Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Monday, 30 January 2012
Stephen Hester has decided to forgo his bonus this year and on the face of it will be worse off to something in the region of a million pounds. No doubt there is a body of opinion that feels that Hester should have had the gumption to just take the money and give two fingers to the mob but by and large an audible wave of self satisfaction is sweeping over us. Why, even Ed Miliband is claiming a political triumph (savour it Ed) for his demand that the contentious bonus be the subject of a Commons vote. Over the past week Hester and his wretched bonus have become theatre; and very unsophisticated Good versus Evil theatre at that. How we boo the greedy bankers creaming off the top at the taxpayers expense. How we wonder at the scale of such wealth - what do they spend it on? How we laugh and clap when the wicked banker loses a small fraction of his wealth.
Look, I don't want spoil it all, it's not in my nature to piss on anyone's chips, but while we are so distracted by what's happening on stage the theatre management are carrying on as normal.
The problem has never been as simple as doing away with a group of greedy and brutal individuals. Such people have always existed, and unless you believe in human perfectibility, always will. The trick is to keep their grubby hands well away from the levers of power.
Saturday, 28 January 2012
Friday, 27 January 2012
Over the past year or so I have become a bit of a connoisseur of the "budget short break" and especially the once grand luxury hotels that are now forced to offer the likes of me a couple of cheap nights in the faded grandeur of what was once the very height of bourgeois opulence. I shouldn't take any credit for finding these deals, it's all down to "her indoors" who can sniff out a bargain like no one else I have ever met. Each to their own of course. My contribution is the socio/economic and cultural analysis of the project. Anyway, the fact is we have just returned from a couple of nights at the Liverpool Adelphi. The scale and splendour of the place is quite over the top. A grand hall based on the main lounge of the Titanic, acres of gilt and marble, I can't imagine what this place must have been like in the heyday of the Transatlantic Liners. The Adelphi was the favourite stop over place for politicians, eastern potentates and the stars of stage, screen and radio; Roy Rogers is reputed to have ridden Trigger up the grand staircase. Now coach parties of moaning coffin dodgers are the staple punters. A room the size of most flats and overlooking the bustle of Lime Street with an excellent breakfast and evening meal thrown in came to the princely sum of twenty five quid a night each. Plenty of dosh left over to explore those wonderful pubs.
Monday, 23 January 2012
There is no arguing that the number of cattle slaughtered as a result of testing positive for bovine TB has increased dramatically from under a thousand head in 1988 to something in the region of 40000 head today. This is a shocking statistic but just how much of a human health threat is bovine TB and is this devastation of the national herd really necessary? How much is the badger to blame and will a cull really help? Why is the disease on the increase anyway? If informed debate rather than knee-jerk reaction is your bag there is an excellent site here. The badger cull will be an emotive issue and in true British fashion we will no doubt be more concerned about this than the increasing impoverishment of whole sections the population. Let this concern at least be tempered by a bit of knowledge.
Saturday, 21 January 2012
I have never been a great lover of political labels. Sure I've frequently referred to myself as an anarchist but more out of laziness than anything else. It saves having to explain everything all the time. I used to say that I was a libertarian until the term was expropriated by the right. Now if you call yourself a libertarian people will tend to think that you are big mates with Ron Paul and the Tea Party creeps. Well, in truth most people will express no interest whatsoever knowing full well that X Factor is far and away more interesting, more important and probably more honest than any politics. We have heard a lot recently about the need for an anarchist "movement". I'm not so sure. I tend to think that what we need is a mass movement and the end of politics as a separate activity. That's not to say that small groups of comrades can't have an influence out of all proportion to their numbers because they surely can. But only if what unites them is a project rather than an ideology and their politics is defined by what they do rather than any labels that may be attached to them.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
It seems that Boris Island is now to be Boris Peninsular. There is of course a big difference between a roomful of suits nodding approvingly over a model and a project actually being built but the government are increasingly gung ho for anything that might lead to economic expansion and recovery. An airport on this site would mean the end of the Kent Marshes and several small communities but hey ho. There is also the small matter of the wreck of the WW II ammunition ship Richard Montgomery that sits just of the Isle Of Grain with 1500 tons of unstable high explosive in her hold. Still, greater minds than mine etc.
Monday, 16 January 2012
In the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster TV crews and the media in general are climbing over each other to get good vox pop and expert witness interviews. The general secretary of Nautilus union has talked good sense about the drive for increased profit leading to the principles of naval architecture being disregarded as the size of cruise ships doubles in a decade. We have had the shifty looking captain who was seen stepping into a taxi moments after his ship had settled on the rocks. Mr and Mrs Brits Abroad have been complaining about the crew speaking foreign languages and the lack of safety procedures (normally they would be holding forth about health and safety gone mad- now they can't get enough of it.) Filipino crew members are wondering if they will ever see their wages (don't hold your breath lads) and there is plenty of footage in the can of passengers recounting how one minute they were watching the cabaret and the next plunged into darkness and knee deep in salmon mousse. By far the best story however, and one that will go down in the annals of both maritime disasters and the Magic Circle, is the one from the young conjurer's assistant who was on stage shut inside a box (presumably waiting to be sawn in half) when the ship ploughed into the solid stuff at 15 knots. Whatever show business throws at her in future will seem but a mere bagatelle in comparison.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
When a ship or craft is aimed at a destination, be it a coastline on the other side of an ocean or a jetty a hundred yards away, the resulting arrival is known as a "fetch". Missing the target is a "mis-fetch" and where we "fetch up" is our final destination, with a vessel or in life. When Harry Gosling retired it was to a house in Waldergrave Road, Twickenham aptly named 'Goodfetch". Apprenticed to his master lighterman father at the age of thirteen it would have been expected that Harry would spend all of his working life on the London River but he was a founder member of the Waterman and Lighterman's Union and soon became a full time union organiser. With Ben Tillett, Harry Gosling was a leader of the 1911 dock strike and it was with Tillett that Harry would go on to amalgamate several unions into the mighty TGWU. A long serving member of the old London County Council, MP for Whitechapel and Minister of Transport in the first ever Labour Government Harry Gosling was every inch the professional politician; and no doubt had many of the inherent failings of that breed. But who today could imagine someone who spent his formative years rowing rafts of timber on the tideway ending up as Minister of Transport? In a world where politics is dominated by Oxford PPE graduates we will not see such men again. After spending a good deal of my working life afloat I seem to have fetched up a couple of hundred yards away from Harry Gosling's final berth. Funny old world innit?
Thursday, 12 January 2012
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
By and large I'm in favour of trains and can still get quite excited at the prospect of a new rail journey. Railways are a much more civilised way of getting around than road transport and no rail station could ever match the tedium and squalid indignity of most airports. You can turn up at Waterloo or St Pancras safe in the knowledge that you will not be expected to wait around in your socks and knickers while some jobsworth checks your baggage for overdue library books. The war on terror has yet to reach us rail passengers. We still live in a world of Railway Children, Rupert Bear and Brief Encounters. Well, those of us who don't use the trains to get to and from work anyway. So if I'm so keen on railways how come I have all these misgivings about the High Speed link to Birmingham and beyond? It's not just the 32 billion quid either and much as I love the English countryside I know that it's been "spoilt" not by transport networks but by second homes and the erosion of the rural economy. It's not even my failing to understand why anyone could be in such a rush that shaving three quarters of an hour of the journey time to Brum is that important. No, it's just that like Iain Sinclair I tend to be a bit suspicious of Grand Projects. From Pyramids to Olympic Parks these monuments to hubris create only jobs (unwanted labour) and, I suppose, ruins for future tourists to wonder at.
Monday, 9 January 2012
I sometimes feel that I am not always accorded the respect and recognition that I deserve. It's a common complaint but self-pity is not an admirable trait and it's a case of shaping up or shipping out round here so I shove such thoughts to the back of my mind, brace up and soldier on regardless. You can see where this is leading can't you? A letter arrived in this morning's post.
"Dear Mr Hulm," it began, "I am delighted to inform you that you have been selected as someone whose status qualifies for a privilege price on TIME, one of the world's most respected and influential magazines." It's also pretty right-wing as well as being shallow and mind numbingly boring but who am I to reject overtures from any quarter. Anyone got any old Readers Digests they don't want?
Sunday, 8 January 2012
Just got home from a few hours work at the allotment which apart from any other benefits has cleared up my post ALARM conference hangover a treat. The conference itself was really well organised and all credit to ALARM for pulling this off. Some of us felt that hiring the main hall at Conway Hall was a step too far but it all came good in the end with an enthusiastic response to some excellent speakers. Well done ALARM. Nice one.
Friday, 6 January 2012
Diane Abbott is not my favourite politician, not by a long chalk, but to give her her due she knows how to fight her corner and was bang on the money in calling out Dave and Gideon as "posh white boys from the Home Counties." Now the member for Hackney North and Stokie is twitting her way into a deeper and deeper hole. Unfortunately the very pertinent comments from journalist Bin Adewunmi regarding "communities" and "community leaders" that started all this have been overlooked in the general hooha. The Labour Party is now claiming that Milliband has issued a serious dressing down to Abbott. I doubt if Ed Milliband could issue a serious dressing down to a loose boweled cat let alone a feisty woman like Diane Abbott. Fucking dream on Ed.
Thursday, 5 January 2012
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
The sentencing of Dobson and Norris for the murder of Stephan Lawrence will hopefully bring some small comfort and an element of closure to the Lawrence family. Unfortunately, in the wake of the trial comes an unpleasant wave of self satisfaction from police and pundits alike who seem to be falling over themselves to convince us (and each other) how much better the Met and society as a whole have become since Stephen was murdered. Perhaps we are a less racist society, I certainly hope so, and perhaps the police have reflected that change in their dealing with minorities - but there are a lot of black people out there who will tell you otherwise. What is true is that we have witnessed an increasing bourgeoisification of society. Working class culture and behaviour was traditionally more brash and boisterous than it more refined, some would say more hypocritical, middle class counterpart. It may be more pleasant to not want a certain type of person in the golf club rather than hurl racist abuse at someone in the street - but it's hardly less racist.
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
Amongst other things 2012 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. You can keep tabs on all the various events here but the celebrations got of to a brilliant start with the BBC's latest production of Great Expectations. No one does costume drama like the beeb and they didn't let us down this time. The sets, the locations, the acting, all superb and the icing on the cake was Ray Winstone who gave us what must be the best ever portrayal of Magwitch. Lovely stuff. I think that Great Expectations is my favourite Dickens tale so when I had the opportunity a few years back to be involved in a previous BBC production I didn't need to be asked twice. My contribution consisted of marine coordination and a (very) small speaking part. What larks!