Eton Mess


(1st April 2015)

For years I have dismissed all claims of bias at the BBC… I’ve always assumed that if it is accused of leftward leanings by the right, and right-wing tendencies by the left it must be ploughing a nice straight furrow. The fact that much of the free world admires, and much of the less free world listens to the BBC World Service is another indicator that Auntie Beeb deserves to be a trusted source.

But now the old girl’s skirts are revealing more of her petticoats.

The fact is that this peculiarly British institution has been rocky for a while now. That sex offenders have stayed hidden under her skirts was distressing enough and then lately we have watched it struggle to do the decent thing when the decent thing could cost them £150M!

But what is now worrying me is the extent to which domestic politics is not a matter of reporting facts, but commenting on what politicians say or claim or appear to support.

The cracks have been appearing for a while but now a chasm has opened wide. Of late, night after night I have seen TV coverage of speeches made by the Prime Minister, Chancellor and others, with a bit of comment. I have then seen reports on what the leader of the opposition or his shadow cabinet have said with, maybe, a tiny snatch of footage. This has invariably been followed by lots of comment, often rubbishing whatever the opposition claims.

Moreover, I’ve seen an awful lot of interviewers and some seem to be childishly enamoured of those with the real power, and unnecessarily rude to those seeking it. The worst cases are where every answer given is cut into halfway through the answer.

Of course I want politicians challenged and we all know they often strive to give an answer to a question that has not been put, while assiduously avoiding answering the one that has. On the other hand when they seem, at least to me, to be answering in fairly short order they are still cut off

I’m getting more than a bit fed up with the arrogance of some interviewers. If a politician doesn’t accept their premise they hector and hector and hector. Should they not be acting as our agents and getting politicians to say it how they see it and answer straight questions.

Having said all the above I should not really be surprised. If all your senior editors and reporters went to the same fee-paying school as many of the current cabinet is it any wonder that they share a view of the world which, crudely, sees everything in monetary terms and is imbued with the same unshakeable belief that those whose parents paid high fees are meant to rule!

Greens, Labour, Scottish and Welsh Nationalists all share one thread, and that is that society should be fairer and governed by notions of the collective good not by championing profit above service. Even many deluded UKIP supporters, despite their symbol, think that ordinary people should be listened to above the interests of the wealthy.

Red Ed said it the other day… the nation is not doing well unless ordinary working (and un-waged) people are doing well.

We are a nation dominated by the class war even although we have been in denial for decades.

There are rules about monopolies, and rules about overseas players in various sports. I’d like to see rules about the backgrounds of politicians AND the political editors, interviewers and reporters employed by national institutions!

Fatcat Fandom


Our sycophantic, loyalist, celebrity-loving culture creates monsters! Never in our entire history has this been so obvious. There are a couple of rather mawkishly sentimental programmes on British TV that celebrate genuine heroes. Real people dedicating their lives to service or incredibly brave individuals who risk their own lives for the sake of others. There are also dozens and dozens of programmes catering for our inane adoration of anyone who becomes prominent regardless of the reason why they are drawn to our intention.

Fine jobbing actors, internationally known film stars rub shoulders in our mind’s eye with presenters of daytime quiz shows on barely watched TV channels, subjects of reality TV shows and even people disgraced for, or accused of corruption. The Hamiltons, Jordans and TOWIEs apparently deserve our attention more than war heroes or carers. Spend a lifetime looking after the sick or disabled and you will not even be acknowledged in your street, take cash for questions or over bloat your mammary glands and you will be lauded in every street in the land!

Of course, its all a bit of fun, isn’t it?

That my friends, is further from the truth than my desk lamp is from Alpha Centauri!

Ingrained into our cultural psyche is the propensity to genuflect at royalty. If we examine the reality behind royalty we will find that they are the descendants of land-grabbing thugs. Royalty became established in an age when having the biggest club or the mind-set to wield it without a second thought, made you a leader of men, and. Crucially, passed the power you had grabbed on to your progeny. Position was inherited along with the booty you had blagged and the land you had grabbed. Down the line a bit and you persuaded your kow-towing followers to take up arms against the neighbouring robber baron. Soon, enough robber barons were subdued and allowed to survive if they served you, for you to claim the right to rule in perpetuity. Hierarchies have a vested interest in allowing a trickle of upward mobility so that the masses at the foot of the pyramid can be persuaded that one day they too could be kings… but only if they play by the rules.

Some clever so and so managed to add god into the equation, arguing, no doubt, that as god was in charge of everything and had allowed the king to be king it was truly gods will and anyone in opposition was both traitor and blasphemer.

The British people have spent centuries so sucked into this charade that even today the majority believe that having a monarch is a good thing. By the same blueblood token they also believe that royalty and even aristocracy are, somehow, better then the rest of us just by the dubious heritage of having stolen land from ordinary people centuries ago, or perhaps having been the illegitimate progeny of a sovereign.

Historically kings, queens and nobles also mopped up any wealth left lying about by unwary peasants. Along with being able to de-flower a peasant bride just before her nuptials feudal lords were paid a proportion of any wealth their vassals produced every year. As there were lots of peasants and only one lord he became wealthy. So wealth and blue blood went together and we remain unhealthily impressed by rich people, regardless of how they acquire their money.  This idiocy pervades most of the western world with many cultures just as in awe of wealthy criminals as they are by those who get their money through legal (although often immoral) means.

Since the first days of a universal press us hoi polloi have been sold the pup that fame and fortune go hand in hand, so we admire people for having one or both. Thus the half-century or so of TV programmes has given us a myriad of famed, infamous or TV exposed individuals that we have fallen at the feet of as if they are heroic figures.

As monarchy is so close to deity we cannot imagine that they can be human let alone ordinary. We adore them so much that we attribute almost supernatural powers… surely the queen never uses a toilet and probably has a servant who farts for her!

The fact that monarchy’s offspring and minor relations squander the national wealth taking helicopter flights to get their toenails cut or using a limo to pop to the corner shop for a packet of fags is, by most of us excused.

So wealthy, famous and powerful people become, by degrees, immune to the law.

Many, because they are so adored by so many believe in their invulnerability and act in a way that we would not forgive in our friends and neighbours. Haughtiness seems next to godliness and as they are such modern wonders we can believe no evil could touch them. Even when some clearly do do evil things they remain immune because of who they are.

So a succession of famous people are now demonstrated to have been the worse sort of criminals. There is, in our society (and rightly so in my opinion) nothing more reviled than the paedophile. Yet for decades rich, powerful and famous people have indulged the perverted desires, sometimes in plain sight and have not been castigated, caught and punished.

This truly shameful state of affairs is slowly being exposed, along with the fact that many less famous and even more powerful people have, for years, exploited children for their own evil ends.

This is societies sickness and will not be eradicated until and unless we see what our part in it is. No-one should be above the law or our collective morality and yet that state of affairs continues to have us in its grasp. Why else would half a million people sign a petition to stop the sacking of someone who has several times clearly demonstrated his arrogant disdain, racism and jingoistic tendencies. How can so many people believe that the presenter of a TV programme about cars should be allowed to mock the afflicted (Gordon’s one eye), taunt a nation (Argentina) or throw hissy fits if his rich man life style is asked to have a night off.

When the answer is NOT the answer


Why is it that authorities and individuals come up with solutions to problems which actually accept the legitimacy of the problem?

When women are being attacked by a serial rapist in an area they are urged not to walk alone at night. This turns the victim into the person responsible for the crime and its only one step from there to it being said that ‘she only has herself to blame’! Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!

I’ve just read an article about illegal bird trapping on Cyprus much of which takes place on British Bases. The practice has been illegal for decades but a leading bird protection society is urging the base (and other areas of the island) to remove acacia scrub which is used as cover by the trappers. Now it could be that acacia is an invasive species that should be eradicated… but the fact that it attracts millions of tired migrants is not the issue. The issue is that organised crime are trapping birds which are later sold for consumption by selfish idiots who can only buy them illegally or which are illegally served in restaurants.

The problem are the consumers, traffickers and trappers!

Imagine if East African countries were urged to remove forest to stop poachers hiding there when they want to shoot elephants! The problem that needs to be tackled are the selfish idiots who want to buy ivory carvings, the commercial buyers of illegal ivory and the poachers not the forest!

Blaming the forest for hiding the elephants would be seen by most as completely bonkers… yet women are cleared from the streets and acacia scrub cleared from Cyprus rather than the authorities given more resources to catch criminals and the rest of us urged to re-think out attitudes.

I think the branch is about to break as I seem to be so far out on a limb all the time!

Celebrity Cult Claptrap


There used to be film stars… people that Hollywood put into lead roles in their films because they were good looking, or sexy or just looked the part. They were contracted to make a number of films for a studio and therefore often played roles they were ill suited too or were far above their acting ability. Moreover, every so often a body was plucked from the stage because of their fame and parachuted into a film role. Here they enunciated and bellowed as if needing to whisper to the upper circle and allow every nuance of the plot to be telegraphed via their faces

Thankfully this is almost a thing of the past and acting skills are a million miles further along the road and performances in even minor roles are realistic, engaging and emotive.

But that is for blockbusters and art films or superior TV drama. Hundreds of TV channels ill the airways with formulaic dross from which arise not stars but short lived meteorites that flash across the screen so fast that if you are not watching that obscure channel or daytime slot pass by unnoticed. Yet they have, in that instant, become celebrities.

Minor actors, documentary subjects, panel game contestants and ‘reality’ TV participants earn fame enough to acquire the label, sufficient for them to turn on the Christmas lights in Frinton-on-sea, open a supermarket in Aston-under-Lyne or become a contestant on a ‘star-studded’ edition of a celebrity game show.

My better half reads a daily newspaper and some magazines, so I am forever asking her who the so-called celebrities are who appear on a panel or take part in the sort of inane show I relax to.

Answers will come back such as ‘Oh, he was a finalist in X-factor three years ago’ or ‘She was thrown out of Big Brother the year before last, for making a racist remark’ or some other 15 minute fame slot that now constitutes celebrity.

I do not begrudge these people their moments in the limelight. Nor do I mind that some ‘towie’ wannabe cashes in to do something odd on ice or be ridiculed on a panel game. After all, he or she may be so thick that they are virtually unemployable and a guest appearance on a daytime potboiler saves the state the cost of keeping them in bejazzle beads or hair gel.

What I really resent ‘though are the minor actors and actresses, presenters and pundits who get to travel the world and stay in luxury hotels in exotic locations… in some show purporting to be a documentary.

An ageing actress gets to live on a dessert island surrounded by noddies and tropic birds; a soap star gets to jet off to Costa Rica or a daytime panel pundit gets to sample sailing the Greek Islands in search of the perfect villa.

Most of the time they have no idea about nature or history or culture and were picked purely for their well-known face. I resent it because I could have done it better but am far too ugly to consider.

[Recently a relative took part on a TV quiz show. He was told what to wear and what not to. Told he had to stand and clearly picked for looking the part. Producers and directors do not chose fat middle aged cripples unless they are ‘celebrities’.]

Everything that happens on screen seems to be in line with some formula or orthodoxy… not for the benefit of the audience. How often do cameras zoom in on a landscape painting until you cannot make out the figures meant to be viewed from ten feet away? How often do TV directors look intently at a contestant when the quiz question they are struggling with could be shown to test us watchers?

I tell you what… lets all put our names in a giant hat and be picked next time such a slot needs filling. Either that or get a celebrity who has great enthusiasm to learn (like Sue Perkins on the Mekong) or is an expert in the subject matter (like Bill Baily on Wallace) or has a feel for the weird and quirky (like Paul Merton in China).

While you are at it Mr TV Producer, dump the boring travellers whom we are supposed to care about whether they get from A to B by camel, and ditch boorish, racist, elitist and thoroughly obnoxious, overpaid car enthusiasts!

Oh Well!


Fleetwood Mac once sang…

I can’t help about the shape I’m in
I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin
But don’t ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh well. I’m not really bothered what anyone thinks of me. Perhaps it’s a male thing, but I don’t give a toss what I look like. I recently visited an audiologist hoping to get some improvement in my one good ear. I walked out with a minor miracle of a device that turns certain pitches that I cannot hear, into others that I can. Throughout the consultation I kept being told things such as ‘its barely noticeable’ and ‘the hearing aid is very discrete’ and so forth. I really couldn’t care less.

You can’t judge a book by its cover… true, but 99% of us do just that all day, twenty four seven!

So, the world that sees me is one that labels in a prejudiced and harmful way and is incapable of seeing beyond the surface to the person inside the body. Being somewhat bent over, paunchy, greying and with a dress sense that would make Wurzle Gummage seem sophisticated I am constantly judged. My physical condition is such that tight clothes are not just undesirable, but over an hour or two cause physical pain. So polo shirts and tracksuit bottoms are the order of my day, any day.

Thus the world sees an aging, fat, old cripple who not only has no halfpennies to rub together, but is also clearly a thick, working class yahoo, who may get aggressive and probably smells. Were I to walk the streets late at night I am sure unaccompanied women would cross the road and if I were to take my grandchildren to the park most of the world would assume I was a paedophile!

(When Neanderthal man was discovered and a model constructed everyone assumed that this slightly ben stance was their natural form. It turns out the first guy found probably had AS just like me!)

Of course, this is a long way from the truth. I am a harmless family man who only turns nasty and fascist at the thought of anyone harming a child in any way! I claim working class credentials and am proud to have come from poor honest folk. My Kentish accent may sound as if I don’t have two CSEs to rub together let alone a degree. Yet, I have made my living with my brain, and latterly a pen for most of my working life and recon, in my dotage, I could still intellectually buy and sell most of those who feel superior to me.

I define myself these days as ‘writer’. Of course I’ve always been a writer, the difference these days is that I’ve had seven books published and several others written as well as a monthly magazine column etc.

How would a reporter for the local rag see me? He or she would probably describe me as a ‘pensioner’ or possibly a ‘disabled’. It could be worse I guess. I could be all those things and disdained even more were I female, black or gay.

In fact virtually ALL women have it worse. Reach a certain age whether you be a High Court Judge or her Char Lady and you will be levelled at a stroke by being described as a ‘grandmother of three’ or whatever.

Women are defined by age. ‘Teenage Jade…’ ‘…accompanied her forty five year old mother’ to see ‘…aging actress’ or ‘…white haired grandmother’. If she be rich enough and without progeny she may pass as a ‘dowager’.

All of this is the lowest brow description possible penned, however, by journalist from the gutter press to the most liberal of broadsheets. Pathetic.

Elsewhere I am proud to acclaim ‘Je suis Charlie’… but in this case all us put down and disdained, ignored or condemned and dishevelled old crocs should (with NO implied honour to that worst of women Margaret Thatcher) proclaim… ‘We are a grandmother’!