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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Blog 111. BBC promoted Hitler – lite...

...then were surprised!

While I try to decide whether this is depressing or perilously crazy or a mixture of both let’s just have this out.

As a long-time BBC radio listener I have been gobsmacked over the past 18 months as the BBC, to my ears, mindlessly given unprecedented amounts of air-time to diddy-Hitler. Then after the endless showcasing – the same corporation are claiming astonishment at the results in Rochester and the new stranglehold on the political system.

It’s as if someone farted in a lift then acted surprised at the smell.

With the occasional nod to the skeletons in the cupboard, a passing mention of, for example, siding with fascists on the European Parliament and a slight tut and a sigh whenever any of the party members show their true, nasty selves, the BBC sailed on blithely. Without heeding the small army of bigots and bad-mouths, the publicly funded BBC has celebrated, by disproportionate platforming, the wide-grinning, yellow-trousered, deeply unpleasant con-man-with-a-pint, I’m-an-ordinary-bloke-like-you, oik; the worst joke that has slimed across the political landscape in a while.


That is not a rhetorical question – I'd really like to know.

A few months back I was listening to Radio 4. An item came on about the environment. Ah, at last, I foolishly thought, they will interview someone from The Green Party. No! They wheeled in mini-Hitler – for the umpteenth time.

I’m not saying other news reporting media haven’t been as bad but – and here is the rub – by receiving a licence fee from the public (though not me thank God) the BBC automatically have a duty to behave with a bit more savvy. They are under an absolute obligation not to collectively act like a moron.Delve not too deeply into the phenomena (as it is referred to) of what seems kind of bonkers and you soon find something that takes on the profile of utter insanity.

No one interested in politics was surprised that the Tories did a massively successful mind job on ‘hard-working’ Britain when they set out to protect their own after the banking crisis (was there ever a more misleading misnomer?) But this time they opened some portal to the dark side which they can’t close.

Yes – with the use of tried and tested tactics of innuendo and sound bites and proposals for (and actual) legislative changes e.g. bedroom tax, they successfully shook off responsibility. They hung the country’s economic and social woes on the poor, vulnerable, disabled and yes – of course – the oldest trick in the book – immigrants.

Never mind that the bankers go unpunished (remember them – they ACTUALLY wrecked the economy) never mind the warmongers (how much did Iraq cost us again?) Never mind the tax-avoiders and those creaming off massive profits from dodgy deals done with private contractors in what are supposed to be public services.

Bigotry has followed hot on the heels of fear, insecurity and jingoism. It’s always been a noxious mix. The problem is that having taken the lid off the box the Tories can’t get it back on – in fact the lid is broken and Hitler’s grubby, faded, diminished shadow has oozed out of the cracks. The objectionable hangers on polished up racism, homophobia, misogyny and somehow made New Bigotry all shiny and acceptable.

And while we are on the subject – it IS inflammatory, tasteless and crass to drape national flags all over your house. Did we not accept years ago that similar behaviour helped to inflame sectarianism in Northern Ireland?

But, however sanitised the new nastiness is, it’s still nasty and dangerous.

I get where the Tories are coming from they just misjudged the situation.

I can see what the gurning rich guy with a pint and a fag is (and it’s not pleasant).

But what the bloody blue blazes have the BBC been playing at?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blog 110 Philae lander & me!

The little Philae lander metal thingy that hurtled through space so spectacularly from Rosetta, has something in common with me – or I with it. Our similarity, our resemblance, our parallel experience brings me out in goose bumps; it’s just lovely because I am so ridiculously INTERESTED and impressed. Considering how little I actually understand about anything that is going on out there on scruffy little comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko – it’s a miracle.


As I have told the children who ask me how long it took to write Casey and the Surfmen – it took a decade to get from a first draft of the first half of Casey to the version I now have available for download on the internet. And really – 67P/CG may be an achievement for the ESA but if you’ve read blog 53 I suffer from PANTS (persistent aversion to new technology syndrome) – you will know that successfully doing anything with the internet is nothing short of a marvel pour moi.

Also – my granny is short of one leg – just like the little Philae probe. Unlike Philae she would never ever be foolish enough or self deprecating enough to land in the shade on 67P/CG. She would always land right side up in the sun and be the centre of attention. And there is no sign of her batteries running out.

And yes – I am going to continue shamelessly to find ways of shoe-horning Casey and the Surfmen into the limelight. After 10 years it needs showing off.

Where we are different is that the splendid little metal thingy has travelled billions of miles across the galaxy to search in infinity for answers to where our world began. Casey deals with the more pressing problem of  what the hell are we all going to do if we don’t look after the planet we are precariously perched on at present.

I would not be crass enough in this time of celebration at – what is undoubtedly an outstanding achievement – to ask how/why we can do the equivalent – as one scientist put it – of “landing a fly on a bullet” (crusty the comet is moving at 35,000 MPH or there abouts, depending on which report you read – and to get on her back after 4 billion miles of space travel is truly mind-boggling). How and why can we do this and not feed people? How and why can we do this and not get out of the habit of killing civilians? How and why can we do this and not make sure everyone can read – be warm – feel safe?

Are those questions too big? Is the world too small? Are we too stupid?
I don’t think so

So what is the problem?

Philae lander may or may not answer questions about where the earth came from and how life got started but who is going to sort out why we can’t behave ourselves with a bit more humanity?

So this is Casey

and thanks to everyone who viewed and ‘liked’ the 2011 recording put up by poetry pal Steve

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Blog 109. Don't let Christmas spoil December 25th.

Whether you’re going to cook up wild boar, goose, reindeer/kangaroo steak, venison or any other fancy bit of flesh (I note from the supermarket hard sells that a bit of old turkey no longer suffices) don’t let Christmas spoil December 25th.

What I mean is do not let the national psychosis of the Christmas phenomena ruin the wonderfulness of midwinter. To help you through, there is a little humorous offering at the end of today’s blog.

I know it's too late as the real pressure began some time back in September, before Halloween and Bonfire night were out of the way. But, as we spiral towards oblivion, emotionally and spiritually crippled by capitalism-gone-crazy, try to cling onto some tether of normality. 

As the urge to spend and wrap and spend and eat and spend and get-in-the-mood (by which people surely mean black depression and weepy hopelessness) and spend and drink and spend and eat and spend and HAVE A GOOD TIME, leads inexorably to the implosion on the 25th we seem closer to losing the plot now than ever before.

Yes I've banged on about the idiocy of Christmas, our Christ-less-mess, on this blog before -

Blog 22 Drink Driving with my Dad
Blog 55 Free Christmas Feel Good
Blog 58 Chri£tma£ - We who are about to buy salute you.

but really... my ‘c’ word radar is positively pulsing with radioactivity and agitation this year.

I know I have it easy being T.V-free I am not actually having the-way-you-must-do-Christmas pumped into me intravenously. But even I cannot avoid all the shop ads for twee crap that you must have to make Christmas ‘perfect’. The unbelievably ridiculous food you would never usually contemplate in gut-straining quantities – the gold table runners (excuuuuse me!), scented candles, dresses, gross hat-glove-scarf combos, bad shoes, idiot jumpers (ironic idiot jumpers), weird coloured alcohol, themed serving plates, enough meat to make a lion puke, ‘party food’ (what is that?) tree decorations (what -  the ones you bought the last 20 years are the wrong shape?), puddings, cakes, hams (in case you haven’t had enough meat already to ensure bowel cancer by boxing day), tapes of Christmas music (actually I quite like those), Christmas story books, Christmas stockings (like the amount kids get is going to fit in them), Christmas cards, bows, paper, tags, crackers, spare shit in case people just turn up, CRISPS AND SNACKS IN CASE ANYONE GETS HUNGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that is before present buying for all those people you are worried are going to buy something for you...

Just stop
Just stop.

You can’t afford it; you don’t want to do it, the more you do it the more you have to do it.

25th December is actually a lovely holiday; the Winter solstice overlaid with hark the herald angels singing. Cold, a holiday and a nice singsong in church – what’s not to like? Where the bloody hell did all the other stuff come from? It’s the other stuff that ruins it.

Ease up.

Enjoy the dark which can make things seem cosy. Enjoy the longer nights the urge to eat/drink hot stuff (homemade soup?) and wrap up and cuddle. A little bit of something yummy is lovely especially as we know from all the news we haven’t been able to ignore that we are incredibly privileged not to be out on the streets starving and scared.

Give your purse, yourself and your mental health a break.

And here’s a sort of relevant humorous treat featuring yours truly that a poetry pal posted a while back

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Blog 108. Crazy Car Con!

Cars can shorten your life AND lengthen your journey. The irony lies in the latter.
Nowhere has this been more evident to me than here in Edinburgh.

Hurtling round schools and libraries for the Casey & the Surfmen launch events, I’m realising that some places that seemed far away on a road map and felt distant when I was on the bus (or once getting a lift) are in fact ridiculously close.

OK Edinburgh is geographically small. The bus service is a wonder – especially compared to my most recent other experience. In Northumberland you could go into rigor-mortis waiting for the no 35 even if you weren't dead when you arrived at the bus stop. However, having been put off a bus so far from one school that the walk there was longer than the bit of the trip I’d paid for, I decided to take a punt on an away-from-the-road-path on the way back.

These paths augment the public rights of ways – the river paths – the canal paths and the ordinary paved paths. I arrived home more comfortably and in about the same amount of time as the trip there that had been half bus (half by bus you follow? Not on an unfinished bus or one that had been sawn in half...)

So the next school I went to, following the easy road route, took 40 minutes at a very comfortable unhurried pace. On the way back I noticed that there was a public footpath over Corstorphine hill. Now I know that I live on the other side of that hill so off I plodged.

The great thing was no car fumes. Then there was the scenery, then there was the reduction in noise. Then there were the birds and squirrels. Squirrels are really God’s joke. Very funny creatures – skittish and mad looking and totally made for us to laugh at – almost as funny as the golfers who could also be viewed from half way up the hill.
It was the kind of walk I would usually treat myself to only when I had time.

The thing was that taking this beautiful route cut 15 minutes off my getting-there walking time. I estimate that it also then put me in pretty much the time scale of either sitting in traffic or waiting at a bus stop and taking the road route that inevitably means going around things like hills and buildings.

Now translate that into rush hour in a car – not a bus that can go fairly smoothly along the bus lanes and really should be used for those journeys that are impractical by foot or bike. Also buses relieve you of some of your environmental angst because it is multi-occ transport.  Though on a bus, you can’t generally get a chuckle at some squirrels. In a car you can’t listen to birds or have a smirk at the golfers unless you want to end up in the boot of the car in front.

But then there is the time con. You jump in the car because you think you’re in a rush and it’ll be quicker. But a journey on a map that claims to take 10 minutes will – predictably – take twice as long if you are driving at those times – school run or work run – and let’s face it – that is when most people are in a hurry. That journey time will at least double. Why? Because everyone else is on the road – in a hurry. While you are at the junction breathing in the car fumes from the vehicle in front, building up your stress levels for your first heart attack or stroke and you kids are getting fat in the back seat, walkers are pootling over the hill on a SHORTER route.

Yes it might rain. But here’s a big secret – you can wear a coat. I know. Radical.
Ok – I can’t afford to run a car so you could dismiss this as trying to make the best of my situation. But I have to tell ya – walking over that hill with the hum of traffic at a nice distance and the squirrels being bonkers – it didn’t feel that way.

N.B sorry to squirrel lovers but one ate the head off my only sunflower this summer so – ya know...

This week’s recommended blog from the archives is
Blog 86. Edinburgh is tram-endous(?)

Also do please check out the website – my favourite quote from a little person so far is now on the homepage.