Eclectic Blue

Talking Seagulls

Comments Off on Talking Seagulls 12 August 2017

Have you, my loyal reader, ever heard of the author Richard Bach? I don’t normally do fiction and never do anything vaguely religious or spiritual, and yet and yet. Not for the first time, I am inching back to read Bach’s books which are, admittedly, slightly mad but to this boy utterly compelling. I mention this because of University Challenge.

Before you conclude that I have truly lost my marbles, which is a reasonable point of view, may I add that one of the team captains was called Bobby Seagull. Our Bobby was staggeringly clever and I had not a little man love for him. I hung by his every word. The series ended but Bobby is now a Radio Four presenter. Anyway, Bobby Seagull was named after a seagull and not just any seagull: Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull was not alone in the book of his own name by having a name and being able to talk. He was taught by other seagulls to fly and to learn about life. Ludicrous though this seemed at the time – and it probably was ludicrous, I admit – I allowed myself to be sucked in to a world where the unbelievable might be true. A bit like professional wrestling.

Jonathan was not Bach’s first book for he had already written a good few on the wonders of flight. To follow up, he wrote Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant messiah where, whilst flying planes across the corn fields of America, he met a reluctant messiah, a Jesus type character who performed miracles. To this day, it is my favourite book and one I would take to my desert island. That Bach meets up with this messiah, who is called Donald Shimoda who passes to Bach a “messiah’s handbook”, a numberless book which will open at random to provide answers and solutions to whatever happens in life seems the most normal thing in the world. Pure fiction and I believed every word and when I re-read Illusions, I believe it all over again.

A talking seagull, a reluctant messiah; whatever next? You may well ask because his subsequent books were even more off-the-wall and, sadly, less believable. When you need a little inspiration, then reach for Illusions. It isn’t true but you will truly want it to be.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (11/8)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (11/8) 11 August 2017

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Yes, it’s what you haven’t been waiting for since last week, it’s another random music shuffle from the now discontinued iPod.

I’m in my Man Cave, my Marshall amps are all stacked up and we are all ready to switch off…er…go.

1. Love Hurts by Jim Capaldi. A rather splendid cover of the old Everly Brothers classic by the Traffic drummer himself.

2. Almost Saturday Night by John Fogerty. A live version from his Premonition album, here JC Fogerty performs a tune which was once covered by Dave Edmunds, driven magnificently by the drumming legend Kenny Aronoff.

3. Rule the World by Take That. An acoustic version from the Greatest Day long player.

4. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg by the Temptations. Well, it’s great, innit?

5. The Morning is Waiting by Field Music. From the mighty Commontime record, this is gorgeous.

6. Doors of your Heart by the Beat. The Dave Wakeling version of the band and it’s lush.

7. Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey. All the way from Tiger Bay, Ladies and Gentlemen…

8. Train Drivers in Eyeliner by Saint Etienne. From their recent, and wonderful album, Home Counties, listen to Ms Cracknell in all her glory, so to speak.

9. The Groover by T Rex. Marc Bolan was on the slide(r) by the time this one came out, but it’s still a rollocking tune from boy himself.

10. Stuck With Me by Green Day. From International Superhits, this is an amazing 16 years old!

That’s all folks!

Eclectic Blue

More from the reformed smoker

Comments Off on More from the reformed smoker 11 August 2017

As I have mentioned before to my loyal reader, I am the worst sort of smoker, a reformed smoker. From being a nicotine addict until the last day of 1993, I have followed the path of many other former smokers and have reached the stage where I loathe smoking and everything about smoking. I tut tut when people chuck their spent fags out of their car windows, I feel disgusted when I see someone throw their fag on the floor and stamp on it to put it out and I seethe inside when I have to walk through clouds of smoke outside offices, pubs and just about everywhere else people go to smoke now they can’t do so indoors. I hate all the things that I used to do. I am not unaware of the irony.

A brief visit to the charmless Willow Brook shopping centre in Bradley Stoke the other day reinforced all my anti-smoking prejudices, with added knobs on. I always marvel, mind you, at people who are able to smoke and eat a Gregg’s pasty simultaneously, as well as shouting at their noisy young children. This is multitasking at a very high level. I suppose I should be full of admiration. But I’m not. A surprisingly high number of people appeared to be smoking and there were not a few people vaping, too, including very young children. It was the latter that concerned me.

With the tobacco industry in the UK in retreat, Big Tobacco is moving into the world of e-cigarettes. Most people, even smokers themselves, have worked out that inhaling vast amounts of carcinogens is probably not the best move, health-wise. Having lost a considerable number of family members and friends to the dreaded weed, whilst others suffer from such conditions as COPD, I was lucky that when I stopped smoking I stayed stopped. My GP said that had I continued smoking, I might not be here today given my family history. But I am very glad that vaping was not around when I quit.

There were maybe a dozen children outside Tesco, passing around their e-cigarettes and producing clouds of sweet smoke. The point about this is that they were gaining an addiction to nicotine, the drug that keeps you smoking and, in the case of these 1 and 12 year olds, the likely transition to the real thing. It is surely only a matter of time.

I would describe vaping as a halfway house. You are not smoking, as such, but you are still addicted to the very substance that keeps you smoking. It removes the need to go “cold turkey” and quit the habit altogether. Medical science says that there is evidence that vaping is less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, so that’s a good thing. A lot less dangerous, so that’s even better. We will find, in the years ahead, if e-cigarettes are harmful as studies are made public but in the meantime I can see the point, if not for children.

Personally, in my anti-smoking fascist role, I’d recommend smoking folk quit today. God knows it’s bloody hard but it is, eventually, worth it. Vape if you have to, but going for the nuclear option of quitting nicotine at the outset saves wasting months and years pondering how and when you will finally give up the e-cigs too.

Eclectic Blue

Sick culture

Comments Off on Sick culture 10 August 2017

The names of seventeen men and one woman who have been found guilty of grooming vulnerable women and girls in Newcastle:

Mohammed Azram, 35 of Croydon Road, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, sexual assault, supplying drugs to a victim
Jahanghir Zaman, 43 of Hadrian Road, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape, supplying drugs to a victim
Nashir Uddin, 35 of Joan Street, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Saiful Islam, 34 of Strathmore Crescent, convicted of rape. Jailed for 10 years
Mohammed Hassan Ali, 33 of Bentinck Street, convicted of sexual activity with a child, supplying drugs to a victim. Jailed for seven years
Yasser Hussain, 27 of Canning Street, convicted of beating, possession of drugs. Jailed for two years
Abdul Sabe, 40 of Dean House, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation, drugs offences
Habibur Rahim, 34 of Kenilworth Road, convicted of causing or inciting prostitution, drugs, sexual assault, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation
Badrul Hussain, 37 of Drybeck Court, convicted of drug offences
Mohibur Rahman, 44 of Northcote Street, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Abdulhamid Minoyee, 33 of Gainsborough Grove, convicted of rape, sexual assault, supply of drugs
Carolann Gallon, 22 of Hareside Court, pleaded guilty to three counts of trafficking
Monjour Choudhury, 33 of Phillip Place, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Prabhat Nelli, 33 of Sidney Grove, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Eisa Mousavi, 41 of Todds Nook, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape, supplying drugs to a victim
Taherul Alam, 32 of Normanton Terrace, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim, attempted sexual assault
Nadeem Aslam, 43 of Belle Grove West, convicted of supplying drugs to victims
Redwan Siddquee, 32 of West Road, pleaded guilty to causing or inciting prostitution, supply or offering to supply a class B drug

You can read for yourself what these sick perverts did to young girls as young as 13 but, according to a large number of callers to the Radio Five Live phone in I am listening to, there is no need to mention the ethnicity or the religion of the perpetrators. Apparently, there are issues relating to cultural matters. Really? What sort of culture promotes rape, human trafficking, the incitement of prostitution and drug supply?

I read that the men are from a “wide variety of backgrounds”, which include Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish. Unless I am very much mistaken, this “wide variety of backgrounds” covers Muslim men from mainly Muslim countries. It is unlikely that this is a coincidence.

Apparently, we should not refer to the religion of these men because they are simply criminals. I would be able to see that argument if this was a one-off incident involving Muslim men, but it isn’t. The concerning aspect is that whilst the men involved are in a minority, it’s a worryingly high minority.

What good does it to pretend there is not a problem with a certain group of men within the Muslim religion, because there plainly is? If a Roman Catholic priest buggers young boys, we don’t ignore his religion for fear if upsetting other Catholics, do we? If there is an issue, then we deal with it. Appeasement doesn’t work.

I am not anti-Muslim as such, although I do regard it as a bigger problem than other religions. Most Muslims are peace-loving people who work hard and play by the rules. We should be no more reluctant to acknowledge that fact than to express our concerns about the ones who don’t. In fact, I argue for a secular society in which everyone is free to preach their own religion and everyone else is free to not believe in any religion. As long as the devout do not affect in any way the way in which I live my life, I don’t care what they do within the privacy of their own four walls or their church/mosque/synagogue/temple. But I do care about granting privilege to people of faith.

Look at our gutless reaction to the Muslim outrage concerning the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses? Even the likes of Norman Tebbit condemned Rushdie for having the brass neck to write a work of fiction which offended Muslims. Well, hang on. In a free and open society, a secular society, no one is beyond criticism, no one is beyond ridicule or satire. Charlie Hebdo is the price we pay for freedom. No one should try to take it away in any way.

I do not know why certain groups of men feel the need to abuse girls and women in the way these Newcastle men did. Is it, in any way, a matter of sexual frustration and oppression, given the nature of the religions they follow? Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, something I regard as wholly unnatural. Who finds the prospect of a life of abstention from sex and alcohol, for example, an attractive proposition? Okay, some will, fair enough, but if you are forced to behave in a certain way, could it not affect your emotional feelings? We don’t seem to be able to discuss this, but isn’t it a fair question?

Neither do I look at every Muslim man and think, “Oh, he’s bound to be a paedophile who grooms young girls for sexual purposes.” That would be silly. Some of my best friends aren’t Muslims, but I have known a few over the years and whilst I do find their religion bizarre (to be fair I find all religious belief bizarre, but some more than most) they were “normal” enough, whatever normal is, and happy, content and peaceful. Clearly there is a small but significant minority who act outside acceptable guidelines. What, I repeat, is the point in pretending that their religion is irrelevant? A group of British Asian men, who are Muslims, have committed awful crimes on an industrial scale.

If there is an issue with people who rape young girls and women, involve themselves in human trafficking, lure them into prostitution and supply them with illegal drugs, then let’s address it. Don’t tar all Muslims with the same brush but let’s deal with the bad ones.

Eclectic Blue

Bristol Rovers – something must be done

Comments Off on Bristol Rovers – something must be done 09 August 2017

I no longer look at any of the Bristol Rovers football forums, so I have not seen for myself any evidence that there has been a collective meltdown over the decision of the Rovers to abandon the UWE stadium project. Given the recent history on forums, I am sure there has been. People will be angry, people will be worried, people will demand statements and explanations and they will want something to be done. They will not always be clear what that something is that they want done but rest assured they will want someone else to do it. I have been involved in these situations in the past so I hope my experience will be of help to those who want something to be done.

1. Overreact to any information the club gives out and believe anonymous forum “experts” who have “sources” who know something no one else does. One or two of them really will, but others will have bumped into Ken Masters in the bar and he will know less than anyone.

2. Demand the board of directors make detailed statements.

3. Don’t believe the statements when they are made. “They are hiding something.”

4. Demand that something must be done. There is no need to say what.

5. Make sure that the person who does it isn’t the person who suggests it. “I don’t have enough time myself.”

6. Call for a meeting at a nearby pub. Holding a meeting in a pub always shows you are not serious about doing anything really.

7. 20 people turn up at the meeting, all of whom agree that something must be done. Agree a catchy name for the group, like “Rovers Campaign for someone to tell us something, if you wouldn’t mind, please.”

8. No one has any idea what that “something” is but things can’t go on as they are.

9. Call for another meeting next month.

10. 10 people turn up at the meeting, all of whom agree that something must be done and complain about supporter apathy.

11. Call for another meeting next month.

12. Meeting cancelled due to lack of interest.

13. Er…

14. That’s it.

In a few years time, a further crisis develops at the football club. Revisit the above action plan.

I hope this helps.

Eclectic Blue

Still on the line

Comments Off on Still on the line 09 August 2017

One of my favourite albums of all time, and arguably my favourite compilation album, is called And Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain, the classic songs of Jimmy Webb. The record includes performances by the likes of Richard Harris (MacArthur Park), the Four Tops (Do What You Gotta Do) and the Johnny Mann Singers (Up, Up & Away), all beautiful songs. But the ones that really stand out are the ones performed by Glen Campbell who has died aged 81.

Galveston, the powerful song about the solider fighting in a distant war, fearing he may not survive (“Galveston, oh Galveston: I am so afraid of dying”), By the Time I Get To Phoenix, a song about a broken relationship as the man drives away, albeit in a nonsensical route and, in my opinion the greatest of them all, Wichita Lineman.

Even as a child, the lyrics of the song painted pictures in my mind of the lonely lineman, high on the telegraph pole, keeping the system working whilst dreaming about his girl who is at home. At the end of this blogpost I shall paste a wonderful, evocative piece about the meaning of the song which was not written by me.

Whilst Campbell’s career high points were in the 1960s, where he recorded his finest music, performed as a session player for numerous artists – he was a gifted guitar player – and even as a touring member of the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson stopped touring, his renaissance in the 1970s with his Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights brought his music to an entirely new generation and his legacy was confirmed. And then, in 2011, Campbell shared with the world the tragic news that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Courageously, he toured the world after the diagnosis, with the aid of TV prompters and monitors and whilst his brain functions were increasingly limited, his singing and guitar playing were undimmed. He even produced a new album, Ghost on the Canvas, which was worth listening to on its own merits.

As Campbell’s condition deteriorated, he left the public gaze but in June 2017 his final album, Adios, recorded in 2012 and 2013, was released. I have not heard it in its entirety, but I have heard enough to suggest that again it stands up to scrutiny and can be placed alongside his earlier work. Then, late last night, came the news that Glen Campbell had died.

I know what Alzheimer’s is and what it does so I would say that Campbell’s death was a blessing and a deliverance to both Campbell and his family. I will not speculate on his condition during the final years of his life but it would not have been pleasant. Long before the end, he would have lost the ability to communicate, to recognise anyone, to know even who he was.

Glen Campbell leaves a back catalogue of some of the best music ever made and, in Wichita Lineman, arguably one of the greatest songs ever written, sung by one of the greatest singers ever to draw breath.

Rest in peace, Glen; suffer no more. And thank you for the music. What follows are not my words, but I wish they were. They were written by ‘Yachtsman’ in 2012 on a relatively obscure website.

I envision the Wichita lineman is now deep into March or early April after having endured a horrific winter of cold winds, heavy snows and many sleepless nights of emergency call; he’s now driving down the mainroad alone the highest towers staring southward into the low angled sun beating on the wires as he checks the transformers for overload indicator lights and any signs of line damage or fallen trees from the harsh winter snow.

He knows that he needs a vacation with his woman, but refuses to yield to the pleasure of the thought for too long because the dark clouds on the horizon “don’t look like rain” and “if it snows that stretch down south, won’t ever stand the strain.” And he turns dutifully turns south heading straight into the coming storm, and mentally prepares for another cold, windy, sleepless night, working hard at his thankless job.

And when he’s up on that tower working the line with his cold rough hands, he finds solace hearing her voice in the whine of the wires as the howling wind blows through them and the intense voltage hums steadily through the wires–through all of this he listens to her song, her haunted voice sings out while his frozen fingers work hard. Thoughts of her aches within his soul, and he wants her for all time, but like so many men, working hard to make a living and provide for her in ways continue to be just beyond grasp, his “need” for her, and to be a great provider and hard worker, exceeds his “wants” of sensual fulfillment.

I see a hard working man who “needs” deep inside to express love to his woman in the way that most men do, by providing for her and working hard. I’m sure that he needs a long, long vacation, but doesn’t even allow himself such luxuries of thought, only willing to admit needing a little break for a “small vacation”. Like so many men, he dreams of being with her forever in a better place if he can just save a little more, work just little harder for a little longer… “And I need you more than want you” does not mean that he does not want her, obviously he wants her deeply, he thinks about her all the time. This is about choices, he is choosing to be away from her, and the most common reason for a man is to work hard to provide a better life for her. I feel that his basic need is to be a great provider for the love of his life.

Eclectic Blue

Wael I never

Comments Off on Wael I never 08 August 2017

Bristol Rovers’ president Wael Al Qadi has wasted little time in confirming that the UWE stadium project is dead in the water. Because of “confidentiality clauses”, we may never find out just why it’s dead in the water and that’s a bloody nuisance since it is, on spirit at least, our club. I am guessing that these clauses were deemed confidential a long time ago. However, no Gashead can exactly be thrilled that we are not allowed to know. So, it’s pointless speculating and all we can do is take Wael at his word, which since he bought the club has been a word we can believe in.

Instead of building the UWE stadium, Rovers will instead redevelop the Memorial Stadium. This is fraught with difficulties, not least the presence of a vociferous local minority who will doubtless campaign furiously to prevent any kind of work that in any way affects their lives, even if it doesn’t really. But Rovers will need to address major issues, like the chronic lack of parking spaces at and around the ground and the less than satisfactory public transport links. And there will be the old chestnut of gaining planning permission.

Now, planning issues have not actually been an issue with Rovers. The City Council itself has given the go ahead to pretty well everything the club has applied for since we moved here from Bath. The problem has been that the club never got round to developing anything. How can we be sure that this will actually happen and if so, then how will it happen?

I am assuming money will not be an issue, so what will the owners do? Which parts of the ground are unfit for purpose? I would say pretty well all of it. If we are to aim for the Championship, we will need more seats and nothing but seats if we want to stay there. The Thatchers end will have to go, along with the tatty old rugby cub bar areas. The Centenary Stand covers a ridiculously short part of the length of the ground and the terraces are very much an afterthought. The Tent end – well that’s obvious, which leaves the West Stand. And do we rebuild all in one go or do we do it in sections?

Doing it all in one go would mean leaving for around two years and where would we go? Ashton Gate is simply not an option and have you seen Twerton Park lately? Cheltenham Town or Newport County seem to be the only alternatives but who, other than the real fanatics, would want to travel that far every other week? Not many. So we rebuild section by section which would take, at a guess, seven or eight years, maybe longer. The Mem would be a building site for the best part of a decade. Crowds would suffer with a reduced capacity it would not be done quickly enough for us to stay in the Championship, always assuming we got there. With planning issues, is it possible that the new Mem might not, even if it runs to time, be ready until 2027? So, am I critical of the new owners? No way.

What is the point in criticising Wael Al Qadi? If we do not know the nitty gritty of the failed UWE project there’s nothing to criticise him about. With no obvious sites available in Bristol or South Gloucestershire, I have the feeling that ship sailed maybe 20 years ago. The Filton airfield might have been ideal, as might the site of the former Rolls Royce buildings. But everywhere you look the options are narrowing, or have already gone. The Mem, Wael’s Plan B, could be all that’s left.

In saying that a new Mem would be good enough for the Championship, would it be good enough for the Premier League? Unless we had owners who were willing to subsidise, to financially dope, the club, no it wouldn’t. How would people feel about that, knowing that the dream, however distant, or Premier League football would be gone forever? Speaking personally, I couldn’t care less. I can’t afford to watch Premier League football now never mind in 2027, or whenever the work is finished and anyway, it means absolutely nothing to me in terms of the football I enjoy.

The UWE is dead and that’s that. Steve Hamer was not bluffing when he was interviewed last week. His response when the story broke was to come clean and all Wael has done today is to confirm the news. Whatever you think about how the story came about, you do know, don’t you, that Nick Higgs would have gone into hiding for weeks before conducting a slippery cliche-ridden interview with Radio Bristol. At the end of the day.

Move on, nothing to see here. In Wael we trust. If not, it’s probably best to find something else to do with your Saturdays.

Eclectic Blue

Mental case

Comments Off on Mental case 08 August 2017

Sometimes, as a clinical depressive, you know what is causing your latest dip. Other times, you don’t know. Both are equally troubling. Depression is complex and everyone’s black dog is entirely personal. I know what’s causing my latest dip and whatever I say and do I can’t do a damn thing about it, other than to take sick leave from work.

This blog is not a plea for help. I’m not in danger of doing anything stupid because although sometimes I don’t feel like it’s worth living, the desire to stay alive is far stronger. The problem is the difference between living and staying alive. So why am I pouring at least part of my heart out?

It’s partly because I can pour part of my heart out and, genuinely, so that other people know they are not alone with this bastard Black Dog. I hope the latter helps more than the former because I have very mixed feelings as to how mental health is regarded in Britain today.

I am glad that more and more people are coming forward to say that they have mental health issues and plenty of them have done so in recent years. It is good that they have publicised the condition and, in many cases, seen their mental health improve. Now I am going to say something you may regard as controversial: mental health is becoming a class issue.

What is there for me, a working class man on a modest pension and a somewhat less than modest salary from an employer? The answer to that is precisely nothing, except medication and a long waiting list to see a therapist or counsellor. I’m your run-of-the-mill severe clinical depressive and, in the eyes of society, as I am not an obvious danger to anyone, including myself, I just have to muddle along. Sorry of this all sounds self-pitying, but too bad. Society deems that suffering from severe clinical depression and anxiety is absolutely fine. I cannot imagine how such a situation would ever happen, or be regarded as acceptable, with physical illness. Well, it wouldn’t, would it? Contrast my situation and those of relatively modest means, which means most people and a wealthy sportsman or woman who falls foul of mental illness. The illness is clearly no better nor worse than the poor man’s illness, but the potential for treatment or even cure – these are entirely different outcomes – is greater depending on the size of your wallet and so are choices in life. Again, that is a direct result of the society we choose, a low tax, small(er) state above a slightly higher taxed slightly bigger state.

Are things better than they used to be? When I was around 12 years old and my mental health started to go badly wrong, I was taken to a child psychiatrist almost immediately, although it wasn’t until years later that my mother actually told me that this bloke I was seeing every Tuesday afternoon was actually a medical person rather than someone I just chatted to, as I hit a punchbag, kicked a ball around or drew things. But after school, I rather went off a cliff. I found out later, much later, that far from being “cured” as a teenager, I had merely been “treated”. I do not know what attitudes were like to mental health back in the 1970s because no one talked about it. People talked about someone who had “bad nerves” or who had a “nervous breakdown”, as if they were social pariahs. I suspect most people kept things to themselves and were regarded as being in different stages of eccentricity or downright madness. I thought that everyone might be like me but later realised that no one seemed to be.

So, what should be done? For starters, people who know nothing about mental health should learn about it, especially through the websites of the likes of MIND, the mental health charity and – wait for this one! – listen to the comments made by Princes Harry, William and Princess Kate in the “Heads Together” campaign. I can barely believe I wrote that, but the younger members of the royal family, who live in a surreal, almost fairytale lifestyle, have a greater understanding of mental health than many of us in the so-called “real world”. And I have one suggestion to employers in particular: treat people as individuals.

I am a firm believer that most, if not all, of us have some degree of talent in something. You would not ask a plumber to become an accountant, you would not ask a car salesman to become a brain surgeon. So why should everyone be treated the same in their lives in general and work in particular? Obsessive micromanagement might benefit one person (although I don’t know how) but it might be – it is – very damaging for someone battling with mental health issues, especially with regard to self-esteem and self-confidence.

As well as treating people as individuals, treat mental illness in the same way you’d treat physical illness. Treating mental illness is hugely beneficial not just for the person but to the whole country by way of an economy which doesn’t lose so much money. Sometimes, it can be just small adjustments and changes which can make all the difference.

Like many “mental cases”, I feel I have a lot to offer society, as have others with even worse conditions. We’re missing a trick if we pass up on all the talent that is out there because we can’t be bothered to treat people better. We know there is a problem but it is one things knowing about it and quite another doing anything about it.

Eclectic Blue

Girls and boys

Comments Off on Girls and boys 07 August 2017

Hey girls: remember Jennifer Grey? She played Baby Houseman opposite Patrick Swayze in the top, top film Dirty Dancing. It was a masterful piece of casting and whilst she didn’t quite steal the show from Swayze, she got pretty close. But everything went wrong when she had the “nose job from hell”. Grey says that her career was ruined and no one recognises her anymore. So why did she have it done in the first place?

I look in the mirror and I don’t always like what I see. I am not narcissistic enough to take dozens of selfies, so the pictures of me that appear, say, on social networks are carefully regulated by me. Sometimes I look like someone with Bell’s palsy, other times I think I look old and shrivelled. I have a big scar on my face which means my face is not symmetrical. I don’t like looking at me. To be fair, I never did. One thing I would not do is spend a large wedge trying to change the way I look. I am what I am.

Plenty of people do spend a large wedge trying to change the way they look. Almost every middle aged actor and most old school rock stars have hair transplants and, in some cases, facelifts too. (Hello, Axl.) In the hair department, I have to date been very lucky but the rest of me is showing the signs of age. But I am a man and it doesn’t matter.

For women growing old, it does matter. The Daily Mail in particular tells you so, in the newspaper and, especially, on line. Women are not allowed to grow old, to put on weight and to let their hair go grey/white. Why not? Because the Daily Mail is run by men. It is no accident that hair dye is one of the biggest selling products of our age. I know that men are encouraged to dye their hair too, as well as have it transplanted, but in reality it’s mainly women who are targeted by the advertisers and the big stores.

Jennifer Grey, we are told by the Sun, is “now 57, and still looking surprisingly fresh-faced”. But she doesn’t quite look like Baby Houseman any more. Well, of course she doesn’t. She’s 57, not 27 as she was when Dirty Dancing was filmed. It’s probably me being paranoid, but what do you think the Sun means when it says that Grey still looks “surprisingly fresh-faced”? They are dropping a very large hint that not only has Grey had a “nose job”, but that other work may well have taken place.

In the eyes of this old codger, Grey looked fine as she was. The shape of her nose and the colour of her hair bothers me not one jot. We are slowly, very slowly, becoming a more equal society but still women are pressured to look a certain way and men are not.

Are we still in the world where every single woman should look a certain way, which is brown-haired, smooth-skinned, slim and wrinkle free? I’m old fashioned, but I quite like the lines of age on a woman, much more than the editors of the Sun and the Mail do. By all means, boys and girls, try to look as good as you can, but why not just be what you are, rather than what some aspects of society expect you to be?

Eclectic Blue

It’s Mata’s thought that matters

Comments Off on It’s Mata’s thought that matters 07 August 2017

I am not being sarcastic when I offer my congratulations and respect to Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata for his decision to pay 1% of his salary to the Common Goal charity. The purpose of the charity is, and I quote: “We’re uniting the world of footballers behind a shared commitment to give back. The idea is simple. Players pledge a minimum of 1% of their wages to a collective fund. And we allocate this fund to football charities that create the greatest impact worldwide.” Given that Mata earns £7 million a year which works out at a modest £135k a week, he will donate £70k a year to Common Goal. I say fair play that man.

Yes, I know that roughly half a week’s wages is not going to see Mata queueing at the local food bank and it’s fair to say he will not notice the small loss to his bank account, but my argument is simple: he didn’t need to do it. It is also not Mata’s fault that he earns £7 million a year. That’s my fault for paying Sky an extortionate monthly subscription so I can watch the likes of Mata playing his trade. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that Mata is somewhere near mid table in Premier League earnings. I’d imagine his team mates Paul Pogba and Romalu Lukaku trouser considerably more than double Mata’s weekly wage but when thou count your salary in many millions, the odd £7 million here or there scarcely matters.

I would imagine Mata’s £70k will make a significant difference to the lives of some young people somewhere in the world and we should be encouraging his fellow millionaires to do the same. We cannot make them, of course, but we always think more of someone who puts his or her hand in their pocket to help others who are less fortunate. I’m thinking of doing the same in my modest job for an internationally famous humanitarian which does not pay quite as well as Manchester United Football Club. 1% of my salary would be in the range of £6.50 which wouldn’t even pay for part of a decent standard football! Given the price of a pint these days, I probably wouldn’t miss my 1% anymore than Mata.

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