Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (23/2/18)

0 Comments 23 February 2018

With spring a few days a way, we are obviously headed into the coldest part of the winter so far. Never mind. Instead, I have retreated to my Man Cave to allow my obsolete iPod churn out some random tunes. Yes, it’s the Friday Music Shuffle.

Welcome my friends to the show that never ends.

1. Party Time by Gloria Estefan. Memories of the Corfu Plaza in 2000 in St George South where this was the tune for the season.

2. Next To Me by Emili Sande. A track from her excellent Our Version of Events long player. Parts of the tune are a straight lift from, believe it or not, Toto’s St George and the Dragon.

3. Picasso by Michael Head and the Real Elastic Band. All the way from Liverpool, Shack’s brilliant leader with a gorgeous song from his latest record Adios Señor Pussycat. No more underrated talent on the planet. Please buy this record.

4. Come and Get It by Toots Hibbert (with Sly and Robbie). Sensational cover of the Paul McCartney tune made famous by Badfinger, from the Art of McCartney record.

5. Lebanese Blonde by Thievery Corporation. Chill out stuff for those long summer nights, which will mean somewhere like Ibiza.

6. Possibilities by Weezer. Frantic but unmistakable Weezer from the Maladroit album.

7. White Moon Bay by North Atlantic Explorers. My friend Glenn D’Cruze from Vancouver made a beautiful record called My Father Was A Sailor, all about his father who sailed the Atlantic Ocean at the same time my own father did. It could have been all about him.

8. Little Wonder by David Bowie. The Starman meets drum and bass.

9. How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us by REM. From their New Adventures in Hi Fi album, this is staggeringly wonderful.

10. Drivin’ Around by the Raspberries. No band ever imitated so many others than Eric Carmen’s Raspberries. Here he goes all Beach Boys to joyous effect.

Eclectic Blue

Remember the days of the old school yard

0 Comments 22 February 2018

Aware as I am of my own mortality, I am afraid I am still shocked to hear about the death of others of or around my age. For instance, only today I learned of the death four years ago, of an old friend from school who died age 56, leaving a wife, three children and three grandchildren. I learned also, with great sadness, that he had died of Motor Neurone Disease.

I won’t name names because you never know who is reading and I really don’t want to upset anyone. I knew him at junior school where he was one of the hardest kids around and I got to know him better when I foolishly found myself in what you could loosely describe as a fight with him in the playground. I did land a few blows, as the legion of 10 and 11 year olds surrounding us will observed, but my opponent landed far more, hence the fact that my face was a bloody mess, as was my shirt. My nose was like a tap pouring blood for hours. Eventually, thank goodness, we were separated and taken to the changing rooms whereupon my opponent became my friend.

I knew he was a hard nut but now I saw a very different side to him. I had stood up to him, at least briefly, and he respected me for that. The teacher asked who had started the fight and asked what it was all about. It was about next to nothing – I think my football went into his space and I had the brass neck to retrieve it without authority – and it all kicked off. However, we both said had no idea why it happened but it was probably started by a third party. After school finished, I walked through the gates and he gave me a broad smile. I smiled back, only for my nose to start bleeding again.

Years later, we happened to bump into each other and reminisced about what had happened. He was very successful in his life and it was like discussing something that happened in a parallel universe. It was well and truly in the deep mists of time and I have to say it gave us some huge belly laughs. I reminded him that when I went to senior school, my reputation of having fought with him (I usually neglected to mention the result) went before me. I never had a single incident in big school and all the other hard nuts were my friends.

And here’s a thing. Most of the hard nuts at school went on to have very successful careers home and abroad, some running very successful businesses. When I met up with them, usually in some pub or other, they were invariably big, cuddly bears, family men with sweet grandchildren in tow. In the back of my mind was the knowledge that at one time they could really hurt someone. They never hurt anyone badly, though, and they turned out all right.

I am so sorry that my old friend is dead. I would have loved to have met up with him at some school reunion and reminded him of the day when we exchanged blows, though not necessarily in equal numbers. And I could have thanked him again for making my senior school so easy.

Eclectic Blue

The drugs do work (recycled title to help the environment)

0 Comments 22 February 2018

I am delighted to wake to the news that anti-depressants work. Science says they work, which means they do. As you can imagine, this has come as an enormous shock to me after having used them for as long as I can remember. When I wasn’t on anti-depressants, I was even more depressed than I am now.

When I was even more depressed than I am now, I functioned much as I do today, which is to say not very well and at a very low level. It is a measure of how bad I have been, and am today, that I need drugs to keep me where I was 20/30 years ago.

It is an even bigger relief to know the drugs do work because of the absence of therapy within the NHS. I get very angry with very little because I have a near endless fuse but I am just a little bit angry with lying politicians like Theresa May who tell the electorate of their genuine concern about mental health, saying they are doing something about it (which usually means quoting a meaningless financial statistic) when all the evidence suggests they are doing much less.

I have already explained to my loyal reader that the only “treatment” available to me via the NHS, other than drugs, is “group sessions”. Call me a pessimist and a cynic but I am not convinced a group format will fulfil my needs, given that the roots of my depression and anxiety are extremely complex. I’ll give it a go, of course, although I doubt that, somehow, I shall be sharing my innermost secrets and demons with a bunch of other people who I do not know. Indeed, what if someone was present who I did know? I’d be less than enamoured about coming forth on my chaotic and largely unhappy childhood.

So, it’s good that the drugs do work and they don’t make things worse. I think therapy would be far better but they are literally better than nothing.

Eclectic Blue

The slow death of rock and roll

0 Comments 21 February 2018

I didn’t watch the Brit awards tonight. I never watch the Brit awards, which are little more than a self-congratulatory orgy of music business flunkies. If tonight’s show was good – and, given the list of nominations I don’t see how it could have been – I really don’t give a toss.

The last time I watched this ghastly show was in 1989 when it was hosted by Mick Fleetwood, drummer with one of the great rock bands of all time, Fleetwood Mac, and Samantha Fox, a woman who made her fortune by bearing her tits. As neither of them had any presenting experience, what could possibly go wrong? In fact, everything went wrong which at least took our minds of the music of the 1980s, undoubtedly the decade when the music nearly died.

I look at this year’s list of nominees, performers and winners and I see rock and roll in its ugliest form. Homogenised, castrated and closer to Daniel O’Donnell in spirit than Elvis. No giant names of the genre, just the likes of Rita Ora, the lesser talented Gallagher and Ed Fucking Sheeran.

Now I am the first to admit that music is subjective. There is no such thing as bad music – although I’ll cling to my view that music doesn’t get much worse than Queen, Muse and the Spice Girls. If you like one type of music, then that’s your pleasure, not necessarily mine.

I am at a loss why anyone would want to attend such a worthless celebrity love-in. I’d much rather spend the train fare, admission and hotel expenses on some proper music on vinyl, CD or, perish the thought, downloaded (and always paid for, not stolen via streaming). Or even a real live gig. “Ooh, I saw Jack Whitehall introduce someone. I thought I’d wet myself. And when Kylie came on, it was like I’d died and gone to heaven.”

The Brit winners are inevitably the biggest selling artists whose careers will be given a further boost by free plugs on this ghastly apology of a music awards show. It will have absolutely no effect on up and coming artists, it will work against anything outside the mainstream, with the obvious exception of Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz.

For lovers of good old fashioned rock and roll, the success of Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters stood in stark contrast to the grim mass-produced AOR drivel that is as near the cutting edge as Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Happily, rock and roll isn’t quite dead yet, but a few more years of the Brits and it might be a close thing.

Eclectic Blue

Finger Lickin’ Closed

0 Comments 20 February 2018

So far this year, the best headline is this: “KFC shuts more stores in chicken crisis.” The story is, apparently, that KFC’s new delivery contractors DHL have failed to deliver any dead chickens to hundreds of stores nationwide, leaving thousands of drunks returning from the pub without a supper they probably didn’t want anyway.

It’s an odd one. I went to my local Sainsburys this morning and there were bits of dead animal everywhere. On the deli counter, the hot dead animal food section, dead animal Sunday joints and of course dead animals on pizzas and in pies. Christ: I sound like a vegetarian or vegan. I’m not, but perhaps I should be.

The chicken crisis is probably not a crisis for millions of chickens who might get a few hours of extra life before they are electrocuted on the mass production line. It is a crisis for the company’s minimum wage staff who have been told by their generous employer that they can take part of their annual leave if the store runs out of chicken or simply not be paid. Still, it’s better than being a chicken, I suppose.

I have nothing against KFC. As a once in a blue moon treat, you can’t beat it. True, it’s a heart attack in a box but as long as you don’t have a party bucket every day and dine normally on healthier foods, it’s not going to kill you. Personally, as I am trying and currently failing to lose weight, fried chicken is not part of my calorie uncontrolled diet.

Is there anything more sinister going on with the Colonel’s favourite food? Is there something amiss with the business model? I have absolutely no idea and apart from the long-suffering lowly paid employees, I have absolutely no interest. As crises go, this is not a crisis at all. It’s a bit of a cock up, a pain in the arse for people who are addicted to junk food. Anyway, if the KFC is closed, people can actually go to a supermarket, buy some ingredients and – wait for this – cook something themselves at a fraction of the cost.

For a few more days, Coronary Care Units can rest easy. We can all go to MacDonalds instead.

Eclectic Blue

Student finance isn’t working. Ah well.

0 Comments 19 February 2018

“Student Finance isn’t working”, says Theresa May. Students face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world”. And Mrs May does what she does with every other issue that confronts her: she kicks it into the long grass and holds a “review”.

This review will take a year to undertake. We are offered no explanation as to why it will take that long. I am not an expert on tuition fees but I would have thought that experts would be able to come to a conclusion far quicker than that. How about in a few weeks?

In traditional May style, briefings make it clear that whilst we charge our bright children more money to go to university than anywhere else in the world, fees won’t be going anytime soon. The odds are they won’t be reduced either. If fees are not going to be reduced, then anything else is posturing.

Unlike the government, I don’t buy the argument that tuition fees take account of students earning more money when they finish university. That’s surely what the tax system is for. If you earn loads of money, you pay a lot more tax. But thanks to the Tory government of 2010 in which some Liberals had jobs, our brightest kids suffer a double whammy.

Imagine leaving uni with debts anywhere from £30k to £50k. No problem if you have rich parents for whom paying off £50k of fees is mere loose change. Not good if you are from a working class family that has struggled for years to help you through university. But then, universities are not meant for the lower orders, are they? Certainly not in “proper” subjects.

May acknowledged that poorer students had the greatest burden of debt. Well, no shit Sherlock. Of course they do. Poorer people always have the greatest burden of debt in this increasingly divided and unequal country. It’s called uncaring capitalism, the type practiced by Tory governments forever. They always say how they want a country that works for everyone and then go about ensuring it doesn’t.

I am not opposed to reasonable tuition fees. The levels under the last Labour government seemed fair and reasonable and I do not argue against students contributing towards their university education, otherwise you end up with the working classes who will not attend university subsiding those who do. If May was having a serious review, this might be a point of debate but this is not a serious review.

I am afraid I struggle with Labour’s promises to scrap all tuition fees for the very reason that we would have a form of Robin Hood in reverse. But again, let’s put the idea in the pot. If you have an inquiry, allow all options to be considered.

Student Finance isn’t working but then nothing Theresa May does works. Expect nothing much in a year’s time, always assuming May is still PM.

Eclectic Blue

They hate us

0 Comments 18 February 2018

I dread to think what would have happened if the levels of racism and xenophobia were around when my grandfather came to this country from Sweden via Norway, or when my mother came to live here from the Netherlands. Can you imagine what the Brexit generation would have been like? They’d have accused them of taking the jobs of British people, they’d have accused them of undercutting their wages, of taking their homes. They would demand their immediate repatriation and they would demand the government crack down on immigration.

If you know me, please don’t start on the “Ah, you’re different” bollocks. My family are no different from any of the Europeans throughout generations who have come here to work. They were foreigners, migrants, those terrible people the Daily Mail told you to avoid. The people who came here, worked hard, paid taxes, played by the rules and put down roots. But we don’t want their sort here, do we?

In some ways, ‘we’ have come to hate so many more people. ‘We’ used to hate people of colour because, well, they were different to us white people. We’ve extended that level of hate now to include lots of migrants who came here to work who are not of colour, like Polish people and the like. They seem nice enough when they look after our elderly relatives who are suffering from dementia, delivering our parcels or picking our fruit and veg. But they are foreign, damn it. If we are going to “take back control”, we’d better get on the case and now.

Tomorrow, I am on my way to Battery Point, Portishead to search for my grandfather’s ashes. It’s been 24 years since he died but in order to satisfy those Mail readers and Ukip supporters, I’d best get down there to start the process of his repatriation. And my old mum too. Her English was very good, but she still retained a Dutch accent. Christ, we can’t be having that. Once I have finished at Battery Point, I’ll get to Bristol South Crematorium to see what’s left. Probably, not much since I didn’t arrange to store her ashes. As she’s foreign, she should stand out. They always do, don’t they?

When you hear David Cameron described as the worst prime minister this country ever had, it is not to compare him with, say, Theresa May who is undoubtedly the most incompetent and out-of-their depth PM this country ever had. For much of his time in Number Ten, Cameron came across as knowing what he was doing. But then he called a referendum on the EU on party political grounds, solely to end the civil war in his own party. It was a gamble that failed disastrously and will destroy our country for a generation, maybe longer. That’s why he is the worst PM this country ever had.

Cameron’s disastrous decision-making once again made it acceptable to be a racist, a xenophobe and a bigot. He handed the country over, lock, stock and barrel to Nigel Farage and his odious outlook on life. Britain is now shaped in the image of Farage, a country where Alf Garnett ceased to be a figure of ridicule and became mainstream.

Now anyone who doesn’t have pure British blood is an enemy of the state. Where will they send us all on the not so glorious day?

Eclectic Blue

Bloodlines

0 Comments 18 February 2018

I do worry about some of the press coverage of Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle. My loyal reader will know that I am not exactly a card-carrying royalist but my leanings to republicanism are painfully slight. Most people do like the royals and there are bigger battles to fight. It is odd to find myself compelled to defend Ms Markle.

It goes without saying that much of the venom towards Ms Markle comes from the Mail and its readers. She attracts the ire of the newspaper in a ways Kate Middleton doesn’t. Where Ms Middleton attracts nothing but admiration and, daring I say, desperate fawning, Ms Markle is hated. Where Prince Harry and Ms Middleton get praised for hugging people, Ms Markle is criticised for doing the same thing. The Mail drags up some old pictures of Ms Markle in Africa cuddling a young child, as part of a trip she made on behalf of a charity, she is slaughtered again. Harry went to Africa not long ago and was feted (rightly, in my opinion).

The paper itself stops short of saying the magic word that many of us suspect lies behind its anger, but many of the readers do not. Ms Markle is a self-publicist, a gold-digger and worst of all – and here comes the magic word – she is black.

Perhaps I have misread the Mail’s position. After all, they have no recent history of racism and xenophobia, do they, apart from that which was directed at anyone who is foreign, that is. And perhaps the far right editorial stance of the paper is struggling to accept that, at some time in the near future, a woman of colour may be, as some have said, contaminating the blood line of the royal family. Yes, some people really have said that. Not, I hasten to add, the Mail itself but I have seen it on numerous occasions. And when it’s not said directly, it is hinted at. It is safe to assume what is happening here.

Eclectic Blue

Mayhem

Comments Off on Mayhem 17 February 2018

Without the merest hint of irony, Theresa May announced today that the UK and EU’s enemies would “like nothing better than to see us fractured”. “Rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology” should not jeopardise the security of UK citizens. This woman is plainly an idiot: deep-seated (right wing) ideology is what is taking us out of the EU. This gets worse every day.

May was said to “warn the EU” in a speech greeted in near silence by our European friends who, presumably, are as baffled at her stupidity as we are. The point is that Britain is so diminished by our reckless decision to leave the EU and our continued failure to say what we want out of Brexit that we can’t warn Europe about anything. We do not have the power to warn them and anyway, we are the country that decided to cut ourselves free from Europe, not the other way round.

Of course, we need close links with Europe. We always have done since the Second World War. In fact, the formation of the EU, as it wasn’t called when it was formed, happened as a direct result of a divided Europe and Nazism. And May appears to be offering to cooperate over all aspects of security. She says we need to remain in Europol, to maintain coordination on security, to work together on sanctions, operations on the ground and developing capabilities in defence, cyber and space. Yes to all that. It’s what we do now and May wants things to carry on after Brexit as they do now. So, why just in security?

If absolutely nothing is going to change in the realms of security, why not set out to achieve a similar deal with trade? If her warring party can unite around security, then why not unite in the area of trade, to see us remaining in the single market and the customs union, too? After all, neither of these vital issues were on the referendum ballot paper. What’s good for our security is good for the economy, isn’t it?

In reality, our enemies are thrilled to see us separating from Europe. Even the “special relationship” with the USA is meaningless under the protectionist Trump, who will in due course be found to have colluded with Russia long before the presidential election. No. The deep-seated ideology is that of the Tory/Ukip hard right that essentially just hates foreigners, which is what Brexit is really all about.

Doubtless, we will come to an amicable arrangement with the EU about security, hard Brexit or not. Whether a divided Britain will be more secure is anyone’s guess. It certainly won’t be a better place.

Eclectic Blue

Keep Smiling Through

Comments Off on Keep Smiling Through 17 February 2018

It is the sheer exhaustion mental illness brings that grinds you into the dust. You may be surprised to learn that depression and anxiety is as tiring as anything I have ever known. Both the conditions and the pernicious effects they have on my sleep, which have left, are leaving, me more exhausted than ever. In the absence of NHS treatment, bar some promised “group session”, my main confessional is cyberspace.

Experience of this stuff at least means I can try and self-regulate, to use what energy remains in the right areas. I save most of it for work, what’s left for writing and then I find there is not enough left for exercise, which provides, as science tells us, chemically driven feel good factors. But if the spirit and body is weak, the feel good is over the hills and far away.

I know this latest dip is because of a combination of factors. Primarily, the black dog that lives permanently in my soul, closely followed by a host of other factors, including the bullying and abusive actions of individuals at my last employer, the British Red Cross, which caused me a mental breakdown last year; constant feelings of failure and hopelessness, so much hate and negativity in the world and the impending anniversary of the death of my father and the loss I unexpectedly felt by his passing. And there’s lots more.

You don’t need to tell me my writing has suffered in recent days. I know that. I have spent many hours at the keyboard with my mind seemingly covered by a thick fog, not knowing where the next word my be coming from, or if it will appear in the right order. And without my writing, my life is so much less worthwhile, meaningful.

I stopped my car the other day, wondering briefly where I was and what I was doing there. I had been on autopilot and had covered many miles without thinking about anything at all. It was all I could do to start driving again, to concentrate on people other than me. I made it. That was my achievement of the day.

With NHS mental health treatment so scarce as to be non-existent, I may try to self-medicate by writing about my life to see if that somehow provides some kind of explanation to this chaos. If it’s any good – and I doubt it will be – I’ll self-publish. If it isn’t, I’ll hand make a book myself for just myself. In any event, I have ben writing it myself in bed in the middle of the night, in between wild, crazy, insane dreams.

This journey can’t end yet. Too many people depend on me, don’t want me to fail. I have already managed the latter as life’s not terribly rich pageant gradually unravels but it is the love of, and for, others that sustains.

I never thought the night terrors and panic attacks of puberty would manifest themselves in other ways as I got older. In another form, they never went away and somehow I need to struggle through another huge dip and keep smiling through, as I always do.

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