Eclectic Blue

How hard can it be?

0 Comments 18 December 2018

The clear winner of the award for the most stupid tweet of the year is Lord Digby Jones. Here it is, in full:

‘So the EU are going to charge Brits €7 to travel to Member States after Brexit. Just a thought…….did any of them want to charge my Great-uncle Thomas in 1917 or my wife’s Dad or uncle in 1944?’

Actually, it’s not just stupid. It’s crass,  insensitive, reprehensible. And it’s a complete misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, of what has happened. For those of you who don’t read very quickly, I’ll type this very slowly. In 2016, the UK voted by a narrow majority on the basis of a simple remain/leave question to leave the European Union.  On the basis of that result, politicians in both main parties have decided that free movement between the UK and the EU should end, even though this was not on the ballot paper. It is one of Theresa May’s red lines. She wants the UK to be a ‘third country’. What the EU is doing represents exactly what we have asked for.

Full disclosure: I support freedom of movement within the EU. I welcome European workers who staff our hospitals, care homes and all manner of jobs in the private and public sectors. It is an economic fact that migration from EU countries has benefited our country. But May’s Conservatives and Corbyn’s Labour both support pulling up the drawbridge. And it’s a two-way street.

The EU could easily have said that UK citizens would require visas for each individual trip to Europe. After all, it is we who have demanded the end of free movement. We have told Europe we wish to take control of our borders (we already do, by the way, but let’s not let a fact get in the way of the lies of Brexit). That means European citizens cannot as of right come to live, love, work, study and retire in the UK. The free movement we have enjoyed for decades is begin given away. Things could never be the same again.

The Boris Johnson ‘have our cake and eat it’ argument was always a lie, the idea that we could leave the EU but retain all the benefits of membership. The visa charge is, in effect, what we have asked for.

If EU citizens lose all those rights and freedoms, so do we, or rather our children who will lose the most. it will be my generation that took away their right to live, love, work, study and retire anywhere in the EU. 

The EU came about as a result of the Second World War. Indeed, Winston Churchill was an early enthusiast of the EU dream. I suspect he would turn in his grave as Britain turns its back on the unity and stability the EU has helped provide since the war.

I repeat: the UK is leaving the EU and not the other way around. We have asked to be a third country. We have told the EU to end our freedom of movement. This, apparently, is what we want. How hard can it be to understand?

PS. The USA charges us $14 to visit them. That’s because we are a ‘third country’.


Eclectic Blue

Rock off, Tommy.

0 Comments 17 December 2018

Can I be absolutely candid with you? I know absolutely nothing about Thomas Markle, father of the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, other than the fact he is her father. Can I be even more candid with you? I don’t give a toss about him, either. I rather like his daughter, who seems a decent sort and has married my favourite royal, Prince Harry. Father Thomas is in the news again, or more to the point he is causing the news by being in it.

The old boy appeared today on Good Morning Britain and complained that his daughter was “ghosting” him. He texts Meghan every day but hasn’t spoken to her since she married Harry. Has he not tried using the telephone? Much easier to speak in a phone call than via a text.

But then, I discovered that the host of Good Morning Britain was the loathsome Piers Morgan, a man never backward in coming forward if there is dirt to dig.  Thomas presumably didn’t need much encouragement to accuse his daughter as being “very controlling” adding “the unfortunate thing about my daughter and Harry is that they believe everything they read in the papers.” You know, like flogging his story to those very same newspapers. Thanks, Thomas.

He comes across as a wrong’ un to me. I can’t know that because, as I said, I don’t know him at all. It’s just the impression I get that he is an unlovable rogue. Not only that, I really don’t want to hear about this tittle tattle.

It’s not that I want the sanitised version of the royal family. If the truth be known, I could live without any version of it. But given the choice of President Corbyn, President Boris Johnson or President Farage, I’ll take a punt with the royals thank you very much. I am certainly not interested in Thomas’s muck spreading.

Royal or not, Ms Markle should not be having her personal affairs dragged through the gutter media, especially via a populist toe rag like Morgan. Her father would do himself, the general public and most of all his daughter a big favour by shutting his big fat gob. She’s a new royal, she’s just got married and she’s going to drop her first royal sprog next year.  Do your stuff in private, lad, or don’t do it at all.

Eclectic Blue

New music, new life

0 Comments 17 December 2018

There has never been a better time for a music fan to be alive. Even if 2018 was the worst year ever for new music, you could still listen to, and preferably buy (not stream), more good music than ever. But it wasn’t the worst year ever. It was right up there with the best.

I am in the process of compiling some new lists, purely for my own pleasure, although I will of course share them with you, my loyal reader. Choosing the best song, the best album will be tricky indeed.

I have a fair idea of where the top ten will come from, although the order could change, quite possibly on a daily basis. Courtney Barnett’s Tell Me How You Really Feel is a gorgeous run through great tunes with Nirvana style guitars and the stand out single Charity is definitely in my top three tunes. But then, there’s Louis Cole’s jazzy Time album, featuring Thundercat and a lush bunch of tunes. And Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, MGMT, Beak, Christine and the Queens, Jon Hopkins, Thom Yorke,  Gaz Coombes, Father John Misty, Lump, Laura Veirs and David Crosby. I love them all.

My love of new music was not always thus. It is said that you have decided by your mid twenties the type of music you will always listen to and you will rarely embrace anything new. I had made my mind up what I liked by age 18. It took a long time to realise what I had been missing out on.

The sheer amount of great new music blows my mind. I have a wish list of more new music a mile long and the search for the perfect tune just goes on and on. In 2018, I have gotten very close to finding it.

The hip hop artist Loyle Carner’s song Ottolenghi, which features the outrageously talented Jordan Rakei, is quite magnificent in every single way. Musically and lyrically, it’s a beautiful song. Carner’s vocal performance is sublime. Watch it with the video on You Tube. It will blow your mind, too.

So much new music, but plenty of old music I am just discovering. Just a week or so ago, I bought up the entire Teenage Fan Club library. What the hell went wrong there? How on earth had this amazing band pass me by? No more. I can listen to their music all across Christmas if I want to. And I want to.

All I can say is the old music is still valid and it is still great. If you love the commercial stations with their safe, largely unchallenging golden oldie playlist, then good for you. Listen to what you love to listen to. However, there is a hell of a lot of music you might not have heard and some of it you might like. And if you find new music and you like it, it is a wonderful feeling. Take a punt with new music, listen to BBC 6 Music and listen to something you probably don’t know. Your musical life might be something you first heard 40 or 50 years ago, but you might also like Loyle Carner or Courtney Barnett or Lump. You won’t know until you try.

Eclectic Blue

Maybe next time?

0 Comments 17 December 2018

I’m changing my mind about Tyson Fury. There was always something I liked about this mountain of a man, the Gypsy King. However, there was much more I disliked. 

I disliked the homophobic, misogynistic outbursts. It seemed like something from another age, the Jim Davidson/Bernard Manning age, where homophobia and misogyny were the norm. Fury managed to come across a dinosaur, preaching the bigotry of days gone by. And yet, and yet.

He always seemed like everyman. He does not have the chiselled body of the modern day prizefighter. There are more than hints of flab, his hair is falling out by the handful, he does not speak the bland language of the superstar fighter. Sometimes, like when he called Deontay Wilder a “shit-house’, he makes me laugh.

I forget none of his sordid past in terms of things he has said but at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY), he was interviewed and sounded like a sincere, empathetic, inspiring human being. 

Fury spoke about his successful fight with mental illness in a speech worth more than a million speeches by so-called motivational speakers and I was in no doubt that he meant every word. He had fought for all of us who had suffered from mental illness and come out the other side. The message was that if he could do it, then anyone could. For the first time, I admired Tyson Fury the man.

I am not a huge fan of boxing, not least because the area in which I work concerns brain injury, an occupational hazard with the so-called ‘sweet science’. Yet some of the people who fight for a living do influence what happens in the rest of the world.

Before the disastrous effects of boxing overwhelmed him, Muhammad Ali was the most famous and arguably popular man on earth. People hung on his every word. He was a man who fought but later fought for peace. He made a difference. In a much smaller and very different way Fury can do the same.

I would love it if he apologised for the homophobia and misogyny. At the back of my mind lies the suspicion that he may not be a fully reformed character. Prove me wrong, Tyson. You did something incredible good, incredibly brave and incredibly important at SPOTY. You can help, even save, lives. Use that charisma and intelligence to make the world a better place.

I was hoping Fury’s name would not appear in the SPOTY shortlist after his past indiscretions. After seeing his interview, I wish he had been. If he continues to improve and develop as a human being, as well as developing his skills in the ring, SPOTY will come around soon enough for him. And that is how it should be.

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!

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