Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Other Brown

Am I missing something? Scott Brown looks like a greasy, insincere, ageing Estate Agent to me.

But he drives a pick-up truck, so he must be a man of the people.

The health care debate in America confuses me because comprehensive, free-at-point-of-access health care seems such a fundamental feature of a civilised society to most British people, whether they vote Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat.

But I don't get all that "get Government off our backs" business either--and that's a part of the political debate in the UK too. Well, in London. If the Government aren't there to act as stewards of society economically,culturally and sometimes morally too, what are they there for? To me it seems obvious that unrestrained capitalism leaves the few free to prosper at the expense of the many. Look at how Thatcher's letting-loose of the markets in the Eighties freed business to take away employees rights, for pay to go down nearly as far as employment levels and for crime and social disfunction to spread. If we don't like the politicians who are acting as our stewards we can get rid of them. So where's the danger?

Heretical views, I fear, but there you are. Maybe I am missing something. Perhaps the 30 million Americans without health insurance just don't have it because they're lazy and work-shy. And perhaps Scott Brown isn't actually a patronising, manipulative man who harbours a secret disregard for the Massachussets voters and really ran for office just to protect his own interests and those of the businessmen he speaks for.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Polarities & Union

I'm bored of all that large press/small press mainstream/underground gubbins. You're either good or you aren't. The only place worth belonging is in the arms of your loved ones anyway, however sentimental that sounds.

I've never fitted in anywhere intellectually or creatively, from school days right up to these days. I used to wish I did, and tried frequently to insinuate myself into this or that group, usually failing miserably, but now at last, staring old age, disease and death in the face, I've learned to take pride in my difference. It is, after all different. And I've found some happiness unexpectedly, by being me...People still either hate or are mystified by my writing, but you can't have it all. For some reason.

(By the way, it's a faintly comical exaggeration to say I am staring old age, disease and death in the face, in case that's not immediately clear. I am facing middle age, illness and morning torpor in the face really.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are You Garrett or Bill? I Really Don't Know

I watched Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" again the other night. A classic movie, this, unknown by most, which ruined my mind at an impressionable age and made life a lot harder than it should have been! (I should say "lol" there, but I won't.) In my favourite scene--it's my favourite because of the way it's shot, and the Bob Dylan music attached to it, and the Christ imagery Peckinpah chose to use--Billy is arrested by Garrett on the latter's first day as Sherriff of Lincoln County.After he's surrendered, Billy says, "You're in poor company, Pat," and Pat replies, "Yeah, I'm still alive, though." "So am I......," says Billy, with a challenging grin on his face.

Garrett, of course, rode with Billy once upon a merry moon, but took the job of Sheriff and dutifully obeyed the Sheriff's true masters, the local cattle barons (not much changes, does it?), when they ordered him to kill Billy. The story, and the movie, are all about what happens when that time in your life comes when you're sick and tired and you're faced with the temptation to conform to mainstream expectations and secure an easy life for you and yourn. Which is not a quandary for those who've never been out on the margins, but for those of us who have, it's like wrestling the Devil.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer died in Paris on Monday. One of the great artists of an outstanding era in French cinema. Hollywood can offer very little that is as subtle, as insightful, as memorable, as a film by Rohmer. Look one up, if you haven't done so already. A world of mature delights is waiting for you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Racism, War & Public Dissent

People seem very black-and-white in their thinking about race, religion and war these days. Which is not intended as a pun. The Government tells us we're all equal; civilised legislation tells us that racism is unacceptable; expressing racist views is a sackable offense in every workplace. And yet as soon as the boss goes away, or the Jamaican or the Pakistani or the Sri Lankan or the Kenyan go away, out come the same old jokes and stereotypes and prejudices that we used to see on tv in the bad old days; which the State congratulates itself we have driven out of modern life. It's been sent partially underground; but it's still there. I hear so much racism and cultural ignorance in everyday conversation it staggers me. I'm sure it wasn't like this 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, of course, we had a common enemy in Margaret Thatcher.

Since then, one hardly needs reminding, the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre has happened. As brutal and ugly and disgusting a single act as has been perpetrated anywhere in the world in living memory. There were the London bombings too. Radical Islam has set itself against our very way of life in the Western world, and the kind of society it appears to want to impose on us is as alien to the ordinary Westerner as it would be if it came from an unidentified planet at the furthest end of the Universe. There is also the unignorable fact that the footsoldiers of radical Islam are prepared to kill in any number necessary to set their God in place of yours, whether yours is the Christian God, or the God of Money. I think this is where the heightened racial tensions in the country come from. They are motivated by a sense of danger. By the apparent fanatacism of those opposed to us. We are an island race and a former Empire, with all that that history brings. Threaten us and we revert easily to type.

But we are, unless we become the mirror of our fundamentalist enemy, a democracy, and we should not stifle or stamp out debate in our urgency to shore ourselves up against attack. If I disagree with you and you listen to me with tolerance and understanding, we are resisting our enemy by not becoming him; we are showing our enemy that we stand defiant against him. We are leading the world in the manner that we believe is our birthright. And I don't believe that the War Against Terror is best fought by soldiers on the plains and in the mountains of Afghanistan. I think we can defeat those who wish to threaten our way of life without invading foreign countries and taking away the lives of our own, and their own, sons and daughters. That doesn't mean I am a supporter of terrorism. I abhor murder in the name of religion or politics. My criticism of the Government and the System I live under does not make me a Communist or an Islamist or an anything-ist. I am actually celebrating my democratic rights by expressing my views. I am proving that despite its numerous flaws, democracy is the best bad system we've got. I would rather live here, as much as I complain about my country, than in a country ruled by cruel Party bureaucrats or fundamentalist clerics, though it should probably not be necessary for me to make that clear.


I am too old, gnarly, tired, and yes indeed, perhaps intelligent, to want anything other than a stress-free, drama-free life these days. When the fat lady starts caterwauling in my ear, it's definitely time to get out of the opera.

Monday, January 11, 2010

One Day

One day a counter-culture will live again that you can't buy in a hairdresser's.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Thought.

There is nothing to achieve in life except a warm hand across the breakfast table.

Music And Their Message

I was listening to some hip hop the other day. Or whatever they call it now. Or some variant of it I haven't heard about, being "a man from another time". And I'm sorry, but what a lot of illiterate, juvenile, posturing horseshit it seemed to my small hairy ears. That's the way we talked in school when we were trying to make the other kids think we were tough; that we did something with our evenings other than go home, watch "Blue Peter" and read comics until bedtime.

Although I believe that the more basic art forms condition the minds of those who are exposed to them, and that therefore some people who listen to this crap will be prone to the primitive language and behaviour it glorifies--in other words,that it isn't necessarily a game of projecting what one imagines, mystifyingly, to be a heroic personality. Hip hop has been around for a long, long time, and it may have helped degrade a whole generation.

It doesn't seem to have changed that much in its sound and rhythms and preoccupations either, despite its incredible longevity, though it has become less and less socially responsible as time has passed.Where are the Chuck Ds of yesteryear, eh? They knew that you don't beat poverty and oppression by turning yourself into a grotesque of the newspaper image your oppressors have of you.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Congratulations Pat Hewitt and Geoff Hoon. Now Labour really doesn't have a chance of winning the next Election.

You can imagine the headlines already: "How can they govern the country when they can't govern themselves?"

And Gordon Brown gave one of his best performances yet at PMQs today.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Wootten Bassett

Anyone who has read "Suffolk Punch" with any degree of attention will know that I am as opposed to the Afghan war as anyone could be. But a pro-Islamic, anti-Coalition demonstration in Wootten Bassett, as proposed, would be an act of cruel provocation sure to make the life of Muslims in this country even harder.

Still, for the Mayor of Wootten Bassett to deny, as he is doing all over the national media at present, that the repatriation ceremonies for British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, which go through the centre of the village, are political in their subtext if not overtly so, is either disingenuous or just plain stupid.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Fate Of This Country

The fate of this country is decided not by those who have opinions, but by those who don't.Which is most people, at least when it comes to politics. They don't bother themselves with such things because they are too busy dealing with their jobs, their relationships, trying to pay their bills...Life is not only a struggle, for the majority, it's a bloody busy one. But we need to take the time to look at what is going on around us, what's being done in our name, because if we drop our guard, as history teaches us so clearly, all sorts of infamy can sneak in and set up home. And is it REALLY just time that stops us from giving our coat to the man freezing in the street (as someone I know did recently)? Is it JUST mental preoccupation that keeps us from forming our own opinions about the Afghan War rather than regurgitating whatever we read in the Sun or the Daily Mail? I don't think it is, you know.


I visited the grave of the man who wrote "Amazing Grace" yesterday.It's in a beautiful, overgrown old churchyard in Olney in Bedfordshire that looks down on the muddy River Ouse, surrounded by smaller graves so age-mottled, in the main, the inscriptions can no longer be read. John Newton, the song's author, was the vicar (if I have the terminology correct) of the church there, a marvellous building whose uneven brown stones support a spire so great it can be seen from some distance away, pointing into Heaven.

Standing over Newton's bones was moving even for an old Heathen like me. I've loved the song all my life, as I love many of the great Christian songs. But Newton's example, I believe--having been, as he once was, a slave trader--exercised a powerful influence on William Wilberforce, who as we all know was the principle figure in this country behind the abolition of the slave trade. So one man's conversion to God, and his ability to articulate his spiritual journey in song (albeit, apparently, with the aid of William Cowper), helped set in motion one of the most monumental and civilising changes in English history.

Which demonstrates powerfully why a sense of civic responsibility--if it is combined with a strong personal morality--is such an important thing for a man or woman to have. Especially in times like ours when we may be lurching back into a world not dissimilar to the one we knew in the Dark Ages.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year

Yes, 2010 is here. Have a Conservative Government, people, like in the good old days of the poll tax, the Miner's Strike, legislative discrimination towards homosexuals. Have an escalating foreign war. Have a cowardly media reporting what the Government tells them to about Afghanistan. It's all good.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Brown may not be the most inspiring leader of all time but don't forget, it wasn't him who caused the financial collapse. It was greedy free-market capitalist bankers who have wet dreams about Margaret Thatcher

A Warning

If anybody out there is actually reading this page, please be savvy and ignore the rubbish that keeps appearing in the comments field inviting you to pages where you can unlock phones and buy sex dvds.SUFFOLK PUNCH is obviously being targeted by internet scammers looking to steal your credit card details, or whatever it is these parasites are after, by luring you to click on bogus links. I will be reporting them, rest assured.