Eclectic Blue

Kick them out

No Comments 22 August 2017

I’ve done a piece on the return of racism to football in this week’s Bristol Rovers Eclectic Blue programme piece. We’ve recently had a few allegations of racism, the club has reacted quickly to condemn them and I have put the boot in. These are obviously not very bright people, the racists I mean, since one allegation of racism was directed at one of our own players. You could not make it up.

I don’t want to exaggerate the local problem too much since the incidents surrounded a small minority of people. I do not recall these same people shouting abuse at Barry Hayles, Jason Roberts and Devon White. Perhaps their pathetic racism was drowned out by those of us who saw these players as heroes, legends perhaps.

Issues of racism are not confined to a small third division football club like ours. Cricket, thanks to Geoffrey Boycott who said he might have been handed a knighthood if only he had “blacked up”, clearly is not immune from idiots. And the story of the Chelsea women’s player Eniola Aluko who has accused England manager Mark Sampson of racism doesn’t look good. If we thought the job to end racism was over in sport, we should think again.

The truth is that society has become more racist, not less, particularly since last year’s disastrous referendum in which Britain decided to leave Europe. Encouraged by a voracious media and cynical right wing populists like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, you could realistically suggest that actually sport does better in the fight against racism than politicians. Football takes a zero tolerance attitude to racism whilst many of our politicians stoke it up.

I am disgusted that a handful of cretins soil the name of our football club but I am proud that the vast majority of our supporters seek to uphold our good name.

If and when the miscreants are rounded up, ban them from the Memorial Stadium, let the CPS decide if there is a case to answer. Either way, they’re not wanted at our club.

Eclectic Blue

The country goes mad (again)

No Comments 21 August 2017

On 31st August, it will be 20 years since Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. I’m afraid that the country went completely mad when she died, with millions of people lining the streets to wave good-bye to someone they never knew and had never met, someone who, in the weeks before her death, was loathed by sections of the press for “gallivanting around the world with her Arab playboy Dodi Al Fayed” instead of being with her young sons, William and Harry. Many of us – maybe most of us – stood by bewildered as we were constantly told how the country was in mourning, that football matches must be postponed, how the royal family should be made to meet their public to show they cared. Believe me: you had to be there. Two decades on and it feels like we are heading that way again.

The newspapers today make grisly reading. “Diana didn’t love Dodi” screams the Sun. “Charles hit by Diana backlash”, says the Mail, adding that Prince Charles’ and Camilla’s popularity has slumped. The Mirror even offers a special Diana “pull-out”. Now, who is interested in this stuff? Well, quite a lot of people judging from the queue in my local Co-op this morning.

I cannot be bothered to read the “Diana didn’t love Dodi” story on the simple grounds that I don’t care and have never cared. Oddly enough, I always seem to have more interesting things to do, including watching paint dry and grass grow. I am sure I don’t want to know about whether Diana loved Dodi and I am sure there is nothing positive to be gained from publishing such a story, unless your aim is to make Diana’s surviving family suffer, especially her two sons. Yes, I know William and Harry live bizarre, unreal lives in the public gaze, but these non stories are about their mother, for goodness sake. Imagine, twenty years after the death of your own mother, reading speculation passing as news about her in the national press.

As for the declining popularity of Charles and Camilla – really? It could just be the narrow social group in which I exist, but my impression is that Charles is regarded as a weak-chinned, adulterous, interfering busybody and Camilla as the love of his life, with whom he committed said adultery. The idea of Charles becoming king is not a pleasant thought and maybe that’s why his mother is clinging on for as long as she can.

There will be plenty more of this in the weeks ahead. More pull-out specials in the papers, more TV specials and people who love the royals tut-tutting about the irresponsible media whilst at the same time buying said papers and watching said programmes.

I wish they’d let Diana rest in peace. She died, horribly, 20 years ago. Her sons have had to live with the consequences and the saturation media coverage ever since. Our relationship with royalty is almost, maybe it actually is, voyeurism and the media is facilitating the Peeping Tom in all of us.

I wish they’d allow the anniversary to pass quietly, respectfully but that doesn’t appear to be the British way. We need to know all the dirt, the scandal and the speculation, even if there is no substance to it. That, I’m afraid, says as much about the consumers than it does of those who provide the tittle-tattle. The Sun and the Mail represent the dregs of journalism but they only thrive because we encourage them. It’s our fault, really.

Eclectic Blue


No Comments 20 August 2017

If you are a human being, or anything approaching one, I do not know how you can live with yourself if you think that killing seven-year-old Julian Cadman was a good idea. Plainly, there are some people who do think it was a old idea in anticipation of going to paradise to impregnate however many virgins Allah can assemble to meet them. In which case, as Christopher Hitchens almost said, “I only wish there was a hell for them to go to”.

It did not require the intellectual equivalent of a rocket scientist to work out straight away that this little boy was not merely “missing” after the mass murder in Barcelona. The well-intentioned media, along with the not well-intentioned media, went to town on the “missing” angle which was either ill-judged or ill-considered. You choose. Facebook and twitter users shared the boy’s picture, hoping that somehow he had wandered off down some alleyway, perhaps, or was being cared for by a local citizen. At the same time, the boy’s family were being discreetly informed that one of the unidentified bodies was probably that of Julian Cadman.

There will come a time when we come to evaluate why apparently “normal” people turn into fanatical islamic fascists, what kind of lives they lead and how on earth they come to the conclusion that the mass murder and maiming of individuals will persuade the rest of us that, hey, maybe they have a point?

How utterly vacuous must your life be if you spend all your time putting together pound shop bombs to inflict damage on innocent people and when they accidentally blow up the house you were staying in and then decide to drive at high speed at innocent men, women and children? I regard the very idea of a religious state abhorrent, whether that’s christian, muslim or any other religion you can invent. I like the idea of a society in which all people are free to practice their own religion and where others are free to practice none.

There’s something very sad about the crazed lunatics who have caused such havoc in Spain and elsewhere. Is there really nothing good about the secular life that they might appreciate? Enjoy The Good Book if you want to, or The Bad Book if that’s how you look at it (I do) but do appreciate that there are other things out there which are as much fun; far more fun, in fact.

Julian Cadman was the ultimate innocent victim in this latest senseless atrocity. As a child, he had no quarrel, no issue, with anyone else in the world. His life has been taken, and his family’s lives have been ruined, by some of the saddest losers to have ever been born. If you believe in heaven or hell, you will know where the islamic fascists are headed. If you believe in neither, you will know that there are no virgins waiting in paradise. They will either become worm food or dust, just like all of us. Either way, the fascists haven’t won. In Nazi Germany, in Trump’s America and now with islamic fascists; it will end in bloody failure. It’s just a shame that so much of the blood will have belonged to the innocent.

Eclectic Blue

The slow death of test cricket

No Comments 20 August 2017

The former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan said that the rest of the current test match series against the West Indies will be “sad to watch”. Lucky, then, that cricket is tucked away on Sky Sports and hardly anyone is watching, eh?

Even though I have retained my Sky subscription, I rarely watch cricket. I know that the coverage is very good and in many ways has transformed the game. It’s just that international cricket doesn’t seem quite so relevant now that it has become minority viewing.

I know that the West Indies have been in serious, perhaps terminal, decline since their glory days of the 1980s. The deterioration does not appear to be cyclical. I saw glimpses of the latest three day test and the West Indies were more of a pub team than a serious international cricket team. I had only heard of one of their players – the fast bowler Roach – and that is hardly an encouragement to watch. It turned out the majority of the visiting team were unknowns for a very good reason: they weren’t very good.

What, pray, is the point of playing the West Indies anymore? Whilst cricket is in decline in this country, certainly in terms of participation, at the top end the game is strong. Our summer game is still played at many, if not most, private schools and they provide an increasing number of top flight players. I cannot remember the statistics, but I know that the chances of working class players making the England team have plummeted in recent years. England enjoy the hundreds of millions of pounds thrown at the game by Sky subscribers which is bound to have a major effect. When it comes to the West Indies and England, the teams are hardly playing on a level playing field. The largely white middle class crowds turn up, in contrast to the games of 30 years ago when West Indian supporters descended en masse on out test match grounds.

The increasing reality is that only in England do we pack grounds for test matches, regardless of who we are playing. This is clearly not the case everywhere, or even anywhere, else. Even Australia struggle to fill grounds unless England are visiting. Elsewhere, the really big crowds turn up for the 20/20 games and not much else.

Perhaps cricket’s return to terrestrial TV in 2020 might arrest the decline in interest and participation of cricket, although in terms of quality English cricket seems to be in a good place. It is hard to be optimistic about the likes of the West Indies given the near collapse in Caribbean test cricket and perhaps, given the likely evolution of the game, they might end up just playing limited overs cricket. Given the pitiful performance of the West Indies in the first test, that day can’t come soon enough.

Eclectic Blue

It takes all sorts

No Comments 19 August 2017

I was sorry to hear about the death of Bruce Forsyth, but it’s not the end of my world. I’m reading both tributes about his career and comments from those who hated him. All fair enough. If someone liked or hated Bruce when he was alive, it’s unlikely that will change now he has popped his clogs. I still hate Margaret Thatcher as much as I did when she was alive. Some things will never change.

Forsyth was arguably the greatest entertainer this country has ever produced. He made the Generation Game what it was, he brought Strictly Come Dancing to the top of the ratings pile. He could sing, he could dance, he could play the piano. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he had a great deal of talent. But no one says you have to like him.

I cannot abide the popular beat combo outfit Queen and find it incomprehensible that anyone could enjoy what passes for their music. Yet the remnants of the band can still fill any stadium in the world. I don’t think I am wrong about Queen, but I’m not right either. I know Brian May plays a mean guitar, I know Freddie Mercury could sing. They just did nothing for me, except wanting to switch them off.

Stories have emerged, as they always do when famous people die, that cast Forsyth in a dark light and in a good light. He was difficult, rude and superior but he was also generous, kind and thoughtful. Maybe he was all of these things, who knows? I am, unsurprisingly, not famous nor especially talented, but there are people who find me difficult and unpleasant. I’m hoping that’s not everyone but, depending on my mood, I know I am not the easiest person in the world to put up with. Maybe that’s the same with Bruce?

If Forsyth had been American, he’d have been up there with the likes of Sammy Davis Junior as a world famous star, filing up the venues in Vegas half the year and touring the rest of the world for the other half. But he was very English, to the point that I suspect the Americans didn’t quite get him.

It’s fair enough not to like Forsyth, although hate is a very strong word, especially for someone you’ve never met and know next to nothing about. He didn’t shut down British industry, starve the NHS of funds or persecute the sick and disabled. Hearsay and anecdotes in place of fact, never a good place.

He made me laugh, sometimes he made me cry. I happen to think he was best all round entertainer of the generations he bestrode, but then some people thought Victoria Wood was funny, so it takes all sorts to make the world go round.

Eclectic Blue

Music Shuffle #2 (18/8)

No Comments 18 August 2017

Self-indulgence personified, to take my mind away from the troubles in the world, I’m playing non-stop music this afternoon, so why shouldn’t I inflict some of it on you, by way of a second music shuffle of the day?

So, welcome back my friends to the show that never ends:

1. Sundown Sundown by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. A greatly underrated duo we Lee and Nancy. Sundown was so good they named it twice on this record.

2. Through With You by Maroon 5. From their first and still their best long player Songs About Jane. Gotta love pretty boy Adam.

3. Agent 00 Soul by Alex Harvey. The Sensational One doesn’t sound like himself on this one, which appears very early sixties, with just the slightest Scottish twang.

4. Bamako by Youssou N’Dour. From his wonderful Lion album, here the greatest Senegalese musician of them all sings about the capital of Mali.

5. Hold the Line by Toto. One of my very least favourite Toto tunes, barely rescued by Steve Lukather’s lead guitar and Jeff Porcaro’s stellar drumming.

6. Leaf and Stream by Wishbone Ash. One for the kids, here, a little Prog Rock from the Argus LP.

7. Colorado Song by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Wonderful southern country rock here sweet melodies and gorgeous harmonies. Thanks to the Old Grey Whistle Test for introducing me to the Ozarks around a thousand years ago.

8. No Le Metos Mano by Los Amigos Invisibles. From their brilliant Arepa 3000 album, Venezuela’s finest in action.

9. Times Like These by Jack Johnson. Some dual tracked vocals from our Jack from his LP On and On. Surprisingly nice.

10. Naked Eye by the Who. A bonus track on the 1995 reissue of the Who’s finest album Who’s Next.

That’s all, folks.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (18/8)

No Comments 18 August 2017

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. Despite public demand, it’s time to let loose the now obsolete iPod and set it to shuffle.

Live from my Man Cave, here is some random music.

1. Cabin Essence by the Beach Boys. This tune, originally written for the Smile album, first appeared on the Beach Boys 20/20 album. This version, from the Smile Sessions album, is as beautiful as it is weird, devoid of the entire vocal track.

2. (You Caught Me) Smilin’ by Sly and the Family Stone. From old Sly’s stellar and essential There’s a Riot Goin’ On record. Old school funk and soul.

3. Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip On me by James Taylor. Some elaborate blues from the Sweet Baby James album.

4. Sex Machine by James Brown. Not the version you might think, this comes from Tom Middleton’s brilliant record The Trip 2.

5. End of a Century by Blur. A superb live performance of a Blur classic.

6. Outstanding by the Gap Band. And it is.

7. Flight Tonight by the Avalanches. A moment of sheer wonder from the mighty Avalanches from the sublime Since I Left You record.

8. Night Song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. From their highly underrated American Dream record, this features Stephen Stills on lead vocals.

9. Saturday’s Child by the Monkees. From 1966, this was one of my favourite and most played tracks from their first album, the Monkees. A cracker, written by David Gates, he of Bread fame.

10. Barefoot Children by Jimmy Buffett. Buffett’s Barometer Soup album is a strange triumph of pop, country and Caribbean music.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

We’re not going to give in

No Comments 18 August 2017

Contrast the words of Lionel Messi with those of the Sun newspaper. First, Messi: “I want to send condolences and all my support to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible attack on our beloved Barcelona. We want to live in a world of peace, without hate and where people live together in respect and tolerance. We are more than them, and we’re not going to give in.” Then the Sun: “Barcelona Bastards”. I know the reaction that more closely resembles my own and it isn’t the one that comes from Rupert Murdoch’s sleazy organ.

Of course, there is going to be anger, and lots of it, at the heinous acts of psychopathic islamic fascists. We have, after all, been here many times before. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get it out of my head, the sight, yet again, of decent, ordinary people going about their lives being killed and maimed. And even though Barcelona is on the other side of Europe, it is curiously close to home. I know people who live and work in the area and many more who have visited the city, some recently. That’s when the “what ifs” begin. What if my friends had been there, what if they had been caught up in it, what if…let’s not go there.

A three year old girl has perished in this senseless terrorist act. A three year old girl. The Islamic State fanatics would certainly know that their barbaric act would kill innocents and there could be young children amongst them. And they still did it. Perhaps the Sun was right after all?

I prefer Lionel Messi’s calm and measured comments. They capture the madness, they capture the distress, they capture our unwillingness to be cowed by fascists who want to change the way we live our lives, the capture our determination to continue to be free. And it shows we are better than these pitiful little men, whose empty worthless lives and whose names will soon be forgotten, deservedly so.

There is a place for anger, of course there is. But there is a place for humanity too. The populist Sun can swear angrily and the rest of us can show our love and determination to carry on. As ever, I suppose I only wish there was a hell for them to go to.

Eclectic Blue

A public service announcement

No Comments 17 August 2017

To my loyal reader,

Please note that all opinions on this blog, even the sensible ones, are mine and mine only and have nothing whatsoever to my Bristol Rovers programme column of the same name and certainly nothing to do with the Rovers, so please don’t bother them about it.

Many thanks!

Eclectic Blue

Blood lines

No Comments 17 August 2017

I wonder what my paternal grandfather would have made of Britain today. He died in 1994, well into his nineties, having come to Britain as a young boy from Norway to work well into his seventies, in a working life that saw him never take a day’s sick leave. Similarly, my mother, who came to Britain in the 1950s from the Netherlands to marry my father, who worked until she dropped, almost literally, again never taking a day’s sick leave. Britain welcomed them and they repaid that welcome many times over as they worked hard and played fair. In Britain today, I have the feeling that neither of them would be welcome.

Because I am a mongrel, with more “foreign” blood than British, I suspect I feel the current antagonism and even hatred for foreigners more than most. I am proud of my Norwegian and Dutch heritage, both of which define me as a citizen of the world, as well as a proud Englishman. Theresa May has decreed that as I am a citizen of the world, I am a citizen of nowhere. Sadly, so many people seem to agree with her.

I went out for a social evening last night, which included those of Irish, Ukrainian, Scottish, Norwegian and Dutch extraction, as well as someone who is an immigrant to another country, France. I can honestly say that I really don’t care where someone comes from so long as they accept the rule of law, adapt to the culture of a country and demand no special privileges. For the life of me, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way. Just because someone comes from, say, Poland or Germany, doesn’t make them any different to me, apart from speaking a different language. And anyway, like my grandfather and mother, they usually speak better English than we do.

Now, the country is “going to the dogs” because European people are coming to work in the UK, often to do the shit jobs Brits don’t want to do, to bring particular skills and/or to fill gaps in the employment market. I am no economist – far from it – but for the life of me, I can’t see the objections. Does it really matter if the person in Costa who prepares your Latte is from Spain? Do you honestly fret if your cancer surgeon is French? And are you appalled when the bloke who cleans your car is not British by birth, or in any other way? What is the difference between any of us? The language we speak? Is that all?

Our increasingly chaotic departure from the EU, founded in part by widespread public opposition to immigration, has stoked up anger that threatens to grow out of control. The hard right, led by the likes of Nigel Farage, has exploited societal divisions that still threaten to boil over. In the wake of last year’s EU referendum, there was a major spike in racist hate crimes and it is not a coincidence that the purveyors of hate have a message that is getting through. We mock and condemn Donald Trump for his extreme right wing rhetoric but his allies include the aforementioned Farage and that large section of the Tory Party that wants to cut us off from the rest of the world.

My mother’s ashes were left at South Bristol crematorium in 1999, my grandfather’s were scattered at Battery Point in Portishead, where they were joined in 2011 by my father’s. I am wondering whether, given the sad slide of this country into bigotry and xenophobia that perhaps the government should launch a search for their ashes and seek to repatriate them. “Bloody dead foreign people, having their ashes scattered all over the place: who do they think they are? Send them home now. Bloody dead parasites, hogging spaces where the ashes of dead British people could be scattered.”

My grandfather was a good man who always worked and never claimed benefits. My mother was a good woman who always worked and never claimed benefits. Both became loyal British subjects, even though my mother kept her Dutch accent until her dying day. As we turn into Little Britain and eventually Little England as the country breaks apart, I fear for the future. It used to be black people and Asian people who were regarded as unwanted by many but now it’s everyone who is a foreigner and perhaps even their children. We know, from history, what happens if we leave things unchecked. My fear is that as we turn inward and raise the drawbridge to Europe and the rest of the world, the hatred that has been fomented by hard (and not so hard) right wing politicians and their populist allies in the media.

Does it really matter than my blood is only 3/8ths British? I’m afraid to say that to many people in our divided country, it probably does.

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