Eclectic Blue

Long cold winter

No Comments 20 September 2018

The best British summer in over 40 years has had a very bad effect on me now that it’s over. I am now suffering from that well known ailment SWS, which is a medical abbreviation for Shit Weather Syndrome. Suffering, as I still am, from PHT (Portuguese holiday tummy) and SBEs (Sodding Blocked Ears), at least one of which was caused by swimming with my head in the water of the pool, today’s weather in Bristol has taken me by surprise. Winter is here.

Winter isn’t really here, according to my meteorological pals who tell me that in fact autumn only started on 1 September. But we are quibbling, here. As far as I am concerned, winter lasts from the first day in September right through to the last day in February. And I hate it.

I suppose winter (or autumn, if you are going to be pedantic) crept up on me because were had a late holiday in Portugal where the weather was in the mid to high twenties for two weeks. Somehow, it had not occurred to me that it might somehow be bloody freezing when I got home. Even though technically it isn’t freezing, try telling my feet, who are shiveringly cold. I am going to have to get some socks on and even some full length trouser wear if it carries on like this.

We’ve all been spoiled, though, haven’t we, lulled into a ludicrous false sense of security. Week after week of warm weather followed by hot weather and then warm again. It was the endless summer Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys told us about. But it ended.

And now? Hello Levis, hello coat, hello socks, hello joggers for indoors as well as out. Oh, and my old enemy asthma returns.

Christmas soon enough. A few days of work when it’s too cold and dark to get out and do anything and some of the worst TV you’ve ever seen. I’ll get used to it, I always do.

It was fun when it lasted. Normality slaps you in the face like a wet fish. What else could possibly go wrong?

PS When’s my flu jab due?

Eclectic Blue

We did vote to make ourselves worse off

No Comments 19 September 2018

“No one,” say many EU remainers, “voted in the referendum to make themselves worse off.” To which I reply, “Oh yes, they did.” Loads of people voted to make if not themselves worse off, then certainly their children. Some are honest enough to admit as much.

I have crossed metaphorical swords with countless folk who felt “taking back control of our borders” as being critical to their decision to vote leave. “It’s too easy for people to get into our country,” they say. “We need to tighten our borders. We need to stop free movement. We need to pull up the drawbridge to Europe.”

Tightening our borders will mean huge delays at the ports. Dover modelled delays from 2-4 minutes resulting in 17 mile tailbacks. The Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has not denied that delays could be around 45 minutes per truck. The tailbacks will cover most of southern England if we go down that road. But we must tighten our borders, right? We need to get rid of the customs union. This will knacker countless companies who rely on just in time products reaching their factories, like the entire automotive sector. But we need to get rid of the customs union, right?

Then, we have those wretched foreigners who come over here from Europe and work, especially the those who work as doctors and nurses, for example. We need to stop this, even if we die prematurely. Cancer specialists they might be, but they are bloody foreign. If it means our own children cannot enjoy the rights we enjoyed, like living, loving, working, studying and travelling freely abroad, it’s just too bad, right? We need to look after our own first, unless they are the younger generation, many of whom happen to be our children.

You see, I don’t buy the argument that people didn’t vote to make themselves worse off: they did. And let’s not accuse all of them of being too stupid to know they were going to make themselves worse off because that’s just patronising.

Even if the buffoon-like PM Theresa May manages to cobble together some kind of deal to leave the EU in relatively soft terms, it will only be because she has kicked the can of detail down the road. Again.

Every type of Brexit will make the country worse off because Brexit itself will make the country worse off. So, what can we do? My answer to that is Christ alone knows.

The referendum campaign was between a bunch of right wing liars (Vote Leave and Leave EU) and a bunch of right wing scaremongers (Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the shower who tried to scare the British public into remaining instead of offering a positive outlook on Europe, the kind supported by Winston Churchill after World War II). No one spoke for those who believe strongly in internationalism and a united Europe. But who spoke before the referendum for blue collar England who voted to leave?

Years of grim austerity left millions of people feeling that they had been abandoned. And when the architects of their abandonment, who just happened to be the politicians who were in the spotlight urging the country to remain in the EU, spoke, large chunks of Britain spoke loudly by bringing about exiting the EU, despite the enormous act of self harm they had voted for themselves to endure. Those in places like Sunderland who voted to leave must also have known how a hard Brexit could destroy their good jobs at Nissan, but they wanted to lash out anyway. They understood the risks to education, to the NHS. They concluded it would all be worth it.

So, we must conclude that many people voted to make themselves worse off for what they saw was the greater good. They voted to stop free movement for foreigners and their own children, they knew the pound would collapse if we voted to leave, they knew that jobs would go. And now all of us must hang our future hopes on the worst prime minister this country has known in a century, a woman who leads a massively divided party which is at the mercy of free market vandals. And if they mess up, the only alternative is a hard left Labour Party offering a return to the 1980s and economic calamity.

It doesn’t look good, but let’s not keep repeating the lie that no one voted for the shambles that’s about to envelope the country. Many people did just that.

Eclectic Blue

Kevin Beattie

No Comments 19 September 2018

The death of the former Ipswich and England defender Kevin Beattie from a heart attack at the age of 64 should remind us all that not all footballers are the preening, posing, multimillionaire Bentley owners we imagine them all to be. Beattie did not die a rich man, quite the opposite in fact. There are lessons for many of us.

Beattie spent many years as a full time carer to his wife who suffered from MS. Although he earned a decent living as a top flight footballer, his time in the game was spent long before the money-printing machine of the Premier League came along. Latterly, he needed the help of the PFA to assist him financially and his little part time job as a football summariser with local radio got him in trouble with the DWP who prosecuted him for benefit fraud when he continued to claim Income Support.

By failing to declare the £45 he received from local radio for Saturday games and £75 for midweek games, Beattie claimed £9000 over four years to which he was not entitled. I do not know the breakdown of this £9000 – which particular benefits, that is – but you might conclude Beattie got what was coming to him when he was prosecuted, given a nighttime curfew and told to pay £50 in prosecution costs. I am not quite sure how his prosecution was in the public interest when he was caring for his ailing wife. Just pay it back and let’s have done with it, perhaps? Sadly not.

Kevin Beattie was once courted by Liverpool legend Bill Shankly, who rated him very highly and later regretted the fact he failed to sign him. His manager at Ipswich, Bobby Robson, felt Beattie was one of the best centre backs ever to play the game. Yes, he really was that good, playing nine games for his country before injury cut short his career.

Not all footballing lives end in glory. RIP a great player.

Eclectic Blue

Praia da Luz

No Comments 18 September 2018

From my little balcony here in Praia da Luz, the beautiful blue sea of the Atlantic is right ahead of me. A small sailboat bobs up and down on the gentle swell. The silence is only disturbed, quite regularly it has to be said, by the swishing of the traffic along Luz’s one way system, as well as the leaves on the nearby trees as a warm breeze drifts across.

There are literally hundreds of apartments around the town and, it seems, they are largely unoccupied. I can see maybe 20 apartments from here and all are shuttered up.

It could be, quite simply, that it’s out of season here on the Algarve or maybe just in this westerly part of it. Judging from the planeloads of passengers who arrived at Faro on the same day as us, plainly the party resorts are not going to be empty.

I suppose I could suggest the great unsaid of Luz, the disappearance in May 2007 of Madeleine McCann. We are, through no deliberate intention of our own, very close to THAT apartment. We see it every time we leave our room, cross the road to the pool area. There it is. Truthfully, I do think about it a lot. Similarly, I think of the former Tapas bar, now a snackbar, where four wealthy and highly irresponsible families sat each night, their children in apartments which were not accessible without going onto the road outside the pool complex. It is not a subject anyone here raises with you. And why would they?

I’ve spoken to one person about it, a guy I now know as Ray whose face and voice I recognised from the 2017 Panorama ‘Madeleine McCann: ten years on’. Apart from telling me that the BBC edited out virtually everything he said, his view was that the whole tragic event was the fault of Madeleine’s parents. If the children had not been left unattended, this poor little girl would never have disappeared in a complex that, back then, when it was a resort for the very well off, offered free babysitting. There is not a single thing in Luz that tells you what happened. Not a poster, nothing. *

When we booked to come here, we obviously knew the history but assumed, from the size of the complex, which spreads out over numerous blocks, we’d never see the one from which Madeleine disappeared. We are not haunted by the history, it has not, in any way, affected our enjoyment. But the history is there, the history of a young girl who disappeared over 11 years ago and still no one has more than a theory of what might have happened.

I rather feel that the invisible shadow over Praia da Luz will never disappear. Millions, maybe billions, of people all over the world know about this story, a story with no conclusion. I have noticed that from the road at the far end of the pool, people do stop and stare and some take photos. It is not because the complex is especially photogenic – although the pool is very nice – but they do so because of the unsolved mystery.

Someone, somewhere knows what really went on at Apartment 5a. However, we are none the wiser as to what it was. That fuels the morbid fascination many feel over Praia da Luz and will do for generations to come.

I doubt that we shall return, not through the story that made Luz famous but because the place, whilst perfect for the R&R we needed, is more than a little dull, with few opportunities to make friends with other people, a key component of my holiday requirements. And it will always be that place where that happened.

* As I wrote this piece a day or so before returning to the UK, I found this to be incorrect, as you will see from the photo that accompanies this piece, but decided to leave the article as I write it at the time.

Eclectic Blue

Flanneled fools

No Comments 15 September 2018

In a series of “Why oh why oh why” articles and sneeringly superior posts on social networks, we have been asked to believe that cricketers are the finest, most sporting gentlemen on the planet. The thoroughly decent Indian team showed their true spirit in their 4-1 thumping by England in the recent series watched by literally tens of thousands of people on Sky. All cricketers are like that, aren’t they? Hmm.

All except, perhaps, England’s loveable all rounder Ben Stokes, drunkenly trying to get into a nightclub in the early hours and knocking unconscious two men. Stokes was not guilty of affray, so he is an innocent man; doubtless a role model.

And of course those great Australian cricketers, examples of fair play indeed, who got caught trying to alter the shape of the ball and subsequently got banned for a damn sight less than they should have been. It was obviously a one-off, an oversight. These boys are the best sportsman ever.

Apart from whichever Australian cricketer abused Moeen Ali, referring to him as Osama during the last Ashes series. It was all a misunderstanding, you see, probably a harmless joke. It wasn’t actually suggested that an England player of Pakistani heritage was responsible for the mass murder of thousands on 9/11, or that by definition Ali, being a Muslim, would have supported flying jets into buildings. Where’s your sense of humour gone?

Even in local cricket, no one cheats. Apart from those who cheat, that is. You know, the ones who appeal for decisions in the full knowledge that there is nothing to appeal for. No players field the ball from beyond the boundary and then pretend the ball didn’t cross the boundary. And certainly no one in local cricket sledges an opponent. In fact, no cricketer has ever done that, ever. (I would describe all cricketers as ‘whiter than white’, but apparently that’s against the law these days.)

As ever, it’s the footballers who are the bad guys. Never the cricketers or anyone else for that matter. Tennis players are never pulled up for taking drugs, rugby players are never convicted of brawling in Jersey nightclubs and their coaches would never dream of encouraging their players to chew on a blood capsule to feign injury. It’s only those sweary, edgy footballers who do bad things.

It’s easy to paint a picture of only angels playing our summer game. With participation on the decline, with Sky owning all the live rights in this country, leading to less people watching cricket on TV than at anytime since the 1960s, we can believe everything we are told.

If footballers are less well behaved than cricketers – and in my experience, certainly in local sport, they are largely the same people – it’s probably a matter of numbers. And anyway, how on earth can you compare a full-on passionate game of football with the genteel niceties of cricket? If you are seriously comparing them, may I suggest you have never played one or possibly both?

Credit to India whose players were, apparently, a credit to their country. But spare me the ludicrous comparisons between the world game, which is football, and a summer game which is played at a decent level by perhaps half a dozen countries from the former British Empire.

As cricket continues to retreat to its comfortable suburban home and its participants at international level come increasingly from private schools it will become a class issue, too, if it isn’t already.

Eclectic Blue

No room for bullies

No Comments 15 September 2018

“Lots of people hate your daddy,” said anarchist Ian Bone to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s young son. “Do you know that?” With which Rees-Mogg acted like every good dad should, protecting his son from any chance of danger. Is the little boy ‘fair game’ because of who his father is? No, he bleeding isn’t.

Do I hate Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 19th century? Two things. I don’t know the bloke and hate is a very strong word. So, no I don’t hate him. Do I hate the system that allows those of great privilege to reach the commanding heights of society? Yes, I do. And do I hate – and I repeat, hate is a very strong word – what Rees-Mogg is trying to do to our country by supporting a hard, cliff-edge Brexit. Yes, of course. Christ, most Tories think like that, never mind soggy, liberal mainstream Labour voters like me.

We are talking about ideas, aren’t we? That’s different from talking about people. Granted, I hated, really truly hated, Margaret Thatcher – in fact, her death has not changed my feelings about her one iota – but it’s the ideas we should be challenging, not the young child of a right wing politician with ideas and views that would, if implemented, have devastating effects on the poor bloody workers.

And to see Rees Mogg’s family accosted by a worthless anarchist is as bonkers as it gets. Mr Bone does not believe in anything the rest of us believe in. He doesn’t believe in elections, or the very idea of democracy. He believes in anarchy which as philosophies go is more than a little loose and vague.

As well as being an anarchist, Mr Bone is a loud-mouthed bully and I hate – that word again – bullies. I hate bullies whether they are in the playground, whether they belong to the Football Lads Alliance, whether they the mafia-like thugs of the Labour and trade union movement or whether they are a one hit wonder band like Chumbawumba who think politics is enhanced by chucking a bucket of water over a genuinely working class deputy prime minister.

I was pleased that Rees-Mogg stood up to Mr Bone, as I was pleased when Rees Mogg stood up to the middle class luvvies at the UWE who recently tried to shout him down. He’s no hero. He’s upper class and proud of it, he’s a hypocrite who stores his money abroad to protect himself from the worst ravages of Brexit, he wants to extend the class divide, not close it. All of these things might appal your average Joe or Josephine but that’s the way life is and the only way to challenge these things is through argument, through debate and if they don’t work, by punching the other bloke’s lights out. I don’t really mean the last bit, there, but here I am in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s corner. And certainly his son’s.

Eclectic Blue


No Comments 15 September 2018

“It’s over 40 degrees,” said the sweet barmaid. “Did you hear that?” asked the silver-haired Scot to his wife. “Over 40 degrees. Didn’t expect that in September but it bloody feels it.” A cursory glance at one of my many weather apps told a very different story. Luz, today, reached 28c and it was bloody hot. The thermometer was directly in the sun. This is not how you measure temperature.

I have experienced, only once and then only briefly, temperatures exceeding 40c. We had landed in Corfu one July morning and as soon as the air stewardesses opened the plane doors, we emerged into a furnace of kerosene, the local fauna and the hottest Greek sun I had ever known. The journey to our resort and the afternoon that followed was quite literally unbearable. It was way too hot to lie in the sun so we did the only thing we could do: go to the nearest bar.

It is easy to forget what ‘hot’ means. We arrived in Praia da Luz in around 24/25c and even this was pleasant, very warm if you will. My partner and I agreed that this kind of temperature would be “just right”. In our first week, the temperature has gradually climbed. The difference between 24c and 28c is vast.

Surprisingly, just off the Atlantic Ocean, it’s incredibly humid, like one of those days in England when the skies turn from bright blue to jet black in half an hour and the following storm washes away the humidity. This is not going to happen in Luz.

Going away in September can be such a gamble weather wise. Some years ago, a friend went to Corfu on my recommendation. To my horror, it rained incessantly for the best part of a fortnight and it was generally cool. Every year since – and I am making up this bit to make myself feel better – September has been a glorious extension of September, with the thermometer regularly hitting 31/32c. That’s bloody hot for the height of summer, never mind autumn.

And when we get back home, it will be an almighty shock to the system, what with the Luz night time temperatures exceeding the Bristolian daytime ones. I might have to wear some jeans or even a coat. Which is why I am not complaining about these last five and a bit days. As ever, the second week is flying by compared to the leisurely first and next week will feel like winter, which to me it will be until next March.

Eclectic Blue

Topless sunbathing

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One thing you – well, I – notice these days is how few women bathe topless. It used to be the norm for ladies to reveal their breasts in public. Those who didn’t appeared to be in the minority. No more. Now, modesty prevails. Except with men.

I admit to a certain bias here but I do believe that the male body is far less attractive than the female. Unless you are Daniel Craig, it’s best to hide many of your bits from view. This is not a view shared by an awful lot of men. Or a lot of awful men.

Polishing off my lunch today, I am in a snack bar near the pool. There are two older men with no shirts on. It is wrong on all sorts of levels.

Quite apart from the fact it looks terrible, it’s rude. Despite this being an establishment next to a swimming pool, it’s still somewhere you eat. You just wouldn’t dress, or rather undress, like that in somewhere, shall we say, more formal. Then why do it here? It doesn’t look nice, it’s dirty. Oh, and did I mention it doesn’t look nice. And one of them is singing along with Rod Stewart’s Maggie May.

I am no prude. I have been on plenty of naturist beaches in my time on this earth. But there is a time and a place for everything and indeed nothing. Put simply, I do not want a man’s breasts in my eyeline when I am eating my lunch. Okay? Put them away.

Eclectic Blue

Juices Flowing

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Six days under the Portugal sun have done wonders for my creative juices. They’re flowing beautifully once more. Lying on that sun bed, you see, gives you time to think, to let your mind wander, to think about that next major writing project. (Major in my life, I hasten to add, not necessarily in the wide world of writing.) The not long-awaited follow-up to my worst selling book ‘Corfu, not a scorcher’ is now a seed.

No plot spoilers from me in this brief blog. This is for a very good reason: there is no plot to spoil. There are vague ideas of how this one is going to develop and I am putting these long hours in the sun to good use, at least when I am not at the bar or falling asleep on said sun bed.

This writing malarkey is not easy, though, If it was, I would be far more successful than a blogger of approaching 3000 pieces in four years, not to mention a former programme contributor at Bristol Rovers from 1999 to 2018, albeit with some years missing along the way. That’s an awful lot of writing with precious little success along the way and certainly very little money. But surely that’s not the point?

Well, actually, it is the point. I refused the Bristol Post’s approaches for years to write a Rovers based column every week because they wanted me to do it for nothing and I declined to continue to write for the excellent local magazine Bristol 24/7 for the same reason, although I have been flattered that they have occasionally run pieces from my blog. I got to a point when – and this is going to sound so pretentious – I considered my writing to be my work. Yes, it is a pleasure to write stuff for not that many people, sadly, but like every other writer, artist, musician, actor, it’s what I do and it’s what I wish I did all the time.

That I am rarely paid for my work is mainly down to one thing: no one thinks my work is worth paying for. I leave it for others to decide whether no one thinks it’s worth paying for because it is so crap, although I am not frightened of negative criticism, or indeed deterred by it. I certainly don’t get upset if someone says my stuff is rubbish although I’d rather they said it was good.

Perhaps there is also an element of modern times in that no one wants to pay for anything these days. Sales of newspapers are plunging because people can get their fix of news on line. By and large, younger people don’t bother with newspapers. Join me in the queue at my local Co-op if you don’t believe me, as my fellow customers pay for their Daily Express, a bag of Werthers originals and the latest issue of People’s Friend. These people have a lot in common with me, except for the bits about the Express, Werthers and People’s Friend. We’re all old.

It is not just newspapers where the chances to earn money from writing are disappearing. When I was younger, I bought as many as five, sometimes six, music magazines a week. That’s a lot of music writing to be done, all of it paid. Now there are literally no weekly magazines that you have to pay for. Even the once great NME is now a tiny, glossy freebie that is little more attractive to look at than the latest ad sheet from the local Pizza store and Curry House. It’s the same in everything. In Bristol, we had a fortnightly magazine called Venue which covered everything from music listings to restaurant reviews. It’s no longer sold in newsagents (ask your parents’, kids, if you want to know what a newsagent is) and those journalists had to go somewhere. Or perhaps they went nowhere and stopped writing? In which case, as Ian Dury put it so well, what a waste.

So, the best I can do is self-publish another book and simply be happy that I’ve done it and not worry whether anyone actually buys it. If I don’t make it as a writer, it won’t be for lack of trying and if my best shot isn’t good enough, so be it.

Eclectic Blue

Praia da Luz

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For many people, the name Praia da Luz means only one thing. The disappearance in 2007 of a young girl. At that time, the Ocean Club complex was part of the luxurious, upmarket Mark Warner chain. Today, many of the apartments, including the one in which we are staying, are privately owned and leased to Thomas Cook who now offer the accommodation to package holidaymakers.

There was no sense of the macabre when we booked to stay here. Portugal has been, for many years, at the top of out bucket list and having done our homework on both the complex and the resort, we were content that this was for us. And it is.

Arriving at Faro’s chaotic airport, we expected to be boarding a bus that would make umpteen stops along the way before arriving at our room in a time slightly longer than our two and a half hour flight. Not so. In fact, it appeared that we were the only people headed this way as our fellow tourists boarded buses to the more ‘lively’ resorts. So, a straightforward transfer along the toll road was all it took. Our flight left Bristol at 7.00am. By 11.30 we were unpacking.

The Ocean Club complex is a bit of a misnomer. It’s traversed by roads and pathways. For all the world, it looks like lots of different complexes. The buildings are uniformly white, the apartments are all shuttered and there are regular warnings to keep the shutters down at all times. Our ground floor apartment has two small balconies and below them a small area with a table and chairs. We have a large living room, a kitchen with industrial levels of facilities and cutlery, a decent bathroom and two bedrooms. It is well beyond our expectations. I write this in the early evening on the main balcony, drinking a lovely glass of Sagres, looking out on a well maintained garden area and the sea. A gentle breeze gently shakes the leaves on the trees, distant gulls wheel above us, Thundercat plays from my mobile music system and if there was a God (and may I remind you, there isn’t) he would be in his heaven.

We unpacked and decided to explore the complex and the resort. Lowering all the shutters and locking the triple locked door, we turned left, went along a short path, which opened onto a cul de sac and then a road. And there it was. Apartment 5A. We walked through the entrance to the pool and there was the former Tapas bar, now a snack bar. You know the rest.

I’ll be honest and say it was one of those “blimey, there it is” moments. We did not dwell, or take selfies, or anything crass like that. However, there was no escaping what was there and what happened there, whatever it was, and that we would be spending a considerable amount of time in this vicinity over the next two weeks.

What struck us immediately was the lack of people staying in the complex. It wasn’t just the overcast weather which greeted our arrival. The man at reception said it was “quiet”. He wasn’t kidding. We walked down the road in the direction of the beach, passing a number of bars and restaurants, as well as the obligatory Spar.

Luz is a very small resort, albeit one with a big name. There is a significant elderly migrant (expat) community here which speaks entirely in English. Some of the streets are a bit scruffy and dusty; most are flanked by holiday properties. The beach is long and sweeps towards the cliff that stands over Luz. To be fair, the beach is busy, too, with various watersports taking place.

The children have all gone home now and it’s mainly mature (old) people who are here. For them – and us, at least one of whom fits the ‘mature’ criteria, at least in age terms – it’s a leisurely regime of reading books, drinking beer, port, wine and pretty well anything else we can get our hands on. And eating.

Luz is not cheap. Part of this is undoubtedly because of the collapse in the pound since the UK voted to raise the drawbridge to Europe. The Euro is pretty well the same in value to the pound these days and it could get even worse. Last night, for example, we visited a ‘pub’ called ‘The Bull’ which purports to be British, but despite its largely British menu of roast dinners and fish and chips, appears to be entirely Portuguese run. A pint of San Miguel and a G&T came to a jaw-dropping €12, which is £12 in British money. Worse still, everyone smokes inside the pub. The old Brits love it!

Today, we sunbathed at the far end of the pool and I became aware of people stopping to take photos of the pool area from the road. Why would you do that? You don’t need me to explain anything else, do you? But, I suppose, they are only thinking what I am thinking when they gaze across the area. You can’t help it. I don’t want to speculate or theorise, at least not today, because Luz has had enough of it.

If you had arrived here from space, or had awoken from an 11 year dream, you would simply never know what happened here, as we say, whatever it was. For all that, I love it here and right now would not want to be anywhere else.

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