Eclectic Blue

Nice day for a royal wedding?

Comments Off on Nice day for a royal wedding? 19 May 2018

There is something gloriously bonkers about the royal wedding. My own feelings are mainly of apathy, of ambivalence; a bit of meh. I’ve drifted into the other room occasionally to watch David Beckham, Serena Williams and George Clooney arriving and I’ve been pleased to observe that James Blunt is there too, meaning that with any luck we won’t be hearing him sing anything today. For the life of me, I cannot understand why a single person (yes, or a married one: boom, boom) would bother to go to Windsor in the hope of seeing someone they don’t know and will almost certainly never meet get married, but people do and good luck to them.

Perhaps, it’s all about escapism. Let’s face it: many people’s lives can be very hum drum. Working for most of the week and watching television and sleeping for most of the remaining days is not exactly living the dream, is it? When I look at the royals, I see a version of Reality TV, but without eating Kangaroo testicles or being in the same room as Katie Price, equally unpleasant scenarios I am sure you will agree.

I am sort of trying to avoid The Big Day. I say sort of because I don’t have the energy nor inclination to close my ears and shout loudly when passing by our telly. But once you’ve heard one person tell you what a lovely couple Harry and Meghan are – and I am sure they are a lovely couple – you’ve heard them all. We know all about Harry’s ‘work’ with wildlife consideration, except when he goes out shooting wildlife, of course; we know all about how he cares, genuinely, about the stigma of mental health and we know about his truly heroic work with the Invictus games. He should really get a title for everything he does. I hope the queen is paying attention.

When Meghan walks down the aisle, I shall be in Asda in the safe knowledge that hardly anyone else will be. That’s not so much of avoiding the main bit (“Ooooh…what a luvverly dress she’s wearing”) as ensuring my shopping takes as little time as possible. Meanwhile, thousands of people will be standing around in Windsor, getting pissed on cheap Prosecco and Kopparberg, buying souvenir tat from the Del Boys of this world and taking endless photos to share on social networks. I’ll see you in the booze section.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (18.5.18)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (18.5.18) 18 May 2018

Yes, it’s here again. Just when you were settling down to watch two unemployed people get married on national telly, it’s that time when the elderly iPod starts shuffling at random, belting out some tunes live from my Man Cave.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.

Let’s rock!

1. SHC by Foster the People. From 2016s excellent Sacred Hearts Club. Quality pop music.

2. Master Blaster (Jammin’) by Stevie Wonder. A real belter in Steven’s top album, the Definitive Collection. According to Wikipedia, back in 2014 Ed Sheeran covered this on the Jools Holland Hootenanny music show. Very glad I missed that one.

3. Suite for 20G by James Taylor. From his epic Sweet Baby James record, this is just gorgeous. And if you add on Carole King on piano, well, it’s that good.

4. The 3 Rs by Jack Johnson. Hawaii’s finest sings about the environment and how we should all “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”. He’s right, you know.

5. The Good Samaritan by the Pierces. The drop dead gorgeous Pierce sisters sing a lush tune from their You & I long player.

6. The Crash of Angel Wings by the Waterboys. This one is on 2007s Book of Lightning, proving that there’s more to Mike Scott than Whole of the Moon, even though he can’t possibly write another song as good as that one.

7. Right on by Silicone Soul. Old school dance music from the turn of the century.

8. When the Deal Goes Down by Bob Dylan. Epic from his Modern Times album.

9. Chevrolet by ZZ Top. Classic stuff from the Rev Billy F Gibbons and his chums in a song from the Rio Grande Mud long player.

10. Beach Boys by Weezer. And finally, this beauty from Weezer’s 1017 album Pacific Daydream.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Back to reality

Comments Off on Back to reality 18 May 2018

I’ll issue a few qualifications for the blog that follows. I very much like Prince Harry on the basis of everything I have heard and seen about him. His passion to bring about the Invictus games. His deep and, I believe, sincere commitment to improving mental health. I don’t think I have been taken in. I think he is a good man. I like Meghan Markle too. Two relatively young people living their surreal lives through a lens. I don’t actually believe in the monarchy but it isn’t worth fretting about.

The polls suggest that the vast majority of people are apathetic about the royals, whilst a significant minority adores them to the point of obsession (in my opinion). The vast majority of people feel that the the royals, who remain stinking rich, should pay for the whole shebang, including security and most of us will be doing something else. I do.

It is believed that the wedding will cost the taxpayer £32 million. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a relative drop in the ocean. However, in times of austerity, it becomes a lot of money. I read today that 60 people have been murdered in London so far this year, a city which has suffered huge cuts in police funding and numbers. 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower inferno because it was covered in cheap, inflammable material. Then I read that Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake will cost £50,000, the florist an eye-watering £110,000 and the catering £286,000. I was still taking this in when I heard a desperately upsetting story on the radio.

They interviewed a homeless man in Windsor who was living in a bus shelter. This was not the media stereotypical drug-addled, alcoholic waster, but a man who had lost his job and had nowhere to go. The police had told him he had to move on but as his entire worldly possessions were in a number of large bags, he couldn’t do so on his own. There was no whingeing. He didn’t think he could physically carry his possessions to where, he did not know. Perhaps the overstretched police officers could find him another bus shelter out of sight of the royals? We wouldn’t want to upset the visiting royal fans by showing them some actual reality, would we?

None of which is the fault of Harry and Meghan. On the basis of any sensible, objective argument, their existence is ludicrous. They have little say in their lives which are conducted almost entirely in the public eye. They will never have a proper job, other than to be rushed around from place to place shaking hands with people and, in Meghan’s case, having a shed load of children, the first of which will arrive, I predict, by this time next year. No. They are not to blame when the taxpayer can shell out vast sums of money for cakes and sausage rolls but also tolerate terrible inequality and a terrible fire that would take the lives of 72 innocent people and blight the lives of thousands more. It’s the contradiction I don’t understand or accept.

The truth is we can afford both. We can have the royal wedding and we can end the obscenity of homelessness and poverty. We can have a street party to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s big day and we can also fund the number of police officers we need to end the blight of murder in our capital city.

If only we had politicians of compassion and vision and we could have it all, pretty well. Instead, our country is run by politicians of all colours who don’t and probably can’t see beyond tomorrow and some can’t even see that far.

Good luck to Harry and Meghan. I wish them nothing but love and happiness. Seriously. Good luck also to the survivors from Grenfell, huge numbers of whom still live in temporary accommodation and the homeless man about to be moved from his bus shelter. Tomorrow, vast swathes of the country will switch off from reality and be consumed by what is almost a fairy tale. Reality can be ugly and cruel. I hope we don’t forget it for long.

Eclectic Blue

Pity the bookmaker?

Comments Off on Pity the bookmaker? 17 May 2018

I was absolutely inconsolable when I heard this morning that the government had decided to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. Betfred’s MD Mark Stebbings said something along the lines that he was upset and heartbroken having to axe 4500 staff because so many of his shops will start losing money. The founder of Betfred, Fred Done, said he might seek a judicial review of the government’s decision. “The Tories have adopted a Labour Party manifesto pledge. They are playing politics with people’s jobs”, said Mr Done. In other news, his brother Peter is a major donor to the Conservative Party.

Yes, I am concerned about the jobs that might be lost but I am far more concerned at all those lives which are being ruined by the gambling epidemic that has swept our country. No other country in the world has a system whereby someone can lose £100 every 20 seconds in a High Street shop. People elsewhere with an insatiable desire to lose money have to go to casinos. These are jobs which are, sadly, sustained by screwing vast sums of money from ordinary folk who are encouraged to gamble way beyond their means.

It is a matter of fact that bookmakers are normally found in working class areas and not in the more affluent areas. It’s where their business is. By definition, working class people have less money than those from the more affluent areas. And they gamble more. Fred Done says the government is “playing politics with people’s jobs” but in reality the Tories have, at long last, done what they should have done years ago.

I cannot imagine gambling a fiver, never mind £100 every 20 seconds. I hate the idea of losing so much that I don’t gamble at all. I hate the idea of gambling because I know that I will eventually lose that money. It’s not an equal contest between bookie and punter. But lots of people bet and they bet regularly. Now and again, they will brag on social media that they have beaten the bookie. What they do not do is to announce when they have lost, which will be almost every single week.

The TV adverts are not aimed at the working classes who already bet. In recent years, they have targeted more middle class males in order to make gambling more socially acceptable and to make more money. A group of lads in their twenties, bowling down the road in their smart, casual clothes, laughing and joking about spending the afternoon waiting to win millions. It is never a dishevelled, unshaven middle aged man, looking as miserable as sin as he pisses away his wages or benefits in two minutes on a FOBT.

Fred Done plainly doesn’t give a toss at people who are hopelessly addicted because they are nothing but his profit margins. He doesn’t care about wrecked lives and wrecked marriages because his FOBTs keep him in the lifestyle to in which he wishes to remain.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a poor bookie. The poor people are his customers.

Eclectic Blue

Unaware

Comments Off on Unaware 17 May 2018

Allegedly, it has been Mental Health Awareness week. I wasn’t aware of it until I was lazily surfing the web, trying to get the inspiration to write something. I’d best find someone to blame.

I’ll certainly be blaming Prince Harry who, despite his brilliant work with Heads Together, has decided, somewhat selfishly, to get married this week. This of course means that people are far more interested in whether his father in law to be will be there for the big day.

I’ll be blaming Gareth Southgate for announcing his world cup squad during Mental Health Awareness week.

I’ll be blaming politicians for doing next to sod all to publicise the event.

I’ll be blaming anyone I can think of, but mainly I’ll be blaming society because society is to blame. It always is.

If society really gave a damn, mental illness would be near the top of government priorities, in the same way that if society really gave a damn about, say injured armed service personnel, we would not have homeless veterans or brave soldiers having to rely on charity. It’s our country. If we don’t lean on our politicians, they won’t do a thing.

As us basket cases know to our cost, day in, day out, year in, year out, the promises to make our country better are little more than words. At least this year, society in general and the government in particular has concluded that it’s not worth making even the smallest token effort. Which is why most folk are completely unaware of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Eclectic Blue

Trivial pursuit

Comments Off on Trivial pursuit 16 May 2018

Anyway, what do you think about Meghan Markle’s dad? Are you worried out of your mind that he might not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle? Are you concerned that he has flogged some photos (of himself) to the paparazzi? Are you fretting that he might need heart surgery? Neither am I. It’s a media trivial pursuit of someone who is in the limelight because he is related to someone.

I may have misjudged this, but most people I speak with are not overly bothered with this week’s non events. Don’t get me wrong: I think Harry is rightly the most popular royal in what is a very small field of likability and we like Meghan Markle because she seems to be a very nice woman. I know a lot of people, especially large numbers of Daily Mail readers, who are not convinced that a distant heir to the throne should be of colour – the paper itself described her, helpfully, as bi-racial – but to most people, she’s an American woman getting married to a relatively minor royal.

Genuinely, I do not understand the attraction of going to Windsor in the early hours of Saturday morning to stand along the road in the hope of getting a brief glimpse of the happy couple. If they want to see a wedding, why not visit a local church? The people getting married will be as well known to you personally as the royals. Save yourself some time and money. Or listen on the radio and watch on telly.

I do not expect to be watching the event because, frankly, I could not care less. I will have a newspaper to read, a Warburton’s giant crumpet to eat, coffee to drink and Huey Morgan to listen to on BBC 6 Music. Saturdays are great for doing things you haven’t been able to do during the working week. For me, that does not include the marriage of two people I do not know and will never meet.

I wish the media would leave Ms Markle’s dad alone, but they won’t. I suppose the gutter press and the rest of the media have a considerable audience of people who, dare I suggest, have too much time on their hands. They will revel in the trivia. I just don’t hear anyone talking about it. Perhaps I just mingle in the right circles?

Eclectic Blue

Battered nor broken

Comments Off on Battered nor broken 15 May 2018

At last I’ve got the prospect of some mental health treatment just over the near horizon. I’ve been offered therapy in June and I am going to bite off the NHS’s hand, probably quite literally, if it’s confirmed.

I’ll leave a very short blog with this. We are a million miles away from parity between physical and mental ill health, something I have discovered to my absolute horror in the last couple of years. The stigma is, in my opinion, worse, far worse, than it ever was. If I had been ill with, say, cancer, I’d have been treated very differently than I have with severe clinical depression.

The empty promises of here today, gone tomorrow politicians hang heavy in the air. Remember how Theresa May was going to prioritise mental health? Lying cow. It was mere weasel words from a weasel of a politician whose principles don’t extend beyond ensuring she remains prime minister.

It’s come just in time, too. I am battered but not quite broken. Another year or so. Well, it’s best that I leave that one hanging in the air.

Eclectic Blue

Up the Gas?

Comments Off on Up the Gas? 13 May 2018

I am not going to pretend to be the greatest expert on the current state of play at Bristol Rovers. I’ve lost much of the emotional attachment I had with the club and without the emotional attachment, what’s left? I could drone on and on about how and why, or write a pitiful essay of goodbye, but what’s the point? In future, I’ll be on the outside, occasionally looking in.

Whilst I am not enamoured with the current ownership model at BRFC, I accept that the Jordanians are all the club has got. Without their loans, the club might well have gone to the wall after the disastrous years under Nick Higgs’s bumbling mismanagement. Manager Darrell Clarke has been an inspiration as manager, bringing the club back from the dead men of the Conference to safe mid table in League One. When the club tumbled out of the league just a few years ago, I think most Gasheads would have settled for where they are today. But 2018/19 is a big season for Bristol Rovers.

That is not to put pressure on Darrell Clarke. He has taken Rovers to where they are today on a shoestring. He has sold arguably his best players, Matty Taylor and Billy Bodin, and still the team has performed at a good level. He has turned the likes of Ellis Harrison into good League One players. Turning average players into good players has been one of Clarke’s strengths.

On the downside, Clarke has signed some absolute duds in the transfer market. For every Sercombe, there is a Nichols. He clearly needs to do better in that department and the recruitment of Tommy Widdrington from Coventry as head of recruitment is an exceptionally sensible and positive move.

I suspect the Al Qadi mantra of “evolution not revolution” has been welcomed by most Gasheads. When the Jordanians first came along, some thought they would bring a Manchester City sized chequebook. They didn’t. The club continues to lose vast sums of money, despite the dramatic increase in crowds, so I suppose that’s where their money goes. And it is why, as some have been arguing for many, many years, the club must look to break even in order to make it sustainable for the future.

Patience, they say, is a virtue. There is something in that, but eventually supporters will want more than League One mid table. Clarke quite rightly has a great deal of credit in the bank from loyal fans but the reality is that eventually fans will demand more. They will, eventually, expect the club to be challenging for a play off position and get to the Championship. I do not see how the owners can achieve that without substantial investment.

That will be substantial investment on and off the pitch. It is one thing taking the team into the Championship, it is quite another reaching the Championship in a ramshackle stadium like the Mem. If we are talking about sustainability, the Mem must be redeveloped and quickly, preferably starting straight away. One of the reasons Rovers lose so much money is the stadium itself, which has poor facilities on almost every level. It is one thing to love the Mem as it is and quite another to want success in it. The two are incompatible.

What supporters will need is openness and honesty from the owners. Will Clarke and Widdrington be given the resources to mount a run at the play offs? When will stadium redevelopment commence? As with most overseas owners, they communicate little, something chairman Steve Hamer has admitted, suggesting this is par for the course with foreign-owned clubs. Well, this is not good enough. Owners and officials are transient, just passing through. Gasheads should demand better communication. They are the spiritual owners of the club, not the suits. If the Al Qadis don’t want to say anything, then Hamer and his fellow officials should speak on their behalf.

If your aim is to stand still, the danger is you will start to slide backwards. That is the danger for Bristol Rovers. This should not happen under a manager as inspirational as Darrell Clarke, someone who is undoubtedly capable of taking the club to the next level. But only if he is supported. That is the challenge for the owners.

Eclectic Blue

Tessa Jowell

Comments Off on Tessa Jowell 13 May 2018

At a time when politicians are often regarded as among the lowest forms of life, today we have the opportunity to mourn one who was very different. Tessa Jowell, who has died of a brain tumour, was an exceptional politician but more than that an exceptional human being. She changed lives and made them better. What better epitaph could there be?

Ms Jowell was the instigator of Sure Start, the aim of which was “giving children the best possible start in life”. By the time Labour had come to power in 1997, our public services had gone to rack and ruin and working class children in particular had little or nothing by way of childcare, early education, health and family support. New Labour in general and Tessa Jowell in particular recognised this cruel injustice and did something about it. Yes, politicians confronting a problem that blighted the lives of millions of people actually did something to improve lives.

Sure Start represented the kind of politics I believe in, that is raising the standards of the less well off, not always penalising the better off at the same time. It worked wonderfully, enhancing the life chances of millions of families, bringing about greater opportunities for the many, not just the few. This was the great achievement of the Blair years: things really got better. And as David Cameron and Theresa May’s wretched governments have gone a long way to dismantling Sure Start, the country once again becomes more divided and less equal.

I could go on to write about the effect Tessa Jowell had on the London Olympics and, particularly, the subsequent legacy because it was huge. But my thoughts today are with her family and friends who can at least gain comfort from the wonderful life of this wonderful, courageous woman and the difference she made to people’s lives. This is a sad day for Britain.

Eclectic Blue

Boxing clever

Comments Off on Boxing clever 12 May 2018

Having been introduced to the complex world of brain injury in recent times, my thoughts have returned to the world of boxing. Described at the “noble art”, I admit to having watched a few fights over the years. I have winced when a boxer suffered a shocking knockout and winced some more when hearing an ex boxer slurring following a long career of being hit on the head for money. The more I learn, the more uneasy I get.

I watched Chris Eubank punch Michael Watson into a coma live on ITV, as I watched Nigel Benn inflict catastrophic damage to the brain of Gerald McLellan, leaving him blind, 80% deaf and unable to walk. I watched Thomas Hearns fight Marvin Hagler in what was possibly the most explosive fight ever only to see Hearns on TV in recent times barely unable to string two words together. I suppose you could say it was just bad luck that they were so badly injured. By the same token, you can bet your life that a boxer who makes it through a fight, through a career, without mangling his brain is a lucky man indeed.

I learned this week that if you held a human brain in your hand, it would seep between your fingers, like a barely set jelly. Of course, there is a level of natural protection including the skull and three membranes called meninges. But if some bloke – or woman – hits you in the head, that little object which controls your entire life is undeniably at risk.

TV commentators, after describing a knockdown or knockout, will always say that they hope the fighter will make a full recovery. Don’t we all? Yet the likelihood is that in some small way, the brain will be irretrievably damaged. In rugby, when it is even slightly suspected that a player might be suffering from concussion, he is removed from the field for an assessment. In boxing, a fighter can be concussed and carry on fighting, sometimes to the end of the fight, making that concussion worse. Imagine a head injury assessment every time a big punch would land. Most fights would last for hours.

When I was younger, I just enjoyed the fight, not thinking of any consequences. Then, watching men get badly injured in the ring, I started to feel uneasy. Now, as I begin to understand more about the brain, I am questioning whether I can, in all conscience, watch it and whether I ought to support the campaign to ban boxing.

There aren’t many sports where the aim is to render your opponent unconscious. That’s becoming my problem with it.

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