Monday, April 29, 2013

75 Seconds (Give or Take)


  • Is it a prerequisite for taxi drivers to be shit drivers?
  • How many people don't work in this country that no one knows about?
  • Fuckwit has scaffolding up the front of his house. His roof needs fixing. How does he afford these things? Seriously, how does he afford them? I can't even get what I should be entitled to. He is either on some kind of crazy scam or unbeknownst to everyone he really has a job.
  • The company that disposes of Northampton Borough Clowncil's (did you see what I did there?) decomposable waste can't process sawdust or newspaper if it has animal pooh or pee in it, near it or been spoken to by it. It's not a health and safety issue. It's not a sawdust issue - they'll take sawdust as long as a turd has been nowhere near it. You see small furries waste is not processable and therefore neither is anything it might have contaminated, but it isn't a health and safety issue, unless it is, but no one has said anything. What do clowncils do with dog shit?
  • I have got 16 strawberry plants in. Planted some dwarf beans and beetroots. Actually done something in the garden that looks like it might have been thought up by someone who knows what he is doing. I got my potatoes in at the weekend, discovered I now have two rhubarb plants (as part of the root I left in the ground has regenerated) and I'm very nearly almost where I want to be.
  • There is no more.

Friday, April 26, 2013

More Shorts

I ranted at the poor woman at the Job Centre. Just sat down and started. I could see she was programmed to ignore me, but I persevered. I might as well have been complaining at a sheep about the price of lamb.

It's been a bad week for blood pressure, that's for sure and yet I can't help thinking that a few years ago I might have given myself an aneurysm but now I'm trying to ignore everything because I don't want to have a life-induced heart attack while railing against the system that doesn't change. I could also sit here and tell you about my experiences with Universal Job Search, which is, to put it as succinctly as possible - a complete and total oxymoron. It doesn't do much of what it says on the tin and what it does do it does in a 1990s stylee. My adviser probably wouldn't have got animated if I'd whipped my cock out and danced the fandango with the illiterate Ukrainian seated next to me.

Still, I actually was slightly less than ambivalent about the GDP figures. I'm actually quite pleased there has been some growth, because had it gone the other way then it would have been a case of abandon hope all you who enter here.

The next series of The Walking Dead could and probably should be filmed as a documentary in Sainsburys, Duston. I got a text from the wife asking me if I was shopping already (no she's not Jewish) and my reply was something along the lines of 'Fucking Zombie Chamber' and her reply was, "Sainsburys then?"

I have been sitting in the garden. I thought all the sun was going away and the cold weather was coming back, but the sun has come out again and my shirt needs to be taken off... More later!

Later is now and the day was indeed a glorious one. The long range weather forecast says the next nice weather will be in the middle of May. I must now apologise to my friend Jo for doubting her weather forecasting skills last weekend...

For those of you who have been here a long time you will, hopefully, remember that I am a great advocate of the rules - if it aint broke don't fix it and never trust anything that claims to be 'new' and 'improved'. These two specific sayings appear to be what the Internet is all about because I've noticed some more subtle but fucking annoying changes to things like my Yahoo mail, a couple of things that have upgraded themselves and my browser, which just changed overnight: went to bed it looked one way, got up, clicked on something that didn't seem to be offensive and there's all kinds of shit that's different. I finally decided to upgrade some other program I use and it is now covered in adverts. I appreciate that if something exists with potential commercial viability it will be raped repeatedly until it yields some kind of revenue and because kids treat advertising like we treat midges means that we're going to be pissed off about it, kids are going to ignore it and companies are going to continue making no money but at least they will have continued to piss off the older generations sufficiently to keep them amused if nothing else.

I was thinking that I can't remember the last time I met someone that I hadn't gotten on really well with, then I remembered that there are three people that I've known in the last 10 years, who were basically complete cunts - It might have started well and I got on with them initially, but... I'm not sure they're in my 1990s former employer's league for sustained horridness because I didn't know any of these new people long enough to gauge what horrors they could achieve over a sustained period of time. One of them really just hated me, one of them was actually something of a joke and the other is a dangerous individual; the kind of person who really shouldn't be shown a smidgeon of power or they will use it for their own personal revenges. This all came about yesterday when I was on my way back from the dole orifice and popped into the Lamplighter for a swift pint of JHB and ended up having a couple while chatting to this really nice guy who used to live in Stevenage - my home town. I was pretty much of the opinion that when I got friendly with One El that making new friends at my age was literally one for the books; retired people make new friends because the old will talk to anyone. What kind of makes it funny and slightly ironic is that I might see the guy again, he heard about the pub quiz and might join us and he's a copper. How about that, eh? Me friendly with a policeman.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hate Filled Bile Spewed From Frustrated Middle Aged Man (part 72)

Several years ago, I seriously considered standing as an independent in the local elections. I had become so incensed by useless councillors, ridiculous bureaucracy and pretty blatant corruption - councillors getting their own streets resurfaced ahead of far more deserving roads (which didn't have councillors or friends of councillors living on them, like council estates, etc.) and bizarre little quirks and by-laws being introduced purely to pander to a few people and to piss off the many. Local politics might be different from central government politics, but the same small, petty minded, bigoted, career politicians inhabit the spaces.

However, one night, as I was sitting at this very desk, planning a winning strategy having just returned from a fruitful meeting with old pal and former MP Tony Clarke, I came to the conclusion that I was barking mad. Well, no, I actually came to the conclusion that I wasn't the person to be doing this...

I got this mate and for the sake of his identity we'll skirt around key issues, but he was a colleague of mine who was probably the best person at his job and the reason for this was because he was the only person on that specific team who had been in the same ship which we were now helping certain people to steady. Our clients could relate to him because he had literally been there, done it and bought and worn out the T-shirt. He was quite brilliant at his job and many of us were envious of him. He is also a very political person - a union man and a life-long Labour supporter, but if he ever considered standing for council he would be crucified by his opponents and all because he has a criminal record.

The most qualified person standing for the recent Police Commissioner posts also had a criminal conviction when he was a teenager. I personally thought this made him closer to the hub than the weird looking alien guy who got the job.

Now, I haven't got a criminal record. In fact, I no longer even have any penalty points on my licence (touches wood) and I am an, allegedly, upstanding citizen - even if I am dole-scrounging scum at this moment in time. But, I have some skeletons in my closet that would, if I ever considered standing for office, bite me on the arse and take big chunks. I mean, yes, Bill Clinton got elected President even though he tried pot when he was in Oxford - he didn't inhale. I did. A lot. I even, gulp, sold a bit of it during the darkest days of Thatcher's rule because I needed something to brighten up a future as bright as a very long unlit tunnel. That admission alone could probably get me a visit from the Old Bill and couple that with all the blogs I've written over the years that contain language that would make a Merchant Seaman blush. Then of course there's the embezzlement, frauds, adultery, murders and genocide I've either performed or played a part in, these would all make great newspaper headlines (if they were true...) Let's face it, simply admitting I took drugs for a few years is going to alienate me from a huge percentage of the voting public.

I actually think, going back to this Police Commissioner thing that I was the best qualified of all the candidates and I didn't stand for it. My age is good. I spent many years working as a 'journalist', I then went into social care and spent 6 years as a valuable and innovative employee of the Youth Offending Service - I actually had more general experience than any of the candidates (apart from the one who dropped out), but you know, the baldy guy who won would have found out I used to puff away on spliffs in my early 20s and the Chronicle & Echo would have had mock ups of me with dreads and a big reefer hanging from my slack jaw...

And that's why, I decided, that politics and me should co-exist rather than become symbiotic. I know I can't do much from the sidelines, but at least I still have my voice.

Yet, I wonder if I have some kind of unique view of the world that is somehow being overlooked by others. This morning, the news featured a story that essentially charted the rise and rise of Food Banks and the fact that there has been a ½ million increase in people needing to use them, in the last year. Does that make you feel good? Because it makes me think that covertly, we're royally butt-fucking the poor and disadvantaged and the only people that care have no power at all to change it or even get 2 minutes of serious media time to highlight the plight. Admittedly the BBC treated it like a news story, but I cannot believe the social implications of this hasn't sparked more reaction. I am a great believer in the UK sending aid to other countries - what a lot of people don't realise is that the more aid we send to third world countries, the better deal we get with our debt repayments. So, instead of paying say 5% interest, we pay proportionately less because of the help we give to other countries - so all of you people who can't understand why we do it, there's the simple economics of it. However, when we have people in this country who are literally begging (or the 21st century equivalent of it) for food, you have to ask whether something, somewhere has gone wrong.

How can we as human beings, with some semblance of conscience, allow this to happen in 2013? The government claims that there are benefit provisions to cater for these people (if you'll excuse the pun), but if its there, how come no one is using it? How come no one knows about it? Why are people getting referred to food banks by Job Centres if there is a provision in benefits to prevent this from happening that job centre employees could tell them about rather than refer them to a food bank? Some faceless government twat said the problem was being overstated - I take it ½million increase in people needing free food is an overstatement then? Just how out of touch with reality is the current government? But you could argue that if people are starving they won't have the energy to rebel against it.

I hear Cameron banging on about the Big Society and his government working on behalf of the 'public interest' and I wonder if anyone actually believes him? I mean the rich obviously know he's blowing hot air. The middle classes don't care and the poor, who, if they even bother to listen to his message, just feel like he's taking the piss. The Big Society has become synonymous with the better off helping the poor because the government aren't going to do it. It's like they're absolving themselves of all responsibility while making sure that whoever is running the country next can't afford to fix the things they're wilfully dismantling. Real Tories (not people like some of my misguided friends) must be really evil people. Yes, by all means, hate and despise those who take the piss and take the country for a ride, but don't feel the same way about people who are just unfortunate or aren't as healthy as you (or them) and more importantly, don't put them all in the same boat. A man in his 50s who gets made redundant because of government cuts isn't where he is through his own volition.

I have been a Labour supporter all my life and then at the last General Election I made the mistake of thinking that a LibDem vote might be worth it. In Northampton all the LibDem candidate did was prevent the Labour candidate from getting back in. The Tory vote stayed roughly the same and 30% of the Labour vote went Liberal and they both allowed Michael Ellis to get elected. He must have been rubbing his hands together in glee because he got elected on less votes than his losing predecessor achieved.

The most galling thing about the last 3 years has been the complete ineffectiveness of the coalition; the Libdems, so petrified, barely do anything to curtail the Tories and I have this slightly soiled feeling that I actually voted Tory at the last election without knowing it. Even now, the Libs are more concerned with sustaining the massive erection they got when they suddenly became power brokers than tempering a bunch of fascists who are, to all intents and purposes, being allowed to screw up the country so much the next government will struggle to even keep things as they are now. How good is to look forward to?

I'm betting a lot of you weren't aware that John Major and his Tories felt they had little or no chance of remaining in power in 1992. The rumours suggested that they did things to stymie Kinnock's incoming government; set things in place, economically, that would blow up in Labour's face a couple of years into their reign. Then, of course, the unthinkable happened and the Tories got back in - mainly on the strength that Kinnock was Michael Foot Jr. Major's government were buggered by incredibly high interest rates, another recession, a surge in unemployment and, of course, Black Wednesday - all things they arguably sowed the seeds for because they didn't think they'd win the election.

That should be illegal. We should have some law that states if ministers can be proven to have deliberately fucked something up then they should be held responsible for it. That includes Labour - the twat in the Treasury who left the coalition the note about having good luck dealing with their overspending - he should be prosecuted for indirect fraud - he's screwing around with our money to the detriment of the next governors, he shouldn't be allowed to get away with it and the same with the current mob, especially as they haven't actually got a mandate.

The problem is all of them - all the parties - are really frightened: Cameron knows he hasn't got the ability to get a majority; Clegg knows that deep down his career is finished once the next election comes along (he'll be lucky to be re-elected in his own constituency) and FFS... Ed Millipede has about as much gravitas as Katie Price. There's no one in the wings who wants to step forward because they all know that this hell could last for the rest of our lives!

They're all frightened that they'll either get elected and won't know what to do, or they won't get elected and that's them finished. It's no longer about the country's interests, it's like British politics has become this huge unpopular version of Big Brother. And that's kind of why I thought standing as a councillor might be a good idea. I don't think I'm easily corrupted, I stick by my principals and I'll fight for what's right. The problem is it hasn't really done Tony Clarke a lot of good because nowadays the term 'an honest, hard working politician' is both an anachronism and an oxymoron and even if you are this, most voters won't believe you, especially if you no longer represent one of the big parties.

I have a mate who is standing as a UKIP candidate at the next local elections and I so want to ask him why and how someone from his background (working with disenfranchised kids) could throw his lot behind a posh boys version of the BNP. UKIP are successful because they put across that same xenophobic message the BNP and EDF put across, but they have people like Nigel Farage, who looks more Tory than Gideon O. The BNP struggle because Nick Griffin essentially looks like a thug, acts like one and doesn't come across as particularly well-educated, even if he is. Farage looks and sounds like a politician, he could be advocating female circumcision and there'd be people not listening to his words, just the way he says things and his appearance. Many people in this country no longer listen, that's just the platform someone like Farage needs to become popular. Don't say anything, just make what I say sound like its what the public wants.

Equally, the very old friend of mine, mentioned earlier, is standing for the Green Party - a worthy political party that should, if there's any justice in the world, benefit from all the uncertainty being shovelled at us by the three main parties and the wannabes. But, do you know something? They won't. That's because the Green party are a bunch of hippies and hippies are what Labour during the 1970s were and they fucked the country so that Margaret could rise from the dead and save us all (or at least that's how the Tories would have us believe it in 1000 years time when the cult of Maggie spawns a religion). And what if he does get elected? He'll be the lone voice amongst a bunch of corrupt self-serving wankers yet again. We'll not see any improvement in local services; more people will lose their jobs, more bins will go un-emptied and scratch the surface and you'll see the diseased organs of England; with politicians like bacteria scurrying about, running councils, the country and most specifically their bank accounts.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We're all going to die. Except this time it will be poor, broken, with no dignity and with the knowledge that there will be a lot of people laughing hysterically at us, because adding a touch of humiliation balances everything out quite nicely. Some of us will vote next week and yet we'll start to agree even more with that joke 'voting for politicians only encourages them'. The problem is there is no alternative. Even the alternatives are no alternative. We need new people, new politics, new beliefs and new priorities and that's altruism to the nth degree. I should just start taking drugs again; seriously, what's the point of not?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Council Twattery


Bloody hell.

I’m sitting in the garden, at the laptop, for the first time since September (I’d hazard an accurate guess at) and I’m here because I wanted to be, which sounds a bit weak, but it hadn’t been my intention to get the laptop out, I was going to sit here and read Lisey’s Story by Stephen King and catch some of this glorious sunshine before it all gets cold and shitty again by the weekend. Then something happened that threw all of that to hell.

I saw Fishwife. That’s mild-mannered Clark Kent-like Fishwife and he was getting annoyed with a bin man. This was indeed an event. But then I noticed that my bin had a sticker on it and I started to put two and two together and rushed downstairs to join in. I love a good argument with a council contractor. Unfortunately for all concerned I arrived too late to be of any help. Fishwife stood there looking at me with real fire in his eyes. “I spoke to them about this two weeks ago when they didn’t take it then. Bastards.” Bloody hell!

On closer inspection of the, unfortunately now discarded, sticker I saw that it was stating that you can no longer put animal bedding or sawdust in the compost bin, but if the sawdust or bedding is from a vegetarian animal then it can be put in our own compost bins… Which begs the question why they won’t collect it, vegetarian animal pooh is less of a health and safety risk than standing next to someone with a cold – fact! The council will collect cooked food, such as rotting meat, but some duck shit mixed with some sawdust is going to kill their binmen? Do me a favour. 

What the council now want you to do is, if you don’t want to compost it yourself (which we do, but you know weekly sawdust in two small compost bins?), place it in a plastic, sealed, bag and put it – a veritable cornucopia of composting perfection – into the black landfill bins. Plus, by the looks of things the bin men have been instructed to use their discretion while checking every single bin because there have been a lot of disgruntled people trying to get in contact with the council today, Fishwife amongst them.

The bin man who was arguing that Fishwife’s bin might have traces of chicken shit in them claimed that if we wanted these bins to be collected we’d literally have to sift anything resembling rabbit, guinea pig, duck or chicken shit out of it and that it probably was more advisable not to put wood shavings into the composting bins any more for the chance they might not be collected.

Is this not the most ludicrous bit of council bureaucracy you’ve ever heard? And from a Tory council no less! Someone’s obviously complained about sawdust floating around the streets and this is the council’s ham-fisted solution because we’ve had our vegetarian animal waste collected for the last 30 years and to our knowledge no one has ever died from accidentally touching some sawdust that might once have been touched by a dry rabbit turd.

Your council tax working for you! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Goat Porn

Fuck Self Pity

Good day. It's currently Monday morning.

51. I keep getting the feeling that I'm repeating myself.

I was looking at the array of drugs I have. Tiotropium (or Spiriva) to help me breathe. Ventolin to, um, help me breathe. Some pink inhaler (that I don't use any more. Seritide?) to help me breathe. Celecoxib for when my decaying bones give me a lot of grief (the drug is so expensive I'm not allowed to have a lot); industrial strength painkillers are littered around the house and in the 'medicine' cabinet there are a host of things I've forgotten what they were used for, but one of them is an anti-vomiting drug I was given when I had pleurisy to ensure I didn't bring up the antibiotics. It's like a chemist's...

The reason I mention these is because this morning I feel like shit...

I haven't actually been ill since I left work - the school was a Petri dish of disease ; although I've suffered with my knee - a new wrinkle - in the last week or so. The thing is, I don't actually feel ill, I mean, I have vaguely common cold symptoms but... you know... which all suggests that I'm not and I'm just feeling sorry for myself.

Fuck self pity I hear you shout. And you may be right.

My knee, which at one point last Thursday was so painful I thought I'd done some very serious damage to it (the pain was on the same scale as my shoulder was!), but support bandages, ibuprofen gel and inactivity have meant that I would have gone out to my vegetable plot this morning and given it's preparatory final dig and weed, but while that is healing, the rest of me feels as though someone has inserted a size 9 boot into my right lung.

My health is often more hilarious than an episode of Fawlty Towers and my doctor has occasionally burst into fits of guffawing at the way I lurch from one medical disaster to another without ever flirting with death. I have got to the stage where going to the doctor's has become psychologically stressful because I can't shake the feeling they all think I'm a hysterically funny hypochondriac (despite things like MRA scans proving that I did slip discs and that my airways are fucked, etc). The current woes actually started about two weeks ago with a cursory mention to the wife that my knee was giving me a little bit of gyp.

Then, while cleaning the duck shed out last Sunday, I turned at seeing something - a duck - out of the corner of my eye, twisted my shoulder and cricked my neck. Now cricked necks can be one of two things: a discomfort that goes within 48 hours or hell-with-sharp-teeth - and because I'm me and shit like this happens to me because I am a shit magnet - I had hell-with-sharp-teeth.

I mean, I suffer with my lower back and without tempting fate too much the doctor appears to have been on the button with her diagnosis of that - "It'll gradually get better because you're getting old." I know, that doesn't make a lot of sense (but hey neither does my writing if I don't edit it), but the reality is spondylosis is something that peters out by the time you get to an age where your bones don't give a fuck any more. Or, to be more technical, your lower back fuses as you get older, so you stop doing things like slipping discs and it gets replaced by proper arthritis, which is, of course, the same but completely different.

Anyhow, I had a cricked neck, which appeared to have made the pain in my knee disappear completely and I spent four days dealing with this upper back pain which seemed to migrate around my muscles - one day at the top of my shoulder, the next lower down around my ribs. I don't pretend to understand and I wasn't about to go and bother my doctor for something as trivial as pain, but gradually it dissipated (but didn't disappear) and with its recession came the return of my knee and last Wednesday, while showing the wife what I'd done with the vegetable plot, I twisted it and probably should have bothered the doctor with the trivial pain; but I'm a fucking martyr - in case you hadn't noticed - and I just lathered it up with painkilling gel, ibuprofen tablets (which incidentally I shouldn't take because it's not fond of COPD and vice versa) and wheat bags. Yesterday it started to subside, so the pain in my back re-registered itself on my psyche.

Then this morning came along. My breathing is shoddy; as I said I have this ache on the right side, which probably isn't my lung at all but another muscle feeling the after effects of the crick and I appear to have contracted the cold that the wife has had for the last week and a half. That's the clinker for me both positive and negative - the positive being that the wife who never gets ill has had a cold for over a week and I've only just got a whiff of it - had I been at the school I would have probably died by now. The negative is this nagging feeling that with all previous colds and viruses I've had in the last 18 months, this will end up going straight to my chest, because that's the real legacy of COPD - you can manage it, but it makes you prone to chest infections and that's ultimately what killed my mother.


Self Pity Saps

I've kept the wife away from a few things this week - a story in the paper about a 53 year old woman who lost her job last year and, despite being considerably more qualified than me, can't get a job. Even her employment adviser accepts that the woman is going to struggle to find a decent job between now and retirement. It appears that after years of encouraging the old to stay in work and for employers to give the over 50s a chance because the benefits outweigh the negatives; this isn't happening any more.

This woman could go and get a job in the local supermarket for a minimum wage. You could argue that she would at least be earning money and building up her own self-esteem, but she was on £40k a year and because she never contemplated losing her job - she was made redundant - she lived to her means and was, by and large, the ideal social mover that the Tory party depended on the vote of. She's now on just £60 a week, has less than 5 years to pay on her mortgage but is currently negotiating with her bank over ways of preventing it from being repossessed or her having to sell it and use the profits to survive. She has had over 300 applications rejected and couldn't even get the job in her local supermarket to boost her self-esteem because she was deemed over qualified and likely to leave for a better job as soon as one came along.

So she's actually in a situation where she can't get a menial job even if she wanted one and can't get a specialised job either and she could become a computer programmer, but, you know, she isn't one and it would take her a lot of time and money to become one. I use this as an example because about 50% of the jobs advertised on the Jobs Today website are for some kind of programmer and you know, applying for these jobs is a little futile and pointless.

I've applied for 37 jobs since February 15. The 37 jobs I've applied for are split into two categories - jobs I can do and jobs I might be able to do if I was lucky enough to get the job in the first place. I've had one, unsuccessful, interview and one rejection email; the other 35? Who can say? I'm pretty sure that at least 20 of them have been unsuccessful, but employers don't have to be courteous any longer. I just get the horrible feeling that finding another one is going to be a long and laborious task and one that will have lots of promises and no guarantees.

Today, at 3.30, I have a meeting to register as unemployed and claim my pathetic JSA payment. Because I've been working that's all I'll be entitled to. I won't get free prescriptions, despite probably needing them, I won't get all the things that people who have never worked will get and while, just this once, I will agree with George Osborne about welfare; what we need to do is ensure people who are on 'income based' JSA can go back to work and people like me on 'contributions based' JSA get the benefits the long-term unemployed get. I know people who haven't worked for years and have no intention of working who can get free prescriptions and all manner of free things because I've contributed every month to ensure this welfare fund helps these people; but now I need it, I'll get the barest minimum. My prescription bill is about £28 a month. That'll be almost a quarter of the money I'll get from the government. I have a mortgage, commitments, debts, responsibilities and a desire to get a new job and yet I'll get fuck all. The government don't want to give me more in case I like it and stay unemployed, but, you know, just because they think that way doesn't mean we're all likely to do it. I'm not asking for Mick Philpott styled benefits; I'm talking about getting back, for a limited period of time, what I put in. Contributions based JSA isn't that.

I've also been in an antagonistic and aggressive mood regarding my JSA appointment. Having recently been through all of this after being made redundant, I am aware that they don't want to give me anything and they will do anything to prolong my claim being paid. Despite having been made redundant in 2011, the JSA people still needed to 'write' to NCC and await written confirmation that I had indeed been made redundant. this rather annoyed me at the time because when I went for my appointment I took my redundancy agreement with me as proof that I'd lost my job legitimately - they ignored it and because I was naive and slightly nervous I accepted this and had to wait two weeks before I saw my money. This time the same is going to happen, but this time I will have another piece of paper - a ratified legal document - that states the reasons why I left my job (obviously the agreement precludes me from divulging any specifics here) and I will be quite clear with whoever I see that this piece of paper is all they need. they won't need to get in contact with my previous employer to confirm this because my previous employer has also signed this 'compromise agreement'.

The wife is berating me and telling me to stop getting wound up by this and it probably won't happen, but, you know, I've spent a lot of the last 12 years helping young people negotiate the minefield that is the Job Centre - I know what will happen and I kind of want to be arsey about it. I've paid my taxes I think I'm entitled to it. But we shall see.

Self Pity Rules

I suppose the first thing I need to get my head around is that I need some rules for this. This is now a stressful period of my life; the money is running out; we have to not just tighten the purse strings but amputate a lot of them.

[There is a degree of irony at play here; at the height of Comics International's success I was on about £30k a year (which did include other work); I had dropped to probably less than £15k when I left/was forced out. The YMCA paid piss poor money, but through hard work and achievement by the time I got to the YOT I was almost earning what I was in 1995; then I took a massive cut to go and work in education - slave labour if ever you need an example - and if I want to get another job in the area that I've worked in for last 12 years I'm probably going to have to earn the minimum wage - right back at the start again despite the experience and knowledge I have. How is that fair?]

We already grow a lot of our own stuff - only as a supplement mind - and we recycle everything, are kind to animals and have reduced our carbon imprint considerably; but I still need to earn something like £19k a year for us to break even - that might change soon when my car is paid for (but the finance company slap an extra £300 for admin charges at the end, so that's going to fuck us up big time in June if I haven't got a job), but that's the amount we need for us to just survive. That won't include any extra money being frivolously spent, so we're not going to aid in the recovery and I know a lot of others who are the same boat...

So I must start inventing culinary delights using just gravel, plastic and dog shit, oh and bindweed.

Eat This

The Uruguayan Blindfold/Taste test.
Take one Uruguayan and someone to translate:
"Let me see. The bouquet is of sweat, faintly Eastern European, a slight cologne afters. It tastes Serbian but there's a hint of the Czech Republic, mixed with something like hair and a hint of Russian oligarch. I'd hazard a guess and say this is possibly Petr Cech, but more likely Branislav Ivanovic."

Your name is Luis Suarez and you are the most horrendous comedy footballer, ever. Incidentally, for those of you who don't know, this was apropos of nothing. It was, literally, like watching an episode of The Walking Dead.

Effercio et Ineptias
  • Might be, might not.
  • I keep getting the feeling that I'm repeating myself.
  • The Lithuanians, all of them, were out on the front garden, completely naked, rutting like stags for hours on Sunday afternoon with more sex toys and buckets of lubricant than you could shake a stick at. Nobody had their legs closed for a second, It was like a butcher's window... But, if it had actually happened, how funny would it have been?
  • I don't think I have a cold, I just think there are some mornings that are better than others.
  • There's something decidedly unsettling sometimes about having a dog sitting less than a foot away from you bum snorkelling... She looks like a trussed up Christmas turkey that's been left to go furry and then dropped out of a tree house.
  • I kept my temper at the dole office. Everything I forecast happened.
  • I get spam mail from Jennifer Anniston telling me how Oprah Winfrey lost weight.
  • It is no longer Monday morning and I still keep getting the feeling that I'm repeating myself.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Area 51

How often have I said I need an editor?

Moving on...


The wife and I were talking this morning about how easy it was to get a council house back in the 1960s and 70s:
"Hello, I'd like a council house, please."
"Certainly sir, how many bedrooms?"
"Three."
"I'll just see if we have what you require in the warehouse. Please take a seat, my secretary will make you all hot drinks, cook you lunch and perform sex acts on you for free."
"Thank you, most kind."

And one thing led to another and we got talking about the house we lived in over in Wellingborough.

That house stopped being a council house in 1936. Ten years after it was built, the council sold it, for £700...

We both looked at each other.

A quick internet search (not that quick because you have to go through pages of current houses for sale) you discover that the sale of council houses was quite common during the period between 1919 and the mid 1930s...

Whose idea was it to sell off council houses again?

So, I spoke to a friend who knows a thing or two about council houses and he said:
It's been going on almost for as long as there have been council houses. Councils always had the power to sell their houses, and to provide cheap mortgages if a tenant asked. That only changed in 1980 when Thatcher's Housing Act - the only bill she ever introduced that wasn't either changed beyond recognition or completely abandoned - made it a legal obligation to sell, while at the same time abolishing cheap council-granted mortgages (so you had to get one from the banks) and taking away the council's powers to reinvest the money from the sale into new housing stock. Just another good reason why she's dead. 
But, let's move on shall we...

So anyhow, 51. Which means I have always been 15 years younger than David Bowie which doesn't seem that much now, really. That also means I'm 15 years younger than Felicity Kendal, who I had such a massive crush on when I was a kid (and older). She looks like a well dried lizard now, which is a shame because when she was young, she had the most marvellous little pair of...

Again, let us move to a safer plateau. 

Beer. I had a couple of pints of Summer Lightning last night. Nothing unusual there you'd think, except once upon a time this was the holy grail of beers - the game changer - the beer that paved the way at least two old gits viewed the modern pub.

Roger and I, along with a few other, more transient, souls, have always liked pubs and good beer plays a massive part in that. At some point in the past, we used to drink rubbish. We have semi-fond memories of this rubbish, but, you know, keg beer has its place and that's in a working men's club in Doncaster, where all the proper, Thatcher-hating, socialists come from. Roger and I originally drank Ben Truman and then during a large part of the 1990s would drink just about anything that came from below a hand pump. I think it would be fair to say we did not have discerning pallets back then.

I know I spent most of the 1990s out of my head, therefore I can't remember that much about the beer I drank. I think I used to drink things like Marstons Pedigree, London Pride, Everards Tiger and, horror of horrors, Greene King and Charles Wells beers, because I did not know any better. Then Summer Lightning came along and it was a little like putting a Rolls Royce next to a 1960s invalid carriage with a flat tyre - there was just no comparison. The only thing that linked Hop Back's beautiful golden yellow beer and other brown watery substances was the fact they both had the description 'beer' attached to them.

However, the benchmark was set so high that it changed the entire drinking habits of Roger and especially me. Most of these light coloured beers were wonderful and we literally discarded maltier, more traditional beers in favour of anything that was blonde or straw, or pale or ... the colour of lager. This meant that we stopped going to pubs that sold boring beer and started trying to find pubs that specialised in choice. 

Eventually Hop Back sold out and became a PLC; the price of their success was more money and arguably an inferior product. Roger and I discovered breweries such as Newby Wyke, Brewsters and the almost God-like Oakham and these didn't just replace Summer Lightning, they left it trailing in their citrussy wake. So, turning up at the Adelaide last night, for the first time in weeks, it was like seeing a bunch of old friends - Paul and Krystyna; the wonderfully eccentric (and gorgeous) Harriet and that beer that neither of us have had for getting on for 3 years. And it was nice and really really fresh and well kept and I could see why it had such a profound effect on us both 20 years ago. It was also a great beer for my birthday pint. But, and you knew there was a 'but' coming, there's just a plethora of better beers out there now and I gauge this by the fact that I've been to quite a few beer festivals over the last ten years and I rarely, if ever, have Summer Lightning if there are others available.

Still, it's my birthday I'm allowed to talk about whatever I want.

My knee is still knackered, although I have been chastised for Internet diagnosing it, even if there's very little that can actually go wrong with your knee, you just know that you'll end up diagnosing knee cancer and I'd rather not know about that possibility.

Actually, it looks like a meniscus problem (and feels like it, too) and the cheap ibuprofen gel the wife bought from the pound shop has been a revelation. I am walking almost like a human being again (albeit a human being who has shit himself...).

We came second at the quiz on Wednesday. You would have thought we'd won. Never has a defeated team looked so relieved.

I was wondering if it was still fair to refer to the Lithuanians as the Sexually-Explicit family in light of the fact there has been little or no exhibitionist activity since the initial burst of ... ahem, stuff that both me and Fishwife's wife had seen on occasion. Anyhow, they're really just the Lithuanian family now, surely? Just to be really (arguably not) sexist for a second, Mrs Lithuanian does have a body to die for but a face like a bulldog licking piss from a nettle. She is the kind of woman that grows exponentially more attractive the further away she gets. I think they can be Mr & Mrs Lithuanian from now on, especially as I have to invent some secret codename for the new neighbours who are moving into the dead old man's house - who knows, they might parade around the house at night, with no net curtains, sporting all manner of erect things and have no shame at all.

The only other thing to note from the street that I haven't mentioned is the recent retirement of Mr Incest Couple. His day appears now to be leave house at 2.15, walk to the Spinney Hill pub and stagger home at whatever time he's confident he isn't going to shit himself in transit. However, with at least three pubs closer to where we live than the one he's going to and knowing that he, like me, is particular about his ale, it makes me wonder if the Spinney has maybe got its act together, either that or he has another sister...

Still, tomorrow is another day. I might cheer up. I'm 51 now and that just seems wrong.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Politics

It seems that people have this impression that I'm some kind of rabid socialist who would rather find a way of blaming society than blame convicted killer Mick Philpott for burning his house down and slaughtering loads of innocent kids. But that isn't the case; people like Philpott (there are approx 190 in a similar situation to him sans arson interests) are not the product of the welfare state, so you shouldn't blame it, they're just nasty pieces of work. I know pinko lefties who will blame society, Thatcher, historical abuse, aspartame, you  name it we'll blame it, as the causes of horrible people and their actions, but the truth is humans have always been horrible whether its through our actions or fashion statements; we are at times un-fucking-forgiveable.

I have always believed that people should be given a number of chances and that number depends on who you're dealing with and in what way they've screwed up any previous chances or opportunities. However, this all depends on the willingness of the person it is offered to. If you're a sullen, non-interacting, violent Neanderthal and your idea of a career is sitting at home tattooing yourself, beating up your girlfriend, teaching your unfortunate offspring all of your bad habits and smoking industrial strength weed, then my sympathy levels for you go sub-level - your number of chance will equal the number of finger I hold up. You did read that right.

If, however, you're an incompetent fuckwit who fucks up through a mixture of bad luck and a lack of common sense, but you do want to make a fist of something, then you deserve some form of sliding scale approach to sorting your life out and I do believe that society, as a human kind of thing, is obligated to give you that. But, like I said, if you don't want to be part of humanity and pour scorn on its existence, then there are times when Theresa May's desire to abolish the human rights act seems almost reasonable (but must never ever be allowed to happen).

I have always believed that everyone should be considered equal (we all fart, do dodgy poohs and have all done things we'd rather forget about and that includes the Queen), and therefore I suppose that kind of makes me a communist; but does it? I mean, I think we're all equal, but I don't believe we are in reality - some people are more equal than others. So I do have communist ideologies and they've polarised as I've gotten older and yet I watched 75% of my friends go the polar opposite and become more conservative and more likely to vote Conservative. A lot of this is because I've spent the last 12 years working with young people and through them I've seen all walks of life - good, bad and downright evil - and I suppose it's here where I've wanted to tell any politician that if they want to serve their country the best they can then they need to go to these sinkholes of society and spend some time there. Go incognito if necessary, become anthropologists and learn about the people that are so callously forgotten when a politician goes to serve the country. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, even if they're standing in Knightsbridge or Alderley Edge.

When I was 12, I was riding my bike down a steep hill. I hit a stone, went flying, cut and grazed the skin off of all kinds of places. I was bawling my eyes out; bleeding everywhere and on a council estate in Northampton. Within 30 seconds of it happening there were at least three mothers, fathers and others all rushing to help me, without any hesitation. One of them took me into their house, cleaned me up and phoned my dad up for me. There was no sense of debt or obligation for repayment of kind. There was a sense of community that extended to people who didn't even live directly in that community.

About 6 years ago now, me and the wife were in Sainsburys and a man had a seizure - I talked about this in the blog years ago - and I was the only person in a crowded supermarket that made any effort to help him. In fact, I wasn't going to, but seeing as no one else even bothered to help made me utter the words, "Oh, for fuck's sake," and I went and did my bit for a fellow human being. What I saw that day was that we don't care about others any more. We care about our own, but, you know, others, maybe not so much or at all, really ...

Having worked with what we call the 'disenfranchised' for a long time you become so angry at the stubborn ignorance of our elected officials. The Tories especially because in their eyes every one is deliberately unemployed, disabled or disadvantaged and that includes people with genuine reasons for their predicaments.

My politics is that this should never happen at the expense of something frivolous or undeserving (and I'm not referencing events of this week there at all). I've struggled to understand now for months why we still give Brazil 'overseas aid'; their economy is now bigger than ours. Yet apparently we give them millions of quid to ensure they educate their children properly... I'm sorry, but am I the only person in the world who thinks they should ensure their own children are educated properly, especially now that they can afford it more than us?

There is a need to have welfare because in a society as big as ours there is going to genuinely be people who need it. Yet I can't understand why the current administration seems to want to change the benefits system in a way that may drive people back to work, but the changes they are implementing will remain and stigmatise those who have to remain on benefits.

Is it really a good advert for Britain when at some point in the future, if this new benefits system works, only our genuinely needy people will have to suffer the indignity of food and energy stamps and having a payment method that makes everyone who serves them aware that they are poor. We are sending a message to the disabled and those with things such as chronic illnesses that they are regarded as 2nd class citizens because of their defects. I know, it isn't saying that at all, but, you know, it kind of is.

Why couldn't they just create a department - therefore creating jobs - that would means test every long term benefactor of benefits. Employ our own nurses or doctors to be able to assess the health of the long term ill and employ employment experts to try and persuade people to get jobs or arrange training, but more importantly to at least have some jobs that these people can go and get that will be better paid than staying on benefits. You can drive people off of benefits, but they'll end up having them live considerably worse off than they were if you don't pay them a living wage and surely that isn't fair either?

If the Tories don't want welfare then at least they should try and change it so that it works for the people who have to use it. The problem is most politicians have no idea how it works, they just, like many of us, read about something in the Daily Mail and suddenly its fact.

The Tories don't really like centralised government and bureaucracy; they want us to run everything - the Big Society, if you will. Couple this with allowing the private sector to make the markets move by creating jobs which create more disposable income and because those new markets are free markets and the whole world revolves around the commerce of it, then every one gets rich and we become a classless and prosperous society - or at least that's my understanding of Thatcherism.

However, there are some things governments can't (or at least shouldn't) make money from; there are some things - services and obligatory provisions - that we have to pay for and if public spending cuts mean we no longer have these things (which we should all be morally obligated to pay for and not begrudge it) then where is all our money going?

Do you understand how our debts work? If you listen to what any of the last five chancellors have said, especially about the country's borrowing and spending, you don't need to be an idiot to see that we have for years overstretched ourselves; we have more going out than we have coming in - that's a simplistic view but accurate. If we're still borrowing, even now, and its more than we're making, then why?  And if subsequent governments have failed to deal with this and are more directly responsible for this problem in the first place, then why are we still paying for it? This is like one of those Payday loans offering you easy terms and a 2755% APR, but bigger and without the obvious henchmen. The problem is, if governments are shit and can't do their jobs right, repeatedly, how do you change them if you only ever have what's always on offer and/or a bunch of radical loonies who want to stand for the Christian Democratic Crunchy Frog Party.

New politics is usually treated with scorn, fear, contempt and ignorance for half a century and then, if the party is still extant, will get a token MP, if they're lucky. If you vote for one of the major political parties, unless you're one of the select few, you will have no say in who gets nominated to stand as a parliamentary candidate and less input into what issues affect you. You can of course have more input in how things are run, but that involves joining the 'party' and devoting time, you probably haven't really got, for a cause that you might only agree 50% with. We live in a time when we all have combinations of political party beliefs.

So, I suppose I just want a fair society with things, buffers, built in to ensure it is as fair for everyone as possible. I am an altruist and I make no apologies for it. I am also very naive. Don't you wish the rest of the country was the same if it meant everybody was generally happy rather than a few being ecstatic and a lot being miserable?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Zero Hour

  • I have no real desire to watch the television today. I know that's weird, you'd have thought I'd be sitting there shouting, ranting and raving at the screen, but what's the point? She's being cremated therefore I can't even look forward to dancing on her grave.
  • I recently had a long and 'interesting' exchange of words with a man who I knew when I was younger, who seemed to think that spouting bullshit that he'd learned from the Daily Mail was an appropriate way to behave and talk in front of impressionable idiots. After very calmly explaining to him the error of his ways and then explaining it to him again in words with small amounts of syllables, he revealed that I could try and persuade him that he's wrong, but he doesn't care if he is. The subject was obviously politics and his belief that the Tories look after us and the country is over run with dole scroungers who are not only stealing your money but also eyeing up your under-age daughter as a possible sex slave and if they're not then it's the 'fucking Poles'. However, it really was the fact that he didn't care that annoyed me. He admitted that he chooses to believe what suits his purposes and he really doesn't care about others. My final words to him were, 'And there's your real Thatcher legacy...'
  • The interview went okay, but I don't think I got the job.
  • There were two wooden boxes in the shed; they have been there for ever and were also in the shed in the previous abode. We have had ducks for nearly 15 years all told and it dawned on me on Sunday that the boxes + the ducks = nesting area to safely collect up all the eggs in one place and save them being stolen, broken or laid in the bloody pond. First morning: Five eggs - four of them laid in the boxes. Second morning - ditto. This morning - ditto again. I think that worked then.
  • Speaking of the ducks; I found a severely damaged frog in the duck run yesterday. Poor bugger looked red raw (from hours of attempting to be swallowed most likely) and I thought it was dead until I noticed it was still breathing; so I carefully lifted it up and put it in the 'safe' pond. I expected to find it dead this morning either floating or at the bottom of the pond, but it was no where to be found, so I'm being optimistic that it survived duck assault and wasn't eaten by a passing fox who saw it struggling.
  • We have new neighbours. They're moving in right now. They look young and I see problems ahead with the sexually-explicit family over car parkage. I wonder if they know someone died in there...
  • I met a complete twat while walking the dogs on Monday and despite having him in my face over my 'dangerous' dogs (Ness thought he looked nice and jumped up at him, which is wrong, but FFS, she's a tiny little thing who loves people) and how I should keep them on a lead. I amazed myself by not reacting and frankly I was a) entitled to and b) bigger than him; but I just walked away. A woman saw the entire thing and said to me as I walked past her, "What's got up his arse?" like she's seen him before.
  • An Australian won the US Masters. That is actually a first.
  • TV presenters should be encouraged to badger MPs especially when they evade questions that people want answers to.
  • It's miserable out but the forecast is for warm weather today. That's W A R M in case you've forgotten what that word means.
  • The trainer of Black Caviar, the Australian record-breaking horse (mare - sprinter) looks just like one of those dole scroungers Gideon is going on about. It's a shame she's retired, I would have loved to have seen her trainer in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot this year, with his tracksuit, trainers and bling.
  • Having finished The Shining, the wife and I decided to watch the TV adaptation - starring Steven Webber and Rebecca DeMornay - which has a screenplay written by Stephen King. For starters it looks like a copy from a video rather than a DVD. Secondly, the acting is absolutely atrocious - no wonder Rebecca's sister went onto have the acting career - and while it is far closer to the story than Kubrick's abomination, the guy directing it - Mick Garris - sent shivers down my spine for all the wrong reasons. This guy must have some of King's secrets hidden away because he's been responsible for a few of king's adaptations and pretty much all of them have been a pile of shit. We watched this particular one when it was first released; at least we think we did because we're not recognising much at the moment (or that could just be its so bad we flushed it from our memories).
  • http://mitsybanu.tumblr.com/
  • Today I might start re-reading Lisey's Story, which is a King book I read just 7 years ago and I can't remember anything about it at all apart from a piebald monster. I am currently listening to This Will Destroy You and considering my current mental state it seems apt. My own personal output is horrendous. I've been more than aware that I'm sliding towards a period of depression (I can spot all the tell-tale signs you see) or have maybe even slid into it without really being aware. I suppose if I could talk about the events that led me up to this point I might get some cathartic benefit, but I can't. Sometimes winning something is as hollow as an old dead tree...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Yams

A Review (of sorts)

A few years ago now, 2004 to be exact, there was this new TV show on Channel 4. It was created by Paul Abbott and it starred some well known actors - David Threlfall, Maxine Peake and the excellent Dean Lennox Kelly - and a couple of kids with massive potential - James McAvoy and Ann-Marie Duff. It took British TV by storm when it first appeared and had the Daily Mail frothing at its proverbial mouth because of its glorification of scum-bag Britain. The TV show was called Shameless and for a couple of years it was pretty much one of the most excellent TV series. But most of the talent got pinched for films, other TV or prison and eventually Abbott left because his dream, his vision, couldn't really be fulfilled.

The thing about Shameless was that it was just that - shameless. The lead character, the 40-something drug and drink casualty Frank Gallagher, would literally stoop lower than snake shit to a) get pissed b) get stoned c) avoid responsibility and it was all down to his eldest daughter, Fiona, and eldest son, 'Lip, to look after the menagerie of kids that Frank and his estranged wife have managed to pour into society. In the current climate, think Mick Philpott but with heaps of comedy thrown in and no burning children. The problem was all of the supporting cast were so good and there was no agreement binding them to the show, so this tight-knit family soon became disparate and almost became a sideline in their own show as new characters and families were introduced to fill the void left by the departing Gallaghers and the absence of Kev and Veronica, the next door neighbours who acted as a safety net for Fiona, despite them being almost as irresponsible as Frank.

Set in the dodgy part of Manchester, the series focused on the scams, the illegal activity and the underbelly of society, which, to be fair, no government can govern. A comedy-drama based around dislikeable characters who all managed to become not just likeable but loveable too. But, you know, all good things come to an end and after 5 series, we gave up because the focus was drifting away from the centre, the new people in the show were not nice people and the 'nasty but harmless' feel was replaced with a certain amount of sardonic malevolence - in other words, the Maguires just didn't cut the mustard; plus Frank was there even if his family were disappearing all around him, so while the series tried to make it about the Chatsworth estate where they all lived, this massive spectre of the first four superior series loomed every week, even if it was just to gurn at the camera and fall off his bar stool.

Most of our friends gave up with it and it has just been announced that it will finish very soon.

Paul Abbott has always said that he never got the chance to tell the story he wanted to because he lost all of the actors he wanted to work with and even if he tried, it just didn't feel right especially if it wasn't the Gallaghers doing it. So imagine his delight when Showtime, a kind of slightly 2nd rate HBO, approached him about doing Shameless as a US drama series. Showtime do Dexter and have a growing rep for excellent drama, so it was a no-brainer really and Shameless US was born. We gave it a try; not through any loyalty to the British show and more to do with it being a very quiet period for good TV - the New Year. We were hooked pretty quickly.

I have been very disappointed by most of the TV shows I watch final season endings recently. it's like the TV world has forgotten how to make cliffhangers and/or finales that have you salivating for the next season (at least not me anyhow). I felt the finale to the latest season of The Walking Dead worked but that is an exception to a rule. Shameless US concluded its 3rd series at the weekend with a finale that could quite easily have been the final ever episode and I turned to the wife at the end of it and said, "There really isn't another TV show on at the moment that's even close to that. I just love it to bits!" She feels the same way.

Shameless US makes Shameless UK seem like a kids programme. The US version is possibly the most brazen and jaw-dropping piece of TV I have ever witnessed. The US version really is completely and utterly shameless and yet whatever situations the family get themselves into you kind of can see it happening in real life. The ensemble cast has been together for 3 years; there hasn't been any departures from the series, so its been allowed to grow and develop the way, I'm sure, Abbott wanted it to in this country. Some things which were slight in the UK have been focused on in the US, probably because of the different cultures and with half the cast featuring children you are gobsmacked that these kids are even allowed near the set let alone star in it. 50% of the storylines in the last two seasons of the US show would never be done on British TV screens and the irony of that hasn't escaped me - the USA make a TV show that Britain would struggle to make.

William H. Macey as Frank Gallagher is the most despicable human piece of trash you will ever see. He is the antithesis of the comedy caricature Frank Gallagher that Threlfall has perfected and while he provides 50% of the laughs in this show, much of it is with a hand over your mouth because you cannot believe you are laughing at him pretending one of his kids has cancer so he can get tickets to a ball game.

While Macey is undoubtedly the star of the show, the two real stars are Fiona - Emmy Rossum and Lip - Jeremy Allen White (who steals the show for me, almost every week). These two characters are almost identical to their Manchester counterparts; Fiona is strong and matriarchal, struggling to make ends meet while dealing with a father who doesn't give a shit and Lip is still the boy genius, but this time the genius angle really has been played extremely well. Lip is this enigma; a brilliant lad with a sentimental heart and a loyalty that's almost heartbreaking - yet capable of being nasty, being a sadist, a masochist and a victim - he's a salvation wrapped up in a tragedy.

Unlike the UK version, which seemed stymied by its lack of real storylines for the lesser Gallaghers, doesn't have the same problem in the US. All the kids are important (apart from Liam who is still too young to be part of it and the only thing about the series that doesn't seem to fit properly in that in 3 years he's still less than 2 years old) and Debbie, Ian and Carl all have major roles in the series and their stories are as important as their older siblings. Ian's gay dilemma has been handled in a completely different way than the UK version and a damned sight more explicit and violent. And what about 'Steve' - the car thief who swept Fiona off her feet in the UK? Well, he does the same in the US, but Justin Chatwin, for how good he is, is no James McAvoy, so his character has been allowed to develop and now he appears to have been written out of the series because it has grown too big for him - his character was the least used in the last 12 part series.

I really can't recommend this TV series enough. I heard a rumour it was being shown on one of the lesser ITV channels, but it's three box sets worth buying if you can't track it down some other way and the good thing about it is it leaves the UK stories well behind at the end of season 1 and goes off in directions you would not believe.

The news it has been renewed for a fourth series is the 2nd best bit of news I've heard all week, yet, you get the impression that its all change for the series. Like I said there was a finality about the last episode that could be an excellent jumping off point. I expect next year we might see a change in the series - maybe a couple of years later? All the kids are growing up really fast and people are moving on, going to greener pastures or to new horizons. I just hope they can move the series on but keep the majority of the cast, because they really do inveigle their way into your heart, even the horrendously vile Frank - and there's a scene in the finale of season 3 where I dare you not to have a tear in your eye.

I casually remarked recently that Shameless US is the best thing on TV. I said that because there isn't another TV show that even gets close to it.


Another Review (of sorts)

I am, as many of my friends will attest, something of a Stephen King aficionado. I've read (just about) everything he's ever published and have wide reaching opinions of his work from brilliant - The Stand, to pants - The Dark Tower re-workings.

Over on The Guardian web pages there's this bi-weekly/fortnightly series called Re-Reading Stephen King and I have been reading it since the turn of the year, despite the fact it has now been going for about 6 months. It has been fascinating reading, especially given that James Smythe is but a mere slip of a lad.

One of the books King wrote has never been re-read by me and yet is one of his oldest novels. The Shining has been soured by the film. I am one of those few people who thought The Shining - Stanley Kubrick's own personal imagining of King's novel and essentially a vehicle for Jack Nicholson to do his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest act but take it up a dozen notches or so - was a load of shit. Yet, as the years have elapsed, I lost the reason why I hated so much. Probably because it reshaped my memory of the book, made me think the things in the film appeared in the book and, of course, very little of what appears in the book ends up in Kubrick's film, at least nothing that would have made his film scary.

The Shining is a remarkable book because it is so short by King's modern standards. The characters are not as painstakingly rounded. There aren't several subplots going on. It is a small, select cast, in a tight spot and yet over the space of 450 pages you get an idea what these people are about but you don't get to know them inside out, the way King likes to write his characters nowadays. This, in many ways, was the foretelling of King's own alcoholism and one wonders if it had already begun to take its toll on him when he wrote this. Jack Torrance's battles with his addiction demon sounded like they were written from experience and not from an imagination and the 'inner voices' that pervade Jack's story sound like ones that had already visited King, possibly late at night while drunk or stoned.

It really is quite a simple story; family moves into haunted hotel and haunted hotel fucks them up big time. There are extras - a sort of post modern deus ex machina (in Dick Halloran) and some of the peripheral things that contribute to the story, but all in all it is actually very slight and very very creepy. Your memory of Kubrick's largely cerebral horror movie intrudes on this book, especially if you've already read it prior to the film and you keep wondering when the twins are going to turn up and why didn't Dick die and the fact there is probably more schlock horror attempted frightening bits in the film than there is in the book - yet the latter is still head and shoulders scarier than the film will ever be.

It's also quite conceivable that King would want to return to Danny Torrance; apart from Charlie 'Firestarter' McGee possibly (and King used to joke that Danny and Charlie hooked up, had kids and etc etc), Danny is one of those characters that you immediately think, "I wonder what would have happened to him?" So with Dr Death on its way with a 40 something recovering alcoholic Dan Torrance, a new youngster to protect and a finale that takes place on the ruined site of the Overlook, King seems to be trying to close a vicious circle, mentally, perhaps.

On conclusion of reading The Shining I had a tear in my eye; it's a peach of a book; the simple story works on several levels and you see the energy that King had back then, when the world was a place to take on and the most outrageous thing he did this time was destroy a hotel - not a town (or the world as he was soon to do). It is not a book to read before you switch the lights off and its not a film to watch if you read the book and really like it. Kubrick's film is something of a curate's egg; it is a brilliant film, visually stunning and using a lot of the creepy elements of King's book, but I don't think it has a soul and the ending has to be one of the least satisfactory endings I have ever seen, despite it being a supposedly happy ending.

A Kind of Review (Kinda)

Over the last two weeks I have been playing my latest fave band to death. With a brilliant Bowie album out there; an equally fantastic House of Love and some dazzling rock from Amplifier, I've been swayed into the post-rock genre and have been enthusing madly about Irish band God is an Astronaut of GIAA as they appear to be referred to.

I'd like to sit here and wax lyrically and review all their back catalogue, but, you know, I know that I'm pretty much in the minority amongst my friends as far as post-rock is concerned, so I won't bore you. But, if you are interested in them and check them out via You Tube or Spotify then this is the order you should listen/buy:

  1. All is Violent, All is Bright (2nd)
  2. Far From Refuge (3rd)
  3. A Moment of Stillness (EP between 1st & 2nd)
  4. The End of the Beginning (1st)
  5. God is an Astronaut (4th)
  6. Age of the Fifth Sun (last album and more Mogwai than anything prior - it still has tunes, but they've discovered heavy riffs and feedback by now)
Or you could just go listen to Psy's new single and contemplate North Korean culture.


Effercio et Ineptia

  • I am delusional, apparently.
  • The above statement relates to Spurs, allegedly.
  • We have won £642 in prize money since moving quizzes. If I wasn't such a mercenary git it would be embarrassing (but it means free food more often and with no income coming in from me that's not to be sniffed at, even if we miss our good friend One El and his fine (and more difficult for us) quizzes.
  • I'll be 51 next week. It seems worse than 50 in some ways.
  • This blog is a direct sequel to Wibble.
  • Some people don't know how to use full.stops
  • Some of my friends have peculiar tastes (and I'm not referring to two people who will think I'm referring to them).
  • The Guardian ran a front page story last week suggesting that I was absolutely on the money with my North Korea forecast/scenario; now I'm thinking I'm still probably right, but it would appear that North Korea is really run by a bunch of knuckle-scraping army generals with less intelligence than one of the dogs they probably ate for dinner.
  • How do they spell the word 'prize' in the USA? I just ask because I mention it above and after running the spell checker it's thrown a yellow line under it and claims it's not a word. The internet - as it gets older it gets more fucked up.
  • Nothing untoward happened in Sainsburys yesterday... 
  • Fuckwit has been quiet... 
  • Fishwife is just avoided like the plague, especially now the weather is warming up... 
  • The mother of one of the two sexually-explicit members of the Sexually-Explicit family has, presumably, gone back to Lithuania (and taken her collection of sex toys with her probably). All is calm in the street at the moment, so now that fate has been tempted, get ready for a barrage!



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Maggie and Me

Lest we forget: Margaret Thatcher friend of the murderous Chilean dictator Augustus Pinochet and enemy of Nelson Mandela, a man she called 'a terrorist'. We honour this abomination of femininity. 

The first time I voted for the winning party at a General Election was in 1997. When you are 35 you would expect to have supported the winning team at least once in your voting life. The irony of 1997 was that I would have rather welcomed John Smith as prime minister, because I had bad vibes about that Blair fellow. Sadly, John Smith became the best prime minister Britain never had...

In 1979, I was 17, but I was starting to feel the disasters of the then incumbent Labour party - mass union power, power cuts, the country on the brink of disaster - Labour made a cock up of the entire situation and they needed reforming. A one legged homophobic donkey could have become Tory PM in 1979; the country was fed up with Labour and guess what - they were perfectly entitled to be, Labour wasn't working and was being torn apart by the battle between moderates (who became the SDP) and the left who eventually offered so little opposition to Thatcher in subsequent years that she could have been a one-legged etc etc and still won a general election.

Except it wasn't quite like that and all the eulogies for her seem to forget that in 1981, she was the most unpopular PM this country had ever had. If the unions had pissed off Middle England, Maggie managed to piss off everyone that wasn't True Blue. Her approval rating 6 months before the Falklands was so low, political commentators believed Labour would get back into power on a reverse landslide of the one they lost in 1979. In 1980, there was a belief that Thatcher could destroy the Conservative party so much they would end up being two opposing political parties.

I remember arguing through the night with a friend of mine (who for a while was more of a socialist than me) about how the Falklands 'War' was a political puppet to ensure that Thatcher stayed in power and General Galtieri could save his bankrupt country and how we sank the Belgrano, killing hundreds, when we didn't have to. I remember arguing that the belief in the press had been that this was a minor problem that could have been solved diplomatically, but Thatcher, like so many after her, seemed to like the idea of a war and with the backing of Murdock and Beaverbrook, the press supported her actions. My friend, who is now a Tory, defended Maggie then and is probably mourning her death now.

Britain became the jingoism capital of the world and she swept back into power with another landslide and all because she started a war. Amazing how times can change; Tony Blair just supported a war and yet you'd think despite what he actually did for the country, that he was far worse than she could ever be. Take a fucking reality check people - this is why History is taught in schools, so we don't allow our memories of the past to be clouded by rose-tinted re-imagining.

Anyhow; why do/did I hate this woman so much and so passionately? Well, how about the wasted 1980s. The years of trying to get a job, having my dignity destroyed and trying to make ends meet while the rich got richer and, if you've forgotten, used to rub the poor's nose in it. Have you forgotten that Loadsamoney - Harry Enfield's obnoxious rich wide boy - was created because of Thatcher and her party's 'reward our friends and piss on the rest' policies?

She was NOT a person of the people like history seems to be rewriting; she hated people who weren't as good as her, therefore she hated most of the people. She did nothing to help the poor - nothing at all, in fact she took away from them because being poor was your fault. Oh and these are the poor, not the people on benefits, because Thatcher's policies ensured that working a 40 hour week didn't preclude you from having nothing. It was under Thatcher that sociologists started forecasting that future generations would not be as well off as the ones that lived before she came into power.

Her Tory party was the first to sneer; the first to use cameras in parliament to belittle the opposition, to laugh at the adversity of others, to ignore the message being offered so they could just gloat about being in power and having the mandate of the people. And they did and for nearly 10 years people thought she was the next best thing to God and then with interests rates at 16% and unemployment at 3.6 million and no one but the bankers making any money, people started to realise that all Thatcher offered was a short fix and we'd have nothing left at the end of it. Why else did the Tory's dump her so callously in 1990? because she had become this monstrous poisoned chalice. Remember she might be the only woman PM so far, but that might be for a reason. She changed politics, but she changed it so much it stopped being a relevance to most people - everything started to be compared to her and how she would have destroyed it. Regardless of what you might think, she set feminism back years because no self-respecting feminist would want to be compared to her in the same breath.

Ask yourself this. Both Ted Heath and James Callaghan died in 2005, there was absolutely no backlash; no gloating that they had died; no people dancing in the streets of Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and Brixton to celebrate the death of the most hated person this country has ever born. Why do you think this happened when Maggie died? Yes, you can be horrified that people are celebrating the death of a demented 87 year old woman, but what a woman. Such an effect was had that 23 years after she left power behind, there are as many people today that hate her as there was in the 1980s. That's the other legacy she's left.

I have blamed that woman for everything negative that has happened since 1979. Russell Brand summed up my feelings quite nicely in the Guardian this morning and while I think Brand is a cock his words ring true: “If you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t… All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn ceremonial funeral, are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate.”

Margaret Hilda Thatcher (1925 - 2013) - may she rot in hell and be aware of every eternal millisecond of it. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

X Rated


This is wrong. I took someone's badly written diatribe, edited it, added some extra facts and I'm now passing it off as my own. Maggie would have been pleased.

"Before the sycophants start eulogising her let's have a look at her true legacy:
Thriving communities which were destroyed by her policy of 'greed is good' the rich got richer and to hell with the rest of us. She taught us to 'shop our neighbour' instead of loving him. She made Britain a Me culture rather than an Us one.
She saw more crime during her reign. More drug use. More suicides. She propagated the collapse of the 'community' way of life.
She sold off the public owned industries to kick-start the 'Rip-Off Britain' that we have today. The railways, gas, electric, British Telecom all needed reform, yes, but all she did was pass them onto foreign ownership with the resultant charges that we suffer today. Under her watch all infrastructure building and rebuilding stopped; not only did she want our milk, she wanted the kids she took it from to have no future.
She did look after her family, while destroying everyone else's, children were forced to move away, or both partners forced to work to make ends meet. The result is the main reason for the high costs of social care today (or the total lack of it because there is no money for it) - but to be fair, she did look after Denis, letting him use No.10 notepaper for his business so foreigner companies thought that they were dealing with the government. Mark, her son, did all right with dodgy arms deal didn't he. The daughter, the racist one, she had a career on the BBC until her true colours started to show.
What about those arms deals? How many innocent pawns did she and the Argentinian generals kill in the Falklands - a war every expert states could have been averted. She won a general election on their graves in one of the greatest turnarounds in political history - from most unpopular to most popular PM through the fine art of jingoism.
Health and education became run-down, and the school playgrounds sold off, and the Tories of today have the gall to complain Labour borrowing money to rebuild schools and ensure the hospitals that will treat us all when we're old CAN still treat us.
Heavy industry, such as shipbuilding, steel and coal mining were wiped out to make us entirely dependent on other countries for our manufactured goods. Now we don't make anything thanks to Thatcher; we just serve each other in shops and watch the bankers getting rich at our expense. Do you think they're laughing? At us? And where was all that private industry money? The kind Tories love to remind us is the saviour of employment; like today, there wasn't any, so unemployment lines grew. Don't let Tories deceive you into thinking there were over 2 million unemployed because they wanted to sponge off the state - there were so few jobs, the Tories had to invent a government work program to massage the dole figures.
She gave us all the chance to be home owners by selling off council houses cheaply, it sounded great didn't it? But did you notice that although the house prices were reduced thereby starving local authorities of money, the interest rates shot up - to as high as 16% so that the fat cats won, again. There was an insidious motive behind this; as soon as you get everyone in debt, workers feel less inclined to strike for their rights.
She was PM during the Poll Tax riots - because the Poll Tax really was so fair. She oversaw standards of living dropping for the first time in this country since Dickensian times, she increased poverty levels faster and more arbitrarily than any PM before or since (well, possibly with the exception of Cameron). She had a two-faced rhetoric over Europe, was disgraceful in her pandering to American and its bankers, and of course, how could we possibly forget the cold indifference to peoples suffering.
And they will be telling us how wonderful she was, these eulogies. There will be little or no mention of the outpourings of hate on unprecedented levels by any of the Media outlets. The media will airbrush all of the horrors she unleashed on the UK out of immediate history, so that the younger generation will be completely puzzled and appalled by the behaviour of everyone who has praised God for her death."

I am more than aware that there are people I know who will view Thatcher as an icon, a shining example of something that I would vehemently disagree with and will find my actions, and those of many many many of their other friends abhorrent - this was an 87 year old woman for God's sake, how can I be so cold and callous? Easy. This is me being understated and restrained. She is the only person I can think of in the entire world where I've been actively waiting for this to happen since 1979 and yes it is strange, but the sad thing is she won't be here any longer for me to pray for her death.

To my friends and acquaintances - if you are truly offended by my thoughts, beliefs and words then you know where the Hide button is or you know where the unfriend one is too, it's right next to Hide. I don't want to lose any of you as friends, but, you know, I don't really give a shit if you're not with me on this one.

Wibble

Bark Dimshitz

I've never really known anyone with a really silly name; the reason I say this is because the wife went to school with a kid called Russell Sprout; my old gang used to know someone called Genghis Bucket, there was a kid I met recently called Beavis and there is a Chilean artist called Pongle Lizchitz. A French footballer called Ormonde Crotsville and a with the exception of the foreign bizarre names anyone calling their kid by a name that is going to come back and haunt them should be fucking prosecuted by Social Services.


Purgatory

I mentioned recently that I believed that we're actually all dead and this is just one of the hells we're going to suffer for eternity; either that or we'll just relive this one over and over again and never know. Well, I believe this because of the general feeling of 'even-if-something-is-good-it-will-eventually-become-really-bad-and-piss-me-off-and-make-me-think-that-my-life-is-shit-and-we're-all-going-to-die' I have running through my body like a low level electric shock. That sense of ennui you get from life in general.


Bums

I toyed with the idea of creating a new bogus Facebook account the other day, as an old acquaintance of mine once said, 'you can't have too many sock puppets'. I went through the usual bollocks of setting up a Yahoo account and came up with a weird name (see above) that I believed would be completely unique. I invented an email account (or I nearly did) for a person called Mitsy Banu. Yahoo said mitsybanu@yahoo.co.uk is taken; but mitsybanu175@yahoo.co.uk is available or banumitsy1962 is available. I tried mitsybanu1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and so on and so forth and every single one of them was taken or unavailable. How does that work then? You do a search for Mitsy Banu on Google and the closest you get is Misty or Banu Banu, but Yahoo already have 174 Mitsy Banus all with email accounts.


Interstellar Artois

I have finally spent a large amount of time in the garden and provided we don't get too much rain down this week, I think it might be repairing itself nicely. There are even a couple of crocuses up and some things are beginning to show signs of springing into life; but it still just looks more like a tundra out there than Britain in the 'spring'.


Bad Films

Don't be tempted into thinking that Film4 is a mark of approval. Three films have been watched in the last week that have all come from the once hallmark of quality that Film4 once was and a little under 6 hours of my life that I will not be able to spend doing something stimulating and enjoyable. Do not be tempted by Berberian Sound Studio because it isn't anything it says on the tin; don't believe for a second there might be an interesting story in Hyde Park on Hudson because there isn't and anyone who said that Sightseers was a) about serial killers is lying - it is barely and then only by accident; and b) good - it's odd and strangely watchable, but 'good'? Jury's out on that.


Spoilers

In the end they decided not to bother following the source material which begs the question why did they use the source material in the first place, why didn't they just come up with their own idea based on a similar thing?


Cocky Swagger

Remember Max Headroom? Yeah, so do I.


Effercio et Ineptias


  • We now have an olive tree. It was symbolic. 
  • I was accused of being paranoid last week and then the person who accused me did nothing at all to assuage the paranoia that he successfully only managed to introduce and then enhance.
  • One can't help thinking that Christians are fucking evil and Bedford is the kind of place that could really do with nuking. 
  • I'd still like to find a use for bindweed.
  • God is an Astronaut has been my 'new jam' all week.
  • I still believe Kubrick ruined The Shining.
  • 27 applications and counting.
  • One million, three hundred and forty one thousand, nine hundred and fifty.
  • I have written and scheduled a blog to be published on April 19, 2062 - that would be my 100th birthday.