Trains

‘The Northern Powerhouse’ always makes me think of Big Daddy, the Yorkshire wrestler, a favourite of Saturday afternoon grapple fans in the 1970s. But apparently it’s a term for the proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England by the 2010-15 coalition government and 2015-2017 Conservative government in the United Kingdom, particularly in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle. High Speed 2 (HS2), the planned high-speed railway is apparently core to this plan.

HS2 is costly (maybe £100billion!), and environmentally damaging, and there’s strong opposition to the scheme although, strangely enough, not from the LibDems, who support the plan. That would prove interesting if they were to get into bed – or sleeping bag – with the Green party.

Anyway, who better to sum up why HS2 is not a good idea, than Jonathan Pie, with a guest appearance by Chris Packham.

Interestingly, Boris Johnson, has today announced his support for a new high-speed Leeds to Manchester rail route, and I wonder if this is prelude to the scrapping of HS2. We can only hope. That said, both Eric Cantona and Rio Ferdinand manged the same devastating journey fine 30 years ago without such a link. As a Leeds United supporter, that hurts.

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Moderate

As the late, great, Ben Elton used to say, here’s a little bit of politics ladies and gentleman. What? Ah, never mind.

Now, the LibDems. Nothing offensive about them at all. And that’s my problem with them. They’re just wishy washy. Beige. Generally, they’re just nice. You wouldn’t want a LibDem with you in a fight. Except Cable of course, he looks like a Silent Witness baddie. You just know his fridge is full of human body parts, carefully removed while the victim is still alive, with his Alexa playing Abba in the background.

They did well in the Europeans of course, getting the protest vote. Something’s very wrong with British politics if the only reason you vote for a party is that they’ve made a decision on where they stand on the main topic of the day. What are the LibDem’s other policies? Anyone know?

Well, ‘HIV prevention available on the NHS’ is one. Free Johnnies, basically. OK, fair enough. ‘Tackling childhood obesity’. Have you ever tried to tackle an obese child? They’re easy enough to catch, of course………..

‘Create another 10 garden cities’. You ever been to Milton Keynes? Do we need another 10 Milton Keynes?

‘Vote for 16-year olds, and legalise cannabis’. So 16 year old kids will be able to vote, but be too stoned to be arsed to do so. Nice one.

And finally, of course, ‘No new construction of anything whatsoever with 2 miles of a Liberal Democrat member’s house.’ Because, the LibDems, for all their airy-fairy, ‘We really careness’ are the biggest Nimby’s of all. Yeah, we need to build 300,000 homes a year by 2022, but come anywhere near my little bit of Middle England and I’ll send Uncle Vince round with his scalpel.

Plastic

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 bastards, you’ve a lot to answer for.

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.

Old

I’ve written about this before, so it’s broken record time. But……

As a middle-aged bloke, I’m getting pretty pissed off about still being accused of ruining my children’s future by voting leave in the referendum three years ago.

For a start, I didn’t. For some unknown reason, I didn’t think, “Oh, it’s written on the side of a bus, it must be true.” If that were the case, ‘X-Men Dark Phoenix’ would be the best film ever made. It’s not, by the way, it’s completely shite.

Nor did I ‘Not really know what I was voting for’. If you don’t know what you’re voting for, it’s really easy. Don’t fucking vote. The Daily Mail and Russian bots aren’t going to frogmarch you down to the voting station and force you to place tick in the ‘leave’ box. Boris might, I suppose.

No, one reason why it’s certainly not my generations fault is that we actually voted, whereas the ‘youngster’s didn’t. And I know why.

Take Steve. He was 18 in 2016, but was too busy up in his bedroom playing Fast and Furious, surrounded by acne puss stained tissues and spunk infused socks. He didn’t think he needed to vote, because his mate Dave would be down the polling station, making a mark for his age group.

Except he wasn’t. Dave got up at 9.30, met Steve’s mum in a Premier Inn and shagged her brains out for 30 minutes, after which he returned home completely knackered, not to surface from his bed again until the next day.

Steve’s mum voted of course. Voted leave. She got up at 7, made the family’s breakfast, did the housework, wrote a website’s worth of computer code and wandered down the polling station on her way to meet Dave.

But that’s OK, because Steve and Dave’s mate Millie would have voted. She’s really into politics.

But she didn’t vote either.

Millie was too busy taking part in an anti-Brexit protest march in London, pissing in bottles, chanting left-wing slogans and informing her 24 Twitter followers that the BBC was definitely biased. She was too engrossed in her own smug pointless political activity that she forgot to vote.

Either that or maybe she didn’t realise she needed to vote. Maybe the young these days think that all you have to do to change the world is protest. Maybe they believe that blocking bridges, chucking milkshakes and sticking initials at the end of your Twitter handle is all you have to do to make anything happen.

The young, eh. Fucking idiots.

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:

Capture

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.