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.

Eclectic Blue

So here it is

Comments Off on So here it is 12 May 2018

Today’s the day on which millions of people take to social networks to moan about the Eurovision Song Context. To be fair, moaning is one of our favourite pastimes. A three and a half hour programme during which dozens of new and generally terrible songs are played. We can use up our entire year’s quota of moaning in one evening.

Allow me to explain what the Eurovision Song Contest is and what it isn’t. Firstly, it’s an entertainment show. Secondly, it is patently not a contest between the best new songs on the planet. Once you can get these simple facts into your head, the rest is easy.

I like pretty well everything about it. The ritual of our song finishing near the bottom of of the pile, of countries voting for their neighbours and friends, of all manner of folk wearing garish outfits and generally making fools of themselves, of presenters struggling to read their auto cues properly, Graham Norton’s piss taking and in my case never having the slightest clue as to which song will actually win. My enjoyment is not universally shared. I don’t care.

“What a load of old crap,” is a familiar refrain. “And why are Israel and Australia in it? They’re not in Europe! I’ve wasted an entire evening watching this rubbish when I could have been watching Britain’s Got Talent. Oh…”

I have some advice for people who hate Eurovision: have you thought of not watching it, perhaps doing something else like going out, reading a book, listening to some music or even speaking to your partner? If you have a pre conceived idea of what the show actually is and know you won’t enjoy it, then surely you know what to do? There is no law that requires you to spend the evening glued to the telly box. And rather than complain about something that you don’t like and others do, just remember that you will not live forever and it might be considered a waste of time watching so much telly in the first place.

Eurovision is a bit of fun, nothing more. You can find stuff in any entertainment show to slag off if you really want to. Put simply, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (11/5)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (11/5) 11 May 2018

It’s Friday and that time you haven’t been waiting for all week. Yes, now’s the time to turn the clock back, link my iPod (ask your parents what that is, kids) to my mountain of speakers in my Man Cave and set the bugger free to play what it likes. Could anything be less exciting for everyone else except me?

Anyway, enough waffle from me. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

Let’s rock!

1. Roll Um Easy by Little Feat. From the truly great Dixie Chicken record, starring the legendary Lowell George.

2. It Broke My Heart by the Proclaimers. Glorious stuff from the Sweaties.

3. Alfie by Cilla Black. This is on a Bacharach/David compilation and it’s a great song, even if Cilla Black lurching from her gentle voice to her more jarring loud voice always grates with me.

4. Hot Rails To Hell by Blue Oyster Cult. You’d think by listening to the radio that the Cult had only ever released one song, but this gem from their Tyranny and Mutation album just goes to prove they are much more than Don’t Fear the Reaper.

5. White Lines by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel. Old school hip hop from 1983.

6. Big Time by Rick James. Nice bit of Motown from back in the day.

7. This Sullen Welsh Heart by the Manic Street Preachers. This one comes from the desperately underrated Rewind the Film album and features vocals from the desperately talented Lucy Rose.

8. Useful Information by the Move. Little known Roy Wood classic from the Move’s early days. He remains an absolute genius.

9. Relight My Fire by Take That. Okay cover of the Dan Hartman classic but not in the same universe, quality wise.

10. Down on the Corner (Live) by John Fogerty. Creedence front man covers his old band’s classic tune and it’s every bit as good as the original.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

And now the results from the British jury

Comments Off on And now the results from the British jury 11 May 2018

And here are the results from the latest You Gov opinion poll:

CON 43% (35% in January)
LAB 40% (46%)
LD 7% (6%)
UKIP 3% (7%)
GRN 2% (2%)

Given the sheer ineptitude of the Conservative government under the most useless leader of my lifetime, it is amazing that Labour is not 20 points ahead of the Tories, never mind three points behind. Yet these figures are even worse than they appear. This sample reflects the views of social grade C2DE voters, which is to say working class people. And the whole reason for the existence of the Labour Party is to represent working class people in parliament. This is a terrible state of affairs.

It has been blindingly obvious to many of us ever since his election to Labour leader but now we all know for sure that under the ‘leadership’ of Jeremy Corbyn, that Labour’s electoral heartland is where the middle classes live. It is also clear that Labour is increasingly London-centric. You would have thought that the recent council elections were purely about London and nowhere else.

James Dean Bradfield of the popular beat combo outfit the Manic Street Preachers, who have historically been disposed to support left wing ideas and causes, attracted the ire of Corbynistas everywhere when he made the entirely reasonable point that, and I paraphrase here, that the current version of Labour has little idea what is going on outside London. I’d go much further: it doesn’t care. A large part of the electorate has twigged that the resurrection of the failed slogans and rhetoric from Labour’s dark 1980s period has little to do with them.

Put this into context. The Conservatives, propped up by the Lib Dems (remember them?), and now by the hardliners of the DUP, have inflicted maximum misery on the very people who are walking away from Corbyn’s Labour. Low paid, insecure work is the new norm, living standards have not recovered from the worldwide financial crisis of a decade ago, the sick and disabled have been exposed to the worst elements of right wing Conservatism, social care is in crisis, schools and hospitals are suffering from chronic underfunding and the party which is entirely responsible is more popular than the so called People’s party.

I have not look into the specific reasons why Labour is not more popular in its heartlands. I would guess that voters have come to the entirely correct conclusion that Corbyn, Abbott, McDonnell do not offer a serious alternative. That they look at Corbyn and think, “Hmm. There is no way this man is up to the job of being PM.” Which given Mrs May’s chronic ineptitude is a damning point of view, or fact, as I prefer to call it.

The sheer irony is that Tony Blair’s New Labour attracted far more working class people than Corbyn is managing. The perception that Blair was somehow for the middle class elite. Not so. When it came to attracting the support of the working classes, Blair was miles ahead of Corbyn and the comrades. And why? Because working class people benefited hugely from a New Labour government. No one seriously thinks that Corbyn’s reheated Bennism provides any answers at all.

In fact, Labour today not only attracts the support from the affluent middle classes, it is run by them. Almost everyone at Corbyn’s top table went to private school and/or elite universities, some sent their children to private schools, some are handily related to those in Corbyn’s top team and a good few are millionaires, like Momentum owner Jon Lansman and Labour’s real leader Seumas Milne.

No one seriously believes that Theresa May’s useless, divided Tories represent the average woman and man in the street. But increasingly the very same people don’t see Labour as being for them either. I certainly don’t.

Eclectic Blue

Brave or foolish?

Comments Off on Brave or foolish? 10 May 2018

I am not an expert on Coronation Street. I was, many years ago, when it was broadcast once a week. I knew the characters intimately. Len Fairclough, Ray Langton, Bet Lynch, Elsie Tanner, Ken Barlow et al. When the show started broadcasting twice a week, that was simply too much for me. I had other things like to do, like talk to people, have a life, play music and, most importantly, go to the pub. It came as a surprise to learn today that Coronation Street now has six episodes per week.

I was also surprised to learn that one of its characters, one Aidan Connor, had committed suicide in what was described as a touching and very moving episode. As suicide is the biggest single killer of young men, I can understand the decision of producers to do a story about it. And I know that they did a large amount of research with, among others, the Samaritans before going to screen. But I have very mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, it is important that the issue of male suicide is discussed in the public arena because if it isn’t, the government will continue along its path of inertia. We need to know why so many young men are killing themselves and we need to take action to prevent it. Action can take place in many forms, but which is best? Serious government investment with research conducted by exports, which will not be the government. More and better mental health treatment will be part of it, but not all of it. That should start today. But what of the TV show?

Coronation Street is an entertainment programme and a fabulously successful one at that. Over the years, the show has been more of a gentle comedy show than a serious drama show. All the miserable side of life was available on Eastenders. Until now.

I wonder how I would feel if I had lost a son, brother, father, friend to suicide and then saw a TV soap opera come up with a dramatisation of such a traumatic story. I reckon I’d be absolutely devastated, with a big fat reminder of something awful in between moments of gentle comedy and punctuated regularly by advertisements by people trying to flog me stuff. That’s always the problem I have had with ITV. In my opinion, they produce little of value and they are now in danger of trivialising male suicide. I am not saying that’s what they have done. I am just concerned that the line between Ena Sharples having a half of stout in the snug bar and a tragic death has been crossed.

Perhaps, I am being too sensitive. Perhaps, it was a worthwhile piece of drama and perhaps it will benefit some people. But perhaps it will just be another here today, gone tomorrow TV soap storyline. So, was it brave or foolish?

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