Eclectic Blue

The killing fields of Kent

No Comments 24 March 2017

Looking at the carcass of the weak and cowardly murderer Khalid Masood, it is hard to be feel anything but hatred and loathing for this subhuman piece of excrement. It was not hard to imagine the likely reaction of some of the more trigger-happy inhabitants of cyberspace. “Repatriate his family, send them back where they came from” went the argument, presumably meaning somewhere like Pakistan, given his name. You just knew he wouldn’t have a common or garden name British name. It would be different if he did, wouldn’t it?

Now we learn that Khalid Masood was really Adrian Elms, or Adrian Russell Ajao (he had lots of names), born in Kent, not Islamabad. More than that, he was born into an Afro-Caribbean Christian family. He was probably more English than me. The arguments about repatriation look a little more tricky now. Elms, it is now being suggested, was a former school teacher and, incredibly given the physical condition of this bald, flabby loser, he was a body builder. What was he building it with? Pies? Cakes?

Real hard facts are emerging slowly right now. More will drip out in the coming days, weeks and months as detectives piece together this man’s ultimately pitiful life, but we know now that he does not fit in with the image of a stereotypical islamic fascist terrorist, but an islamic fascist terrorist he was.

I was not surprised to read that so called islamic state immediately claimed responsibility for the sick acts of Elms but really they should have claimed irresponsibility. The sum total of their so called achievements are to kill and maim innocent people and, more importantly, to unite the country and indeed much of the world against everything these people stand for.

Was Elms really inspired by ISIS because if that’s true he was in need to mental health care far more than I am? How on earth could anyone be inspired by a bunch of raping, beheading psychopaths? What would you set that as the height of your ambitions? What goes through the mind of someone who deliberately, consciously sets out to drive a powerful car at innocent people and then kills an unarmed police officer? Call it brainwashing, call it radicalisation, call it anything you like but to me it represents a serious form of madness. Brainwashed and radicalised in the terrorist heartlands of Dartford.

No one, surely, is calling for border controls to be set around Kent to stop potential islamic killers travelling around the country – although I suspect Nigel Farage will be on the telly soon saying just that – so where do we go and what do we do now? Let’s go to the music collection and retrieve my broken record.

If we are going to address religious extremism, we need to address religious privilege and change to a society in which everyone is equal and that the same laws, the ones made in parliament, apply to everyone. No “faith” schools, the humane slaughter of animals with no exceptions, no unwanted praying nurses, freedom to offend and to be offended, no book-burning or fatwas and so on. One people, one society, everyone free to believe in the God they choose but within the framework of a secular society.

As an atheist, my sadness is that there will not be a hell for Adrian Elms (or whatever his name is) to go to. This is tempered by the fact that his bullet-riddled flab will not be greeted by 75 virgins in paradise and will be left to rot as truly befits this horrible man who, ironically, did far more to unite this country than divide it.

Eclectic Blue

You’re an embarrassment

No Comments 23 March 2017

From all accounts, German football fans stood in bewilderment last night when the buffoons who follow the England national team launched into their “10 German bombers” routine, shortly after booing the home national anthem and in between singing a succession of tired songs, many of which referred to the Second World War, which, according to my calculations, ended 72 years ago. “Well, it was only a minority, wasn’t it?” said the usual apologists. Not this time.

“It certainly wasn’t a minority,” said Henry Winter, the best football writer of them all, on a BBC Radio Five Live discussion tonight. And of course it wasn’t. ITV’s mute and distortion buttons could not fully dampen the ugly noise from the drunken hordes who still shame us abroad. Why do they behave like this?

It did not appear that the German fans were even offended by this nonsense, although I was offended and embarrassment. Their fans generally shook their heads, probably more in pity than anything else. They had managed to move on and build a new country whereas England football supporters were more keen on launching inflatable spitfires around the terraces and amusing themselves and no one else with their outdated antics.

The England fans’ behaviour is as cutting edge as a Jim Davidson joke or a pint of Watney’s Red Barrel. It is Love Thy Neighbour and a Vesta curry. It is SO yesterday. It isn’t just banter because it’s not supposed to be. The aim of the abuse is to anger, to hurt and to provoke Germans. “We won the war” even though none of us were even born when it was going on. Who knows how many of those present at the game, on both sets of terraces, lost family members in that terrible war? Is that a joke, too? They wanted to wind up the Germans and they failed dismally, with the Germans gazing over at fat, middle aged, pissed up Englishmen acting like arses.

It’s not big and it’s certainly not clever and it really is time for the powers that be to take a stronger stance. We probably can’t ban people from going to games because they are idiots, so it’s time to tell them they are not welcome. A good friend of mine whose identity I will protect (is that okay, Gary?) has the answer: we should disown them. The FA, the manager and the players make a simple statement: if you are going to carry on with your stupid behaviour we do not want you to support us. Save your money, stay at home, let those who only want to support the national team attend England games. You are a national embarrassment. It might not work to start with, but hopefully somehow the message will get through. The usual platitudes about how wonderful the England fans are must be qualified by condemnation of those who let the country down. If some of them boo the manager and the players for telling them to shut up, isn’t that vindication enough?

Eclectic Blue

You, of all people.

No Comments 22 March 2017

For this blogpost, I refer you to the NHS Choices website.

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

Continuous low mood or sadness
Feeling hopeless and helpless
Having low self-esteem
Feeling tearful
Feeling guilt-ridden
Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
Having no motivation or interest in things
Finding it difficult to make decisions
Not getting any enjoyment out of life
Feeling anxious or worried
Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

And the social symptoms include:

Not doing well at work
Avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
Neglecting your hobbies and interests
Having difficulties in your home and family life

This is my life. If you understand severe clinical depression, you can stop reading now. If you don’t, then why don’t you learn about it now and stop fucking me around? I thought you, of all people, would be better than that.

Eclectic Blue

Terror returns

No Comments 22 March 2017

People have died in London today. A vicious attack by persons unknown has killed one woman and inflicted “catastrophic injuries” on other people. It seems that terrorism has returned to the streets of Britain.

I suspect I am not the only one who has been shaken to the core. We have known for some years that our country has been at severe risk of a terrorist attack and it was only a matter of time until one was visited upon us. Now it has happened and I hope we remain calm.

Not everyone on social networks has remained calm, in fact some people have launched into evidence free rants about who was responsible. I will not repeat their comments – I think you can probably work out the gist of them yourself – but for God’s sake. If it turns out that this evil act was carried out by who we suspect it was carried about by, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush.

The Mail – surprise! surprise! – has already declared one of the protagonists was an Asian “nifeman” (sic). If it was, we need to remember that the number of Asian knifemen is very small. The suggestion is that the assailants are islamic fascists but I’d like to point out that the vast majority of those killed by islamic fascists are muslims. Fact.

I am watching rolling TV news and its as compelling as watching the planes fly into the twin towers on 9/11 and its every bit as depressing. I sit in shock at the sheer horror of it all, offset only by the huge courage of the police and security services who run towards danger when the rest of us are running away from it.

Have you ever seen anyone hold up a gun to someone, not on some TV show but in real life? I have – twice, both times police officers in different countries – and at the time I thought my heart would leap out of my chest. And then imagine innocent people being mowed down by a car by going about their normal business, harming no one? The fear, the terror. I find it very hard to imagine it. I hope I never see it.

This appears to be an attack on parliament, at least part of it was. And an attack on parliament is an attack on us all. When the prime minister makes her statement later on, as she will, we must put aside our political affiliations and get behind what she says and the decisions she makes. Our country is horribly divided now, as it will be for years to come as we leave the EU, but for now we must unite and stand up to terror. Whoever did this cannot win.

Eclectic Blue

Norman conquest

2 Comments 21 March 2017

So sad to hear a broken Norman Tebbit on the radio tonight. I mean it. His voice is soft and weak, his anger still all-consuming. Injured in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing – his wife was paralysed for life – you can hear in his voice that time is running out. I loathed Tebbit the politician, who was an integral part of Thatcher’s repellent Tory government of the 1980s that changed Britain forever, and not in a good way, but I feel nothing but pity now for this frail old man.

Just because I hated the politician – and he still makes me froth at the mouth every time I see and hear him – his elevation to the top tier of politics was entirely down to us, the electorate. And just because I detested the way government to which he belonged almost killed off the NHS, made the country far more unequal, destroyed the public sector and much of the manufacturing sector and made Gordon Gekko our national role model couldn’t undo the fact that we elected them to do just that. Norman Tebbit did not deserve to have his life ruined just because he was an unpleasant right wing bigot. The fact is he was a democratically elected unpleasant right wing bigot.

There is a place for hate. We can pretend that we should love everyone and forgive everyone who commits even the most horrible atrocity, but real life ain’t that way. There are plenty of people I truly hate: Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher (still), people who kill beautiful wild animals for fun, Nigel Farage, certain Daily Mail columnists and their editor, Rupert Murdoch and everyone who ever hurt a child. Oh, and Nigel Farage. I don’t see why Tebbit shouldn’t hate someone, not least a mass murderer who never admitted his crimes, nor repented.

The BBC has judged the public mood beautifully. No fawning to a peacemaker who also murdered people, everyone allowed to speak their mind. Families of those murdered by the Birmingham pub bombers, the friends of McGuinness who see him in a very different way than I do and the incredible Colin Parry whose 12 year old son was murdered by the IRA, the sons of Ian Paisley whose affection for McGuinness was qualified, but only just. It was a roller coaster through “the troubles” and it was, at once, gripping, heartbreaking, sick-making and every other emotion under the sun.

But the contribution which moved me most came from Tebbit. And it was Tebbit because of the enslaving effects of old age. No more the bully-boy, controversial Chingford Skinhead who poured scorn on the unemployed from his privileged seat at the top table of government. Just a shrivelled old man late in life, seeing out his days with the love of his life confined to a wheelchair. I’d be bitter too, to see the quality of my life snatched away in a heartbeat by evil, cowardly terrorists.

Only someone with a heart of stone would not feel some sympathy with the old boy, regardless of his politics. I loathe everything he stands for, but I don’t have a heart of stone.

When told of the death of McGuinness, Tebbit said,”The world is a sweeter place today.” That’s pretty well how I felt when I heard the news of Margaret Thatcher’s death. So I am not going to criticise him for that, am I?

Eclectic Blue

One man’s terrorist…

No Comments 21 March 2017

One man’s terrorist, goes the old expression, is tomorrow’s freedom fighter. Yesterday’s terrorist, Martin McGuinness, has died and I find it very hard to mourn his life. Regardless of the reasons for the “troubles” in Northern Ireland and who was responsible for what, a lot of innocent men, women and children died as a direct and indirect result of the actions of McGuinness. He is no longer suffering from the debilitating heart disease that ultimately killed him. The families of the victims of IRA terrorists will suffer forever.

Even the lavish praise from his political opponents in the Loyalist and Unionist communities doesn’t move me or change my mind and why should it? The IRA deliberately targeted innocent bystanders in pubs, in hotels, in shopping areas and they executed – yes, executed – members of the armed forces and police.

In a very small way, I experienced from a near distance the way in which the IRA operated. On a cold winter’s night in 1974, I missed a bomb attack on Dixon’s in Park Street by a matter of minutes. It was not an explosion that killed people but it sent the fear of God amongst those who were nearby. I was on my way to Tiffany’s “heavy night” in Clifton and we heard the explosion as we were walking along Whiteladies Road, a mere mile or so away. We walked past the actual shop barely 15 minutes earlier. I was never in danger, but I never forgot it. It changed the way I thought about terrorism forever. What if someone had been killed, purely in the name of people being terrorised? The IRA was the organisation of which McGuinness was a commander.

Of course, I recognise the peace process that changed Northern Ireland and the role of McGuinness, who morphed from terrorist to peacemaker, ultimately becoming friends with Ian Paisley, the leader of the hard line unionists. I cringed at the photographs, I winced as politicians shook his hands and I never once forgot the victims, their families and their friends.

I could not show the strength and compassion of Colin Parry, whose 12 year old son Tim was murdered by the IRA in the Warrington pub bombings of 1993 and who in the name of peace actually met McGuinness and his partner in crime Gerry Adams in furtherance of the peace process. People can apologise all they like, but none of it will bring back victims like Tim.

Doubtless, the funeral will be a grand affair, attended by the not very good and the outright bad. If I was prime minister, I would not send a representative and nor would I expect any decent mainstream politician to turn up either.

My condolences are with the family of McGuinness but I cannot bring myself to mourn his death. He was a terrorist before he became a so called statesman and many innocent lives were lost before he changed his ways. For me, his past cannot be undone and outweighs anything that came later.

Eclectic Blue

Forward to the past

No Comments 20 March 2017

“And now you’re gonna believe us”, sang an enthusiastic bunch of Bristol Rovers supporters, just last Saturday, “the Gas are going up.” You’ll get no arguments from me on that one, not that I know better than anyone else whether indeed the Gas are going up. Nothing would surprise me given the enduring excellence of our young manager Darrell Clarke. I was less than impressed by one of the accompanying chants.

Now I was not there on Saturday but I know a man who was, a man I know, trust and believe, and he told me that a section of the crowd belted out a verse of “Ten German Bombers”, a favourite of the far right element who follow the England football team. This is not good enough.

Harmless? No it isn’t. It’s an extension of the tired old, dreary, cliched view many Britons hold of Germans and Germany. The idiots who sing have been known to bring along German helmets, inflatable spitfires as well as doing Nazi salutes and doing Hitler-like goose-stepping, in order to illustrate the ludicrous point they are trying to make. Add to that the tedious repetition of the Dambusters and Great Escape music, played by the England band who should be banned, and you have a situation of great embarrassment to most of us who respect and like Germany and Germans and don’t recognise what happened in the 1930s from the modern and vibrant country we see today. So why sing about it at a football match in Bristol?

What next? A return to “No Surrender To The IRA”, perhaps? Now, I am no admirer, nor supporter, of Republican or for that matter Loyalist terrorism and I am at a complete loss to understand why this subject is so relevant to people who have paid good money to watch their team play football.

Do these people imagine that the image of Adolf Hitler or Gerry Adams will motivate their players to perform even better? Perhaps they could ask Nick Day to conduct a verse or two before the teams come out? Why bother with the Rocky theme? Let’s have a verse or two about 10 German Bombers. My idea is no less ridiculous than the decision of supporters to sing about them in the first place.

If the Gas are going to go up, then the players will be best assisted by supporters singing and chanting in support, not by singing about highly charged matters from yesteryear, especially when that yesteryear was 70-odd years ago.

Eclectic Blue

A May election for May?

No Comments 20 March 2017

“What do we want?”
“A general election!”
“When do we want it?”
“Not now, please. 2020 at the earliest.”

I know the final line doesn’t exactly fit in with the ones that preceded it, I have the feeling that most people feel like that. But there are indications that Theresa May is indeed thinking of going to the country long before the next scheduled election in 2020. Based on little evidence, I think there is a fair chance she will call an election for 4 May 2017.

If you were Theresa May, why wouldn’t you call an election now? She has a small parliamentary majority but a huge lead in the opinion polls. Yes, we know that polls can be wrong but when they are wrong they usually exaggerate Labour’s strength and in a campaign where, as the Observer’s Nick Cohen pointed out yesterday, their campaign would be led by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott I would expect that Labour’s share of the vote would plummet still further.

Calling an election would be a cynical and opportunistic move by May, but we should not be surprised by this for here is a woman who was, until 23 June 2016, a pro-European “remainer” who has magically morphed into a vociferous hard Brexiteer in the name of political expediency.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Conservatives would win and win “bigly”, as Donald Trump once put it. Scotland is lost to Labour for the foreseeable future, maybe forever, outside the big cities Labour is in serious trouble and these awkward realities are nothing when you add the pitiful state of party in parliament. No one outside Corbyn’s fan club believes he has a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming prime minister and virtually everyone outside it believes Labour will be obliterated whenever May goes to the country. May has one very good reason for striking early. Europe.

It is likely that next week, May will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty with the aim of imposing the hardest of Brexits on the country. Even the most anti EU campaigners accept that leaving the EU will be complex and messy and may well last longer than the two years provided. What better for the Tories to trigger Article 50, win a landslide election on 4 May 2017, which will give May an additional couple of years of wiggle room to try and sort out the mess that will ensue? The hope will be that the country will have stabilised by 2022 and she will win again. May has all the ammunition to call an election now:

– She could say she wants her own mandate having taken over from David Cameron without an election
– She could add that she wants a mandate from the public to vindicate her pursual of the hardest form of Brexit
– She could effectively destroy Labour and Ukip at a stroke and give the Tories decades of uncontested elections

What would you do?

Going to the country would also help the Tories plough on with their austerity agenda for at least an additional two years. Given that over 50% of George Osborne’s public spending cuts haven’t yet been implemented by May, she could get the worst aspects of the pain out of the way in the first couple of years of her new term in office. The Tories could flog off more of the NHS, especially to the big business friends of May’s new best friend, Donald Trump, they could take an ideological axe to everything about the public sector they hate so much, all with no opposition from the remnants of the Labour Party and cheer led by the right wing red top newspapers.

If you think Labour is divided now, just wait until you see what is coming down the road from the hard left Momentum group, led by Bennite Jon Lansman who are seeking to divide and destroy the Labour Party as we know it. They have now said as much. Anyway, the comrades of the hard left don’t want to win elections anyway: they prefer the purity of distant opposition, regardless of how this affects the very people they purport to support.

Nothing has changed my mind that Theresa May is hopelessly out of her depth as prime minister but she is almost Churchillian compared to the bumbling ineptitude of Labour’s woeful leader Jeremy Corbyn. He is so bad he makes her look good, an incredible feat.

I don’t know if May will go to the country but I have this sneaking feeling that when she triggers Article 50 she might also call a general election. I have a distant dream that somehow Labour might ditch Corbyn, and all the hard left comrades who surround him, and somehow become a party of meaningful opposition and eventually enter government. If May goes early to the polls, Labour takes a major, maybe the final, step to oblivion. Some people of the left might even welcome an early election to put them out of their misery because it might encourage the Labour Party to come to its senses. I don’t buy that, I’m afraid.

Only the Conservatives can win a general election now and in the foreseeable future. Why would May not want to get her own mandate and consign the opposition to the dustbin of history, if it isn’t there already? I’d like her to hang on until 2020, just in case. I can’t imagine why she’d want to.

Eclectic Blue

A tale of two cities

No Comments 19 March 2017

The Sunday Times reveals that Bristol is the best place to live in Britain. Whilst I think that in many ways, Bristol is a great place to live, this view of the city may not be shared by everyone who lives here. Bristol, adds Rupert Murdoch’s organ, is “Cool, classy and supremely creative.” It is? And if it is, in what way?

I drove through Lawrence Weston last week and Barton Hill the week before. Neither seemed excessively cool and classy to me. And wandering down our high streets taking in all the charity and pound shops makes me wonder just how far those who made the judgement about our fair city moved from Clifton in their research.

The Harbourside is of course a mighty triumph, the rebirth of a post seafaring world but remembering faithfully that which went before. A world class university attended by both of my working class sons who mingle with a majority of privately educated children from all round the country. In fact, Bristol University has more privately educated students than Cambridge – over 50% – which I suppose says a lot for the quality of the university and not much for the meritocracy we should surely desire.

Certainly in terms of transport, there is nothing cool and classy about our woeful public transport system, or the permanent gridlock which makes driving through the city impossibly miserable.

The Sunday Times gushes even more: “There are jobs – lots of them glamorous, creative, hi-tech and professional.” Well, yes: I am sure there are scores of youngsters all over Knowle West and Southmead just waiting to be snapped up by Aardman animation and all the fancy dan arts businesses in Clifton. The vast majority of working class kids are headed into dead end insecure minimum wage zero hour contract jobs. Don’t give me all that “glamorous, creative hi-tech and professional” crap. This is a report made in Clifton for Clifton, it is for the ever expanding takeover by high rent hipsters who are changing Bristol into a very different city.

Don’t mistake real Bristolians from the luvvies who frequent the trendy bars and restaurants because most of them are more likely to visit Greggs or McDonalds than the latest Vegan project.

Clifton Village still look great, the giant estates less so.”The city is a worthy winner,” says the Sunday Times, “thanks to its ideal combination of extraordinary culture, impressive schools, buzzing culinary scene, exciting redevelopment and community spirit.”

Bristol is two cities and this version bears no resemblance to the one I know. Colourful Cliftonwood could not be further away from my reality.

Eclectic Blue

Real life ain’t that way

No Comments 19 March 2017

It is the sense of entitlement of some, many, football supporters that is so unappealing about football. It is almost exclusively the province of The Big Clubs. Whereas supporters of so called smaller clubs want success, they also know their place and understand that success for them will be mere survival. Recent events at certain clubs have been perfectly revolting. For an example, I give you Arsenal.

Arsenal are rolling in money. They now own outright a huge stadium which is sold out for every game, despite eye-watering ticket prices. They always finish in the top four of the Premier League, guaranteeing Champions League football, and they win the odd Cup from time to time. Their owners, who continue to rake in millions, are happy with that and so, until recent years, have been the supporters. What’s changed?

Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal boss for at least 50 years, or at least it seems that way. He has been one of the prime movers in changing English football, not least by not rating English players and instead importing young Spanish and French boys. He has been a driver of sports science, of developing a certain type of passing football and of making a fortune for his owners. If your aim is to finish in the top four every season – and that’s very obviously been the height of ambition for Arsenal – please tell me where Wenger has gone wrong?

Listening to radio phone ins, seeing wealthy supporters hiring aeroplanes to fly flags in the sky calling for the manager to be axed and generally trying to get the man who made what their club the way it is to go, sacked has been utterly sick-making. And the sense of entitlement comes through. “We have a divine right to succeed”, “We’re a massive club” and “We deserve better than this”. The sheer, whining arrogance of it all. I can imagine some of the supporters crying into their Mojitos after the game. Nick Hornby could write a book about it.

We have the same thing in Bristol, albeit in miniature. Not with Rovers whose supporters are riding a wave of being better than we have been for years, but at The Big Club, the City, who, because they are owned by a billionaire tax exile, have the same sense of entitlement. “No manager is good enough for us, you see”. “We’re a Premier League club apart from on the pitch.” Actually, the latter is probably true but that gives no one a sense of entitlement. If your team is crap, then you are not in the lower reaches of the division for nothing, or in Arsenal’s case not in the top four.

I’m quite glad I support a club, Bristol Rovers, where expectations are lower, or rather more realistic. History has shown that we are probably where we are where we deserve to be and we know that, unlike the so called bigger clubs, Rovers are building through evolution. Long may it stay that way. I do not want to hear the radio ram-packed with callers from north of the river attacking the manager and owner for not speculating to accumulate (i.e. reckless gambling) or moaning about us not being in our rightful place.

There is nothing worse that football fans demanding better just because they feel they are a bigger and better club. Real life ain’t that way.

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