Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (31.8.18)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (31.8.18) 31 August 2018

It’s the last day of summer, meteorologically speaking, so what better time to listen to some summery music? Well, always assuming my little old iPod chooses to play some summery music in this week’s Friday Music Shuffle.

I’m in my Man Cave yet again, the working week well over and we’re ready to go.

So, here it is. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. Let’s rock.

1. Melanie by Toto. Little known Toto tune, sung by Steve Lukather and featuring Eagle Timothy B Schmit on backing vocals. I’m very biased but it’s gorgeous.

2. Girl Gone Wild by Madonna. From her brilliant MDNA album of 2012, here’s Madge banging out some electronica.

3. I’m In Love by Bachman Turner Overdrive. Country tinged album filler by the boys from Canada.

4. That’s Close Enough For Now by Field Music. From their 2016 album Commontime, the Mackems on top form here. One of the best live bands I’ve seen recently.

5. Night Flight by Duke Harwood. Cracking cover of the Zeppelin tune from Physical Graffiti by the talented London boy.

6. We Crawl by the Polyphonic Spree. Some epic choral rock from their lovely album The Fragile Army.

7. La Cienega Just Smiled by Ryan Adams. The boy has made so much great music and this one, from Gold, is right up there with his greatest.

8. Soolaimon by Neil Diamond. Yes, Neil Diamond. Once upon a time, Diamond made an album called Taproot Manuscript. Side One was standard, albeit brilliant, Diamond but Side Two was an African Trilogy. It was a brave step for Diamond but it worked. Essential listening.

9. Far East by Deep Forest. An astonishing musical project, featuring modern electronica with added voices and noises from the jungle. Short but sweet.

10. Time Passes On (live) by Orleans. From their ‘1975 Live from Harvard Square, some lush harmonies here.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Neither sad nor SAD

Comments Off on Neither sad nor SAD 31 August 2018

For a SAD* old git like me, 31st August is literally the most depressing day of the year. There are two different dates given for the start of autumn. One is the meteorological date which falls on 1st September, the other is the astronomical date which this year falls on 23 September. I always go by the former.

After a summer as good as this one, the last thing I want to happen is for it to end. Particularly in recent years, I have come to regard September as the beginning not of autumn, but of winter. I see the autumn in dreadfully negative terms, with all the leaves starting to fall from the trees, the nights becoming cooler, the days becoming shorter. And for me, winter carries on until 1st March the following year which just so happens to be my favourite day of the year.

To be fair, September is often, though not always, one of the better months of the year. With the exception of last September, when it chucked it down for most of the month, the weather man, even though there isn’t such a person, rages against the dying both of the light and the heat. Evenings spent supping wine in the back garden may require the wearing of warmer clothes, but they are still possible, as are BBQs and sitting outside the pub.

I have managed to approach this year’s approaching autumn in much better mental health which is what some of us old people refer to as a ‘Brucie bonus’ (ask your parents, kids) and whilst I am not looking forward to discarding for six months or so my shorts and three quarter lengths, I can live with it, as I suspect can the female population of South Gloucestershire beyond.

So this year, I am neither sad nor SAD. Long may it last.

*Season affective disorder (To be fair, I haven’t been diagnosed with it; yet).

Eclectic Blue

The final shot

Comments Off on The final shot 30 August 2018

I’m walking a fine line between happiness and madness at the moment. They say fortune favours the brave and although I am not sure I am actually being that brave, I’m striking out for (fools?) gold again in the writing department. Having written over 2800 blogposts since 2014, god knows how many articles for the Bristol Rovers matchday programme ‘The Pirate’ since 1999, a year long column on the Rovers for the wonderful Bristol 24/7 and more recently a book, you might think, given my obvious lack of success, I might call it a day. But no. As I near the end of yet more therapy to try to deal with my depression and anxiety, I’m giving it everything.

This blogpost is little more than a rewrite of recent blogs where I have described my journey to a better place. There have been a few setbacks along the way, a few relapses into the dark but more often than not, I feel much stronger. I know that when I start to feel stronger, I am prone to taking my eye off the ball, but sod it: I can’t give up now.

Bristol 24/7’s republishing of a sweary piece I wrote on the Bristol Arena, or rather the likely lack of one, has restored the quality of my writing to, roughly, where it was about two years ago. I am hugely grateful to B24/7 for giving my work some publicity (even if I didn’t get any money, which is surely the true definition of success for a writer).

I’m a little bit embarrassed by the sweariness (this is not a real word, I suspect) of my Arena piece, something which was noted by a local Tory councillor who agreed, unsurprisingly, with my pop at Bristol’s failing mayor Marvin Rees. I would like to think she agreed with my piece which was generally non-political but I do wonder, in these dark, cynical times, whether she might have an eye on the next mayoral election. Still, any endorsement is, I suppose, better than none.

I am writing an industrial amount of copy right now, In fact, I am eating, drinking, sleeping and dream ing about my writing, to the extent that I really did dream last night what one of my next books is going to be about. The dream was so vivid, I had to ask my long-suffering partner whether it happened in a dream or if I had discussed it with her.

As a writer, I never made it, I probably won’t ever make it. However, this is my final shot and it’s going to last until the day I die.

Eclectic Blue

Terrorism in Bristol

Comments Off on Terrorism in Bristol 30 August 2018

When one of the Bristol Post headlines is ‘Deliveroo rider seriously injured in Clifton Triangle road collision’, my first reaction is that I am not surprised by that. Deliveroo riders are right up there with the worst cycle terrorists who plague our city. Of course, I am very sorry when anyone is seriously injured and I certainly don’t know the circumstances of this unfortunate episode. Indeed, I wish the injured person a speedy recovery. But this was surely an accident waiting to happen.

No, it’s not just Deliveroo riders who are making life hell for pedestrians and motorists alike. I’m afraid that, in a city that has not been designed with cyclists in mind, we will see more incidents like this and perhaps even worse ones.

Full disclosure here: I have a bicycle which I have not used for a couple of years. I know that in itself it’s very healthy to cycle. In a world where obesity is becoming a very serious issue, I am well aware of the advice for us to step up exercise. That applies to me, too. What concerns me is the nebulous relationship many cyclists have with the rules of the road.

Just yesterday, I was undertaken at great speed by innumerable speeding cyclists, all of whom shot the red lights ahead. Few of them wore cycle helmets, most of them were listening to music through their earphones. I saw one very near miss as a car stopped on Bond Street to allow a passenger to disembark and a cyclist hurtled by on the inside. A second later and he would have hit the woman at high speed and maybe the car door too. The difference between nothing happening to serious, life-changing injuries was a heartbeat away. Meet someone who has suffered a major head trauma and then tell me this is a sensible way to proceed. Having your head collide with a car will not end well. So, what to do about it?

Answer: I am not sure what you can do about it. I don’t want to ban cycling because it is overwhelmingly A Good Thing. By the same token, I do not want to see cycle terrorists effectively holding the rest of us to ransom. There has to be a case for enforcing the use of cycle helmets and a ban on cyclists listening to music on their headphones whilst cycling. The latter, which I have actually done, is just plain mad. You don’t need me to tell you why. Perhaps, too, there might need to be changes to insurance legislation for cyclists. Once we have done all that, then it will be the right time to encourage people to cycle.

The fact that our ever gridlocked roads were not built to accommodate cyclists is in a way beside the point. Cyclists pay many of the same taxes as we do in order to have roads fit on which to cycle (car taxes are just taxes and have no relation to anything to do with cars and roads) so they are entitled to use them. Perhaps, it’s a question of how and where.

Where my family come from, the Netherlands, it’s flat and the roads are wide. Cyclists and motorists seldom meet. It is not like this in Bristol so all we can do is regulate. As part of that regulation, cyclists will need to play their part. Wear helmets, get insured, stick to prescribed cycle routes, stop speeding recklessly, stop zig-zagging across busy roads, don’t listen to music whilst cycling, stop undertaking and – please – respect traffic lights. My educated guess is that this time next year, we will still be mourning injured cyclists and putting up with many more who think they are invincible. They aren’t but no one seems to be listening.

Eclectic Blue

Just the way you are

Comments Off on Just the way you are 29 August 2018

‘Sarah Vine: I’m proof diet pills can work’, screams the Daily Mail this morning. Well, good for you, love, but you’re still a nasty, vindictive writer and, worse still, you are married to Michael Gove. One of these things would be bad enough, but two?

Here’s the Daily Mail again, read overwhelmingly by middle aged women, doing its bit for body image. You must be slim, you must be on a permanent diet, you must not be overweight. On a day when figures revealing appalling levels of self-harm among young girls, much of which is down to body image, it’s very ironic, to say the least.

Full disclosure from me: I am in the process of beginning to shed some of the weight I put on during and following my living nightmare working for the British Red Cross. I didn’t look after myself for a long period of time and following mental health treatment I am beginning to look after myself a bit better. That’s my story. What’s yours?

Well, your story is none of my business. The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight and anyway some people don’t want to lose weight. In my humble opinion, I am not a huge fan of thin. I don’t try to body shame people who get thin, as opposed to slim; I just don’t like the look on women or men. I won’t go into any more detail, because I’d be no better than Sarah Vine.

Look at the women in newspapers and magazines. They are all totally beautiful and flawless, except that they actually aren’t. Even among the allegedly most beautiful women in the world, many of these pictures are touched up. It is not perfection to me.

Personally, I am a great admirer of the female form, which is quite handy when the only purpose of me being on earth was to assist with procreation, and I happen to like the natural look, which is to say the lines of age, the affects of like including childbirth. In short, ladies, I love you just the way you are.

It would probably do me good, you good, to shed a stone or two but do not allow the Mail, or anyone else, to shame you into looking a certain way. We are none of us getting any younger. Gravity cannot be avoided. And the simple truth, as it always was, is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just be who you are.

Eclectic Blue

Jose Mourinho

Comments Off on Jose Mourinho 28 August 2018

“And now, here on (select media outlet) it’s the sports news.

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

Who won the game?

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

Eh?

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

But what about Spurs? What a great win.

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

It was 3-0.

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

Oh come on. There must be something else to talk about?

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

Seriously?

“And now it’s the weather forecast.”

No more Mourinho?

“Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho.”

Eclectic Blue

Out of touch

Comments Off on Out of touch 27 August 2018

It would be wrong of me to comment on whether tonight Spurs deserved to beat Manchester United. This is on the simple grounds that I couldn’t be arsed to watch it. I am not a United supporter (to put it mildly) and I am not a Spurs supporter. I couldn’t watch it as a neutral either because I find it better when you want one team to win and not one team to lose, which would have been the case tonight. Spurs beat United 3-0. I might have left it at that. Until I saw Jose Mourinho’s post match interview.

As ever, in Mourinho’s eyes, it was all about him. More often than not, he gazed into the middle distance and rarely at the interviewer. He muttered some disinterested platitudes and then said this: “By the strategic point of view we didn’t lose, from the tactics point of view we didn’t lose. But we lost the game.” Oh yes. It was all about him all right.

His comment was not cryptic. He was meaning exactly this: “I got the tactics right so it’s not my fault. Blame the players.” This was not the manager accepting any kind of responsibility for getting a sound dicking from Spurs: this was an egomaniacal poseur shifting the responsibility onto everyone else.

He must surely know he is a busted flush. His backward, boring, stifling tactics come from a different era, certainly a different era from the likes of Guardiola, Klopp and Pochettino. Their teams play exhilarating passionate football whereas Mourinho’s United employ the biggest bus in the world, parked just outside their penalty area. Grimly functional efficient football. At Manchester United.

This must be awful for United fans to endure, but never mind. They were spoiled for years first by the brilliance of Sir Matt Busby and later by Sir Alex Ferguson. Finishing in the top four on a regular basis would hardly represent fallow years for most clubs, but for United fans, spoilt by winning, these must be grim times.

I must admit I have never bought into the “Jose Mourinho’s great entertainment and good for the game” bollocks. It would be absurd to doubt his brilliance but equally so his gnarly narcissism whose life seems to be one long selfie.

I could not give a toss whether Mourinho is getting “sacked in the morning”, as joyous Spurs fans apparently sang during the game. But I am tired of his shtick. The manager as superstar is an anathema to folk like me who in a curiously old fashioned way always regarded the players as the real stars. I suppose this just goes to show, yet again, how out of touch I am with modern football. Long may I stay that way.

Eclectic Blue

Mr Writer

Comments Off on Mr Writer 27 August 2018

Just four sessions of my latest mental health therapies to go and I have to say that it appears to be doing me good. The days following therapy are always a bit of a write off because I am so brain dead and my never good sleep patterns are a shambles right now. But it appears to be progress and I’ll take that.

Digressing a little, but not for long, I’m sorry to report that I have not yet made it as a writer. Since this site was created in 2014 by the genius at godjira.com, I have posted nearly 3000 blogs which only goes to prove that quantity does not win out over quality and that perhaps I have had too much time on my hands. There are a number of reasons I have posted so much. Here are some of them:

– I love to write
– It does me good to write
– I try to write every day because I find it a useful discipline
– I try and improve every day
– I love it when I use a word I have never used before
– I hope, in a rather sad, forlorn way that I will get ‘spotted’

Which leads me back to my mental health. My therapist has cajoled me into getting my act together and to think beyond just today. I wrote one book to mixed reviews (it could have been better, I know) and I need to write another one. I am resigned to the likelihood that I will never be able to call myself a professional writer, yet as I tumble through middle age into near old age, it doesn’t seem to matter so much. Although my brain is ageing, I feel more creative than ever.

It is the small matter of knowing what to write about that is the issue with me. I am not sure if I should write another travel book (I have a working title for this one), a kind of memoir (I have a working title for this one, too) or perhaps I should try my hand at fiction? Two of my friends have written in this genre and, I have to say, both produced wonderful reads. I am not sure if I am technically good enough to write fiction. I’ll think about this when I am on holiday in a week or so.

I am quite sure that the whole depression/anxiety malarkey will never disappear. In the back of my mind, I am terrified that my GP will one day refuse to write another prescription for medication. I cannot envisage life without my current industrial levels of medication and I don’t want to try. It keeps me normal in the most general sense of the word. And in a way, the depression is almost an old friend. Whilst I might not exactly enjoy the world of mental illness, at least I know where I stand. Only a fellow nutter would understand that one.

Writing means I am not giving up on life and I am still reaching out to new horizons. That’s as positive as things have been for a long while.

Eclectic Blue

Snowflakes

Comments Off on Snowflakes 27 August 2018

Having railed against the term ‘political correctness’ for many years, I now have another word to get mad about: ‘snowflake’. No, not the little white thing that visits us occasionally in the winter but what the Sun newspaper describes “an overly sensitive person who thinks the world revolves around them. Snowflakes gasp in horror when they hear an opinion they don’t like, and believe they have a right to be protected from anything unpalatable.” We all know that people complain about so called ‘political correctness’ because they hate the idea of their racism, misogynism and homophobia being questioned. The term ‘snowflake’ is an undoubted term of abuse but doesn’t it say more about the person who uses it, than the person to whom it is being directed?

The Sun, like most newspapers, is read by old and elderly people which is why it feels free to have a pop at the younger generation. Students are a group particularly loathed by Rupert Murdoch’s drooping organ. Look at what it says about them: “Today’s generation of sensitive uni students are often labelled snowflakes because they receive “trigger warnings” on books and lectures that might contain upsetting subjects. Snowflake youngsters were horrified at un-PC jokes in the 90s sitcom Friends, which they saw for the first time when it was released on Netflix. The term was also used when people began complaining about old James Bond films starring Sean Connery.” This is all news to me since just about every student I have ever met – and both my sons were and are students – are anything but “overly sensitive who (think) the world revolves around them.”

It strikes me that many of those who employ the word ‘snowflake’ as a term of abuse appear to represent the Sun’s definition. They are the ones who are “overly sensitive who think the world revolves around them”, not their intended victims. They are the ones who “gasp in horror when they hear an opinion they don’t like” and, yes, they want to be protected from it.

There’s a bit of macho in it, too. “I’m bigger and harder than you,” they probably think. “And I’m definitely normal, unlike those ‘snowflake liberals’ who think it’s okay for gay people to love each other. I’d ban it, me, because I’m totally masculine.”

Like other new word interpretations, the ‘snowflake’ is in the Collins dictionary and so it should be because our language changes and evolves all the time. However, it does not mean there is any such person. I feel very sorry for the people who use the word, as I do the people who complain about political correctness. All it reveals is that they are sadly insecure beings themselves. Snowflakes, you might say.

Eclectic Blue

More fear and loathing

Comments Off on More fear and loathing 27 August 2018

The worsening fear and loathing in our country that I wrote about yesterday (‘Fear and loathing in the UK’) is worse than anything I have experienced in my lifetime. Of course, there have been other times when things, and people, almost got out of hand, but nothing like this. There were times when you felt you daren’t say anything to disagree with the angry majority for fear of, I don’t know, lots of abuse and perhaps violence.

I remember the Falklands War in 1982 when few dared to question why Britain was at war with Argentina over a couple of islands in the South Atlantic. I was no spring chicken at the time. I was consumed with politics and it quickly became obvious to me that the Argentine invasion was as a direct result of the failings of Margaret Thatcher’s government, without which no invasion would or could have taken place. Newspapers, which were more important back then, made it clear you must support ‘Maggie’ and ‘our boys’, or else. I did support our armed service personnel because they were, heroically at times, performing old style war fare in the nuclear age. I wanted the fascist Argentine junta booted out. To protest was to be a traitor. But Thatcher messed up. You just daren’t say so.

The death of Princess Diana in 1997 felt the same. To say I was shocked when I woke one August morning to find Diana had been killed in a car crash would be an exaggeration. I felt sorry for her family, especially her two young sons, but only in the same way as I would if this had happened to anyone else. However, the country went mad. Thousands grieved in the streets, millions turned out to her funeral or watched it on telly and, incredibly, the football was cancelled. I later discovered it wasn’t just me who felt that many people had lost their sense of perspective. If you were seen or heard to express a view that was – how shall I put it? – slightly distant from Di’s death, you soon found out about it. I chose to keep my head down. It was only later I felt confident enough to express a view that the national hysteria was more than slightly bonkers. Now, it’s worse.

It was not just the EU referendum that started the country on a dangerous new track but it certainly exacerbated it. The financial crash of 2008, together with the advent of the gig economy, zero hours contracts and the creation of millions of mainly low paid jobs has changed our country. If you lose a good job now, you are less likely to find an equally good one. British workers have fewer rights than anyone else in Europe. Hundreds of thousands are in so called self-employment and earn far less than the minimum wage. People are, in many instances, poorer. With the country changing in so many ways, it is natural to ask why. Sadly, the far right said they had the answer: it was all about foreigners.

It was EU workers taking our jobs, it was muslims changing our culture. All of them were driving down our living standards. Desperate refugees and asylum seekers – they were benefit spongers, trying to get something for nothing, getting far more than indigenous folk, getting all the best jobs and housing. This was true: Nigel Farage had said so. We could save all this money by leaving the EU to “take back control” and give the NHS a billion quid extra every three weeks ago. It would be so easy, “the easiest deal in history” said the disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox. It was all a big lie, peddled by the hard right who see this as a golden opportunity to roll back the state, to end the regulations that protect ordinary folk, to let unfettered capitalism have its day.

Whether it is Boris Johnson or Tommy Robinson, we are told foreigners are to blame. As someone with more ‘foreign’ blood than English, a Scandinavian surname and Dutch middle name, I wonder “Do they mean me?” Are the problems being suffered in Britain the fault of my Norwegian grandfather who came to this country in the early 1900s to help set up a company or my mother who came here from the Netherlands to marry my father? Why are my ancestors any different from the Europeans of today? With weak leaders, the country suffers still more. And weak leaders open the door to populists who have slogans that can sound oh so attractive.

Would this country be in the mess it is today without Brexit? Who knows? Brexit, in any form, will be a disaster for this country but might all this fear and loathing have happened in any event? David Cameron’s austerity driven governments of 2010 and 2015 and now Theresa May’s austerity driven governments of 2016 and 2017 might have caused the same problems as we face today without Brexit.

Will I soon feel like I did during the Falklands War or after Diana’s death, keeping my head down, hopping things turn out fine? If not Nigel Farage or Tommy Robinson, then what about a currently little known charismatic figure of the far right, an Oswald Mosley, was to emerge, offering simple solutions amid the rhetoric and slogans, dressed up as hope?

I’m a secularist who is opposed to the failed experiment of multiculturalism and any form of religious privilege. I am a left of centre mainstream (currently ex) Labour supporter. I am an internationalist, I support Churchill’s vision of Europe, which today we seek to leave behind. Weak leadership from mainstream politicians and the empty rhetoric of populists is not what this country needs today. If we don’t act today, we will have major problems tomorrow, if not today. And I am very worried about it.

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