Sunday, June 14, 2009

Poles apart

A few days moseying along the Poland/Czech border, last week. The profound impression it made is lost somewhere in the fog of sensations piled one above the other - the overriding image being of a couple of rusty Red Army tanks on plinths just outside of Wroclaw, their barrels pointing menacingly but impotently into the City's heart. An ironic joke, perhaps? Or a remnant of the Soviets' former power? I have no idea. I found communication difficult in a countryside where bars and cafes barely exist for people to meet in. Another remnant of Communist repression? That's the trouble... so tempting to see everything in those terms - both correctly and otherwise. Lovely, well-tended, patently decent, place, though.

Either way... it almost makes you want to kiss the ground when you land back in Britain. Bad as things have got here, they're nothing in comparison with the repression and hardship endured by Poland in recent history and we should be grateful for that, at least. The plane home was full of Poles and their babies; good people, an asset to us.

Interesting, then, returning to find we'd elected ourselves a couple of Nazis... and to hear mainstream politicos soothing themselves with the notion that those who voted for them aren't racists and didn't really know what they were voting for. Oh really? I believe it's remarkably true that, by accident or otherwise, BNP votes turned out to be almost the only ones worth casting - the only ones causing a ripple in the Euro elections. It was the votes for the status quo that were wasted.

I guess it's a thought crime, by current definitions, to wonder whether some kinds of immigration might be better for Britain than others. Whether migrants from the Third World, say, mainly brown, are a better bet than those from Eastern Europe who are wholly white. Or if Muslims are to be preferred as neighbours to, say, Hindus and Christians or vice-versa. Is it permissible to express a preference based on a considered conclusion? Doubt it.

There is a belief among the ruling class that they are ahead of the public in knowing what's best for us. The public is starting to disagree. Boringly, though, I'd voted Tory.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brief Encounters

God, it's hard to studiously avoid current affairs in a blog, when they're all around screaming at you to notice.

Last Thursday, on the 20.03 out of Kings Cross, there were just the twelve of us sharing the three First Class coaches. Twelve. Normally it's packed - including a good smattering of MPs heading north, weighed down with trouser presses, toilet seats, surround-sound TVs and grocery. Only a couple of weeks ago I followed Tory Turncoat, Quentin Davies, as he got into the lift at Grantham Station with a yellow paper-clip stuck to the back of his head. It seemed mildly eccentric and amusing at the time, but now it seems more probable he was actually smuggling stationery out of the Commons piece by piece.

Little wonder the National Express franchise is losing money. No point in having a business model of cheaper fares and more trains if nobody wants to go anywhere for fear of catching deadly Swine Flu.

Then there's the obesity pandemic you can't avoid either. Standard Class is at the front of the train.. so that when you get off, you're struck by the sight of the tide of enormous girths heading towards you as everyone rushes for the bridge in the middle of the platform. Weight, the gross excess of it, is evidently tied in with lower incomes and, therefore, reflected even in the relative affordability of train tickets. Does being poor make them eat too much, or does eating too much make them poor?

I'd been to see the fabulous Hairspray at the Shaftesbury. The plot concerns a fat white bird finding success, love and happiness through associating with hip black kids. Plenty of the former in the audience, as usual, but none of the latter - also as usual. Speculating on the reason why is probably another thought crime though, so.....

It wasn't one of my better days, either... Lord, it made me feel sour. Even the girl at Burger King took pity on me and gave me a discount. Heaven help me. How low can it go?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

One in a Million Flu - Panic On!

Population of Mexico: 109,610,000

Swine flu deaths in Mexico: 168 106 19

Am I missing something here? This is a killer pandemic?

Oh, and according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta,
98% of H1 strains are resistant to Tamiflu - of which we've just ordered another 30m doses.

Something is seriously weird. Nothing adds up. The virus is, apparently, so widespread in Mexico that even English kids on a brief holiday to Cancun can't avoid catching it. Yet there are only, according to official figures, 443 confirmed cases in the whole country, of whom a third quarter twentieth have died. What are the odds?

What do I know? Questions, questions - they don't get asked, though.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baroque and roll

King's Lynn, at 60 miles away, is our nearest live classical music venue now that East Lindsey has pulled its arts sponsorship. Or was. Last night's concert by the City of London Sinfonia may well be their final outing to North Norfolk - victims of funding cuts thanks to slews of Government money being diverted into the insatiable Olympic maw.

It was a scrappy and disjointed affair, too. A couple of (deservedly) minor works for mandolin sandwiched between some indisciplined Bach (reports our Arts Correspondent, Tarquith Vonackle).

I found the whole thing dispiriting - not just the performance but the morgue-like ambience.... the audience being twice the age of the players, for one thing. I don't know whether it's because most people don't get into classical music until they're pensioned off, so that it's a rolling cohort being refreshed by newly-qualified bus-passers just as the ultra-oldies drop from their perches - or whether, worse, the age-group is getting greyer by the year because young 'uns aren't joining at the bottom any more.

Sitting outside a bar in Malaga, in Feb, I was thinking the Boho girl chatting at the next table looked familiar. Eventually (the flower behind her ear was the clue), I realised it was the soprano who'd sung in Mahler's 4th an hour or so before. Then, she'd been wearing a stately yellow gown - her friends, who I also recognised as orchestra members, had been in their white-ties and tails. Now, in their jeans and teeshirts, laughing and smoking, you'd never take any of them for the stiff-shirted automatons who had earlier complemented the elegant formality of the Teatro Cervantes so perfectly. They came onstage. They played. They took their ovation and went off - with never a word and barely a smile.

Kids like these come out of music college full of zing and verve and must feel flattened by the dead hand of 'the way we've always done it'. The music deserves better than this.... It'll never have enough of an appeal to generations hooked on the trappings of immediacy - but I'm having a String Quartets craze on my Mp3player at the mo... the notes pop and fizz around inside the head in a way that even Beethoven could never have dreamed when he wrote them, so....

It needn't be for the few. I hope lessons can be learned from the queues of people killing for tickets to see the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra - that it
can be cool, it can thrill, it can pull the crowds in when it's done with enough energy and enthusiasm. Otherwise, oblivion awaits.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Timney's Bird

As a part-time bodhisattva (slightly lapsed), I've had to cut down on the blogging... I've realised that the karmic consequence of banging on about the awfulness of Life in General is an almost permanent sense of irritability. It's not even as if it gets results - unlike the mighty Guido. Our MP is the ancient and redoubtable Sir Peter Tapsell, and unseating him - or even suggesting that he might change his long-held views on anything - is as unthinkable as camels on Skegness beach. Sitting in the gentle Lincolnshire sunshine, pecking at a bowl of cockles and a beer, it's as cosy and safe as the Fifties ever were. So why spoil the pleasures of a vaguely contented life in the timeless Fens, where we're untroubled by the nastiness of the Outside World unless we read the papers.

Worse though, for those likely to be actually featuring in them. Just imagine what it would be like for a decent respectable woman from, say, Redditch, to spread marmalade on her morning toast, pour herself and hubby a coffee, settle down with the Sunday Times, and see herself depicted as viciously as above. It would make most reasonable women want to quit public life. Especially if they suspected it might be cruel but accurate.

Karma... none of us can avoid it. The neat thing about Zen Buddhism is that there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules to learn... Buddha said that he doesn't make the Laws of Nature - just reveals them. As one of his predecessors pointed out, "We are what our deep, driving desire is. As our deep, driving desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so is our deed. As our deed is, so is our destiny." Master that and off you go - nirvana awaits without the need for further formality.

Jacqui has no-one to blame but herself... £23K actually isn't all that generous an allowance for keeping a place in London for a year - but she had to go and try to enrich herself with it, the fool. So.... karma got her by the neck. It's just the way things are that's all... "As you sow, so shall you reap. With whatever measure you mete out to others, with the same measure it shall be meted out to you", as Jesus put it. Jacqui Exposed, as Scarfe does.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Light Entertainment

Parminder is sitting down, watching telly. Which part of her body is most in contact with the sofa? Is it:

(a) her arse

(b) her elbow

Only answer (a) or (b) not both.

Now turn over.

I'm pretty much OK with them drafting O Levels so that even the least sentient students are capable of being marked. It's questionable whether they challenge the brightest/hardest-working but still.... that's a whole nuther argument. Why, though, must the BBC follow this trend and make all of its programmes appeal to the dimmest viewer when doing so turns off those who might be worth a Grade C or above?

Cutting edge documentaries, on the Beeb, now go no further than sending some old buffer tootling off along the Wye Valley in a '56 Morris Oxford, grumbling about how much has changed. Rogue Traders, the other night, even had a sidekick for the presenter - a Portuguese bloke whose function it was to act dumb while words of more than two syllables were explained to him ('him' = proxy for the target audience). Oh, how the Diversity Dept. must have agonised before they came up with a nationality it was alright to patronise.

I can't bring myself to watch a whole programme... there was one about Ethiopia the other week that dealt with some fairly deep facts about population growth. But the gushing pubescents presenting it got the better of me before half-way. The one-time 'flagship', Panorama, now fronted by a Radio2 DJ, with its shallow subject-matter, cut-cut-cut photography and that damned ubiquitous low-bass urrrrrrrrr music to ominously underscore every serious point in case we're too thick to get it, is unwatchable.

According to many in the Blogosphere, it's all a plot to avoid letting the populace know how bad things are. That could well be true - that and the fact that "inclusiveness" has to include not only the half-wits but also those in the foreign community who've only recently arrived and can't speak the language.

Years ago (or so it seems) ITV was for the people who loved nothing more high-brow than Coronation Street and Hughie Green, while the rest of us sat nodding at the wisdom of Dr. Bronowski, ogling Joan Bakewell, or getting our kicks via The Old Grey Whistle Test. That was as it should be.... the commercial channels need mass audiences for flogging staples of the poor like Jaffa Cakes, Wonderloaf and Cadbury's Smash. The BBC doesn't. Leave it to them, I say.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I was only following orders

Something I can't get my head around in this Stafford Hospital case. At the top was the CE and his board, never straying from their fancy offices, handing down edicts aimed at satisfying their political masters' desire to see quotas fulfilled and money saved. At the bottom, harassed nurses tried to perform miracles with inadequate resources. But in the middle? Where were the Consultants? What role in this scandal was played by the lofty ones to whom cases are individually assigned who must each have seen dozens of their patients arriving with fairly optimistic prognoses, dying prematurely - often, presumably, through causes capable of being treated with rudimentary care.

Because it's simply inconceivable that these highly paid, highly responsible, senior professionals could have repeatedly swept through the wards, white coats open, their entourages trailing, yet failing to be aware of people slumped for hours in their own faeces and urine, comatose through lack of food and water, denied proper medication or even monitoring of their condition through staff shortages and lack of proper training. They must have known. How could they have kept quiet when this slaughter was going on around them?

Bugger 'lessons being learned' and 'challenges being met'. A full-scale police enquiry needs to take place with everyone who failed being identified and subject to eventual charge. The Nuremburg Defence should not apply.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mandy's Big Green Lie

The AllShookUp vehicle fleet features matching His and Hers 2litre automatic Mondeos, together worth about £500 if I'm lucky - both 10 years old, both with no service history, but both capable of sweeping me along in considerable comfort and with plenty of oomph for getting past tractors, caravans or dawdlers in Volvos with a minimum of delay. Their thirst for gas is more than compensated for by cheap third party insurance, never feeling the need to wash or polish them, and sheer nonchalance when they get dinged in supermarket carparks. MOTs willing, they will last me until they collapse in a heap of rust.

Mandelson, though, wants to bribe me to swap them for something 'green' - probably a poky little underpowered Kia or something equally lethal to overtake in. He'd have me throw away 10 good tyres, 2 working radios, seats for 10 people, 2 solid engines and gearboxes, miles of cabling, gallons of toxic oil and brake fluid and a ton of painted metal and plastic. And put my village garage out of work while he's at it.... oh and borrow the thick end of £20K into the bargain to buy new sets of tyres, seats, radios, cable, steel, oil, metal, etc. etc,, built in a factory spitting out God knows how much CO2.

The Government doesn't believe in anything - or if they do, expediency and hypocrisy get the better of them. Mandy's offer of two grand to trade in your old motor proves it.

Bunch of liars.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome back to Luton for Royal Anglians

Special Forces in camouflage mingle with the local totty

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Baroness Wazzock

I see the Tories' tame Muslim, Baroness Warsi, felt the need to join in the tributes to disgraced peer Lord Ahmed. She sent a message to a campaign organised to show "complete and all out support for the incarcerated Lord Nazir Ahmed while lauding his contribution to the British society in the context of the community relations and his role at the international platform."

The meeting also heard from Mohammed Sarwar MP (himself no stranger to brushes with the law) who said he believed Ahmed's sentence was excessive, and event organiser Abid Hussein, who felt that the punishment was excessive because, "he had ruffled the feathers of the higher authorities because of his strong views and support on various social and political issues notably the 42day detention period, war on Iraq and his pro-Palestinian stance."

Of course, many people would think that six weeks jail time, when the maximum sentence is two years, is too lenient for someone who drove for 17 miles along a dark motorway, sending and receiving texts and eventually killing another motorist. But no.... a bunch of Pakistani Muslims would sooner believe in another shadowy conspiracy to persecute one of their number.

Can't they see.. or do they not care - that outbursts like these only serve to antagonise the indigenous population and further alienate immigrants? Can't the drippy Warsi and the Tories see that there's no point in cosying up to 'moderate' Moslems in the hopes that appeasement will work - when every cause is taken over by those seeking to undermine our state?

Personally, I think that any Pakistani dissatisfied with justice - or anything else for that matter - in Britain should remember that they've always got a ready-made homeland waiting to welcome them at any time. Yes the corruption and poverty there, that are endemic at levels not seen here since the Middle Ages, might come as a bit of a shock... but PIA flights are cheap and frequent. Go. You won't be missed.