Talent. Although I have never actually seen him present anything on telly, I read that Ant and his partner Dec are the greatest presenters on the planet. As presenting is the new rock and roll – actual talent of something like singing , dancing or writing is no longer necessary – he’s a big star. Just present someone else’s talent and you can end up making more money than them. Nice work if you can get it.

To be fair to Ant, he’s had a few demons in his life, with various addiction problems and a drink-driving conviction. Not a good look for a TV presenter who I read is ‘loved by millions”, but he is getting better.

I do not begrudge him the privilege of going into rehab, something that is generally only available to the rich and privileged. I suppose if any of us were filthy rich and not feeling too good, we’d probably do the same. He’s also very lucky that he was able to go sick from work after his drink-driving conviction in April and, in August, decide to take the rest of the year off. For normal people, a couple of days on the sick brings about a disciplinary warning and a bit longer than that can mean dismissal. Happily, if you are an incredibly rich person who appears on telly, this is not likely to happen to you.

All I am really pointing out is that in modern day Britain, it’s one rule for one and quite another for everyone else. I am always pleased to hear that celebrities and the like come out with mental health issues, especially when they gain access to treatment to set them on the road to recovery. The story of Kate Middleton’s brother James moved me to tears. He knew he lived a life of privilege which did not prevent him descending into the depths of poor mental health. At least there was something to catch him when he fell.

The truth is that there is no one and nothing to catch everyman and woman when they fall, unless they are so bad they require sectioning.

Good luck Ant. I hope through his privileged access to the best treatment money can buy he can campaign so all people in his position can get help. My experience is that if your average punter falls as Ant’s did, there will almost certainly be nothing for them, unless they survive long enough to go on a waiting list.

Eclectic Blue

If I could turn back time

0 Comments 16 January 2019

It’s about the EU again, so I’ll be brief.

Jeremy Corbyn has moved a vote of no confidence in the government. It’s because Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rightly regarded by most MPs as, and I quote (myself), “a bit shit” and they voted it down. Labour’s magic Grandpa now wants a general election. He said: “Britain needs new ideas from a bunch of old white men who have never had an original idea in their lives and still believe in the bollocks Tony Benn came out with 40/50 years ago. Oh, and vote leave.”

I made up the Corbyn quote but it’s as accurate as you can get. Theresa May’s botched attempt to inflict a terrible Brexit deal on the nation has failed and somehow the old boy, with literally no experience of having ever negotiated anything, anywhere, says he will swan over to Brussels and – hey presto! – get a better deal. They used to have men in white coats to collect people who said things like that.

But what is the point of a general election anyway? The Tories want to leave the EU, and respect the crooked referendum result of 2016 and Labour, under its hard Brexit leader (oh yes he is, kids) want to leave the EU and respect the crooked referendum result of 2016. I wouldn’t waste my time going to the polling station if my choice was between two parties who want to destroy this country.

I’m so weary of this bastard Brexit. I’d like to go back to 2012 when the country was united in cheering a British athlete who came from Somalia as a child, a beautiful black heptathlete from Sheffield, Danny Boyle showed the world how great our NHS was and everyone booed George Osborne.

I don’t want a general election: I want a fucking Tardis.

Eclectic Blue

A pig with lipstick is still a pig

0 Comments 15 January 2019

A typical lowlight on Radio Five Live this morning – and believe me, there were many – was the caller who expressed the desire to end this Brexit farce by supporting Theresa May’s terrible deal. He was sick to the back teeth of Brexit this, Brexit that. He wanted to talk about something else. If May’s deal succeeds tonight in the House of Commons and the media will talk about nothing else for many years. You see, it’s all about cliff edges.

The first cliff edge is at the end of March 2019. If Britain does not secure a deal with the EU, we crash out. Contrary to the lies of the leavers, this will be hellishly painful and could collapse parts of the economy and it would certainly cost the country a lot of jobs. If we do agree a deal, the next cliff edge will be at the end of 2020 when the transition ends. But things won’t be ready by then, so we will ask for an extension which will almost certainly be the end of 2022. This is if things go well.

The other thing is that May’s terrible withdrawal bill is simply that: a bill that enables us to leave the EU. Everything that happens afterwards will be securing new trade deals with the EU and every country in the world with whom we currently have a trade deal outside the EU. And not just trade deals. Our entire relationship with Europe and everywhere else in the world will need to be renegotiated. Barely a single aspect of our lives will be unaffected by the trauma that is yet to come.

I have mixed feelings about a further referendum because in principle I am opposed to their use. I support a representative parliamentary democracy, not a combination of both. But I am coming to the conclusion that we cannot resolve this impossible conundrum any other way. 48% of the country in 2016 knew it wanted to remain, whereas 52% wanted to leave. But leavers have so many different visions of what leave means. Some want to stop foreign people coming to work here, others don’t like foreign people at all, especially those with dark skin. Some want to take back control of the borders we never lost control of, others want to return to parliament the sovereignty we never lost. Not a single leaver seems to be able to express a single positive the country will enjoy by leaving the EU and cannot come up with a single EU law or directive which has negatively affected their lives. Leave means leave, although we don’t quite no why.

Theresa May says history will not look fondly at those who oppose the immense self-harm Brexit actually is. Rubbish. History will not look kindly on the right wing bigots and chancers, like Johnson and Farage, who lied about what Brexit really meant and it will not forgive the current generation of politicians – and I include both Labour and Tory in this category – who are actively working to end the free movement of our own people. It is up to voters to explain to their children and grandchildren why they supported ending the free movement they themselves enjoyed. And please do not call it scaremongering. It is what Farage, May and Corbyn actually believe in. In terms of Corbyn, his immigration policies are to the right of Margaret Thatcher. Think about that for a moment.

No. This one will run and run. Hungry people will still visit food banks, over 100,000 children have nowhere to call home, thousands, including ex service personnel, sleep rough and have nowhere to go, the sick and disabled continue to suffer as the government attacks their standard of living. But all our time, money and effort will be spent on making ourselves poorer, following the English nationalism and small state hard right’s Brexit plans.

You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. Which is how you describe May’s deal. But don’t concentrate too hard. We’ve got many years of daily obsession with this stuff. I hope you were planning on doing anything.

Eclectic Blue

Off the Ball

0 Comments 14 January 2019

I was never going to like Zoe Ball on the BBC Radio Two breakfast show. I’d still listen to it in preference to literally any commercial radio show, but when the BBC offers me choice, then I’ll choose to stay away from Ms Ball thank you very much.

Ball is the modern day icon, a presenter. Not blessed with exceptional talent at anything in particular, she presents stuff on telly and on radio. It’s hard to do well, I know, talking incessantly without creating unwanted dead air. Ball’s delivery style is frantic, breathless, like when you are running to catch the next bus. In her case, hard work is an alternative to quality.

I heard enough of it to know I wouldn’t like it. The music is standard safe Radio two fare, she seemed desperate to please. I am sure for a certain demographic she did please. As someone who is well in the catchment area for R2, I felt no inclination to listen for long.

The departure of her predecessor Chris Evans was long overdue. Another presenter as opposed to disc jockey – there is a big difference – it was always about him and the music was secondary, sometimes lower than that if some celebrity or other was on. I wasn’t expecting Jeremy Paxman style questioning but hoped it would be more than “Hello, you’re great.” I don’t see Ball being much different to that.

Avoiding Radio Five’s dire ‘Brexit Barometer’, as the station declines from rolling news into a 24 hour a day phone in, the best alternative for me was BBC 6 Music. I am far too old for Radio One and Lauren Laverne’s mid morning show was always a must-listen. Now she has replaced leaden-tongued Shaun Keaveny and suddenly I have a great DJ to listen to who plays great music. Her first two days have been excellent. If you want to try something a bit different from the mainstream, try it.

Zoe Ball isn’t Marmite because Marmite is great. I am sure she is a very nice woman who loves her family and pets and cares for the homeless of an evening. I just think she’s a crap presenter and if I had become weary with Chris ‘It’s all about me’ Evans, I was knackered after just a few minutes of Johnny’s daughter, the former ladette, Ms Ball.

Eclectic Blue

Cancer of the mind

0 Comments 13 January 2019

The most uplifting story of last week, at least for me, was James Middleton’s admission in last week’s Daily Mail that he suffered from depression, something he described as a “cancer of the mind”. Middleton, if you don’t know (and I didn’t), is Kate Middleton’s brother, and Kate, as you may know, is married to Prince William. Along with Prince Harry, Kate and William are ambassadors to the mental health charity Heads Together. I think I may love them – I certainly have a lot of man love for Harry – but it was Kate’s brother’s story which moved me most.

You can find and read his story yourself but I found it profoundly moving. He described his life – if you can call it a life – with depression and the desperate impact it had on his life. Apart from the name and the status, his Black Dog was a close cousin of mine. His whole story brought more than one tear to my eyes, but I was in absolute bits when I read this:

“I know I’m richly blessed and live a privileged life. But it did not make me immune to depression. It is tricky to describe the condition. It is not merely sadness. It is an illness, a cancer of the mind.”

Well, I didn’t need to read that. I know he lives a privileged life, but then so do I, admittedly on a much smaller scale. To the eyes of many, my life should be perfect. I want for very little. I have a perfect partner and children, a place to live, within reason I can have what I like. But that has not prevented me from being down among the dead men. So, how could it prevented Mr Middleton becoming ill? Answer? It couldn’t.

I was about to write, ‘naturally, his story attracted the usual cynicism and indeed abuse on social networks’, but of course it unnaturally attracted the usual cynicism and abuse. That cynicism and abuse born of ignorance. Depression is an illness. Being rich does not cure cancer of the body and so it does not cure cancer of the mind. I’d like to say I never tire of pointing this out, but I do.

Every time someone goes public about their struggle with mental health, someone somewhere gains strength. If Kate Middleton’s brother can open up about his own struggles, why can’t I? That’s a bit more complicated. However, that’s not for now.

In the cycle of bonkers old mental health, I’m on the way down at the moment, but Mr Middleton’s story sort of stopped me in my tracks. The chances of he and I ever meeting are less than zero, but I’d love to buy him a pint, or perhaps a large Pimms, to tell him thank you and that the boy done great. And tell your sis, William and Harry to keep on fighting the good fight.

Eclectic Blue

When far left and far right get together

0 Comments 13 January 2019

I concluded a long time ago that there is virtually no difference between the hard left and the hard right. Both are repulsively ugly, both threaten our democracy and our basic freedoms. Guess what? We are living at a time of extremes unparalleled in modern times.

Yesterday, for example, there was a march and rally organised by the People’s Assembly. Before you get too excited, the People’s Assembly is a rag, tag and bobtail alliance of the 57 varieties of the far and ultra left. Which is probably why Labour’s shadow chancer – sorry, chancellor – John McDonnell was present. In fact, there was quite a sprinkling of the comrades from the current version of Labour mingling with the likes of the rape apologists of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Stop the West (War, really, but we know what they are all about) and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) who happily waved their Soviet Union flags and pictures of their hero Uncle Joe Stalin, murderer of at least 20 million people. Prominent members of her majesty’s opposition marched with these people. Can you imagine it?

Far left former journalist and now political activist Owen Jones spoke of course, as did McDonnell himself, the latter speaking straight after the SWP’s odious Weyman Bennett had charmingly suggested that Theresa May should “shoot herself”. Nice. Bennett may not have noticed the far right intimidation of Tory MP Anna Soubry last week, although you might have expected him to have noted his fellow comrade Jones suffering similar abuse. The lessons of the death of Jo Cox have been wasted on most of the far left, then.

McDonnell has plenty of history of course, having spoken of Esther McVey that “(they should) lynch the bastard”. Far be it for me to defend one of the most obnoxious Tories in parliament, but lynching McVey is, I suggest, a step too far.

Across the road, sometimes quite literally, stands the far and ultra right. They are the architects of Brexit, the single most damaging decision since World War Two. Many of their number may take umbrage to being compared to Hitler and the like, but the reality is uncomfortably that this is exactly the direction from which they come. Their politics is often very similar, their rhetoric and ideas identical. Somehow, the left and right are so extreme, they seem to meet up. It is almost as if Jeremy Corbyn, who is merely far left rather than ultra left, is in the same political space at Nigel Farage, who I would definitely place in the ultra right category.

The Jew hating far left, the foreigner hating far right. It is very difficult to tell them apart. For instance, Ukip and the right of the Tory party wants to end freedom of movement to our people. But so does Corbyn’s Labour Party. Oddly, the mainstream Labour left, the centre ground the mainstream Tory right, supports free movement. Just an example of where the far right and far left is the same thing.

This is where our politics is right now and why a vast swathe of people from mainstream left to the centre ground and maybe beyond have nowhere to go. Under no circumstances would I ever vote for a Tory party of any description, but then I’d never vote for a far left Labour Party either. As things stand, the Lib Dems represent a wasted vote and after what happened in 2010 when they took jobs in a right wing Tory government, I am not sure I could ever trust them again.

Of course it is Brexit that has caused the fissures and division and it will do so for decades to come if the process of leaving the EU goes ahead. The extremists are winning and it doesn’t look too good for the rest of us.

Eclectic Blue

The great escape

0 Comments 12 January 2019

I am rather hoping you have heard the story about the 18 year old Saudi Arabian woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun who renounced islam and sought to escape her home country. Who can blame her since in her moderate, liberal homeland, a key UK ally, apostasy is punishable by death. A bit extreme, you might say, but when in Saudi believe in the religion you are told to believe in or die. I can understand Rahaf’s choice.

Her initial intention was to seek asylum in Australia but Canada’s excellent prime minister Justin Trudeau has stepped in and immediately awarded her asylum in his country. Saudi Arabia is obviously furious, as it has been on previous occasions when Canada has had the effrontery to call for the release of detained women activists, but Trudeau doesn’t give a toss. He said: “Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world. When the UN made a request of us that we grant Ms al-Qunun asylum, we accepted.” What a contrast with the UK.

We’re at the other end of the scale in terms of refugees and asylum seekers. In divided and broken Britain, all forms of migrants are regarded as benefit scrounging parasites who should be put in unseaworthy boats and told to bugger off and drown. We would have said exactly that to Ms al-Qunun.

The main difference between us and Ms al-Qunun is luck. I was lucky to be born in a non religious household in country where it matters less and less whether you believe in any kind of God and if you happen to renounce the God you were told to worship as a child, you may escape death with any luck. In Saudi Arabia, as with many other religious and mainly muslim countries, apostasy is worse than murder.

Yet again, the warm, compassionate and generous Canadians have acted with humanity and not hate, as we as a nation are doing on an increasingly frequent basis.

Well done Mr Trudeau. If you ever fancy a big money transfer to the UK, I’ll save up and pay for your airfare.

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