Tag archive for "5"

Eclectic Blue

See ya later race traitor. The march of the far right.

Comments Off on See ya later race traitor. The march of the far right. 06 December 2018

Ever heard of the Atomwaffen Division? Probably not. They’re a neo Nazi organisation from the USA which supports terrorism and that civilisation should be ‘smashed’ in order to build a National Socialist state. Point of information here: that’s what Hitler did in Germany and – guess what? – Atomwaffen adore Hitler. And so does their British offshoot, the Sonnenkrieg Division.

The Sonnenkrieg Division believes that women who date ‘non white’ men should be shot, they glorify the Norwegian terrorist and mass murderer Anders Breivik and believe that Prince Harry should be shot for marrying a woman of mixed race. ‘See ya later race traitor,’ says their poster, which features a picture of Harry with a gun pointing at his head. Do you get the idea, yet?

Of course, this could never happen in our country, could it? After all, it was little Britain that stood up to fascists in World War Two. We were on the frontline against Hitler. We hold our Remembrance services every year, s wonderful, so deeply moving. We will remember them. Unless, that is, we forget?

Sonnenkrieg is a tiny group, so let’s not get carried away just yet, but hang on. Just yesterday, I saw on my Facebook timeline posts shared from fascist groups like Britain First. The day before someone shared a post from the BNP. We are leaving the EU, not perhaps as the direct result of fascist intervention, but many of those involved are of the political far right. On Sunday, the far right activist Stephen Laxley-Lennon is leading a ‘Save Brexit’ march. If we are not endorsing Sonnenkrieg, their less nasty comrades are gaining a lot of traction in our little country.

We need to watch this stuff. It catches up on you. Nigel Farage calculated long ago that casual and dog-whistle racism was an effective tool for garnering support from large numbers of the public who would not normally be regarded as from the far right. Politicians of the far right stir up fear and loathing. Unless we stand up to it, history has shown what happens.

The use of Prince Harry for their posters exposes clearly what these extremists are all about and make no mistake, there are more than a few people out there who questioned Harry’s choice of bride, purely – and I use the word purely quite deliberately – because of her colour.

And in a bitterly divided country, people often seek simple solutions to complex problems. We need to be better than that, but in a world where so many nations are lurching to the far right – and make no mistake, Brexit is our Trump – the door to fascism is slightly open. The far right is a broad church of extremes. But the far right in power is a very small and ugly place.

 

Eclectic Blue

Poverty? It’s just a laugh.

Comments Off on Poverty? It’s just a laugh. 05 December 2018

I can understand why so many people find it hard to take Jeremy Corbyn seriously. I don’t. Here’s the bloke whose only experience in power was head of Haringey’s Housing Committee back in the 1970s. Yet Shameless, shifty (Baroness) Shami Chakrabarti says – and I am not making this up – that Magic Grandpa himself could negotiate a better Brexit deal than Theresa May. In all likelihood, it will be next to impossible to negotiate a worse Brexit deal, but you couldn’t be entirely certain Corbyn wouldn’t manage just that. Today, May and her utterly useless government front bench were laughing at Corbyn but for all the wrong reasons.

It was simply beyond belief that, with the government in meltdown, having been defeated three times the previous day, that Corbyn didn’t lead prime ministers questions on Brexit. Instead, he read out a series of questions about poverty in the UK. I suppose I should be the last to complain since I have been moaning for ages that Brexit is dominating our politics to the exclusion of almost everything else, but there is a time and a place and this was not it.

It is a crime, in moral terms, that over four million children live in poverty. I might have excused Corbyn his diversion if he had used his six questions with great skill, but he hasn’t got any. This is not a man who can think on his feet, or if today is anything to go by, who can think about anything at all. May probably couldn’t believe her luck. But then she started laughing, as did much of the Tory benches, populated largely by seriously rich people, a decent percentage of whom are in her cabinet. This was not a good look. In fact, it was a very bad look.

May revealed that she has little or no idea how ordinary folk live their lives. The vicar’s daughter has never known poverty, almost certainly never seen it. As a christian, you might have thought she had an ounce of empathy and compassion for the poorest people but not this prime minister, who displays none of the qualities you might expect from, say, Jesus Christ, who, if he ever lived, probably did not travel around telling lies. However, there is a message in all this for Corbyn.

The old boy is a quiet hard Brexiter. That’s his true position. His view on the EU is no different from the late Tony Benn, whose empty slogans and vacuous rhetoric became the bedrock on which Corbyn’s opinions were created. Whilst the hard right want Brexit to strip this country bare with a small government, low tax nation, without the costly bits like the NHS and schools, the hard left, under Corbyn, wants a hard Brexit that will bring about the collapse of capitalism in one country and he will ride into town on his white steed to save us all. Except the steed is more likely to be a unicorn. And the worst affected, in any form of Brexit, will be the poorest.

Both May and Corbyn are down there with the worst political leaders we have seen in our history. May cooks up a Brexit deal that unites the nation only in how bad it is and then laughs out loud when the issue of child poverty is raised in parliament. And Corbyn would have trouble locating his arse with both hands and a map. Some say we deserve better than this, but after voting to set the country on fire in 2016, I’m not sure they are right.

Eclectic Blue

When it disappears

Comments Off on When it disappears 05 December 2018

Apologies to my millions of readers if this award-winning blog disappears from time to time. My technical team is working at it, whatever it is.

If you want something to do whilst waiting for the site to come back on line, can I strongly recommend you purchase a copy of Louis Cole’s brilliant album Time, which features Thundercat! And then listen to it.

I thank you.

Eclectic Blue

My comfort zone

Comments Off on My comfort zone 04 December 2018

I’ve concluded that it’s the relative stability in my life that is keeping the Black Dog of depression on the leash. I’m working broadly the same hours and days every week – a critical component of my well-being – and I am getting out a bit more. In the last few months I have:

  • Been on a golfing weekend (my first ever)
  • Been away for a weekend with friends in Yorkshire
  • Been to a gig with the same friends we went to Yorkshire with

This represents real progress. At the same time, I have, I promise not ungratefully, passed up on several social functions, including a number of parties and just about everything connected with Christmas. I am functioning at a decent level but I am not yet ready to get involved with stuff that’s well outside my comfort zone. It is hard to explain why this is is good for me, but it is.

I have rarely enjoyed work functions and for decades I did not need to attend any. The places in which I worked were rarely places where people socialised outside office hours. It was, is, not that I didn’t/don’t like the people I work(ed) with – on the contrary, in some cases the opposite was true – but that comfort zone is one hell of a place to stay when you’re feeling a little vulnerable.

I don’t particularly like large crowds, which probably explains why I supported Bristol Rovers for so many years (I’ll say it before you do), and I don’t like the unexpected. My ultimate nightmare, one of the worst things that could ever happen to me, would be a big surprise party in a big, vibrant room. If it’s loud, I hate it even more.

As an atheist, I love Christmas, at least the family and friends stuff. And the sitting around and drinking and eating far too much. Parties, no way. I never went to them when I was a young lad at work. This dressing up malarkey, lots of noise, dancing to terrible music and being miles away from home was way too much for this boy. I’d rather have a pint in the Beaufort or at home.

It’s all going all right at the moment. I’m writing a lot and, generally, I’m writing reasonably well, though not (yet) up to 2016 and 2017s levels. I’m confident of a return to form, though.

So, if you think I’m being anti-social when turning down party invites, not going to Christmas meals and dances, not going to crowded places, not going to carol services and so on, it’s not your fault, it’s just me doing what I think is right for me.

My steady return to good mental health in 2018 can be attributed to a wide variety of sources and people and one of the main ones is avoiding things that might cause me discomfort and stress. I’m in my safety zone and I am starting, very slowly, to stretch out.

I said the other day that I could still see and feel that depression lurking just below the surface, running parallel with my lighter thoughts. I want to keep things on track over Christmas and into the New Year. Things might change in 2019 – who knows? – but it will be evolution not revolution. I need to manage me better in the future and that’s what I aim to do.

Eclectic Blue

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Comments Off on I’ll show you something to make you change your mind 04 December 2018

One of the biggest problems with poverty in our country is that the majority of people have never suffered from it. People read about it, sometimes sympathise with it, sometimes dismiss it because in their world poverty doesn’t exist. The facts are frequently distorted by the populist media, which caricatures poor people as feckless scroungers who waste the generous benefits they are given by an over-generous government which rewards those who choose not to work for a living. Of course, there are those who abuse the system – I should know: I spent my entire career working in the field of benefits – but it is the blackest of black lies to suggest the lazy, feckless and fraudulent are in the majority.

The facts, as supplied by the Joseph Rowntree foundation are as follows:

  • Child poverty in Britain has been on the rise since 2011/12 as David Cameron’s Conservative government in which some Lib Dems had jobs imposed austerity which impacted mostly on the poorest people in society.
  • 4.1 million children are now in poverty, an increase of 500,000 in the last five years.
  • 4 million workers are now in poverty, an increase of 500,000 in the last five years.
  • In work poverty is increasing faster than employment, with working parents suffering the most.

I would like to ask one simple question: do we really care?

I know what it is like to be poor. I know what it is like living in a home where my mother had to choose between eating and heating. We had no food stored in cupboards or anywhere else. What we ate that day was what my mother was able to afford just as the shops we closing and just before the offcuts of meat and the remaining vegetables were put into bins. Because of my mother’s heroic efforts, I never realised we were different from everyone else we knew. It was only later in her life that she told me the desperate, upsetting stories.

My paternal  grandparents lived in a small terraced house with no bathroom and an outside toilet. Their only form of heating was an old coal fire in the backroom. They washed in a tin bowl/bath in the kitchen. I never thought it odd until I went to their neighbours’ houses at Christmas. But it still didn’t register how poor we all were.

Without making direct comparisons, I have seen enough during my life to convince me that nothing much has changed. I am immeasurably in a better position, living in a modest house with mod cons such as heating and a fridge and I swear that every day I thank my lucky stars, whatever that means (nothing, obviously).  Through work, I discovered a world where there were many, many people living lives that looked like mine as a child and in many instances far worse. So, why is there so much poverty in our green and not always pleasant land?

If I knew the definitive answer, I would not be an unsuccessful blogger. However, we know it’s a combination of:

  • Education and the lack of it
  • Inequality
  • A society in which it matters more who you know than what you know
  • Low wages
  • A broken housing market
  • Drugs

And on and on. And on and on because we have chosen, as a society, to allow these things to happen. We elect politicians and vote for political parties who maintain the status quo. We do so, quite often, because we are all right (Jack) and when we close our doors when we get home from work, we close our minds, too.

The costs of poverty rest not just with who suffer from it. Society pays the price for the choices we, through the politicians we elect, make. And the price of inequality is a big one when you merely deal with the outcome rather than the symptoms and causes.

I have accompanied people to food banks, have got to know people who choose when to heat and when to eat, have seen their lives destroyed and even ended by drug use, have resorted to crime to alleviate their poverty and/or to pay for drug habits. And let’s not even start on the costs of poor mental health.

The actual numbers shame our nation but meanwhile the media in general and the BBC in particular focuses relentless on anything but poverty.

“I’m not poor, my family isn’t poor and my neighbours aren’t poor” is not a convincing counter-argument to the rise in poverty, nor is it sufficient to blame the poor for being so poor. It’s out there all right, away from the twee middle classes dining out on Prosecco and haute cuisine and bubbling away in their hot tubs. It’s a class war, but not as we know it, because we now have a significant ‘underclass’, who are usually in work.

Visiting a food bank for the first time was a chastening experience. If you deny the existence of poverty, even mass poverty, then visit one, even volunteer to serve in one. I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.

 

 

Eclectic Blue

Vegging out

Comments Off on Vegging out 03 December 2018

I heard a joke on the radio today. Here it is:

“Why did the vegan cross the road?”

“To get to the other side to tell everyone they were a vegan!”

Funny? Probably not that funny, but in a crummy phone-in about the subject of veganism and whether vegans should get the same rights as religious people, it was as funny as it got.

I do not know how or why vegans should enjoy the same rights as religions people. At least vegans believe in something real, I suppose, but what next? Vegan mosques and temples? A kind of vegan sharia law?

That’s what it sounded like, I have to say. There were stories of schools forcing children to wear leather shoes, although no one could find a single example of a school that did this. (Far better to make people wear plastic shoes, I suppose, because after all we don’t have enough plastic waste these days, do we?) Even  humble bee-keepers were treated as mass murderers, as they practiced genocide on snoozing bees in midwinter by stealing their honey. (This is not what happens, by the way, but let’s not let a fact get in the way of a good rant.)

Look, as an Australian person might say. As someone who enjoys eating dead animals, I cannot pretend I am on the moral high ground. I cannot say to someone who spends their eating life wolfing down various forms of plant life that they are in the wrong. Of course, I can’t. I just don’t like being lectured. And I hate being lectured in the most patronising way.

I am absolutely sure it is possible to enjoy a meat and two veg without the meat, with the meat being replaced by another veg, making it a three veg. I once stayed with a friend in London whose wife cooked a meal to which I responded, “It would have been better with a pork chop on the side.” I was being frivolous, it must be said, and my frivolity did not go down well. I was never asked to stay again.

I could, with some effort, become a run of the mill vegetarian. At least the veggies I know don’t make a song and dance every time I sink my teeth into a bacon sarnie. I had the impression with Radio Five’s vegans that whilst they might be opposed to killing animals, they might find it less than unacceptable to kill some of meat-eaters.

Eventually, vegetarianism will become the norm, or something close to it. Scientists will invent sausages that actually taste and look like real meaty sausages and McDonalds will sell something that’s actually edible and animal free. Lecturing and hectoring will,  I’m afraid, have the effect of getting people to turn away from veganism. Giving us all better choices would be far better.

 

Eclectic Blue

Motorbiking

Comments Off on Motorbiking 02 December 2018

I am not surprised that the shadow home secretary Dianne Abbott – and just imagine her as the real home secretary: oh dear! – has complained about police officers knocking moped thieves/thugs off their bikes. “Knocking people off bikes is potentially very dangerous. It shouldn’t be legal for anyone,” tweets Abbott. “Police are not above the law”. I have to ask: whose side is she on, then?

In many areas of London, moped crime is at epidemic levels. People from all walks of life are being terrorised by these criminals. The police, in some instances, have employed the tactic of ramming the offenders. Yes, it’s “potentially very dangerous”, Ms Abbott, but as long as police officers don’t get injured, who cares?

If the police act proportionately, within the law, which is something Abbott probably doesn’t understand, then they are not above the law. I have never met nor come across a copper who feels they are above the law. Their job, the last time I looked, was to uphold the law.

In this instance, the moped criminals can make their own decisions. Desist from moped crime or face the consequences when the police use what is in my view a proper and reasonable way. If criminals get hurt committing crime, it’s just too bad.

As for Diane Abbott, I criticise for one reason and one reason only: she’s an idiot. And idiots come in all colours.

Eclectic Blue

Brain damage

Comments Off on Brain damage 02 December 2018

One thing I never do on this blog is discuss my current employer. The views on here are mine and mine alone. But over the last 15 months or so, I have learned a great deal about brain injury. I think about that a lot every time there is a big boxing match taking place. And that’s what this blog is about.

The human brain is incredibly delicate. If you were to hold a brain in your hands – and children, don’t try this at home – it would gradually begin to seep between your fingers. To quote the website science.howstuffworks: ‘Your brain and spinal cord are covered by a series of tough membranes called meninges, which protect these organs from rubbing against the bones of the skull and spine. For further protection, the brain and spinal cord “float” in a sea of cerebrospinal fluid within the skull and spine.’ What happens to the brains of boxers?

Medical science has proved that blows to the head cause brain damage. Cells do not replace the injured ones and over the long term punches to the head cause permanent and irreversible brain damage. I know as someone who has occasionally watched boxing on the television for many years that the sport is not good for the boxer. Look at any number of retired fighters and the signs of brain damage are clear. The greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali, suffered from Parkinson’s Syndrome, turning him into a physical shell of the man he used to be. He fought for far too long and even before his retirement, he showed signs of brain damage through slurred speech and a deterioration in motor skills. Some people make excuses for Ali, that he would have developed Parkinsons anyway. Really? Read Thomas Hauser’s Life and Times, the definitive and official Ali biography, and tell me that boxing had nothing to do with his sad decline.

Look at other sports. In rugby league and union, players are tested for head trauma and concussion. If a doctor believes a player may have suffered even a minor head injury, he is removed from the field for immediate tests. In boxing, the fighter gets up off the floor, often in a state of concussion, and resumes the fight until he is rendered unconscious. The crowd cheers. I have cheered myself, albeit from the safety of my armchair. But then again, I watched the fight where Michael Watson received life changing brain injury and the fight when Gerald McLellan received catastrophic injuries, including blindness and deafness. Caused specifically and directly by boxing.

Early this morning, the well known misogynist and homophobe Tyson Fury fought Deontay Wilder  for one of the many versions of the world heavyweight title. I declined to part with £20 and get up at 4.00 am but obviously heard the radio reports this morning. Fury was twice sent tumbling to the canvas as a direct result of being punched in the head, causing at least temporary concussion of some degree. Doubtless, the crowd erupted with excitement – I know the feeling, so I won’t try to be a hypocrite – after which Fury staggered to his feet and fought on. This would have been described as ‘courageous’ from Fury, as it probably was, but it would have carried huge health risks. And if they carry on fighting like that, they will end up slurring like Ali, like Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns and every other fighter who has taken too many blows to the head.

If boxing was invented today, would it not be banned immediately? Smoking would, for sure, given what we know about the health risks. Yet we cannot uninvent boxing. We could ban the sport which would almost certainly drive it underground, meaning there would be no regulation at all. No doctors or ambulance crews present. Just a free for all where the best man would win and the other guy might even die. We’re between a rock and a hard place. However, that hard place is not the human brain.

Boxing is known as the ‘sweet science’, which describes the balance of being hit and not being hit. This turns on its head the idea that the idea of boxing is to render the opponent unconscious. The truth is that boxing is a little of both. Many see a certain beauty in the sport, when Ali danced and when Sugar Ray Leonard moved with bewildering hand speed and power. But then there were the boxers, the journeymen, who were little more than human punchbags and the big names who ended up horribly brain-damaged.

I find it hard to separate the ‘sweet science’ from the gory reality that faces many boxers, the bloody injuries we do see and the brain damage we usually don’t, until it’s too late. And knowing about brain damage like I now do, I find it very hard to justify what goes on inside the ropes.

*** This blog was written before I learned the news about Adonis Stevenson who is currently in a critical condition after being knocked out in a fight last night in Quebec City ***

Eclectic Blue

Broken Britain

Comments Off on Broken Britain 01 December 2018

Why can’t we just have done with this Brexit malarkey? I am almost literally sick to the back teeth of Brexit.  Can’t the politicians just get on with it, stop this insane act of self-harm which will make us poorer and lessen our influence in the world and pretend Brexit never happened? You can but hope.

I have barely listened to BBC Radio Five Live this week because of its overwhelming obsession with the subject. The otherwise excellent Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden have turned the Breakfast Show into a two and a half hour phone-in every single day. Who are they talking to?

Brexit is occupying everything. Even a Facebook group for my old school contains the usual idiotic comments you get from people who do not understand what the hell is going on. One says, “Goodbye EU, hello freedom.” Freedom from what exactly, I didn’t reply. Freedom from having the freedom to travel, live, study, work and retire anywhere in 27 other countries?  That’s a very odd freedom, losing our freedom to be free. Freedom to make ourselves poorer, perhaps? Freedom to reduce migration, a freedom we always enjoyed but chose not to do so because it benefited the economy, didn’t it, Mrs May, who happened to be the home secretary who was directly responsible for migration. It goes on and on, the madness we have voted for. And don’t think it ends here.

On the contrary, the current gridlock and division in our country won’t stop when and if we finally leave the EU. That’s the easy bit. The following years, perhaps decades, will be taken up with negotiating new agreements, not just with the EU, but all the other countries with whom we already have trade agreements through the EU. If like me you are bored senseless with Brexit, have I got news for you!

I don’t want Theresa May’s terrible deal, I don’t want a TV debate between two of the worst politicians this country has ever produced (May and Jeremy Corbyn), I don’t want my children to lose all the benefits of free movement I enjoyed. I don’t even want those who voted leave to lose their own rights to retire in the sun, even if they were daft enough to vote for it.

I hate saying “I told you so” and instead I shall address those who told us leaving the EU would immediately take us to glorious sunny uplands of money trees, a well-funded NHS and stopping those wretched foreigners from coming to work here. Brexit hero ‘Dr’ Liam Fox said a deal to leave the EU would be “the easiest in human history”. People: we have been lied to on an industrial scale. And the chief liar, the devout christian Theresa May carries on lying, as if that was what her God would have wanted her to do. “Thou shalt avoid the question and tell Porkies!”

We need to talk about something else. Anything else. We cannot and must not carry on with this crazy Brexit, which we now know was led by tinpot English nationalists whose agenda is to rip up what they see as ‘big government’, abolish regulations on everything from workers’ rights to food (chlorinated chicken, anyone?) and open up the country to wealthy tax dodgers.

Brexit is not, and never was, about ‘taking back control’ because Britain is now poised to lose control and influence in just about everything. The EU was not broken and it didn’t need fixing. Britain was not broken, but it is now. And stopping Brexit is the beginning of fixing it. Then we can change the subject.

Eclectic Blue

Still waiting for the delivery

Comments Off on Still waiting for the delivery 30 November 2018

Imagine if you went to the railway station and the person who sold you the ticket told you to head to the platform because the train would be here sometime today. Or if you rang 999, suffering from a heart attack, and the call handler said an ambulance would be with you sometime before the end of the day but couldn’t give you a precise arrival time. The former is slightly more believable than the latter, but neither comes close to the service you get from just about any company which is delivering something for which you have paid a small fortune.

I’m having to spend the entire day waiting for a new mattress to be delivered. I got up especially early on my day off and I just know full well that the delivery won’t happen until the middle of the evening. It’s no good saying, “Well, just use a different company!” They’re all like this.

I try to get things done and they’re mainly quiet things, just in case the delivery driver turns up with a feather duster, brushes it gently on the front door, gets no reply and buggers off again. I daren’t go out the back and I get worried if I am not looking out of the front room window at least every 30 seconds.

I have acknowledged on numerous occasions that my brain cells are not the most numerous and I would be the last person capable of running a business, but isn’t there someone, somewhere who could set up a delivery service and arrange deliver something within, say, a two hour period? How hard can it be? Can’t the companies simply supply their drivers with Tom Toms with live traffic and can’t they text when they are vaguely near? They must surely know roughly what time they will be with me. Why can’t they fucking say?

When the delivery driver eventually gets here, I will not of course lose my temper with her/him. He – I’ll stick with he for the time being – will probably be on a crappy low wage which includes unrealistic targets and horrendous hours. Maybe that’s the worst thing of all: I have no one to lose my temper with, even if I do lose my temper which I usually don’t. If you follow what I mean.

It could be that when I am on my deathbed, with mere moments left until I expire, I will hark back to today, wishing I had put that Friday, on the last day of autumn in 2018, to better use. And for all I know, the bloody mattress I am waiting for today will be the one I will be lying on.

NEWSFLASH: THE UPS DELIVERY DRIVER NEVER MADE IT AT ALL. WHAT A SHOWER OF SHIT.

 

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