Eclectic Blue

Friday Music Shuffle On My Mind 2/12/16

0 Comments 02 December 2016

Bored? You soon will be because I am about to unleash my iPod (remember them, kids?), connect it up to the Music Centre and dance crazily (all right, drink a cuppa) in my man cave.

Welcome my friends to the show that never ends. It’s the Friday music shuffle. All say ZZZZZZZZ.

1. California Saga (Big Sur) by the Beach Boys. And what a saga, part of the epic trilogy from the Holland album.

2. The Lovely Linda by Paul McCartney and Wings. Not his finest minute or so, to say the very least. A little bit of sick just appeared in my mouth.

3. Mental Cabaret by the Polyphonic Spree. Now THIS is a band and a bloody big band, too. The Fragile Army is an incredible piece of music. Check it out.

4. Late September by Deepest Blue. Lovely. Remember Deepest Blue by Deepest Blue? These are they with the title track from the Late September long player. This is for when everyone has gone home from the party.

5. Here Comes The Nice by the Small Faces. The mighty Steve Marriott. Much missed.

6. Understandably Blue by Procul Harum. Gary Brooker – what a voice.

7. (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To by Weezer. Classic Rivers and co from Ratitude.

8. Spooky by Dusty Springfield. She was a great singer and should have been a worldwide star.

9. Heartbreaker by the Bee Gees. They gave this song to Dionne Warwick but their version is even better.

10. Easy Way Out by Gotye. Just in case you were thinking that Gotye was a one-trick pony with Somebody that I used to know, along comes his album Making Mirrors. And he proves you were right.

Eclectic Blue

Stick to the day job

0 Comments 01 December 2016

According to Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin doctor, “we don’t do God.” Despite the fact that Blair himself was a fanatical catholic, little of his religion appeared when his government was in power. Good. The last thing we want is politicians handing out political instruction. Bad. The current PM, the daughter of a vicar, has started doing just that. God help us all.

Mrs May said that Christians should not be afraid of of speaking “freely” about their faith at work and in public places. Christianity should be “celebrated, not denigrated”, added a mew report. Many employers will have “little problem” with Christians discussing their faith at work “in the same way you might talk about sport, hobbies and family life”, says the same report by someone with too much time on their hands. And I’m not buying it.

This is more of the “they’re trying to band Christmas” nonsense. Expect, from the usual media suspects, the usual examples of how some council or other is banning Christmas decorations, always for fear of offending others, meaning Muslims. And like the age-old myths about Winterval replacing Christmas, it’s completely untrue.

To the best of my knowledge, employers are not falling over themselves to stop staff talking “freely” about their faith at work, although I would say that employers and employees usually have plenty of other things to be getting on with, like work. If people in my office want to have a discussion about the hymns that were sung on Songs of Praise, as I would discuss Liverpool’s victory against Leeds, then I am sure they would. If they wanted to debate biblical matters, they could do that, though preferably away from the work station. Employers will not have a problem discussions on faith, as long as it doesn’t affect the reason that someone goes to work for in the workplace. If you are a vicar, clearly you will not be prevented from talking about faith.

The report, by the Evangelical Alliance and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (I think you will get the idea where they are coming from now), say that society is forgetting “that its many freedoms derive from centuries of applying the Bible to public life”, which is a bit like saying you can only get your morals from reading the bible or qu’ran. There are plenty of places and people from whom we get our morals and bloodthirsty religious texts should hardly be amongst them.

Let’s make it crystal clear yet again. No one has been banned from talking about God, Christmas has never been banned, Christianity is not under attack. Most of us have little interest in religion and hardly any of us go to church, except for the odd wedding or funeral. It is the changing society as well the advancement of science and reason that religion is becoming less important. No one is trying to ban something that’s dying out anyway.

Mrs May and her pals have, I suggest, other and more critical matters to deal with than in creating a phoney war about a non existent attack on Christianity. I am happy for her to “do God” but not as part of her day job.

Eclectic Blue

I want to ride my bicycle

0 Comments 30 November 2016

I am an occasional cyclist. Not even occasionally during winter, which starts tomorrow, or even autumn, which today feels suspiciously like winter. But I cycle. Not any great distance, mind you, and usually on cycle paths. And why don’t I cycle too far away from quiet roads and cycle paths? Because it’s bloody dangerous, that’s why!

I was reminded just how dangerous cycling can be when driving down the Gloucester Road tonight. The traffic wasn’t actually that heavy, at least by Bristol standards, but there were plenty of cyclists. Some of them wore fluorescent jackets, most had lights, a few had both or neither. In the gloom, with so much street furniture to take in, how they were dressed, how bright they were; it didn’t matter.

I lost count of the number of cyclists who “undertook” inside the white line in which there is an alleged cycle lane. I was forced, at one point, to move sharply to the left to avoid a bus moving swiftly towards me. I observed through my nearside mirror, a cyclist moving at a rapid rate of knots, with working lights but no fluorescent clothing, earphones in, without a care in the world. He missed me by a foot at most, as he proceeded to ignore the red traffic light ahead. (I believe traffic lights represent a basis for negotiation for most cyclists.) The law of averages suggests to me that if this guy cycles like this every day, at some point he will hurt himself and possibly someone else too.

Cycling is undoubtedly healthy but Bristol was not designed for cycles, or for any other form of transport for that matter. Visit the Netherlands and you will see dedicated bike lanes everywhere. They do not compete for space with anyone else. It would take some doing to get hurt. In Bristol, cyclists compete with tons of moving metal.

You cannot un-invent the bicycle and there is neither the will nor the money to build the real cycle lanes we need. So we end up where we are and where we always will be. With Bristol in near gridlock at times, it is understandable that so many people choose to travel on two wheels. I feel terrified for some cyclists and fuming at the rest!

Eclectic Blue

Road to nowhere

0 Comments 30 November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has now reached the pinnacle of his political career. After a year or so of some of the most useless, bumbling and generally inept ‘leadership’ the latest ICM poll has revealed a remarkable conclusion: 28% of the electorate still support the Labour Party. With barely a serious policy announcement made since the comrades seized control of the party, the Tories completely unchallenged and with Corbyn still opposing his own party policy, more than one in four people say they will still vote Labour. Remarkable.

Less remarkable is the fact that the Tories now command 44% of the vote, some 16 points ahead of Labour; enough to give them a landslide majority whenever the next election takes place. In fact, the Tories now lead in every social group and Corbyn’s Labour lead only in Wales and with young people who are the least likely to vote.

Now, we must issue a health warning for opinion polls, especially since they’ve been wrong on a number of occasions, notably at the 2015 general election, but the health warning is not good news for Labour. Opinion polls have consistently overstated Labour support so Theresa May, arguably the weakest Tory leader for a generation, will win the next election, whenever it is, by a landslide.

I really mean it when I refer to this as the pinnacle of Corbyn’s career because things can only get worse from now on. Since he was re-elected, the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has accepted the result and allowed Corbyn to get on with the job. Unlike during his first year in charge, when MPs were reduced to desperation as they watched in horror Corbyn’s inability to do the job, they have kept quiet and guess what? Corbyn has been even worse. The latest collapse in the polls cannot be attributed to the PLP: it is down to Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott and the rest of the toy town revolutionaries who are handing over the future of the country to the Tories.

An honourable man, plainly and painfully out of his depth in the top job, would stand aside in the interests of the party and, more importantly, the country, admitting that the interests of working people were more important and his. He must know the easy ride Theresa May and the Tories are having at the moment and it’s largely his fault. But on he goes, addressing rallies of his cult following who already agree with him, bathing in their adulation, trotting out simple slogans rather than addressing the huge complexities facing our country. The friend of Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA and Fidel Castro is no friend of working people, throwing them under the bus whilst he satisfies his ego.

Labour cannot recover under Corbyn. The damage was done long ago, the electorate made their mind up about him within weeks of his election and he is more likely to lose even more support for Labour than build it.

I’ve said it before and now I’ll say it again: Corbyn must go.

Eclectic Blue

Suicide is painful

0 Comments 29 November 2016

Having spent the last two days on a mental health first aid training course, I find myself exhausted and shocked. Exhausted by the sheer intensity of the two days, shocked at the epidemic of mental ill health in this country.

I knew things were bad, but not this bad. Three times as many people take their own lives every year than die in motor car accidents. I didn’t know that. What an incredible statistic. And one in every hundred people suffer from psychosis. One in every hundred. One in four people will suffer a mental health issue this year. What is the world coming to?

We covered every single aspect of the subject and I feel battered and bruised. There was so much of me written on the white boards and on the sheets prepared in syndicate exercises, it felt at times it was all about me. But my problems, currently in remission, of sorts, are simply nothing compared to others.

Suicide is a subject which continues to pain me. I have lost friends and many acquaintances over the years and not just a few. All were under 40 and most were under 30. How desperate were they? More desperate perhaps than we could ever imagine.

At the heart of most suicide is mental illness because you would not want to end your life if your mental health was good (unless you were some brainwashed religious fanatic who was under the misguided impression his mince would meet all those virgins in paradise). The worst I have ever got – on many occasions, if I am being honest – is the “I don’t want to live but I don’t want to die” state of mind. Things were bad, sometimes very bad, but the nothingness of not being here at all appealed far less.

I knew why some of my friends killed themselves but there were suicides I never understood, nor did those who were left behind, which must have been awful for them and probably still is today.

I shouldn’t have started this really because I’m coming to the end without a conclusion. I felt the need to write about my sadness at the growing epidemic of mental illness which the government is addressing by slashing funding. Makes sense. I wish the hapless (hopeless?) Mrs May would speak to the relatives and friends of those who have taken their own lives. She might still not care, but maybe just for once a politician might act with heart and conscience.

Eclectic Blue

Dart players tough guys footballers wimps

0 Comments 28 November 2016

Are you familiar with the former darts world champion and current employee of Sky TV, Eric “The Crafty Cockney” Bristow? Never, it has to be said, one of life’s great intellects and he proved it tonight beyond reasonable doubt with his comments about the abuse of young footballers.

These are Bristow’s tweets:

“Dart players tough guys footballers wimps.”

“Bet the rugby boys are ok ha ha.”

“U got to sought him out when u get older or dont look in the mirror glad i am a dart player proper men.”

“Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out.”

Bristow is wrong on so many levels and let’s examine just a few.

Firstly, we know that a football coach, who was a predatory paedophile called Barry Bennell, abused a number of young boys in his charge. He was sent to prison. More allegations have surfaced in recent weeks and a number of courageous men, former footballers who were coached by Bennell, have come forward. My heart breaks for the ex players and I hope they are being properly cared for. I hope too that they get the justice they deserve. A former darts player sees things in a different light.

Much of what Bristow says is drivel. Where is the evidence that darts players are tough guys and footballers are wimps. Has he never come across Roy Keane, Graeme Souness or Alan Shearer? Many of them may be unfeasibly wealthy but that does not make them wimps, does it? They might dive about a bit and feign injury, but wimps? Really?

But rugby players are “okay ha ha” muses Bristow. Rugby players like Brian Moore who suffered abuse as a child? Perhaps that means the Crafty Cockney regards Moore as a wimp, too? I think he should be a “tough guy” and tell Moore to his face.

After having suffered throughout your life following damaging child abuse, Bristow’s brain clanks into overdrive by suggesting that victims should have “sought him out” as they got older. Well, that would be a good idea. Much better to end up in prison for GBH or even murder yourself instead of informing the authorities and seeing him up before the beak. It’s all so easy. Why on earth didn’t the victims of abuse think of that one themselves?

But Bristow melts down altogether in his final tweet. “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out,” he rages, the revealing a more sinister aspect of his ranting: Bennell wasn’t just a sick paedophile, he was a “poof”. And all paedophiles must be “poofs’, right?

This is the language of uneducated fools. Bennell did not abuse young boys because he was gay, he abused them because he was a paedophile. Bristow may not be able to tell the difference, but I can assure him there is one. Gay men do not routinely abuse young boys any more than straight men routinely abuse little girls. Your sexuality does not decree that you wish to have sex with underage boys or girls. I don’t know why it is so hard for some people, like a fading darts player, to work that one out for himself.

There’s more than a bit of “queer bashing” about Bristow’s language and, I suggest, just a little insecurity. Perhaps he has his own issues with his own machismo? Perhaps he doth protest too much? He certainly hasn’t lived up to his nickname.

Eclectic Blue

May god be with her

0 Comments 27 November 2016

Feeling worried about Brexit? Well, worry no more. Theresa May has got someone very important to support her during the difficult years ahead. It’s not Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage. It’s not a politician at all. It’s God.

She tells the Sun that her moral sense of right and wrong is helping her work out what is best for Britain at a “hugely challenging time.” Says May: “There is something in terms of faith, I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, that lies behind what I do. If you know you are doing the right thing, you have the confidence, the energy to go and deliver that right message.” Oh no. The British prime minister gets her sense of moral compass from the bible. God help us all.

Allow me to quote from the renowned scientist Richard Dawkins about ‘God’: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” But Mrs May says the God character is by her side as she marches the country away from the rest of Europe.

If you are to believe the bible, God was responsible for the deaths of 2,821,364 people, but this doesn’t reckon with those who perished in Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc., which take the total to around 25 million. I am sure that old Noah, had he actually existed, wasn’t a bad sort, building the ark when he was between 525-545 years of age and 600 years old when the flood finally came. The fact that he got drunk on wine and would lie naked with his sons (well, we’ve all done that, haven’t we? Well, not in this house, but we don’t do God) is neither here nor there.

I don’t wish to be disrespectful, but presumably our prime minister believes all this stuff and because of this we should all be bricking it. Can you imagine the reaction of some members of the cabinet if God was appointed to some vital Brexit job? Do you think Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox would defer to his greater knowledge? I doubt it. God might have created everything in six days but he didn’t reckon with the enormous egos of the gruesome threesome.

Religion may provide comfort to many. It suggests, after all, that we will somehow survive our own deaths and meet up with those who died before us in eternal life. Who, after all, wants to think that death is it? But just because it is comforting to believe that we will never die and live forever doesn’t make it true. And, returning to the original subject, if the PM is relying on the advice and guidance of someone who almost certainly never existed should be call for concern, especially if she is hoping for God to call by sometime and ask her to explain what she means when she says Brexit means Brexit.

The idea that divine intervention might be part of the Brexit negotiations is absurd. It’s every bit as absurd as the idea that May and the rest of the government have the faintest idea what they are doing. And doing “the right thing” on the basis of scripture is simply irrational. And if God is a Tory (an absurd assumption since a fictional character can’t have a political affiliation) I am delighted to be an atheist.

Eclectic Blue

A family bereavement

0 Comments 27 November 2016

The Bristol Post has reported that Rovers manager Darrell Clarke had a “personal bereavement” the night before the team’s defeat yesterday at Chesterfield. There have been reports of the nature of that bereavement but I have no wish to search the internet in general or social networks in particular to confirm just who it was. It’s none of my business. Whoever Clarke has lost is the business of himself and his family. We can just pass on our condolences, as I do here.

I will say that it must have taken an extraordinary level of strength for him to manage the side on Saturday. I am quite certain that the decision to do so was his and his alone because that appears to be the nature of the club’s new owners. To be fair, I don’t doubt that the old guard, led by Nick Higgs, would have shown similar sympathy. There are a lot of things more important in life than football.

It is right to offer our sympathy in an unobtrusive way. Of course it is. No one wants to see a good man (or woman) suffer a close family bereavement. If Clarke needs time away from the club following this sad news, then he should have it. A few days, weeks even. You are not weak if you need time away from the day job. Few of us know Clarke’s personal circumstances. It will be a matter for him in consultation with the club. Anyway, there is a back room team around the manager who could easily assume the his duties for as long as it takes. Football should be the last thing on his mind unless he says otherwise and maybe he will.

If Clarke judges that he would be in a better place at work, then that would be fine too. I have worked with people who have done just that and I have worked with others who have taken lengthy absences. Both were right. We’re all different.

I am sure the media will keep a respectful distance and let matters unfold in private. These are very sad times for Darrell Clarke and in the end Darrell Clarke’s well-being, along with that of his family, is really all that matters.

Eclectic Blue

Live to work?

0 Comments 27 November 2016

It’s been two years and a half since I finished full time work after 39 mind-numbing years in the civil service. The fear of a subsequent financial shortfall barely figured in my calculations. Now, I realise what a good decision that was and I have not got a single regret. But it is not just the sheer drudgery of carrying out the largely symbolic work benefit fraud investigation had become. It was the waste and loss of time and time becomes more valuable as you get older.

Time certainly appears to pass quicker than it once did, which then brings home an acknowledgement of mortality. People around you get ill, sometimes they die, suddenly or gradually, and you never know if you are next. Without going into detail, my line of part time work now has illustrated to me just how tenuous our existence is.

Take retirement. We all dream that once we have finished a lifetime of full time work, we will all grow old at our leisure, hopefully in good health, seeing the grandchildren come to visit, travel at home and abroad and, if we close our minds, believe we will live forever. If only. The truth is rather different.

We lose our parents and older relatives, we see friends and acquaintances suffer in various ways and it hurts. Why did X happen to this person? They worked hard, played by the rules, deserved a break in retirement. It’s just not fair.

It is true that retirement for many can bring untold joy for many years until infirmity finally takes hold, leading to a gradual decline and then dying in your sleep in your 100th year. If only it was like that for everyone.

The epidemic of dementia is set to explode more because society is growing older. The odds of us acquiring this evil disease are depressingly high. It scares the hell out of me. I have come across instances of people being struck with dementia in their sixties, sometimes even younger. And Parkinsons. In fact, these awful diseases represent the tip of a very large iceberg of diseases. In my final years of full time work, I didn’t exactly think that I was sitting around, waiting to get struck down by any of these conditions. Life isn’t that way. It was, for me, more a matter of time. You just don’t know.

I know and have worked with people who worked right up to and beyond their retirement dates and then everything unravelled. Because we don’t know what will happen, every decision we make it a roll of a dice. But as we are not all the same, perhaps it doesn’t matter so much.

Plenty of people’s lives revolve around work and would like to work forever. For instance, if your job is very well paid, the potential loss of income may be a step too far. One less break at Center Parcs, one less skiing holiday – let’s carry on working. I love working anyway. A very fair argument. For others, it will be the chance to travel more, to spend more time with family, the chance to embark on a more creative journey, to do those things there wasn’t enough time to do before.

I’m not saying any scenario is wrong. If someone can’t face finishing work for whatever reason, of work and money is their raison de’tre then that’s just fine. Perhaps it was because I had tired of spending five days a week in an office and only two doing things I really wanted to do that I had to change. Each to their own.

Whatever floats your boat, this is not a trial run. And if you work to live, rather than live to work, you could be just like me.

Eclectic Blue

Elected?

0 Comments 26 November 2016

As soon as ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone appears on the radio gushing with praise for Fidel Castro who has died aged 90, you know that Castro can’t have been that good a guy. And he wasn’t. Cuba has a more than dubious human rights record, a terrible record with LGBT folk and, lest we forget, is a Marxist/Leninist one party state. And that’s without mentioning the number of imprisoned journalists which is higher than anywhere in the world, apart from China. There’s more, much more, that’s very wrong with Cuba, but I suspect what will eventually follow will not be much better.

Eventually, I suspect, democracy of a sort will come to Cuba. Eventually, the people will demand it and those demands will become irresistible. But there is an argument that says democracy is overrated.

We live in a parliamentary democracy where we elect a new government every five years. The alleged beauty of that is that if we don’t like what that government does, and specifically our local member of parliament, we can all vote for someone else. Fine. But what does that actually mean in practice? I’d argue, not a lot.

I usually vote for the losing side, to be fair and since I was able to vote I have only been on the winning side three times, these being the three election victories won by Tony Blair. The rest were won by Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron. The thing that struck me about the last three in particular that my vote was effectively wasted. Thatcher (in particular), Major and Cameron (aided and abetted by the Lib Dems) won their elections and effectively did what they liked for the following years. Election promises counted for nothing, politicians did exactly what they wanted. Is this the future that awaits Cuba? Oh yes.

Take the USA under Donald Trump (please). Trump the candidate had virtually no policies at all and enters office with a blank piece of paper. He will be able to do exactly what he wants for four years, completely unchecked by Congress and the Senate which are also controlled by the GOP. I can even extend the narrative with the referendum we have had where we voted to leave the European Union. Most of us accept the fact we will leave the EU, but not a single person in the land voted for the way we leave. The arguments about this will run and run and, as it does with all Tory leaders, Europe will eventually do for Theresa May. I accept that a large number of people voted to make themselves poorer if it meant getting rid of these pesky European migrants, but I can’t believe that applies to all of the 52% who won the day.

And that is why I struggle with the concept of democracy as we know it. I see it less as a democracy as an elective dictatorship. The people elect leaders and leaders do exactly what they want, treating the lumpen proletariat as submissive, malleable and unworthy of consultation. The point is this: is our democracy that much better than Castro’s Communist dictatorship? We have a country where over a million people a year use food banks, where people are being abandoned through the lack of social care which is being caused by a deliberate decision to cut funding, where “ordinary working people”, the ones to whom Mrs May uses weasel words like those who are “just about managing” – JAMS – are paying the price for austerity.

I would go so far as to say Theresa May is lying about her empathy with the JAMS. They were the words of a newly installed prime minister who was wanting to curry favour with the electorate. Empty words, rhetoric, slogans.

Deomcracy is better than Communism, for sure, but democracy sometimes does not mean a thing. Just look at my old union the PCS which is beginning the equivalent of a one party state, led by a general secretary who is “elected” unopposed. I expect the leadership is mourning the death of Castro as I write.

If you’re going to Cuba it’s best you go soon because one day it will become part of the land of the free and probably not much more free than it is now, if Donald Trump is anything to go by.

We treasure democracy but it’s not always easy to define. Sometimes I feel that I have no say at all in how my country is won and our country feels like the dictatorship I genuinely believe it to be. Our leaders always seem to do what they hell they like anyway, elected or not.

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