Thursday, September 30, 2010


I woke up this morning to find that someone has tagged my front wall.
 So today's task is to buy some remover and clean it off.

We live in a quiet residential area of town and what graffiti that can be found is usually in the alleyways or down by the shops. I'm pissed off basically.

We'll email the police as it's a waste of time to phone them. They won't want to know because graffitti is somehow beneath them, when they've got charts and forms to fill in, and diversity awareness courses to attend. I discovered long ago that's it's so easy to fill your working day with busyness, and be worn out at the end of it, but without actually having accomplished anything. Whole careers in the NHS and "public service" have been built on this principle. I tried working in the public sector once when I was temping. I can't believe how much time these people waste....

But that's another story.

A few years ago I watched a docusoap on TV about the police trying to identify a persistent "tagger" who would cover anything that was bolted down with his unique identifying design. That's the whole point of tagging isn't it? You place your mark on the environment, so that people know that you've been there.

The police identified that culprit and prosecuted him. He got off, because the court decided that the man's unique tag wasn't unique enough, that is to say- they couldn't prove that the accused was the perpetrator. As no-one had actually seen him at work, they couldn't prove he did it.

It's nonsense of course. It's not beyond those that make our laws to rule that a graffitti tag is as good as a signature, as DNA. If the testimony of handwriting experts can be relied upon in court, why not that of a graffitti expert.

But no, we shrug our shoulders and clean it off. No-one gets prosecuted, no-one gets punished. Some even get lauded. I for one never understand what people see in Banksy's "art". All successful art spawns imitations, so by legitimising his graffitti, all you have done is make it socially acceptable, and it can be debated, raise the "quality" of the vandalism.

It's my wall. I paid for it to be built. I do not want any yob with a spray can cocking his leg up my wall and leaving his spraint thank you.

A few days later a plastic bobby knocked on the door. He was investigating the graffitti attack. (My neighbour had rung the police after they sprayed a line of white along his wooden fence) He commended us on the good job we'd made of cleaning the paint off, but wondered if we'd taken a photo?
As it happened, we had , so I printed on off for him. The PCSO said that the vandals had caused some damage along a neighbouring street, and one of the houses had CCTV, so there is a chance that they could be identified from the footage. (Once the video had been converted to a format that the police could use, that is...)
I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Non religious Christianity

Faith is defined as believing in something that you can't see.
Everyone has faith. You can't see radio signals, but you believe that by plugging a radio into the mains and switching the electricity on (something else that you can't see), you will hear music or speech. We believe that a red light will stop the traffic, although it has no actual power to do so.
People will tell me that science can explain all these things and avowed atheists will also tell me how the world began- with a big bang apparently, but without explaining who pressed the button or flipped the switch to start it off.
Some people will say that science has done away with the need for a god, a creator. Knowing how something works somehow relegates god to the margins, to the unknown. As someone said, he has become the god of the gaps (in our knowledge).

As I write this, a survey has found that over 70% of the population would consider themselves to be christian (with a small c.)
Anti-christians seize on the fact that as less than 10% attend a church regularly, the Christian faith should somehow be marginalised or even discriminated against. People no longer join organisations. They don't join trade unions or political parties. Some still belong to clubs and societies based on a particular pasttime, but on the whole we in the UK are not joiners of anything. Churches will always remind us that more people attend church on a Sunday than go to football matches on a Saturday by the way.

I used to attend church regularly. Not any more. My Christian friends wonder why, and it's hard to tell them without sounding anti-christian. I'm not anti-Christian, just anti-church. I don't enjoy doing churchy things anymore.

I've pondered this for a few years. People tell me that being in a church gives you a sense of belonging, of community.

But what if you're a loner by nature? Or a recluse? Someone who doesn't enjoy being in a crowd?

When Jesus needed spiritual refreshment he went off by himself. Yes, he went to the Temple to fulfil a religious obligation, but on arrival he chased the money lenders out. What was his opinion of church?

St Francis of Assisi was a loner, yet they made him a saint and a whole religious order was named after him.

So what is it that requires Christians to attend a church or to belong in one?

I've been a member of a church, several in fact. It was the great Victorian preacher Charles Henry Hadden Spurgeon who said "If you find the perfect church, don't join it because you'll only spoil it".

So I won't be joining any church any time soon. Joining a church won't make me a good person, so will not joining a church make me a bad person?

And what if I were to look for a church? Which one? It's not that simple. At the last count there were over 40,000 denominations worldwide. Each one claims to be THE true church. Each one claims that the others have it all wrong. So how does one choose? Do you have to go down the lists of theological points and tick the ones you like? I know of churches in the UK that draw people from upwards of fifty miles away. What does that tell me? That they serve great coffee?

Or that people will travel miles in order to have their religious prejudices legitimised?

What does God say? In one famous Old Testament passage he speaks through the prophet Amos (Amos 5:21-24)

21 The Lord says, "I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry. (Good News version)

That's pretty clear I'd say.

I grew up in Cornwall in the 1950s. It was still a Christian country. We ate fish every Friday and my parents packed us off to Sunday school, partly, I suspect, to have the house to themselves for a while. The chapel was just down the road next to a short terrace of victorian houses. Before our estate was built, it must have looked a solitary sight, next to the old main road that ran up the high ground from Penzance to Camborne and beyond. When they built the causeway and opened up the road from Penpol to Copperhouse, thus creating the town of Hayle, it became ever more isolated. I always wondered why they built such a large chapel for such a small settlement, but then I realised that it was built to serve the tin mines that were everywhere. Once they failed, the population emigrated to Canada, the US, Mexico and Australia, and the dwellings fell down or were demolished, leaving an isolated and decaying chapel.

The chapel was built by the Bible Christians, and it's worth studying this aspect in order to understand why we have so many denominations.

It all goes back to the mid 18th century, when John & Charles Wesley visited Cornwall and Methodism was born. While Wesley was alive, he considered himself to be an Anglican, but on his death his followers adopted the nickname that was given them by their detractors and became Methodists in 1795. By 1811, it had become bogged down with building churches, employing full time professional ministers, pension schemes, foreign missions, etc etc, and many believe it had deserted the poor and illiterate. In short, it had become middle class and conservative.
The Methodists split over this, and the Primitive Methodists were formed, adding to the other post-Wesley Methodist denominations like the Wesleyans and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.
You see how complicated it has become?
Within 20 years of Wesley's death there were different denominations, each with their fiercely protected emphases. As well as the Primitive Methodists, the Bible Christians were formed in 1815, and were to be found mostly in North Cornwall, Kent and on the Isle of Wight. Their membership was drawn mainly from farm labourers and miners, and was distinctive in that they allowed female preachers, which the Methodists had condemned/banned in 1803.
So my old chapel was built on or around 1850 by a breakaway group of Methodists, who themselves had broken away from the Anglican church just over half a century earlier.

Is it any wonder that people get confused?

So no, I won't be joining a church anytime soon thank you. If I found one that ticked all my boxes, it'd have a congregation of

And I'd only attend ever now and then.

I think this sums it up nicely...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dusty- an appreciation

The older I get, the more I appreciate the talent of the rock/pop pioneers. Not for them carefully stage managed events where the "stars" lip synched to their records.
No, the early stars played live. Every night. They learned their craft. They earned their acclaim.
As I write this in the third week of September the producers of the "X factor" have no doubt selected the song that will be this year's Christmas number one. Now all they have to do is choose the person who will sing it. And the winner will have no choice in it. They will do as they are told.
Whoever wins this sorry spectacle of a TV show, you can be sure of one thing. They won't have played many live shows. A handful at most. Ten years ago I read that the average UK chart topping band will have played about 100 shows before they hit the charts, whereas in the US the equivalent act will have played closer to ten times that number. It shows. Boy how it shows.
I grew up with Dusty Springfield. She was an ever present in the charts, from her time with the folk trio The Springfields, to turning solo and taking the pop world by storm with her first solo release.
I watched a programme about her last night. It was broadcast on Sky Arts and as I watched it it brought home to me just how talented she was. As I grew up my tastes changed and I discovered The Stones, then The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and on into rock and folk music (Fairport Convention remain my all time no1 group).
As my tastes became more eclectic, Dusty stayed in the mainstream and so our paths drifted apart.
Looking back over 40 or more years at these clips, I'm amazed at just how good she was. In this first clip of the Springfields singing "Island of Dreams" the band are singing live into one mike with the studio orchestra in the wings. No miming, although the fake American accents are a bit much. The guitarist at the back struggles to play a Bb chord at one part. Still awesome though.

Dusty could sing anything. On this clip she's singing one of her later hits "Son of a preacher man", the original of which was recorded in Memphis with Steve Cropper and the Muscle Shoals session players. This version, once again sung live on TV,is slighty slower than the original, but still brilliant.

There are a couple of clips of her performing at the NME Pollwinners concerts. The Empire Pool at Wembley was an enormous cavern of a place, and from the look of these clips was devoid of a decent PA and lighting as well. However, that didn't matter as Dusty ripped into Inez & Charlie Foxx's "Mockingbird". Note her bass player with his Vox teardrop bass guitar, singing Charlie's part. She knew her soul music, did Dusty, and she could sing as well as any of the US originals. The song is in F, by the way

The following year she was back at Wembley. The bass player has a new Gibson EB2 guitar, and Madeleine Bell is singing backup. This performance of "In the middle of nowhere" is just brilliant. She's having fun and it shows. She has all the vocal chops. Excellent
UPDATE- I've been looking at the clip in more detail. The bass is not a Gibson. I believe it's a Vox Cougar or Lynx bass.I've not seen a picture of a Lynx bass, but the escutcheon plate is identical to that on the Lynx guitar.

Dusty had a primetime TV show in 1967. In it she had a chance to sing some different syles of songs. I'm sorry Cheryl and the rest of you wannabees, but you don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dusty.
As you know, Mary O'Brien (Dusty) was Irish, and like all Irish artists was not embarrassed about her musical heritage. My all time favourite female folk vocalist is Sandy Denny, but on this clip, Dusty runs her very close. This was broadcast in September 1967 and is beautiful

To traditional folk music you can add jazz! Here she sings "Peel me a grape", since covered by Diana Krall, and then "If you go away", sung partly in french!

There are a few artists that are known by their first name alone. I don't mean those artistes who have only one stage name like Beyonce or Rihanna, but artists with two names but who are universally known by just one.
Diana Ross? No. Shirley Bassey? No. Karen Carpenter? No. Dusty? I rest my case.

She was quite simply one of the best, if not the best singer this country has ever produced. She chose her own songs and took charge of her recording sessions. The producer sat back and let her get on with it. She knew what she wanted and her judgement and taste were impeccable.
Unless there's a seismic change in the music industry, there will never be another like her.
To finish with, here's Dusty predating the Blues Brothers by almost fifteen years.

Simply the best.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guilt and Fear

Guilt and Fear. The two main weapons used to keep the people under control.
Guilt- make people feel bad
Fear- make people afraid.

It works every time. Choose which one you want to emphasise and the ratio of one to the other and off you go.

Advertising. Mostly fear based. Prey on the consumer's fear that their washing isn't as white as it could be, their kitchen isn't as clean as it could be, that their breath may smell, or they may have body odour. Add in the guilt factor that by choosing brandX you are somehow depriving your loved ones of the very best.
No-one wants to be out of step (except me), so advertising is a great way to get people to conform.

The Environment/recycling. Guilt and fear again. You drive a car so you're a filthy polluter. It matters not that it's impossible to get anywhere and back in a day without one. You use a car. You're guilty of harming the planet.
You're made/forced to recycle your rubbish. If you don't you get fined. So you comply out of fear. It doesn't matter that your local council isn't interested in recycling commercial waste. They just dump that in landfill.
You use electricity? The power stations are polluters, so you're aiding and abetting them.
You smoke? You're an evil polluter. It doesn't matter that cigarette ends are biodegradable. They will make you feel guilty by saying that cigarette filters contain every harmful chemical known to man and therefore they're harmful to the environment. Oh Yeah? If they're so harmful why do you allow people to put them in their mouths?

Law and order. People have a wrong impression of how dangerous our streets are. The Police do nothing to change that perception. If people are safely in their homes watching TV adverts then we know where they are and they're no threat.
Terrorism is another area where the fear factor is played up. Conspiracy theorists subscribe to the idea that some attacks are "false flag", that is, carried out by our own side in order to heighten the perception of danger. The government is then able to pass laws "for our protection" that stifle our liberty, all based on a lie.

Governments rule by a mixture of guilt and fear.
Organised religion is based on a mixture of guilt and fear.
Whether it be Islam or Roman Catholicism, the adherents are kept in line through a mixture of guilt and fear. Everything we do is a sin. It's wrong. We're made to feel guily. If we step out of line we are punished, so the fear of punishment keeps the people in line. Whether it be excommunication (the Pope claims that he alone holds the keys to heaven and if he withdraws his blessing and prevents you from attending Mass (excommunication), he condemns you to purgatory)
Islam claims that anyone who kills an infidel in Allah's name will have a special place in heaven, waited on by countless virgins. It's the threat of death for apostacy and the promise of heaven for anyone who kills unbelievers that aids the spread of this religion. Guilt and Fear.

I've read the Bible from cover to cover. The first thing that Jesus said to his disciples when they saw him perform a miracle or following his resurrection was this "Do not fear".
These words are repeated throughout the Bible. Trust me. Do not fear.
To the woman caught in adultery and under sentence of death by stoning he said " go and sin no more. Your sins are forgiven." Another time he assures those listening that he has the power to forgive sin.

So why feel guilty?
And why be fearful?

Organised religion can't save you.
Government can't save you.
Buying the right product can't save you.
Wearing the latest fashion can't save you
Recycling your drinks cans can't save you.

So I won't be afraid, though I have much to fear.
And I won't feel guilty, though I have much to ask forgiveness for.

Guilt and Fear? No thanks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vested Interests

Vested Interests

What do Islington Council and the Church of Rome have in common? What do the University of East Anglia HADCRUT Unit and HMRC have in common? This answer is simple. They are all organisations who have been involved in controversy in the recent past. More than that, they all employ the standard tactic when one or more of their number comes under public scrutiny. They close ranks to protect the organisation.
It’s what organisations do.
MPs close ranks when some of their members fiddle their expenses. Banks and financial dealers close ranks when accused of sharp practice, and yes, doctors close ranks when one of their number is accused of malpractice. It’s what they do.

All organisations put their reputation before the truth- even churches. And not just the Catholics, because Protestant Evangelical Christian churches also have their share of scandals that they try to suppress. My mother used to say to me “Be sure your sins will find you out” and she’s not wrong.

I’m a Christian- a follower of Jesus, and yet I don’t attend church for many reasons.

The three main world religions portray God as one who requires that everyone should pay for the things they’ve done wrong. Each religion interprets this differently. Moslems have a strict regime of praying and fasting, plus pilgrimage to atone for their sins while the Jews require a sacrifice of an unblemished lamb to appease a god who required that blood be spilt. About six centuries BC, Jewish prophets began to forecast the coming of a Saviour, one who would take the place of the sacrificial lambs. This Messiah would also save the Jews from oppression and lead them to victory.
The Jews believe that their Messiah’s arrival is still awaited, while Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah that was foretold in ancient writings.

That doesn’t seem enough to make people go to war against each other does it?

Most, if not all mainstream Trinitarian Churches have a core set of beliefs that all Christians can accept. These are very few: Jesus is the Son of God, was born to a virgin in fulfilment of earlier prophesies, was crucified, died and rose from the dead. They all agree that his death was atonement for our sins.
But each Christian sect, denomination or sub-division has other beliefs that mark them out as different from the others. I won’t bore you with all the differences, or why they matter, but once again they are enough to make people go to war with one another. Islam also has different strains that regularly go to war against one another. No wonder unbelievers despair!

And yet many of these unbelievers support a football team and swear allegiance to them. These teams all play the same game, to the same set of rules and yet their followers are willing to fight each other. In one famous incident, two South American countries declared war following a game of football, so wanting to fight for one’s beliefs isn’t so strange.
People want to believe in something. How else can you explain horoscopes or crystal healing?

For many years I travelled the UK as a worship leader/preacher and my wife and I were invited into churches of every denomination to minister. I was welcomed into one Catholic church as a member of another faith (which made me smile), and I met and spoke with ministers from every denomination. It was an eye opener to hear these professional Christians assert that what they each believed was the truth, and that what all the others believed wasn’t.

I thought long and hard about this. Which of these different versions of the faith was correct? They couldn’t all be right, could they? Not when their beliefs were so different?
This coincided with a period of illness and unemployment. I spiralled into depression that found expression in cynicism.

They couldn’t all be right- but they could all be wrong.

The church that I was attending (when not out visiting other churches) split into different factions. In despair, I returned to the church where I’d come to faith. I was older, wiser, with a lot of experience and a lot to offer. That made me a threat to the established leadership and his followers. My offers of help were received warmly, but never taken up. I was reduced to sitting in the pew, listening to bad preaching and lousy musicianship. The reason there are so many denominations is because people line up behind personalities. They get frustrated over points of theology, emphasis, leadership and so they leave and form a new church.
All too often the Gospel gets pushed to the background while personalities struggle for power (in the name of God, of course).
I wasn’t going to cause this church to split by stomping off with my circle of fans, so I just stopped going.
And my depression lifted.

These days I’m happy not to attend a church. I won’t bore you with my many experiences- of indoctrination verging on brainwashing in one church I attended briefly; of “heavy shepherding” in another, where any and every life decision had to be brought to the leadership for their approval; of sitting in pews while lies were told in the name of Jesus; and so on.

I read that Ghandi almost became a Christian. The only thing that stopped him following Jesus was the behaviour of his followers. I’m with him on that. The Christian faith is easy to understand but hard to live out. Churches are human organisations with all too human failings. Ambitions, jealousies, personalities all cloud the fundamental purpose of what church should be about.

When church becomes yet another human organisation that is more concerned with perpetuating itself, then it has lost all relevance. Watching wall-to-wall coverage of the Pope and other religious leaders in all their splendour is about as far from the Gospel as it could be.
Mother Teresa worked single handed in the slums of India for over 30 years without coming to the world’s notice. Her selfless devotion to duty away from the glare of the world’s media was closer to Jesus’ intentions than any stage managed showbiz spectacle that we’ve witnessed this week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No deposit, no return

Back in the mid 60s I worked in an off-licence in London's Harrow Road. My job was to keep the shelves stocked and to take care of the empties. When a customer bought a bottle of beer he was charged 3d (a nominal but significant sum, probably equivalent to 50p today)for the bottle. When he brought the bottle back, he got his money back.
It was workable and there were no bottles or cans littering our streets.

I have a confession to make. When I was about 10 or 11 my friend and I would sneak over the wall of one of the pubs in our seaside town and steal empty pop bottles and then take them to a local shop and claim the deposit. I made a few bob and put it in a Post Office savings book. Of course I got caught. The pub landlord had seen me and waited until my next visit, catching me red-handed. I don't know which was worse, being caught, being handed over to my mum who beat me and then being told to wait until my dad got home...
He was working in London and didn't get home for almost a month. I lived in dreadful anticipation of the knock on the door from the police, and my father's return. It was a big deal. Don't steal.
Fast forward a few years and Schweppes became the first company to market "no deposit, no return" bottles, followed soon after by "Long Life" the first beer brewed specially for the can.
It was the Swinging 60s, a time of innovation and sweeping away the old. Yes it had its good side, but there were a few casualties along the way. The old breweries like Fremlins, Courage Barclays & Simmonds, Trumans and countless others were taken over and merged into a few conglomerates selling identikit fizzy beer.

Watneys Red Barrel. Ugh! I still recoil at the name.

Along with the innovation that was the Party Seven we had supermarkets selling beer, and they weren't interested in bottles with a deposit, so it all came to an end.
Over the years beer and soft drinks have become cheaper and cheaper in real terms, and the aluminium can and plastic bottle have become the preferred means of delivery.
The manufacturer used to have a vested interest in getting the bottles back. Like the old fashioned doorstep milk delivery, it was cheaper to take the bottles back, wash and reuse them than to keep buying new ones. However, that idea has gone the way of the doorstop milk delivery- consigned to history.
Single use bottles and cans can be found almost anywhere on the earth's surface. They are an eyesore and a menace to the environment. You can read about the soup-like sludge of plastic that is displacing the plankton in our oceans, and threatening the ecosystem, and you can also read about initiatives to ban the use of single-use plastic shopping bags. All good and commendable. I hardly ever take a supermarket plastic bag these days.
It didn't take long to educate me.

But what about the plastic bottles and aluminium cans that litter our streets and blight the landscape?

In today's Telegraph I read that Bill Bryson, author and honorary Englishman (and President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England) has proposed a return to the "1980s bottle deposit scheme". You can read all about it here:

About time too. Those of us who are old enough to remember the scheme are also old enough to remember when our streets were free from litter. However, while it's a nice idea and one that will have widespread approval, the manufacturers, distributers and retailers of these products will have something to say about it.

While I've been writing this blog I've been thinking about how a scheme like this could be made workable. Here's my suggestion, based upon my experiences.

First of all, you can't expect the retailers to take the empties back. I worked in retail for many years and it's hard enough dealing with one way traffic of goods into the stores without having empties cluttering the place up. There isn't the room, the time or the infrastructure. There has to be another way.
I'm a fan of small government so state control has to be kept to a minimum, so it has to be private enterprise. At the moment local councils collect domestic bottles and cans (but not from commercial premises). Each council negotiates their own contracts with recycling firms, which is why it's so hit and miss.
What's needed is some private enterprise (and a financial incentive from local and central government)
The government would charge a recycling levy on each bottle or can produced. The income from this would be used to buy the empties back. If someone can earn a few pence from picking up and returning an empty can to a central point (maybe one of the thousands of empty retail units that blight our towns)
The incentive is that the money is only paid on production of the empty bottle or can. Each collector can be given a swipe card where his cans are credited.
Instant job creation. Instant incentive to clean up the towns and cities.

OK loads of flaws. But's an idea.
And most of the people who claim to lead us have no idea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drugs- supply and demand

There's an interesting article in today's Mail. An "expert" has come out with a new theory on how to solve the cannabis problem. You can read about it here:
This is what he has to say:
"The Aberdeen University professor, who has dedicated the last four decades to researching the drug, said that the current prohibition clearly isn't working and feasible alternatives include producing branded products that undergo strict safety tests. Made under licence, they would be free of contaminants and sold in shops, removing the risk of users also being sold harder drugs.
Those who wanted to use the drug could apply for a licence.
Professor Pertwee told the British Science Festival in Birmingham: 'We have to have a car licence, we used to have a dog licence, so why not have a cannabis licence so you can only take it if it is medically safe to do so?
'That would exclude some people who are have a risk of becoming schizophrenic.'

This won't work for very practical reasons. The government are able to tax alcohol and tobacco because they have access to every part of the supply chain.

Can you for one moment imagine the drugs barons allowing the government access? Or giving away a proportion of their profits?

If so, then what we have have is the drugs barons buying off the police and government in return for registering for VAT?

What about if the government set up its own cannabis supply chain to be sold through Tesco? They would then become one of the world's largest drug manufacturers and suppliers and I can see that going down well on the world's stage.
Prohibition doesn't work. banning something makes it more attractive to some people.
The first and probably only thing I learned at school when studying economics was to do with supply and demand.
When demand is high and supply is low, the price goes up.
When supply is high and demand is low, the price goes down.

Prohibition didn't work because it tried to cut supply without the corresponding cut in demand. Only a cut in demand can reduce the supply permanently. Why manufacture something that no-one wants to buy?

The decline of this country's manufacturing capacity can be traced to a lack of demand for the product they were offering. The competitor's products were better and cheaper and so manufacturing ceased.

So how does one eliminate the demand for cannabis and other drugs? Shouldn't this form the focus of the expert's studies and research?

As an aside, and I'm not suggesting that this is the answer for everyone,I read a lot about the Welsh Revival of 1904/5. Here's an article about it:

"According to the London Times of February 2nd, 1905 due to the Welsh revival many men abandoned dens of iniquity. Employers noticed a great improvement in the work produced by their employees. A judge named Sir Marchant Williams said that his work was much lighter especially regarding drunkenness and related offenses."

The argument against the long term benefits of the 1904/5 revival is that it did nothing for the long term decline in Christian attendance and observance, but they fail to take into account the huge loss of life in the trenches of the First World War, when every church, every street in every town suffered loss. Loss of the young, the strong, the energetic.

Alcoholics Anonymous use belief in a higher being as a cornerstone of their treatment, so maybe that's the way forward for some.

Perhaps some thought should be given as to why people take drugs and drink themselves senseless?

Is it for the same reason as to why some people absorb themselves in the minutae of other's lives- the cult of the celebrity, played out in dozens of weekly magazines?
Is it anything to do with the vast population of this country that have no part to play in the daily outworkings? That are powerless, thoughtless and hopeless- without hope?

Maybe we need another religious revival....

Friday, September 03, 2010

Anything but beige

We travelled over to the Scilly Isles earlier this week and I found the experience underwhelming. Yes, it was pretty, but most villages in Cornwall are equally so. Yes it was warm and sunny, but so was the Lands End peninsula. We had about 4 hours or so on St Mary's, which is either too short or too long, depending on your viewpoint.
They don't make anything on the islands, although they do grow flowers, so they rely on tourism. Everything is geared to the arrival of the Steamer (as the daily visit by the Scillonian is nicknamed)Before 11.30 and after 4.30 the island goes to sleep again.
Some people will like that. We didn't.
Because everything has to be imported from the mainland, prices are higher. Two pasties cost £7.00. Two ice creams cost almost £4.00.

However, that wasn't why I didn't go overboard for our boat trip.
So what was it?

I'm quite used to being the oldest in my group of friends and musicians. I'd say I was quite young at heart, although a bit cranky and creaky.
No, make that very cranky and creaky.
I felt like one of the youngest all day (I know I wasn't- but I was surrounded by beige and polyester crimpelene all day)

The boat had a stairlift. While we were waiting to disembark these words kept going through my head
"There's a lady who's told that she's getting quite old
And she's buying a stairlift to heaven"

Hardly rock and roll is it?
I made Sue promise never to let me wear beige- ever.
She rather spoilt it by reminding me that the Clarks trainer type shoes that I've been wearing for the last few years are beige.....

OK I'll make that one concession to comfort and anti-fashion.
But no beige. No polyester.
No cruises. No coach holidays.

I've managed 60 years of being awkward and out of step. Let's keep it that way.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Holiday time

Here we are again in our favourite corner of the UK. We've holidayed here for many years and we still get drawn back to the area time and time again.
Maybe it's the combination of the rugged landscape, the sea views, the familiar faces... or the local pasties and clotted cream teas.

We camped on this site many times. We started out on the camping lifestyle a dozen or so years ago by heading west without any preconceived ideas about where we'd stay. One year we headed along the M5 to Taunton and headed south to Lyme Regis, then travelled westwards along the coast, stopping at camp sites along the way.
The next year we turned off the M5 at Bridgewater and headed for the North Somerset coast. We stopped one night near Minehead and continued westwards for the next ten days, and every night we managed to camp with a sea view.
Each year we ended up near Lands End. One year we discovered this campsite and from then on decided to cut out the meandering travel and just head straight here.
That was the year after Boscastle suffered a flash flood. We were camping a few miles up the coast and we saw the storm gathering as we drove into the area. That night the tent was almost blown out of the ground and we took refuge in a local farmer’s barn. The next day we heard about the effects of the storm as we listened to the car radio as we drove along the A39.
Suddenly we were hit by a torrential downpour and the rain was so hard that we couldn’t see beyond the car bonnet. Luckily we spotted a layby and got off the road and waited for the storm to pass.
Needless to say, we stayed in a B&B that night and gave camping a rest.
The next day we found this campsite. Our experience had been that the further west one travelled, the worse the campsites were. That may be unfair, but the good sites are more expensive the further west one travels, but there are loads of very cheap, very basic sites. This site was in the middle. Reasonably priced, with good clean showers, within walking distance of the coastal path and just a mile from St Just.
We've returned for year after year, through three changes of ownership and having progressively bigger tents.
When we started camping about 15 years ago we borrowed a tiny two man tent and a couple of sleeping bags. We were playing a small music festival, so it was no problem slumming it for a weekend. As time wore on and as our bodies got creakier with age, we changed our tent for one that you could stand up in. As time wore on, the tents got bigger until we had a six berth tent with an electric hook-up just for ourselves. We also had a blow up mattress, reclining chairs, electric kettle, tv, fridge…..
Our love affair with camping ended a few years ago when, after enduring a miserable gale blowing straight off the Atlantic, we returned to the campsite to find that the wind had ripped the tent and the rain had got in. Everything was soaked. Our clothes, our bedding, everything. The tent was flapping in the wind and the weather forecast was for more of the same, so we reluctantly called a halt, loaded everything into the van and headed home five days early.
However, our hosts told us before we left that they had plans for some static caravans to be placed in one of the meadows, so last year we booked one for a forthnight, and this is our second year of staying in one.
It’s not the same as camping. Nothing beats sitting out on a sunny day, reading a book and watching the world go by. You are connected to your neighbours- you can hear some of them snoring two fields away! Everyone is very friendly and honest. I’ve never had any suspicion of strangers entering our tent, and a closed zip is as secure as a locked and alarmed front door.
The downside is that you have to get dressed if you need the toilet in the middle of the night, but even that has its benefits. Our campsite is far from any street lights and the sight of a star filled night sky is breathtaking. There’s nothing like sitting out and watching meteor showers on a warm clear night.

I'm not sure if we'll go camping again. We'll have to buy all the kit and our increasing age and attendant aches and pains may mean its all a bit too much. My recent health problems and the need to maintain strict hygiene may also count against a return.
Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.