Friday, 10 November 2017

Life and Times.

This is a photograph of me and my eldest daughter, she is thirty years old now. The photo was taken by her grand-dad on holiday in Spain.
I had Emily when I was 23.
I had no plan for our lives, other than to be happy.
The early years of my marriage and motherhood were lovely. We owned our house (well, with a mortgage) my husband had a good job in The City and I was a stay-at-home mum. Me and Emily had a blissful couple of years. Then when I was pregnant with my second child, my husband lost his job and the recession kicked in. Our riches turned to poverty.
Our freedoms turned into prisons. The prison of poverty and depression.
My husband fell into a despair. But I had two young people to nurture.
A lot of people were in the same boat and we all helped each other out, some managed to stay strong while others fell by the wayside.
Then circumstances picked up again and we were OK for a while. My husband chose to spend a lot of time in the pub, but that was alright with me as it just meant that I could enjoy my two precious daughters.
I ignored my husband's mood swings. I was too busy playing with my daughters and my nieces and nephews. I absolutely adored being a mum, an auntie, a sister-in-law.
There are good memories: lovely restaurants when my husband was working, Bibendum was a firm favourite with its swish, ridiculously handsome waiters delivering outstandingly good food.
Oh and the brilliant gigs.  Oasis and  Pink Floyd in 1996 resonate in my memory. The Oasis gig will live me forever. That night in the stadium at Maine Road was easily the best night of my life. I remember feeling the years falling away, I danced and sang like a teenager, I laughed and cried, the atmosphere was electric and the adrenaline was pumping. I was on a high for about two weeks after the gig, silly smile glued to my face and managing to get a lyric into nearly every conversation. 'I'll pick you up at half past three- we'll have LASAGNAAAAA.' I must have driven everyone potty.
But there were nagging problems in the marriage. A sense of isolation. My husband was never there. He missed birthday parties, births, joyous special individual moments.
He was an angry man. But I remained oblivious to this anger, in fact I found it boring- which is weird, but then I had been brought up by an angry dad so maybe the anger or discontent didn't have the desired affect he wished to pronounce on me?
Life went on.
The girls thrived. We got a dog- Alfie, a black Labrador.
Emily went travelling while my younger daughter attended college. My husband was still in the pub.

My brother became seriously ill. My sister-in-law and I were very close, our children had grown up together and I love her very much. My poor brother died slowly, bit by bit really, over the course of three years from a brain tumour. He died on November 8th 2002.

But on the night of 7th November 2002, my husband complained of a bad headache which turned out to be a brain haemorrhage.
A real nightmare ensued.

My husband 'recovered' although when he awoke from nine hours of life saving surgery, he said he wished he had died.

Still, we ploughed on.

Then, in 2007, our car broke down.

How silly is life?
I suggested to my husband that the car had overheated and we needed to let it cool, replace the water and start it up again. My husband was enraged at this suggestion and threw a very large, very heavy bunch of keys at me, hitting me in the face.
A young boy, walking past witnessed this and it was the look on his face that ended my marriage.
The disbelief at the anger, the over-reaction, the bullying behaviour? I don't know. But the look in that young boy's eyes changed my outlook forever. And I thank him for opening my eyes, to my marriage and the direction of my life.

Fast forward ten years.
I live in a funny old rented house. I live with Emily and our dog, Billy, a chocolate Labrador. My younger daughter lives nearby with her partner who is lovely.

We are happy, we love each other, support each other  and life goes on.

Emily is pregnant with my first grandchild.

I am writing a lot.
My dad is relying on me to help him now that he is old and alone.
My sister-in-law is content and has carved out a new life for herself and her family.
My ex is still in the pub.

Life goes on.
Round our way the birds are singing.
Round our way the sun shines bright.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Oh No, Another Supermoon!

Image result for pictures of the supermoon last night
The Supermoon.

Billy Bear the morning after the night before.

As a Cancerian I am used to the effects the moon has on my moods. Quite literally 'a loony' at times, full of beans, dancing around the kitchen, singing at the top of my voice, usually to tracks from Oasis, Cigarettes and Alcohol and Live Forever being  firm favourites . Then at other times quiet and fragile, thoughtful.  Away with the fairies on some days while deep in serious political discussion the next. Of course I suppose I could simply be described as a 'moody mare' and have been in my time yet the big white globe in the sky provides me with all the reason I need to exercise my attributes.

Today however I just feel totally cream-crackered.
And the little boy pictured above is to blame.
He is not a Cancerian, he is actually a Taurean so has no real claim to being affected by the moon , well, other than being a dog and therefore related to the wolf, and we all know about their relationship with La Luna.
Billy didn't spend the night howling, he spent the night jumping. Up and down. on and off my bed, and on and off the body sleeping on that bed, ie; me, all bloody night long.
Not delicate, light jumps that even big dogs seem able to do but great big dramatic leaps into the corners of my room followed by frantic scratching on the floorboards as if trying to reach Australia followed by eerie silence  before  repeating the performance, over and over again. This behaviour went on all through the night of the Supermoon.
I must have slept at some point because I woke up feeling shattered, Billy's face on my cheek his eye staring into mine.
He did look sort of sorry or perhaps I just imagined that he did.
He didn't seem keen on rushing out for his early morning walk, he was obviously worn out, so I did his hot water bottle for him and he clambered up onto the sofa for a nice long sleep.
I spent the day wandering about in a bit of a daze.
Until he woke up of course, even more full of beans than usual.

Monday, 30 October 2017

My Pre-Internet Brain.

Douglas Coupland is a Canadian novelist/artist/designer who creates visual masterpieces, one of his pieces is a poster reading, " I Miss My Pre-Internet Brain," He has designed many more since this one which was included as part of the collection: "Welcome to the 21st Century."

Coupland is 55, a few years older than me and, like me lucky enough to have actually owned a pre-internet brain and can therefore compare past and present. It's quite a concept and makes me feel privileged to have been born in the 1960's, a generation of children who may well have been the last lot to grow up in a world of self-discovery and wonder, curiosity and creativity as well as in my case anyway, hunger and quite a bit of deprivation. I didn't know I was deprived though so it didn't really matter. I knew I was hungry quite a lot but then I just assumed everyone else was as well. Wasn't it a great feeling to see your big brother walk up the road with a rabbit tucked in his belt, or to not get caught whilst scrumping? (Younger people will need to google) 
A big joy of childhood was the library, a big quiet building where one could wander for ages and ages and go home with lots of dusty books under your arm. (yes, yes, today you know exactly what you want to read, you've seen the reviews online and a pristine book will arrive wrapped in a box) I still love the library, I still sit down in my Lloyd Loom chair and retreat into the world of 11th century Paris or Tudor England or anywhere in the world at any time at all for that matter, even space if I feel so inclined. The library today though is a noisy affair with lots of bleeping going on and people talking into their laptops. Old people shuffle about too embarrassed to ask how to actually borrow their books as the machine has replaced the librarian.
In my day my friends and I on the rare occasions that rain stopped play, would idle away time colouring in. That meant using colouring pencils to colour in pictures in a book. Now, that's an exercise in 'mindfulness.'
The thought of being stuck indoors was a frightful one. Why would anyone want to do that? There were, (still are actually) trees to climb, rivers to swim, orchards to strip, fields to scour. I think I spent about a third of my childhood in swimming pools, proper swimming pools with a proper deep end, not namby- pamby shallow  'safe' boring drips that pretend to be pools today.
Then there was school, Primary School was good fun, Secondary School not so much but I did learn a lot. Curiously although I hated Physics, my teacher to my hilarity was called Mr Grime, I learned an awful lot although didn't realise it at the time. Who knew flow tanks would have been so helpful?
I wasn't allowed the luxury of further education and went to work in London just short of my sixteenth birthday. At twenty I was promoted to a Chief Referencing Officer, fancy being a chief of anything at that tender age. My job was to travel across all of the London Boroughs collating evidence of land ownership. This would see me chatting to a Lord and Lady in Kensington one day and a big burly gypsy on a caravan site the next. I loved that job and it has stood me in good stead as a researcher.I expect all the information I found by trawling around with my pencil and pad can now be found on the internet, not so the myriad of stories behind the facts however.
Nearly thirty years later, my pre-internet brain is shared with my post internet brain.
Today as I walked around the park with my dog I came across a lot of young mums pushing their babies in their buggies. Ducks, swans, herons, cormorants, woodpeckers, parakeets, tits, a sly fox all totally ignored, bright orange and red crinkly leaves left underfoot and not kicked up in delight, squirrels left alone to squirrel their nuts. All the while the babies moaned and the mums listened to music or talked loudly into their hands-free sets.
The dog trod in a sticky pile of something and was covered in burrs, as I extricated them I realised my hand was covered in poo. I had my wellies on so climbed down the old roots of a tree into the stream and splashed about as I washed my hands, I dried them on a waxy leaf... much to the horror of a lady walking by who politely passed me a packet of disinfectant wipes.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Not in Vogue.

Me,back in the very early 80's
I can remember having this picture taken. It is a photograph, not a snap. I had to pose, I was very tall (well, funnily enough, I still am) and very slim and very young and fancied myself as super model material. I was a bit premature on that front as the real supermodels were still struggling to make names for themselves back then, in fact the term wouldn't be christened for a couple more years. I sent the photo to a modelling agency in Mayfair. I didn't hear anything from the agency so just carried on in my job as a clerical officer at the Greater London Council. Then one day I had a phone call at work, a personal phone call which was very frowned upon. It was a man calling from the agency in Mayfair asking me where I was. I was flustered and replied that I was at work. He went on in a dramatic fashion to say that the studio had been set up and the photographer was waiting for me. I didn't know what to do as I couldn't just up and leave my desk. I tried to explain that I hadn't heard anything from the agency at all, let alone notice of a pending appointment. My immediate boss could see that I was in a pickle and indicated that I pass him the phone which I did. He asked the caller for an explanation and then calmly put the phone down. He then, to my astonishment , took some cash out of his wallet and told me to go and get a taxi to the appointment.
It was summer and I was wearing a dress, quite a smart dress as casual clothes were not deemed fit to wear to work at that time. I felt frumpy and not model material at all but a steely determination had set in and on the way to Mayfair I mapped my new life , it would include lots of glamorous parties, champagne, gorgeous clothes, Vogue covers, shining hair, good-looking men and of course, vast sums of money.
I arrived at the building which was a tall and grand affair, I presumed the whole house was the agency but soon realised that the number of bells attached to the wall gave the lie to that assumption. I pressed the bell to the agency and the door swung open. I climbed up a long staircase until I reached what was probably once known as the servants' quarters. I was ushered in by a youngish man who was wearing a hacking jacket and light brown cords, (I don't know why I remember this detail so clearly) he had a floppy fringe which he had to keep flicking from his eyes. He looked me up and down while rubbing his hand across his chin. He asked me to pull my dress up so he could see more of my legs. I felt a red flush bloom across my cheeks but pulled up my dress as instructed. He seemed to stare at my legs for ages and I felt awkward and embarrassed but kept telling myself I was being stupid as of course I would have to expect this sort of scrutiny everyday while being photographed by David Bailey and the like.
Finally, the man from the agency, (I can't remember his name) told me he thought my legs were a tiny bit on the chubby side but not to worry, I could exercise that away. I remember feeling mortified, my legs couldn't really have been any skinnier, they wouldn't have held me up. I dropped my dress back down to below my knees.
The photographer called from the 'studio' which was probably once upon a time, a broom cupboard.
I had lost my nerve, I couldn't bear the thought of my chubby legs being photographed. I dashed back down the staircase on my sturdy pins and hailed a taxi which took me back to County Hall.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

My Polish Friend.


I take my dog for a long walk everyday and everyday is a different experience. Today I noticed a lot of Jays flying about. I love Jays.  I am always delighted to see such a magnificent blue flash appearing overhead. But there is another reason that I am always pleased to see a Jay.

About ten years ago I was working in a dental studio. The man who ran the studio fancied himself as a bit of a ladies' man but I wasn't interested in him at all. It was the old man who did the technical work who held me in thrall. His name was Heinz and he was in his early seventies. He was short and round, his cropped hair was grey and he had made his own teeth. He was Polish. We became great friends. We made a very unlikely couple. Me, tall and slim and quite a bit younger than him. I suppose people presumed him to be my dad but he came to mean much more to me than a surrogate parent. He was so kind even though he had lived through terrible times. He described being poverty stricken while growing up in Poland, he told of his escape from his homeland and his tough life in Britain. But he never felt sorry for himself, just grateful for the life he had made. Always the under-dog, he seemed to accept that his dentistry skills would be taken advantage of by people less skilled in technique but more polished in talk than himself.
We went out for lots of meals.  He would dress up for our evenings and always wore his hat. He had impeccable manners. He would stand up in the restaurant until he had seen me settled and then would make a grand gesture of seating himself, placing hat and gloves neatly on the table next to him. The waiter would not be permitted to remove them to the cloakroom. It was these little gestures that I found so charming.
We would chat and laugh for hours, I can't even remember what we talked about but simply feel a rosy glow at the memories.
I did remember one occasion however when he told me about his 'hunting hat' that he had had for years. He used to have a Jay's feather poked in the rim but had lost it.
The day after this particular evening I was out in the park with my dog, (this was Alfie, my previous dog) and lo and behold a Jay's feather fell to the ground. I should have been astonished but I wasn't. It was one of those magical, mysterious things that happen sometimes. Best not to reason why.
I will never forget the look on Heinz' face later that day when I handed him the feather. Years seemed to fall away  and his eyes filled with tears.(So did mine). A magical link between us was cemented with that feather.
On Valentine's Day that year , 2007, my phone rang and it was Heinz. He wished me Happy Valentine's Day  and thanked me for being such a lovely lady and good friend. He said he never expected he would find such happiness so late in his life and that our friendship had made him a very happy old man.

Out of the blue Heinz received a phone call from an old ex-colleague asking him to go and work for him in Sierra Leone. Most old men ( and Heinz was an old man, not sprightly and fit) would not have given this idea a second thought, but not Heinz.
Off he went with his feather in his cap.

I received a letter from him, inside were a few photos of him in Sierra Leone. Smiling at me with his lovely kind eyes. He looked pretty pleased with himself. He returned to the UK to sell his house and  tie up some loose ends.

Then came the phone call. Heinz told me he was gravely ill. He also told me he didn't want to see me. He wanted me to remember him in happy times, looking well.
 Death came and took him swiftly away.
I loved that man. The memories of our funny friendship will stay with me forever.
The Jay is a lovely reminder of our time together.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

When No News is Good News.

The Tooth Fairy. Oil on canvas.  Celia Turner.

A little while ago I found myself sitting in the dentist's waiting room. I don't mind visiting the dentist, in fact I actually quite enjoy it, so different is the experience compared to when I was a child. Back then it was such a gruesome affair, brutal even, compared to modern day dentistry   I remember the waiting room of yesteryear, very uncomfortable rickety chairs, peeling paint and pictures of gnarled old trees adorned the walls. My brothers and I would make up stories about those trees, anything to keep our minds from Mr Paddyachy, he of the white coat and cruel intentions.

In the surgery of modern times there are no pictures or peeling paint. On the wall is a flat screen television. Sky News is on all the time. We, the patients, are treated to scenes of utter devastation, tiny babies being pulled from the aftermath of an earthquake, dusty faces and bewildered eyes stare at us from the ruins. We see a shot of a bedroom hanging from the side of a building, the bed has a red bedspread. Old women, bent over, wander amid the debris, headscarves askew, crinkly eyes crying. The scene is eerily silent. It is also silent in the waiting room.
Next on the screen is a big man shouting and pointing at an audience. He waves his arms about, he has weird hair and for some reason seems a bit threatening.
Next up are tanks and soldiers, BOOM and BANG and bodies under blankets.

Then, just like that, we are given the latest sports report. This has always confused me. Why IS sport so important? Why is it on the News? It seems distasteful to end a distressing news report with a downcast description of a lost football match.

The children in the waiting room look uncomfortable but there is nothing for them to do except watch the television.

Figures from the NSPCC's  Childline Service show the number of children and young people looking for help with anxiety has jumped sharply, the report states that there were 11,706 counselling sessions where anxiety was mentioned in 2015-2016,This is an increase of more than a third (35%) on the previous year. The report also states that the problem seems to be getting worse, with provisional figures showing that from April to September the service dealt with an average of more than 1000 cases of anxiety a month. Children as young as eight have called the service to discuss their fears, with girls seven times more likely to contact Childline than boys.
Childline president, Esther Rantzen said children and young people are sometimes upset by world events, " Seeing pictures of crying and bewildered toddlers being pulled from bomb damaged homes upsets all of us," she said. "Often we fail to notice the impact the stories are having on young people."

I can absolutely relate to this; I can remember seeing footage from the Vietnam war when I was a very young child and being really, really upset by it.  'The News' was then deemed to be a 'grown-up' programme and I never dared to break the serious silence my parents kept up when watching it.Therefore I didn't ask what was going on, I simply remained haunted by the terrible pictures I had seen.

We now have 24 hour news channels, often the news is just there,as background noise but it is important that we realise that all this 'news' can be overwhelming and frightening to children. We must try to educate and reassure our young people and to take care that they are not overly exposed to violent and dramatic scenes on an everyday basis and to keep 'news' in context. After all 'The News' rarely exposes its audience to 'good news.'

On my next visit to the dentist I took the painting pictured above, I told him it was a gift for the young people to look at while waiting for their appointments. He told me they have the news to watch and I replied that the news was often too grim for such a young audience. He said it was real life.
If I was a child again I think I'd rather look at a pretty painting than at a screen full of crumpled buildings and sad looking grandparents wandering around in a daze.
Real life can wait.

We'll see if he puts the painting on display. I hope he does.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Birthday Tribute To Noel Gallagher.

Saturday 26th April 1996- Maine Road, Manchester.
I still have my crumpled ticket, not that I need a reminder of the most brilliant night ever.
The Manic Street Preachers warmed up the crowd, the rain was drizzling but the atmosphere was electric.
Noel and Liam came on stage singing 'Round are our way the birds are singing' (sic)
The crowd surged toward the stage and the best gig ever got underway.
The lyrics didn't really matter that much- it was the tunes and the music that got under the skin, made you dance, made you sing, made you feel so good to be alive.
The adrenaline flowed, everyone loved each other, the crowd was a huge buzzing bee.
The playlist:

The Swamp Song.
Some Might Say.
Roll With It.
Morning Glory.
Cigarettes & Alcohol.
Champagne Supernova.
Cast No Shadow.
The Masterplan.
Don't Look Back In Anger.
Live Forever.
I Am The Walrus.
and then the encore..
Cum On Feel The Noize (Slade)

Now, that's what you call a play list.

After wandering through streets and streets of Coronation Street type houses we finally reached our hotel. I felt as high as a kite but no synthetic drugs were in my blood steam, just music induced euphoria.
As I pushed through the revolving doors I noticed a small guy in front of me.
It was Noel.
In my ridiculous excitement I started babbling away to a bloke I had never before set eyes on and it turned out he was a roadie with The Manics and he invited me to the after show party there in the hotel.
I found myself in the hotel with Noel and Meg, Liam and Patsy and the rest of Oasis as well as The Manics.

I couldn't believe how ridiculously 'cool' Noel was, you would never have imagined that he had just performed a literally supersonic gig of a gig, one that would go down in history.

It was the best night. Still makes me smile.
Noel and His High Flying Birds have a new album coming out on November 24.
Entitled ' Who Built the Moon?'
Can't wait.
Happy Birthday Noel. XX

Friday, 6 October 2017

Brexit Briefing: Disraeli.

The Tory party are in a mess following the calamitous speech given by Theresa May at the Tory Party Conference.
She coughed and spluttered all the way through, was interrupted by a silly twerp (a self-described comedian)who handed her a spoof P45 and then the letters of the slogan behind her started falling off the wall.
A REALLY bad day at the office.

The state of the party which is supposed to be delivering Brexit can be summed up in the words of Disraeli:

" You behold a range of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest."

Apologies to Disraeli but so fitting a quote to describe the Tory party as it presently exists.

Brexit Briefing: Exit Brexit.

While we are in such disarray it would seem sensible to cancel Brexit. I think the EU would agree.
Britain is in turmoil. We need to sort ourselves out.
We need a sturdy house before we renovate and we are far from that premise.
Exit Brexit.

Brexit Briefing: That Speech.

That was a REALLY bad day at the office. The cough was unfortunate, perhaps she should have had a contingency plan in place for the speech- asking Amber Rudd to prepare to deliver it  maybe? The content was lost amid the coughing. The silly twit who handed over the P45 should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, there might have been a moment of sheer panic before she realised what was happening. That action put her off her stride. 
The letters falling off the slogan - it all went horribly wrong.
The thing is though, that this is the government who is responsible for taking us out of the European Union. Bloody Brexit.
Are there any contingency plans in place if/when that all goes horribly wrong?
Two letters I would like to see fall to the floor are a 'B' and an 'R' .

I am no fan of Mrs May but blimey, I hope her husband has a very large 'in and 'onic waiting for her when she gets home tonight.

Brexit Briefing: TheTory Party Conference:The Twerp.

I hope the little twerp who (very shakily) handed Mrs May the P45 rests very uneasily in his bed tonight and for many nights to come.
If this was the US he might well be brown bread.
Like it or not we are living in a tolerant democratic society which is great but don't take the p**s.
It wasn't clever or funny.
Shame on you.

Brexit Briefing: The Tory Party Conference.

Brexit is casting not a shadow but a rolling in, devastating storm which will buffet and then shatter the United Kingdom.
Our politicians are not armed with the necessary knowledge, intuition or wisdom to carry out such a negative policy, a policy that is unsupported by half of the electorate.
British politicians of all parties need to move to halt the Brexit negotiations, get the UK house in order, deal with home affairs and make the most of at least having cohesion somewhere. Half of the nation wish to remain in the EU.
The British ship is off course, the Captain seems determined to go down with her ship.
However for a lot of us this journey to a final destination is not over.
Exit Brexit.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Brexit Briefing: My Favourite Post This Week . The Times. Wednesday 27th September 2017.

Sometimes I come across such a brilliant post in The Times that I really wish I had written it myself. This post is in reply to an article by David Aaronovitch : 'Macron offers us a way out of Brexit mess.' Published online: 27/9/2017. Paper version 28/9/2017

John T 
The fact that Brits (particularly Brexiters) thought Brexit would break the EU apart shows how out of tune we are with continental Europeans. It's no surprise we can't negotiate with them. We simply don't understand them.

The 2 Global wars in which Continental Europe's 2 biggest powers, France and Germany, were the crucible prompted some introspection among them both, and one of the results of that was the EU.

The EU was envisaged as their way of preventing any more Verduns or Holocausts. To achieve this, national interests which could easily become nationalist fervour were supplicated to ideals of pan European cooperation. Henceforth France & Germany would cooperate and create institutions which would adjudicate conflicting national interests impartially and by which both would abide.

Of course, Britain has had its own Verduns and we are in the midst of the centenary commemorations of one of them (Passchendaele) right now, however.. the way we view them is fundamentally different from the way that the French and Germans view them.

You can get a flavour for this by comparing the way Verdun and Passchendaele are memorialised. 

At Ieper, the dead of Passchendaele are glorified in Lutyens stone. This contrasts with  Verdun, where 100s of thousands of unidentified dead from both sides are heaped in the drab, concrete Douaumont ossuary, their unceremoniously deposited remains visible to visitors through windows. The battlefield around the Ossuary has been left untouched and reclaimed by nature.

Our story is that we saved Europe by making enormous sacrifices that we didn't have to. We could have left them to fight, and consequently we glorify our heroism. 

Their story is that competing, conflicting nation states inevitably result in the inglorious, visceral reality of the Douaumont ossuary.

It is notable that polls consistently show little sympathy for the British among EU peoples. No EU country has a majority of its electorate who wish to give us a good deal.

It is a product of our isolationist view that we imagine they did not hear us demonising them, belittling the project which has brought decades of peaceful cooperation to Europe and willing its destruction instead of  trying to make it better.

They view the sentiment behind Brexit as the essence of disasters such as Verdun.

It is for this reason that we are unlikely to get a good deal from the EU unless we change. Brexit is perceived to  be an example of the nationalism the EU was created to quell. To Europeans the EU is worth something more than its imperfections.

They will not give up on it. Even in Greece, which endured the worst of the post financial crisis austerity and is still governed at the behest of the Troika, those who wish to leave the EU are a minority... indeed, those who wish to leave the Euro are a minority........

At this moment in time, I suspect the ,mindset of the EU is exactly as this article describes. Brexit will hurt us much more than them.

They don't want to hurt us, what they actually want is for us to understand what the EU is really about and what it really means to our continental neighbours. It isn't about German hegemony, Brussels dominion,  jobs for the boys or dictatorship, it is about the opposite of those things. 
It isn't about a purely transactional form of relationship either, as we seem to insist it should be.
If it is flawed, then the solution is to fix it, not to break it apart.

So while they don't want to hurt us, they are prepared to if they have to.
We need to understand how much our cynicism and jingoism has angered them, and why. They are not going to give us a good Brexit deal. I think they will simply let negotiations expire and then speak to us when we are ready to have a sensible conversation.

The best thing we could do right now is try to understand that, and why.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Brexit Briefing: The Speech in Florence.

Mrs May delivered her BIG BREXIT  speech in Florence this afternoon.
She confirmed that there will be a 'transition period' of up to two years following the March 2019 deadline.
The UK will be honouring its payments to the EU throughout this period.
Mrs May is seeking a 'bespoke arrangement' with the EU but failed to explain what she actually meant by 'bespoke arrangement.'

It's taken 15 months to get this far.

As I listened to the speech I became quite agitated and then somewhat flummoxed.
Mrs May chose Florence as the destination from where she would deliver her speech.

Describing Florence, Mrs May said:
'It was here, more than anywhere else, that the Renaissance began-a period of history that inspired centuries of creativity and critical thought across our continent and which in many ways defined what it meant to be European. A period of history whose example shaped the modern world. A period of history that teaches us that when we come together in a spirit of ambition and innovation, we have it within ourselves to do great things.'

Er, yes quite. But we are leaving.

And then:
'Indeed, we want to be your strongest friend and partner, as the EU and the UK thrive side by side.'

Er, we WERE friends and partners. But we are leaving the partnership.

And then. And this REALLY annoyed me:
'.....the UK has never totally felt at home being in the European Union. And perhaps because of our history and geography, the European Union never felt to us like an integral part of our national story in the way it does to so many elsewhere in Europe."

Bloody cheek..
I've felt 'European' ever since I went on a school exchange trip to Paris in 1979.

No doubt the Brexit negotiations will trundle on, like a very slow game of badminton.
There will be a lot more 'kicking the can down the road.' A lot more upset and unrest.

At the end of the day The Remainers won't 'win' and neither will the Brexiteers.

A colossal waste of time.
And definitely not 'a great thing.'

Bloody Brexit.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy Birthday Radio X

Here is my new 'retro' radio, by the toaster and with the manky back door in frame.
But this little gem of a radio blasts out SO much fun everyday, it brightens my life.
It is tuned to Radio X.

I have listened to XFM since its conception in 1997. I remember many a Saturday afternoon driving to the seafood stall but having to pull over so many times in fits of giggles , tears streaming down my face, listening to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
The crab and prawns always gave me indigestion as I would be doubled up on the way back home.
Cramped with laughing with a belly full of fresh crab is actually quite painful.

In 1996 I went to see Oasis at Maine Road. It was THE BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE, as anyone who knows me will testify. I still, to this day could bore for England about it but oh what a glorious night.
I was on a high for two whole weeks after the gig and wore my sky blue Oasis T shirt and trackie bottoms to meet my kids from school. proudly, much to their embarrassment. Of course XFM and then Radio X has Oasis as their main man band wise. But wouldn't the listeners be jealous to know that after that magical gig I wandered through the streets of Manchester (absolutely Coronation Street land) back to my hotel. As I tried to navigate the revolving doors a tiny little bloke was being shoved by a huge burly bouncer type of guy. Then I realised the tiny bloke was Noel.
Somehow I ended up at the after gig party with Liam and Patsy, Noel and Meg, the other band members and all of The Manic Street Preachers. A roadie with the Manic's couldn't believe I had 'dustbin lids' I think the adrenaline took years off me.

The next morning I got the train back to London and it broke down every five minutes. It was the longest train journey but I was just SO happy I didn't care.
The following years had me singing an answer to my kid's questions, it must have been maddening.
'What's for dinner?'  'I'll pick you up at half past three, we'll have lasagna.'
'Oh mum, hurry up'  ' So Sally can wait'
You get the picture. 'Don't look back in anger'
Around my way the birds are singing.
'You've got to make it happen' was a case of misheard lyrics on a car journey when my daughters had a giggly fit as they thought the words were 'you've got a naked husband, you've got a naked husband.'

Music, XFM and now Radio X music has helped me through difficult times.
Every morning I am in stitches listening to Chris Moyles and the team, the teams are so important.
I love Toby Tarrant, Jack Saunders, Dan O Connell, and yes, of course Pippa and Sunta who both add so much to the entertainment even if they are mercilessly ribbed by either Chris or Johnny.
And the most surprising person is definitely Johnny Vaughan, I thought I didn't like him, I don't even know why, perhaps it was bad press. But now, he is my favourite, well him and Gavin 'The Woodman' Woods.
I adore the Saturday 'Kickabout', just a minute of their bantering has me crying with laughter.
I love the way the whole Radio X team gel together and I normally get really annoyed with too much talk when I want music.
But, you guys have smashed it.
Great music, great talk, brilliant camaraderie.
Oasis, Radiohead, Snow Patrol, Kasabian, Coldplay, Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd, et al.

Nowadays my kids are grown up so it just leaves me to sing to my dog;'You're in love with a psycho, you're in love with a psycho and there's nothing you can do about it.'

Happy Birthday Radio X.

Brexit Briefing: Florence.

I am quite dreading the speech in Florence on Friday. I hope Boris is gagged and chained while Mrs May spouts another load of silly meaningless slogans and soundbites.
' We will survive and thrive following our departure from the European Union '
'We will continue to have a close relationship with our European neighbours.'
' We will be enjoying new trade deals outside of the EU '
'We are stuffed, can we call the whole thing off?'
Boris wriggling out of his chains yelling, 'bus, BUS, what about the BUS? '
Ho hum.
I am sure the EU are shaking in their shoes.
What an embarrassing mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Brexit Briefing: Lies: Past, Present and Future.

Sometimes I come across an article that is so true to my own feelings and beliefs that I really, really wish I had written it myself.
The following is an excerpt from Alastair Campbell's blog posted on 14 July 2017. Full details can be found at
The post is entitled 'As the national mood shifts, a reminder that the £350m for the NHS was just one of many Brexit lies past present future .'
Note the third paragraph. This week Boris Johnson has returned to his forlorn promise written on the side of the infamous Brexit bus. Liar, Liar, pants on fire.

When the Brexit pathology is studied, hopefully by historians examining how the UK found its reverse gear and pulled back from national self-mutilation, the role of lying will have a prominent place in their analysis of how the return journey to sanity was made.
The £350m extra per week for the NHS is merely the most famous of a whole galaxy of lies on which the Brexit case was built and continues to be pursued. These days, the Brextremists like to say it wasn’t really a promise, so much as a clever campaign tactic, an illustration of what could happen if everything went well. This is, like most things that emerge from the mouths of hardened Brexiteers, disengenuous at best, another lie at worst.
Not even Boris Johnson believes it, or tries to defend it any more. But why should he worry? We live in an era when proven liars rise to be US President, or count their time in the Kremlin in decades not years, or in Johnson’s case get rewarded for his leading role in a campaign of lies with promotion to Foreign Secretary, allowing him to hold on to the belief that he can one day pursue his Churchill Fantasy all the way to Number 10.
Can anyone recall the last time Johnson was challenged over the £350m claim, or its role in helping the Brexiteers to their narrow victory? ‘Boring,’ say the Brextremists. ‘Old news,’ echo the media. ‘Time to shape a Brexit for the many not the few,’ say Labour. ‘Phew,’ says Boris, ‘looks like I got away with it again.’ Like he got away with the lies he told for the Daily Telegraph in his days as Brussels correspondent, when his ‘EU ban on bent bananas’ was but the best known of his post-lunch inventions.
And while the £350m big fat lie on the big red bus may be the one we remember, neither should we forget that LEAVE lied about so much more … we had promises that coming out of the EU would see us building not just more hospitals but ‘hundreds’ of new schools. There would be lower taxes for families and businesses, lower council tax, lower VAT on fuel, no VAT on tampons, higher wages, stronger employment rights, more roads, more money for railways, more cash for regional airports, more pay for junior doctors, abolition of prescription charges, more money for scientific research, equal or more support for universities, regional funds and cultural organisations, more public support for agriculture, more for tax credits, money for steel workers, money for new submarines. We were even going to get more to fix potholes. Lie upon lie upon lie.
Then there was the lie that we would be able to negotiate new trade deals with the US, China, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand ‘immediately after we vote Leave.’ Er, like last June 24. How is that going Mr Fox? Not as well as your air miles account. But not to worry eh … after all, these new trade deals that we don’t have and can’t yet negotiate will take effect immediately as we leave the EU. Or not.
And just as they had a nice round number for the extra money for the NHS, they showed the same attention to invented detail with their lie about how many new UK jobs will be created through new trade deals with USA, Japan, ASEAN, India and Mercosur. 284,000 no less. Or not.
We had the lie of the points-based immigration system. We had the lie told to EU citizens currently living in the UK, who subsequently became ‘pawns,’ that there would be no change to their status.
Then there were the trade lies about how we would stay in the single market. At worst, David Davis assured us, we would get a deal with the exact same benefits. Johnson couldn’t have been clearer. ‘There will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market.’ His former pal Michael Gove called it ‘win-win – we maintain free trade, stop sending money and also have control of our borders.’
Oh, but then there was the widely ignored question of that other border, the one between Northern Ireland and the Republic. There was ‘no prospect of security checks returning to the border.’ Promise. Honest guv. ‘There is no reason why the UK’s only land border should be any less open after Brexit than it is today,’ was how then Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers put it. At best, a false promise, at worst a lie.
Lie upon lie upon lie. And before anyone goes all ‘dodgy dossier, 45 minutes’ on me … five inquiries, cleared by all of them. So as a proven teller of truth, I feel well qualified to call out these Lying Brexit Bastards.
A new Big Lie is currently entering the Big Lie lexicon. It is that 51.9 percent having voted LEAVE last June 23 – National Self-Harm Day – the number has now risen to over 80percent. The thinking is that given neither Tory nor Labour committed themselves to reversing Brexit, that means anyone who voted for either is now signed up to it. And as the only avowedly anti-Brexit parties did not set the electoral heather on fire – the SNP slipping back, the Lib Dems failing to cut through with their pledge of a second referendum, the Greens struggling to make gains – so far as the Brextremists are concerned, the debate about whether we leave really is over. But it really isn’t, is it? In fact, might the reason the Brexiteers are getting a bit panicky is that they know from their contacts in their constituencies, and from businesses in virtually every sector, that with every day the Brexit cliff-edge gets closer, the desire to pull back gets stronger?
I am one of those 80percent. I voted Labour. Partly out of tribal loyalty. But also, as I wrote in The New European shortly after the election was called, to stop Theresa May getting the mandate she sought for a hard Brexit at any cost. We all have our own reasons for voting this way or that, and I know I am far from being alone in saying that was mine. It is also true that if Mrs May had secured the landslide she sought and expected, she would have had the mandate to do what was set out in her manifesto. But she didn’t, so she doesn’t, and that is why she is reduced to a pathetic relaunch founded on pleas to other parties to share their ideas with her.
What neither she nor Jeremy Corbyn nor anyone else is entitled to do is to assume, let alone state, that those who voted Labour at the last election did so as an expression of support for Brexit. And if Labour stick with their current position, which is far too close to the government’s to be of any meaningful difference, then not just old tribal loyalties, but I suspect the support of many of the younger people Corbyn motivated to vote Labour, will be tested.
There is undoubtedly a shift against Brexit taking place, but with scant reflection of that in Parliament. Day after day, whether it is economic bad news, or another sector or individual calling for a rethink, we see that change, even with a media largely determined to shut real debate down. And just look at how even among the true believing Brextremists the debate has shifted. They have gone from a pre-referendum posture of ‘Brexit is going to be absolutely brilliant’ to ‘we know it is not going to be brilliant, but there will be a lot of trouble if we don’t deliver it.’
Even the most ardent among them have stopped making any effort to argue, that Britain will be better off. At the weekend, the Brextremist ‘line to take,’ circulated to their little band of ideologues from Brexit Central, was that democracy itself would have to be questioned unless Brexit was delivered, as voted for last June. So even they, it seems, no longer think Brexit should happen because it is good for the country, but simply because the country voted for it, at one moment in time.
There are however two other elements of democracy worth mentioning – and they are related. One is the role of truth. The other is the right of people to change their mind. And partly because the public now has a clear sense not only that they were lied to during the referendum, but that they are now being fed a different set of lies about how pain-free Brexit will be, they are beginning to doubt the good sense of exiting the EU, and moving to the idea that the country may need to take another look at this.
So it may well be that though the Lib Dems’ central line on a ‘final deal’ second referendum was rejected at the election as the two party hegemony reasserted itself, that is where we end up. Democracy, dare I suggest to the Johnsons of this world, may end up demanding it.
Meanwhile, as the economic reasons to change course mount, the Brextremists and their cheerleading papers are reduced to taking at 100percent face value the word of Donald Trump, who in a succession of bilaterals at the G20 Summit said pretty much whatever the person in the square comfy chair next to him wanted to hear, even if it was directly contradicted either by something he had said in a previous meeting to a previous square comfy chair incumbent, or to an audience back home.
Watching Theresa May lap up his meaningless promise of a great trade deal, which he was going to do very quickly – of course he will, he is Superman – was to wonder what part of ‘America First’ she fails to grasp. It was also to realize that she, like her plans for Brexit, are weakened beyond repair. As a result, Vince Cable is not the only one thinking Brexit may never actually happen.
Written by Alastair Campbell 14 July 2017