Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dahn Sau-fff (Down South)

To Northerners such as myself, there is a temptation to refer to "The South" as if all parts of the South of England are pretty well indistinguishable.

Yesterday I was at a meeting near Henley-on-Thames which makes my leafy suburb seem positively deprived.
I then went to Southwark for a meeting and found armed police and dog unit between me and the office needed to get to. They were laying siege to a neighbouring council block.

This didn't seem to be a big deal to the locals - the guy with the police dog had to repeatedly warn off pedestrians who wanted to squeeze past. The location is just round the corner from the Old Vic theatre - I wondered if some of them thought that actors were doing a Location-Specific performance of a play called "Armed Police !! Throw out the Ferkin Guns and Come Out With Your Mother-Fudging Hands Up"

I never found out what was involved and I wouldn't be surprised if this posting was the only media coverage of the event. Just another day in Southwark.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A day of curry, blarney and Nina Simone

Had a wander around Manchester with Mrs. Stan today - ended up having lunch at my all-time favourite curry house "Lal Qila" in Rusholme. Their Chilli Chicken is a taste of heaven and as hot as hell. Washed down with some Indian lager - bliss.

Later on I sat in the sun and read a lot of W.B. Yeats online. It's all very, very good. Except the stuff with pixies, elves and fairies, which is faintly embarrassing.
  • Life is a long preparation for something that never happens
  • All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions
  • When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
  • Tread softly for you tread on my dreams
Yeats will not put a big grin on your face but packs a huge emotional charge. It's a bit like listening to Portishead on an empty stomach.

My favourite of his poems ? "The Second Coming". I challenge you to read the first eight lines and not think of the Iraq War.

Then listen to some Nina Simone to snap you out of it. Thanks to Mother Stan for letting me run off with a copy of her CD on my memory stick - "Sinnerman" is the ultimate antidote to intense Irish poetry. Ten minutes plus of sheer unbridled musicality that even had this heathen clapping along.

No big points to make today - just wanted to tell you that I had a good day. I hope you did too.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want.

I've had problems with getting petrol mowers to start and I've had some bad days, but I've never reacted like the guy in Wisconsin who took a sawn-off shotgun to his recalcitrant garden appliance. It reminded me of the bit in "Fawlty Towers" where John Cleese laid into his car with a branch because it wouldn't start. Apparently if he were in America, he would simply have shot it.

Mr Angry of Milwaukee is in line for a fine of up to $11,000 and a maximum prison sentence of six-and-a-half years if convicted - I'm guessing the penalty for beating it with a branch would have be much less. Maybe he should try that next time. Or counting to ten. Or not drinking like a loon before heading out into the garden.

I hope if he does do some time for this that someone will at least cut his grass for him while he's away.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nothing Happened Again Today

You may be wondering what's been happening since my shock announcement that I'm to become a Magistrate. You might imagine lots of training, loads of paperwork. Maybe even a Magistrate Boot-Camp where all the rookie JPs get together to do lots of chin-ups and use bayonets on straw dummies while yelling a lot.

Actually nothing of the kind. The whole process takes place at a maddeningly sedate pace with months and months of nothing-at-all-happening. At the start of June I got the nod, sent back the paperwork and not much happened since. I've been reading everything I can find on the web and watching box-sets of "The Bill" but apart from that I'm as unprepared to become a cog in the criminal justice system as I ever was.

So nothing continues to happen. I'll let you know when it stops happening.

Update : Criminal Records "Disclosure" form came back today confirming that I have lived a blameless life. Either that or I've been 100% successful in hiding my criminal empire. Either way, another baby step forward.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bonfire of the Banalities

Usually, when you bring the Nazis into any argument you're getting lazy and are probably well on the way to losing the argument.

This is a well-documented feature of post-war rhetoric : e.g
* Godwin's Law states that "As a (Usenet) discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one"
and also
* "Reductio Ad Hitlerum" states that "Hitler (or the Nazis) supported X, therefore X must be evil/undesirable/bad". It has the corollary "
Hitler (or the Nazis) were against X, therefore X must be good".
As far as I can remember I've kept Nazi references out of this blog, except where Darfur is concerned and I still say that's totally justified.

A less justified example is the owner of a Lap Dancing Club in West Sussex that burned down under suspicious circumstances last week. Now, I certainly would love it if all Lap Dancing establishments were to vanish, however setting them on fire is a step too far. I almost started to feel for the owner but then I read the following quote:
"Personally I think they did it because they are anti-lapdancing. With some people it runs to a high passion. I compare it to the book burning in Berlin in 1939."
Where to start with a comment like that !

For starters there weren't many books left to burn in 1939 - the major burnings were in 1933. But more importantly, isn't there a difference between the freedom to pay £500 for a bottle of naff champagne and a bump 'n' grind and the freedom to read Hemmingway, Freud and Brecht?!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things that go Splat

Myself and Mrs Stan did some painting today and made a discovery. Cheap paint sticks to everything apart from the wall you are aiming it at. And there are parts of the wall that appear to eat paint. I slap it on like cheese and then I turn round and look back and it's gone. Eaten by the Paint-Eating Magnolia Beast.

So most of my possessions and some hard-to-get-to parts of my body are now splattered with paint. Needed Mrs Stan to rescue me.

And that's just one small room. Can't wait until I can afford someone Polish and competent to do it for me.

Meanwhile I'm telling anyone that will listen that the grey streaks in my hair are actually paint and not signs of ageing. No-one is buying that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.

A depression is when you lose your job.

The above is an example of Economist humour. Ha ha.

Before the 1930s Great Depression, every period of "negative growth" was referred to as a "depression" but after that the term "recession" was coined to distinguish between a mere ill wind and a hurricane.

There's no currently agreed definition of an economic depression, but the definition I like best is where the country's GDP (Gross Domestic product = the sum of everything "made" by the country) declines by more than 10%. Between 1929 and 1933 the US economy declined by 33%.

Debt was a major cause of that depression also - but in that case it was coupled with radical deflation (40-60%) in raw material prices that meant that businesses couldn't afford to service their debt and went bust. This led to a painfully massive 25% unemployment rate.

By contrast the bad years ahead (2008-9) are estimated in the UK to involve a 1% GROWTH in GDP and the chances of a literal economic depression after that are unlikely.

Business isn't going to be easy that's for sure, but let's get a bit of historical perspective here. It's been worse and it always gets better eventually.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ecce Homo

I was all set for a big, long, bitchy blog about the Church of England last week and you know what happened ? They only went and did the right thing on women Bishops, which shut me up good and proper.

I suspected at the time that it wouldn't be long before something happened to upset me again.

Today the openly gay Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, was speaking at a church in West London and was heckled by a protester. His sermon was on big world problems and how tragic it was that the Anglican church concentrated so much of their energy on sexuality when there was so much more important issue they should be addressing.

I'll not get into the arguments from both sides, I just want to make one point.

26 Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords. This means that one Christian sect is absurdly over-represented in our second House of Parliament, but I'll let that pass for now.

My point is that access to the House of Lords should not be restricted by racial, gender, sexual or other affiliation. As the Church of England is providing 26 members of the House they should, if they want to represent the population as a whole, be providing 13 women and an absolute minimum of 3 gay people.

So, if the Church of England is determined to remain a homophobic members-club, that's a matter for them. But the Lords should represent society as a whole. Homophobic members-clubs should not be given any representation there.

I do look forward to seeing the first Woman Bishop taking her seat in the Lords - I do however suspect it'll be long after I'm gone.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3

And yes, Ian Dury is definitely on my Great Lyricists list.

I was watching a repeat of "Location, Location, Location" in a rare idle moment this week. It was from a completely different era when property prices were booming and everything was sunny and optimistic with the economy. About 18 months ago I think.

Anyway, the couple involved were totally obnoxious, smug and annoying and I was about to switch off when I had a thought that instantly made it the most enjoyable TV show I'd seen for some time.

Basically, you need to watch the program with the benefit of hindsight. We now know that the smug and obnoxious couple are about to make the worst decision of their lives and buy a house at the top of a market that will almost instantly fall away beneath their feet. By the end I was cheering them on to take the plunge and I almost cried with joy when they did buy the house. Wonder how smug they are now that it is worth about 30% less than they paid. They are probably still pretty obnoxious though

Yes, it's probably wrong for me to gain enjoyment from bad things happening to bad people but if we're to keep smiling through the Credit Crunch we need to make the best of the situation.

For example:-

* Hundreds of Estate Agents are getting sacked and the rest are fighting each other for the few remaining scraps of business. Hurray !

* Those crashing bores who go on about how much the price of their houses have increased have shut the heck up. Funny how they don't prattle on about how much money they have lost recently.

* I love see to the faces of the 4x4 drivers at the petrol station when they see that they have spend over £100 on filling up.

* Lots of braying City Boys have been sent packing from their Financial Institutions with no transferable skills and a £500-a-day cocaine habit.

* Less traffic on the roads as people start to think about whether they need to use the car for all their journeys.

* I can usually get a seat at Starbucks these days

You are welcome to provide your own examples, and remember Schadefreude is fun and costs nothing and so is the perfect way to take your mind off how the heck you are going to pay the mortgage this month.