Eclectic Blue

That Sunday lunchtime music shuffle (16/12)

0 Comments 16 December 2018

I have an hour to kill, I’m playing music anyway so why not inflict upon you a singularly pointless Sunday Music Shuffle? Yeah, why not?

So, I’m here in my Man Cave, iPod plugged into a wall of Marshall speakers (in my dreams) and I am now pressing the shuffle button. Let’s see what joys it has in store today!

Welcome my friends to the show that never ends (even if you wish it would).

  1. If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow. One of our Sheryl’s finest tunes.
  2. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Journey. Don’t stop believing that Journey are incapable of singing more than one tune.  This is pretty good but marred by my pet hate of the guitars being too low in the mix and the vocals too high.
  3. Dignity by Deep Forest. From their excellent Essence of the Forest, the French fusion chaps blend some lush ambient music with sounds from the African jungles. It works incredibly well.
  4. The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Very Byrd-like by the late Tom and his band. Magnificent. 
  5. Girls and Boys by Blur. Mint, innit?
  6. Head Over Heels (Trackmasters Mix) by Allure. Some lush old school R&B/Hip Hop.
  7. Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Classic Swamp music from John Fogerty and the chaps.
  8. Make You Mine by the Corrs. Not their best, but okay.
  9. Get On Up by Jodeci. More old school R&B. 
  10. Woman Tonight by America. Fantastic.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

180 Milligrams

0 Comments 16 December 2018

I suppose I should not laugh, but I did laugh rather a lot when I saw the video of the darts player Michael van Gerwen being soaked with beer as he made his way to the stage last night at the PDC World Stag Night Piss Up Darts competition. A drunken fan thought it would be amusing to drench the bullet-headed Dutchman before his game against (insert name of early round no hoper opponent). And amusing it was.

Quite why van Gerwen or anyone else should be surprised by this turn of events, is arguably the question of the age, apart from why we are leaving the EU, perhaps. Because the great showman and entrepreneur Barry Hearn has created something astonishing out of what remains a pub game. Now, if the massively hyped tungsten titans play in a tournament at any arena in the land, it will sell out. Everyone loves a darts match, right? Of course not.

Darts carried on for years in pubs and clubs across the land, largely without spectators. What Hearn has done is to turn it into an almighty gladiatorial  piss up. The players play their part, of course, with the walk-on music and nicknames kindly provided by broadcaster Sky and Hearn’s PDC organisation, but the main part of a night at the darts is the atmosphere and an opportunity to get shit-faced with thousands of other people who normally have as little interest in darts than anyone else.

Darts today is a phenomenon. As we say, a pub game that had been in decline for decades, but now promoted, brilliantly, you have to say, to draw in vast numbers of punters, few of whom if any would call darts their favourite sport.

And if one of the ‘stars’ finds himself getting showered by shit lager at a tournament, as van Gerwen was last night, it’s part of the game, part of the entertainment. And if the aim of Barry Hearn and Sky is to make shedloads of money on the backs of thousands of pissed up blokes, there will be more stray lager flying through the air at future tournaments.

Eclectic Blue

More Labour pains

0 Comments 15 December 2018

Jeremy Corbyn’s media outriders perform an important role for Labour’s wretched leader. Whilst the old boy can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, the likes of Aaron Bastani, Owen Jones and Matt Zarb Cousin do his dirty work in the media and in cyberspace. They say what he means but does not dare say in public.

As a Corbynista, the only thing that matters is political purity. You either support the hard left, which now controls the Labour Party at national level, or you are, in their words, a right winger or, even worse in their eyes, a Blairite. Always placing political opponents into boxes.

Real life, as the musician Jay Ferguson (Jo Jo Gunne) once put it, ain’t that way. Whilst I do see much of the world as being black and white, politics is more nuanced. I would definitely call myself a socialist, or maybe a social democrat; definitely left of centre. My politics is not so much Labour or Tory (although I joined Labour as a teenager), but more for the things that Labour supports, or rather supported. And since I have been able to vote, Labour has only won three general elections. The Labour leaders were Tony Blair, Tony Blair and Tony Blair. Now, for some, the very name Tony Blair is regarded as a swear word. 

Prior to Blair’s elevation  to the Labour leadership and the invention of New Labour, I had perhaps followed the old ideology. But years of opposition, as Margaret Thatcher trampled over and almost destroyed the country I loved so much, I gradually came to the conclusion that Labour needed to make an offer to not just left leaning voters, the traditional blue collar working classes, but also to the aspirational, probably more affluent middle classes who perhaps did not fit the perceived demography represented by the People’s Party. Not only that, I came to realise that only a Blair type revolution could win a general election. If the NHS was to be saved, if poverty was to be reduced, if homelessness was to be virtually eliminated, it could only happen if Labour won. New Labour could be said to have been a compromise with the electorate. I rather believe Blair believed in it, as did I.

Labour today has stepped back in time, re-adopting the failed rhetoric and slogans of the 1980s, when the party collapsed to near irrelevance. Indeed, the leaders of ‘Old’ Labour are still here. The millionaire owner of the ‘Momentum’ organisation, which is basically a political party within Labour, is Jon Lansman, a close ally of the late Tony Benn who led Labour to near oblivion. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are all old age pensioners now (nothing wrong with that) and they have not had a new idea between them in 40 years. Lansman, who along with UNITE boss Len McCluskey and the de facto leader of the Labour Party Seumus Milne, dictate the direction of Labour. Lansman has said the party can never return to the values of Blair and New Labour. Political purity is paramount. You are either ‘one of us’, which is part of the so called Corbyn project, or you are not welcome in Labour. It really is as simple as that.

In this version of Labour, there can be no compromise. Their perceived political purity matters more than winning. If the affluent, aspirational middle classes will not support Labour, they are not wanted. And when Labour loses, the comrades can live with it because a) they retained their purity and b) they’re wealthy enough to afford the ravages of a Tory government anyway.

Which brings me back to where this is all heading. A political party ceases to be relevant if it remains in opposition. It is all very well to make an offer to a small part of the electorate but what good is it if that small part of the electorate have to suffer the slings and arrows of a hard right Tory government? Contrary to the bizarre beliefs of Corbyn’s outriders, Labour actually lost in the 2017 general election. Which means that the very poorest continue to suffer most. The sick and disabled, the increasing numbers of homeless people, people on poverty wages. They benefit nothing when the smug, affluent, privately educated, university educated comrades steer Labour to opposition. 

The country in the early 2000s was a better, fairer, more equal and happier place. This is because New Labour governed for all, not just one group or another. The poor were lifted out of poverty, the middle classes were, for once, not treated as the enemy by Labour. Greed was not good, but aspiration was. It was not perfect but my God it was better by far than anything we have now.

Every time you mention Tony Blair, some wag will raise the issue of Iraq, but can’t we look beyond that? Quite apart from the fact that Saddam was a genocidal maniac who would eventually have had to have been put back in his box or taken out, remember how things were in the early to mid 2000s and look at how they are now. Of course, Brexit has added a toxic element to life in Britain today, but it’s more than that. New Labour, for a good few years, had something for nearly everyone. Now we are led by a divided and out of control Tory party and the opposition – if you can call it that – is represented by the voices and the empty rhetoric from the past. No one is interested in uniting the country, no one in front-line politics even wants to.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour hates you if you do not adhere strictly to what Seumas Milne tells you. In the unlikely event, Corbyn ever gained power, it would govern for the few, not the many. The comrades do not want anyone other than ‘true believers’ to join the party so why would they want ordinary punters to vote for them? The truth is that despite the slogans, Labour is, in the eyes of those who now own and control it, nothing more than a ‘political movement’. 

Only a Labour Party that looks beyond its traditional demographic can win. The current model has no interest in reaching out because of its obsession with so-called purity. Improving the lives of the people should be the overwhelming motivation of the Labour Party.  It isn’t, though. And I’ll never vote for it whilst it is in the hands of people like Corbyn and the comrades.

Eclectic Blue

No home to go to

0 Comments 14 December 2018

Whilst doing a very little bit to help homeless families in Bristol – my partner did all the important, collecting stuff – I learned a little about the problem of homelessness and how the situation has, dare I say it, evolved. Homelessness, rough-sleeping, I suppose for many years I had assumed, on the basis of my own eyes, that the problem was solely with drug addicts and alcoholics. These poor people are still homeless and sleeping rough but there is a very different group of people out there these days. Families with children.

There are a lot of them, too, witness the sheer number of items required to ensure they have the bare minimum of Christmas gifts, selection boxes and things to keep them warm. I don’t know numbers, but it’s not just a handful. Most of them are in hostels, B&Bs and in the houses of kindly helpers.

Many are out there simply because the money ran out. There are various reasons, of course, but benefit sanctions and benefits being stopped is right up there. These are not lazy feckless people. They are people who have hit hard times, lost their homes and everything in them, often to loan sharks and pawnbrokers. They cannot work because they have nowhere to live, They cannot get anywhere to live because they cannot work. It’s not just a vicious circle: it’s an ever spinning vicious circle.

The council, along with charities, is doing its best. I really believe that. However, money is tight thanks to enormous government cutbacks in supporting local councils. Councils like Bristol can only deal with the wreckage and misery of homelessness. It can do little to avert it. Which means that the epidemic of homelessness and rough-sleeping will grow still worse. I don’t know about you but I find it all very upsetting. I hate the idea of families losing their homes, having no security and no obvious future. How can we allow this situation to carry on?

I think it’s totally immoral and yet it’s the societal choices we make that allows this to happen. Families lose their homes and famous footballers sign new contracts that will bring them a salary including bonuses of £400k a week. I am struggling to square the circle. I don’t care what it costs. Find these people homes and help them get into work. 

I also learned more about ex military personnel being on the streets. I had often wondered how and why that might be. I had thought, quite wrongly, that each and every one of them would be cared for once their service ended. That just isn’t true. In fact, there are many ex service personnel on the street and they are often the hardest to help. Not because they resent any help, they are often too proud, worse still many are still traumatised from their service, traumatised with conditions like PTSD and other mental health conditions. So often, as with homeless families with children, ex service personnel are dependant on charity. On charity. Now I am glad these charities are out there – can you imagine how life would be for these poor people without them? – but what are we thinking about? 

We are still a wealthy country. Homelessness and rough-sleeping does not have to be. They are part of the economic choices we make. And if that choice is, knowingly or not, to allow the most vulnerable to suffer, what does that say about us?

The language of feckless layabouts is not relevant to the overwhelming majority of people who are without somewhere to live. They are not scroungers, they are not abusing the social security system; they need help to get back on their feet again.

My eyes were opened today at a problem that is far worse than I ever imagined. The pampered politicians who sit in parliament hurling petty insults at each other, living out their lives in the Westminster bubble need to wake up. And if they can’t be bothered to help, then we must elect people that can. Whoever they are.

Eclectic Blue

For My Birthday Next Year

0 Comments 14 December 2018

For my birthday next year, I’m asking for donations to me. I’ve chosen this non-profit disorganisation because my mission means a lot to me, and I hope that you’ll consider contributing as a way of celebrating with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal. I’ve included information about me below.

My mission is to acquire as much money as possible so I can afford lots of lovely holidays, buy lots of nice things and not have to work anymore.

Please give generously. All donations will be accepted, no matter how great they are.

Thanks a lot. I’m depending on you.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (14/12)

0 Comments 14 December 2018

I need something to take my mind of a week of pain, ranging from minor toothache to a full-blown dental abscess. There’s only one thing to do: it’s to share my pain with you. And to that end, I have returned to my Man Cave, plugged in the elderly iPod to my battery of Marshall speakers (sort of) and will now press its magic button in order to produce a random shuffle of songs. Hence the Friday Music Shuffle. Do you see what I did there? It wasn’t very interesting, was it? Anyway, here goes!

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

  1. This is the One by the Stone Roses. From their very near perfect first album, music doesn’t get much better than this.
  2. Bad Boy Boogie by AC/DC. From their first live album, If You Want Blood We’ve Got It, my preferred lead singer Bon Scott smashes it here.
  3. Copper Nail by 77:78. The boys from the Bees from the Isle of Wight from (a lot of froms here) their brilliant 2018 album Jellies, one of the best albums of the year.
  4. What Is He Thinking? by the Streets.  A Grand Don’t Come for Free remains such a great album.
  5. Drug-Stabbing Time by the Clash. From their quite epic Give ‘Em Enough Rope long player. Magnificent.
  6. Sit Down, Stand up (Snakes & Ladders) by Radiohead. Classic Thom and the boys, this one is on the excellent Hail to the Thief record.
  7. I’m So Heavy by Sonny J. Brilliance from the Scouse DJ’s LP Disastro.
  8. Hometown Blues by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Proper rock and roll music from the late, great Tom!
  9. Tumbling Dice by the Rolling Stones. Need I say more?
  10. He’s Misstra Know It All by Stevie Wonder. The boy at his very best from the epic Innervisions long player.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Goodbye free movement

0 Comments 14 December 2018

Far right English nationalists like Nigel Farage and the more mainstream right of centre Brexiters have been telling us for years that one of the main benefits of leaving the EU will be the end of free movement. In fact, Theresa May told us that ending free movement was her “top priority”. People who voted leave will therefore be delighted that for the first three years after we have pulled up the drawbridge to Europe, it will only cost us €7 to purchase a three year visa exemption if we want to travel to EU countries. 

That’s the news we have had confirmed today by the EU who have, quite properly, declared we are the ‘third country’ we demanded to be when we left the EU. We demanded that free movement be ended, they’ve agreed to it and now we will need to pay for the privilege of visiting Europe. 

I haven’t read the small print yet so it is not clear whether literally everyone will be able to apply for the exemption. We don’t know if having a criminal record will be an obstacle, we don’t know how much paperwork will need to be completed before we enjoy that fortnight in Benalmadina and we don’t know whether any conditions will be attached to the exemption. However, we can be sure that without the relevant documents, we will not get as far as the departure lounge when we go on holiday.

If the new visa exemption system is required just for visiting EU countries, I wonder what new rules will be in place for those who want to work, study or retire elsewhere in Europe? As things stand now, we can work, study and retire wherever we want. The end of free movement, which we demanded, is going to if not put the kibosh on these things, it will certainly make them more complicated.

I suppose the one thing that’s positive is that we now have some certainty. Hard Brexiters always told us that the end of freedom of movement will prevent Europeans coming to work in our country and those, like Nigel Farage, always made a point of illustrating these migrant workers had dark skin. Well, the end of free movement will certainly stop those European workers coming here regardless of their skin pigmentation. I don’t remember there being a great deal of emphasis of us losing our freedom of movement too, except from those of us who always warned against this and were accused of scaremongering.  We weren’t scaremongering; merely explaining what the end of free movement would look like and now we know.

Eclectic Blue

And so farewell, DC.

0 Comments 13 December 2018

My first reaction to hearing about the sacking by mutual consent of Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke was surprise. That was until I thought about it for about five seconds. Then, I realised that it wasn’t a surprise at all. With Rovers in a hazardous position in League Two, towards the end of the 2013/14, the then manager John Ward was unaccountably appointed Director of Football, a non job if ever there was one, and Clarke, handed a dismal hand of cards, tried and failed to keep the club in the football league.  What followed next was incredible.

Incredibly, impossibly, Clarke somehow engineered a double promotion, back to League One, the third tier of English football, the historical division for Bristol Rovers. Two years later, Clarke has been axed. It’s a sad day.

Having not watched Rovers this season, I have to take my friends at their word and their word is that the team are awful. The summer signings have bombed, as have some of the signings made before then. The tactics and selections have been baffling, the manager has clearly been frustrated with the false promises made by the board. Put all these things into the same mix and you have a recipe for a managerial sacking. Which is what happened today.

I’ll just say this about Clarke: he was the best manager Rovers have had since I started supporting the club back in the early 1970s. Yes, I know it is pointless to compare eras and others will look to Gerry Francis as the best manager in modern times. Clarke gets my vote, though.

Results are everything for a football manager and the facts don’t lie. Clarke’s recent results have been poor. On the face of it, his sacking was inevitable. What has not entered the public arena are the reasons for his poor signings, his tactics and selections. Some say he squandered his budget in the summer, others say he was shopping at the last minute in LIDL, not Waitrose. The manager himself says the promises he was made by the Jordanian owners never came to fruition. There might be a million other reasons, we don’t know. I’d be amazed if there weren’t. But Bristol Rovers has always been a secretive organisation, with stories about confidentiality clauses with former employees and the like.  Mostly, fans never hear one side of the story of the day, never mind both sides. Perhaps, we never learn the truth?

All I will say is that I believe Darrell Clarke to be a decent and honourable man. I see a man of genuine passion who grew to love Bristol Rovers and gave everything of himself to making a success of his time at the club. It seems from the outside that he often ploughed a lonely furrow, having regularly to make purses out of sow’s ears. Surrounded by chiefs but never enough indians. From my distant vantage point, I felt he was hung out to dry, left to accept all the brickbats when things went wrong as the owners stayed thousands of miles away. I could be completely wrong with my interpretation of what has happened, given my relative distance from the action, but I don’t think I am that far off the mark.

I believe that sacking the manager rarely works. And it is even more rare when the owners have no plan of succession, bar hoping that the caretaker manager goes on a winning run and saves them a few bob. Whoever the owners employ, it is likely to be someone who is currently unemployed and whoever it is will face a January transfer window where it is very difficult to do good business. With someone like Clarke at the helm, despite any mistakes he has made, I would always prefer to stick rather than twist. 

I could, of course, be completely wrong and they will hire a fine, up and coming young manager, just like they did when they hired Clarke. Or they could make a populist appointment such as Ian Holloway or ‘Arry Redknapp, the latter of whom is well known to owner Wael Al Qadi. Either way, this is the biggest managerial appointment at the club since…well… the last one.

Bristol Rovers have lost an honest, decent, principled, hard-working young manager. Let’s hope the new man has all these qualities, although age doesn’t matter quite so much, as long as he still has the hunger. A lot of good people have left the club in recent times and the lack of continuity does not bode well for the future, always assuming under these owners there is one.

Eclectic Blue

Tiny white coffins

0 Comments 13 December 2018

I begin with a quote from Lloyd Evans’ sketch about PMQs in the Spectator magazine:

Ranil Jayawardena quoted a finding by the Royal College of Obstetricians that 75 per cent of infant deaths are avoidable. This means that every year hundreds of tiny white coffins are lowered into the ground because of bad equipment or lousy training. That’s a third world statistic. But MPs paid no attention because they were discussing which irrelevance was more irrelevant than all the other irrelevances.

The irrelevance which was more irrelevant than all the other irrelevances was some aspect or other about Brexit, the unfolding crisis that is engulfing political debate at the expense, and to the detriment, of all else. One of the biggest tragedies of Brexit – and there are many – is the simple fact that hundreds of infants are dying unnecessarily whilst politicians are looking the other way.

No one is saying that Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Nigel Farage and all the other hard Brexiters had this tragic situation in mind when they campaigned for our country to raise the drawbridge to the rest of Europe. They were and are entitled to campaign for nationalism, and English nationalism to be specific, but the one thing I do blame them for was promising the country how easy it would all be. 

Remember ‘Dr’ Liam Fox telling us how getting a new deal with Europe would be the ‘easiest in human history’? In 2016, David Davis promised that we would new trade agreements in place ‘within between 12 and 24 months’.  Boris Johnson, the biggest liar of them all in an admittedly crowded field, told us that our sausages were under threat from the EU, who were also trying to ensure bananas conformed to a specific shape and of course he lied about the extra £350 million a week for the NHS. Lies, lies and more lies. The lies of the hard Brexit right are part of the reason the country is in a complete mess not least because they have had to be countered with cold facts.

This is not a party political attack on anyone. They’re all to blame. it has become increasingly clear that the leaders of the main parties are both hopelessly out of their depth and barely able to deal with one issue, never mind the wide variety of issues sitting in their untouched in-boxes. And even when a subject like dying infants is raised in parliament, no one is listening and the newspapers barely bother to report it.

I have no reason to disbelieve Mr Jayawardena’s statistics of children dying because of “bad equipment or lousy training”. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, they are not being queried. In which case, MPs must ‘pay attention’ and ensure that not a single infant dies in future from ‘bad equipment or lousy training’. The public will not politely ask you to stop this scandal: once they get to hear about it, they will tell you.

Eclectic Blue

Don’t Tell I, Tell ‘Ee

0 Comments 13 December 2018

You get some crap shared on social networks, don’t you? Warnings about this, that and the other, sad stories about disappeared pets in the north of Scotland and escaped rapists and murderers you should look out for. I am not sure if but one of these posts has ever turned up Tiddles or Peter Sutcliffe but obviously some people think somehow they will. Today I read the story of Irina Rybnikova,  a fifteen year old girl from Russia, who died in the bath when charging her iPhone.

It’s very sad to hear about the death of this young girl, who apparently was a champion martial arts fighter, but quite what it has to do with me, or anyone else, is baffling. 

People under 16 should not be looking at certain social networks anyway and in any event, should not such warnings be issued by the parents of their children and not someone who has borrowed a story from a tabloid newspaper?  The warning should not be that difficult. It should be along very simple lines. Like this:

‘Water is a major conductor of electricity and it is not sensible to use electrical devices when you are in the bath. What happens is if you are holding the device whilst sitting in the bath and such device falls into the water, you could die rather quickly.’

If you have brought your children up with even the slightest modicum of sensibility, it is reasonable to assume they will know this already, recognising as they should the inherent dangers of certain products when they are used in ways that might kill them. You are wasting your time by polluting my timeline with such patronising nonsense.

As the great Adge Cutler once put it, Don’t Tell I, Tell ‘Ee.

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