Sunday, September 30, 2007

Melting Pot

So, according to the "cohesion" minister for the new, modernised, outward looking Tories, there are too many darkies in the country. The party is populated by buffoons.

The Sunday Herald on the crackdown in Burma. The same paper on the business of oppression, or, how some British companies help prop up the Junta. The Guardian believes that there is still hope.

There is a good article in Observer Sports Monthly on the football team that Robbie Williams has created in L.A.

The war on terror: The Big Lie

All That Whitman Stuff

Friday, September 28, 2007

God Gave Rock And Roll To You

Those Burmese monks..............what dignity...................what selflessness. They are, or should be, an inspiration to us all.

A slightly snotty article on Manu Chao.

A pint and a molotov cocktail

A long unmechanized moment, sex provides one of our remaining
freedoms to move outside of time. What sort of thing is this to say?
Why would we want to move outside of time? Well, it smells in here, for
one thing. It’s horrible in here. And everything we love is going to die.

25 skills every proper bloke should have at his disposal.

I have had to postpone reading Runt, because my Mrs snaffled it, that's how good it is, she has taste. She wondered off to bed clutching it at about 7 O Clock tonight, so she will probably have finished it by now. It won't be to everyones taste, but have a look, use your judgment, and if you feel like it, give it a go; it is a small but major piece of work. I only wish I had a stepdad, so I could call him Notdad. I have plenty of relatives who could answer to Drunkle.

Meanwhile, I have got stuck into the new Camilleri, which is everything that you would expect of my favourite Sicilian Marxist.

I spewed out a lot of anti management verbiage the other day, and as well as putting it on here, I sent an edited version as a letter to our trade magazine, "Community Care". A nice lady e mailed back today to say they wouldn't publish it as a letter but will publish it as an article. I have to admit I am a bit chuffed with that.

Blues have been in the news a bit this week. Sullivan has again been a bit immoderate in his comments and has explained to the world why he despises us and has also, more or less, accused Carson Yeung of being a chuffin chancer. Meanwhile some Aston Vanilla director has stirred up a load of trouble by telling lies about the cost of our tickets for the game with them and, also, has hilariously compared David Gold to a pig. Meanwhile, a bloke we got on loan at great cost knackered his knee within 20 minutes against Liverpool and one of our goalies, on his debut against Blackburn, brained himself. Spark out. Twerp.

Of course it was outrageous of the Villa guy to suggest that we would we charge 55 quid when everyone knows it is an entirely reasonable 45. As the world now knows, our David is intent on lowering prices and getting the plebs back in. So, as well as a bargain 45 quid to see the Villa, you can get a restricted view seat for tomorrows game against Manchester Utd for just 30 quid. You may not be able to see anything, but you will only have to shell out 30 quid. I bet you all wished your own clubs were as generous. We are lucky, us Blues fans.

Not as lucky as players or agents though. Two million for a player no one has ever heard of and who has a penchant for knackering himself, plus 200 grand on top for his agent. Why don't he pay his chuffin agents fee himself? Sully said that he has paid that money, but he hasn't, gullible Blues fans will be paying it for years, every time they fork out a fortune for some useless piece of tat.

Or, every time they buy a new shirt. The Blues, the favourite club of impoverished football fans the length and breadth of the land, have a tendency to release three new shirts every year, and have put out a new shirt every year since 1983, I think. I know that was before Golds time, but bugger me, his protests on behalf of the impoverished ring hollower and hollower the nore I ponder them. Sully has one thing right, the love affair is over and we are going through a prolonged and painful divorce.

May I be free from anger and hatred.
May I be free from greed and selfishness.
May I be free from fears and anxiety.
May I be free from all pain and suffering.
May I be free from ignorance and delusion.
May I be free from all negative states of mind.
May I be happy and peaceful.
May I be liberated from bondages.
May I experience Nibbanic peace within.

Then practice Mettá towards all beings sharing peace and happiness:-
May all beings free from anger and hatred.
May all beings free from greed and selfishness.
May all beings free from fears and anxiety.
May all beings free from all pain and suffering.
May all beings free from ignorance and delusion.
May all beings free from all negative states of mind.
May all beings be happy and peaceful.
May all beings liberated from bondages.
May all beings live in Peace and Harmony.
May all beings experience the Nibbanic peace within.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flowers In The Rain

There is no doubt that the Burmese monks are heroic but I thought Buddhists were supposed to pretty much accept their lot................... accept their karma and meditate all day. I thought it was striving and yearning for something better that condemned us to a life of suffering. It just goes to show what I know. I suppose they are acting out of compassion for others. They are very brave though; let's hope it doesn't end in tears.

Orwell: Shooting an elephant

Talking of heroism, Blues defended heroically to earn a point at Anfield. Not very heroic really, is it, set in context. We should all be rejoicing apparently, but as you might expect, I'm not particularly joyful. After we played Chelsea in our first game, Bruce congratulated himself on his bravery in not setting out simply to defend. That philosophy didn't last long.

He quite openly admits our sole purpose on Saturday was to stifle Liverpool and the tactic worked well. Mind you, Bruce has shown over the years that he can set up a team to defend; it's the other bit, at the other end of the field that he struggles with. We needed a point, we set out to get a point and we got one. Great. I am happy with that, a good job, well done and a point that I suppose we can regard as a bonus.

I am worried though, that this is now the template. Sit back, defend, stifle the opposition. If it's a top team, settle for the point, if not, try and hit them on the break. Battle, fight for the shirt ("not fit to wear the shirt" is another on my list of cack phrases) sweat blood. Oh dear. I know there are lots of Blues fans who will settle for that, who think we should only aspire to be whole hearted and tireless, but I can't agree. The problem is, I forecast, that Bruce will now view this style of play as our best option.

Well, I won't be forking out 45 quid too often to watch that shit. Let the defenders defend heroically by all means, but also let the midfielders and forwards play a bit too. I have stated repeatedly that if the limit of our ambition is to avoid defeat and to stay up by the skin of our teeth, there is no point being in the divison.

I was filled with hope after the Chelsea game and almost started to believe that Bruce had discovered some joy in the beautiful game; that he had seen the benefits of being positive, and that may still be the case, but I doubt it. He is (rightly) proud of his teams achievement on Saturday and history shows us that he suspicious of flair, fearful of wit, perplexed by imagination. It's going to be long, grim winter.

Nafti knows what I am on about, he said as much after the game, so that will be him dropped then.

Bruce keeps banging on about loyalty. Whenever we get a decent result he uses it to have a go at the fans who complained that we had been relegated and then complained at our style of play. He can't let it go, it's as if he wants to win to spite us. The complaints people made then were valid, and they remain valid; it would be nice if Bruce acknowledged that and moved on, but no, he wants us to be grateful for what we have had to endure. A more cynical type might ask him what kind of loyalty he has shown to Clemence and DJ Campbell and Oji and Kilkenny and Sadler. The bugger wants jam on it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cincinnati Fatback

One of the Alabama 3 has expressed his lack of gruntle at one of his mates being chucked out of a hippy festival. Apparently, the A3 are invited to such do's because they have a bit of an edge............the article is quite funny, but the chap does come across as a bit of a pillock. I like the A3 but they aren't really much more than a bunch of pub rockers who got lucky; he should be grateful that they haven't gone the way of Roogalator yet. Who are Roogalator? Exactly. I loved Roogalator, by the way.

Blues away to Liverpool tomorrow and I confidently predict a 1-0 win to us. Nuff said.

Yesterday, I killed a big bloody bird and no, it wasn't my Mrs. I was required to drive all the way up the A470 to Dolgellau, and back, with a service users parent in the car. The A470 is a beautiful road, but man, it was gruelling. Anyway, somewhere up north, I caught a glimpse of a large brown beast coming out of a hedgerow, strutting its funky stuff like Larry from the A3. I was just about to remark upon the beauty of the beast, when it eyeballed me, and then just legged it, not away from the traffic, but into it. More precisely, into me. There was a sickening thud and I observed its last few proud twitches in the rearview mirror.

It was quite distressing. I have probably killed millions of small insects every time I get into a car, but this was a big, proud looking thing, and there was a horrific noise and feathers flew and there was blood and distress. I wondered if we are all destined to kill something as we make our speedy and clumsy way through life and concluded that it is probably a miracle that we don't create individual carnage every day. When I got up north, one of the strange people with the strange Ian Rush accents told me how much he likes to go out shooting wildlife.

If you find yourself heading north on the A470, try the Dolwen garage caff, a real old fashioned kind of a place, with food cooked on the premises, amazingly pleasant staff, an outside toilet, and incredible value for money. You might think it was 1970. We used to spend all our school holidays with relatives in Devon and if we got the boat across from Shaldon to Teignmouth there was a little caff in a wood hut that used to do the most wonderful cottage pie; it's the best caff I have ever been in. The Dolwen caff reminds me of it.

There was Freds caff in Acocks Green too, but that is a completely different story. Then there was the Italian caff in Acocks Green village, forget the name, but where the only words ever spoken by the proprietor (Mario?) were "cup of tea, 3p, fuck off"
If you know where you are looking, you can see which of those shops was the Italian caff in the pic, which might to be of interest to about, oooooooohhh 3 people.

I hesitate to mention the Sopranos for fear of some clot thinking it would be a jolly jape to post a spoiler, but this last series is brilliant, up there with the first one for drama, tension, and laughs. I caught a black look from the Mrs when I pissed myself at Uncle Juniors fishmonger joke.

Talking of pub rock, it doesn't get much better than this................

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Weight

Maybe I don't get out enough, but until last week I had never been referred to as a mushroom before (as in kept in the dark and fed shit), now I seem to be hearing it every day. In less than a week, it has joined my list of cack phrases, along with gems such as, "tactically naive" and "position has become untenable". Where did it spring from, how did it become so ubiquitous and why does everyone who uses it think they are being terribly witty and clever?

Our glorious chairman used it the other day to describe football fans. He meant well, but coming from the biggest shoveller of shit in the game, it was a bit rich. He wants all other premiership clubs to follow Blues lead in cutting prices to enable poor saps like me to fill the ground. He didn't mention that Blues only reduce prices to prevent embarrassment when it becomes clear that no chuffer is going to turn up; he didn't mention the high cost and low quality of all the merchandise at Blues and he didn't mention that if you want to see our next game you will have to fork out 45 quid. I love the bloke.

You may not want a recipe for muesli, but the methodology for it is one of the funniest things I've read in ages. I made a huge pot of it and it's ok if you like that sort of thing, takes a bit of getting through though.

Why is it, that when I am sitting at my desk, thinking up new ways to avoid work, that when the little e mail noise whistlers its little whistle, I get all excited and happy at the though of some interesting and amusing missive to brighten up the monochrome monotony? The reality is that it is always some chump with a grievance being all arsey and impolite and discourteous. Is this the same for everyone, or just me? While we are at it, when did downright incivility become an acceptable method of social discourse?

I work in a profession with an image problem and a recruitment crisis. No one wants to do the job and those that do get themselves trained seem to have more sense than me and naff off out of it very quickly. Different authorities try different schemes to encourage recruitment and retention and reports are written and hands are wrung because it is a very complex issue. But aside form all the retention payments and promises of annual appraisals and development days there is one thing that would go a long way to help (apart from overtime payments) and that is if we were treated with a bit of respect and courtesy by our managers.

Most social workers I know have broad backs and thick skins and will happily take abuse all day long from service users and carers, we will listen politely as colleagues in other disciplines comment rudely on our collective shortcomings but what really rankles is the airy, dismissive, intolerant and downright discourteous manner of middle managers. They are almost caricatures of management types one might have hoped were extinct:." don't bring me problems, bring me solutions". I think this is common place, and not just in the authority I happen to find myself in, pals in other authorities say more or less the same.

I have been in this game since 1993 and have seen many, many middle managers come and go, like butterflies, flitting from one place to another, and they have all shared the same characteristics of egomania and intolerance of dissent. They all seem to have been educated in the Pol Pot Year Zero school of management. For them, there is no history, there is only now; for them, there is no dialogue worth having, only instructions to follow. Dissent cannot and will not be tolerated. This places us in a difficult position; we are trained to challenge and to enquire and to look beyond the superficial., we are expected to dig deep, but we aren't allowed to do that in our offices.

This isn't a trifling point, it is a very serious issue, which goes to the heart of the daily social work experience. The power imbalance is such that you dare not question these men and women in suits, these power dressers extraordinaire. They remind me of Blair's Babes......... confident, supremely sure of themselves but, ultimately, vacuous: able to learn key phrases but unwilling to understand the actual meaning of words or the consequences of actions. Social workers who question what quickly becomes the prevailing orthodoxy get labelled as awkward, as fearful of change, as dinosaurs. The brave carry on and get sidelined, the meek keep quiet and keep their heads down.

It all makes for an unhappy work experience. I don't think I know one social worker who would describe themselves as truly content, but most of them would concede that they actually like the nuts and bolts of the job; it's the politics and the poisonous personalities within their own departments that they can't stand. It's quite shaming really. Shaming on people like me, who put up with it while quietly seething, and shaming on the managers themselves, who surely, to be so fearful of an alternative opinion must be, deep down, completely lacking in self respect and dignity.

My advice to those within departments charged with addressing recruitment and retention problems is simple, ask the middle managers, the professional bureaucrats, to be a bit nicer, a bit more compassionate and a bit more tolerant. It would work wonders.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just One Victory

Bugger me, a calamity has befallen us, they have remade the Dandy. Some genius has decided it needs to be a witless girls magazine, only for boys. My little lad is distraught, and so am I.

What a week of sport, thank God it's over and we can get back to the real and proper business of supporting our teams.

Jim White is one of the better sports journalists; he switches employer as often as Craig Bellamy so I don't know who he currently writes for, but no matter, because we have a book he has written about coaching a nippers football team. It has had good reviews, but I haven't read it yet, I have heard it though.

I love Cwmbran Library. I picked up ten previously untouched books today, including the new William McIlvanny, Allan Guthrie, Camilleri, Don de Lillo, Blake Morrison and best of all, Niall Griffiths. Should keep me busy for a few weeks. If you haven't come across McIllvanny before, I can't recommend him highly enough. Start at the beginning.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Soul Sister

The Mrs said knock off work early and get home before the kids get out of school and I shall indulge you in an exotic treat. Well, what would you do? So I booked 5 hours toil and headed home late this morning, and she did indulge me in an exotic treat; she took me to Newport, to a slightly bizarre Korean restaurant. I don't know what the hell we ate but it was all delicious. Actually, I do know what we ate because another diner, who had the same as us asked, and he was told "starter!"then later when he asked again, "main course!". So that's what we had, a variety of starters and a main course.

The place is called Seoul House, ( thank god it isn't Seoul Food) and if you are anywhere within striking distance you should give it a try. Each dish, each mouthful, was bloody a delight, with light, subtle, refreshing flavours. Something that may or may not have been mooli was covered with a delicate, but pungent dressing and exploded a symphony of flavours on the palate. There was depth and length to the flavours, and the spicy stuff was just right, enough to make you know it was there, not so much that was intrusive or offensive.

I don't watch much telly but I confess to enjoying Hells Kitchen. Sort of enjoying anyway, the one with Gordon Ramsey was great, last years with Gary Rhodes was poor. Watch any of Rhodes other programmes and he likes to come across as a bloke who is really interested in food and really keen on sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge, but on Hells Kitchen he just came across as a berk. I expect the producers told him to be hard and nasty, but it wasn't convincing.

This year, Marco Pierre White has been a revelation, and has completely flummoxed the increasingly pointless Angus Deayton. He is charming, inspiring, caring. He wants these "celebrities" to do well and he really helps them along. He accepts their limitation with grace and humour and defends them against the varied nonentities who see fit to complain at receiving free food and wine. Deayton has been completely wrong footed, he still keeps going on about Whites fearsome temper, although it hasn't been much in evidence and he keeps going on about diners not being fed, although every one of them has been. I don't vote in such things, but if there was a vote to remove Angus, I might be tempted.

There is no denying that White is arrogant, but then I suppose he has plenty to be arrogant about. Take away the head band and the curly locks and the attitude and just look at his face and his facial expressions, and I would lay money on him being the bastard son of his fellow Yorkie, Jimmy Saville.

I just walked past our telly and the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup is on. Has there ever been anyone in the world, at any event, who has looked forward to and enjoyed an opening ceremony?

No Blues game this weekend, we have England to look forward to instead. Christ, I have come to despise the national team and I have no interest in how they do (not much interest anyway) I can't quite figure out why, although I have never given much of a stuff, even as nipper. It could be that as I get older, I believe more and more that we are all one, I don't so much believe that national boundaries don't matter, but that we are all actually connected, one way or another, we all love the same, all suffer the same, whatever our apparent cultural differences ( I exclude Villa fans from that, obviously, they have no Seoul)

I don't think it has much to do within that however, I think it is a combination of two things, the first being the arrogance, xenophobia and sheer stupidity of the national media and the the increasingly silly participants in phone ins. There is rarely any insight or balance, just a blind acceptance that we are the best, and if we fail it is because some hapless coach has royally screwed up. Or some cheating foreigner has exposed us colluded with the ref to cheat us of our destiny. No reflection, just knee jerk jingoism.

Then we have the players, and, at the current time, the manager. The players, I have said enough about in the past. They are a very uninspiring bunch. Whenever I hear Terry or Gerrard speak I cringe. Again, there is little self reflection, little analysis and there is never, ever, any wit ( as opposed to puerile attempts at humour) As for the manager, his is a textbook case of a media makeover gone horribly wrong. Wear a permanent, rictus grin, say nothing, give nothing away, regard your audience as imbeciles and then, close your eyes and hope, by Christ, that no one notices that you are a vacuous fool.

As readers of the other blog won't remember, I have been a bit sniffy about"world music" in the past, describing it as all a bit samey. I bought Uncut today for the first time in months, mainly because it has a 20 years of world music cd with it, and it is a marvelous cd. Dunno what the magazine is like, but the cd is worth the price of admission alone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Down Down Deeper And Down

We purchased an enormous great tent on the Mayday bank holiday; it then proceeded to piss it down just about every day for the next three months. Finally, last week the weather turned and, like rats up a drainpipe, we shot off to Cardigan Bay, where the seals and the dolphins play. We have had a couple of short camping trips in a borrowed tent before but this was our first trip in our own tent and our first attempt at putting the thing up without the aid of an online instructional video, so it was an opportunity to learn and to exercise our tired old brains. And boy, did we learn.

I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that the farmer upon whose we field we camped pointed out to us after our first night that our tent appeared to be falling down. He was exaggerating, but the thing did require endless tweaks for about the first 24 hours. Once we got it right though, it was the mutts nuts of tents, rigid, immoveable and despite the howling gales whipping in off the sea (I said the weather had improved, but it’s all relative) silent.

We were about two hours and a whole other world away from home. It never ceases to amaze me how close we are to such beauty and tranquility. The pace of life genuinely seems to be gentler, and slower. I am sure the area has its share of problems but I think you would have to actually search them out if you wanted to find them.

I shall resist the temptation to get all lyrical, but I will recommend that if the weather stays nice and you want to truly, truly get the sense that you are away from it all, and you want to see dolphins, and seals and all manner of sea bird, and you want to be surrounded by unutterable beauty every way you turn, and travel on near empty roads, and eat fish and chips on enormous beaches, or relax in perfect bays, or walk for miles along what must be the finest coastal path in Europe, you should get yourself over to West Wales. Don’t tell any other bugger about it though.

We stayed at Nant Y Croi farm, which is something else really. Very rural, very rustic, a bit rough around the edges, but just about the perfect place to camp, whatever your age. Our our three nippers were just about in paradise. The farmer is not exactly effusive in his welcome, but what he is, is genuinely friendly and genuinely helpful; he even hosed me down when I fell into an enormous pile of cowshit, much to the amusement of the family.

It is very remote. I couldn’t get radio 5 and I couldn’t get a mobile signal, so the transfer window closed with me not realising that Fuckin Luccin had led us up the garden path and we had instead signed some other genius of whom none of us had previously heard. I also missed all reports of our performance against Middlesboro, which, apparently, was abject even by our standards.

No one else seems to worried but I am, we have to win some games and we don’t seem capable of doing it, even though we have only played one of the top teams. History tells us that you cannot give the others a head start and expect to catch them up; history also tells us that we are incapable of stringing a run of wins together, we are going down, mark my words.

It is all a bit glum and gloomy at the moment being a Blues fan; there is no joie de vivre and very little hope. Everyone seems a bit hangdog and there is no spark. There is a torpor about the place and the board no longer seem bothered about us and cannot wait to offload us; unfortunately, Yeung sees to be as skint as me. I think we are in for some desperate times; it’s a good job that we have all become inured to it.