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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

blog 164. I Don’t Like this Ad...

Whether it’s a printer with a cash-back option or  Myleene Klass smirking smugly in another frock your mum would like or boiler cover from ‘just’ £10 per month, it’s impossible to get rid of them.

No matter how often the ‘I don’t like this ad’ red cross is clicked, another one pops up almost immediately. It’s like being involved in a permanent survey of things that really really really piss you off. And if I go the next step and tick a reason why I don’t like this add they thank me for helping them improve the experience then the same one will pop up again anyway as if to say you think we really give a ---?

When I first turn on my Yahoo email (other providers do it though Yahoo is possibly the worst) the little time circle of dots swirls around and my mail wont load until someone I don’t know and will never meet manages to load their gush onto my private e-mail, while my life ticks away. I cannot get rid of this constant invasion unless I PAY.

Spam is the same. No matter how many times you report it the same stuff keeps right on returning. But the ads are in your face. They don’t default to somewhere you can’t see them until you check the folder to see which bank wants your password or who wants to sell you some medication – usually Viagra. And now that the US company that makes Viagra has married the Irish company that makes Botox in order to avoid tax, it won’t be long before we are getting joint ads for paralysed faces and budget erections...

It’s like someone letting their dog piss up your leg and saying ‘I will get him to stop if you pay me’.

And you can’t ignore the bloody things.

So I am trying to email my mum and find out how her pepperpot went on Wednesday and my eyes are drawn to a message that takes up about 1/3 of the type space asking ‘Should you be selling your stocks?’ I only own vegetable stock cubes. Who would want them?

Someone called Ken wants me to download his report about a retirement plan. Ken, honey, we won’t need retirement plans, they are gonna legalise euthanasia for ordinary people.

Then BT want me to get their TV. The face of the woman in the ad says it all. She looks horrified and dismayed – she clearly hasn’t been botoxed. That is how I would look if I ever had to have anything at all to do with BT ever again - ever.

Then there are the ads containing items I recently searched for on the web making me feel like Yahoo is stalking me. It’s creepy. The stalking ad is followed, paradoxically, by an ad for human rights. Oh the irony.

A gymnasium wants me to pay £19.99 per month for membership. Almost £20 to exercise indoors with other people’s carbon dioxide, sweat and body odour and, worse, all the bloody horrible chemicals they use to suppress the b.o. – why? Get rid of your car. Instant exercise on tap every day AND you double save the price of running a car and the gym membership.

Hey – you know what – never mind Ken it’s me who should be giving financial advice.

Then there are banks offering credit cards. Presumably to pay for all the tat these ads pressure you into wanting that you didn’t know you wanted until you logged into your e-mail to try to contact your mum.

Then there is an ad for half price Sky movies showing pics of flicks I wouldn’t go to see if THEY paid ME.

Then more BT this time offering a sport app.

And I still haven’t finished the e-mail to my mum.

So I am going to advertise my new paperback book that I just managed to get OUT THERE. I nearly had a cataclysmic personal implosion dealing with all the IT stuff but I’m sure it’s good for my character. Anyway Maybe I’m not a Pigeon is ready in paperback for you or your mum, aunt, sister, cousin to fill that quirky, fun, stocking filler gap. Then you can cosy up with it on Boxing Day while everyone else looks at shit in the sales and diet products on the internet.

If you don’t want to see my ad just pay me some money every month for the next year.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

blog 163. Irony & Misery

This will be a very short blog as there is only one thing to write about and little that hasn’t already been said about the horror and the sadness.

Ironically, harking back to last week’s blog I was asking why we can’t remember the lessons of the so called ‘great’ wars more than once a year and then Paris...  Just the latest dreadful example of how badly we’ve let down the next generation.

I hope if one good thing comes out of the hideous tragedy in the French capital it will be a sense of time for unity. I am not a fan of out of control bureaucracy or multi-layered governmental control. However, let’s hope that the current madness of our PM trying to appease the nasties and the right-wingers and the xenophobes will cease. Let’s hope everyone realises that this is NOT the time to attack or try to destabilise the European Union.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

blog 162. Remembrance Day v Political Amnesia.

Maybe it’s the effect of the poppies but this government seems to have severe, selective amnesia.

Just last week I was aghast listening to a story of a London organisation that vacuums up single homeless men and puts them in homes fit for rats. It does this in order to make a profit by cashing in on housing benefit. As we all know, ex-servicemen are disproportionately represented among the homeless. This is immoral but not, apparently, illegal. All while the government are making a crusade out of cutting benefits to the vulnerable.

Despite their significance from 1915, it was not until the 1920s that the Flanders poppy became an established remembrance symbol of the unimaginable suffering and loss of WWI. But an idea that took on more immediacy was that of homes fit for heroes. One wonders what Lloyd George would have made of the above scenario or the bedroom tax or the attempted cuts in tax credit that currently keep many working families in the UK just above the bread line.

Move to WWII and yet again the idea of a better life for those who sacrificed so much was the order of the day. Of the 1m houses built by Attlee’s post war Labour government 80% were council houses and many built to replace those destroyed by Hitler. The selloff of those properties by Margaret Thatcher – a policy endorsed by the current administration – has done more than any other to put the low paid at the mercy of the worst elements of the private rented sector and exacerbate the problems of homelessness.

An NHS free at the point of use was another Attlee vision, not one that has become an underfunded postcode lottery with many sections made vulnerable to profiteering.
The working classes were to be offered a decent education; one that would give them a chance to compete with the well-heeled. In 2015 in the UK we know that a child’s circumstances at birth will influence its life chances more than any other single factor. The time when those at the bottom could rise according to their abilities was a brief flowering of egalitarianism, quickly stamped out by the establishment. The introduction of tuition fees is part of the same pattern and a recent announcement stated that even the grants made to the very worst off students are now to be converted into loans - debt.

As I battled on Sunday through the Remembrance Day crowds in Edinburgh to a service at my own church I was chilled by more than just the rain and the wind. Just what has happened to our hopes and dreams of a fairer society since the guns fell silent on the Western Front in WWI?  Woodrow Wilson called it a war to end all wars but 1939 saw the dawn of a second ‘great’ war. At the end of each, the hope for a fairer, more peaceful world was great.

But in this country the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown exponentially since the 90s into a vast chasm.

Instead of a fighting force engaged in security measures we are enmeshed in the global aftermath of one of the most stupid, testosterone fuelled bits of international madness any government ever engaged in to the point where we are morally constipated. We make embarrassing overtures to the Egyptian leader in the hope that he will help sit on ISIS while ignoring any number of human rights abuses in the attempt to make the sticking plaster of risible international diplomacy stick. (I already covered our embarrassing slavering to the Chinese a couple of weeks ago).

We managed D-day but couldn’t repatriate a few hundred holiday makers from sharm-el-sheikh. In WWII we (belatedly) took in Jewish refugees without complaining about school places or benefits. However, having failed to stop Assad’s apocalypse we bellyache about taking in Syrian refugees. People had so much less then. Is that maybe why they were more willing to share?

We defeated Hitler and Mussolini but there was an embracing of Farage and his watery nastiness at all levels that made good people nauseous.

Why do we remember the lessons of the two great wars for just one day a year?

Give us an administration that cares all year and remembers the hopes and dreams of those who survived the horrors. We’ve no use for a poppy-one-day-a-year government, shafting ordinary people the other 364 days.

If this government want to truly honour the war dead and the sacrifices they made for freedom and a better life, let’s see more fairness. Let’s see better schools, better health care and let’s see the very comfortably off (and eye-wateringly wealthy) friends of those in power paying their bloody taxes.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

blog 161. If you’ve ever wondered...

...what it might be like to be a young black mother in the white / male dominated fiefdom of the UK capital of the North in the 1980s / 90s?
I may be able to tell you.

In yet another departure from my global apocalypse ramblings, I have done battle with my IT demons and produced my first straight-to-e-book book in a literary experiment that cost me at least half a dozen more grey hairs.
Albeit that I piddled about with the text post proof-read, introducing new typos AND that the process of uploading the damn thing – which should have taken 20 minutes - took me three days.... it is done. And it is available. And here is the obligatory blurb.

Maybe I’m not a Pigeon !’  
(My Lives & Me in Ten Houses)
by Amanda Baker

In 1988 the capital of the North elected its first black woman councillor. Now, after a stint in law (without much order) she has produced this genre bending, humorous, sortofanautobiography. Bizarre memoirs wrestle for space with amusing anecdotes. Painful revelations, apocalyptic short stories, satirical blog posts, flash fiction and other extracts from her published writing are marshalled to serve up this appetizing offering.

You may get dizzy as you ricochet from a creepy encounter with pre PM Tony Blair wearing can-you-really-walk-in-those tight trousers to a near death toilet experience. Hang on as you are flung from hitchhiking with a ginger tom cat on a lead, to accidentally becoming a stand up comedian via child~prefers~pear~to~Nelson~Mandela shame.
There is love, loss, and a house renovation that makes Grand Design look like a Lego project, finally splat landing in the congealed spaghetti of the fostering process. All in an off the map literary mashup from this mixed-race, mixed up, Brown Girl Outside the Ring.

 “ was the shape of things to come. I’d been elected to Newcastle City Council despite having no political aspiration. In the future I was to be a finalist in a national BBC sitcom writing competition despite not owning a television, a quarter-finalist and finalist in two separate national Stand-Up-Comedy competitions, despite not being a comedian. In 2014 I voted SNP in the referendum even though I am neither a Nationalist nor a Scot.
The thing is never to let logic get in the way of the unexplored path...”