Monday, 27 May 2013

And unless I am very much mistaken..

Very sorry to hear that Murray Walker, the erstwhile voice of Formula One motorsport, has been badly injured in a fall. Apparently he has a broken pelvis and is in considerable pain. Murray is 89 years old so he cannot be very comfortable at the moment. It reminds me that that other doyen of commentating, Sir Peter O'Sullevan, had a minor stroke this year. He's 95 and was until recently still attending his favourite horse races. Spare a thought also for Kent Walton, who commentated on the Saturday afternoon wrestling for over 30 years. I am not a cricket fan, but I had a boss once who was, and the office used to descend into a kind of stupor - like bees being smoked - when the cricket was on. Henry Blofeld and Brian Johnston had that kind of voice that could send you into a blissful trance.

I think that although I am more of an F1 fan than a horse racing fan, for me Peter O'Sullevan was probably the best ever commentator in the history of broadcasting. He was the quintessence of an English gentleman discussing the kind of thing English gentlemen do. His knowledge and his unflappable commentaries fixed the sport of kings as a genuine cultural artefact.

We take our sports commentators seriously in this country. What makes them all great is an intimate knowledge of the game, thorough homework and a passion that you cannot fake.

Have I missed anybody out?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Not worried about Woolwich?

I am not rattled, concerned or particularly outraged by the grisly proceedings in Woolwich yesterday, though my deep and sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the victim.

The latest statistics available show that murders in England and Wales, in terms of raw figures, run at about 550. That is just less then ten for every million of the population. The figure is slightly higher in Scotland but in but cases, the trend shows a decline in homicides. Predictably the victims, especially if they are women or young people, tend to have known their assailant. Most of these murders affect many people around the victims but most of these murders go largely unremarked in the national press. Indeed, you would probably not be aware of a double murder, some weeks ago, in the street where I grew up. (See Below)

It is true to say that violent crime as a whole has a disproportionately high number of black people as perpetrators.

In the case of the Woolwich incident it is clear that the two self-confessed murderers were of Afro Caribbean origin and apparently converts to Islam. They appeared, in the street, covered in blood, brandishing weapons and claiming that they were part of some kind of worldwide grudge against the wicked West.

I am just not convinced that Islam is to blame. For sure, the problem with Islam in this country is that their leaders refuse to be unequivocal about such outrages as suicide bombings and the so called "community" itself reveals very mixed messages about their position.

I shall never forget a playground bully who asked me if I had any sweets and then demanded that I hand them over. Well, I had no sweets, but the playground bully decided to beat me up anyway.

The point I am trying to make is that violence and the kind of psychopaths who perpetrate violence, don't really need a reason to murder or injure others. They do it because they lack basic human emotion or because they are unable to empathise and because they are consumed with hatred.

I am always fascinated to read of the continuance of violence and disorder in Northern Ireland. It seems that there are "dissident Republican" elements who continue to plot and carry out murder and mayhem. This is absurd. Their erstwhile leaders are now in Government, their beloved Eire has ceded most of its power to the EU and there is a steady course towards correcting the inequalities which caused the trouble in the first place.

What these dissident Republicans have in common with the animals who carried out this latest atrocity is not some ideology, not some heroic act for the betterment of society and not a genuine plea to be heard. Neither is it about sudden and violent death, because to the some 2,200 victims of Road Traffic Accidents last year on Britain's roads, I dare say their families are every bit as bereft and bereaved as this young soldier in Woolwhich.

What this is all about is hatred and  pure, unadulterated evil and it deserves the severest form of punishment.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Weasel Weekend #2

Eurovision is to music what a Big Mac is to haute cuisine. It kind of sounds like music and it looks like music, but thereafter, any real relationship to music is lost in a kind of homogenizer, a machine that is dedicated to extracting the last ounce of originality and binning it. All that is left are all the right notes, but not, necessarily in the right order.

I always found circuses disappointing and I always ended up hoping the performer would fall off. That is how I view the Eurovision Song Contest. It is boring and it would only get interesting if a singer fell off the stage or got hit by the pyrotechnics. As for this year's effort, it was marginally better than some, but the bar has been set very low. You can remember ABBA doing Waterloo because it went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time. That was just over 30 years ago and ABBA were up there with The Beatles. Who is going to remember this year's winner in 30 years? As for our entry, by Bonnie Tyler, well. The story is that some nameless person at the BBC unilaterally decided that Bonnie, now in her sixties and probably no stranger to HRT and Tena Lady should be the shining face of Great Britain. I hope this BBC executive is sacked for gross something or other. Poor Bonnie sang flat. I suppose it will be blamed on poor ear monitors or something, but she was flat and that is that.


I was amused to read about another story (fake or otherwise, but very believable) that the EU have decided to ban un-bottled olive oil from restaurant tables because they think the punters should be allowed to see the origin of such condiments. I have to agree with this one, especially since it is countries like Italy who voted for the rule. Italy has had the largest number of scandals in this area, mainly due to the intervention in the olive oil market of the mafia and the mafia don't exercise the same health and safety food standards as other multi-nationals. Of course, this is all our fault for going a bit Brian Sewell about olive oil. If we were not so obsessed with extra virgin nobody would bother to fake it.

I am sorry, but this time I must side with the EU. Un-labeled olive oil stands a chance of coming from the drained sump of a Fiat 500 from a back-street garage in Naples, along with Mozzarella with added dioxin and spag bol made of Shergar.


Another scandal threatens to undermine the Tories. This time it's "Swivel-Eyed Loon" gate. Regardless of who said what to whom, the sad thing is that the story is 100% believable; the Tory leadership is just out of touch with its grass roots. Cameron must take the blame on this. He has never been interested in listening to the country or, more importantly, his old Tory core vote. I shall never forget the early days before he became PM. He ran a kind of video diary where he invited people to email him. It was all very intimate and cinema verite and obviously done by a PR firm. I emailed a comment and got a very accidental reply from the guy who read the comments at Tory central. It was pretty obvious that Cameron never read the comments, nor was he remotely interested in them. Cameron is a phoney. He is an unbelievable phoney and someone who has no credible answer to the long term problems we face. He will lose the next election, not because he is posh, but because he bears no resemblance to a member of the human race.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Racist by a Royal Mile

I feel compelled to mention the experience of Nigel Farage yesterday in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, this being a mere 25 miles away from me.

It seems that Mr Farage had to take refuge in a pub and be escorted away in a police van after an angry mob more or less went for him. Apparently they were loudly accusing him of being a racist and then telling him to clear off back to England.

Yes, exactly.

I am afraid there is a small but significant number of Scots who are either, largely affiliated to the hate-filled left, or just filled with hate. There are numerous examples of how English people have been targeted in the past. Personally, I have never had anything overt said or done to me, to my knowledge, but one is certainly aware of an undercurrent at times. I will be interested to know if there were any arrests over the Farage incident, since the police up here can more or less do what they like under the "breach of the peace" rules - something they have exercised in the past against a man who told his neighbour to "fuck off".

Racism in Scotland appears to be confined to certain areas. Edinburgh is certainly one of them, then there is most of the Highland mainland and especially around Aberdeen. Sheltand does not consider itself Scottish and is therefore devoid and the Western Isles are a law unto themselves. On my first visit to Edinburgh, many years ago, on the Royal Mile,I overheard a conversation in what I called a "tartan tat" shop to the effect that these two protagonists were looking into the possibility of targeting English homes in some way. I did not open my mouth and left sharpish.

Where I live, we English live cheek by jowl and as you would expect in the Borders, there is an amicable mix, especially because they are so dependent on tourism and also because we are all over the bloody place.

And that brings me to a minor but irritating thing and it happens all the time. I have lived in Scotland for ten years and still I get asked if I am on holiday. Given the wonderful scenery and the fresh air and the casual and unassuming kindness shown to me by the Scots, it often feels as though I am, so I am not complaining, really.

As for Nigel, this kind of thing only seems to make him stronger, and after all, he does actually represent a majority of feeling in this country.


I have seen some "news" that Christians will be in a minority in the next decade. This is hardly surprising if you visit a church and clock the average age of the congregation. The report also says that the number of Muslims in this country has surged by 75% between the times of the census (every four years).

To those who like to celebrate the demise of belief in "the sky fairy", I just wonder if you know what you are replacing him with?

The left love to brand people with labels that are very sticky but which rarely stand up to intellectual rigour; I mean words that end in "ist" or "phobic" whose meaning has less substance than a vegan vol-au-vent.

I enjoy reading points of view and comments that differ from mine but I just wish that those who re-cycle the same cliches in a spirit of piss and vinegar would just go away and decease.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Weasel Weekend #1

It's been raining on and off so far. On the plus side I have finally sold my redundant brushcutter. What I really need now is a sure fire way to reduce moss in the garden and get some decent grass growing.

But never mind all that. The political weekend has been dominated yet again by Europe. And why not? It is rather important. Call me old fashioned, but I have taken to getting the newsprint edition of The Times (US: "The London Times") left in the bus shelter on Saturdays. The bus shelter is where all the papers are left because it would be a bit of a hike for the paper-boy to go around our hamlet. Well, the London Times has Matthew Parris as one of their long-serving and most able commentators and Matthew sums up the Europe question really well; he doesn't know! None of us really know what it would be like out of the European Union but some of us think we should prefer to be out and I am one of them.

One of the difficult issues I have at the moment is that I am very sympathetic to the Scottish Nationalist campaign for independence, but avowedly anti-EU. As Nigel Farage so helpfully pointed out recently, it is a bit daft shouting about independence from wicked England, only to embrace Brussels like a long lost and domineering auntie. (My analogy, not his). Ditto the Irish Republicans - a cause who I also sympathize with up to and excluding violence. It always puzzles me that the Irish spend a century battling British "oppression", only to replace it with EU oppression.

Elsewhere my mind wanders to lighter things. I have discovered a new and exotic source of beer. (Gee, I wish I was being paid for this). Go over to and take a look. I have had some really nice beer delivered, namely two from the Kona (US) brewing company called Longboard and Fire Rock and one of a Swiss Beer called 1936. I particularly commend the Fire Rock. It is full of flavour and just delightful.

I am giving Eurovision a miss this year. Yuichh! our entry girl is older than me!!!  Gone are the days of ABBA when you hoped for a glimpse of the girls' knickers. With Bonnie Tyler you just don't want to go there.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

When in Rome

There is a story doing the rounds today (it's a bit slack at the moment, newswise) about some British tourists in Italy who were charged 64 Euros for four ice creams in Rome. That's $84 or Fifty Four of your British Pounds.

Well Rome. La Dolce Vita, The Colosseum, Bunga Bunga - whatever you think of it and the rest of Italy, it tends to create an impression. The thing is, nothing has really changed in respect of the way they treat tourists.

I once tarried in Bologna, a place famous for Umberto Eco and a university that makes Magdalen College, Oxford look a bit, erm, red brick. I was scruffy and in back-packer mode but it did not stop a young fellow in smart trousers and Gucci shoes asking me for money. And they do it without the slightest hint of shame. It goes a long way to explaining Silvio Berlusconi who has managed to change the Italian constitution (statute of limitations and a cap on the age of convicted felons who can be imprisoned, etc) in order to stay out of jail. And he still had the gall to run for office.

But back to tourism. As I said, nothing has really changed; those on The Grand Tour of the 18th Century suffered similarly. I love reading Tobias Smollet's account of his visits to France and Italy. He constantly regaled his correspondents with tales of surly postillions and filthy sheets. Here's an example of a visit to Sestri di Levanti in Liguria, a coastal region in Northern Italy whose capital is Genoa, in 1765:

The house was tolerable and we had no reason to complain of the beds, but the weather being hot, there was a very effusive smell which proceeded from skins of beasts new killed...Our landlord was a butcher and had very much the looks of an assassin. His wife was a great masculine virago, who had all the air of having frequented the slaughter house. Instead of being welcomed with looks of complaisance, we were admitted with a sort of gloomy condescension..We had a very bad supper, miserably dressed, passed a very disagreeable night and paid a very extravagant bill in the morning, without being thanked for our custom. I was very glad to get out of the house with my throat uncut.

The next day he complains of being "almost poisoned at supper".

In the interests of journalistic balance, I have to let you know that Smollet later (and inexplicably) stayed at the same place, reporting to another correspondent that they were "most graciously received" and paid a "very reasonable bill". Smollet has no explanation for this turnabout in the butcher host's attitude, aside from a whimsical notion that a terrible storm had "terrified them into humility and submission".

Well, I think I understand what the answer may be and it is purely based upon my experience with Italians. In short, once they get to know you they treat you like long-lost friends. I once worked for an Italian chef. He was capable of holding me up against the kitchen wall with a knife to my throat and in the same evening hugging me with tears in his eyes. I don't exaggerate. It was my experience nearly everywhere in Italy; if you were on the move you were fair game, but if you returned or stayed a while or even tried a bit to get to know them, you had a friend.

So for those unwary travelers who reckon they are going to buy a couple of ice creams and an espresso by the Trevi fountain, you had best make a wish that you understand the real meaning of "When in Rome".

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Have music festivals had their day?

News today that the Hop Farm Festival has been cancelled "due to poor ticket sales" is in some ways sad and in others simply a sign of the times.

Hop Farm, which in days gone by fielded headliners like Dylan and Neil Young, struggled this year to put up a bill with anybody worth sitting in a wet field for.

Now I have been a music promoter. Not, I hesitate to say, the kind of music promoter who ran Hop Farm; his name is Vince Power and sometime back in 2005 he sold Mean Fiddler (then the biggest promoter) for £38 million. Vince also did a three year stint running Glasto, so the guy is a player.

Sadly last year's Hop Farm event was mired in financial disaster with reports of artists such as Peter Gabriel and Suede not being paid. Word soon gets about unfortunately and it is no surprise that only the done and the desperate signed up to play this year. Musicians love to go on about the art but most of them (with some interesting exceptions) won't get out of bed unless there is a lot of money involved.

So what is going to happen to festivals? Have they had their day or is it that the specialist fests such as Womad and Cropredy and a host of lesser known ones will thrive because they have a loyal core clientele who not only go every year but brings their kids and their kid's kids?

Personally I have never been a festival goer (I am mildly agoraphobic), though I know plenty of folks who are, including my son who has been to nearly every one going in Europe. What I get from him is that incredible wealth of talent that you just don't see if you hit the front page of iTunes. He tells me about bands that will probably never make it, but who are nevertheless utterly brilliant.

So perhaps that's it. In order to make a festival work you must appeal to the real fans. You have to reach that niche, that corps of believers who will seek you out come hell or high water. And it is them I salute, because without them we are going to end up with Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and that is a terrible legacy to leave the kids of tomorrow.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A "Clown" with a pint in one hand and a fag in the other won it.

As the results of the English local elections come in, one thing is abundantly clear; the British people have had enough of the snake oil salesmen who run this country. Nigel Farage is a man of the people, a man of the British people. He does not go in for photo opportunities because he is a walking photo opportunity - a bloke with a pint and a fag. He has to sit outside of public buildings and pubs to smoke. That in itself tells you about the rift in this country between real people and the Westminster elite.

Writing in The Telegraph (of all places) a member of the London chattering classes, one Mary Riddell, warns us of the dangers of UKIP and the concomitant extremism. Well Mrs Mad Riddell, you only have to look at places like Boston in Lincolnshire (where UKIP has made major gains) to see what ordinary people really think. It's a place where vice, smuggling and murder have now turned it into a cess pit and it is down to immigration from the shit holes of Europe and nothing else.

As as for extremism, I think you will find that the only true definition of the word can be found among those communities who have no allegiance nor ethnic similarity to the British People.

Onward with the revolution! Hope lies with the proles!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

À la recherche du temps perdu

Ok, that last post was a bit indulgent, maybe not even funny and probably incomprehensible to you Yankees.

I was however, reminded of a compelling and crucial book after reading one of the comments on an earlier post. Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck. I tried to get my son to read it but did he? Did he, heck. He didn't read Catcher in the Rye either or On The Road. In fact, I don't think he has ever read a book. I persist in giving him books of course, in the forlorn hope that he will share those wonderful moments and somehow understand what it feels like to be me.

Well, perhaps he knows - he's lifted half my record collection.

When you are young you worry about where you are going and when you are old you worry about where you have been. But I don't have that many regrets. I reflect upon where I have been and perhaps my only regret is that I was too earnest to enjoy the moment.

I feel so far away from the days of my youth. I live in happy valley; a millstream on one side, a river running at the end of the garden, the hills and the sound of cattle and sheep and the sound of the water flowing. I am preoccupied with getting the moss out of the lawn and doing old man's things like gathering logs and polishing photo frames and making just the right cup of tea.

I often wonder about those beautiful young women I worshipped when I was 18 years old. Were they so perfect in their long cotton dresses and their unending hair? Where are they now? They never gave me a second look and now they are grannies with mortgages to pay and children to worry over. Caroline McCulloch, I slept in your sleeping bag and I remember how you smelled of Patchouli.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An election message to the poor deluded voters of England

I want to explain to you why you should vote for me on Thursday, in the English local elections.

For a long time I have promised to make the consumption of beer a totally cost-free experience. Indeed I have previously given you a "cast iron guarantee". Well, there are other parties who are promising free beer and I admit their manifesto is attractive, but honestly, who would want to vote for a party of beer drinkers.? Some of them even smoke!

Believe it or not, there are people out there who think it is absurd to give overseas aid to countries who can afford their own space program or those whose GDP is greater than our own. There are people out there who think it is wrong to keep violent criminals and terrorists in this country instead of deporting them to their own, in case it violates their human rights. Indeed, our friends in Europe want us to take more people from poorer countries and in order to do these things I am afraid we shall have to either borrow more money, or take it from your pocket.

Well, I know none of this is popular, but we have to be seen to not be the "nasty" party, whatever the cost and frankly, it is easier to raid your piggy bank than to take some very difficult decisions.

However, the news is not all bad. I accept that you, the voter, must have a choice and that you need what you might call an incentive to continue to trust in us and I know that many of you do trust us and do believe me implicitly.

So, I am promising free beer. Tomorrow.

Nigel Farage wears ladies panties and kills fluffy kittens.(BBC)
(Just mentioned in the interests of truth and electoral clarity, coincidentally just a few days before the election)