Eclectic Blue

Still Cross

Comments Off on Still Cross 11 March 2018

At least Bono has had the good grace to apologise after serious allegations were made about bullying and abuse at his charity One. The lead singer of the Irish popular beat combo outfit U2 acted when it became clear that former employees sought to take legal action against the charity. Worth a mere $600 million, I suppose Bono could deal with most types of problems that come his way. I am no fan of the man himself but I do respect someone who is big enough to say sorry. The British Red Cross has not managed to apologise to me, yet.

I have blogged before about the bullying and abuse I received from Red Cross employees and I am now in receipt of the report of their investigation in which they have concluded that the bullying and abuse never happened, that I must have imagined the mental breakdown it caused and that I must be a liar. It is my word against theirs, which is always a difficult proposition for the little guy (me) who is up against the huge wealthy international corporation (them) but here’s another thing: they conducted an investigation without interviewing me, without inviting me to provide evidence, without me being able to give my point of view. Some investigation.

If, like Bono’s charity, the Red Cross had made a simple apology and acknowledged the appalling behaviour of some of their staff, I could have moved on, but they could not bring themselves to do that. Fabulously rich, this worldwide humanitarian organisation would have access to the finest legal minds money could buy, I doubt I could even afford half an hour of legal advice from a local solicitor.

So my fight goes on, albeit at a very low level. I will be more of an irritating, buzzy fly than a serious threat. But I am not giving up. Red Cross CEO Mike Adamson (salary circa £180k per annum) has not even bothered to reply to my correspondence to date, plainly hoping I will go away so perhaps it’s time for me to write to the Red Cross’s corporate sponsors and ask their opinions.

Bullying is bullying, regardless as to whether it’s sexual abuse at Oxfam or bullying and abuse at the Red Cross. Both have to be challenged and I am not giving up a least until they say sorry.

Eclectic Blue

When left and right unite in hate

Comments Off on When left and right unite in hate 10 March 2018

Hey kids: look at the first line of this article from the Politics Home website: Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit will put a stop to firms “importing cheap labour” to undercut the wages of UK workers. What do you think of that, then? Now pay attention. That’s you, the hipster kids at “Glasto” last year, calling out the name of this dinosaur from a time when Labour was completely unelectable. The Corbyn cult following adores a politician who echoes the words of Nigel Farage.

It is a matter of absolute fact that migrants have not undercut the wages of British workers. Migrants contribute to the British economy on a massive plus scale. Despite the great illusion perpetrated by the voices of hate and ignorance, people come to work here, to contribute. Like Ukip, the allegedly acceptable party of the far right, Labour’s leader doesn’t want those wretched foreigners coming here.

This “decent, principled pensioner”, who has never had an original idea in his life has another agenda. He wants us out of the EU, just like Farage, just like Johnson, just like Putin, just like Trump. He sees the EU as an obstacle to achieving socialism in one country. You know, like in Venezuela and Cuba. And this “decent, principled pensioner” is happy to use the language of the the extreme right, that migrants are little better than vermin, in order to get what he wants.

“Oh, he didn’t actually say that,” his apologists will argue. He likes foreign people. Some of his best friends are foreigners. Except when they’re jews, of course. Labour has an even bigger problem with jews. The people’s party will presumably be admitting Paul Golding to its membership once his prison sentence has expired, although wait a minute: Golding sounds a very jewish name.

Overreaction? Me? I don’t care. Angry? Just a bit. I joined the Labour Party in the 1970s when it was being taken over by the same type of people, the far left, paving the way for 18 damaging years of Thatcherism. And did they care? Did they fuck. The spiritual leader back then, as it remains today long after his death, was the dreamer Tony Benn, who dealt in little more than simplistic rhetoric. Corbyn is reheated Bennism but without the depth of thinking and even less principles.

Blame the foreigner. Whoever thought Labour would echo the words and deeds of Britain First? Well, I did.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Jukebox (9/3/18)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Jukebox (9/3/18) 09 March 2018

Thank fuck it’s Friday.

I’m back in my Man Cave to spin some discs (sort of) on my elderly iPod.

Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends!

1. I Went To Sleep (Acapella version) by the Beach Boys. Perfect harmonies.

2. Wild Mountain Time by Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band. From his most recent record Adios Señor Pussycat, here’s Britain’s most underrated singer/songwriter

3. Sand by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Incredible duo, truly great music.

4. Other Way by Weezer. Weezer still at the top of my bucket list, a cracker from the Make Believe record.

5. Reptiles by Them Crooked Vultures. More than slightly bonkers from Joshua, David and John Paul but great nonetheless.

6. Don’t Break My Heart by UB40. Not impressed to find this on my iTunes. Suppose it’s okay.

7. Here Come The Nice by the Small Faces. The mighty Steve Marriott. Legend.

8. Don’t Let It Pass You By by UB40. One UB40 tune is usually one too many. Still…

9. Romeo by Basement Jaxx. Lush.

10. Feudin’ by Poco. Nice jingly jangly country stuff from Timothy B Schmidt’s chaps.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Not a threat

Comments Off on Not a threat 09 March 2018

By an astonishing coincidence, the day after the British Red Cross informed me that I had in fact imagined the bullying and abuse that first caused me a mental breakdown in 2017 and which forced me to resign from their service I attended my latest mental health assessment. Despite that I had barely slept last night – not the first time my sleep patterns have been wrecked by the charity which laughably call itself the organisation which “refuses to ignore people in crisis” – my assessment was almost enjoyable.

My assessor was a highly professional, yet very warm, individual who immediately made me feel at ease. I was able to explain both my long term mental health issues and those brought about by the bullies and abusers described above. I am and I am not comfortable talking about some aspects of this. I am comfortable talking about what happened to me because I don’t tell lies and I am not comfortable because there are people who do and appear to have no compunction in so doing. I am slightly uncomfortable too in that I know it’s my word against someone else’s. I explained that I was the little man up against a corporate giant disguised as a humanitarian organisation and people might either disbelieve me or wonder how on earth I could be telling the truth.

So, it all begins in April. More, as yet undefined, mental health treatment which could make a difference. I’d like to thank my friends and family for supporting me and keeping me sane. Those who know me well know that I have not made up this Red Cross malarkey. They chewed me up, spat me out and then called me a liar. A year since most of it happened, one mental breakdown later, I am fighting on and their refusal to apologise just means I am going to carry on until they do. This isn’t a threat: it’s a promise.

Eclectic Blue

Six million holes in Bristol

Comments Off on Six million holes in Bristol 08 March 2018

I was not exactly staggered to read the report from the RAC that Britain’s roads are more riddled with pot holes than ever following last week’s brief winter episode. Anyone who drives around Bristol these days takes their life, not to mention their MOT certificate, in their hands. However, I’d describe most of these holes as craters rather than pot holes.

This is where I get fed up with politicians who at times like these remind us that they tell us what to do rather than the other way round. Our government employs the same strategy as most governments by telling us how they feel our pain – presumably their chauffeur-driven ministerial cars feel it on their behalf – by apparently spending “record sums” on roads. Wow: that sounds a lot. What does it mean? “We know road surfaces are a concern for all road users and that is why we are providing local highway authorities in England, with just under £6bn to help improve the condition of our local highway networks.” You are? What does that mean? It gets better: “We are also giving local authorities a record £296m through the pothole action fund – that’s enough to fix just under six million potholes.” Yes, yes, but…

This is what Theresa May does for a living, trots out massive figures and assumes we will all be impressed. As few of us are experts on what the figures mean, the idea is we just shut up. “Good old Theresa,” we shall announce to our fellow customers at Kwik Fit, trying to get our punctures repaired. “She’s giving the council “record sums”. We all smile and nod, gratefully.

If there are four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, there must be more than six million potholes in Bristol. In fact, driving home from Frenchay, I counted at least five million before I arrived at Tesco. Furthermore, I do not expect many of them to repaired anytime soon.

We hear this all the time. “We are spending more money than ever before on everything,” say governments. “Which is why we are cutting back on public spending.” This is how you eliminate the financial deficit by at the same time doubling the national debt. No wonder why we don’t understand anything.

Us poor bloody motorists pay an absolute fortune in direct and indirect motoring taxes. I know they are just taxes and are not supposed to be earmarked for any specific purpose but I would love to believe, which I don’t, that a substantial sum from our tax burden makes our roads a little less bumpy. I suspect that the “record £296m through the pothole action fund” is 296 million parts of fuck all in the grand scheme of things and once again we’re being had over by a government that doesn’t give a toss.

Eclectic Blue

My friend the NME

Comments Off on My friend the NME 07 March 2018

Writing for the NME would have been a dream job for me. I loved to write, I loved music even more. What a job that could have been. Someone from my school, Julie Burchill, did get to work there. But I wasn’t writing too much back then. Certainly not as much as Danny Baker and Charles Shaar Murray.

Yes, a lot of NME writers – not necessarily all the above – were up their own arses, writing flowery, sometimes self-indulgent, prose. I would read a review of a new album and by the end be none the wiser as to whether I should buy it or not. I still bought the NME, though, because it was where the music was.

As was Melody Maker, Sounds and Disc (and Music Echo). I had a little Saturday job and bought the lot every single week. I bought the lot and read the lot and when I wasn’t reading the lot, I was making my own supergroups.

I grew up with newspapers and magazines and I will die with them. The NME died years ago, even if it literally only died today in its final rubbish free magazine form. It was so bad I didn’t even accept a free copy.

I cannot help but thinking that the loss of music papers, as with the loss of the printed word in general, brings with it the loss of brilliant writers. The Danny Bakers, the Richard Williams’ (my favourite) and all the rest of them grow old together. Now, we demand everything for free and much writing is not worth reading. I do hanker about the past music press because it was a natural addition to what I was hearing. I did not need validation but I did need new ideas for new music. For that I now have BBC 6 Music.

Music magazines are still there. I take Mojo every month and I will always buy another if I have a long train journey. I learned through magazines that new music means new life. I am not mourning the NME today because it’s been dead for years. It was nice to think about what it once meant, though.

Eclectic Blue

Seven years

Comments Off on Seven years 06 March 2018

Sunday 6 March 2011 is a date forever etched on my memory, scorched on my heart. Although I have had to Google the actual address, I know exactly where I was. I was at the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, (at O’Connor) Ottawa, in Canada. It was the celebration of the life of Anthony Johansen who died on 28 February 2011.

I had flown out for the occasion which, no matter how I try to dress it up in my mind as a genuine celebration, was anything but a celebration for me. But it wasn’t about me. It was about my dad and, boy, did he have a life worth celebrating. You can click HERE to read about it.

In flying out, I had forgotten a golden rule I learned about dealing with shock, distress and upset: prepare yourself mentally for every eventuality. What do I mean by that?

Life experiences have left me found wanting in times of trouble. If I had approached a situation by drifting there, I was not able to control anything, especially not thoughts and emotion. If I had imagined as much as possibly could in advance, I would minimise surprise and surprise is the main giver of instability. I had imagined the bus journey from Bristol to Heathrow Airport but nothing else in between arriving in Canada. Literally hours had been utilised planning for the emotional arrival across the pond but the bits in between. Oh dear.

The first sign that things were not right was when I arrived at the check in desk. It was then I had my first meltdown in front of the desk. I was overwhelmed and I didn’t know why. Somehow I got through it, an emotional basket case now. I made my way to the departure lounge. I had prepared for this bit. It went without incident. Even though I was on my way to my father’s funeral, I was in control again. I felt far from normal, whatever normal is, but I was in control. I watched planes landing and taking off, I had a few beers, I read the newspaper. I knew this was not a pleasure ride, but I was all right. Then I went to the gate and I had not prepared.

I had another meltdown, this time so bad, I all but begged the Air Canada staff member to allow me to sit away from anyone else. To my amazement, they managed to oblige. I cried all the way to my seat on the Boeing 767. Then it stopped. Yes, I’d pre planned all this stuff again, albeit not consciously. I didn’t cry again until my return flight lifted out of Ottawa and then, I knew, because I now accepted that I would never see my dad again.

I wrote a speech to the large crowd of friends who attended my dad’s life celebration. My brothers Noel and Vaughan sang and played instruments, their courage dwarfing mine. I don’t remember what I said and I didn’t keep the speech either, because it was for that place and time. When I wrote it a few hours before – I’m better writing under pressure: don’t ask me why – I could see all the words and all the memories I spoke about and I had a constant vision of my dad at the very front of my mind throughout. I am not a natural public speaker but I felt it went okay. I think we did the old boy proud. I wish I had done that more often.

I am not normally very good with dates. I don’t remember the date of my mum’s death, I have no idea what year she was born in. Of all my deceased relatives, the dates surrounding my father I have retained.

The loss of Anthony Johansen was the greatest of my life to date. Because of my parents’ divorce when I was young, I missed out on the traditional upbringing. At the time, it was not something that greatly concerned me, at least not until my mental health – yes, that old chestnut, again – unravelled as I reached puberty and adolescence. Even then, many years passed before I found out what I had missed out on and rather than seeking to regain lost ground, I often turned my back on my dad (not literally, since he lived in Canada) and rejected his overtures. I found I was punishing myself, a kind of mental torture of self-harm. What I didn’t have, I did miss and I became perversely determined to make myself feel even worse.

Why on earth had I turned my back on my dad? It was not as if my mother had ever said a bad word about him. And when he saw me there was never hostility, just kindness. I was the only person seeking isolation. The rest of my family saw me as mad, possibly literally so. When I flew to Ottawa for my dad’s 75th birthday party and five years later to his 80th birthday, suddenly, like never before, I had a father-son relationship. On 28 February 2011 everything changed as my dad died. The loss has been hard to bear. Which takes me back to the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry.

Once the celebration started, I never wanted it to end. I knew what it meant, selfishly I knew what it meant to me, too, and I wanted it to last forever. It did end, though, and a few days later I was flying back to London with my dad’s ashes, which we later scattered at Battery point in Portishead where years before we had scattered his father’s ashes when he had died.

Almost all the people at the celebration I know I shall never again meet. The whole afternoon felt like an emotional door slowly closing and forever to leave me standing outside. Today, I am exhausted, partly through physical illness and partly through mental exhaustion, trying to get my head around what happened seven years ago today. What I do know is that I miss him and I missed the life I never had. Call it self pity, call it what you like. It’s my life, my dad and I’ll feel as bad as I want to about it.

Eclectic Blue

The wind up man

Comments Off on The wind up man 05 March 2018

I don’t want to see another “joke” about the death of Trevor Baylis being a wind up. Baylis invented the wind up radio, not for use in wealthy countries like ours, but for third world countries. He was especially keen that the medium of radio could spread the word about the spread of AIDS. It did, it worked, Baylis saved many lives.

His great invention did little for him financially because others came along, effectively ripped off his idea and left him with little by way of profits.

He is not survived by anyone in his family. What he leaves is an incredible legacy, a legacy of life brought about by a man driven to save lives.

Eclectic Blue

Looking forward

Comments Off on Looking forward 05 March 2018

One thing I bang on constantly about to my sons, and to my partner, is for them to be as good as they can be in their lives. To work out what it is they want to do and then to be the best person they can be at doing it. It’s working out reasonably well, so far as I can tell. I wish I had someone badgering me when I was young, impressionable and clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. Sadly, with me much nearer the end of life than the beginning, it’s safe to assume that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, although it’s definitely not a U2 album.

When I was at school, all I could think about doing was writing. I was so bad at everything else – and this is not me being self-deprecatory: the evidence is there – it was that or something else in the form of a dead end civil service job. I suppose the life of professional mediocrity was better than some drug-fuelled burn out somewhere along the way and I should be grateful for small mercies.

Nearly four years on with this blog and it’s safe to assume blogging won’t give me a living. I’ve read how you should specialise and concentrate in certain areas but I always wanted to stretch myself. For once, I followed my own instinct and it was the wrong one. I know I am prolific, possibly – probably – at the expense of being a better writer and I know I churn out a lot of stuff that is not great. My filter for good and bad disappeared eventually and I self-published the lot. I know in my heart of heart that in the end, my writing wasn’t, isn’t good enough, and it never will be.

Am I sad that I never made it? I’m not sure if sad is the right word. I think I did my best without any guidance or advice from pretty well anyone else and I also developed my style at a time when the printed word was dying on its arse and opportunities were disappearing. And yet whilst newspapers and magazine opportunities were in decline, the internet gave us the opportunity to write to the masses, if people wanted to read it. For all my disappointment in barely being a household name in my own household, I am very grateful to the near 150,000 hits I have had since Godjira set it up for me. (They are a wonderful company and I could not recommend them enough.)

Want some honesty? You got it. I really hoped my work for the Bristol Rovers match day magazine the Pirate might bring attention from I don’t know who. For a few months in a different decade, I wondered if my column about Rovers for the Bristol Post might take me somewhere but then, in an act of pure spite in close consultation with the football club, they had me removed. It was then, back in 2006, when I knew for sure a journalist’s life was not going to happen for me. I knew then the dream job had gone and, as an aside, I started to fall out of love with my football team. Two birds had died with one stone.

The motivation to write remains, the subjects, the focus, currently do not. The truth is that the dream died 12 years ago and it’s taken me that long to get over it. That’s been too long looking back and now for one last time it’s time for new challenges.

Eclectic Blue

Different for girls?

Comments Off on Different for girls? 04 March 2018

Fair play to the multimillionaire actor Michael Sheen who says he would take a pay cut if it meant being paid the same as a female actor. No. Forget the multimillionaire dig I made. Fair play, Michael. If only all of us men felt the same way. There are reasons why not all of us do.

A recent opinion poll suggested that the vast majority of men would not take a pay cut if it meant being paid the same as a female co-worker, but this is not an equal question. For example, if you earn many millions of pounds, a loss of a few thousand or even million will not affect the weekly Waitrose order. If you earn £7.50 an hour – as many millions of UK citizens do – then if You Gov asked if you, the man, would be prepared to take a pay cut to be paid the same as a woman, your answer would be simple: this employer is not legally allowed to pay any less. That’s an extreme example but there are others.

You are a working class bloke earning £25k per annum. A woman who works across the room from you, doing what appears to be the same job, earns £22k. Do you approach the manager to say how disgusted you are and could he, possibly, pay you a little less? After all, £25k is rather a lot unless that is you want to own your own place, have children and even have the odd foreign holiday. This is how debates like this get skewed.

In many areas, like the public sector, there are defined pay scales so if there is discrimination it is more likely to be the number of women who make it to higher grades than being paid different amounts for the same job. In jobs where there are no pay scales as such, well that might be different. My guess is that a lot of these jobs are at the top end of the scale anyway. For instance, it is very wrong that a male BBC presenter earns vastly more than a female BBC presenter and I don’t know why that would be. But the lower you go, the less difference it all makes. In a race to the bottom, equality usually means everyone being treated badly.

The BBC row left me strangely cold. Of course the inequality was wrong but I still saw a group of fabulously wealthy women arguing that they were not even more fabulously well off. In the meantime, much nearer home, I saw groups of women working night shifts in care homes, caring for the demented and the incontinent and sometimes cleaning up after the dead, on £7.50 an hour. If they were under 24, as many were, they received far less than that.

Michael Sheen is onto something. He’s raised his voice above the parapet and people will listen for a short time. For the many millions at the bottom of the pile, there is no one listening to them and in our increasingly Broken Britain hardly anyone cares, either.

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