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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

It gets better

I just responded to a TV advert. It was for an online project called 'It gets better', which is aimed mainly at LGBT teens who may be feeling suicidal. Many young gay teens don't think life will get any better. They may be bullied or may just not know how to act in the absence of mentors who can help them see that life will improve for them.

I'm asking you to visit the site, add your support, share the message. Your views on sexuality are yours and I respect that, but teenagers committing suicide because of bullying or simple inability to face life has to prick all our consciences. Please, take a look at . I'd take it as a personal favour. Thank you.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Salmond Leap

I'm getting splinters on my arse. I've spent so long sitting on the fence as far as Scottish independence is concerned, it's even embarrassing me. In an effort make it clear where I stand on the issue, here it is. I'm not sure. Economically, I'm not convinced it's the best thing for us. On the other hand (yes, I do realise I'm starting to sound like Rep Tevye), I'm not absolutely sure it wouldn't be a good move.

One half of me feels there's strength in numbers in extremely difficult economic circumstances. However, I could also argue that at the moment we're tied to our neighbours, who are managing to mismanage the economy in a very major way. Perhaps cutting the bonds would free us up to pursue innovative economic policies. It's certainly possible to turn a small nation into a place where the population is happy and the standard of living is high. It would be a laudable ambition to aim for standards such as are found in Scandinavia. I could even argue that the high levels of taxation and cost of living found in these nations might be a worthwhile price to pay for having a decent country to live in. How much I'm actually paid is not nearly as important to me as I get older as how well I can live. I mean by that, for want of a better word, how happy I can be.

Take the phrase 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. How much true meaning can that have in an ever more aggressive capitalist, free market economy, which sees those less able to take care of themselves sink ever further down the ladder? How good can I feel about myself if the plight of others means nothing to me? Does hard cash and acquisitiveness really make one feel good?

I realise I've digressed a little, but if you know me you'll know I'm an intellectual butterfly. What does matter is this. I'll be 54 years old in a month's time and I've never lived in a country governed by any party other than  the two who seem ever more identical. I've never seen any economy other than one essentially controlled not by elected officials, but by appalling little men in coloured coats screaming at each other on the Stock Exchange floor. I've heard some inventive ideas on improving our lot, but they're always stifled by vested interests. Why do we allow the wealthy to fool us into thinking they have our best interests at heart? Do we really believe they care whether we succeed, or are happy? As long as we let them convince us that we need to leave the 'professionals' in charge, I don't believe anything constructive will change.

So back to Alex and his intrepid crew. Seriously, it's not that I think he's the Messiah. I don't think I'd enjoy having a pint with him, although if he were buying it would help. It's just that you never know whether something will work until you try it. He at least has something of a track record in trying to keep some promises, unlike all the others we've tried, who uniformly backtrack on manifestos time and again. This is far from being a SNP political rant. I'm very far from joining any party, much less the SNP, but I do think there are practicalities to electing leaders. The greens are not going to get elected and the Monster Raving Loony Party dream died with Lord Sutch, so it seems Alex is the best alternative. I'm ready to give him a crack.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Blue Tie Thinking

So Philip Davies, MP thinks disabled people should work below minimum wage to encourage employers to take them on, arguing that an employer won't take on a disabled person when they can get an equally qualified able-bodied one. How this for a quote? "People with a learning disability can't be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn't got a disability" Now that's an interesting statement from someone with a degree in History and Politics. I'd be interested to know where he got this gem of information from. His arse may be a good place to look, since this guy's head appears to be firmly lodged between his nether cheeks.

His early career was meteoric. He rose from cashier to Customer Relations Project Manager (he handed out those big round badges) in only 6 years, so you could already see that he was destined for great things. He didn't have long to wait. In 2001, he contested the Colne Valley constituency, where he bombed. Undeterred, and with contributions from Lord Ashcroft's dodgy front company BCS, he managed to unseat Chris Leslie in Shipley and he never looked back. He couldn't you see, because of where his head is stuck.

Anyhoo, since the Great Victory, Our Phil has managed to keep his name in the papers with a series of well-timed and obviously well-thought-out outpourings of wisdom. 

Foe example, when a Muslim group was wrongly accused of an act of vandalism, Davies was quoted in the Sun (yes, the Sun, honest) thus, "If there's anybody who should fuck off, it's the Muslims who do this sort of thing." The Sun later apologised for yet another monumental cock-up, but Big Phil stood his ground.

He's also urged all Muslims in the country to fly the Union Flag on mosques to show their unity and commitment to Britain.

Last year he tried to stop the UK Youth Parliament staging a debate in the House of Commons on the basis that it would set a precedent, allowing organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain to use the House. I've got news from him there, The precedent's already been set. Fanatical kooks are already using it. See what I did there, Phil?

Look, I could go on all day about Davies, but suffice it to say that John Bercow, Conservative MP and present House Speaker called him a troglodyte. He's made an arse of himself on about every issue of equality you can think of. Now he wants to make the disabled into second-class citizens. I don't think he's going to get his way, but it should be noted that moronic cavemen like this are being elected to Parliament. People of Shipley, at the next election, please return this MP to where he really belongs. Standing at the door of ASDA, having to smile at people of all colours and say, "How may I help you?" That's gotta hurt.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Posh Scousers

Here I am in the Grove House Hotel, Wallasey, just a stone's throw from the tunnel to Paradise. Well, Liverpol anyway. Actually, when most of us think of Merseyside, Liverpool comes to mind, but there is a hidden secret to the area. It's the Wirral peninsula. It's a proper little holiday area. We have a training school in Hoylake, about 6 or 7 miles from where I am now. The fifteen minute journey from the hotel to work is quite pleasant, and Hoylake itself is a very nice wee town. You're never far from water on the Wirral, be it the Irish Sea, the Mersey or the Dee estuaries.

The thing of it is, the Wirral is just bursting with surprises. Thornton Haugh, where I stay sometimes, is the most stunning conservation village. It's beautiful, and this on a peninsula where beauty isn't altogether uncommon. Hoylake has the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, sometimes used to host the British Open. New Brighton, once  a fashionable and bustling seaside resort, has faded a bit now, but it still has some very nice views and even nicer walks. Birkenhead has a fascinating U-Boat museum, comsisting of a real U-Boat which has been cut into sections. Wallasey isn't altogether ugly either. I could go on all night, but frankly I'm hungry and the grub at the Grove is award winning fare. Oh, and I was introduced last night to Nick, the owner and, nice man that he is, he furnished me with a wee glass of Macallan to aid restful sleep. Just for medicinal purposes, you understand.

Now, all of this is OK, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy my occasional trips down here, but I'll be honest. I'm missing my wife. She took a small tumble on Sunday and ended up with some nasty bruising which our cat is using to extort extra food from her. I never sleep well away from home and this trip is no different, although so far this is probably the best place I've stayed on the Wirral (and of course, last night's sleep was boosted by the medicine I mentioned earlier). I can't wait for Friday though, and the trek back to Scotland. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like Linwood.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Say Buddy, wanna buy a guitar?

Normally artistic integrity would prevent me from selling my soul for filthy lucre. However, in mitigation, the commercial interests at stake are not mine, but Number One Son's. He's just completed his pièce de résistance, a beautifully built acoustic guitar with lovely banding around the sound hole and at the base. There's a Brazilian rosewood (apparently as rare as hen's teeth) inlay at the end of the neck. I'm no expert in musical instruments, but I do know how much love and have a reasonable idea of how many hours were poured into this artwork. I also think I have a fair eye for good workmanship and can tell you there aren't any flaws I can spot. Oh, and he's trying to make it his first sale.

Iain could have taken the easy option after university and gone into teaching. He didn't. He chose instead to pursue something that captured his imagination, something that, with some application and a large slice of luck will ensure him a decent living, something that will give him that elusive ideal so many of us seek, real job satisfaction. I'm proud of him and I desperately hope he can make a go of this.

So, here's the hook. Are any of you in the market for a hand built guitar and are willing and able to pay a fair price? If you're reading this via Facebook, have a look at my friends list and pick out Iain Lewis. You will find a number of photos of his work in his photo albums.  If you know someone who would be interested in such an instrument, please think about pointing them in Iain's direction. Thanks for reading this blatant plug.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Remember, it's not about the money.

So, the Bahrain Grand Prix has been reinstated.  With a grasping toad like Bernie Ecclestone in charge, it's not exactly a surprise. What is somewhat surprising is that this august body thinks that any of us buy the line of horseshit they peddle to back up the announcement.

The FIA says the decision "reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain.". Really? Fully one quarter of the staff of the Bahrain International Circuit have been detained, some of them giving accounts of beatings and torture. 28 of them have been suspended or sacked and five are still imprisoned. Some have even left their own country because of the fear of arrest and torture.

The FIA cannot pretend that it does not know about the situation in Bahrain. Since the original race was postponed, it has worsened considerably, with, according to Human Rights Watch in New York, "large-scale arbitrary arrests, protracted incommunicado detention, and credible allegations of torture". This warning was delivered directly to FIA. They say that they detect a spirit of reconciliation. They're lying through their grasping teeth. If I know what's going on, they do too.

There were protests in Shia villages yesterday following the funeral of Zainab Ali Altajer. This unfortunate woman appears to have died from the effects of a blast bomb. When the protesters attempted to reach the main road, they were beaten back by use of rubber bullets and tear gas. The majority Shia population of Bahrain are brutally oppressed by the Sunni minority. FIA knows this.

Mark Webber said on his Twitter account, "When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport.". I agree. Mark, if you really believe that, and you have a conscience,  then you and your fellow drivers and team members know what to do. Defy FIA and simply refuse to race. It's really that simple. Damon Hill claims that F1 will now forever "have the blight of association with repressive methods to achieve order." I think he's right. With that in mind, what legacy do you want to leave? You and your contemporaries have the power to rescue the reputation of F1.

Mr Ecclestone and the committee which unanimously made this decision, it's too late to rescue your reputation. You are a greedy tyrant and will forever be seen as such. Don't bother doing the decent thing. Let decent people do it for you.