hello and goodbye

Twelve boxes already packed. Piles of letters – financial institutions, many unopened, copies of Liberal Democrat News I’ll get round to shredding at some point…A charity-shop set of books ordered by shape and size rather than popularity. Clothes to wear over the next two weeks, clothes to consider donating, or throwing, or wearing for the first time in weeks. Moving house is one of the stresses of life for which evolution did not prepare us – like fixing plugs. Or eating instant noodles. Or caravaning.

Internet access will be sporadic over the next few weeks, so this is an update as much adieu. Or “see thee”, if you prefer. Recommended to buy a “dongle” by somebody over the past week, my Google search brought up assorted images which cannot be unseen.

There continues work to be done. And packing, so much packing. This blog will be maintained as best and far as possible, for the people who visit here (who, incidentally, I want to thank for returning, from Idaho to the Philippines via Uddingston, you continue to make this blog all the better)

Somewhere in the back of my mind clutters and collects dates, financial affairs, and the logistics of moving. Total confusion, in other words, scattered around in a soup of many flavours. I’ll attempt to write it all down at some point….

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Michael Jackson and the strange isolation

Michael Jackson jokes flooded through the internet, and office gossip, with all the sharp wit and bad taste expected. Masturbation, Madeleine McCann, and monkeys all mixed with the still very recent (and very much real life) death of a superstar. Reality is in some form of suspension, a matter of strange isolation, in this age where death is greeted with Facebook groups and spam-email. I was invited to join a group called, “Joining the group will bring Maddy back” within days of the young girl’s disappearance, as though the act of signing up was as effective – if not more so – than going out assisting with the search. Similarly with voting too, with more anti-BNP group members than voters…

The death of Elvis or John Lennon was not greeted in ways too far removed from the massed groups seen outside the hospital yesterday. These days we have grown numb and isolated from the realities of death and injury, the main ingredients of television news, from Baghdad to the disused railway lines of a nameless town. In Derbyshire, onlookers cheered on a suicidal young person before uploading the jump on YouTube – such is the numb, almost ignorant reaction and relationship to death beyond the flickering screen.

Cracking jokes about Michael Jackson’s death before the official announcement was announced is certainly in bad taste, but gallows humour and cynical attitudes to celebrity have always existed. The celebs of today, as here-today, gone-tomorrow as they may be, are possibly disposable enough to avoid the onslaught. Of course it’s not clever or big, but a well-phrased, properly told joke has the effect of causing laughter, whether or not it’s a weak play-on-words or twisted take on current affairs. Humans don’t like knowing their celebrity icons are weak or able to die or suffer bankruptcy: jokes are the reaction, the building of a wall from reality. I cannot lie – some made me guffaw, but I would not be human if I did not have a sense of humour. Only then would I be truly isolated…

Question Time – news doesn’t stop…

During a highly charged debate on BBC Question Time about the proposed ban on the burqa in France, news started to filter through Twitter and blogs about Michael Jackson. Some newspapers – okay, the New York Times and gossip blogs – declared he was dead long before the mainstream media. In a peculiar way, the argument on Question Time occurring while such headlines were breaking in real time made the whole situation all the more bizarre and unreal. The “prince of pop”, such a troubled and complex man, such an enigmatic talent, taking the headlines and news-time over the discussion and debate to be had today, tomorrow, and in every pub across the land.

Gossip spreads faster on-line, and in this modern age it seems a well worded Facebook status and spam email can heal some kind of mental wound. Bad-taste jokes spread like mould – some phrased well enough to raise a smile regardless of taste.

Celebrity has a certain wealth, a heavy pressure, wiping from the screens death in Iran, alleged fraud in Parliament…The strength of the famous stars, so shocking when they are shown to be as fragile humans as the fans who pay their wages.

And the burqa? Onwards with the debate on freedom of speech and expression. For the time being the headlines sidestep any forensic debate while they focus on Michael Jackson…

Glasto Ferret

Preston’s Mad Ferret is hosting its regular antidote to cramming in a bus down south with another “Glasto Ferret”, this year packed with more emerging talent than a fire-drill at the studios for Britain’s Next Top Model. From whom, I have picked some tasty names for delight, but this weekend there’s the promise of ice-cream from a real-life frozen pudding truck in addition to the bands, beats, and beer. Anymore could you ask in all honesty…?

Mindshock are the definition of intriguing, the unique vocal twang (think Brandon Flowers with hiccups) setting a serious slant to leftfield songs. Their new EP “Dream Story” is on offer a iTunes and should be a vital purchase.

Raucous riff-crazed The Adventures of Loki are all the fun of British Bulldogs in the playground, with more playful boy/girl on-stage action than would be permitted overseas. When they suggest listeners “Dance Like A Maniac” only space disallows doing just that – the punching melodies are just half the story. For a full spec, they must be watched live – nay, witnessed – with anticipation turned higher than the speakers.

No festival, anywhere, can occur without madcap beardy loving, so ensuring all daughters are zipped securely away, The Loungs are one combine harvester away from perfection. With the full brass and cheery harmonies any sane person could ask for, this is the kind of sound you don’t know you’ll regret missing unless you do.

Underdogs have the sincerity and presence to convince you that they’re running through your favourite songs, such is the strength of their infections, intelligent set. Dragging indie through strip-clubs and backstreet bars to toughen it up a little, avoidance of this highly impressive band is probably going to be harder the way things are going.

Swooning and sweeping melodies, the very sound of Kate Bush playing hopscotch in the rain, Sophie’s Pigeons are alluring and magnetic, quite the curtain-twitchingly curious. In most cases they are not even trying to be impressive, the piano-led abundance of fun pours out sounding perfectly natural and feeling positively renewing.

Throughout the weekend from 26-28th June, there are over a dozen more outstanding groups from nearabouts, enough to tempt you from Wimbledon, clearing out the cupboards, or spending time with any significant other (they’ll understand….)

My £5 banknote suggestion

The series of banknotes known as “Series F” was launched two years ago with the distinctive purple/blue redesign of the £20. This features Adam Smith, economist and so-called “grandfather of capitalism”.

Last month, the Bank of England announced the new £50 will feature, for the first time, two Britons on the reverse; James Watt and Matthew Boulton. To keep the conspiracy theorists amused, the note will have the quote “I sell what all the world desires to have… POWER” on the reverse, ellipsis and capitals included.

This timetable suggests the Olympic year of 2012 – oh, now there’s a subject for discussion – will be the next launch date, possibly for the fiver currently showcasing Elizabeth Fry. Having considered the number of people it would be appropriate to highlight – and clearly Brunel is going to have to wait his turn for the high value denominations he deserves – I have found someone who could be the perfect “new face”.

Ignatius Sancho is the composer, writer, and actor I had never heard of before: indeed, the reported first ever black voter in an English election, a claim I had never been made aware of before either. My brief understanding of his life – with a hat-tip to Wikipedia – suggests the kind of life celebrated and enjoyed by Britons before and since. The specifics may be unique to him, but for a symbol of struggle, hard work, and achievement, he is just as proud and fine a figure than most. As the “African Man of Letters”, his representation as the first Black Briton on a Bank of England banknote would be a superb moment in history.

Let the BoE allow banknotes to be a tool for education in addition to spending; let Ignatius Sancho feature on a redesigned five pound bank-note.

Speaker priority – a new election

The election of a new Speaker of the House of Commons (being covered by many on-line sources, including Iain Dale and of course Twitter, shows just how much modernisation is required in our “mother of all Parliaments”. Each round of voting takes hours due to the continued reluctance to introduce electronic voting. The only candidate to speak of social media and outreaching to members of the public was Gloucester’s Parmjit Dhanda, for his efforts voted out in the first round.

Whoever is chosen – I fear Bercow, I would welcome Young – the first modernising priority would be to use all existing powers, and any others he or she could be given by Parliament – to ensure a general election is called before the year is out. This country has no trust in the institutions of democracy. The Speaker of the House of Commons is not a role with any relevance to many people in the country who have not forgotten – are not likely to forget – the expenses scandal.

Faith in the political process comes from real change, honesty, and accepting the need to renew rather than review – to press, if you like, fast-forward, not pause. The sensible way forward is to accept that this Parliament has been tainted for good, its reputation sullied. A new election is not just for the political anorak – it is for the good of the nation.

BBC Question Time

Blogger Iain Dale tells us that 22 Labour ministers were too scared to turn up on BBC Question Time. As it goes, the show tonight was quite interesting. And not a blanked ████, ████, or ████ ████ at all in sight.

On expenses, the same old story has moved on with the on-line publication of expenses with most detailed “redacted”. Of course the lines were – it’s not our fault, it’s the system. Fair play to Liberal Democrat Ed Davey on showing signs of openness. I am not sure Esther Rantzen, coming across as a member of the “Bleeding Obvious Party”, will not go through the streets of Luton being welcomed by all if she maintains her matronly attitude.

Ken Clarke attempted to dig himself and his party out of the problems with leaving the EPP-ED. The problem with the European Parliament is the fixed number of parties and people needed to form a valid group. David Cameron’s Conservatives are going to have to sit with some extreme and prejudiced people from the East. He will learn to regret his desire not to sit among the more credible Christian Democrats.

Gordon Brown’s decision to blather “10 per cent!” every response was rightly given the thumbs down. We are a nation in serious debt, almost entirely because of Gordon Brown’s personal mistakes and mishandling of our finances. Of course this nation is going to have to cut back on spending, either that or higher taxes. Some honesty, as ever, will be welcomed.

Question Time remains somewhat outdated – suggesting Ceefax rather than Twitter, for example. But the topics remain as up to date and relevant as ever. What a pity that our Labour Cabinet (those cowardly █████) could not be bothered to answer to anyone.

death to politicians, and also me

So, another dream of note. Its conclusion woke me up – Gordon Brown and I think Alan Duncan but could have been someone else – in a business or shop of some kind. The owner burst through a door, killing us all with three clean gun shots to the head. Focusing here on something other than me dreaming of our Prime Minister, work instead on the hyper-realism of some of the details – shimmer of light against the windows of passing traffic, the headmasterly click-scrape-click of shoes against pavement. We ended up talking about voting reform, I think, but prior to this I am sure that the men to whom I was talking – and in my dreams they may have been a representation of Mssrs Brown and Duncan – were bouncing and skipping along elevated platforms at one point.

The assassination was a conclusion to a sprawling mass of narrative. A very attractive and buxom young woman was the lead character of an entertaining musical in which I played no part. As though the brain was channel-hopping, I watched as she stole money through some form of credit card scam, than sang about it during a song-and-dance number straight from the most camp Broadway show imaginable. Quite what this long entertaining passage (three, five, maybe more minutes, or so I perceived) was doing filtering through my consciousness I cannot gather.

I wake with a murmur of babbling recollection. Dreams fading from a stained colour to white-noise, and then disappear into translucent frames vanishing into the air. Silence of a deeper, darker form rests in the room. Onwards, push the important thoughts and considerations, onwards away from dance routines and death. Far more relevant things to consider now…For one, dreaming about Gordon Brown, good lord….

Focus on turnout

Chairman Nick Griffin (sic) sent me an email a few days ago, the result of some mailing list faux pas which I will not overlook just this once. Its invitation was to the BNP “Victory Rally” at a hotel in Blackpool. Only a fiver, less than the train fare there, that’s for sure, and there’ll be drinks and a comedian (a “turn” in the summer season tradition, no doubt). Democrat that I am, the email was forwarded to people I felt had a great interest in maintaining close links to the BNP and their victory rallies. Good to feel involved, you know, make them feel welcome. Today a second email arrives, full of fascinating details. It’s almost tempting to know what makes a “super star” in the British National Party: do you have to cycle against an Olympian or score penalties at Wembley? There’s a comedian too, Franky Waller. He seems to have nothing on the internet introducing him. He could be very good, of course, go down well at the end of the pier.

Turnout among the welcoming committee should be fairly healthy. Far more than the number of people sat with me in the Annexe Room of South Meadow Lane Hindu Temple last night, as part of the Council’s on-going injured dog ordeal that is “Area Forums”. Started a few years ago with no little Liberal Democrat support, they’ve turned into expensive talking shops, a form of alternative venue for Labour Councillors to chat amongst each other. Two people – including me – turned up, outnumbered by the eleven officers and elected officials. Last week the Area Forum for the western area was held in the middle of a dog show. My cost cutting advice would be to merge them with PACT meetings, but what do I know? Councillors should be on the streets every day and every night, reconnecting with members of the public who need reassuring that local government is not about, well, expensive (£6 per member, per hour, at least) meetings in empty halls.

I know that my email junk filter has never been so valuable. God bless the democratic system…

trauma in dream

Dreams are, mostly, collections of thoughts and memories sewn together by a thin and sprawling narrative. Weight and meaning is negligible. Within an hour of waking images from them fade into translucent frames of memory at the back of the mind. There is a dull, persistent throb in my head, I notice, pulsing.

In the dreams melting from instant recall, a market with an unusual layout over many floors and layers; a doctor’s waiting room with a number of entrances, into which I would enter with a silent comedian’s grace. Moments of hyper-realism in dreams always interests me – each colour and style on fabric stalls, seeing potatoes being sliced, the shimmer of water on the backs of dead fish. Having to walk through a procession of actors in costume, even sense the stutter in the walk as some blocked my path. Somewhere (or time) else in the dream a journey around a dismantled railway line, and a swooping camera shot straight from the hyperactive cinema.

The meaning of all this is clear, at least deep down. Many elements are, of themselves, meaningless; memories given a storyline as though cut-and-spliced and glued together. The resulting floatlessness knocks me, the remaining grip of sleep tightens, pinches. My natural reaction is to assume meaning, even warning, but I should know better than that.

From the corner of one eye, subtitles flash across the screen like painted snails.