As my dad would say, this has shot Europe up the arse!
Monday, May 30, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Floating up through a vodka and cranberry haze last night came a story from a few years back. Canadian Bean Counter had been out on the drink in Kingsheath. It was late, it was dark, it was cold. Waiting for his bus home he walked up and down the street rubbing his arms and wearing his hooded top up to try and keep warm.
A police car pulled up, "Can I ask you what you are doing, sir?"
"I'm loitering with intent to catch a bus," replied CBC.
He then had three hours in a police cell to reflect upon the fact that there is a time and a place to be a smart arse, and that is definitely not twelve o'clock at night on a dark street with a police officer who had no sense of humour. He was let out at three in the morning and had to walk home because, of course, he had missed the last bus. Good to know that the cops are keeping our streets safe from mild-mannered accountants though, eh?
As I said, that was a few years ago, so it's worthwhile reflecting that hoodism was in existence even then. I found an old hooded top of mine recently and I have a good idea to wear it in solidarity with today's youth as a sort of uniform-of-choice to try and make a stand against the police state that we are becoming. I might even wear it when I go to storm the Commons.
Mind you, CBC has been 'escorted' by the police on several occasions and in several different countries, so you do begin to wonder. His being given a ticket for "going slow on a roundabout in Milton Keynes" was attributed to his shaven head, so maybe that's the next thing on the ASBO hit-list.
Good luck in Canada, CBC, and try not to get arrested. Again.
(Also, to any Thai females who might wander this way, I would just like to assure you that it isn't an accepted British custom for men to hug random women in bars whilst their girlfriends are dancing nearby with friends, and that this behaviour cannot be explained away in terms of a 'cultural misunderstanding')
Posted by Helen at 3:30 pm
Friday, May 27, 2005
Otis Ferry and his band of merry men who stormed the House of Commons in protest at the Hunting Bill last year, have been let off with an 18 month conditional discharge.
Don't anyone dare tell me that if anti-hunt protesters had ever done this at any point that they would have been treated so lightly.
We know why Otis et al have got off, they got off because they are poncy and rich and the law looks after its own.
So let's use it to our advantage shall we? This unruly mob got in the Commons and caused "alarm and disorder" but they didn't hurt anyone and only used "passive resistance" when being removed. Now we know the rules I'd say that pretty much gives us a free hand to storm the Commons whenever we like and get off pretty much scot-free. ID cards anyone?
Posted by Helen at 4:01 pm
Thursday, May 26, 2005
So, I went to London.
Growing up in a small town the image I always had of our country’s Capital was not far removed from the great days of Rome under Augustus. Not that I was thinking chariots and togas, but I did think noise, gluttony, excess and debauchery. Naturally therefore London was where I wanted to be when I grew up. Like many others before and since me, I sat fidgeting through the quiet years of my adolescence hankering for the time when I would be free to leave my small town and head for the big city.
Then I went. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, St James’s Park, Oxford Street, Baker Street. I was surprised to find, I think, that these places really did exist. But other things existed too. Dodgy, dank, overpriced hotels, beggars and pick pockets, the rudest people on earth, chest rattling pollution, and the worst transport system since the wheel was invented. And each subsequent visit down the years did little to keep alive my enthusiasm. Only once did I glimpse the London so enthused about through the vibrancy of Piccadilly, with live theatre and fun and games in the Trocadero.
This trip was a measure of how my feelings about the city had changed, from the wide-eyed awe of the teenager to the nonchalant shrug of adulthood. My only real thoughts on having to go to Westminster this week was the instinctive dread of trains and tubes and a half-piqued interest in being able to have a mosey around the streets of politik. And of course I was worried about the effect of big city smog on my newly raw eye after the previous week’s operation.
I use trains so infrequently that I am still surprised when I see that they come in all different colours these days and not just in navy blue BR. And finding out what was the cheapest ticket was beyond me. I had to enlist the help of Sassy Sarah (like that?) who works for Virgin trains and bombs about all over the country being free-and-easy with her free travel card. Actually both outward and return journey were effortless and smooth, a fact I enthusiastically imparted to Sassy, who was not very happy. She works for Customer Relations and currently there aren’t enough complaints coming in to supply the overtime she needs to feed her ravenous social life and insatiable shoe needs.
Even the tube travel was not as horrendous as expected. Mildly claustrophobic and a bit hot and dusty, but it was not the dirty, overcrowded experience of previous visits.
I was heading for somewhere just off Victoria Street, and took time to take in the locale before plummeting into the dark-hole-of-weirdness that is the job interview. Greggs, Next, Starbucks, Pizza Express. I was a few hundred yards from the seat of power in this country and I could have been in any High Street in any town in any part of the country. Only the police armed with automatic guns outside Scotland Yard gave a dash of excitement to the district.
My interview was in a splendid-looking building that gave way to the dust and clutter of mundane offices as I clambered inside. Two women interviewed me, one with an open and friendly face, the other peering at me the whole time as if she was trying to figure out whether or not I was the one who had beaten her dog to death. I heard my own voice describe myself in terms such as goal-orientated and pro-active, and then I shook their hands and left.
Then on to the Houses of Parliament and thereabouts. I noticed DEFRA and the DTI. I didn’t know then that Labour’s press office HQ was on Victoria Street or else I would have looked for it. I did though look for famous people. Scanning the faces of every suited man and women to try and spot some minister or political giant. Nothing doing. Spotting someone who could have been the camp man from the first series of The Salon was my only brush with fame. I thought people might mistake me for someone famous because I had to keep my sunglasses to help shield my raw eye even when on the tube. I felt like a knobber, but consoled myself that there are a lot of knobbers in London and I wouldn’t stand out.
Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Thames. Parliament Square, that bit of green grass where interviews are held. Tourists. Traffic. That man and his many placards and posters protesting about Iraq. I wandered amongst it all, wondering if in my suit people instinctively mistook me for a native. Then I walked back up to Victoria and went home.
It wasn’t until the day after the visit, when I was safely installed back in my small town coughing up great slugs of smog from my sullied lungs and blinking through gritty eyes, that it occurred to me that the teenage me would have thought it an achievement to be interviewed by a company based in SW1. Perhaps I was too worried about my eye to have given it much thought. Or perhaps it was the seeping cynicism of maturity acting as a dampener on my enthusiasm.
Or maybe it’s just that now I understand the difference between the idea of London and the actual place. Like the Moscow yearned for by characters in a Chekhov play, perhaps London is best kept for dreams.
Posted by Helen at 2:05 pm
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
In creative writing there is a saying – show, don’t tell. The idea being, for example, that if your character is upset, rather than just telling the reader he’s upset you show them, perhaps describing the look on their face and the shake of their hand as they reach for a whisky. Something like that.
Watching Dispatches on Monday night, I got the feeling they were trying to tell me something, when they were better off just showing me. This feeling was mostly due to the Dispatches reporter Jenny Kleeman, working undercover at Labour’s press office HQ, trying to sensationalise everything to the point of absurdity. She seemed outraged that Labour had a press office at all seen as how the party had declared that for the run up to the election they were going to by-pass the national media and try and connect with real people. She seemed surprised too that the press office collected and filed all media reports and that they issued press releases.
But no matter how much she tried to tell me that these things were unusual and subversive, they just weren’t.
She was even shocked at the fact that Alastair Campbell and Alan Milburn high-fived each other in the middle of the office, and seemed to think it an outrageous show of machoism. I mean, come on, Campbell and Milburn macho? Surely not!
Of more interest were the mock-letters sent out to Labour activists to use as a template for letters to the local media on certain issues. Campaign groups have been doing this sort of thing for years (I've sent a few letters and e-mails off myself on behalf of various campaign groups, using suggested wording. As long as it represented my views and it helped the campaign, I saw no problem with it) so it didn’t surprise me much that this tactic was also being used by a political party. But shoe-horned in somewhere so quickly that you’d hardly notice it, was the mention of totally fake letters written to local press. I wish more had been made of this. That’s not on. Is it?
But this programme really felt like it was showing me something when we saw behind the scenes at certain photo opportunities. Labour workers being pushed in front of the press after the pictures were taken as a sort of human shield. Very undignified and something that even roused the anger of that normally jolly Andrew Marr who complained that it was ‘just not on’. Shots like this really gave the impression that Blair was not only not willing to engage spontaneously with the press, but that he was actually afraid of them.
But making play out of the fact that the people in these photo opportunities were Labour supporters or even workers, didn’t mean much. Thinking about it I had never really thought they were anything else.
The same with those surreal people who had turned up at Tory or Lib Dem media events and waved bland placards or dressed as bizarre grim reapers with Howard masks on. I always assumed it was Labour taking the piss.
I can’t help feeling that this programme missed a trick. Hinged as it was on Kleeman's undercover reporting, which showed us nothing much, there was an air of 'so what?' about it. It was a shame that the programme makers decided to not to show us the political tricks used by all three main parties as originally intended. That would have been far more interesting and informative. But, oh no, better to take a pot-shot at Labour and sex it up with undercover reporters filming themselves photocopying and making tea.
Posted by Helen at 10:30 am
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
And I've got plenty to say!
Not least about that Dispatches prog last night.
But twill all have to wait because I'm off to London today.
The op went well, but my eye is still sore and red (and worse than they said, of course). I really wouldn't recommend having an eye op under a local. Not if the anaesthetist is going to inadvertently let you see the needle before they inject you in the eye.
All fun and games!
Posted by Helen at 7:34 am
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Right, this is my last post before I go in for my eye operation tomorrow.
Far from slowing down as previously stated, I’ve been writing a lot (blog and other stuff), despite the nagging toothache pain it brings to my eye. I think that’s because I know I won’t be able to write for a couple of days after the op, and so felt a need to do as much as possible before I have to stop. A bit like a smoker who decides to give up smoking on Friday, and spends their last few days puffing as many ciggies as they can fit in.
What is this weird desire to write about stuff? To communicate our thoughts? I was never more miserable than earlier this year when my eye was so bad I couldn’t read or write for more than one hour in any one day. Life was without point. And now, thinking about the next couple of days without reading or writing, and possibly weeks where it will be difficult, it feels like I’m staring into some kind of abyss. Like I’m being forced to sever ties with humanity and wander alone in the darkness for a while.
Reading and writing is my comfort and my aid in the world. I remember last year when I was recovering from a major op (for something other than my eye). I had barely left hospital when I wrote page after page in my journal about Alastair Campbell and the Hutton report. Now, just what the hell that was all about I have no idea, but somehow it got me through a difficult time. (I know that makes me seem really odd, but I’m nothing if not honest!).
So anyway, crikey, this is it for now. No doubt I will have plenty to write about when I re-emerge. And plenty of catching up to do with my favourite blogs.
Posted by Helen at 4:00 pm
Utter outrage this morning at some offensive, shameless, appalling, degrading piece of TV that I got caught up in last night.
Have you ever watched "Bad behavior"? Another program where yet another expert helps yet another mother to cope with her kids. Except that this one ups the anti. Here we have a mother, Ann Marie, who's a severely damaged women and who barely manages to keep a lid on the storm of anger that rages inside her. And when she can't keep a lid on it the kids get it. And I mean get it. We saw it on camera, saw those little faces crumple in fear as their mother unleashed her fury, punching them, swearing in their faces, dangling them by their arms. To see such young kids, one just a tot in a pushchair, being so abused was sickening. I was reduced to tears. I could cry now.
And the aim of this program? So that some middle-class tosser, Warwick, could be all smug and superior teaching Ann Marie how not to abuse her kids. Shockingly, the show asserted that the Social Services had referred her to 'child expert' Warwick as a last resort before taking her kids away.
Well here's an idea. Instead of referring the family to a child expert and bunging them on telly for everyone to see, how about Warwick teaching Social Workers his tricks? If his methods can turn a family like this around in two weeks, as the programme would have us believe, then imagine how many more families could be helped if the bloody Social Services operated this way.
But oh no, nobody could make money out of that could they? Warwick couldn't get a nice big fat pay packet and his mug on telly. So let's serve these poor sods up for entertainment because as long as they get something out of it too then that's all right isn't it?
I watched to the end in a desperate need to know that the Ann Marie and her kids had been helped. I needed a resolution. Because when things were going well, the kids responded to kindness like flowers to the sun. And Ann Marie started reading to her kids for the first time, she played with them on the floor and enjoyed their company. I wanted a conclusion showing me that this would be how the family were from now on.
And the program gave it. At the end the kids were all singing and dancing, 'Reach for the Stars', and it was all hugs and smiles and happy families.
But I didn't believe it.
I didn't believe that a woman who has been through what Ann Marie has been through learned to control her anger in two weeks. I didn't believe that the kids got over their abuse that quickly. And I was left feeling sick and sorry that the best that this society could offer this family was an hours slot on C4.
Posted by Helen at 8:30 am
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Reading so much about hoodies lately, and the plague they bring to our high streets, think of how I trembled when had to go shopping in the city centre the other day. I imagined having to run a gauntlet of yelling hooded youths spitting and throwing half-drunk MacDonald's milkshakes at me.
I saw none. Nor did I see any goths nor drunkards nor even any wandering scary men wearing dirty coats and asking for money so that they can buy a train ticket back home. The worst I came across was the usual aggressive push-chair mothers and over enthusiastic sales assistants (one of whom was straight out of a Victoria Wood sketch - It's the end of the sales, hee hee, last day, hee hee, it's all been a bit mad, hee hee, it's the last day, hee hee, no more sales, hee hee). No, Birmingham was its usual friendly, clean and safe self, which is one of the reasons it has never been nominated for this.
I did notice however that if anybody was wearing a hooded top, they were wearing them down, despite the rain. Probably because they were decent, upstanding people who would rather get their hair wet than be seen as a scary. Which is a damn shame. I have a hooded winter coat and it's so useful if you don't want to be encumbered by having to carry an umbrella. I hope all this has died down by next winter because to be frank I will wear that coat again and there might be occasions when I wear the hood up and people will think I'm scary but that's just tough.
Which makes me think how ridiculous all this is. I've seen the pictures on telly of the gangs of hooded youths at night being all sweary and chucking things and I wouldn't want that on my street. But if I'm not much mistaken there have always been gangs of youths hanging around together at night being sweary and chucking things. The hood is just a popular garment that comes in handy for obvious reasons if you want to remain a bit anonymous.
But we know this don't we? We know that when Blair talks of bringing "respect" back into society that he's picked an easy subject? That he's appealing to those mass of cardigan wearing, gardening types who say it wasn't like this in my day. My God, you might as well say you want more sunshine, or you want more time off work, no one is going to disagree with you. And "yobs" don't fight back do they? They don't get up pressure groups and start campaigns and give the government a hard time.
And all this stuff about hoodies being banned from shopping centres is such a distraction. Other than a slight nag of a worry over bag thieves, I don't think I feel safer out in public than when in places like the new Bullring. I'll tell you when I do get blips on my safety-radar though, it's when I walk to the shops and men shout things at me from their cars, or when I'm waiting in my local bus stop and men actually pull up in their cars and ask me if I want a lift. Or when I'm on a bus and a man sits next to me even though the bus is almost empty. Or when I'm having a drink in a pub and I have to keep a cast iron grip on my drink to make sure a man doesn't spike it. Or when I get into a taxi alone with a male driver.
Now, try as I might, I can't connect all of that with a flipping hooded garment.
Posted by Helen at 5:30 am
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Now, come on, bear with me...
Megson was the glorious leader who took West Bromwich Albion (a football team, just in case you didn't know) right up through the 'Division One' ranks smashing through into the 'Premiership'. But there was a hard core of people who disagreed with his methods/decisions, and eventually his team lost the faith. Out he went.
In comes new glorious leader, a true West Bromwich Albion man (played for the team and married a West Bromwich lady), who saves the team from relegation and leads them forth into a new season. But even as he does so, people are saying that without Megson doing what he did, neither the team nor Robson would be where they are now.
Doesn't seem so silly now does it, eh?
Posted by Helen at 3:21 pm
Charlton have scored against Palace! Fulham are already 2 – 0 up against Norwich. All Albion have to do is score.
Porstmouth aren’t doing much, but Albion are playing nervously. So says Tom. A goal seems the easiest most natural thing in the world when it happens, but the most elusive impossible little bugger when it doesn’t.
Villa are losing. That’s something.
Back on the pitch. COME ON YOU BAGGIES!
Really annoying how WM have to keep playing music rather than comment full time on the matches (although, played ‘Bust Stop’ which is good)
Fulham 3, Norwhich 0. HURRAH!!!
All Albion have got to do is score.
SCORE YOU BASTARDS!!!!
THEY’VE SCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORED!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE LORDS MY SHEPHERD I’LL NOT WANT HE’LL LAY ME DOWN TO LIE IN PASTURES GREEN HE LEADETH ME THE QUIET WATERS BY A WEST BROM
Thank you angels! Thank you!
Get down on it, you gotta get on the groove, how you gonna do it if you really don’t wanna dance.. get down on it get down on it
Palace 2 Charlton 1
Not what we want.
Feel sick. Much like when heard that the Tories had taken Putney.
Gone very quiet at the Hawthorns…
TWO NIL. TWO NIL TO WEST BROM.
But Palace have to lose.
Goal at Charlton, don’t know which way… which way? Christ which way, come on? No, no goal, just whispers. Yes there is… yes… some one is saying two –two at Charlton. No confirmation. Jesus Christ. Heart is thumping. No. no says Tom. No gaol, Palace still winning.
CHARLTON HAVE SCORED. OH CHRIST!!!! CHARLATON HAVE SCORED.
If this stands then Albion stay up.
Feel very very sick.
This is almost unbearable. UNBEARABLE!!!!!!!!!
COME ON YOU BAGGIE BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!! COME ON!!!!!!!
3 minutes to go?
Then I saw her face….Now I’m a believer… not a trace… of doubt in my mind… I’m a believer I couldn’t leave her if I tried……
Should those men in black not be blowing their whistles by now. Blow goddam it! Blow!!!!
3 minutes PLUS stoppage time, so says Tom and Bomber.
This is too much. TOOOO MUUUCH.
Fulham 6 Norwhich 0. Bloody hell.
FULL TIME WHISTLE AT THE HAWTHORS, WE’VE WON.
Still playing at the valley. Charlton against Palace. BLOW THE FUCKING WHISTLE!!
THERE IT GOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ALBION ARE STAYING IN THE PREMIERSHIP!!!!!!!!!!
FUCK ME!!!!!!!! THE GREAT ESCAPE!!!!!!!!!!! ALL THE ODDS AGAINST US!!!!!!!
IT CAME RIGHT DOWN TO THE LAST COUPLE OF MINUTESZS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY
BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING BOING
Posted by Helen at 1:17 pm
Now, I had a dream on Friday night that predicted the above.
In 15 minutes Albion are about to play the last game of the season. In order to stay in the premiership they must win and all the other critters down the bottom must lose.
I have faith.
Posted by Helen at 10:44 am
Friday, May 13, 2005
Watching the excellent Princes In The Tower on C4 last night, couldn't help but draw comparisons between the last Plantagenet King and our current Prime Minister. Seems to me that Richard III's Princes in The Tower are Tony Blair's Weapons of Mass Destruction...
Richard III only ruled two years (1483-1485), but when he took the throne there was no reason for him to expect a short reign. It would seem a very stupid thing to do then, before the crown was even warm on his head, to order the death of his nephews. It would mean he did it knowing that he would get into a whole load of trouble when people asked to see the boys and he couldn't produce them.
And the same sort of thing can be said over Blair's assertion that there were WMD in Iraq. It would seem a very stupid thing to do to declare in such strong terms that there existed WMD, if you actually knew there weren't any. Why would you do that? Knowing that after the offensive you'd have to field questions about where the WMDs were, about intelligence failures, about the fact that you'd taken the country to war on a false premise? If Blair wanted us in Iraq for reasons other than WMD then there were other arguments he could have made that would have got him into less trouble.
And that brings us to motive. If Richard kept the Princes hidden and Blair wanted us in Iraq, then it was for the same reason - national security. A lot of people swallowed the line about Edward IV's and Elizabeth Woodville's marriage being invalid (consequently rendering the Princes illegitimate and allowing Richard to rule in his own right) because they saw a turbulent time for the country under a child King. It could be said that a lot of people swallowed the line about WMD because there were greater issues at play - our alliance with the US, a show of force to the islamo-fascists after September 11th, the rescue of the Iraqi people, a hand grab in the Middle East. The act may be criticised, but the motives?
And with both the issues there is so much floor to cover. Just when you think you've got your bearings and are on solid ground, a trap door opens and you fall through to another level. Nothing is ever as it seems.
And what of history? Richard III was a man much maligned by his successors. They painted humps on his back in portraits and wrote plays in which he became a pantomime villain. And yet today there exists a Richard III Society that does everything it can to salvage Richard's name from the dump the Tudor's flung it in. He may be forever linked with the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the tower, but there is much evidence to argue that he was a good ruler. And no one, not even Shakespeare writing under Elizabeth Tudor, could deny Richard III his spectacular downfall in charging across the battlefield at his tormenter, Henry, as he cowered behind his men.
And Blair? What will history make of the man who was accused of being obsessed with his place in it? Without a doubt opinion will forever be divided over him too. He has damaged his party over Iraq, but those who currently pour forth bile over the man make him as much a pantomime villain as Shakespeare made Richard - there will be as much good to be said for this reign as bad. Personally, I suspect that the way Blair behaves when his end comes will decide much. The high-reaching Brown grows circumspect.
Posted by Helen at 8:32 am
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Finding it increasingly hard to spend any time at this pooter due to the antics of the bit of plastic living in my eye, so it's just as well for the sake of my blog (if nothing else) that my appointment with the eye hospital came around today.
It's been three years since I first went there and at first I was a bit depressed. Felt a bit like one of those dreams when you're back at school and you walk around your old school campus thinking, 'I can't believe I'm back here, where's my life gone?'
I cheered up however when I met the splendid Dr W, a tall, bookish-sort-of-fellow with a voice that belongs on Radio Four. I was soon chatting happily about the woes brought upon me by the strip of plastic that his boss, Mr S, had long ago stuck in my eye to keep my retina in place. Dr W seemed very sympathetic and was soon having a good look around inside my eyeball.
Then Dr W left me for a moment and sitting alone I glanced across the partition to a couple of men in the next exam room, and whom should I see but Mr S himself! Now, if Dr W is bookish then Mr S is a rake and a cad. Smiling fiercely, he breezed into my exam room, greeted me loudly, and went deftly through my notes. Then he charged at me and said he was going to 'take a look.' I pointed out that Dr W was already doing that, but Mr S dashed off a laugh and said that that was OK, he'd ask Dr W some questions and see if he got them right. Blimey! he might as well just have a sign with 'I'm The Alpha Male Around Here!' hanging around his neck.
So, he had a look, and he was calling my plastic strip a 'blasted thing,' then Dr W came back in, and Mr S pulled away from me, stood up, and had a short conversation with Dr W. I listened thinking this must be a bit like what it's like to be at a Tory conference - men in suits with hands in pockets, talking loudly in accents straight out of Jeeves and Wooster. There was a bit of talk of 'yanking it out' and then Mr S came at me again, had another look, then repeated a bit of the stuff that Dr W had already gone through. Feeling the need to support Dr W, who was standing behind Mr S looking up at the ceiling as if he hoped it would drop on his boss's head, I said I'd been told all this and then asked a few more questions which were answered with a few jokes.
Seeming pleased with everything in the world, Mr S then got up, shook my hand, and strode out to leave me and Dr W to it.
I was feeling mightily chuffed that Mr S had thought me worth the trouble to lob his ego about so forcefully, and I felt even better when Dr W then went on to call me 'young and fit.' Now, OK, he only said it in reference to the procedure that I'm going to have next week, but who wouldn't be pleased at that description? I might change the tag line under Small Town Scribble to just that, 'Scribble - young and fit'. (something you'll notice about me is that I see compliments everywhere. I'm the exact opposite of insecure people who think everyone is having a go at them all the time. Like last week when I was in B&Q buying solvent, and the woman at the till asked me if I was over eighteen. Now I know she HAS to ask that question, but surely it's only worth asking if there is the smidgen of a chance that that might not be the case? I'm 32 and liked that lady very much.)
Anyway, the actual point in writing this post is to explain that if my postings are slight over the next couple of weeks (and they may not be), that'll be because of eye pain. Or because Mr Scribble has hidden the laptop in sheer desperation.
This time next week I will be recovering from having a plastic strip taken from my eye under LOCAL anesthetic. Can not wait.
Posted by Helen at 7:08 pm
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Now, Scribble likes to think of herself as a fairly balanced person, who keeps herself well informed of all issues from every angle, but something occurred to me last night. Whilst sometimes I make forays into Tory newspaper territory, I have never read a Tory blog. Surely this goes against my principles of open-mindedness and fairness in all things?
So, could anyone passing this way recommend a Tory blog to read?
Besides, now that the Alastair Campbell blog and the Michael HowardMP blog have stopped posting, I need something to laugh at. I was having a good laugh at the Lib Dems and their 'PR' frenzy, but that's worn off now. The Lib Dems even make fanaticism boring. Yawn.
Posted by Helen at 7:44 am
Monday, May 09, 2005
On The Today Programme saying that Blair should resign.
He should go, she said, because "there's a real danger the government looks divided."
Yes Clare, before you know it we'll have high-profile Labour MPs going to the media talking about why Blair should resign.
DON'T PISS ON MY BACK AND TELL ME IT'S RAINING!
Posted by Helen at 6:52 am
Friday, May 06, 2005
I remember the day after the 1997 general election very well. I had gone to bed after Portillo was toppled, knowing Labour had made it, and I remember getting out of bed and peeping through the shabby curtains of my little flat to see if things looked any different. I don’t know what I expected, but I was disappointed to see the row of Victorian houses standing to attention in my down-at-heel road as usual. I was disappointed too when I went into university only to discover that the other students hadn’t spontaneously combusted into buzzing bundles of political energy. They didn’t give a stuff before the election, didn’t give a stuff after the election.
I can remember bugger all about the morning after the 2001 election. In fact, I can remember bugger all about the election itself. I try and see it, but it's just a big gaping hole in my memory like someone’s hoovered it all up.
I wonder what I will remember of today. Will I remember when I finally closed up my lap-top and switched off the TV, how I wandered into a quiet kitchen filled with kind sunlight and sat on the kitchen table watching thoughts chase around my head. Or getting into bed not long before my husband’s alarm went off, and then chattering away to him as he got ready for work sounding like a tape recorder playing on fast forward. Or waking up just after twelve and peeping over at my thoughts like they were a thing that might hurt me.
I am a natural Labour voter, but I am not a fanatic. There was much soul-searching in the months leading up to May 5th. I hate that Labour flogged off whole schools to Christian evangelists. I don’t want id cards. I could not stand the idea that Britain was locking people up without trial, that we were using intelligence from people tortured in other countries, that we let British nationals remain in Guantanimo. And I have so many differing thoughts and feelings over the complex issue of going into Iraq itself that I could write pages on it. As could we all.
Add to this that my Labour MP was Clare Short. A top-class MP and a true humanitarian - with a massive majority. What did a vote for her mean? Was it a poke in the eye for Blair and what he stood for? Was it supporting the Labour party at a shaky time? Was it turning a blind eye to the fact that she was mindless of the damage she was doing to the party as she struggled with her personal quest to get at Blair?
Finally however, after looking at the other candidates and considering spoiling my ballot paper, I came to a considered decision and yesterday I put my cross in the box next to the picture of the rose. But in truth it wasn’t a vote for Clare Short nor for Tony Blair.
I was voting for the idea of Labour and that idea is bigger than any one MP and bigger than its leader. That idea has got a bit dirty as people have handled it trying to shape it into policies and manifestos, and some even say that Blair has made it stink, but it is still the best idea there is.
And what did I think today as I peeped through the curtains of my three-bed-semi out over the mock-Tudor houses that languidly line my respectable road? I thought how relieved I was. Labour’s had a damn hard scrub and will be all the better for it.
Posted by Helen at 7:25 pm
having to write with one hand 'cause cat lying on right arm
well, that's your lot.
in a way everyone wins.
labour, because a smaller majority is for many reasons a good and just thing, but also because they've won. again.
the lib dems because they've got a good full belly now.
the tories because they've not been flattened.
the racists because the tory campaign didnt flatten the tories and the bnp have had their highlights.
the electorate because they have some semblance of democracy back in politics, there is some balance again.
massive shift needed in thinking to get head round this. political picture all jumbled up.
people have called this election boring. there's nothing boring about the result.
next question - how long before the question mark hanging over Tony Blair falls off its loose peg and clangs him on the head?
It's getting light. Not sure about blogging whilst following election. Feels a bit like being on stressful holiday in busy city and spending all the time taking photographs.
going to sign off now and go into sleepy warm arms of Husband.
Posted by Helen at 1:49 am
There will be an historic third term for Labour, Blair talks of how proud he is.
Charles Kennedy, up 14 1/2 % in Ross, Sky and Lochaber, talks of a healthy third party system.
Oliver Letwin holds his seat, up 4%, talks of the "vindication" of the Tory campaign.
Hey! Everyone's a winner!
Feel a bit like I want to find a bunker to hide in and not come back out again until sounds of political confrontation have died down and things have returned to normal. Fear that as much bad will come out of all of this as good. Wish could see things as simply as Lib Dems and just be happy because Blair's majority is reduced, but cannot overlook gains by Tories and am worried about stains left by BNP. Wish I could just look at facts and figures in a geeky, dispassionate kind of way.
Think blood sugar levels have dipped again. Cannot eat yet another banana. Must find some amusement - laugh at chaos of BBCs coverage... hang on, Robert Kilroy Silk is up... 2,957 votes and probably lost his deposit. Labour take seat back. Not laughing though. All I can think is relief in the fact that I probably don't feel as bad as Kilroy Silk right at this moment.
Just watching Howard keep his seat.
Missed Clare Short's results so went looking for them. Here's something interesting:
Lab votes 17,262
Lib Dem votes 10,461
Lab votes 21,694
Cons votes 3,551
Lib Dem 2,586
Lab votes 28,134
Lib Dem 3,020
Massive Lib Dem gains in a seat held by one of the most anti-war anti-Tony Labour MPs there is. Now what the hell does that mean?
A story amongst many, many stories tonight. This election will be picked over for a long time, the meeting of regional and national concerns stirred in a big melting pot of post-September 11th stew.
Blair's third term confirmed.
Bethnal Green and Bow
Galloway wins. Oh Fuck. This will be one hell of a speech.
It's for Iraq, he says, Blair should be sacked. Nice about King though!
Can't resist a peep at Harry's Place...
Harry's Place have closed comments. The result would not be news to them.
Oh God, freaky BBC graphic thingies agian, computer mock ups of Blair, Kennedy, and Howard, walking down computer mock up of Downing Street.
Feel ill. Am gonna pay for this tomoz. Body very much rejects ANYTHING being asked of it these days, and it's damn not happy about this.
Do like Andrew Marr, his enthusiasm, his knowledge, speaks in such a chipper way like it's not really important at all and a jolly good jape. Looks like a differerent version of Jen's husband.
Paxo and Galloway! Are you pleased about getting rid of one of the few black women in politcis? Not answering that. Ask me again and I'll walk off. Don't threaten me Mr G. Fight! Fight! Fight! Galloway gloating. Paxman saying exploited situation in Tower Hamlets. Galloway saying pathetic, can you not congratulate me? Congratulations. Mic off. Backs turned.
Cats are very puzzled why am still here, so am I.
Cat wake up time. Normally would be knocking on bedroom door now for chicken-in-jelly. But Husband sleeps alone in bedroom. I sit down here and can't move, nor see very well. Still shaky, should eat, but as usual, no appetite.
Labour hold Dorset south - a 2% swing to Labour in a what used to be a safe tory seat.
Selly Oak held.
Pretty cat come to sit on lap.
Posted by Helen at 1:04 am
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Almost too painful to write.
The seat Portillo was toppled from has now gone back to the Tories.
Hopping between several blogs and their comments, but news coming in so fast, blog comments all over the place. Much better to watch more telly than try to follow so many comments/threads/arguments. Will check in with favourite sites tomoz.
Jeeesus... David Davis keeps seat. You wouldn't know it; I thought he looked ready to burst into tears.
Steven Twigg does (like going to burst in to tears).
Oh Christ, Reg Keys, on the stand, talking of his dead son and the dead soldiers in Iraq, and Blair standing there behind him. Feel sick, feel really sick.
Wyre Forest is held by Richard Taylor, the hospital fighting independant... Rusty Lee got over a thousand votes for UKIP.
Very odd results from constituency to constituency. Throwing up all sorts of odd things. Tory and Lib Dem gains all over the place, including off each other. Belly of politics very swirly under calm water of the polls.
Posted by Helen at 11:06 pm
I doubted it for a bit.
Tony talking... historic third term. They're all saying it, over and over again. That, and how clear it is that we wanted a reduced majority. Iraq... Tony wants us to unite again. Not with those fanatical Lib Dem fanatics we won't. So blinkered. They hate Tony so much they can't seem to understand that you can hate more than one person at any one time - what about Howard?
Tony seemed pale faced and sober.
Call this a bloody nose if you will. I call it a crying shame that it ever had to come to this.
I can hope for a demolition of the Tories, but the BNP seem to be on the march. What the hell has happened to this country?
Faith in humanity sinking.
Posted by Helen at 10:18 pm
BBC reporting is a shambles. Satellite links echoy and delayed. Much interupting and no one knows who's doing what. Paxo not even pretending that things are going well.
Have left Chickyog to spend some time at Harry's Place.
Had bananas, but still shaky. Am actually shivering as well as shaking, though not cold. Think am ill. Prob result of getting up before 10am this morning.
...Labour holds Manchester North and Birmingham Northfield... am being told bad night for Labour, but are going to win all the same.
Milburn pissed at BBC because BBC aired that he has told Tony he's off again, and BBC asked 'gone before pushed?' Milburn said decision made before tonight.
Loads of results coming in now. Bethnal Green thing seems to be next big one.
Posted by Helen at 10:01 pm
Putney back to Tories.
It's only 12.55 and blood sugar levels gone for burton (what does that actually mean?). I knew it would either be that or the fatigue that would make tonight difficult. Bloody Prostap. What's good for blood sugar levels? Porridge? Bananas? Not losing seats to Tories?
Hull East still with the bruiser.
But as BBC bloke says, we're not interested in these seats. We need to see more seats where Tories are a challenge.
Going to try bananas.
Posted by Helen at 9:59 pm
Labour hold, but drop 5%.
Bloke on BBC says Labour vote is "fragmenting" rather than going to Tories.
(can you tell i'm not a journo?)
Could be Labour voters are whacking Tony in safe seats, but will come out in shaky ones.
Houghton and Washington East
No great rise in Tory vote again.
COME ON LIB DEMS!
Posted by Helen at 7:27 am
BBC EXIT POLL
Labour 66 majority and Tory gains.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Give me a lower Labour majority, but give the spoils to the Lid Dems for God's sake.
Scared now. Feel sick.
1992 election exit polls said Labour win, people didn't want to admit to NOT voting Labour, now perhaps they don't want to admit to HAVING voted Labour. Or something.
Feel sick, sick.
Posted by Helen at 6:20 am
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Trip down Memory Lane…
I remember being on the dole and a Tory government put my Income Support up by £5.00. I was totally chuffed until I opened the next letter which said my Housing Benefit was going down by £12.00.
I remember being on a government initiative for unemployed youths (the one after YTS). I was supposed to receive help with my CV, guidance and practice for job interviews, career advice, and on the job training. I received none of these things, but the company hired to run the scheme in my area made a lot of money out of it. I know this because my boyfriend at the time was friends with the woman who was shagging the company director (who was married).
I remember my friends, who had three kids under five, who lost their house because of boom and bust.
I remember my dad, and my brothers, being made redundant several times throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
I remember one brother not being able to afford the Poll Tax, and having to go to a magistrates court.
I remember having to work for £2.70 an hour because there was no minimum wage.
I remember Michael Howard. I remember his opinion of gays. I remember what he thought of unmarried mothers. I remember what he tried to do to our right to silence.
And now, I will always remember what Howard had to say about immigrants and asylum seekers. I will always remember how he fought this election, not on principle, not on visions of the future, not on good policy, but on a few stupid slogans that he hoped would appeal to the lowest thoughts of the lowest of people. I will always remember how he tried to slip in the back door by using smoke and mirrors, how he tried to fool the electorate into inadvertently voting his vacuous party into government, because they had no hope of getting in by any other route.
I will always remember you Howard, remember what you are, and what you have done. I hope you and your greedy, selfish, nasty party are crushed into the ground tomorrow. I hope you are crushed so badly that you cannot ever hope to get up again and do to my country what you did before. Rot in hell, Howard. Rot in fucking hell.
Posted by Helen at 7:49 pm
If you are thinking of not voting for Labour tomorrow because of Blair and his decision to go into Iraq, then please click on the following link.
It will take you to a post from the famous Baghdad blogger.
Free Iraqi: Thank you Mr. president for speaking on my behalf.
Posted by Helen at 2:26 pm
It's the anniversary of VE day.
60 years on from the final hammer blow delivered upon the Nazis, and here Britain is, struggling to reconcile itself to the part it played in forcing regime change in a foreign country.
For generations to come any military action taken by Britain will be seen through the filter of the two world wars. The part we played particularly in the second world war reinvented old colonial Britain as a righteous country. We could have made a deal with Hitler, saved ourselves from having to fight, saved the lives of our servicemen, saved our cities from destruction. But we didn't. We sent out our navy and our airforce, and we said you will not come here. Then we sent out our servicemen and women and we said we will take back what you have stolen.
And we cannot stand now that we might be on the wrong side of any war. And hindsight will not help us much with Iraq. The loss of over 50 million lives in World War II was a sacrifice that delivered us without a doubt from from a far greater catastrophe. We know that it was the right thing to have fought, despite the enormous cost, because it is possible to compare the Europe we are now with the Europe we would be under Nazi rule.
But Iraq was a pre-emptive move. We will never know what would have happened had Saddam been allowed to stand. We will never know how many more would have died under his regime, or what would have happened if Saddam let terrorists in the back door whilst he was thumbing his nose to us out front.
We let fanatics run all over Afghanistan, keeping an idle eye on them, and 3000 people are dead now because we did nothing. This pre-emptive action may have saved us from countless other attacks of that magnitude, but we will never know.
Whilst Iraqis are still suffering and soldiers still dying, it feels insensitive and glib to say that going in was right. But knowing what Iraq was under Saddam, and seeing now what Iraq has a chance of becoming, it doesn't feel wrong. I would not seek to deny the Iraqi people a democracy. How could I when I know I would fight if someone sought to deny me.
Posted by Helen at 10:27 am
Monday, May 02, 2005
What is it about the sun that makes you feel so guilty?
It's been sunny, on and off, for the whole Bank Holiday weekend. On the whole I've had a good time. I've read a lot (Angela's Ashes), I've written a lot (my book, short stories, this Blog), I've eaten nice things (chocolate roll, a flake), I've had a nice new bed delivered (pine, king sized). But always a nagging feeling that I should be doing something, going somewhere.
I looked at my Husband at one point, patio doors open, garden bathed in sunshine, and said, 'should we do something?' and he said, 'are you happy doing what you're doing?' and I said, 'yes,' and he said, 'well, i'm happy doing what i'm doing, so let's leave it at that shall we?' Life's very simple for him.
To me it felt like everyone was at a party and I wasn't invited. But to be honest even if I had been invited I probably wouldn't have gone. I'm very lazy. On Friday there was a meeting of my drink buddies and I didn't go. Got a text from SB the next day saying, 'oh my head... ended up in aussie bar dancing with lots of midgets.' SB is always out. She gets invited everywhere and always goes. She doesn't stay at home and do hours of background reading for a Blog that nobody reads.
Anyway, it's a good job I didn't go out in the end. We had an April shower and I was lucky to be able to get the washing in.
Posted by Helen at 5:03 am
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Dr Who said in last night’s episode that Daleks killed because that’s what Daleks do. If you are different you have no right to exist.
The Doctor is full of hate. At one points he screams at the Dalek, ‘Why don’t you just die?’. The Dalek replies, ‘You would make a good Dalek, doctor.’
It was not funny. It hurt. And it hurt when they tortured the Dalek, even knowing what it was and what it had done. It hurt because we are human, and pity and compassion are part of the faculties that make us human.
And for a kids program it posed one of the most potent questions of our time. If in order to defeat our enemies we have to become like them, what are we fighting for?
Fanatics do not feel pity and compassion. They do not question, they do not think. The moral ambiguities, the difficult philosophical questions, the differing levels of right and wrong that the rest of us toss around in, do not touch them. If you are different you have no right to exist.
And that is why western democracies are struggling to cope with the fanaticism that has emerged after September 11th. We do not think it is right to kill and torture like them. It is anathema to us. So when the powers-that-be tell us we have to kill and torture to save ourselves from these people, we say that it is too late because we have already become them.
And we seem to feel more pity for the people in Guantanimo, than for the thousands who suffered under Saddam, because we are directly responsible that suffering. At least when Saddam was doing it, it wasn’t our fault.
Fanatics are not born. They become. There are breeding grounds for fanaticism; poverty, persecution, disenfranchisement, but not everyone who suffers becomes a fanatic. Fanatics make a choice to turn the light off knowing that darkness will flood in. They are not born monsters, they choose to become one.
Imagine if the energy and the passion of these people, and I include the bank-rollers and the leaders, was not channelled into hating those who are different. Imagine what Afghanistan would be now had Islama Bin Laden not chosen to pour some of his billions into training camps to kill western civilians, but into sponsoring the country. Imagine the buildings that could have been built, the level of scholarship achieved, the prosperity brought to the Afghan people.
Before you point your finger at Bush and Blair, imagine how different the world would be now if the Twin Towers were still standing.
We must keep our lights on. It must always hurt. We must always feel pity and compassion. But whilst the lights are up, let us take a long hard look at the ones who threaten us, and let us see them clearly for who they are and what they have done.
Posted by Helen at 6:06 pm