Monday, October 29, 2007

New Latest Rage: The Anti-Celebs

Kate and Gerry McCann; where would we be without them? Oh, how they can be reviled – aren’t we all so much better than parents who leave their children alone to be abducted.... or worse? Much easier to hate them, rather than look up to the people they’ve pushed off the front pages. Instead of having to be envious of the great and good, whose lifestyles, looks, houses, cars and clothes can barely being imagined, they are there to be torn apart, mannerisms mocked, appearance criticised, their ambition and their relatives derided. No longer any need to aspire to riches the Beckhams have got.... we're better off than even the most famous anti-celebs without even trying. Oh what joy!

You can’t have missed it. As well as in the comments in online newspapers, it’s all over the internet in forums like the Mirror's here and the many blogs that specialise in bringing you the latest hot info about their guilt.

If you haven’t been keeping up, it goes like this.... The ‘Tapas 9’ a group of coke-snorting swingers (or possibly even friends) have a Pact of Silence over Madeleine’s disappearance after she was left alone while they were drinking 14 bottles of wine in a restaurant. The whole thing would have been hushed up in the UK press due to a Government-led conspiracy thanks to Gerry’s involvement in a secret nuclear committee, the Freemasons, and the Illuminati and holding damning evidence about Gordon Brown’s extra-curricular activities on a rocking-horse. Meanwhile, investigations by the Portuguese Police (the PJ) are being thwarted by leaks of their incompetence being fed to the tabloids by their pink-shirted (say no more!) spokesman Clarence but have a killer piece of standalone evidence they have not yet revealed. Actually, it’s far more complicated than that..... It’s all an EU backed hoax to make us wear microchips. The Find Madeleine Fund (all pre-planned), is being used to pay the McCanns’ mortgage when Kate could easily sell her Rolex on Ebay or stop having her hair done and buying new tops. And it’s a fit-up by the Portuguese Government to save their tourist trade.

Not surprisingly, then, people are in a lather over it all. "I’m ashamed to be British!", says one.
"That’s nothing. I’m even more ashamed!", says another.
"You’re nowhere near ashamed enough... I’m ashamed to be on the same planet as Britain!", foams the third.
"Yes but I’ve been a nurse for 30 years and, believe me, I know what went on!"
"Ha! I’m a social worker and I’ve seen all this before. It stinks."
"I’m a trained psychologist and they’re all paedophiles, I tell you!".
"I’m a mother of 5 and I would never have left my kids like that!"

So it goes. Their words are studied for unintentional slips, their dress sense is analysed, they are labeled narcissists, sociopaths, working class oiks thrust into an incongruent profession. Their boxy house just goes to show how tasteless they are and their cries of innocence are proof that they are guilty. Every crackpot theory builds on the last until the teetering pile of evidence from the armchair sleuths is overwhelming for the nutcases and curtain twitchers who can’t get enough of it. Anyone who diverges from this view is dismissed as a supporter of child neglect. Any criticism of the PJ is met with chants of "xenophobia!" and "racism!".

Well, of course, at the end of all this, they may of course be guilty of a horrible crime and the most outrageous attempted coverup of all time. We just can’t know.

Meanwhile, move over Heather Mills. No wonder she’s complaining all over the daytime TV and radio. She’s last-year’s anti-celeb. Kate and Gerry are the new biggies and, man, don’t they shift papers. I must google who it was that said you can 'never lose money underestimating the good taste of the British people'. He couldn’t have known how right he was going to be proved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Music night.

Joining me on the blog today is our Arts Correspondent, the distinguished music critic, Tarkwith Vonackle. He is here to give us the benefit of his impression of last night's concert by the City of London Sinfonia and soloist Benjamin Schmid at Kings Lynn Corn Exchange.
ASU: Good evening Tarkwith, thank you for being with us.

TV: Good evening, I'm very glad to be here.

ASU: Well, perhaps you'd be kind enough to begin by commenting on the Orchestra itself, first of all, what did you make of the viola player who wasn't wearing any shoes? Is that unusual in a concert of this nature?

TV: What?

ASU: You know... did you think he'd left them at home, like, or would you think he'd just forgotten to put them on?
TV: I didn't even look at their feet. Anyway, I'm here to discuss the musical aspect.

ASU: Yes of course. Sorry, please go on. Can I ask you about the soloist, then? Not as good as that bird last time, was he?
TV: Actually I thought he was excellent bordering on genius. He brought, I thought, a fresh and vibrantly Eastern European interpretation to the Sibelius which I've never..
ASU: No, I mean, you know, not as good to look at, like.
TV: I hardly think looks come into it! His technique, as he displayed especially during the encore, was simply breathtaking and...
ASU: Yes, yes, fair enough. The thing is though, whereas she sort of looked as if she was concentrating when it wasn't her turn, he twitched about like Michael Jackson on speed, didn't he? What's that all about?
TV: Well it's because he's so deeply affected by the music that he loses physical control. Not that this detracts from his playing which, if you'll permit me to say so, was one of the most spellbinding performances I've ever witnessed.
ASU: Ah right. OK then, what are your thoughts about the second half?
TV: You mean the Brahms?
ASU: If you say so. Went on a bit, didn't it?
TV: Actually, I thought the time flew by. And I also thought the City of
London Sinfonia was the ideal orchestra for this particular symphony which, if not played with the verve that is their hallmark, can sometimes sound moody and uncoordinated. But they got its lyrical aspects spot on, especially in the lushly melodic First Movement. The woodwind section in particular, most notably the principal flautist who is called upon to work quite hard throughout this piece, scored very highly in my opinion.
ASU: Oh you mean Karen?
TV: Eh?
ASU: Karen. On the flute. I'm sure it was her from that chamber ensemble that we saw at Stickney Church last winter when it was so cold we all nearly froze to death.
TV: Yes, well. Be that as it may..
ASU: And the good looker on the front row of the cellos is Judith, seen her somewhere before in a different outfit, as well...
TV: As I was saying. This orchestra never fails to put in a performance that has a modern-sounding freshness and rhythmic emphasis that, at the same time, respects the classical tradition. Conductor Douglas Boyd is to be commended for conveying his energy and vitality to the musicians who clearly welcome his presence on the rostrum and respond with enthusiasm.
ASU: I suppose they have to get jobs wherever they can...
TV: So all in all, it was a highly satisfactory evening and I think that West Norfolk Borough Council should be congratulated on bringing first class musicianship out into the Provinces.
ASU: I'll second that. Tarkwith Vonackle, thank you so much for your time. I'm very grateful. Goodnight and thank you again.
TV: You're most welcome, dear boy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ann Keen MP

I don't really do politics as a rule, now that there's as much ideological difference between the Parties as there is between Tesco and Asda. But I saw this simpering New Labour Clonette, Ann Keen, on our local TV tonight. She's Under-Secretary of State at the Dept. of Health and was answering criticism over the lack of NHS dentistry. Our area, apparently, has the worst provision of anywhere in England. Unfair, given the well-known fact that Lincolnshire people have at least the same number of teeth as anybody else, if not more.

Anyway.... it's not so much the failure of the Government to do its job properly that made me loathe her, for we're all too blase about stories of patients dying in filthy hospitals or pensioners pulling their own teeth out to bother looking up from our dinners. It was the way she denied responsibility
- the pure contempt for the audience in the cynical way she brushed aside the questions without giving a toot whether anyone saw through her or not. It came across in that shameless, arrogant, loathsome, mealy-mouthed, smug, complacent, conceited, sanctimonious way that only politicians can pull off.

When it was put to her that 60% of dentists were now in the private sector, she responded that, "40% are doing a good job treating NHS patients and 28m people are receiving free treatment" - and she was proud of that.
Replying to the point that only a few years ago, NHS treatment was available to everyone - she said it never was! So there we are... 32m people in this country have to get their teeth fixed privately and it's not a problem the Health Minister recognises. The bit this silly bint omits to say, is that the rest of us have paid for the service but can't get served. It'd be interesting to see how she'd react if she'd queued up at Luton Airport only for easyJet to tell her the first 40% of passengers had got on the plane but it was now full up and she could whistle for a refund.

However bad things get, politicians will chew their arms off before admitting even a chink of criticism through their armour,
no wonder they're despised and distrusted. It used to be granite-jawed Soviets who would whitewash the truth on the other side of the Iron Curtain, now it's our very own home-grown chubby-cheeked New Labour aparatchiks, like her. Perception has replaced truth for this Government. So many lies have been told that another can be uttered without hesitation or embarrassment. No conscience, no admissions. Ann Keen no longer needs to know the facts, only what the people need to hear.

Actually, I shouldn't imagine Ann Keen MP does have much of a problem herself. She's got her £91,000 ministerial pay to fall back on. Plus, she's married to 70 year old Alan Keen MP who, despite not having spoken in a single debate
last year and asking just one Question, still pulls in a £60,000 parliamentary salary. Or, they could dip into some of the £250,000 they claim between them in expenses. Yes indeed, one might ask whether the £400,000 a year these two cost the nation might be better spent on bringing a few Hungarian dentists over.

Ann Keen was a District Nurse before entering Parliament - an honest trade but hardly worthy of a promotion to Government office, although it could come in handy. I suspect that her rise has more to do with her brown-nosing talents and reliability in toeing the Party line than any organisational ability or relevant experience, though. I expect the Civil Servants do most of her job for her and the rest consists of saying what she's told to say. Fits in well, then.

Anyway... if you came to this page via Google and have any dirt on Ann Keen let me know, email me if you like.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Away Day

The 10.11 from Wainfleet to Grantham echoes a more leisurely era. It trundles gently through the flatlands and scattered villages; a carriage almost to yourself, calling here and there to pick up a handful of rustics - I dare say if you stood beside the track and waved a white hankie, the driver would stop the train and get out of his cab to help you aboard. I can't remember the last time I traveled like this, but it's actually quite pleasant, as long as you've got plenty of time. I gave myself 20 minutes from leaving home to catch it, spent another 10 on the windswept platform and 15 after that, we were passing the end of our lane and I could see my house. I should think if I'd set off in my car in the first place, I'd have been about half way to Grantham by then. Such is the inconvenience of public transport and why the enviro-fascists can't get anybody to use it when there's an alternative. But anyway, eventually we got there and waited for the connection to Kings Cross. This was even better - I've no idea why people complain about it - it thunders along at 100mph, they bring you a cup of complimentary coffee and a biscuit, give you a newspaper and it arrives bang on time. So in other words, what I'm saying is; when I got to London, I was still perfectly happy and normal and in relaxed Lincolnshire mode. Completely unfitted for what hits you there.

God it's horrible.

There's a distant and demented look etched into people's faces. It's as if they have to be somewhere else in their minds in order to cope with the unbearable stress of it all. Nobody can wait a split second longer than they're used to doing - on stairs, escalators, ticket barriers, platforms. They sit (if they're lucky) on the Tube, grimly gripping the precious strip of bench with their buttocks, as if it's the last lifebelt in a terrible shipwreck. They don't look at anything or make eye contact with anybody - everything has to be seen out of peripheral vision as they stare blankly forward with halibut eyes. When you arrive at Piccadilly or wherever, you can't get off before the new arrivals force their way on unless you're as ruthless and determined as they are. If you do manage it, don't pause to look for the exit because the irresistible human tide will pick you up and sweep you along. Back at street level, it's just as bewildering and frenzied, especially in
coffee shops that sell stuff you've never heard of and you get shunted down the queue while you're struggling to understand the menu (how strange that it's possible to order a coffee in most European languages on the Continent but that same knowledge is useless in London).

It's a rum thing, this sense of alienation -
to be expected abroad in places like the Rif Mountains or the Gobi Desert, but something more of a shock when it's in one's own country - and I was surprised at how strongly I resented it. Worse than differences based on age, say, or income or gender. Not even being lost and alone in a gay nightclub in Bolton could be more unsettling. No doubt Londoners would take time to adjust up here, too, where the nearest traffic light is 15 miles away and you can't go for a haircut or to the doctors or for an illicit assignation without bumping into a neighbour. It means you can't live in the protective shell that slowly encrusts people in the overcrowded cities. I lived down there for a while, yonks ago, and was oblivious to it. Was part of it, probably. Maybe it's changed. But more likely, it's me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

West End Wonder

Boeing Boeing at the Comedy is miraculous farce. It made me heave with laughter. The cast is sensational - Jennifer Ellison was a revelation, so was Elena Roger, well they all were - and the whole experience of seeing something done as well as it's possible to do can't fail to lift the spirits.

The mechanics of the plot - a Parisian architect simultaneously engaged to three air-hostesses - contains all the jokes that can (and are) wrung out of it in a production that, despite the age of the script, sounds as fresh as a daisy.
Not, of course, that humour rooted in sixties attitudes towards the sexes and national stereotypes would disturb me, of all people, but it's interesting to see how well it works on audiences in the more PC times we live in now. Probably this is due to the strength given to the female roles, who are shown looking rather pityingly on the mens' plight as the plot unwinds to its predictably inevitable conclusion of all three fiances being in the apartment at the same time.

It's a satisfyingly familiar set - a panelled, white-painted semi-circle with plenty of doors for people to rush in and out of and hide behind. Even the Barcelona Chairs are in on the joke. Mood music comes from French cover-versions of contemporary pop favourites, so there's even the bonus of the Gallic inability to do rock and roll to have a smug chortle over, as well.

The West End theatre scene is a National Treasure. It should be on the NHS.
Shame this is yet another revival, though. It seems that only shows with a hoary pedigree run long enough to make their angels a return on their money. With Sound of Music, Grease and Joseph pulling the punters in on the back of cringe-making telly; Fiddler, Cabaret and Buddy clocking up over 100 years between them; the movie spin-offs and the Juke Box musicals - all-new and original clearly isn't box-office any more. Never mind. Nothing wrong with nostalgia. This show is bound to tour... a must see.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Heading Home.

I should think everything about the horrors of the airport experience has been covered by now, in countless places on the bloggerama. But just in case this one's been missed - "RELAX AND SHOP". They put it on the departure screens until your flight details come up, as I expect you know. Not "or", note, it's "and" - as if it just naturally assumes we're all moronic shopping-type people for whom the two activities are synonymous. Christ, they might as well put a sign up saying, "Yes this is a hellhole and we got you here miles too early because we're crap at organising ourselves but we don't care so why not buy yourself a pair of shoes or a plasma screen TV to take your mind off things until the scrum starts at the gate". Anyway.... after all that and more, we landed at Malaga. And after that and more still, we'd driven far enough north and found ourselves clinking big balloon glasses of Soberano brandy in a hotel that's changed little since last time we were there. Well, except the view from the back is restricted by a spanking new biscuit factory. Manolo still gets the dinner ready when he's good and ready and there's still no choice except take it or leave it. Excellent. And I'll draw a veil over the rest, because it's all that everybody knows that it is who loves Spain and the rest won't be interested.

So then, traveling back south, we arrived back at the Costa del Sol at its western end, somewhere near Algeciras - pretty much the beginning of the unbroken ribbon of town that stretches all the way along the Mediterranean coast as far as Barcelona and beyond. If anyone ever tells you they've got a lovely place down there, don't believe them. It's a long, ugly, concrete antheap clambering up and over hills and mountains like some gigantic sprawling Alcatraz with block after block swallowing places and towns that once had an identity of their own but are now just roadsigns on this amorphous belt of over-development. Why anyone should want to live there is beyond rational belief, unless the lure of year-round sunshine propped up by cheap gin strikes deep into some recess of the human psyche, caused by the presence in other people of a gene that I'm short of.

Just a couple of points of interest (to me, at least). One... La Marina restaurant, right on the beach in La Linea (a town so hideous that even tourists won't visit) must be among the best in the world. It serves paella, or grilled sardines, or pretty much anything else freshly caught from the sea, on a shady terrace with a stunning view of the Rock of Gibraltar. Inside, waiters rush and shout, arguments spill out from the kitchen and bartenders slam glasses down on the bar and pour drinks into them from improbable heights, with a flourish of the wrist and without wasting a drop. Spanish to the core. Two... the last glimpse of the Costa. Just where the plane leaves the runway, to head over the Med before turning left and gaining altitude over Malaga, there's the only patch of undeveloped greenery with its own shoreline for a thousand miles. Sure enough, so precious is it, there's a golf-course on it. As jet engines roar upwards over them, with Boeing undercarriages scraping their sunhats, the tourists play. I bet the Spanish have a word for them.