Eclectic Blue

Day Patient

Comments Off on Day Patient 09 July 2018

I finally had my operation today. I will not got into precise details because, for all I know, you may be about to have your tea. Suffice to say a small lump was removed from near my nether regions, happily benign and bloody painful. It was an incredible experience.

I was told to be at Southmead hospital at 9.00 am. By 9.10 I was being examined, lots of questions asked. 9.50 I walked to theatre. Walked to theatre. In all my previous ops, I was pushed there. I lay down, was administered industrial strength pain killers and the next thing I knew – at around 10.45, I was in my little room with my lovely nurse. I came round quickly and was brought two cups of coffee with toast. By 12.00 I was up and about, having seen the consultant and his assistant doctor (I am not good with names and titles) who pronounced the operation a success. By 13.30 I was on my way home, by 13.45 I was shopping in Sainsburys wearing a neat line in white surgical stockings. And so on.

It was an incredible experience because the whole thing was utterly professional and I was treated not like a number but as a real human being. In other words, the people who worked there did so because they wanted to be there to make people better in an organisation that is not run for profit. I was cared for by people from Spain, Aruba, Devon, New Zealand, Greece, India and of course the UK. At no point did I feel like telling these people to return to their own countries because I wanted to end free movement and take back control. No. These people were the best of the best.

As evening approaches, I am slightly spaced out, a little tired and weary and above all appalled that I am not allowed to drink alcohol for 24 long hours. (I would like to point out that I did not ask the question about alcohol in the hope that there was no reason for the matter to arise. Oh well.) And I am a little sore in an area you would much rather not be sore.

Southmead Hospital, with its airport style ‘gates’ may appear all mod cons and cold, but trust me it isn’t. Walk through the doors and you can feel, almost see, its beating heart. I was very grateful for my treatment, humbled by the commitment of the staff and volunteers and proud to be British.

**FULL DISCLOSURE:

Nurse: “And you cannot drink alcohol for 24 hours!”
Me: NO?!?
Cath: (frowns)

Eclectic Blue

Hola Eldorado

Comments Off on Hola Eldorado 09 July 2018

My poor sense of taste when applied to watching TV is a source of constant embarrassment to my long-suffering partner. I barely watch anything new, except perhaps a series of Would I Lie To You?, Rick Stein, Michael Portillo and anything involving Steve Coogan and my TV diet is mainly sport. It is usually old programmes, too.

I will come to my favourite TV show in a moment, because it will come as a surprise to everyone except perhaps my therapist. I still watch and record every episode of Highway To Heaven, a completely mad show in which Michael Landon plays an angel, usually making bad people do good things. As a card-carrying atheist, the very idea a God character should send an angel to earth is absurd to me. Yet I watch it and, worse than that, love it. Perhaps it is the suggestion of people doing good things. I try to do good things and I don’t need the pretence of a supernatural dictator up in the clouds to convince me to do them.

Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) is also essential viewing, a series based around a pair of detectives, one of whom is a ghost. There are no ghosts anymore than there are Gods, as there is no such thing, or place, as the ‘spirit world’. Absolute tosh. But still I watch it, convincing myself that Marty Hopkirk really can be invisible to everyone except his detective partner, in the same way that I used to convince myself that professional wrestling was real.

Like my other favourite shows, my all-time favourite is defunct and, to my horror, became defunct some 25 years ago today: Eldorado. Says Wikipedia: “Set in the fictional town of Los Barcos on the Costa Eldorado in Spain and following the lives of British and European expatriates.” It was a soap and I absolutely loved it. The critics didn’t. The usual suspects like the Mail, Sun etc etc piled in on the show which had a less than stellar beginning with a mixture of good actors and duds. Initially, the storylines were not always the best, either, but as the weeks and months went by, the acting improved, the stories improved and so did the viewing figures. By the time the plug was finally pulled on 9 July 1993, some eight million people were watching.

Eldorado was pulled because the BBC lost its bottle. A show pilloried by an anti-BBC media, but loved by an increasingly large audience which loved the idea of 90 minutes a week set in the sunny Spanish Costas. The show was also ridiculed by people who had never seen it but based their piss poor arguments on the basis of how Rupert Murdoch’s lickspittles had described the show. Instead of backing its own invention, standing up for the increasing millions who had grown to love Eldorado, they scrapped it.

There is talk that the show might be revived, if not by the BBC then by someone else. Good. I do not care what the gutter press says. I like what I like and really don’t care if the TV snobs slag it off. Eight million of us would be right there from the start.

I do not watch Eastenders, I haven’t watched Coronation Street since Len Fairclough was arrested following activities at the local swimming baths (it may have been the actor who played him), I haven’t watched Neighbours since Natalie Imbruglia left; in short, I don’t watch soaps. But I would like to watch the one I liked best of all: Eldorado.

Eclectic Blue

Once again to hell in a handcart

Comments Off on Once again to hell in a handcart 09 July 2018

Even the most hard of Brexiters must be having doubts as to the wisdom of pulling up the drawbridge to Europe following the cowardly resignations of both David Davis and Boris Johnson. Two of the old white men who promised to bring untold wealth to Britain are the rats leaving a sinking ship. Victims of their own lies.

Davis resigned, I suspect, because he finally realised just how far out of his depth he is and Johnson quit because he was thinking about his career and not, for example, the case of the woman murdered near Salisbury. We should not be surprised by this.

May now finds herself weaker than she was before, which is really saying something. In recent months, she appears to have lost half her cabinet and, let’s be clear about this, she will soon lose many more. Davis and Johnson are, I suspect, the tip of a rather large iceberg and it can only be a matter of time before the disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox decides to spend more time with his friend Adam Werrity. The only thing that might change his mind is the airmiles he has been collecting whilst flying round the world achieving absolutely nothing.

In normal circumstances, I could not see how Theresa May could survive this, except that these are not remotely normal circumstances and the man leading the opposition is Jeremy Corbyn, a man ill-equipped to run a bath, never mind a political party with ambitions to assume office. Shut up about Iraq for one minute and imagine the leader of the opposition was Tony Blair or his brilliant predecessor John Smith. Or Boris Johnson’s shadow was Robin Cook. Or even David Miliband. You just know that May would be sunk. But as we know with Corbyn at last week’s PMQs, instead of destroying May at the dispatch box, he asked six questions about buses.

What happens next? More Tory Party warfare, as there is and always will be about Europe. David Cameron’s reckless gamble in holding the EU referendum in order to at last ditch the constant rows about Europe have had the exact opposite effect. The divisions are chasms now. They are, without question, irreparable. And it is the ordinary folk who will suffer.

The Tories argue among themselves whilst millions language on zero hour contracts and the minimum wage, whilst over a million people use food banks, whilst social care is in absolute crisis, whilst the NHS is in the midst of a funding crisis, whilst schools have had their funding slashed in real terms. This is not good enough.

Yet again, our people are lions led by donkeys. Millionaire politicians squabble among themselves as the country goes to the dogs.

When we leap off a cliff and the dire consequences for our country unfold, both leavers and remainers should remember who it was the took us here. Lying about just about everything including all that non-existent NHS money, migration, taking back control – Johnson and his pals deserve the biggest political kicking of their lives.

We’ve been had over, my friends. The millions who voted to leave Europe will get their wish but unless they actually desired the destruction of what’s left of our manufacturing industry, the end of freedom of movement which will dramatically affect the lives of our own citizens, especially although not only the young and falling living standards for a generation. Us remoaners will get what we warned about. No one will be happy. Except Boris Johnson.

The Tory Party, the most successful electoral machine in the history of the world, continues to destroy itself, as does the Labour Party, as it lurches inexorably to the distant far left and unelectability. We are going to hell in a handcart and let us never forget that the next PM, Boris Johnson, will be the man to lead us there.

Eclectic Blue

Why just her?

Comments Off on Why just her? 08 July 2018

If you have perusing social networks today, you may have seen a picture of a woman trashing a London Ambulance Service response vehicle.. From what we can see, said vehicle was parked near a pub at around the time England were playing Sweden and this scantily clad woman is standing on the badly dented bonnet and the smashed windscreen. We are urged to assist the authorities in identifying her so she can face the consequences of her actions. And so she should, right?

Look closer and dig just slightly deeper on the internet and it quickly becomes clear that this young woman was far from being the sole culprit. And guess what? Most of the others involved in damaging this vehicle were men.

Far be it for me to suggest that sexism is at work here, but hang on: it is. A piss poor Gareth Southgate impersonator is shown on the vehicle at one time, an oriental-looking gentleman appears in other pictures with scores of drunken (white) men chanting “Jackie Chan” at him, even though he doesn’t look anything like Jackie Chan. How very amusing; drunken vandalism combined with casual racism. But I digress, sort of.

It is obvious why this young woman was selected for treatment by the social media jury: she is a young woman who is not wearing many clothes. She fits the bill for our hate, rather than a bunch of pissed cup male idiots. We can take out our anger on her. She should know better.

By all means seek to prosecute anyone who was responsible for what is clearly criminal damage but let’s not take it out on one woman. A lot of cretinous men were involved too, many of whom sang and chanted their support for vandalism towards a vehicle. They deserve our contempt too.

The very least these people should do is apologise and be forced to pay for repairs to this vital vehicle which is on the frontline of NHS healthcare and if it is proved that certain people were responsible then seek to prosecute them. All of them, not just one very stupid woman.

Eclectic Blue

Reason to believe

Comments Off on Reason to believe 07 July 2018

Good grief: the semi-finals of the World Cup. I must admit I never saw that one coming. I don’t think anyone else did either, barring Gareth Southgate and the England squad. Indeed, Captain Kane said from the outset that they were not going to Russia just to make up the numbers.

I did take Kane seriously when he said that the England team believed they could win. He’s a world class footballer, for goodness sake, and believes that he will always win every game in which he plays. It’s also the mentality of every footballer I have ever come across.

My loyal reader will have concluded long ago that I was never a decent player. My strengths were in running around, stopping the opposition players playing and giving the ball to players who could play. My lack of ability did not affect my confidence, though. And confidence is everything.

A footballer – any footballer – can reach a level whereby they do not believe they can lose a game. The more games you win, the less you believe you can ever lose. And when you play the so called better teams, that level of confidence simply grows greater.

I keep hearing from the few miserable cynics who remain saying that we have not played anyone yet. Quite frankly, I am not interested in what they have to say. They are the same people who, had we beaten Germany and Brazil, in between thrashing France, would have found some way to diminish our achievements. I would like to make one simple point: we deserve to be in the World Cup semi-finals.

I happen to think we will play better against better opposition. Our semi-final opponents, Croatia, are a step up from Sweden but are they a lot better than England? Of course not. We were good against Tunisia for half a game, excellent against Panama, okay when we put our stiffs out against Belgium (as they did), good against Columbia and better today. Does anyone else think we have a truly great performance in us?

It is tempting to call on Southgate to change the team. After all, he knows very little about football compared to us bar room blusterers. I could say that I’d like to start Rose ahead of Young and maybe Rashford ahead of Sterling, but then I wanted Trent Alexander Arnold to start ahead of Trippier and Jones to start ahead of Macguire. It was idiocy on my part. No change there, then.

Southgate and his team have hit on something. Football, despite the efforts of Ronaldo and Messi to prove otherwise, remains a team game. It could be that one player is better than another, but the manager’s considerations will be manifold. Sterling’s teammates will have absolutely loved his workmate today, his wanton destruction of the Swedish backline. Yes, his composure deserted him but his pace, his dribbling, his pressing created space for others and shattered the opponent. Sterling’s contribution may not have been showy, but my God it was hugely effective. And I have the feeling he will deliver when it really matters.

So much can happen in a game. You can score a flukey goal, you can concede one. There are no certainties. And that is why we can dare to dream. Not dare to be sure that we will win the World Cup, but that we have an incredible chance to do so.

If it all ends on Wednesday, then we will have greatly overachieved. But what if we win? England have absolutely nothing to lose. Everyone saw Belgium and France as the favourites and they carry with them huge levels of expectation. That does not apply to us, but then we have Harry Kane and, sooner or later, a player as good as Sterling will do something special. So, like today, will Dele Alli.

In 1966, as a very young boy I declined the opportunity to go to London to meet my dad to go to the World Cup final. In 1990, I watched England’s semi final hopes evaporate in a Clapham hotel room full of Scots who cheered every German penalty to the rafters. And now, assuming I have been discharged from hospital after an op on Monday of next week (let me emphasise, I am expected to be discharged on the same day), I shall watch the third semi final of my lifetime from the comfort of my own living room. I will relish every moment.

I will relish every moment because, for all I know, this semi-final (and maybe even final?) could be my last. I waited 24 years from my first semi-final to the second and a further 28 to get to this one. Few people in my family got past 80 years of age and many didn’t get anywhere near it. Split the difference of the gaps and I would be somewhere in my mid eighties if England followed form. I am not sure all that stress (and alcohol) would be a good thing, in the unlikely event I made it that far.

I’ll live for this World Cup. The boy Southgate – and he is a boy to me, in terms of years – has given me reasons to believe. I’m buggered if I am giving up now.

Eclectic Blue

Bowels in motion

Comments Off on Bowels in motion 07 July 2018

I don’t usually know what it is that makes me depressed and/or racked with anxiety. That’s obvious, I suppose, because if I did know, I would be able to effect a cure. As it is, I rely on drugs and therapy. Today, I will undoubtedly know the reason for my anxiety and stress. I’m pretty sure the result won’t make me literally depressed. Yes, it’s the England team.

The excess heat of this bonkers summer didn’t exactly assist my sleep last night but I did wake up a few times thinking about, not worrying about, the football. Now I am up and about and I can think of little else.

England v Sweden in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. Who’d have thunk it? I am so used to losing that I did not expect to escape the group section of this year’s tournament. I am still in a state of shock at having finally won a penalty shoot out, this time against Columbia. There remain traces of euphoria, too. How will it go today?

I can say, with great confidence, that I do not have a clue how it will go today. I only have a gut feeling which is that the game will appear to last forever. Whereas the clock ticked over relatively quickly during last night’s epic between Belgium and Brazil, you just know time will slow down if we are leading at any point today. And logic can only take you so far.

No game of football was ever won on paper because if it was, we’d be all but home and dry. Man for man, we are far better than Sweden. I doubt that more than one or two of their players would get in our team. But we rate them highly because they are, as a team, greater than their individual components. And they are big, athletic blokes.

I have some Swedish ancestry but that makes no difference to me today. I was born in England and have lived here all my life. I never want anyone else but England to win, not even when we are playing the Netherlands, the country of my mother and her family. Of course, I am proud of my diverse background but I can only write and speak how I feel. I am pro Europe, a devout remoaner, an internationalist by nature. However, this is where I live, where I was born, where my children were born. I don’t want to even think of supporting another country.

I would today prefer a straightforward victory, rather like our win against Panama. That is unlikely to happen because we are England. It will be close, it will be nerve-racking, my heart will be pounding at an unhealthy rate, my anxiety will reach hitherto unknown levels. If we lose, I will be sad and disappointed but I repeat: I won’t be depressed. Depression is an illness, not something that happens because of a football match.

Our manager Gareth Southgate has achieved the impossible. The England team is now popular, the players are likeable. The ugly decadence of the WAG era has been put firmly behind us, our boys really are proud to wear the shirt, to sing our dire national anthem.

Win or lose, it’s been a blast. My feeling is we will win, if only just about. In Harry Kane we have the one world class player on the pitch and in a match that appears to close to call, he could make the difference. But I don’t really know. With England, you never really know. I don’t know about World In Motion. It’s more like my bowels at the moment.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday iPod Music Shuffle (6/7/18)

Comments Off on That Friday iPod Music Shuffle (6/7/18) 06 July 2018

Now where was I? Oh yes, Skiathos. But that was last Friday and this is this Friday. So, now it’s time for another golden opportunity for my geriatric and now obsolete iPod to play ten tunes at random, here in my non air conditioned man cave.

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends (no matter how much you might wish it did).

1. Fireworks by Animal Collective. Apparently, this band are an ‘experimental pop’ outfit, whatever that means. This, from their Strawberry Jam album, is a bit Kraftwerk meets the Beach Boys.

2. Since My Baby Left Me by John Lennon. Sung by my favourite pure rock and roll singer of all time, Lennon’s Rock n Roll album is a magnificent collection of covers of classics from the 1950s and 1960s. This is a ‘bonus track’, not included on the original.

3. Long Train Running by the Doobie Brothers. Well, it’s classic, isn’t it, from their finest album 1973’s The Captain and Me.

4. Something Stupid by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. The only version that matters.

5. Running out of Fantasy by the Manic Street Preachers. From their desperately underrated Rewind the Film long player, this is lush.

6. Molina by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Great latter-day Creedence.

7. Ooh Ooh Baby by Britney Spears. Yes, seriously. From her excellent Circus record.

8. You Can’t Make Love by Don Henley. Solo Don from his Building the Perfect Beast LP. One of the great rock voices.

9. Rollin’ and Tumblin’ by Bob Dylan. His Royal Bobness growls thru a belter from the Modern Times album.

10. Sails by Orleans. Lush harmonies from the Dance With Me boys.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

It must be true

Comments Off on It must be true 06 July 2018

I am one very relieved man today. My car has not exploded despite warnings that in the case of hot weather, vehicles with a full fuel tank will explode just like that, as Tommy Cooper might have put it. I have not yet developed cancer because of refilling plastic bottles with water and then drinking them. And our prime minister, Theresa May, has not reminded us that British children are “owned by the state”. Where did I learn these falsehoods? On Facebook of course.

I make a point of not believing everything I read on the internet, or anywhere else if the truth be known. And anyway, you can check all these things out with a little research and by using debunking sites such as the excellent Snopes and Hoax Slayer. The exploding fuel tank story hailed from Pakistan and it was years ago. The plastic bottle story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Theresa May never said that children are “owned by the state”, but still people tell me that she did.

It has been suggested that people have been banned from displaying the flag on St George on their vehicles or at their houses, often for fear of offending muslims. This is a little more sinister because a cursory check usually concludes that the so called offended muslims don’t actually exist and the stories originate from far right Facebook groups and websites.

There is a serious point to all this: a lot of people believe everything they read in the newspapers and on the internet. This is how Breitbart, the Canary, Infowars and of course the Daily Mail work. Tell a lie often enough and there will be enough people who actually believe it. I read the other week that the local council around here has a department that goes around removing anything vaguely patriotic. This, by the way, is the same council that cannot afford to provide adequate social care or to fill in holes in the ground. In short, the muslim stuff is racism, pure and simple.

Facebook (other social networks are available) is by and large a good thing. It can be a fun shared experience. But like so many other aspects of life there can be negative connotations. I read things that patently are not true, I am informed about criminals who are on the loose, often hundreds of miles away, as if somehow I might know them. Are they suggesting that I have a dodgy choice of family and friends? I am told about how I can win a camper van or a free holiday just be sharing a post and in virtually every instance I am being sold a pup. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Certainly not on Facebook.

I’m off to drive to Asda soon. If my car blows up on the way, perhaps Facebook was right after all. I rather doubt it, though.

Eclectic Blue

The best a man (or woman) can be?

Comments Off on The best a man (or woman) can be? 05 July 2018

Arguably, the best day of the year is the one on which you go on holiday. More specifically, it’s when you finally clear security, having removed your belt and watch, as well as the surgical removal of your mobile phone from your hand. Passenger numbers at from Bristol Airport, from where we invariably depart, have expanded far faster than the site and facilities on offer. Despite my obsession with being early for everything, I am glad that I do not spend any longer at the airport than I have to.

Apart from the holiday obligation to imbibe a pint or two regardless of the time of departure, I rarely spend money at Bristol Airport. For one thing, everything costs and arm and a leg and for another there is no guarantee you will actually get served before your flight. As I went walkabout, unsuccessfully trying to buy a newspaper before our flight, I paused as a small group of large Welsh ladies swayed unsteadily on their way out of the ‘Aspire’and ‘AspirePlus’ lounges.

I had, of course, heard of these lounges before. They are a kind of VIP lounge for people who consider themselves to be VIPs. No, not really. Here in the Aspire Lounge, if you allow yourself a considerable amount of extra time before your flight, you can munch your way through endless free bacon rolls, drink as much free booze as you can and pick up a free newspaper. Yes, all for free. All you need to do is part with a mere £26 a head.

The ‘AspirePlus’ lounge is even better. You can enjoy a ‘luxurious adult-only retreat’ – in Bristol Airport! – which enables one to drink free Prosecco and ‘an enhanced complimentary food and drink menu’, again gratis. For this free posh booze and food, you fork out a trifling £35 a head. A more expensive free lunch, I am sure you will agree.

The trick is use of the word ‘aspire’. My Oxford dictionary defines this as meaning to ‘direct one’s hopes or ambitions towards achieving something.’ So far as I can tell, forcing down as much ‘free’ food and drink as possible in a very short space of time has little to do with aspiration and everything to do with gluttony and, dare I say, a suggestion of someone’s social status.

Give me a chair in the departure lounge, thank you very much, with a pint of Staropramen and some sarnies bought on a meal deal from Sainsburys. All I really want to do is get on the plane.

Eclectic Blue

Is it coming home?

Comments Off on Is it coming home? 04 July 2018

At a time when we are ruled by political inadequates, spineless out-of-their-depth nobodies like Theresa May and David Davis, opposed by non-entities like Jeremy Corbyn and at a time when a Pound Shop fascist like Tommy Robinson is revered as some sort of hero, thank goodness for Gareth Southgate. England has never been so hopelessly weak and divided by austerity, the increase in inequality and, yes of course, by Brexit, then Southgate is an unlikely hero, but hero he is.

I have not been particularly proud of my football team in general since Euro 96 and before that 1990. There have been isolated moments of joy from the likes of David Beckham but generally the national side has dealt only in underachievement and disappointment. Why is it so different now?

Southgate was not everyone’s choice of England manager. He’d not set the world alight in club management but he had done all right with the Under 21s. More than all right, actually. I suppose the Premier League’s obsession with foreign managers as well as foreign players has meant that there were few alternatives to Southgate – Fat Sam Allardyce was given the job before him for goodness sake – so we make the best of a bad lot. Except the bad lot appears to be a rather good lot.

If you had offered me a last eight position in the World Cup, I would have bitten your hand off. If you then said we were two games from the final, I might have laughed in your face. What a fool I would have been.

The new manager did something almost unheard of: he picked players on the basis of form and ability, rather than on reputation. He then designed a system designed to cover, if not hide, England’s technical deficiencies. The players and now the country have both bought into it. Southgate has managed the impossible: the English like their national team.

It does not matter that we scraped home against Tunisia, or thrashed a poor Panama or lost to Belgium or ‘only’ beat Columbia on penalties. How Italy and the Netherlands would love to be in our place. And Germany and Argentina for that matter. Nor does it matter that we score so many goals from set plays. It shows we are good at them. What is wrong with creating goals from clever set pieces?

And let’s have a word of praise for the FA, here, who wrote to FIFA complaining about the man-handling of players at set pieces, especially corners. Anyone think they have been listening? I think so, too.

Could we go ‘all the way’? Could football finally be ‘coming home?’ On the face of it, probably not. But wait. How many Swedish players would get in our team? I reckon none. Are Russia really a great side? No way. Are these two sides so much better than us? And if either were to play friendlies or even qualifying games against England, do you think they would be favourites to win? Neither do I.

I am daring to dream, just a little bit. If it all ends this weekend, we can get back to the massive problems facing our country. We had a good ride.

Gareth Southgate has built a squad that is far stronger than its individual parts and he will need to more of the same in future. As England battle gamely on, the squillionaires of the Premier League are still importing more and more foreign players and the opportunities for the likes of Lingard, Rashford, Stones and Loftus Cheek, not to mention all those home grown Arsenal stars, will dry up.

The myth that we don’t care about our national side has been exploded this year. But if our national game doesn’t build on whatever we manage to achieve in Russia, it will prove to have been a waste of time.

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