What is Love?

I cannot say what love is.  I can say what love is not.  It’s not about violently assaulting the woman you claim to love.  You may remember me blogging some months ago about my ex-room-mate from university days.  He was convicted of murder in 1991, and was released in 2003, having served a life sentence in various English prisons.

I even appeared on local TV news in 1991 and a documentary in 2004 to provide a character reference along the lines of:

He seemed a likeable bloke, quite charming and charismatic.

After his sentence he moved back to New Zealand, working as a personal trainer and then as a baker.  (He had been studying Classics at university.)

Last night I found out he had this month been convicted of violently assaulting his current girlfriend, expressing little or no remorse.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sunday-feature-kiwi-murdered-girlfriend-in-uk-now-nz-jail-after-new-assaults

Newspaper report

My feelings?  Stunned.  I was expecting him after all these years to have calmed down, having learnt his lesson in prison and after fifteen years’ life back in normal society.

But no.

He can’t control his anger.

Horse feathers.  He won’t control his anger.

Murderers in English prisons attend courses to address their underlying issues such as anger management.  They aren’t released until the psychologist consider them no longer to be a threat to society.  It looks to me like he managed to hoodwink the psychologists.

Maybe this prison sentence will make him stop and think.  There again.  Maybe not.

nick.jpg

Have a loving day, won’t you!

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German Anglophiles

The Germans are big Anglophiles – despite Brexit.  They love British pop, and also pomp… and ceremony.  German TV broadcasts Trooping the Colour quasi-live.

The Germans also love Last Night of the Proms, especially the singing of Rule Britannia!  You don’t have to be:

  • A bigot
  • A little Englander
  • Xenophobic or racist
  • A Brexiteer (sorry about the bad language)

You just have to join in with the Brits in a bit of tongue-in-cheek, slightly self-effacing, musical fun.

In recent years, the soloist leading the singing has been:

  • Swedish
  • Maltese
  • Peruvian
  • And this will shock you – even a Welshman!

The Night has also become ever more inclusive.  Last year I was heartened to see people happily waving the Irish tricolour at the public broadcast in Belfast, as well as Union Flags and “red hand” flags.  This is a sign of true peace and progress in Ulster.

So, open your lungs.  Open your mouth wide.  Please be upstanding.  Join in with this marvellous rendition.

Have a Britannic day, won’t you!

Machmallauter! Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest is on TV this Saturday.  I’ll be cleaning my toenails… alphabetising my CD collection… just unavailable for TV watching.

As far as I’m concerned, Eurovision went downhill after Nicole and A Little Peace Bucks Fizz and Making Your Mind Up Johnny Logan and What’s Another Year… no, hang on.  It’s been 42 years since there was ever a good, get ’em on the dance floor, song on Eurovision…

Enjoy!

Have a brotherly day, won’t you!

What’s Your Claim to Fame? Part 1

The celebrated British light-hearted entertainment magazine, Viz, used to have various sections in the letters page about celebrities.

  • Celebrity [expletive deleted] for anyone who had ever had a celebrity be rude to them
  • Stars in the Toilets (fairly self-explanatory)
  • Star Watch (readers write in about when they spotted a celebrity (or distance friend or relative of the celebrity) doing something mundane

So here are my contributions…

  1. In 1979 I stood five metres away from Margaret Thatcher.  I was nearly ten years old at the time.  She was reviewing Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  It was pouring with rain.  (Well, it was England.  What do you expect?)
  2. in 1983 Tommy Boyd (one-time TV-am WACADAY presenter) gave me his autograph when I was on a TV news quiz show.
  3. In 1987 Bob Holness (the one and only) leapt at my, invaded my body space, and shook my hand.  Mind you, I had just won the fifth Gold Run on TV quiz, Blockbusters.  Context is everything.
  4. A few hours before that, I bumped into Tim Healey (Dennis off Auf Wiedersehen Pet) and shook his hand.  We ended up having a good chat about Redcar, where I was living at the time.  Ironically enough, 25 years later, I moved to Düsseldorf, where the series was set.
  5. Also in Nottingham, in 1989 comedian and broadcaster Mike Harding came up to me at a bus stop at Nottingham train station and asked me for directions to the theatre.  Not being a local, I was unable to help him.  Why he, on his wages, could not take a taxi, was beyond me.
  6. Darlington train station: Christmas time 1989 – I saw Lord Leon Brittan at Darlington station having a coffee in the waiting room.  I did not speak to him.  I was still thinking of an essay I had to write on Russian literature, as you do.
  7. Back to  Nottingham, this time in 1991, I gave an interview to Central TV news about a murder case (or if you’re a Taggart fan, a “moddah” case). Then twelve years later I gave another interview to ITV about the same case on a series called Real Crime.  I did get a few “haven’t I seen you before?” looks off people after the 2003 appearance.
  8. In 1994 I crossed the road just metres away from Clive Anderson of Whose Line Is It Anyway in Central London.  He was carrying a Rymans carrier bag, but did not come out with any witty remarks.
  9. Also in 1994, I was working as an interpreter at a business conference.  I translated the welcome message from the compere, Stuart Hall, of It’s a Knockout, not the sociologist.  Is that more a claim to notoriety?  He had just stepped into the gents’ toilets of the Natural History Museum as I was walking out.
  10. In 1998 I was five seats behind William Hague, then  MP for Richmond, on the evening flight from Heathrow to Teesside Airport.  He had a very shiny head.  Almost blindingly so.  As he walked past me on arrival, I greeted him with a cheery, “Good evening, Mr Hague.  How are you?”  He replied with a cheery, “Good evening,” but did not advise how he was.
  11. Train stations.  I love ’em.  At Paddington station I spotted Lord Douglas Hurd, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs.  He was reading The Times.  I told him I’d been a member of the Conservative Party since I was 14 (cough cough), and asked he would sign a book I had.  “With great pleasure,” he replied with a voice just like his Spitting Image puppet.  Duly he took my ballpoint pen and signed my copy of Tokens of Trust, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury.
  12. In recent years I have visited the graves of:
    1. Former Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston (Sutton Courtney, Oxfordshire)
    2. George Orwell (same churchyard)
    3. Richard Whiteley of Countdown (East Witton, North Yorkshire)
  13. Oxford train station was also a great meeting place.  There in 2010, I met Judith Hann of Tomorrow’s World.  I told her how very much I had enjoyed the show in my younger years and we duly shook hands.
  14. In summer 2015 I met Peter Hitchens, the great polemicist, and told him I agreed with an article he had recently written about Putin’s Russia.  In reality, I didn’t agree with him, but I was in no mood for a discussion.

Over to you.  The more the obscure celeb connection, the better!  Eg,

“David Beckham’s cousin used to babysit for my boss’s kids.” 

“I once served Terry Wogan fish and chips twice, when he called into my Dad’s chippy.”

You get the idea.

Have a celebrity-packed day, won’t you!

Bread and Circuses

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

– Juvenal

Juvenal’s premise in Roman times was in response to Roman politicians’ a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of their new citizens: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power.  Orwell hinted at similar in 1984, when he described the proles.

Are bread and circuses one of the reasons for underachievement in the British working class?  We all know about elitism in the British system.  

To quote Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones:

I mean, you look at statistics, right. 83% of top British management have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 93% of the BBC have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 98% of the KGB have been to a public school and Oxbridge.

Personally I don’t have a problem with people being privileged/fortunate/blessed enough to have been to independent school/Oxbridge/Sandhurst/the Brigade of Guards, etc.  I’ve always taken the attitude that it’s better to build one person up, rather than to knock the other one down.  

Jesus said (Matthew 26:11);

The poor you will always have with you…

 

And the rich and privileged, too, I would add.

The key thing is to prevent the wealthy from being a closed shop.  One way is to raise aspirations of working-class youngsters, and that begins even before school.  However, that involves fundamental change in British society.

  • The UK has a massive percentage of unmarried mothers.  During my short time as a supply teacher, I was shocked to hear a group of four fifteen-year-old girls in a failing inner-city comprehensive cooing at the fact that one of their peers was pregnant, and that “her mam was made up” [overjoyed] to hear daughter was pregnant.  So, this is Post-Thatcher Britain – single motherhood as a “career choice”.  To echo The Specials and their song, Too Much, Too Young, “…If you’re happy with a nappy, then you’re in for fun.”
  • The country has a vast percentage of “neets” (“not in employment, education or training”), unemployed and often unemployable, under-25’s, with poor levels of literacy, social skills and work ethic.
  • Why is it that white, working-class boys are the problem sector of English schools?

Are there enough role models?  Is there too much a ready acceptance of second-, third-, or fourth best?  “They’re only oiks, anyway.”

Is there too much of an attitude that goes like this:

My Dad worked down t’pit.  Me granda too, and me uncle, and that’s all I want to do.

 

Trouble is, in some estates, the adult males chose being in and out of prison as their “career path.”

Have an aspirational day, won’t you!