Sunday, April 25, 2004

John Fulkes

John Fulkes, the head of sixth form at my old school, died of a ‘natural causes’ last weekend. He was a permanent presence at the school through several generations and seemed bullet-proof. I’ll leave the gushing praise to others, because I haven’t met anyone who didn’t have a beef with him at some point or other. When Emma took her A Levels they taught the wrong syllabus on one of the subjects. The entire group failed but JF chose to ignore the appeals and protestations. If you were a sportsman or had Oxbridge potential you would win far more attention than the vast majority of ‘normal’ students.

He did, however, create in his sixth form an environment that allowed me to develop friendships with some of my favourite people in the whole world. Something he did time and time again for thousands of people. If that’s his only legacy, then he did OK.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Capitalism isn’t perfect, but until someone offers me an alternative I’ll live with it – Graham Spankee

Bowling for Columbine identified the fear of failure is the lynch pin to dysfunction within American society. Stupid White Men is a naively irritating rant by comparison. Michael Moore’s central argument is that ‘Stupid White Men’ are ruling and destroying the world. A fair point. Amongst some fairly generic views on the environment (we should care for it more) and capitalism (it’s not fair) his central solution is to employ black people and let women rule the world. His proposed solution to Northern Ireland? All Irish Protestants should turn Catholic.

It starts promisingly with a chapter on George Bush engineering his presidential victory through the manipulation of the courts, the electoral register and the media. It ends well, questioning the relationship the Bush family has with the bin Laden’s (although even here it’s their relationship with the respected Saudi oil family not their enfant terrible Osama). The rest is as insightful as an A Level politics and economics essay. Moore reveals that big corporations don’t make people redundant because they’re losing money, it’s because they’re making less profit than they originally promised to shareholders. Greedy white men, says Moore, but anyone who didn’t realise that stock trading is a measured bet against a company’s future growth is more stupid than the stupid (but rich) white men Moore rallies against.

To a moderate liberal like me Bush is undoubtedly a scary right wing fanatic who believes in the power of the market (and the bible) to cure all social ills, but just because Michael Moore is a left wing idealist, it doesn’t make him look any less stupid.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Fields of dreams

Embarrassingly I compromised Russ’ political sensibilities on Saturday by naively assuming point-to-point racing was a charming countryside pursuit. I didn’t realise it’s organised by the same people who run fox hunting. Russ doesn’t like the merciless murder of foxes so he isn’t really into funding the hunt.

The first page of the race card said, “If the hunt it is made illegal this will be the last point to point meeting”. Whilst it has no obvious form of income, point-to-point racing has the entry fee, the betting, food and drink, sponsorship, and the other stalls. You suspect if it were the racing that was made illegal, the hunt wouldn’t survive, not the other way around.

If I were about to be pushed off a cliff for not having a view on fox hunting I’d say that I was against it. Pro-hunt arguments don’t seem sustainable; it’s a labour intensive way of ‘maintaining a happy and stable fox community’. However in the main, it doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day basis. For a good day out at the point to point, I’m prepared to turn a blind eye.

There was a heavy presence of the Countryside Alliance at the event. The CA is the largest pressure group dedicated to countryside living. This is not difficult when you have the ambiguous manifesto and over-simplified worldview they have.

The Alliance is an umbrella organisation supporting all country pursuits, this means 250,000 people joined its protest march a couple of years ago; pro and anti fox hunting groups, walkers and mountain bikers, farmers and city commuters.

So, how does the CA maintain any coherence? Well, their main thrust is that country people should be able to decide their own fate and city people should keep their noses out of business they don’t understand. They have created a conveniently polarised view that the world is made up of city people and country people – and never the twain shall meet.

Short of ring fencing cities and creating countryside border controls it is impossible to clearly define these two groups of people. The symbiotic relationship between the country and the city is conveniently ignored.

Because of the ambiguity, the CA is run by people tailoring the overtly quaint ‘countryside living’ manifesto to their own more radical one. They are also backed by people who support the quaint agenda without realising they are also supporting the radicals. The vast majority of people, who have more liberal yet complex views on the countryside, have no mechanism to voice their opinion.

We live four miles from Kimble, from the countryside, but we live in a rather large town. I work in a large town and regularly commute into London. My time is spent in mostly towns, but part of the appeal of the area is its proximity to open fields. Our friends live in cities, and on farms, and in villages and in large towns. I’m not a welly wearing country dweller, I’m not a world weary city slicker. I am, like most people, a person who lives in a country who doesn’t have a conveniently linear view of countryside living.

The Countryside Alliance conveniently ignores the complexity, choosing to propagate an ambiguous political agenda. As such they enjoy an unprecedented level of support, publicity and inevitably influence that they barely deserve.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Deaf jam

Did I really hear Arsenal football legend Ian Wright describe Robert Pires’ punch on Gary Neville during last Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final as “Nothing more than a beeatch slap”?

AND, did I really hear Lotus driving management consultant Cambridge educated middle class country boy Graham Spankee saying to the waitress reciting our order in the Thai resteraunt. “Yo girlfriend, yo’ll over that”?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Last temptation of Ruffles

Some people have greatness thrust upon them, others have trite irrelevancies. I’m one of those people. Somewhere in the subtext of my story I have been given a heavy burden… of playing Steps bingo.

Steps’ appeal stretched little further than girls under five and gay men, but it still made them shameless millionaires. They were the cursed enemy of music until they grew up, wanted to be taken seriously and split. I saw Lee Latchford Evans on Oxford Street last week. Lee always looked slightly embarrassed by what he was doing. To him Steps was a pub bet that got out of hand.

Big deal, London is full of minor celebs. Have you ever yearned to see Ben Fogle and Dr ‘Foxy’ Fox on the same street? I did that the other day. The Lee spot was significant because a few years ago I saw fellow band member Lisa Scott Lee also on Oxford Street. My Steps bingo card has two names crossed off, is the significance of this starting to become clear to you?

Lisa was buying a suit for her male companion. Incidentally, if it was one of her brothers, that means I saw a member of 3SL, as well, BEFORE they were famous. Bizarrely Lisa was in the middle of a High Street store on Oxford Street dressed in a silver blue mini dress, a stage outfit, if you will.

Now, with Faye Tozer, it’s a case of so near yet so far. Penny’s friend from college is a friend of Faye’s. With some harmless obsessive stalking I could get Faye onto my Steps Bingo card.

I don’t currently have a lead on H although I’m pretty sure a quick tour around the nation’s Pontins resorts and gay bards will soon prove fruitful. Clare, I have no lead on at all. I’m not too worried as I plan for her to be last. When I do get to Clare, I shall stand in front of her with my Steps bingo card and a marker pen. I shall look her in the eye and with a slightly odd smile on my face I shall shout triumphantly...

“Clickety click big fat hips.”

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