Friday, 12 October 2012

Right About Turn

Why is it that when things get tough, humanity takes a blinding swerve to the right, towards Conservatism? Is it through fear? A overwhelmingly urge to protect what is yours and damn the rest of them? Does the trait of self-sacrifice get chopped down like a rotting husk of bark and morph into a malignant sense of self-preservation?

We look here, at home, in the UK, where a bunch of careful quaffed, dandy rotters are busy dismantling one of the oldest and most vast universal healthcare schemes in the world, because it's apparently needing an injection of corporate competition... because, yes, healthcare is a competition supposedly, and if you are a bit poor then that ever expanding tumour in your belly can just sit there a little bit longer than if it was hanging about in some executive director from Ruislip. And, yes, apparently we need some third party behemoth of a company dictating and providing all our essential needs when their interest in patient care is somewhere on a list below the soup they provide in their office canteen. The NHS on the other is public, funded by us, accountable by us. Their vested interest is in us, the better they treat, the less we need to come back, the less money they spend having to treat repeated patients. Does the system need to be updated? Of course it bloody does, the fact that there is a postcode lottery on medications shows it does. Ageing populations, societal changes, dietary and lifestyles changes are all adding to their workload... but bringing in an third part from fucking Ginsters isn't going to provide the system with the changes required. 

Patient care and the healthcare of a nation is not up for fucking corporate sponsorship. Our health is not a 'brand.' The last thing I want is a system in the same line as the US, where people are declined life saving treatments from their insurance company because they failed to declare a wet fart they had three years previously, all in the name of PROFIT.
Yes, the US does provide good healthcare, but only to those who walk a very fine line, and there is no safety net beneath. To me, that is horrifying. 

We see austerity cuts, which  *talks out side of mouth* clearly aren't really working, to things like housing benefit and disability benefit, because the Conservative school of thought is that every one on benefits is a degenerate scrounger who is too busy watching Universal channel on Sky+ to go and seek a job.

I call bullshit. This constant chant of 'all benefit seekers are scroungers' is getting old and, not too mention, is wildly inaccurate. Now I can probably hear a few people scream that I am probably one of these benefit scroungers.... WRONG. I am in full time employment, and have spent all of three weeks of my 24 year life span on jobseekers allowance. My family are all full time employed, as are my friends. So no, this is not some cry from the victimised group, this is a grumble from a person who is sick of the vulnerable being shit on from a great height.

It would be wrong of me to say that the system is clean, that there are no scroungers, because that would be stupidly idiotic. I know somebody who, a few years ago was claiming jobseekers allowance but he couldn't afford his rent so took cash in hand jobs elsewhere. It does happen, but I don't think the fundamental problem is with the benefits... it's with the job sector as a whole.

As a country, we could be deemed to be a low-wage nation. Those at the bottom, the waiters, the shop assistants, the cleaners, all on minimum wage, barely scrape by and most of them subsidise their costs with housing benefit , council tax benefit, working tax credits etc. Many of these people could be better off if they just threw in the towel, and that is where the problem lies. It's not about REDUCING benefits so they are less of an incentive not to work, it's about raising wages so that they can cover the BASIC living requirements so people won't NEED to claim any benefits. A person on 24 hour a week contract on minimum wage can't even hope to cover everything (rent, bills, food, transport) to live and therein lies the problem. Though, you can see all the big companies throwing their arms in the air, wobbling their jowls and muttering that they wouldn't be able to afford it. 

We look to the US, who, after the vague return to sense through Obama after the Bush debacle, are now considering voting a billionaire machine man into the White House. A man who queried why there weren't windows in aeroplanes, who changes his stance on tax more times than he changes his skidded underwear. THIS man, could be the next President of the United States. There seems to be a strange vibe that comes from America, but this is probably because I'm an idiot European, that if you don't have thousands/millions of dollars in your bank account then you haven't been trying at life hard enough, that you haven't been paying your way, that because you haven't built a multi-million company from the million dollars in your dad's account you are somehow a drain on the country's resources, and you are a pathetic human being for doing so. 

Romney argues that Obama hasn't done enough to help America out of recession or to reduce the country's debt. Well apart from spending less than the previous four presidents, reducing unemployment and at least TRYING to to implement a form of universal healthcare....Hmm. Saying that Obama is nowhere near perfect , but Romney though... REALLY?

We look to Greece, where a neo-nazi party gained nearly 10% of votes in recent elections. Where racism and jingoism is once again on the rise against the backdrop of a crippled economy.

So what is then? What makes us do this? 

Well it seems as a species, when things get tight, difficult, the money starts to stagger in its flow, we close ranks. We huddle and build fortresses around ourselves and our personal possessions. We look outwardly for a cause, we cast a finger, pointing at the unknown quantity and deride them for our troubles. The immigrants, the disabled, the poor... yes, yes, it's all their fault. Many don't seem to bother to look at our own values and actions to see if it's there that we find the flaw. No, no, we'll just batter and demoralise those that we do not understand. 

Because humanity is a pompous beast, hiding a fear of looking at itself before launching into a war with those who have the audacity to need help and show any form of weakness. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Things That Have Pissed Me Off This Week.

- Running out of spam
- People
- Cutting my finger with a bread knife
- People
- Holes in my shoe
- People

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Suppose He's Got a Pointed Stick...

A year. An entire year. One long stretch consisting of just a tiny increment over 12 months. That's how it has been since I graced this blog with my presence, and judging by the haughty way it has welcomed me back, with it's forever loading pages and spammy comments, I reckon that it may have quite enjoyed the rest and certainly doesn't want me disturbing its deep slumber.

I would like to say things have changed. They have to a certain extent. I have finally relieved myself of duties as my parents lodger, moving to a bland, overwhelmingly beige flat on the outskirts of the city. It's pleasant and at a reasonable price, and I have the bonus of not being woke up in the morning by a wavering groan and the booming flush of a toilet, which would haunt my dreams sleeping with my head next to the adjoining wall to the toilet in my parents house. I wish I could say that this has improved my tidying up skills; it hasn't. My clothes still make a beautiful floor-based mosaic of black, purple and blue, and my socks STILL SOMEHOW worm their way down the side of my bed and make nest against the wall. I may have moved, but I have brought some bad habits with me.

Apart from the heave ho to another suburb, very little has happened. It's like I've been on autopilot for the last two/three years, mooching and plodding around the city like a lobotomised turtle. Even my tits, usually such a reliable source of growth and movement, have been hanging, quite literally, in limbo.

I've moved, but only to the next patch of foggy indifference with extremely poor signage. I'm not really quite sure what I want to do at this moment in my life. My ambitions are either so ludicrous that I find myself laughing and pointing at my idiotic face in the mirror, its wobbly features hanging despondently, or they are as about as feasible as trying trying to cut wood with a rubber spoon.

Admittedly, money and time play a large part. If I am to progress or get further qualifications, I would have to leave my job and get another with more flexibility, but I have more of a chance finding gold in my shit than finding such a job in this climate. And if I were to get a different job it would have to cover the costs of living in the flat, and then I have to take into account that if I was going to do a possible part time course, I would have to also pay fees for that.

Would I have the money? Would I have the resources? Or would I have to go back to my parents (which I don't particularly want to do no matter how much I love my mam's lamp chops)? The job I would particularly love to do requires me to go back to college for one year, then back to University for another 3... which in today's money equates to about £120,000,000 or something like that.

Yes, I have savings, but that would get me about 15 bars of Diary Milk if the price of chocolate is anything to go by. And I'm already in a nice chunk of debt thanks to my wonderfully pointless first degree.

If I was to hazard a guess, I would say around 1/3 of the young people in my age group are in the same 'Wuthering Heights'-esque mess of situation, floundering upon a densely fogged hilltop, their coats flapping in the wind, their ipod headphone wafting across their shoulders, shouting and bellowing for help. "Jobs!", they cry. "Opportunity!", they weep. "Education!", they wail. "FUCKS SAKE!", they scream.

But I digress, because I am giving myself an ulcer.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Review: Build A Rocket Boys! by Elbow

After the relentless adulation piled onto their previous record, you'd forgive Elbow for using the next release to sit back, to churn out the same twelve/thirteen tracks (depending on what version you picked up) but just in a different order. But Elbow are far too savvy, far too classy and have been working far too hard since their formation in the early 90s to try to pull that particular musical trick. So no, Build A Rocket Boys! is not the same as The Seldom Seen Kid, nor is it a jarring swerve out into the unknown, and in there lies its strength.

Unlike many bands who hit the big time, Elbow don't revert to regaling us with well worn tales of hacks, fans, and the difficulties of the fame and recognition. There's no Mr Writer, no Journalists Who Lie, no grandiose grandstanding of how hard it is when you have a few hundred thousand in your back pocket. Guy Garvey instead, sticks, rightly so, to the relatable. The stories of love, loss, friendship and society that shape our lives and build emotion. You will find no bitches and bling, no groupies or tour bus stories, here. And it all makes for an enthralling collection of songs.

Stand out track 'Lippy Kids' is a classic Elbow composition. Gentle synths give way to stirring strings as Garvey laments the demonization of today's youth, hanging on street corners, smoking cigarettes, with their 'simian stroll and hour long hungry kisses.' It's not an 'in your face', hook-ridden track but it's catchy in it's simplicity and beauty, and the rest of the album proceeds in similar vein.

In any other hands, the concepts and the ideas would seem mawkish and sentimental, see 'With Love' 'when your dentures prevent your smile/these adventures will/fill your eyes with love', but Elbow provide such honesty and reality to the proceedings that it's hard to not be dragged into it. And Garvey's voice, a physical manifestation of a melancholy bear howling at the moon, adds true depth and heart to each and every word that falls gracefully from his mouth.

If there was any track that could be classed as 'radio friendly' it would 'Neat Little Rows', and even then the lyrics, abstract and metaphorical 'Oh lord/landed gentry line up behind me', make this a not-so-straight forward slice of rock to chew on.

We travel through stories of lost dreams and a lost relationship on the delightfully low key 'The Night Will Always Win', 'well did you trust your noble dreams/and gentle expectations/to the mercy of the night/the night will always win.', to drunken ramblings to a stranger on the touching 'The River' 'I told him my sorrows/and broken down dreams.' and finish with a shimmering ode to friends in the aptly named 'Dear Friends', 'dear friends/you are angels and drunks/you are maji/old friends.' It's a tender, touching finish showing that Elbow don't need bombast and gimmicks to get into your heart.

No, there is no rabble rousing stadium anthem like 'Grace Under Pressure' or 'One Day Like This', though 'Open Arms' comes close,nor is there any foot stamping blues like 'Grounds For Divorce'. They haven't made a record to please their record label, nor to please the critics. This is a band record, a fans record.

It's the music Elbow would have made regardless of the fame, fortune and exposure. And that in itself makes this a damn fine record


Must Listen: Lippy Kids, High Ideals, The Night Will Always Win

Can Skip: The Birds (Reprise)

Saturday, 12 March 2011


Still alive... mmmm yes.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Do You Pay A Balance Off Every Month?

Well after several months of hating the world and generally everything in it, I have emerged from the other side unscathed, kind of..

But anyway, life is better. A hell of a lot better. I was just a bunch of cracked eggs, now I am omelette with extra cheese in the middle and everything.

I have left my job at the 'Well Know High Street Bank' (I am not allowed to give their name as I signed a 'Secrecy' Agreement meaning I can't go around telling everyone how shit aforementioned bank is in the public domain. But it is safe to say that everyone knows who they are because they seem to make the news every other day about something or other). It was, quite frankly, the shittest job I have ever been in, even beating my first job as scummy fitting room person at 'Well Known High Street Store' at the back end of 2005. The only saving grace being the colleagues, most of whom were a delight. Apart from that it was pure torture. A soul destroying, energy zapping, mood crushing pile of shite. Customers were either rude, obnoxious or thick, or a potent combination of all three. Shop workers were undeniably idiotic, especially weekend staff whose IQ hovered dangerously low towards single digits, and vastly unhelpful. The managers, bar a couple, were a bunch of halfwitted slow pokes who liked nothing better than to sit at their seats pretending to type or make important phone calls, when they were, in fact, on the phone to their parents/babysitter talking about bringing some fish and chips in for later.

I would have gone mad if I had stayed there. Mad being certifiably insane, and with a slight possibility of murder thrown in for good measure. I'm not a homicidal maniac, but some days I would sit and glare at my manager and wonder whether it was worth jabbing a pen into the side of his head, at least then there would have been one less oxygen thief in the world.

But I digress, I am out. Jumped ship. And now I have a month off before I start my new job at 'Well Known Insurance Company' in October. Probably be another banal and mind blending job, but it's better than sitting and picking my nose for the rest of my days. I think.

I just want a job in a fucking bookshop. That's my dream. A dusty old bookshop ála Black Books. But with a sober manager.

Being single has been odd to adjust to after over four years of seeing someone nearly every day. But alas, the dust has settled. I'm comfortable now, I've adjusted, admittedly still a little annoyed that I wasted so much time for nothing, but I am being all zen about this shit now. No point in being angry, just take a deep breath a carry on.

And on that floaty, somewhat meaningful note, I'm ending this. Too much ramble is rambly

Sunday, 6 June 2010

A Swift Change of Direction

Amazing how in the space of a few days, everything that you have built up can just come crashing down around you.

You've gone backwards and your stuck somewhere you don't want to be stuck in.

And no amount of boozing and chatting can make you get past the fact that there is really nothing worth your effort any more.

You've spent too long putting effort into things that yield no rewards. There's never anything to be found at the end of all the hard work and toil.

Something positive, something to acknowledge that you tried so fucking hard, that you did your best, is what you hope for.

You're pretty sure you won't get that.