Plastic

Now, plastic waste is probably the most topical conservation subject at the moment. So many horrible images of plastic items being cut from the stomachs of dead sea birds. Sometimes it’s not clear if the birds died from the plastic or having their stomachs cut open by the beannie wearing unwashed, but you have to take them at their word, I suppose.

Apparently, according to celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the devastation plastic is causing to our planets has been highlighted because of the Blue Planet Effect. As an aside, an anagram of ‘Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’ is ‘I wank off turtles on a Friday night’.

Anyway, the Blue Planet Effect is the way that the massive plastic problem facing the world’s ecosystem has been spotlighted, and reacted to, after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet TV series ran on the BBC.

I reckon we’re too late, and it’s actually the BBC’s fault. Never mind the ‘Blue Planet Effect’. I give you, ‘The Blue Peter’ effect.

The Blue Peter gang were always making stuff out of sticky back plastic and single use washing up bottles. All that plastic in the sea isn’t from water bottles or supermarket packaging, it’s from 40 year old models of the Eiffel Tower and Tracy Islands that have lost their sentimental value and been ditched to make way for loft conversations.

John Noakes, Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, you’ve a lot to answer for.

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Green

It’s the Green Party’s conference this weekend, held in the middle of a forest somewhere near Brighton.

They’ve already pledged to “… beat the climate crisis and beat the rising tide of far-right hate”. No idea what they’re going to do after lunch, presumably switch back to wearing their underpants inside their trousers.

The Greens are great, a party we should all belong to if we believed that their idealistic murmurings would actually solve anything. Now, we know where they stand on climate change, sorry climate emergency, sorry climate crisis. But what of their other policies?

Health and Social Care. Aloe Vera freely available on the NHS. Encourage older people to really smell of cabbage. Legalise veganism. What? You’re joking? Really?!

Transport. Cycling to be made obligatory. Every citizen to own a bike by 2022, and be made to use it at least once a day. Anyone failing to do so will be jailed.

Which brings us to justice. All prison walls to be replaced with bloody big trees. Cannabis not only legalised, but made compulsory. All police officers to wear a body camera and a daffodil on duty.

Defence. Even bigger bloody trees.

Democracy. Lower the minimum voting age to 16, and introduce voting for squirrels. Well, those over the age of 16, obviously.

It is encouraging that, right across Europe, the green movement is gaining political momentum, spreading like wildfire. No, obviously not spreading like wildfire. That’s bad. Wildfire’s not good for trees.

Anyway, it is certainly encouraging that the Greens have a leader with the really appropriate name of Sian Berry, although they obviously missed a trick when not attempting to sign Treesa May in the transfer window.

Politics

Amidst all the debates, the Punch and Judy exchanges, the vilification of our main two political party leaders, the celebrity social media indignation – one thing is absolutely clear as we go into 2019.

UK politics is fucked.

We’ve let a Remainer lead Brexit, a woman who has split her party in two with her stubbornness and ineffectual refusal to negotiate. Thatcher, she is not. Across the floor there’s an opposition leader who is making an already weak party weaker still. A man who has missed so many open goals since the referendum that he’d be first choice pick for any bent football manager betting against his own team.

As for Brexit, Remain are producing their own ‘Project Fear’. They’ll be no pharmaceuticals or vegetables, and the motorways of Kent will be like car parks. (Because, the motorways of Kent currently run completely free of delays, of course). The ‘People’s Vote’ movement is still stuck in traffic without a hope of getting to it’s final destination, droning on like an bluebottle stuck in a conservatory.

Brexiteers aren’t happy because it’s not going to be the Brexit that they was promised – probably because those promises were all in their heads (and maybe on the side of a rather large bus), and they weren’t actually specifically promised anything.

So what next? I suspect we’ll stumble into Brexit and stumble out again. Both main parties will elect new leaders, a general election will be called, Labour will get in with a large majority and poverty, homelessness and climate change will all be instantly solved.

And then, they’ll fuck it all up again.

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Xmas FM

It’s the 1st December, time for radio stations to dust off the seasonal tunes and play them on a continuous loop for 29 days. Except, of course, they’ve actually already been playing them for the past 4 weeks.

So here is my honest appraisal of the worst and best Christmas songs of all time.

Please, no. Worst 5 ever.

Stay Another Day, East 17 – Awful dirge. Ok, it’s about the suicide of a band member’s brother, so isn’t ever going to be cheerful, but there’s still no need to inflict the pain on us every bloody December. It wasn’t even meant to be a Christmas song, but they stuck some last minute bells on it to make it more attractive to the seasonal market, ensuring endless winter hurt for us all.

Happy Christmas (War is Over), John Lennon and Yoko Ono – It may be where you are, John, but it’s not down here. Not really. ‘Set to a traditional English ballad’ is probably all you need to know,

Mistletoe and Wine, Cliff Richard. ‘Whine’ more like. Originally a more up-tempo number, Richard changed the lyrics and slowed it down to give it more religious tone. Nice one, Mr Webb. That worked well,

I believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake. Lake has said that it wasn’t ever meant to be a Christmas song. This is slightly strange, not only given the title but also because he said it was written as a ‘protest against the commercialisation of Christmas’. Beaten to the 1975 number one spot by Bohemian Rhapsody. ‘Nuff said.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen. I credit ‘The Boss’, as his take was particularly wet, but many stars have murdered this probably once decent tune, including the Jackson 5, Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton. A quick mention for Alvin and the Chipmonks, whose 1961 version tops that of all of the aforementioned.

Others near the bottom: In Dulce Jubilo, Mike Oldfield; Put a Little Love in Your Heart’, Al Green and Annie Lennox; Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms; Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney; Do They Know it’s Christmas, Band Aid.

Maybe. Middle 5.

Stop the Cavalry, Jona Lewie. Another one claiming not to be about Christmas, and another with a war theme. His ‘Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties’ is probably more seasonal, but this is the hit that has become a popular yuletide request – ironically, especially in the US.

2000 miles, The Pretenders. Yet another about someone’s death, this time Hynde’s bandmate James Honeyman-Scott. The video featured Hynde rather bizarrely dressed in a Salvation Army uniform. It’s a decent tune, but not 4 times as better than The Proclaimer’s ‘500 miles’.

The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Slightly weird, unlikely, but incredibly successful duet. It works, I suppose. Crosby died a few weeks after the recording, presumably he thought his earthly work was now done.

Last Christmas, Wham. Not one of George’s finest. And yet……

Others in limbo – Rocking around the Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee; Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade. I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day, Wizard.

Yes DJ, fry my brain with these!

Mary’s Boy Child, Harry Belafonte. OK, we should celebrate the true meaning of Christmas somewhere in the list, and even Boney M’s version doesn’t detract from a genuine and well-executed attempt to get the true meaning of Christmas across.

Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea. Really? Yes, and for one reason only. Listen to the lyrics after reading this Frankie Boyle Tweet:

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Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses. According to Guardian writer Dorian Lynskey, it’s  “fizzing, funky dance-around-the-Christmas-tree music for Brooklyn hipsters.” An anti-Christmas song with a happy twee ending. Nice.

White Christmas, Bing Crosby. Christmas is never like it used to be. You’re right there, Bing dude, so right. Top class nostalgic crooning.

Fairytale of New York, Kirsty MacColl, and The Pogues. It’s not an original choice, but it’s an inarguable choice. Listen to the lyrics, it’s like watching a dance. The ironic contradictions, the difference in styles and tones. Not only the best ever Christmas song, it’s simply the world’s greatest love song.

Poppy

There was a time when nobody really cared if you wore a poppy or not, never mind what colour it was.

A time when, in the words of Ray Davies, “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls”, and it didn’t matter. Admittedly he thought it was a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world (except for Lola), but he wasn’t really judging.

An era where, offered a cheap flight to a country you’d otherwise never have visited, you’d jump at the chance rather than bemoaning the cost of specific items on your invoice.

A time where – and I use the phrase in the non-racial sense – everyone was less woke. Where the Mary Whitehouse attitude was an exception rather than the norm. Where people got on with their lives rather than getting involved in mass social media and Daily Mail inspired moral indignation and piousness.

Indeed, a more enlightened time.

Lest we forget.

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Bang

I’ve always liked Yorkshire and its people. Friendly, down to earth, straight-forward. Maybe that’s why I decided to support Leeds United when there are probably 20 or so top football teams geographically closer to the place of my birth.

But one particular bloke from God’s Own Country pisses me off every year.

By attempting to blow up our seat of government he paved the way for thousands of lunatics to explode incendiary devices hundreds of years later. And not just on the anniversary of the event. It’s started already today, a continuous display over 60 minutes shook our village scaring our dog, and no doubt many other animals for miles around.

How many of the participants in the event actually knew why they were there? How many would say they were ‘dog lovers’? And how many of the organisers, if I find out where they live, will have a black bag full of dog’s poo through their letterbox if they repeat the performance?

One day a year, almost fair enough – especially if 5th November falls at the weekend. But not before, and no repeat performances.

As a responsible dog owner I clear up my pet’s mess around the village. It would be great to have that consideration repaid.

Guy Fawkes, born York 1570, died Westminster 1606. Burn in hell.

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Stroke

Having a stroke really focuses the mind.

It makes you realise how much your loved ones mean to you.

It makes you realise that life is too short to fuck around.

And it makes you realise just how good bacon tastes.

I had a stroke a couple of months ago – nothing too major, just one of those ‘wake-up calls’. A nasty wake-up call admittedly, like when you’ve accidentally set your alarm clock to Heart FM.

On a Wednesday evening in late June I got up from my sofa to go to bed and couldn’t walk straight. Now this is not necessarily unusual for me, although it’s an occurrence that usually happens towards the weekend, when too much gin and/or Brew Dog have been consumed.

Also, the left side of my face was numb. I went to bed, expecting to wake up fine and dandy.

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I didn’t. I mean, obviously I did wake up – if I hadn’t that would probably been quite bad – but I didn’t wake up fine and dandy. I still couldn’t feel the left side of my face, and every time I tried to walk I pulled to the left, like a car with a near side front puncture. So I did what every sensible overweight middle-aged bloke would do.

I drove 35 miles to work.

Well, I thought it would just ‘go off’. When I got to work, it hadn’t. I stopped fooling myself and knew I’d had a stroke. But it was then I also realised my biggest mistake. I was in Bedford. The best hospital in the country was in Cambridge, in a direction I had driven 35 miles away from.

Now we all know that all NHS hospitals are staffed by amazingly dedicated and skilled people whose expertise mean that it doesn’t matter where you are in the country you will get first class care whichever facility you are admitted to. You’ve probably gauged by now that I wasn’t thinking very clearly at that stage, and I was determined that, if I was to be cured, it would be in Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital. I knew Addenbrooke’s; I’d been treated for minor ailments there before, and they had looked after my family through some pretty tough times. I knew nothing of ‘Bedford Hospital’, but it just didn’t sound right. I pictured an old building that, in a previous life, had been a lunatic asylum or leprosy clinic, with big wooden doors and doctors attacking you with syringes bigger than a baby’s arm.

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So, naturally, I drove 35 miles back home.

I then called 111 and they arranged to send an ambulance. But, where was the ambulance coming from? Sometimes, because of our location (in Cambridgeshire with a Hertfordshire postcode), they send help from Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

Lister. Like ‘Listeria’.

What to do? Maybe if I drove towards Cambridge, pulled into a lay-by and called again I could guarantee my admission to Addenbrooke’s. All this wasn’t helping my blood pressure, and my Fitbit – yes, I’ve got a Fitbit, wanna make something of it? – had stopped recording my pulse rate, presumably not used to the challenge of such high digits.

I opened the door to the paramedics. “Where are you based?” ‘Upon arrival, patient seemed confused’. “Which hospital?”. “Addenbrooke’s, sir.” ‘Patient calmed down quickly and was fully responsive.’

Needless to say from then on I’ve received some superb NHS care. I’ve had more scans than a successful IVF mother, and treatment that couldn’t be bettered anywhere in the world. My family have, naturally, been fantastic.

When the paramedics assessed me they asked the obvious questions about my drinking, eating and exercise habits. I was honest with them. Just as we were leaving for the hospital one of them pointed to a picture of my granddaughter on our wall, looked at me, and simply said, “Lifestyle change, mate.”

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I’ve taken the patronising git’s advice.

I’ve cut back on alcohol, processed food, cheese and crisps. I’ve lost over 20 pounds and feel pretty good. It’s the cheese I miss the most, but the consultant I saw early in the week reminded me that life was for living, all things in moderation etc. In other words, don’t be a boring bastard and go and get a large piece of Applewood Smoked. That’s how I read  it, anyway.

And, as a treat, I’ve just eaten my first bacon for 7 weeks.

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So all’s well, considering. I was back to work within 2 weeks.

Now, if only I could kick the heroin habit………….