Tuesday 31 January 2012

Well excuse me!

We apologise for the late departure of the 8.40 to Cambridge. This was due to the late arrival of the previous train from Cambridge

I’m not really into excuses, if a train is late, a train is late, and no reason is going to make the pain any better. But at least if an excuse is going to be offered let’s have the real reason. The ‘previous train from Cambridge’ was the same train as the ‘8.40 to Cambridge’. The train goes back and forth between Cambridge and Norwich. At Norwich it turns around almost immediately for that particular service. So why not tell us why the ‘previous train from Cambridge’ was late? Tossers!

Rather than doing a good job or giving a good service rail companies only seem interested in meeting targets. They do this by manipulating phoney targets that supposedly measuring what they do. They fool no one. Trains continue to be late and filthy. Our railways surely are the laughing stock of Europe.

Saturday 28 January 2012

the day the music died

it was just before christmas
the day the music died
at first we thought it a dream
the day the music died
or maybe a fantasy
the day the music died
oh dark day and dark dark night
the day the music died
no more pie american
the day the music died
the walrus would sing no more
the day the music died
silence, deafening silence
the day the music died

Paul Garrard

I thank you!

Friday 27 January 2012

Camel goes through eye of needle shock!

As you age it becomes very tempting to inhabit the past. I try not to. I try to be forward thinking. Progressive even. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn from the past. As long as we don’t view that past through rose-tinted spectacles that is. It can be argued with some confidence that the 1960s were a golden age in the UK. Sgt Pepper was released on my twelfth birthday. It was the decade that working classes flexed their muscles and many broke free from the chains that bound them. It was a decade when many working people experienced a relative affluence that could only have been previously dreamed of. Our family did. It was a decade of major innovation and thought. So many of the thoughts on equality and respect came to the fore during the 60s. We had, in modern terms, a progressive Labour government. And with that came high rates of tax for high income earners. Sadly Thatcher blew a lot of the good away, and given half a chance this fucking Tory government will do the rest.

I don’t buy this nonsense about how you need to pay obscenely high wages to attract the right sort of people, or that taxes need to be kept low so as not to de-incentivise or drive talent abroad. It is all capitalist spin and bollocks. If you control excessively high pay and people go elsewhere so what? Plenty more very apt people to take their place. British industry and commerce is littered with over-paid ignorant shits who operate in a poor or mediocre fashion. It is a total myth that they are somehow special. Most of them aren’t. Excessive pay is way out of control and the only people who can stop it, apart from the perpetrators are the government. Shareholders won’t. In the main shareholders are either in the same ‘fat-cat’ boat or they have been neutered by the system.

Today’s announcement of the RBS chief Stephen Hester's £963,000 bonus is an insult to all those suffering up and down the land. This is public money we are talking about. Tax-payers money. Tax that thing that every man, woman, child and hermaphrodite contribute to. Robert Peston has been “...reliably told that they feared Mr Hester and much of the board would have quit, if the payment had been vetoed by the government as the majority shareholder.” So? Let the selfish bastards resign. Good riddance I say. We are talking about the sort of people and their ilk that are responsible for the ‘high-pay’ culture and the ‘persecution of the average person’ culture that we find ourselves in. Let’s enforce extreme pay restraint at the top and cull the parasitic and obese leeches that have caused us all these financial woes. We’ll be all the fitter financially for it. All we need is the courage.

Thursday 26 January 2012

The wages of sin

For every £1 million that is paid to some fat-cat executive you could employ 40 people at £25,000, 50 people at £20,000 or 66.6 at £15,000. If you raise the wage rate from the minimum wage (£6.08) to a living wage (£7.20) it would cost, per person, £1.12 per hour, which is £44.80 for a 40 hour week, or £2329.60 per annum. For every £1 million that is paid to some fat-cat executive 429 people could benefit from an increase from a minimum to a living wage. Now I realise that a living wage is still far from ideal and that any company that is serious about their business would pay more but it would be an improvement on what many have now.

Now I realise that the above is an oversimplification and that the costs of employing people are not directly proportional to their salary but it is accurate enough to highlight how unbalanced and unfair most businesses attitude to wages and staffing are, in that one person’s wage can be so high that it is the equivalent to 40, 50 or several hundred people’s wages put together.

Do bankers, footballers and multi-million pound earning captains of industry et al actually work any harder than the poor soul on minimum wage working as a cleaner care assistant or other equally valuable job? I think we know the answer to that, don’t we?

The minimum wage should be a living wage!

The living wage:
"An idea whose time has come"- David Cameron

Wednesday 25 January 2012

What is the point?

No society can call itself civilised whilst it has poverty in its ranks. We in the UK are not a civilised society. Most of the population seem to tacitly accept poverty, if it is not happening to them. Presumably it is on the grounds of ‘I’m alright Jack’. What is wrong with us? Have we been so ground down that we no longer have the will to fight it? Is it just mass stupidity? Have the capitalists so brainwashed Ms, Mrs and Mr Average that they are incapable of questioning the immorality of the regime we live under? How do we get the message across that it doesn’t have to be like this? How do we get the message across that not only is financial equality desirable on moral and humanitarian grounds but it actually makes a whole heap of sense on purely a financial basis as far as the vast majority of the population is concerned?

Young and old, urban and rural dwellers alike are suffering terrible hardship, and collectively we do nothing, apart from turn a blind eye.

I’m not sure I can answer any of the above questions. Some days my faith in ever building a fair and just society is seriously challenged. I despair at the Great British public and the fuckwhats that they have become.

What is the point?

Monday 23 January 2012

The gospel according to Alan Measles

As I’ve said before the arts are the thinking person’s sport and so on Saturday while Neanderthals sped northward for the Norwich v Chelsea match we trained it down to London for a bit of yer actual culture. Our planned destination was the British Museum and the Grayson Perry exhibition entitled ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’.

We only just got tickets. They seem to sell out fast on the day. What a truly wonderful building the British Museum is. I hadn’t been since my schooldays. The rotunda is a magnificent construction and along with the glass roof makes for a light and airy space. As there was a fair bit of time between buying the tickets and our allocated slot we decided to go for a meal. We’ve had some very good meals in museums up and down the land and the Court Restaurant in the British Museum; both the food and the service were first class; the staff were just so nice; a destination in itself.

The entrance to the Grayson Perry exhibition is guarded by his pink motorbike, as used on his pilgrimage. The glass case affixed to the back now houses Alan Measles’ stunt double. The queuing and entry arrangements left a lot to be desired. You would think that an august and mature institution like the British Museum would have this sort of thing down to a fine art so to speak. Seemingly not. And once inside things didn’t improve greatly. I think that far too many exhibits are concentrated at the beginning thus causing a human bottle neck. The exhibition itself was a piece of inspired genius. Grayson Perry continues to go up and up in my estimation. In my opinion he is one of our greatest living artists; up there with David Hockney, Anthony Gormley and Gilbert and George. Grayson’s work is three dimensional. He’s a potter, a sculpture a tapestry and cloak designer. The exhibition is a mix of his work along with pieces that he has selected from the British Museum collection to compliment his work. I love Grayson’s pots. They are adorned with philosophical slogans. He has his own personal deity, Alan Measles his lifelong teddy bear, which features in many if not all of Perry’s work. He also has a wry and acute sense of humour. Three of his sculptures, a skull, a father and a mother all reminded me of a line spoken by the ghost of Jacob Marley “I wear the chain I forged in life”. The pièce de résistance is the eponymous Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman a huge cast iron sculpture based around a sailing ship and is a wonder to behold. Grayson Perry is a very unique artist and a true visionary. If you get the chance to see his work you should go.

Thursday 12 January 2012

What the dickens?

The recent Dickens season on the BBC has caused me a certain amount of unease. I have a distinct dislike of period costume dramas, particularly those based around Regency and Victorian times. In fact I will often go out of my way to avoid them. In many ways that’s a shame as no doubt some of them will be very well written. The trouble is that they make me want to vomit. The only exception to the rule is A Christmas Carol which I never tire of and which invariably leads to a modicum of tear-duct leakage. I’m sure that somewhere in this land some very good ‘alternate’ productions of his work are being performed, but I would so much prefer it if by default Dickens could be treated in a similar vein to Shakespeare. I know that there is a whole world of difference between the novels of Charles Dickens and the plays of William Shakespeare but I do feel that the approach could be equally as exciting by relying solely on the prose of Dickens and its dramatic interpretation. Does it really need to be reduced to lack-lustre entertainment gift wrapped in frilly dresses, starched collars and sideburns? I‘d like to see Dickens interpreted with some stripped down gritty realism.

Sadly much of the subject matter in the works of Dickens is still very relevant. Presenting his work cosseted in a cloak of mawkish sterility detracts from its power. Charlie boy highlighted the horrors of poverty which sadly are still all too real today; you would have thought that over the last 142 years* it would not have been beyond the capacity of the peoples of Great Britain and their successive governments to have eradicated it by now. But clearly to date it has beaten us. Poverty is very much alive and thriving. So far we have failed. When will we make poverty history? Until that day we are nothing!

“Dear mother it’s a bugger...”

*Dickens died in 1870

Monday 9 January 2012


Since the days of cave dwellers, icons have been an important part of communicating with each other. In these days of computers, smartphones and touchscreens icons are a big part of the processing command chain. Icons like pictures are capable of representing many words. They allow the receiver to interpret amounts of information very quickly. Much quicker than a wordy equivalent. But then I’m telling you what, as a computer user, you already know. Icons enable you to evaluate and take action fast.

Just before Christmas we had a few days away in Chichester. When we have the odd night or two away we tend to stop at Premier Inns. In terms of chain hotels we find them very acceptable. They're clean, efficient and offer value for money. This trip in particular certainly offered all those things as we managed to book their £29 per night deal. Didn't think that was possible. Premier make a big play of brands. They use well known brand leaders or top brands. It occurred to me that this is probably quite a hard trick to pull off. In a four star (or plus) hotel this sort of in yer face branding would be seen as tacky and tasteless. But for Premier it is a great selling point. In the bathroom the shower gel is Imperial Leather and the hand wash is Carex. At the breakfast table it’s Costa, Heinz, Kellogg’s etc. Brands with a track record convey a perceived quality. They are icons. Icons that say these products are of a known quality.

When it comes to shopping I rarely buy branded products favouring shops-own brand. But then I suppose shops are a brand, as are hotels. Marketing people really do run things.

Another icon of the modern age is the designer label. Whilst a brand normally suggests a certain quality, depending on reputation, the designer label conveys much more as it speaks volume about the consumer of that label. It says I’m a complete twat with more money than sense. I have a deep distrust of anyone who buys a designer labelled product purely because it has a designer label. The same applies to certain brands as well. Many people seem to buy certain brands just because they are fashionable, the thing to have. They have the mentality of sheep. On the rare occasion that I got out shopping for clothing I try my hardest to avoid buying anything with a visible brand on it. I don’t always succeed but I do manage to keep it to a minimum. Some of my coats are the exception to the rule.

Last February we had a fantastic holiday in Iceland. The island not the supermarket chain that is. So this time last year I went looking for a decent, warm, water resistant coat. I almost bought one made by The North Face. I was prepared to look a twat for the sake of comfort. But what finally dissuaded me from making what was a very expensive purchase was the zip (zed-eye-pee). Yes the zip. You pay above the odds for a man’s coat and they can’t even be bothered to get the zip right. It would appear that all coats made by/for The North Face zip up on the girls side! Now I’m quite at ease with my sexuality and being in touch with my feminine side that I wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing per se. That’s not really the issue. If they are so fucking arrogant that they can’t be arsed to accommodate the British (possibly European???) market then why the hell should I be bothered to lash out on something that is going to cost me that deep in the purse? Besides I’ve spend fifty odd years buttoning and zipping up coats etc. the ‘man’s way’ why should I change for some lazy, arrogant, capitalists? I ended up buying a Berghaus ski jacket instead. Admittedly it is branded. But the icons of Berghaus branding are relatively subtle and I’ve never been disappointed with their products in the past. It proved to be a very good buy, especially as it was cheaper than what I was proposing to buy from The North Face.

The only other fashionable brand that I have spent money on in the last couple of years is Apple. I bought an iPod Classic. And the only reason I bought that was because there just wasn’t anything else that will hold that much music. I have a very large record collection. I have no intention of buying anything else with the Apple brand if I can help it. Especially as Samsung stuff, in my opinion, seems far superior.

Don’t be fooled by the brand name myths and the brand name hype. Owning certain brand named products doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t make you attractive to others, unless they are equally as shallow of course. Don’t sell your soul to devil of consumerist bling. Be more sensible shoe and less plimsoll. The golden idol is a false idol. If you worship iconography then there is probably no hope for you.

Sunday 1 January 2012

What education?

Is education dead?

I think it probably is!

As an old fuddy-duddy fifty-something it is easy to dismiss the education system as not being as good as it was when I was a lad. Nostalgia has a habit of distorting perception. But I do worry about the way we educate our young people these days. And, that last sentence is part of the problem.

No amount of money could have ever persuaded me to become a teacher. I am full of admiration for anyone who teaches. It can’t be an easy job. The poor souls are knocked by government, industry and the gutter-press constantly. I suspect most teachers do a great job under very difficult circumstances and in my opinion should be freed from much of the checking and measurement of their performance that is the order of the day. Teachers and teaching are not the problem with education.

The main problem with the education system these days as far as I can see is that it doesn’t educate, it just equips people with skills. In my opinion education, which incidentally should be a lifelong process, should be about the discovery and understanding of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, and not about training individuals solely as job fodder. A society where people go to university just to get a good job is a morally bankrupt society.

The right to learn and indeed the desire to learn should be a lifelong process and not something that you get out of the way in your formative years. In fact I would venture to suggest that too much emphasis is put on education at a young age. There is far too much emphasis on growing up at a very young age which is bizarre given how life expectancy continues to increase. Education should be a much more fluid process than it currently is and with less emphasis on ending, or course completion. The mechanics of learning need to be given a much higher priority as well. Getting the right answers is all well and good but communicating how you got there is equally important. The edges between learning, working, leisure and retirement need to be blurred so that it is hard to tell where one starts and another finishes. And, opportunities for learning need to be equal and open and available to all.

Life and learning are intertwined journeys. Getting off at the first stop for either shouldn’t really be a voluntary option.