Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bankers, Boyle and a Big Old Bell

So the (increasingly tedious) debate over Stephen Hester's bonus as head of Royal Bank of Scotland continues.
Newspapers, politicians and talk-radio stations grind over the rights and wrongs of giving a very rich man even more money.
Had he done enough to deserve it? Maybe he could give it to a charity for the impoverished wives of the chiefs of semi-nationalised banks? Maybe it was all Gordon Brown's fault?
But the handwringing and hubbub is surely of little relevance to ordinary "taxpayers," that increasingly select crowd of people still in work.
We are more than used to hearing about the stupendous riches of the elite, as we stare into the chasms of our overdrafts. A few bob in shaky RBS shares to an overweight banker is surely a drop in the ocean?
And I found it interesting that on the day this subject blew out of proportion, Olympics chiefs issued their latest slice of PR.
It offered scintillating details of the £27million opening ceremony. Newspapers breathlessly reported the themes of the enormous "Isles of Wonder" Shakespearean showdown.
Although the country could buy 27 Stephen Hesters with the cost of the ceremony's thrilling "tribute to the NHS" and other extravagances, few articles questioned this frivolous expenditure. We could pay the nurses a nice little bonus of their own with that amount of dosh.
But perhaps the country is just bored with the "cost of the Olympics" debate.
It does seem now that the country is more at ease spending tens of millions on "Europe's largest bell" and some BMX-influenced dance sequences than one million on a banker.
While I am delighted that Danny "Trainspotting" Boyle will be directing events, the whole exercise does feel like a mass brainwashing experiment that is finally reaping results.
The only thing we ask now is: Just how far will Boyle go to make sure the opening ceremony (attended by a great number of non-paying bankers and corporate folk)  goes to plan?
Will we see a scandal as in Beijing, where a pretty child lip-synched to another child's superior voice?
Perhaps the nurses will be too busy selflessly ensuring the "dignity" of elderly patients to attend? Some attractive models in nurses uniforms may have to be shipped in to fill the gaps.
As I sit watching, I know I'll be waiting for Ewan McGregor to be fired from a canon across the stadium to land in a filthy toilet pan at the feet of Kelly Holmes.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


Enough of all this fury - let's have some poems:

Tory Tandoori
Where once Norman Lamont would chew slowly on a samosa,
Where David Mellor, in his 90s heyday, would eye up the King prawn bhoonas
And John Major (sans Norma) would politely order a plain naan and korma.
Now, David Cameron, poised with a poppadom, dipped in mango chutney,
In the Tory Tandoori,
In Putney
But on week nights its full, of braying broad-shouldered youths
Fresh from the boats
Steal the oxygen from the air with their brash and beery boasts
Of watery outings on the Thames
Of catching crabs
And capsizing
On drunken night-time rows
Blades splashing across the brown depths.

Hair Dye
People in the public eye
No strangers to hair dye
David Cameron quick to deny
Suspiciously even chocolate locks.
Rebecca Brooks' white roots,
Still clinging to her job,
Resigned a red-topped Amazon goddess.
Today's a good day to bury grey hairs.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Napoleon's Toothbrush (Farewell to Welfare)

Since my confinement to one of the capital's dingier suburbs I have noticed more than ever the widening chasm between Central London and "the rest".
Popping into town now feels like a trip to another country, populated by an 8ft master race in excellent shoes.
In contrast to Walthamstow's "diverse" streets, every man you see walks with purpose as if in charge of something.
The women, long glossy hair resplendent, look vital and energised by some invisible force. Everywhere you look is white, wealthy, professional.
The streets are clean, the scores of high-end chains are private equity.Tramps are few and far between. It is now a sanitised capital where the rich rarely have to come face to face with the poor.
No longer the pangs of guilt as you pass a homeless person on the steps of the Hungerford Bridge. It is now a light-footed, conscience-free prance onto the Southbank's many cultural and consumer delights.
Happily, as a "memento poverty" there are still council estates, there are still poor people, tucked between the tourist sights and the endless museum cafes.
The observant Londoner may never truly forget his poorer brother's suffering. So-called "problem families" still live a mile from the science museum.
A Bangladeshi housewife living in a council flat off the Euston Road can still walk into the Wellcome Collection and admire Napoleon's toothbrush or Florence Nightingale's moccasins. Not that she necessarily would. But she could.
But the Government's proposed welfare reforms could see an end to all this.  Anyone who finds that £26,000 falls short, can simply "relocate" to a cheaper location. Houslow, perhaps. It will make that search for cleaning jobs all the easier, I'm sure.
Their thesis is that the poor should be intensely grateful for whatever they  receive. Even if this means being booted out of the only area they know and sent to Hull (see Croydon council's excellent plans to ship council house overspill to Yorkshire.) It's an insult to folks on benefits, and it's an insult to the North.
It is hard to believe the benefit cap will encourage mums of six to stop having children and get jobs. Childcare, for one thing, is simply too expensive.
Central London could move one step further towards being a completely sanitised bubble of affluence where the privileged are no longer forced to confront poverty, because it has been "shipped out".
Let's treat the poor like humans, not animals. Let them live three minutes from Napoleon's toothbrush if that is where they have made their home.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Tax breaks for Labrador owners

You're lucky if they are to be found lurching and panting at the end of a leash, hauling their sweat-panted owners behind them. But usually, they are charging around on their hideous little legs, foaming from their over-developed jaws and staring menacingly.
I always suspect that my overwhelming, paralysing fear and hatred of "status dogs" is perhaps misplaced - along with my fear of ladders, motorbikes, parachuting and aircraft.
But when I heard a girl had been mauled in a Chingford park this weekend - just miles from my home - I started to think that perhaps I am right.
When one or more of these beasts comes scampering into view, I have an overwhelming urge to riddle it's stocky little body with a thousand shotgun pellets.
If its owner tells me not to be scared, then promptly kicks the dog, I have an overwhelming desire to take out my Uzi and get going on them too. If an owner kicks the dog it means the dog is preparing its revenge on all of humankind and could lash out any moment.
An then there's running. I've actually attempted to climb a tree when confronted by a fighting dog whilst out for a jog. Somehow, I feel more vulnerable in shorts.
And I used to be such a nice person.
Maybe I should move to the country and get chased by a herd of cows (check!) or butted into the air by a horny old ram (check!)
I know it's hard for the Government to do anything about this - legislation is not something the status dog keeping classes are known to respect - but perhaps a disease could be developed which could quietly kill certain breeds off, like Dutch Elm?
Perhaps there could be tax breaks for Labrador owners? Vets' vouchers for the Springer Spaniel classes? Free food for the first year of life, if you invest in a Collie? The formidable "Staffies Are Lovely" movement, along with the "Mastiffs Are So Gentle" brigade would probably accuse the Government of "dog racism" on Twitter and Cameron would be forced to resign. This is looking like a good plan.
Forgive me God, for the dogs know not what they do, but allow me this moment of fury.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Racist Rant

Being white and left-ish I hate discussing the "issue" of racism. Despite belonging to a race, I still feel unqualified to comment. But, like talking about the English class system, I'm drawn towards this topic of conversation like a bored toddler to a living room cactus.
So, the Stephen Lawrence saga exposed the canker at the heart of the police and the evil of south London thugs. The recent imprisonment of two of those responsible for his death has brought hundreds of journalists out onto the streets asking passersby: "Is Britain less racist than it was 18 years ago?"
One BBC reporter practically wet his public school-boy pants when he stumbled across a racist old codger happy to use the the "n" word on the 10 O'Clock news.
Other reporters went as far as talking to real live BLACK PEOPLE to get their view on the matter. Bemused BLACK PEOPLE said they weren't sure how racist things were now, but some blokes did get stopped by the police rather often.
And then, amidst the hubbub and handwringing, Diane Abbott comes out with some nonsense on Twitter about white people "dividing and ruling". It was something along the lines of Jeremy Clarkson saying all striking public sector workers "should be shot". A childish furore ensues and any serious discussion of racism in Britain today has been washed down the waste disposal unit like an American Thanksgiving turkey.
It's probably because the issues surrounding "racism" are so complex and awkward that public debate always boils down to simple slinging of the proverbial mud. And because the debate is so simplistic, so black and white (if you'll pardon the pun) any solutions the Government comes up with are knee-jerk, simplistic and completely ineffectual.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year, Same Old Perineum

Having barely published a post all year, it is with a heavy heart that I approach my inevitable "Review of the Year". Inspired by the endless 2011 run-downs filling the holidaying media this week, I will give you some of my highlights. They don't mention the Arab uprising, by the way. Or Gaddafi (which, incidentally, should be spelled Qaddafi, if you want a bit more of a proper Arabic accent.)

So, best things for me were, in no particular order:

Rebekah Brooks' hair
Watching Carpetright burn down during the riots
Kate Middleton's Royal Wedding Hair
Burlusconi's hair weave
Andrew Neil's hair weave
Steve Coogan's Shakespearean barnet

Oh dear. This seems to be a review of the year in hair. With a slight diversion towards carpets/riots. So be it.

Is it weird to enjoy Leveson this much?

Over the endless weeks of breastfeeding and interminable nappy changes, one thing has surely brightened up my days. The Leveson inquiry. Oh what a strange, perverted joy it has been to behold Sky news. While the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor failed to entice me in any way, this massive public whinge about the tabloids has provided fabulous entertainment in itself. I do wonder though, is it just me who is transfixed, just journalists, or people in general? Do I simply not get out enough?
So, the papers were bad making entertainment out of people's lives. Am I bad to take great entertainment from people complaining that entertainment was made out of their lives? Get me to a media studies course and sign me up for a job in a call centre.