Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

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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Onboard

A few years ago I was asked who in the business world I most admired. My reply, to the slight surprise of my questioner, was Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.

My reasoning was that he had a built a very successful brand with only one real benefit, that of perceived low cost. Yes, your £25 flight to Venice will cost you over £75 once you’ve added the extras. Yes, you won’t actually land anywhere near Venice, incurring additional costs to get you to your final destination. And yes, your walk to the Ryanair gate at Stansted takes 15 minutes and passes through 3 postcodes.

But still, we came. Most Ryanair flights I’ve experienced have been full, and that’s not counting the poor guys who have been ‘bumped’ due to overbooking. O’Leary has proved that you can treat customers like shit and still retain and attract customers, and that’s one hell of an achievement.

I seriously believe that after the current crisis, and despite all of the inconvenience and total disregard for their current customers and target market, that Ryanair will remain a successful airline.

However. Does anyone really believe the reason given for the substantial number of flight cancellations? Pilot shortage due to poor annual leave planning? Surely what’s really behind the disruption is the rationale behind all of Ryanair’s actions. Profit. Maybe their loss-leading routes are becoming too costly. Maybe the forecast for the next financial period was looking a bit low.

Or – and I’m not really qualified to comment on this but I will anyway – maybe there’s a more serious underlying issue.  The prospect of dangerously reduced profits? Cashflow problems? Time will tell.

Ask me again who in the business world I most admire and the answer will not be Michael O’Leary. Not with Sir Philip Green around…..

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Houses

NIMBY’ is an overused acronym.

I know that because I use it far too often myself; a knee-jerk reaction when I hear of protests against new housing developments or transport links.

We have a severe housing crisis in the UK and one of the only solutions is to develop land close to current amenities and infrastructure. Constructing new towns such as Northstowe helps, but it’s not enough.

I appreciate that some people are genuinely worried about jamming the local infrastructure and the pressure on local schools and healthcare facilities. No doubt some have a genuine fear around environmental issues.

But others see massive personal threats. House values falling pound by pound with every brick laid. An extra 2-minute wait in the queue at Spar. The risk of Johnny Foreigner infiltrating the bowls club. Here’s the response I received on Twitter to my accusation of NIMBYism on the topic of building a new busway linking Cambourne with Cambridge:

I am against because it will wreck what I and my family invested in. There are better options.

“Better options” somewhere else, I imagine.

Yes, developers may well be evil money-grabbing bastards, but we must make them bring facilities along with their cash-cow dwellings. That’s the role local councils should be taking, not automatically rejecting any plans put before them, safe in the knowledge that the village gentry will get behind them.

300,000 new houses are needed every year in the UK.

Everywhere is someone’s ‘backyard’.

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Words

Merriam-Webster (lovely lady, by the way), has produced a fascinating feature which determines when a word was first used in print. Surfing through the years, it’s somewhat surprising how long ago some commonly used marketing terms were first used.

‘Direct marketing’ was first used in 1961, and it follows that ‘database’ appears a year later. ‘Big data’ dates back to 1996.

‘Case study’ dates back to 1914 – usually referring to medical histories – the year of the start of WW1. If only there had been a cautionary case study showing what would happen if you asked thousands of young men to go ‘over the top’.

‘Email’ was, of course, first written in the early 1980s, and ‘e-commerce’ in 1993. 1999 gave us ‘blog’ (and ‘clickbait!), ‘vlog’ followed just three years later.

‘White paper’ was first used in 1884, but it’s not clear when marketing hijacked it and removed the necessity of governmental origin.

The first known use of ‘social media’ was in 2004, the year of Facebook’s launch, despite platforms such as Six Degrees and MySpace existing earlier.

And the word ‘marketing’ itself? 1561.  Which makes sense as it was the 1600s when posters were first used for promotion, and the first newspaper published leading to paid advertising becoming available.

Incidentally, the word ‘guru’ was first coined in 1613 – a year that most self-proclaimed marketing gurus seem to be stuck in.

Helmet

There’s a cyclist in Cambridge who travels around the city with a webcam on his helmet, verbally challenging motorists, bus drivers and pedestrians whenever they offend his 2-wheel sensibilities.

Whenever wronged, he catches up with the offender (easily done in Cambridge’s grid locked traffic) and confronts them with their offences, which range from walking on a cycle path to not giving him enough space when overtaking.

His party trick is to point to his helmet-cam and shout – “I’m recording you, you’ll be on YouTube tonight! Want to see yourself on YouTube tonight?!”

He usually has a point. Watching the video coverage (yes, he does actually post it on YouTube), it’s clear that in most cases that he is not receiving enough consideration as a cyclist, particularly by bus drivers and white van man.

However, there’s a strong sense that he’s actually waiting to have his cycling rights abused. He seems to crave the confrontation to avenge his righteous indignation. I imagine him circumnavigating the Cambridge ring road day after day, acting as bait for careless road users, offering himself as a sacrifice in the name of cyclists’ rights.

As for the YouTube threat, I haven’t once seen evidence of a cornered offender cowering with fright.  “Not YouTube, please not YouTube, I’ll do anything, mend your punctures, clean you saddle with my tongue, hand-wash your lycra…….”.