Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (15.6.18)

0 Comments 15 June 2018

The end of another working week and it’s time to make a quick dash to my Man Cave in order to play my geriatric and obsolete iPod through my bank of Marshall speakers and play a random shuffle. I’ll bet you can wait.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

1. Walk in the Night by Junior Walker and the All Stars. Some epic Motown here from the great Junior person himself.

2. Got Love If You Want It by Billy Gibbons and the BFGs. The great ZZ Top man, with autotune, from his solo outing Perfectamundo. The album pretty well is.

3. Hold On by En Vogue. Wonderful old school R&B.

4. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Michael McDonald. From his brilliant Motown record, here is the greatest blue eye of them all.

5. Barnyard by Brian Wilson. Absolutely bonkers track from Brian’s Smile album, complete with animal impressions from his stellar band.

6. Satellite by Oceanlab. Friday afternoon Trance, anyone?

7. You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone by the Beach Boys. One of two Brian Wilson co-written tunes from the scandalously underrated Carl and the Passions – So Tough album which featured all five Beach Boys, plus longstanding member Bruce Johnston. Wonderful.

8. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ by Stevie Wonder. Epic Stevie singing all about Richard Nixon and backed by the Jackson Five. Music doesn’t get any better.

9. Touch Me by the Doors. No doubt that Jim Morrison was an arse, but what a band.

10. Caribbean Festival by Kool and the Gang.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

People or profit?

0 Comments 15 June 2018

I can only imagine the despair felt by the 4600 Rolls Royce workers who are to lose their jobs. I know at second, if not first, hand how devastating this can be, especially for those of ‘a certain age’. One minute, you have a job you love, a job for life. The next you are stumbling into the job seeking wilderness, wondering what the hell to do next.

Already, the story is yesterday’s news. It doesn’t touch the front pages of any of the newspapers. Even when you dip inside the papers, the stories suggest it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s ‘only’ back office staff and mid-managers who will be going, implying that these were unnecessary non-jobs in the first place and that the frontline would be unchanged. Pull the other one.

Of course, I know none of the internal machinations about Rolls Royce so it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. However, I have seen this ‘we’re protecting the frontline’ bullshit before. For example, let’s look at the police service. For years, this Conservative government and the preceding Conservative government in which some Liberal Democrats had jobs, have hacked away at police numbers. ‘Don’t worry,” went the spin. ‘We are leaving the frontline intact. We’re just stripping out unnecessary back office jobs.’ In every sense imaginable, it was simply untrue.

So called back office in the police service was not somehow a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy. It was about taking statements, ensuring continuity of evidence including safe storage, continuity, interviewing suspects and that is just scratching the service. Then, bear in mind a legal system in which the defence, understandably, wants to tie up the prosecution in knots, the police cannot and rarely do cut corners. Strip out back office jobs and who has to do the work? You’ve got it: the frontline. Cutting out back office, removing layers of so called bureaucracy: it’s often a myth.

The Rolls Royce job cull is about one thing and one thing only: maximising profit. It wants to double its free cash flow to circa £2 billion, it seeks to deliver more than £1 in free cash per share, the aim to increase of 60% on invested capital. The company has chosen to do this by sacking people.

It is a tough world out there in the current jobs market. There are certainly many jobs to be had, albeit mainly low paid, insecure with unpleasant hours, the self-employed employment scam, irregular shifts or no guaranteed hours at all. It must be a horrible place to be.

The system that giveth jobs, taketh them away. This is the free market system we choose to live by, where workers are often, I’d say usually, expendable in pursuit of a greater bottom line. I have seen lives changed forever and even wrecked by job losses and it’s not nice to watch. Perhaps, there is a political and economic system out there which allows more of a regulated, compassionate free market, where workers are regarded as at least, if not more than, equal in terms of importance.

Eclectic Blue

Rambling Boy

0 Comments 14 June 2018

I know how this latest plunge into a deeper depression came about. It wasn’t one thing, it was lots of things. This happens sometimes. Depression comes in many different guises. One day you will have a dip and have no idea why and the next day you will have a dip and know exactly why. This one is from the latter category. Let me bore you with the details.

The main reason, you may be surprised to read, is the effect of my new depression and anxiety therapy. I’m not sure I am smart enough to explain this. Essentially, therapy, certainly in the early stages can be very tiring. You might not think poring over your life in minute detail is tiring but I can assure you it is. I was consumed with these week’s therapy for the day I had it, the night after I had it, the day after and so on. In revisiting the past, I’ve uncovered some unwanted ghosts and they’ve kept me awake by night and overthinking during the day. I’m hoping this will ease off in the coming weeks. It usually does.

Then there are things like not looking after myself, like eating too much or, like yesterday, barely at all. My health has suffered greatly since last year’s British Red Cross bullying and abuse episode and even today I still wake up thinking about it. PTSD, perhaps? Then finding out some high ranked Red Cross official called Dawn Tarpey started following me on twitter brought out the paranoia in me, especially when I recall that when I was still employed by this wretched organisation they were all over my twitter feed, indeed on one occasion telling me to remove a tweet. British Red Cross trolls. Think about that one for a moment. (Message to BRC CEO Mike Adams: call off the dogs please. You’ve caused me enough anguish, distress and pain already.)*

I’ve also got worklife balance and well-being stuff going on in my life and an unexpected family visit at the weekend which pleases me immensely but conversely sends my emotions spinning out of control.

All this, plus I know I am becoming withdrawn and I am isolating myself. Apart from that, everything is fine, except that it most definitely isn’t.

Then, combine being in a very dark place with gastro bug which struck in the middle of last night and I can hardly get off my chair today.

At least I think I know why I feel so shit today. I hope I feel better tomorrow.

* Ms Tarpey has now unfollowed me.

Eclectic Blue

Grenfell Tower and what it says about our country

0 Comments 14 June 2018

I’ve cribbed some statistics about the Grenfell Tower tragedy/scandal from the BBC website:

Kensington and Chelsea Council said 52 households remained in temporary accommodation and 83 are in permanent homes.
Another 68 are in “emergency” accommodation – 42 in hotels, 22 in serviced apartments, and four staying with family or friends.

On this day, the first anniversary of the fire, I realise that these are nothing more than raw statistics. But they still bother me, cause me concern, remind me of the unequal, unbalanced society in which we live.

Remember, these are households, not just individual people. People in these households have probably lost everything they ever owned. Imagine that for a moment. Forget things that are easily replaceable, think instead of the things that are not. First and foremost, the actual place in which you lived; home. The loss of friends and relatives who lost their lives. Then, those little things, the photos and trinkets and memories, all gone up in flames. And the survivors will have those awful memories of that day a year ago, when their lives changed forever.

For all I know, the officers of the council are doing a wonderful job in caring for and rehousing families and individuals. I have no evidence to the contrary. My experience of civil servants and other public sector workers is mainly of people who are committed to providing the best services they can, within the often strict limitations placed on them by ministers and senior civil servants. I can accept, too, that rehousing a large number of people must be very difficult. However, even though I don’t know the full facts, I cannot help but think that it is a local and national scandal that ‘only’ 83 households were now in permanent homes.

I do not wish to turn this into a political diatribe because it’s not the right time and anyway the entire political discourse has already been damaged by politicians like the prime minister Theresa May who reacted with incredible lethargy and seeming indifference (which she later denied) and Jeremy Corbyn’s henchman John McDonnell who declared unhelpfully that the 72 who lost their lives were “murdered by political decisions”. Yet, the fact that so many people still await permanent housing tells you a lot about our country today.

Imagine a large block of luxury private flats going up in flames, something that I would suggest is very unlikely because they would surely be better protected from the likelihood of such tragedies. Unlike the survivors of Grenfell, it is likely that survivors of luxury accommodation would be able to buy their way out of temporary and emergency housing within months, not years. But because Grenfell did not house those from the top end of our social league table, its residents are at the mercy of the authorities who may well lack the resources and perhaps ability to rehome them.

Add to this the trauma survivors must still feel. They will never forget what they saw, they will never forget the smell and they will never forget the burned out shell of Grenfell Tower. Some of them will be dealing with their terrible experience from a hotel room. Now I don’t know about you, but a couple of nights in a hotel is more than enough for me. Put yourself in an average hotel room where all you have is a bedroom, a desk, a telly and a bathroom and then think about being there for a year. That in itself would be enough for many people. I’m not sure I could do it, even without the crippling stress and trauma that they went through and are still going through.

Grenfell had a touch of the 9/11 about it, at least in terms of the terrible images which were viewed on a never ending loop. And like 9/11, this was something that surely could never happen.

The inquiry will hopefully come to conclusions that will forever prevent a repetition of what happened on that fateful day a year ago and if it concludes that individuals or even companies are to blame, then they need to be the subject of police investigations. But for now, thoughts are with the victims and the survivors. I am in no doubt that our country has let them down big time. There has been little or no leadership from the top and all the fine words of sorrow cannot cover up the scandal of how the people of Grenfell have been let down.

No one displayed from the tower should still be living in a hotel room or emergency accommodation, not least because the borough in which it stands is the wealthiest in Europe. To me, it feels like financial apartheid and is a sad and miserable reflection of your country today, divided by so many things but mainly inequality.

PS I should add that Theresa May said after the fire that survivors would be rehoused in three weeks. Politicians, eh?

Eclectic Blue

Frightened of this thing that I’ve become

0 Comments 13 June 2018

The song of summer 2018 is going to be Africa. You know the one. That song by Toto from their fourth album which was called Toto IV. The one written by David Paich and the late Jeff Porcaro where they “blessed the rains in Africa” and sang that they were “as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.” The lyrics were slightly bonkers or part of a dream sequence in a love story. I’ll stick with the latter whether it’s true or not. But it’s not Toto singing and playing this time: it’s Weezer.

As well as being a Toto-head, or whatever Toto obsessives are called, if anything, Weezer are at the top of my bucket list of bands I want to see. I have every record they ever made. They write great tunes, they write clever, often quirky lyrics and they haven’t had a hit in a decade. Then a 14 year old started a twitter campaign for Weezer to cover some Toto songs.

Eventually, the campaign bore fruit and Weezer recorded not just Africa but also Rosanna, also from the Toto IV record. Even more astonishingly, the single quickly reached number one in the iTunes chart in the USA and is now climbing quickly in Billboard’s top 100.

Toto, unfairly ridiculed and never in fashion are suddenly, amazingly, in fashion. Not just from fossils like me, but from younger people who might otherwise be listening to new music from various genres. The 60-somethings of Toto are, whatever you think of their music, some of the finest musicians who ever lived. They were Michael Jackson’s backing band on Thriller, between them they have played on over 5000 songs for countless artists and bands. And now, after 40 trips around the sun, they are starting to get the credit and respect they deserve.

You do not have to like Toto to respect them, their talent, their longevity, their persistence and hard work. They can play. They are the best they can be. And if you were making your own rock record, whether you were Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr or Olivia Newton-John, Toto’s gifted musicians are the first you would call on.

The song of the summer is Africa. Whoever thought, 36 years on from its release, you would be saying that?

Eclectic Blue

Will it ever happen?

0 Comments 12 June 2018

Yesterday evening, I managed to get myself involved in a mini-Twitter discussion, as opposed to spat, this time about the Bristol Arena. That is to say the long-planned but not really expected new fangled arena situated near Bristol Temple Meads station. It turns out that potential costs have escalated to a figure not unadjacent to £200 million. Mayor Marvin Rees is now beginning a process of consideration as to whether the project should actually go ahead or, once again, get kicked into the long grass. I wonder which option he will choose?

I was told last night that the £200 million was affordable because the council would be borrowing the money. Oh, that’s all right then. Marvellous Marvin could visit the Magic Money Tree and come back with a fifth of a billion quid and the council (tax payers) could repay the amount over however long it took to repay it. Easy, as Big Daddy astutely put it.

Given the catastrophic cuts to local authority spending, I would struggle to justify any amount of spending on such a luxury item as an arena. Yes, it is slightly embarrassing that we have to travel to Brum or London to watch X Factor Live or Ed Sheeran (thank god), but embarrassing is not a word I would use when I see elderly people with dementia, for example, unable to secure basic social care. I would rather the council borrowed £200 million to give dignity to people in old age.

And I simply don’t buy the argument that it’s just dandy to borrow money to build an arena because the council tax payer would get her and his money back again by the end of next week or possibly in 100 years. They might, but as investments go, it’s nearer to putting money on Accrington Stanley qualifying for the Champions League next season. With Bristol’s track record, it would probably go bust.

If the old Brabazon hangar at Filton is cheaper, then just build the bloody thing and get it over with. I mean, it would be nice to have an arena, but a converted airplane hangar is better than nothing, isn’t it? Certainly from a personal point of view, if anyone decent ever played there, I could walk home afterwards.

Eclectic Blue

F1 F all

Comments Off on F1 F all 10 June 2018

Every now and then I indulge myself by watching a bit of F1. Not a lot, you understand; just a bit. I quite like a bit of motor racing but not too much. I’ll certainly watch some Indy Car, which for reasons I don’t understand, I really like, but the F1 procession? Nah. I’d rather watch paint dry.

Today’s Grand Prix was in Montreal. It’s held on a man made island which I once visited back in 1975. I don’t think there was a motor racing circuit back then but the site held Expo 67, whatever that was. I suppose I watched the start of today’s race with a little nostalgia in mind. I needn’t have bothered.

Martin Brundle, the former driver and current pundit on whichever station covers F1 informed me how more people than ever were watching it. Quite simply, this is utter rubbish. Viewing figures are in freefall following the move away from the BBC, then ITV and soon C4. Soon, it will only be on Sky, watched by, perhaps, a few hundred thousand people at best. It won’t die but it will wither.

Soon, racing drivers will be like cricketers, which is to day virtual unknowns. And if they are as boring as Lewis Hamilton, perhaps they deserve to be. But seriously, F1 is becoming an even more minor sport than it used to be. If you can actually call F1 a sport in the first place.

Some drivers are undoubtedly better than others, but how about when some cars are lapped? Come on: Hamilton is probably an excellent driver but is the bloke driving the latest Williams car actually crap when he can’t keep up? So crap that he ends up over a lap behind Hamilton? I don’t think so. There are only 10 teams, each running two cars and only three of them can possibly win the world title. 14 cars are wasting their time. And mine.

At least there was some overtaking, from what I can tell, which is unlike the lunacy that is Monaco, a race that appears to be run for the benefit of very rich folk. Once the race starts, the car that leads into the first corner wins. The next two hours make for nice viewing if you like seeing nice boats, less so if you want to see a race. But then Montreal was much the same.

The first three at the start finished as the first three. I stopped watching after the first lap and I saw how the race ended. This is not good.

That will do for me. F1, like cricket, is becoming a minor sport, watched only by Petrolheads. Brundle won’t care because he is a millionaire a hundred times over. I shall leave him to it. F1 is disappearing from the national psyche. And it deserves to.

Eclectic Blue

Fists of Fury

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I set aside my increasing dislike of boxing to watch Tyson Fury’s comeback fight against a 39 year old Albanian cruiserweight of whom no one had ever heard. Coming across brain injury in my professional life and watching a ‘sport’ where the entire aim is to render the opponent unconscious (it is: don’t try to pretend otherwise) has become a circle that for me cannot be squared. Still, last night I was drawn in and it was repulsive.

Fury is a beast of a man. 6’9″ and nearly 20 stone, quite a few stone of which were clearly not muscle. He was fighting – and I use the word inadvisedly – a man who appeared to be a foot shorter and five stone lighter. It was more a catchweight contest than a heavyweight. Fury’s flabby body wobbled around the ring, trying to lay a blow on an opponent whose aim was to survive a few rounds and to escape largely unscathed. After a ludicrous couple of rounds, the Albanian’s corner refused to send him out again. Fury had won, but won what?

There was no title at stake. It was Fury’s comeback after nearly three years away from the ring, during which period he had dabbled with drugs and suffered from mental illness. His promoter Frank Warren chose an elderly journeyman fighter to Fury to beat and many thousands turned up to watch it. It was a masterclass in polishing a turd. What we had was a circus, not a boxing match.

The crowd, the usual mix of well-dressed thirty-something men, had either paid for their tickets in order to see a real fight, in which case they were incredibly gullible, or they knew precisely what would happen and didn’t care. Who, other than someone who knew nothing about boxing, could possibly have imagined this was a real contest? In fact, a brawl broke out in the crowd during the fight and Fury spent as much time watching that as he did hitting his opponent. There was certainly more action out of the ring than there was in it.

When the inevitable stoppage occurred and Fury’s flabby arm was raised to denote his victory, the interviews began. It was then I felt there was something very wrong going on.

If Fury has recovered from his mental health demons, then I wonder what I was watching last night. His strange gurning, his erratic behaviour, his largely incoherent ramblings were not those of a man in charge of his full faculties. I do not pretend to have any great ability to diagnose mental illness but Fury did not have the air of a man who was well. He was a big, fat cartoon character who may as well have entered the ring in an exploding car which the doors falling off, dressed up in clown make up. I found the whole thing utterly disturbing.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why we allow someone who has suffered from mental illness to involve himself in a sport where the head is almost always the main target. If you held a brain in your hands, it would seep between your fingers, so delicate is it. Granted, Fury did not suffer any significant blows to the head but I am now at the stage where I think about that precious brain swirling around inside the skull every time a fighter gets hit on the head.

I wish I hadn’t watched it now. I was little more than a filthy voyeur, intruding in someone else’s very public grief. I cannot get over the image of Fury lurching around like a comedy Frankenstein monster after a man who looked half his size. Happily, nobody died last night. The main victim was boxing itself which suffered a significant blow to its already dwindling credibility. in the grand scheme of things, that’s not bad news.

Eclectic Blue

Scudamore’s terrible legacy

Comments Off on Scudamore’s terrible legacy 08 June 2018

One of the main criticisms of politicians is that they are hopelessly out of touch with the lives of ordinary working people, as working class people are known to people who aren’t working class. They live in their ivory towers and gated communities with no idea of the stresses and strains which are faced by the lumpen proletariat who have to put bread on the table. And, time after time, politicians prove to us that that they are hopelessly out of touch.

It is not just the likes of Theresa May or Boris Johnson who live in another galaxy. It’s also more minor ministers. Take – please – the minister of sport Tracey Crouch, tweeting about the departure of Richard Scudamore as executive chair of the Premier League:

“Very sorry to hear Richard Scudamore will be leaving @premierleague at end of year. He has transformed the league into one that is passionately followed & watched here and across the world & I’ve enjoyed working with him for the past 3 years

I would humbly suggest that her opinion of Scudamore bears little resemblance to how mere terrace dwellers feel. Other than those of Tracey Crouch, there will be very few tears, apart from the fat cats who own and play what used to be our national game.

Scudamore had but one motive with the Premier League, which was to make it the richest in the world. There is no doubt that in this he succeeded. Even the most average players in the Premier League are millionaires several times over and the big stars, few of whom are English, earn an extra million every month, sometimes less than that.

One terrible legacy has been the gentrification of the game at the top level. Scudamore has turned supporters into customers. Kick off times are arranged not for the benefit of supporters to but to fit in with Sky TV’s demands, in exchange for the billions paid by viewers through ever increasing subscriptions.

The depth of English players has been almost killed, as we send to the world cup a group of mainly young players, many of whom cannot get a game at their clubs, the clubs which are owned by rich foreign men, foreign companies and even foreign countries. The colourful foreign coaches outnumber English coaches manifold and the current national manager couldn’t even get a job anywhere in the professional game, except with the Under 21s.

Ultimately, what Scudamore and his wretched Premier League have done is to kill the dream that your club could one day reach the promised land without the need to acquire foreign ‘investment’. In fact, even within the Premier League itself, the gap between rich and poor is becoming unbridgeable. Take away the top six or seven and you have virtually no mid table, just a large gaggle of clubs with no ambition beyond surviving and keeping the money taps flowing. Leicester broke the mould a couple of years ago. Now it seems that this was a blip, not some brave new world.

Scudamore has been described as the devil you know, who at least tried to keep some element of financial equality in the Premier League. I don’t buy that. It was the clubs themselves who decided that each club should be relatively equal. With football the way it is, how long before the top clubs do what the Premier League itself did back in the early 1990s and break away again?

In reality, Scudamore was the Gordon Gekko of football, embracing greed is good into the mainstream. In terms of English football, his legacy is terrible. And no amount of bleating from the idiotic minister of sport can alter that simple fact.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (8.6.18)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (8.6.18) 08 June 2018

After having worked my first full Friday in well over a decade and a half, I really need some solace. What better way than to find solace than setting free the now obsolete iPod and letting it choose some music to celebrate being back in my Man Cave where I feel happy and safe.

Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends.

1. Carousel by Blink 182. Let’s get the show on the road with this rocking tune from my favourite Blink 182 album, Blink 182’s Greatest Hits.

2. Tangent Tears by Mr Mister. They made one great album and Welcome to the Real World is that one. Richard Page on of the great rock singers.

3. Trouble by Ryan Adams. From his great album entitled Ryan Adams, here’s the great man at his best.

4. Kota by Bonobo. This beauty comes from Bonobo’s excellent Animal Magic. I don’t think Johnny Morris features, though.

5. Landslide by Stevie Nicks. Gorgeous, innit? Shame about the sickly and cloying strings near the end, though.

6. Don’t Give up by Chicane ft Bryan Adams. Some top notch Trance which features, almost unbelievably, AOR superstar Bryan Adams on vocals.

7. Get A Move on by the Quantic Soul Orchestra. Stunning British jazz funk with a little salsa added to the mix.

8. Steppenwolf by Lindisfarne. From my favourite Lindisfarne album Roll On Ruby, this is so great. Ray Jackson and the late, great Alan Hull on tip top form.

9. Birthday (live) by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Very sixties from the mad old man himself.

10. Movies is Magic by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks. A reminder that Brian’s final collaboration with Van Dyke Parks was hopefully his last. Absolutely terrible.

That’s all, folks.

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