Friday, March 27, 2009

Angels With Dirty Faces

I may have mentioned the sheep around these parts before, but I feel obliged to mention them again. I work in a strange borough, made up of old mining communities and steel towns, all of them very high up on any scale of poverty you care to mention and very low down on any quality of life measure…………although none of the proud folk who live there would agree with that. Anyway, unlike the urban sprawl of the Midlands, where you would not know when you have moved from one town to another (apart from Wolverhampton, where the low brow, open mouth and dragging knuckles of the populace indicate that you have entered a strange, other land) there is open countryside between all of the little communities.

Sheep reside on that hilly terrain, and they make frequent incursions into the towns and onto the roads. These sheep ain’t chickens. They will stare down anyone and they are as scrawny and tough looking as any 1930’s New York street gang. They can be quite scary. Until recently, the borough would round these silent, staring urchins up and return them to where they belong, but the borough is skint, and has stopped doing it, so they are left free to colonise the streets, take over the car parks and to charge down busy roads like a gang of 70's football hooligans, regardless of oncoming traffic. It is hilarious.

Having said that, in the last few days I have had to execute an emergency stop and have also been required to take avoiding action 3 times. You don’t get that in the bloody Midlands.

Talking of Welsh nutters, there I was in Tescos in Ebbw Vale last night, waiting to pay for my Beano, when I found myself being given an enormous bear hug, by a person unknown, with the unknown person simultaneously bellowing in my ear “The Blues are staying down, the Blues are staying down”, he then legged it, laughing, before shouting back at me:” see you in the play off's butty!”. He obviously knew me, but I haven’t got the faintest bloody idea who he was.

Youngest has started Judo. It was like living with bloody Cato anyway: Christ knows what it will be like now. It has come about because of some local bullies, although he has been asking to have a go for ages. The daughter and her pals like to go into a wood and play and build dens, but they are constantly subject to harassment, bullying and violence from some local scoundrels, one of whom should not be allowed out without his banjo.

Last Saturday, they came in for dinner and, to my great surprise, asked youngest if he wanted to help them in the afternoon, which, of course, he did. An hour or so later I had to round them up in readiness for some other activity, and couldn’t find the little ‘un, so, naturally, enquired as to his whereabouts. The girls sort of shuffled their feet a bit, looked a bit sheepish and pointed upwards.

He was sitting up a tree, looking quite content with his lot. “Hi Dad” he smiled, gummily. “What’s he doing up the tree”, I wondered. “Well”, the girls explained,” we stuck him up there with a load of sticks and told him if the boys come around again to throw the sticks at them”.

It was a damn fine, if reckless strategy, if you ask me.

You will ahve seen the universally good reviews for the new Leonard Cohen, which, by the wonder of the interweb, you can hear in its entirety, for free.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I heard, by chance, the best bit of radio of the year this dinnertime, as I was travelling these sunlit valleys. As usual I was furiously switching stations when I happened upon 5 live. The increasingly odious Victoria Derbyshire had just started an interview with Graham Souness. Apparently, there had been a story in one of the papers about Souness acting like a berk at his nippers football match and swearing in front of a lady.

Souness gave his side of the story and admitted that he had become upset and that he had sworn in front of the lady, and immediately apologised. He said the issue was that in this match between 9 year olds, a player had been sent off inside the first ten minutes for taking a brutal kick at his nipper and soon after, another player had done the same. The gist of it seemed to be that the ref didn't want to send a second player off, so asked the coach to sub him (I think) but the coach refused. Souness then intervened as he thought the coaches behaviour was despicable, and ended up swearing at the coach, with a lady nearby.

The ensuing discussion was hilarious, as it was obvious that Souness was in a rare old fit of pique. Derbyshire did her best to provoke him and succeeded, demanding that he should apologise even though he had already done so and ignoring his point that the coach seemed to be condoning the violence that his 9 year old players were perpetrating on the pitch. Derbyshire was pious and self righteous, but Souness was having none of it and launched into her. She never stood a chance.

Souness is a bit charmless but I felt like applauding him. Too many BBC journalists think that it is their job to be outraged and to embarrass any public figure that appears on the radio. They think that by being discourteous and labouring a point, they are doing the public a favour but they are not, they are massaging their own egos and Derbyshire is one of the worst culprits. I often wonder how public figures remain so calm and so polite in the face of the nonsense, but Souness is made of sterner stuff , he turned the tables on her, but his outrage was genuine and he made her look like a tit. We need more of that kind of behaviour.

The presenters no doubt see themselves as heroic figures cutting through the crap and getting those in the public domain to explain themselves, however awkward it is for them. It ain't exactly Bernstein and Woodward stuff though, usually it is some hapless council spokesman who has committed the cardinal sin of following the rules (political correctness gone mad)or a sportsman, usually poorly educated, who is getting hammered for some mild response to a load of dogs abuse.

It struck, me, listening to this, that there is a bit of a double standard. Derbyshire accused Souness of patronising her (he wasn't) but she patronises people all the time. If you are known person, you get tough questions..............if you are member of the public with some idiotic gripe against officialdom, you are patronised, however peurile your argument may be. What Derbyshire and others don't seem to realise, is that they are the establishment, much more so than the likes of Souness, yet when the table is turned on them, they don't like it.

After the interview, Derbyshire admitted that most of the texts into the show were supportive of Souness; none of those texts were read out, yet one of her co presenters read out a couple that were against Souness. She admitted herself that the audience seemed to be against her, but the only texts that were read were those that supported her. It's a small and insignificant issue but it is illustrative of everything that gets on my nerves about 5 live.

I have been in a mood with Derbyshire all week. I can't stand the woman and hardly ever listen, but, you, know, I flick a lot, and she will pop up. I have heard her, briefly, twice this week and both times she has got on my nerves. Earlier in the week there was some middle class loon on, going on about her disabled son and his right to have a good shag, if only he could find someone to shag him. This woman was irritating beyond belief and believed that that world had conspired against her sons right to ejaculate into a person, rather than into a tissue.

She said that he had written a note to another disabled person, which said that he wanted to take a shower with her and spend the day in bed with her, but the daft bint had rejected him, and really, it wasn't fair. Rather than ask if she should be thinking about educating the chap about how to aproach people, Derbyshire positively cooed that it sounded georgeous. I don't think she would have found it so cute if the bloke was a hairy arsed docker, rather than a bloke with disabilities.

They were both banging on about it not being fair that the rest of us refuse to treat people with disabilities the same as we would anyone else, while pleading for special treatment on this chaps behalf. It's another small point, I know, but she gets on my nerves and she really doesn't deserve to be on national radio. This is the B.B Bloody C we are talking about, and half the time it sounds like amateur hour. Don't even get me started on the coverage of the death of the actress!

If I told you about some of the stuff I have been dealing with in work today, you absolutely wouldn't believe me. Never, ever, be surprised by the depths to which humanity can sink. And trust no one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Soul Rebel

It seems churlish to knock a good cause but by Christ comic relief gets on my tits. It’s an excuse for every berk who likes to think of himself as “mad, me”, to behave in even more annoying ways than they usually do. I don’t actually watch any of it, but I assume that it still has large multinationals donating tiny sums of money on enormous cardboard cheques, giving themselves a load of free, prime time publicity, Still, it’s all in a good cause and everyone gets to have a laugh, so its ok.

What may still be OK but grates with me anyway is all the hullabaloo over the nonentities who climbed Kilimanjaro. Apparently, they were accompanied by a small army, including a catering unit and a mobile editing suite. It raised a lot of money, but I wonder how much was raised relative to putting the whole thing together, not to mention the carbon footprint and the effects of such a large scale operation on the mountain itself. Something about it just doesn’t seem right to me.

I know that there are still people on this planet who haven’t yet downloaded Spotify; if you are one of those individuals, you are a fool; you are denying yourself unimagined pleasures.

I don’t often start books by the same author one after the other, but, having finished my first Westlake, I dived headfirst into another, and I am enjoying it just as much as the first. The Dortmunder gang are the funniest and best little mob since Richmal Cromptons Outlaws. Westlake was absolutely prolific, so I have hours and hours of good reading ahead. I won’t read them all at once though.

None of us are free

Regarding the Blues, I don't like to say I told you so, but, I told you so!

I have also been telling anyone who will listen that inequality leads to misery for us all, but no bugger has ever listened. Well.................

Monday, March 09, 2009

Drunkards Prayer

<a href="">Live Concert Video - Willard Grant Conspiracy</a>

Blues inexorable rise to the the top continues apace and the citizens of Birmingham are walking around sporting expressions of profound joy. I made the last bit up.

Ian Bell, once again, writes with a brutal honesty, this time about the monsters in our midst.

I can't remember if I linked to this interview with Ray Banks before. It's worth reading for two reasons, the mans attitude, and what look to be some good book recommendations.

"Out of the Gates, Slowly Bleeding": The Life & Times of Harry Crews

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Black Heart

<a href="">Live Concert Video - Calexico</a>

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pancho and Lefty

There is a free cd coming with tomorrow Independent. I have no idea if it's any good but judging by the artistes involved I doubt if it will be my cup of tea. Having said that, I like the cut the of their jib and it's nice to know that there are still some angry young persons about. I like this quote:
"When I hear your music, I want to know your opinion," Lowkey adds. "I don't want to know about your girlfriend. I've got a girlfriend. Keep your girlfriend to yourself, mate."

Having just read the Guardian review of the album, well, it's still good that they have a conscience, but I don't think I want to be privy to it!

On one of my mini tours of the South Wales Valleys yesterday, impatiently changing radio channels in a futile attempt to find something to listen to that didn't aggravate me beyond reason, I happened upon Victoria Derbyshire. I can't stand that woman, but that's by the by. They were talking about the upcoming Michael Jackson tour and caller after caller hailed him as a genius, as the greatest pop artist ever. I don't get it. What makes him so special? I find his music anodyne at best, irritating at worst............what the hell am I missing?

Besides which, his character seems to be a bit flawed; does this not matter? Who is going to be the support act on this tour? Gary Glitter? With cameos from Jonathan King and a comic turn by Pee Wee Herman?

I am deluded.


Hungry? Have a scanwich

Life magazine images from the 1930's. It wasn't that long ago.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Somebodys Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight

One of the little perks of having job which entails you spending a fair bit of time in the car is the opportunity it affords you to happen across little gems on the radio, such as this programme on the art of the sleevenote. It's very good and is a lovely listen.

Disappointingly, the new Neko Case isn't available on spotify, but it doesn't matter, because you can stream the whole thing, for free.

Christopher Hitchens goes to Beirut and gets himself and his mates smacked up.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"I Fought the Battle of Trinidad and Tobago"

Another defeat for Blues, undone by the officials..............the chumps that are supposed to ensure fair play. There are not many that will agree with me, but our last few performances have been encouraging; if only in comparison with the utter tripe that has been served up previously. If we had a fully fit squad, half the team that played today wouldn't even get in the reserves (if we had reserves) and we were unlucky not to get a point. I remain hopeful and I continue to like the cut of the jib belonging to Big Eck.

There was a very good piece in the Guardian the other day all about Charles Bronson, Britain's most notorious old lag. It was interesting because it was written by Erwin James, who seems to have been quite a dangerous character himself. The plea by Bronson that he hasn't harmed anyone for 9 years isn't as impressive when you consider the conditions in which he is kept, which ensures that it would be extremely difficult for him to harm anyone.