Eclectic Blue

Enter the spoon bender

No Comments 23 March 2019

The best news of the day is that Uri Geller is going to stop Brexit. He has written to Theresa May and told her: “I feel psychically and very strongly that most British people do not want Brexit. I love you very much but I will not allow you to lead Britain into Brexit. As much as I admire you, I will stop you telepathically from doing this – and believe me I am capable of executing it.” This, as Marina Hyde puts it, changes everything.

There are a few drawbacks though which Uri will have to overcome. Firstly, the world of the psychic is not real. There is no spirit world, no one can talk to people who are dead because they are dead. I’m sure you can see the problem here. And telepathy, like the psychic world, is totally made up.

Our Uri made his living by bending spoons using his non existent psychic powers. He bent them because he is an illusionist. The great James Randi, who has spent a lifetime exposing the the frauds of the spirit world can do it. So can all manner of illusionists and magicians. It ain’t rocket science. In fact, it ain’t science at all.

However, if in the unlikely event it turns out Uri really does have psychic ability, the country can be saved from Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Brexit. He is using the power of his mind to ensure that, “Jeremy Corbyn never gets the keys to Number 10 Downing Street”. Presumably by bending them?

We needed a story like this. Britain is the laughing stock of the world thanks to Brexit. The presence of a shyster and huckster like Uri Geller merely adds to the farce.

Eclectic Blue

Another way

No Comments 23 March 2019

Unlike Tom Watson and many millions of others, I am still not persuaded of the merits of holding a second referendum on leaving or remaining in the EU. Given that I know that any form of Brexit will make the country worse off over time and moreover that it will impact more on those who have least, I am well aware of a contradiction here. I know Brexit will make people worse off, so why do I remain unconvinced about putting the whole thing back to the people? It’s hard.

Do I respect the result of the 2016 referendum? Yes, but with a number of heavy qualifications. The leave campaigns lied and cheated their way to victory. Police investigations are underway to establish whether there was any criminal activity. And was ‘dark money’ involved? Was there Russian interference? Of course, I don’t know. My suspicions are probably not enough to justify another national vote.

The actual result of the referendum, which was very close, followed by a general election a year later when Theresa May squandered her majority in an attempt to impose a hard Brexit on the country, should surely have been enough for compromise. May could and should have reached out and come up with a plan, a kind of Norway Plus, or Common Market 2.0, which would have been acceptable to large swathes of the electorate. Brexit would be an afterthought on the daily news, not the headline every single day. Not everyone would be entirely happy but I’d wager the country was not as broken, as bitterly divided as it is today. May reacted as if nothing had changed and carried on regardless with her hard Brexit, handing a series of red lines to the EU, all of which they agreed to, and giving us the only deal they could: a very bad one. A very bad one, let’s remember, that May asked for.

My heart is with the million plus people who will march on London today. I expect I agree with everything they are marching for. I believe passionately in free movement, in the single market, in a customs union; in short a common market. During these dangerous times, a hideously divided Europe benefits no one except its enemies who of course include Russia and – incredibly – Trump’s America. And yet.

And yet I cannot bring myself to commit for a second vote, not yet anyway. Not for the cynical reasons Jeremy Corbyn avoids the subject – he is, after all, anti-EU and always has been – but because of something far less tangible. It doesn’t feel right. I know, too, that Brexit is the project of wealthy right wing, small state, low tax English nationalists who would adopt a scorched earth policy towards our great institutions like the NHS in a heartbeat and they have used their wealth and influence to get the result they want.

I truly hate the way things are going in the United Kingdom, which if Brexit goes ahead in its current form, or perhaps any form at all, won’t be a United Kingdom at all. I hate the hatred, the bigotry, the racism and xenophobia Brexit has inflicted upon us. At a time when we needed political giants, we ended up with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, surely the worst PM and opposition ‘leader’ ever, at the same time. If you had wanted to sabotage the country, you could not have done better than to ask May and Corbyn to do your bidding.

Perhaps, eventually, we will need a people’s vote to end the deadlock and to save the country. I am quite sure that in the years ahead we will come to deeply regret the decision to leave Europe and seek to rejoin. I certainly hope so. In the meantime, Norway Plus has to be the option to put out the fire, at least for the time being. Then the leavers get the Brexit they want and the rest of us have successfully sought to limit the damage a hard Brexit would bring.

I certainly wish Brexit would stop and we could get on with the rest of our lives. Only an exit from Brexit can do that because Brexit will drag on for years, perhaps decades, to come as we seek to negotiate agreements with the rest of the world, many of which will give be on terms worse than we currently enjoy. Even my preferred option will mean things dragging on and on.

Boris Johnson didn’t mention on his bus that Brexit would take a decade or longer to sort out. The withdrawal agreement is the easy bit. But we have made our bed and we now have to lie on it, as comfortably as we can manage.

Finally, we owe it to ourselves and the next generation to establish how we got into this position and whether there was any lawbreaking involved. As well as police action, I would like to see a fully independent public inquiry take place. If there was irrefutable evidence of serious wrongdoing a further referendum might be needed. That’s for another day. For this day, we should seek to minimise the damage of Brexit and somehow try to bring our country back together. I fear though that we could be too far gone.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (22/3/19)

No Comments 22 March 2019

And now we go live to my Man Cave to listen to some music. Every week, for no obvious reason, I shuffle my music collection and tell you which ten songs came up.

So welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

  1. Shake and Pop by Nick Lowe. Classic British rock from Nick’s classic album Jesus of Cool.
  2. All In by Flying Lotus. From the wonderful Until the Quiet Comes long player, here’s some simply great electronica music.
  3. Comin’ Home Baby by Mel Torme. A lush, jazzy style beauty from the great Melvin.
  4. Home Lovin’ Man by Andy Williams. My very favourite Williams tune, written by those brilliant Brits by and Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway and Tony Macauley. The lyrics are beautiful and evocative and make me think of my dad.
  5. L.A. Woman by the Doors. Although Jim Morrison was not a very nice person, he nonetheless made some great records and this was one of them.
  6. Spirits Drifting by Brian Eno. Former Roxy man with a tune from his excellent Another Green World album.
  7. Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen. This is simply great, even by his epic standards. From Born To Run.
  8. How About by Della Reese. A song I didn’t even know I had. I won’t have it for much longer.
  9. Overjoyed by Steve Wonder. Pretty much perfect.
  10. Jazzman by Carole King. This is perfect.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Ban the band

No Comments 22 March 2019

Can I just say a word or two about the England band? I was at the England v Poland Under 21 game last night at Ashton Gate. Unbeknown to me, my son and I had tickets for the South Stand (formerly the East End (?)) and it soon dawned us that we were about 20 yards away from the England band.

I had heard, and been massively irritated by, the England band for many years. They consist of three men with brass instruments and one with a big fat drum. They play the instruments constantly throughout the entire game, churning out the same old songs time after time after time. Apparently, they are there to help create atmosphere. In reality, they completely drown out the atmosphere. You could barely concentrate on the game, so incessant were the repetitive dirges.

By half time, I had had enough. I complained to the very helpful steward who told me the England band was nothing to do with Bristol City. They were employed by the FA. I demanded to be moved. The steward happily agreed and we went to the other side of the stadium. We were away from the tinnitus inducing row but you could still hear it, on and on and on.

Some people, mainly young children, clapped and sang along, which I found utterly depressing. They played constantly throughout the game, ramping up the noise for corners and free kicks. I hated it. Now, I knew at first hand, how ghastly the England band were.

I tweeted the FA and had several favourable replies. However, the best one, which was not favourable, read ‘Let’s all sit in silence and not get behind our country good one’. If he genuinely thought that you needed the presence of a dire brass band in order to enthuse people to get behind their country’s football team, I would suggest he had never before attended a football match in his life.

All right, I am old fashioned and old school. I happen to believe the passion of supporters comes from within, whether it is for their club or country. I don’t think you need some knob with a big drum to literally drum up support. I’d have merrily shoved their instruments up their rear ends, given half an opportunity.

My message to the FA is simple: ban the band. It’s a football match not a fucking circus.

Eclectic Blue

I am on your side.

No Comments 21 March 2019

(Picture from Sky News.)

“I am on your side,” says Theresa May.

To future generations who will lose the right to live, love, study, work, travel and retire in Europe, “I am on your side”.

To the million people using food banks, “I am on your side.”

To the increasing numbers of people, including children and ex service personnel, who are homeless and sleeping rough, “I am on your side.”

To the sick and disabled who have been under constant attack by her government for the best part of a decade, “I am on your side.”

To the people of Northern Ireland who fear a return to ‘the troubles’ due to her recklessness, “I am on your side.”

To those who have suffered as a result of the epidemic of knife crime that has occurred on her watch during her time as home secretary and prime minister, not least due to savage cuts in police numbers, “I am on your side.”

To those on ever increasingly waiting lists, due to government underfunding of the NHS, “I am on your side.”

To our teachers, parents and pupils, having to deal with the crisis in school funding, “I am on your side.”

To the old and infirm who do not get the social care they need and deserve, “I am on your side.”

To our country, which faces a bleak, uncertain future, thanks to her breathtaking incompetence and pig-headedness, a country is already a laughing stock throughout the world, “I am on your side.”

Eclectic Blue

No Jeremy Corbyn

No Comments 20 March 2019

You could barely make this stuff up. This evening, opposition leaders met in parliament to try and piece together some kind of compromise over Brexit. That’s what you’d expect politicians to do. Unless your name is Jeremy Corbyn. Because among the opposition leaders was Chuka Umunna, the spokesman of the Independent Group (TIG). Corbyn angrily stomped out, not to return.

TIG was formed because the two main parties were letting the country down. The Tories, lurching insanely to the right, led not by the prime minister but crazed right wing small state English nationalists and Labour, steaming off to the far left, led by disaster socialists who, let’s be honest about this, really want a no deal Brexit in order to usher in a far left Labour government to introduce pure socialism in one country. Extremists who meet on the fringes, both supporting Brexit, any Brexit, but preferably a very hard Brexit. The TIG was the voice of reason, of moderation, of the centre. Corbyn, who told us he believed in a kindler, gentler politics, showed his true colours. As Lib Dem leader Vince Cable put it, Corbyn did not want to breathe the same air as Umunna.

Corbyn obviously sees Umunna as a wrong ‘un, some kind of traitor, perhaps. Moreover, he probably thinks, as the tribal purist he is, he cannot possibly deal with him. Which tells you a lot about Corbyn.

Labour’s leader is not usually so picky with who he speaks to. He had no problem speaking with IRA terrorists ad their leaders, inviting them as he did to parliament. He has friends in Hezbollah and Hamas. He laid a wreath in Tunisia to honour those who castrated and murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He counts anti-Semites as his friends. His head honcho Seumas Milne is an out and out Stalinist and Stalin was of the worst mass murderers in history. But Corbyn can’t meet elected politicians in the national interest, with the country about to go off a cliff, because he won’t be in the same room as Chuka Umunna, a man whose only ‘crime’ was to leave a party that has lurched to the far left. The leader of the opposition, I ask you.

Theresa May is the worst prime minister ever. She is hopelessly out of her depth, woefully incompetent and on her watch the country is on its way to hell in a handcart. What does Jeremy Corbyn do? He puts his own politics ahead of the national interest. Corbyn and May are a disgrace to politics and worse than that a disgrace to their country.

The country lies broken because our politics is broken. Those who hold power in the main parties follow their own agendas whilst the country goes to the dogs, a laughing stock around the world, begging the EU to give us more time to hang ourselves. They could be forgiven for not giving us more rope.

History will look back on the Corbyn era in the Labour Party in a sense of utter disbelief. How on earth did a once proud party get into this mess? The answer is Labour elected Jeremy Corbyn to lead it, a man happier in the company of Gerry Adams than Chuka Umunna. And that, dear reader, is why Labour is in the mess it is today and why the most divided Tory party of all time still leads in the polls.

Eclectic Blue

I want it all (for free)

No Comments 20 March 2019

My loyal reader will be familiar with my obsessive insistence to buy new music, as opposed to stealing new music. For information, I regard streaming music, which is perfectly legal, as stealing, which isn’t. I do understand the apparent contradiction in what I have written. I suspect I am railing against the dying of the light in an age where people want everything for nothing. I’m not going to stop, though.

I read a tweet a few months ago where the great David Crosby, he of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, set out in black and white just how much money he was making from the various streaming companies. It is not surprising that at the age of 77 he is still on the road because it is the only way he can make money. A million plays on streaming sites earned him a pathetic $5 last year.

Things are different these days. The nearest we got to streaming when I was a kid was taping the charts off Radio One and given it was next to impossible to avoid recording the DJ talking through the intro and before the end the finished product was a pain in the arse to listen to. In any event, I always bought music as well as listening to the radio. I like to own my music.

As I have already noted, no one wants to pay for anything these days. As well as music, countless thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, choose not to pay exorbitant fees to Sky, BT and Virgin to watch their sports channels and get their fix from illegal sites. This is partly down to the prices charged by TV companies and it’s more than partly down to people not wanting to pay anything at all.

Crosby is not the only artist who is out on the road far more than he ought to be for a man of his age. In fact, artists of all ages are out and about because that’s where the money is. And for Premier League artists, there’s a lot of money, too. That’s part of the problem.

Less famous and younger artists have greater problems than ever. Where the giants can rake in plenty of dough through live shows, smaller acts can neither make money through making music or playing it life. You would be surprised just how many bands these days also have proper day jobs.

By stealing music, we are effectively narrowing the choice of music we can listen to in the long term and live shows will be more of the touring jukebox type than anything vaguely cutting edge. That’s fine for the baby boomers who like things like they used to be and don’t like anything new. For people, especially young and talented artists, it’s a disaster.

Eclectic Blue

Two out of five is bad

No Comments 19 March 2019

I read in the Huffington Post that two in every five men in England, Scotland and Wales aged 20-59 do not seek support (for mental ill health) when they need it. The survey on which the story is based was carried out by the Samaritans who know a thing or two about mental health issues. It reveals, unsurprisingly, that men don’t want to be a burden or feel their issues will be understood. They’re right to feel that way.

One reason they don’t seek support is because there’s very little of it out there. In my local area, the waiting list for mental health therapies is between six and fourteen months. My wait was at the latter end and even then I had to travel regularly halfway across Bristol to receive it. I was, I suppose, lucky because I have a car and I work part time and it was relatively simple to accommodate my needs in order to have treatment. I know of countless stories where people have not been so fortunate.

It is far easier to simply withdraw from life or many aspects of it, to prefer to stay at home, often alone, at a place in which you feel safe. People say you should engage more socially, to exercise more, to look after yourself better in terms of food and drink; just get out more. Your mentally ill person knows all that. However, because depression is an illness and not just a passing thought, he cannot bring himself to do any of these things. He cannot conclude that he needs the exercise and so attend a gym if his legs feel like lead and his brain feels like paper mache. Imagine telling someone who had cancer to just get better and think how stupid that might sound.

The reality for most men who are struggling is a trip to a busy GP – always assuming you can get an appointment – and find yourself prescribed drugs which you fear you will be on for life. Depending on where you live – that postcode lottery, again – you might be offered a mental health assessment before you go on a waiting list. Unless your condition is observed to be life-threatening, you can be sure drugs will be your first option. I know people who have been on anti-depressants for years and have completely given up on the idea they might one day receive mental health therapy. When they feel worse, they get a higher does of drugs.

Situation hopeless, in my opinion. Only a handful of MPs appear to give a toss, among them the Lib Dem Norman Lamb and the excellent Luciana Berger, who was recently bullied out of the Labour Party by vile anti-Semites. The rest are consumed by Brexit or personal ambition, sometimes both. The promises by Theresa May to treat mental health equally with physical health were, as ever, nothing more than empty soundbites, as you would expect from a here today, gone tomorrow third rate politician.

Men will continue to self-harm and even kill themselves and a blinkered nation looks straight ahead as if to say “Pull yourself together”. In the 21st century it is wise not to fall ill with mental health conditions. For most of the time, you are still on your own.

Footnote: I am aware that this blog is all about men. Women too suffer from mental illness. I promise I have not forgotten you.

Eclectic Blue

Diversity means diversity

No Comments 18 March 2019

(I can do meaningless slogan headlines, too.)

I have the utmost respect for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern. Living in the UK, where we have literally nothing and no one by way of national leadership, her swift, intelligent and compassionate response to the mass murders in Christchurch has reminded us of what we’re missing. And then she goes and spoils it all by doing something stupid like wearing a hijab.

I started to write something like this earlier today but I somehow managed to persuade myself that unity was everything in the face of evil terrorism and so it is. However, I have to be honest to myself and, more importantly, to the millions of women all over the world for whom the hijab is a symbol of oppression.

I can see why Ms Ardern wore the hijab, certainly in terms of symbolism. She is expressing loyalty and unity with muslims. Okay, fair enough. However, these muslims live in New Zealand, a country which is more secular than most, a country where just over 1% of the population calls itself muslim and 42% of the population have no religion at all. In so called muslim countries, most of which do not appear to be particularly democratic, women are obliged, forced and even threatened in order to wear the hijab.

None of this is to decry muslims, or any other religious groups. Whilst I do not respect any religion – you have to learn respect in my book and no religion has earned it in my eyes – I respect the right of people to worship the god of their choice, provided it has no impact whatsoever on my life in particular and the rest of the country in general. And in New Zealand, nearly 99% of the population is not part of a religion that demands hijabs.

It is a nonsense to see a non muslim wearing so called muslim clothes and if we are really going to celebrate diversity, we should be able to wear what we want and not conform to wearing religious items of any religion at all. And that includes well-meaning but misguided politicians, too.

Eclectic Blue

Review: the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

No Comments 17 March 2019

I’ve now watched the first two episodes of the Netflix series The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The first was absolutely dire, stuffed with time-filling padding, the second considerably better, which does not mean that much. I watched it for a number of reasons hoping I might learn more about Madeleine’s disappearance (I didn’t) and because we were barely 40 yards away from THAT apartment during our holiday in Praia da Luz last September. Despite my qualifications, I enjoyed it.

The padding was ludicrous at times, though not surprising since the McCann’s refused to have anything to do with the programme. We met numerous ‘tourists’ who had nothing of interest to say, ex pats (they are only migrants if they come to the UK, not leave it) and journalists.

We were told how local man Robert Murat was arrested as a suspect and he was presented as a dodgy sort of bloke. When he was interviewed for this show, he came across as very reasonable. The oddest thing is that he became a suspect seemingly on the grounds that he was a bit unusual and lived nearby. There was, so far as we could tell, literally no evidence to suggest he had done anything at all.

And there was criticism of the police, much of it justified. Or maybe it wasn’t. Once the police were, it seemed, shamed into action, they went here, there and everywhere, shooting fish in a barrel. No intelligence led investigations, probably because there was no intelligence.

The McCanns themselves came across as they are. Obviously, I pity them the loss of their daughter – who wouldn’t? – but however hard I tried, I could not warm to them. Whether it was their aloof, offhand nature, which could be (mis?) interpreted as arrogance or their bizarre religious fanaticism (all those years of praying and the Pope’s intervention have come to nought) or simply that they are a very rich family who were utterly irresponsible with regard to their children.

I know the former Tapas bar well and I know where it is in relation to the apartment in which they left their children, as did their fellow affluent professional friends. They left their children unattended about 60 yards away as the crow flies and about 100 yards away on foot, in an apartment right by two roads and barely in view from the bar area. Is this normal behaviour?

A local British journalist who reported on the disappearance suggested it was. Apparently, everyone went out on the lash, leaving their infant children on their own. He certainly did. It could just be me and the company I keep, but we never, ever did that when our children were young. When we went on holiday, our children were always with us. And why? Because they were children. The holiday was not an excuse to abandon them to our own devices for a pie and a pint, or of course a selection of Tapas. If we had to return to our apartment early because the children were tired, that’s what we did.

I hear people who have children saying, “I just can’t watch it.” Well, why not? I suppose if you are the sort who go on holiday, put the kids to bed and slip out to paint the town red, it might set off a few alarm bells. It might, if you were desperately unlucky, as well as reckless, end up in tragedy, as happened in Luz. If you are not, the only reason for not watching is because it’s probably not the best documentary series ever.

The McCann’s were unlucky. They took a punt, perhaps without realising it, that they would probably get away with leaving their children unattended whilst they enjoyed a few glasses of wine and some grub. Then, whatever happened, happened and they were thrust in the public spotlight forever.

Their pained expressions in the historic footage betrays their pain at losing their daughter. It must also express their guilt, knowing as they must that their daughter’s disappearance happened because of their own actions. If the children had been slumbering in their push chairs in that Tapas bar, they’d still have three of them today.

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