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Saturday, June 30, 2012


i can tell summer is here. i wake to the mucus face.
nose blocked with copious amounts of snot and bogies. eyes caked in gunk that has leaked out during the night. mouth a bit icky with slobbering.

oh yeah baby the mucus face is lovely.


britain is a place of tradition. whether they are good, bad, old, developing or new traditions play an important part in the british way (ways?) of life. they ground us in our history; they connect us to the past and help guide us into the future. 

this summer a very important tradition seems to have disappeared. 

the first week of wimbledon tennis tournament has come and gone. the australian cricket team have played the first of their one day internationals against england. on their own there is nothing special about them. (and a little digression here – they are both sports that involved a ball being hit by something which automatically means that i was never any good at them, it also means that in terms of watching them they approach the thrill of paint drying. yet i am often engrossed by the radio commentary for both sports – if only because i admire people who can talk sensibly for a long period of time without swearing). 

so what is the tradition i am talking of? 


where is the rain to call these games off? where is it? 

i think the rain stopped when wimbledon finally went all modern and hi-tech by installing a roof on its centre court, stopping rain from being a factor in calling games off.
so now there isn’t any rain when tennis and the cricket internationals coincide.
i already hate the loss of that tradition.
bring back the summer rain; bring it back now – even if it means cliff richards sings.

Friday, June 29, 2012


the financial sector have been pressing david cameron not to agree to the caps on bonuses that the europeans want to bring in.
the financial sector have been at the forefront of the protests against david cameron's proposed immigration cap.

because, they say, without high bonuses they can't get the best of the best.
because, they say, with an immigration cap they can't get the best of the best.

remember the best of the best - the so called masters of the universe - did a pretty bang up job of screwing over the capitalist system.
and check it out they are at it again as barclays have been caught fiddling the books and it looks like a whole bunch of other banks are implicated in the same scam.

maybe they need to remind us once again why they are the best of the best - quite what they are the best at.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


normally when i think of t and a i am thinking of tits and arse. except now i will always think of it as iain duncan smith’s latest and, perhaps, greatest wheeze. 

for those who haven’t been paying attention the con/dems are planning on cutting the armed forces by 20,000, or they might do if they can ever decide to commit to the plans that the ministry of defence has given them. with the drop in the number of personnel it means that in certain circumstances there will be an increased reliance on reservists and private contractors - now i have never understood the use of private contractors: surely they are going to be more expensive than the staff they are replacing? 

anyway more reservists are going to be needed. 

where are they going to come from? never fear iain duncan smith has the solution – he has instructed jobcentres around the country to actively encourage those claiming jobseekers allowance to join their local branch of the territorial army. 

no fucking way – i hear you cry.
yes fucking way – i reply. 

join the territorial army, given my experience with the jobcentre there will be a moan or two about you having to sign on when you are asked to go on manoeuvres. even better is that it will equip some of the most disenfranchised among the population with some of the skills they will need to make sure the next time there is a riot they know how to handle themselves that much better. 

i tip my cap to you mr. duncan smith – yours is a madcap scheme worthy of a bond villain.
i will be sending my application off to the territorials in the morning.


i suppose that i am being overly sensitive but at the moment it seems that if you are unemployed you are seen as being scum of the earth (this must be how supporters of the liberal democrats or millwall fans feel). 

it’s bad enough when the press falls over itself to find stories of the feckless poor who live in mansions and have plasma screen tvs on every wall, then treat this as if it were the norm rather than the exception. meanwhile the plight and struggle of unemployed just gets ignored – it doesn’t fit the current narrative.
it’s bad enough when some posh toff who has never had to worry about money talks about feelings of entitlement and how work will set us free – yet doesn’t seem to realise that there isn’t jobs out there for all the people who want them. 

yet that pales into insignificance to the knobs who manage to claim that they are somehow better than the average run of the mill unemployed layabout. no i am not talking about those lucky souls who pop up and say ‘i have never been unemployed, i have worked every day of my adult life’. this is normally coupled with ‘i don’t know why people need benefits’ or ‘why can’t they find work’. i can live that that sort of sentiment – they have been lucky enough not to have needed to receive state benefit or to sign on (and i am sure they are in receipt of no other state benefits). 

no i am thinking of someone like hugo rifkind. who he? hugo is a columnist at the times, he is one of the humourous ones (which generally means not funny). in his column today he raises an important question: what are state benefits for? are they to provide a safety net that just allows a barely tolerable living or should it provide a comfortable lifestyle?  he is right that there is a debate to be had on this. however with one quote hugo proves that he really isn’t in a position to speak about being unemployed.
in his piece hugo speaks about how that during his move to london he was unemployed for two years and how he lived on just packs of biscuits: “the thought that this might have been somebody else’s problem never really occurred to me.” so said hugo rifkind. 


rifkind where have i heard that name before? oh yeah that’s right hugo is the son of malcolm rifkind, the conservative party grandee and not short of a bob or two or of connections (not that i am implying that hugo’s tenure on the times might have anything to do with his father). 

so why do i think that hugo’s bold manly claim that he survived two years in london on just biscuits is just so much hooey?
hugo claims he was unemployed and that he wasn’t on benefits. that means no money, living in london on no money is impossible. where was he living? how was he buying his biscuits? if his friends were helping him and paying for him – then it was their problem (though i am sure hugo has paid them back). or perhaps he was supported by his dad: a place to stay, some money to spend. whichever it was i am pretty sure that hugo rifkind wasn’t actually ever in a position where he was wondering where his next meal was coming from – and that my friends is the real difference, that is when you know how important state benefits can be – when you have to make sure every penny counts, when sometimes the decision might come down to do i eat or do i pay a bill or two. 

i truly doubt that hugo rifkind has ever been in that position – no matter what his claims of being self sufficient when he was ‘unemployed’. it isn't that hugo and his ilk can't have an opinion (or a solution) to the situation, but just don't dress it up as if you have been there, done that and worn the grubby t-shirt.

Monday, June 25, 2012


want is a terrible thing.
it is even more of a terrible thing when the thing(s) you want are mere piffle when it comes to the great scheme of things. the one good thing about not having any money is that i can't act on these mad wants.

i remember when i was a kid and the two things i loved about sports was that you could collect cards or stickers and make up albums of all the big teams. or if you were lucky you could collect the coins/medals that the petrol stations used to create around some of the special sporting events.
i don't think i ever managed to complete one full set. ever. perhaps that was half the fun.

go have a look at the london 2012 olympic web shop and be stunned at the amount of sheer and total pap and tat you can buy. from the laughable collectables, the overpriced homeware and of course the less than good sports kits from the vivid imagination of stella mccartney, who has reimagined the union flag without red in it (because, she says, what with the americans and french being there people wouldn't recognise the home kit among all the red white and blue, but they will immediately be able to pick out the blue union flag straight away. hey that makes sense to me). let's not even talk about the scary mascots wenlock and mandeville (though i do have admit to a liking of pride the lion).
all in all there is a lot of stuff that is for sale that should never have come off the drawing board, but it won't matter as there will be thousands upon thousands of people who will want a keepsake of the event and the many small things that populate the london 2012 shop will serve a need, even if they are not all that good.

no need to worry.
step forward lego to save the day.

lego have created a set of mini figures for the olympics. yay.
it can only be a short while before someone does and olympic stadium boxset of lego.
i'll pass on the stadium - just because i know i would always lose a piece or two before i completed the model and given how long it takes me to work out the plans on a simple argos bookcase i am pretty sure a lego oly,pic stadium model is going to be a bit beyond me.

though it would be nice to be able to put these little lego figures in it.

check them out and tell me you don't want them as well...

ok so it looks like the olympics is taking place in springfield - but they are still great.

olympic shop online here and as bricks and mortar shop details are here - just in case you feel the need to buy a logo pin or the team gb football kit.
i guess the lego figures will be available anywhere that sells lego and especially places that are olympic sponsors - so that will be sainsbury's then.

collect them all.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


i remember the culture change i faced when i moved from the polytechnic of north london (pnl) to study at the london school of economics (lse). back at pnl if you happened to be slightly right of centre you were looked on as a traitor, if you happened to be a tory you would have been egged. at the lse i saw edwina currie greeted with smiles and laughter as she came to give a talk to one of the student groups. i was a little shocked to say the least.
in hindsight the lse way is probably the best way - and not just because i think edwina was a hottie (she was in my top tory totty list).

recently cambridge university has been criticised for the way it has handled the case of owen holland. mr. holland decided that he wasn't too keen on david willets, the conservative minister for universities and science, coming along to cambridge university and giving a speech. mr. holland decided he would protest, and how can blame him.
mr. holland's protest took the form of him reading out a poem as mr. willets tried to give his speech on the 'idea of a univeristy'. mr. willets had to abandon his speech because of mr. holland speaking/shouting/reading over him.

cambridge university initially punished mr. holland by suspending him for seven terms, this has now been amended to just a one term suspension. they say mr. holland had recklessly endangered freedom of speech. a campaign on behalf of mr. holland say that it is the university that has repressed freedom of expression.
dr priya gopal, lecturer in english, said: ... it is a great shame that the university did not choose to uphold the right to protest that ought to be a fundamental to its ethos."

potato potahto, does freedom of expression trump freedom of speech?
how can you try to defend freedom of speech when the person you are defending has been shouting down the speech of someone else?
freedom of speech and expression is vital - but it can only ever be a freedom if everyone has it - just because you don't like what someone has to say you can't claim it is your right via freedom of expression to shout them down. all that leads to is those with the loudest voices have the most say.

mr; holland could have arranged all manner of protests, he could have arranged to give an answering speech to mr. willets, he could have arranged to give a speech before mr. willets spoke outlining his criticisms of the education policies of the con/dems. instead he violated someone's freedom of speech - while claiming his freedom of expression should be inviolate.

a delicious paradox there.

Friday, June 22, 2012


there has been a lot of talk about youth unemployment, there has been various schemes and plans to cut youth unemployment (though the idea that the minimum wage might be a bar to employing the young isn't one of the ones that should ever be pursued).
no matter the words or the deeds it still remains a problem.

while attention is focused on the young there has been a growing problem with long term unemployment for the over 50s, as i know to my cost. at the moment the over 50s are the worst hit age-group when it comes to long term unemployment, currently it is at a 15-year high.
if there are obvious social costs for youth unemployment there are also the same for the over 50s and they have the possibility of increasing more each year as we have an aging population.
the business community is constantly going on about a work force that is fit for work (their rallying cry over the low standards, so they claim, of the current education system, yet at the same time they are happy to waste the resource of workers who have experience of work and who can add value to their companies. (they might argue that there are health issues that they are considering (even though that is illegal) but really what they probably don't want are workers who might question them).

all that being said, even though there has been an increase in the number of people who are now in employment - a large chunk of that increase is down to people becoming self-employed or just working part-time.

no matter what the words or schemes are at the moment there are not enough jobs. the solutions that the conservatives and business community seem to favour (fewer worker's rights and lower pay) are just recipes for increased misery and poverty throughout the country.
maybe that is exactly what david cameron and his clan are really after.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


the only reason i can get angry at jimmy carr and his almost complete avoidance of paying tax is that he has had the gall to point the fingers at others for doing exactly the same thing. a case of  he who is with sin cast the first stone.
he blames the advise that he was given by his accountant.
remember what he has done (but isn't going to do any more) is legal.

every government seems to promise to close the loopholes, yet they never seem to do so.
losses through tax avoidance costs the treasury (and therefor the country's taxpayers) several times more than the bill for benefits. yet it is those who are benefits that are attacked as feckless and 'getting something for nothing' being a burden on the taxpayer.
the attacks on tax avoiders are a little less strident and only take on a moral aspect when it is someone such as jimmy carr.

it was bad enough when trevor kavanagh of the sun was talking about mr. carr's indiscretion with nary a word said about how news international makes sure it pays as little tax as possible in the uk (while always wanting to have a say in how the government of the day runs). yet it was left to david cameron to add that special sheen of hypocrisy when he  waded in with his 'morally wrong' comment. you had to wonder what was he thinking with pals such as lord ashcroft and philip green. perhaps it is ok to avoid tax if you have the right old school connections or you can contribute to the party's coffers - just don't do it if you happen to be an oik of a comedian.

still if there is one positive to take out of this it is that there are a whole slew of journos out looking for any of the cabinet or close to david cameron who are engaged in a bit of tax avoidance.
looking forward to when those stories break.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


runny nose.
runny eyes.
sore eyes.
red eyes.
and more sneezing.

yup it looks like summer is here and so is hay fever.

bring on the winter. now. please.

Monday, June 18, 2012


there are a lot of things i should have done, and experiences i have missed.
there are some thing i have done that, in hindsight, i might have been better off not doing.

today i had a new experience and it isn't one i ever thought i would have, and it isn't one i would recommend.

i was in a church crypt that was evocatively lit by lots of small candles.
i was drinking a black coffee and chatting away.
next thing i know someone is patting me on the back and and saying 'nooooo'. i thought that i had knocked something over. ah if only it was something so simple.

i had walked into something: a candle. hair meets flame and benny hill carry on moment ensues.
fortunately it was put out before any serious damage could happen.
all that was seriously damaged was my pride.

in case you are wondering the smell of burning hair isn't very nice.
and it lingers.
it lingers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


ed miliband declares that david cameron is a tainted prime minister.
part of mr. miliband's argument is based on mr. cameron's somewhat cringe making relationship with rebakah brooks and his defence of jeremy hunt, the culture secretary. another aspect of mr. miliband's argument is that mr. cameron appears to be ideologically wedded to austerity measures, even though it appears they are not working. add to that mr. cameron's support of the rich and for mr. miliband this all adds up to a tainted prime minister.

the response of the conservative party? that mr. miliband "isn't living in the real world".

would this be the real world where grant shapps, housing minister, believes you can give large discounts to those living in social housing to allow them to buy those houses cheaply, and yet be able to replace those housing. (if it was that easy why aren't they doing it now?)

would this be the real world in which iain duncan smith believes that the easiest way to eradicate child poverty is that at least one of the parents work 35-hours at minimum wages. mr, duncan smith, even if mr. duncan smith was right he neglects to mention where these minimum wage jobs are going to come from.

or perhaps it is the world that eric pickles lives in where he wants to cut down on the number of problem families by rewarding them if they get jobs. a nice idea - if there were jobs available for them.

on average there are 6 people for every vacancy, and this increases to 20 people if you add in those who are working part time and who are looking for full time work.
maybe this isn't the case in the world that iain and eric live in.

maybe, just maybe it is the conservatives who have are not living in the real world.
the real shame is - we are all in it (their fantasy world) together - and for a lot of us it is not a good place to be.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


here is a question for you.
how do you spell 'totally fucking useless'?
i'll wait a while for you to prepare your answer.

if you started with 't. o. t..' then you are wrong. the way you spell 'totally fucking useless' is jobcentre plus.

i am looking for work. i need a job. i want a job.
i have a several problems with my job search. - my age, the growing length of time i have been out of work and that i have no proof of transferable skills.
the jobcentre can't help me with my age: i am stuck with that.
at the moment they are unable to anything about the length of my unemployment.
they should be able to help me with the transferable skills.

pretty much since i have started signing on i have been asking about this sort of help. it has been like pulling teeth.

to my adviser's credit he did sort out me doing a sia cctv licence (and now i can sit beyond a cctv console and watch - beware my all seeing eye). while that is a start there are still some other things i am interested in. just across the road from the jobcentre is a place that does learndirect courses. i pop over there to see what is on offer - it doesn't matter as they are asking for £70 deposit (refundable), that is nice, but i am on benefits and £70 isn't something i can part with, oh they tell me some jobcentres pay it for their clients (that's what we are by the way: clients). so i ask if that is the case. mmm yes, no, maybe can you find something cheaper or free? oh ok, i say.
on a trip to another jobcentre (this to see if i am acceptable to do some work experience - or more accurately 'i will work for food) i see they have a poster about training schemes that are available through the jobcentre. ah now that sounds right up my street.
i explain to one of the advisers there that i was interested in the training. you are not applicable because you don't sign on here. i know that - i am just trying to find out what the name of the scheme is so i can ask for it. they tell me.

why did i need to know the name of the scheme?
one of the things that you quickly learn about dealing with advisers in the jobcentre is that you need to be able to ask for very specific help - if you don't get it right, you don't get the help. it's like a christmas parlour game.

my day of signing on comes around. i sit down to sign, i hand over my proof of a job search, they look at it in the same way you look at a pile of vomit in a bucket. i ask about the pre-employment training. i don't really know about that, they tell me, you'll have to ask your adviser. fine i say.
they set up an appointment for me - a week later.
i have the meeting and i ask about the pre-employment training.

it all depends on what you want - he tells me.
now this is another part of the game. you know there is something there you can access, you just don't quite know what it is or what it entails. they are not going to actually tell you what it is - you have to work it out.
i look at him with a quizzical expression and say i don't know what is available so i don't know what sort of training i would like. he looked back at me as if i were stupid (and in this case i have to say he is not wrong - i am struck dumb by the whole process of trying to get information from them in order to make me more employable). he decides to tell me a little bit about the scheme - that is you go on it it is mandatory (no problems with that), that there are several weeks training (good, what i am looking for), there is a work placement element (fair enough - will help).

what is missing from all of that? oh yeah you are right - exactly what training is available. the key bit.
i did discover that it is sector based and the way i was told this it was as if that explained it all.

i tried to explain that without knowing exactly what is available it is hard for me to actually make a judgement as to whether or not the training would be of any use to me. that sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
he looked at me as if i had told him the tooth fairy didn't exist.

after all of this he told me that there had been some issues with the pre-employment training that was on offer - so he would have to get back to me, when he had spoken with someone and he would talk to me about it the next time we met. that will be in two weeks.

getting lots of help and encouragement.

so when asked how to spell 'totally fucking useless' you'll know to spell it 'jobcentre plus'

Monday, June 11, 2012


 i’d like to think i have quite a varied taste in music. that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good taste in music, just that there is a lot stuff that i will listen to. 

generally when i am asked what music i like i generally plonk for heavy metal, most people understand that. really the music that really floats my boat is prog. i love prog: there i have said it. i love prog.
there is something special about prog, whether it is the complexity of the music, the musicianship of the players, the over the top lyrics with a fantasy bent, or the neo-classical stylings. perhaps it is all those things together.
whether it is genesis, king crimson, yes, pink floyd, kansas, the nice, dream theater, rush or marillion or many others, prog is where my heart is. epic songs, complicated time signatures and concept albums. oh yes.

the proggiest of them all is probably emerson lake and palmer, or as they are fondly known, elp. they took prog to 11. despite their huge success elp never released that many studio albums, and in truth their fame rests on a handful of their earlier releases and their live performances.
it is their live stuff that has caused me to write this because as i was searching on youtube to look at some of their performances i stumbled onto a little goldmine of video that comes under the heading ‘what the fuck’.
one of my chief regrets in life (and i have a few, too many to mention) is that i never learnt to play a musical instrument. i tried the bass guitar. got nowhere with it, i have even given up my air guitar habit. when i saw these videos i have seen just what i could have accomplished if i had just focused a bit more.
enjoy – these need to be seen by everyone. 

first up is a snippet of elp in action - with some shots of keith emerson flying his plane (so very prog and roll). 

but just to show that prog isn't just for old men - here are a few young japanese girls playing various elp tunes. 

tarkus - condensed down to just under 4-minutes 

same tune, slightly longer, different player

and here is a 9-year old playing it 

all are pretty awesome when consider the ages of the players. 
it makes me wonder why in michael gove's recently announced tough and back to basics school curriculum announcements he hasn't made music part of it all - not so we can have even more people wanting to go on x-talented voices but so they can appreciate why such programmes are not all that good.