Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gort! Inflagrante delicto!

Our language is rich. We are assaulted, however, by the vicissitudes of modernity, viz: text speak.

And horror of horrors, the QWERTY keyboard is under threat.

Your standard keyboard is laid out because of a now obsolete requirement; the most commonly used letters on a manual typewriter needed to be set apart from each other to avoid a key-jam when used by women known as typewriters, who could out-pace the machine.

Typewriters had romance. I'd even say they were cool. Jack Kerouac had an Underwood, as did Hemingway and Harper Lee. Robert Louis Stevenson had a Hammond. Douglas Adams wrote Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on a Hermes 8 and Bertholt Brecht and Roald Amundsen both had Erikas.

I was so poor that my first typewriter, a 21st birthday gift, was a fake Erika that looked and worked as if it had been made by a tank manufacturer in Omsk.

Still, it worked and I managed with it until I got hold of an office surplus thing that was nearly bigger than me. I also did a Pitman's course and passed at advanced level by having a great deal of luck on the day of the exam. As a consequence of sitting in a class with a lot of unusually un-secretary-like women and learning by rote, I am now a hopeless user of QWERTY.

Why hopeless? Because I recently tried to use an iPad and the problem with the virtual keyboard is that, even for my rather effete fingers, the keys are too close to touch type.

Word is that a new kind of key lay out is going to happen, one that can be used by people with just two thumbs. How I will cope if this happens, I do not know, but I actually welcome it, since QWERTY is annoying and stupid. And actually, it always was.


Jacqui Brooks, a solicitor at the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau bemoans the use of legal jargon in the legal profession, according to The Guardian. Well, she would, wouldn't she? According to Jacqui,

"Many of our clients have great difficulty understanding the terms used in court forms and court orders; it is like a foreign language to many of them"

Well, I suspect that many of your clients not only have great difficulty understanding the terms used, they also have great difficulty understanding that breaking and entering is wrong.

Latin courses through our language like a lost gene. To lose it would be a real shame. Perhaps I should be like the Welsh and start scrawling Latin graffiti all over the place to make my point, and then demand millions of pounds of tax-payer's money to provide all official communication in the language. It would be a darn site more use.

So, until the next time, Culus tibi purior salillo est,
nec toto decies cacas in anno.

A Dominoes Pizza dulce Domestos 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Sorry, sad, but glibly predictable

I grew up in this street. The town is Boston, Lincolnshire. It is, by any benchmark you may care to employ, a shit hole.

Of late, Boston has become a national paradigm of all that has gone wrong with mass, unfettered immigration. The court reports bare the simple truth that on average, more than half of the names in them are certainly not of English origin. The place is violent, but it has always been so. The place attracts a malevolent underclass, but it has always been so. But of late, the crime rate has, (if it has not soared) become rather more serious than the common arrest for riding a bicycle without a light.

The local paper reveals that a common trait among the thousands of immigrants from all the gin joints in all the world is to drive a car without insurance, tax or MOT. Of course, then there was the explosion in the illicit still that killed five Lithuanians.

And now, in my own street, in the place I grew up, a double murder. In the frame is a Turkish born man. Mehmet Ali Ozen. A third person, a female, escaped her attacker and is recovering. According to the Lincolnshire Standard report, the suspect has been resident in this country for more than ten years but needed an interpreter to plead before magistrates.

It is the first murder in Boston for decades as far as I know. In fact the last one was famously that of a prostitute, one Ivy Virgin, in November 1970. In that case, the perpetrator was a local youth who never strayed far from trouble and was arrested for rape shortly after his release.

As for my house - a reasonably pleasant one with a lot of history - it was sold by my step-father in the 1980s, became for a while a shop selling cheap sex underwear and finally fell victim to the undignified fate of being part demolished and the rest turned into multiple occupancy. I moved on from Boston in the 1970s and rarely returned. In the last four decades I have made maybe, four or five  fleeting visits and believe me that was enough.

I have to say that Boston is much less stagnant than it once was. The local economy is thriving, and that is due in no small part to immigration. But a pall of evil hangs over the town. There is an atmosphere of latent and not so latent violence. In some pubs and shops, no English is spoken and none acknowledged. The national news papers hold it up as an example of immigration gone wrong. They may be right, but the sorrows and mores of this little market town are rooted in the malevolent character of its indigenous stock and the exploitation of cheap labour from former Eastern Europe.

The Mirror Crack'd

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.

Take a look out of your window for a moment.

Thanks. Whatever you are looking at is outside. You are insulated. You are insulated from the sound, the smell and the weather. If you forget the sound, the smell and the feel of what is outside, you have only to open your window or, failing that, open the door and go forth.

As an erstwhile sailor and owner of various boats, there is a very special feeling you get when you are tucked up in bed, in a conventional dwelling, on a stormy night. I have been on boats during hurricanes and there is inevitably a kind of moment when you know you are very much alive.

Consider, also, the long drive in a comfy car. Outside it is raining and the wipers are working like the machine operators in "Metropolis". At that point, you are doing 60, or 70 or 80 and you are cruising down the highway, but you are a cross-headed screw away from sitting by the side of the kerb with not enough weather gear, waiting for the recovery man, who by some amazing chance cannot make the promised turn-out time because the day has a "y" in it.

You probably go for walks, and unless you have a dog the reason is the same for us all; we desire the wind on our faces, the feeling of those muscles working, the delight of new and old vistas and panoramas. In a nutshell, we desire to feel alive. Some of us court danger - controlled danger, and perhaps, fear. We are not all adrenaline junkies but somehow we wish to assert ourselves and experience the limits of existence.

And yet.

And yet, many of us spend hours in front of the television. And Television is not a window, it is a mirror. And a cracked, warped fairground kind of mirror, fit only for laughing at ourselves in and good only for a momentary flight from reality.

The title of course, comes from Tennyson's "Lady of Shallott" (I come from his county of birth and grew up among his vistas and panoramas).

According to Wikedpedia:

"Critics have suggested that The Lady of Shalott is a representation of how Tennyson viewed society; the distance at which other people are in the lady's eyes is symbolic of the distance he feels from society. The fact that she only sees them through a window pane is significant of the way in which Shalott and Tennyson see the world—in a filtered sense. "

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
            She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
            The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
            Over towered Camelot;

Monday, 15 April 2013

We know who you are

I notice that a second university is now having to deal with the logical result of allowing Muslims to flourish. An Islamic group is under investigation for allegedly segregating men from women at meetings on the campus.

No shit Sherlock.

Do you have a bald head, tattoos and a dog called Tyson? Only a thought, but if the English Defense League, who to my certain knowledge have never killed anybody, wished to meet on the same campus, would they be allowed? For some reason, it is ok for a group who condone the idea of females as second class and condone the stoning to death of gays to avail themselves of campus facilities, but woe betide anybody who admits to voting UKIP or describes them self as "indigenous".

In the end, we shall have to face Islam down, and it will not be nice. Appeasement and accommodation of tyrants never works.

On the "Hate Thatcher" thing; we have heard a lot about her legacy. But if you take a long hard look at what we have now it is possible to see that the real damage in the past decade or so has been done by the erosion of democracy and the acceptance that lying is the default position for politicians. The country is not a place of equality - it was a socialist myth. Indeed, the chances of someone from a modest background doing well are worse than they were when Thatcher left office. It was Labour who introduced tuition fees and Labour who abolished assisted places to good schools. It was Labour, mostly Gordon Brown, who has made it so hard for ordinary working people to make ends meet, by escalating the duty on fuel, selling our gold reserves and bloating the public sector by over 1 million extra employees.


This week I did something new. I  ordered some groceries online from Sainsbury's.
Sainsbury's knows everything I ever bought from them. If a ghastly murder is every done while I am in their store, Sainsbury's will not only give me an alibi, they will inform the jury about my consumption of moist toilet wipes and my apparent addiction to crisps. Mrs Weasel and I don't find this particularly creepy or intrusive. You and me just have to get used to the idea that "they" know who we are, what we do and how we do it.

It's not just the establishment who can use technology to catch us out. I notice that "Smoking Hot" is turning the tables in regard to recording our everyday lives by posting audio of the rather unprofessional manner of the UK Border Agency. It wouldn't be the first time that the uniforms have been hoisted on their own petard.

Baby Belling

Yeah, no shit, I can write about anything!

I wonder if anybody under 30 knows what a Baby Belling is or was. (Can you still get one?)

Bedsits had Baby Bellings. What people forget about the Sixties is how miserably dull it was unless you lived near Carnaby Street. I mean, most of us had relatives who went on about the war and we dined at places where you got tinned soup and ice cream made from pork fat. If you wanted to be really groovy, you could dye your candlewick bedspread purple and put a  few posters up on the wall.

No, the Baby Belling is a sort of symbol, albeit an alternative symbol, of the 1960s and what it was like to live in them. Mostly it was a case of always having to borrow a shilling for the meter or sixpence to make a phone call. Does anybody remember Player's Number 10? They were worse than Player's Number Six and that is saying something. I used to save my change in order to buy ten Player's Number Ten cigarettes and they were terrible.

I used to make toast on an upturned two-bar electric fire.

Ah, the good old days.


At last the ill-fated video has emerged. It is not what we really wanted and it could have been a lot better, but at least it exists. I am talking about a promo video I backed and produced for an album called Earthrise, which, incidentally, I issued a while back. It's available on Amazon yada yada and the album itself is a very fine example of its kind. I really like it, which is why I poured money into getting it re-mastered, re-jigged and re-issued. It is why I lost all my profits on the video and it it still owes me money.

A word of warning. There is no money in music. You have to love it. Which I do.

Here's a link to the video if you are interested:

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher - a looking back.

An astonishing fact: 290 coal mines closed under Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and 160 mines were closed under Margaret Thatcher.

Just one reality check of the many that we should consider when looking at the "spontaneous" outpouring of hate to Mrs T. It appears it is convenient for the Left to forget that the writing was on the wall for the coal mines long before Thatcher came along.

But it is the print unions that I should mention, having been at the hypocentre of their power. I was a Fleet Street hack and a floater - in and out of various places. Except that I was unusual. Me and Bill Bryson were very unusual in that neither of us belonged to the NUJ and both of us worked the Street of Shame. I wonder what happened to him?

The print union leaders were no better than Kim Jong-un. They were war mongers and tyrants. It was very difficult indeed to get work in or out of Fleet Street unless you were in the NUJ. In fact, we were a hated breed. I refused to join because they operated a closed shop. They did this in order to call all the shots. The stories of how this undermined the press are legion and how Rupert Murdoch broke them should be studied as a paradigm of the triumph of sense and good. Once, while I was working in a radio studio the engineer just walked out and went for a cigarette. The tape ran out and we were not allowed to touch anything due to the union stranglehold. He got away with what these days would rightly be a sackable offense. The printers used to sign in for their shift and then spend the day at one of the many all-day pubs. They would do about 2 hour's work in total and get paid fantastic sums. The paper I worked on had a sub-editor whose other job was at the Telegraph and a lay-out man whose other job was at the Guardian. In order to file stories, you had to put an NUJ sticker on the top of the copy in order to get it printed. We had a hooky roll of stickers and used them, but the fact remains; the unions had a stranglehold on the news industry. The only place you still see this is at the BBC where the single fact that they extort money on pain of prison in order to watch television allows the Corporation to remain in the hands of the Marxists.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Thatcher changed this. What she did was unmask the tyrants and show to all the world that they could be defeated. And they were.

Nobody wants to return to that world. In 1979 Britain was sick. The streets were covered in rotting rubbish and we were the poor man of Europe. Our cars fell to pieces and our service industries were execrable. Neither Neil Kinnock or Gordon Brown or Tony Blair have lifted the poor out of poverty, but they have allowed the rich to get richer. Tony Blair took us to war on a raft of lies. Brown sold our gold reserves at rock bottom rates. Both have tried to undermine our identity and our freedom.

I shall not rejoice when Brown or Blair die. I am afraid that in life, they did far more damage to the common wealth than Margaret Thatcher ever did.

Of course, the worst of it is that there has been nobody since who engaged the public, and let us face it, Thatcher was only there because a majority of the British People wanted her.

The Left are outraged, but it is good to note they they are actually a tiny but noisy minority. They want to remove the personal freedoms that Thatcher and Churchill bequeathed to us, and that is the tyranny we must at all costs resist.

Monday, 8 April 2013


Margaret Thatcher has died.  I am going to write a short piece because I met Margaret Thatcher around about 1978/79. I was nobody, just someone in a corridor in a radio station, but she stopped (much to the obvious annoyance of her flunkies) and talked to me. "What do you do?", she asked. And I told her. But she was not satisfied with my answer and virtually grilled me on the spot. She exuded kindness and interest in other people. I was not important, I was not going to enhance her career, I was just someone she wanted to know about and her curiosity was genuine and kind.

Obviously, two minutes with someone cannot tell you the whole truth about someone, but as you well know, it usually does.

Thatcher changed this country for the better. I know. I had to deal with the print unions on a daily basis and I knew that they were corrupt and vicious. In those days it was like Russia, only it was Fleet Street. Thatcher had pride in our country. She was principled. She was occasionally wrong about things.

But she was right about Europe and for that we must thank her. Prime Ministers of her stature come along once every 50 years if we are lucky. And boy, do we need some more luck.

May she not only rest in peace, but may her legacy be a revival of principled politics and honest dialogue with the public. Cameron, take note.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Where's the limo?

A while back I started, and had a bit of success with, a blog called Rock Legacy. It can still be accessed, but I wont be writing on it anytime soon. In fact, just checking it out I see that I have not added anything to it for over a year.

Rock Legacy was my attempt to do two things; bring new bands to the attention of the public and also to record for posterity, some of the lesser known facts about musicians and music.

Insofar as the brief was concerned, I succeeded. I managed to interview a lot of interesting people and get something different out of them. The reason I packed it in was purely down to the cost/benefit equation. It was costing me a lot in terms of time, dedication, application and money and what I actually got on the website represented about a tenth of the actual effort.

Strangely, I ended up spending hundreds of pounds chasing people who never appeared on it. I remember spending three days in the Midlands, cold and wet and miserable, trying to get something out of a burnt-out pro who'd been in two headline bands. In the end, and after hours of recording and indulgence, I realised I had nothing I could use. He, like many I have since met, was just too far down the line. So ok, the drugs were a thing of the past but they had left their mark and what this particular rocker had to say was beyond human understanding.

Another project ground to a halt after a similar large investment. Sadly the person concerned had domestic problems that simply would not stay in the background. Meetings happened, thousands of words were written, several band members were consulted and, in the end, it was clear that I was wasting my time. Not the least because one central band member decided that I should be kept at arm's length, while another, contacted me on a daily basis and was hugely helpful.

You might not be surprised to know that some of the people on Rock Legacy (the interviews are there for all to see) were really wonderful. In fact, all of the ones who made the final cut were wonderful. Mostly.

I suppose my reason for writing this piece is to try and explain to those who want to know, what it means to be a successful musician. All I can say, from my experience with those who have been there and done it, is that most of them are very fragile characters. Most of them have poor social skills and an extraordinary ability to drop you like a stone when you are no longer of use.

So, lastly I will drop a few names.

Of course, I cannot mention the baddies. Largely because, to be honest, I feel very sorry for them. I have had some (good and bad) stay at my house several times - they have done Madison Square Garden or Wembley or both. These days their drug stash usually consists of heart pills and anusol. There is one baddie I will mention and that is Rick Wakeman. Prima Donna isn't in it. Sufficient to say that he took exception to something that another interviewee on Rock Legacy said about something and sent me an email, IN RED CAPITALS to tell me what he thought of me and this other chap. I was really very sorry to find that he seems incapable of normal every day discourse. And very surprised too.

Biggest surprise? Without doubt, Roger Chapman, a man known not to suffer fools. He was lovely. Clem Cattini? He played on about 40 or so number one singles (he does not really remember them all) and is just one of the world's gentlemen. Cliff? The Shadows? Cliff Richard and the Shadows come from the days when you treated your fans and the public with respect. I shall never forget how polite and articulate they were when I interviewed them very many years ago.

I must mention Steve Hackett. Steve and his wife Jo were so very hospitable when they visited Edinburgh last year.

I must mention my friend, Dave Scott-Morgan and Richard Tandy. The three of us got together and produced a re-issue of their record, "Earthrise". It really does stand up as a very good record indeed and you can still get it on Amazon!!!!

Dave and Richard were of course, in the Electric Light Orchestra. I can't remember how I first got in touch with Dave, but it had something to do with his having a hit song that got covered by Sandra Ann Laur, called "Hiroshima".

There are one or two perks associated with having done the Rock Legacy project. I got to see some great acts, got some free CDs and met some interesting folks. I also got to hear a lot of demos that will never see the light of day.

There is one, from a former big-timer, which he sent to me just out of friendship. It is brilliant but he insists "it's only a demo". So far, he resists my pleas to put it out and so far, its just me and a few others who have heard it. Funnily enough, because it is worth its weight in gold, it is the thing I cherish the most out of the whole damn business.

Finally, here's a video. It's probably the reason I became interested in music in the first place and the reason that my knees turned to jelly when I met Hank and Bruce.

How do you solve a problem like Korea?

At the end of the Sci-Fi classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still", Klaatu advises the assembled representatives of the world powers that unless they curb their intentions and cease to engage in an un-winnable arms race, the mighty robot, Gort, will destroy the Earth. The reason being that they were now a potential threat to the inhabitants of the other planets and they would not be allowed to become a viable one.

Great play was made in the movie of how difficult it would be to get these representatives together in the same room in order to listen to what Klaatu had to say.

At last, the Chinese and the Russians have tired of North Korea and the two countries are beginning to align themselves, obliquely, with the American position. Not publicly of course, but in private, diplomats on all sides are attempting to contain the bellicose and fantastical pronouncements of Kim Jong-un.

There is of course a fundamental problem. Kim Jon-un is mad and is surrounded by madmen. He has also followed in the footsteps of other great dictators such as Stalin and made very certain that there can be no powerful opposition and no internal threat to his life.

This was the mistake Hitler made; he later regretted not liquidating the upper echelons of the military, whose codes of chivalry and honour and their arcane and recondite rituals were virtually impervious to the crude mechanisms and mores of National Socialism.

Kim Jon-un, as far as we know, has an iron grip on the military, who if anything want war more than he does.

So what to do about him? Nobody is taking his threats for nuclear war as a joke. It does not matter how effective his arsenal is, it exists and can do damage, particularly to South Korea. Moreover, it could conceivably escalate into world war should the USA ignore the Russians and Chinese in order to retaliate on behalf of the South Koreans.

The stakes are high and all the more frightening because the man at the centre of it is a 30 year-old nut job with a certain desire to take the whole edifice down with him if it came to it.

We can only hope that the major world powers are, as I write, discussing every scenario and coming to some kind of agreement about containing the crisis.