I was in the library today. While flicking through the pages of a book on the 1832 Reform Act, I found this little story. You can imagine my reaction (and yes, I did get a dirty look from the librarian for laughing…):
[A] little girl asked her mother, ‘Mamma, are Tories born wicked, or do they grow wicked afterwards?’ To which the mother replied, ‘They are born wicked and grow worse.’
Whether this parental exchange really happened is immaterial – the story obviously struck a chord at the time. And, not far off two centuries later, absolutely nothing has changed…
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013
A remarkable, inspirational life well lived.
Rest In Peace.
I don’t often write about sport, but I couldn’t let this one pass me by. I was rummaging in amongst my small library of football books today, searching for a particular quote (which is actually a whole other blog post in itself. Probably), when I found this little gem.* Apparently taken from the 1897 edition of the club handbook, here’s some useful – if perhaps slightly patronising – advice on how to be a proper 19th century Spurs fan:
Hints to Spectators
Learn the rules well before criticising.
Respect the rulings of the referee and refrain from unseemly demonstrations so common on many football fields when decisions are unpalatable – the best of referees make mistakes.
Applaud good football impartially.
Don’t let a defeat discourage you. It is at this time that encouragement is most wanted by players.
Don’t express your disapproval of a player so that everyone can hear, it only upsets him and he loses confidence.
This season’s team will doubtless accomplish some fine performances. Don’t, in your enthusiasm, forget that there is such a thing as mistaken kindness where athletes in training are concerned.
Don’t stop at home when the team goes away; they want your support more than ever when on opponents’ grounds.
Let visitors go away with the impression that the Tottenham crowd are good sportsmen.
Whether at home or away don’t forget the ‘Tottenham whisper’.
It’s amazing how little some things change over the course of a century – quite a few of these ‘hints’ are still clearly recognisable as issues within the game as a whole, and rightly so in some cases! However, despite being a life-long Spurs fan, I have absolutely no idea what the ‘Tottenham whisper’ is. Can anyone enlighten me?
* Powley, Adam and Cloake, Martin – ‘The Spurs Miscellany’ (Vision Sports Publishing, London; 2007), p.116
To absolutely no-one’s surprise, the controversial badger cull trial is in trouble. There appears to be confusion over how many badgers there actually are in the trial area to begin with, and the government’s targets for killing these beautiful creatures have not, it seems, been met – leading to an extension to this pilot cull being requested in order to do so. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who is very much in favour of the cull, was asked about this in a BBC interview today:
BBC News Interviewer: What you describe there as success, the critics will argue has been a failure on all levels. You didn’t estimate the number of badgers in the area correctly in the first place, you haven’t reached the 70% target of killing badgers that you set yourself at the beginning of this and now the trial has to be extended. You’re moving the goalposts on all fronts.
Owen Paterson: No, that’s not right at all. The badgers moved the goalposts. We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.
BBC News Interviewer: Well, doesn’t that make the cull ridiculous in itself then?
Well, yes. Yes, it does. But the cull has always been ridiculous in itself. And Paterson is quite right when he points out that badgers are wild animals, although I’m not sure how that would make them responsible for changing the rules of football – let alone a basic human inability to count correctly or shoot straight. Indeed, I suspect the badgers are probably less on the wild side and more like absolutely livid over all this stupidity. So livid, in fact, that I like to think they’ve run away with the goalposts so poor Mr Paterson can’t play football…
Seems I wasn’t the only one amused by the possibilities of this mental image – over at usvsth3m.com, they’ve got a fun Owen Paterson’s Badger Penalty Shoot-Out game where you can try to get the ball past a group of sneaky goalpost-moving badgers. It’s not as easy as it looks – the badgers beat me every time!
If people get genuinely upset and frustrated that four men that last played together 25 years ago are doing other things, then those people need to go and find a hobby. If the band only split up two years ago it might be a different matter, but 25 years? Come on. It’s a long time. If you like the Smiths, the records, photographs and memories are all plenty to be getting along with.
It’s long been known that Mr Marr is the type of chap who does not mince his words and says exactly what he thinks (in fact, he’s featured in Quote of the Day before, doing just that) – and it was only a matter of time before he commented on the endless cycle of Smiths reunion rumours that seem to do the rounds – online and off – on a regular basis. With Marr’s career seemingly back on the up – and Morrissey’s seemingly headed in the opposite direction – it appears (not for the first time) that many people see now as the perfect moment for this legendary band to get back on the road, at the very least.
But any member of any influential ex-band with a strong cult following like that of The Smiths will be bombarded with such rumours every so often – just as long as they stay an ex-band. Far-fetched stories of a Clash reunion were circulating right up until Joe Strummer’s death in 2002 (according to Pat Gilbert’s fascinating 2005 book Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, the closest that came to happening was in 1996, oddly enough round about the same time as the Sex Pistols reformed), and the repeated mutterings that the bit of a rant from me a couple of years ago (the fact that they eventually did is still a bit of a sore point…)would get back together provoked a
Because that’s the thing. It’s never going to be the same, is it? When a band of that sort of status reforms, people are looking for nostalgia, looking for an experience that is just like it was back in the day. Basically, they’re looking for the greatest hits. And it’s never going to be like that, not after so long. Half-close your eyes and squint, and yeah, the band up on the stage could be exactly the same as the one you fell in love with twenty five years ago – but, to be honest, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that they’re all actually middle aged and have moved on with their lives, their careers, their interests.
I’m with Johnny on this one. I’ll hold tight to my memories and continue to enjoy the music that bands like The Smiths left behind.
And yes, I’ll carry on hoping they don’t reform…
The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.
After everything they have been through in the last four years, I am glad that Ian Tomlinson’s family now finally have an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service, although the fact that it has taken four years for the police to fully acknowledge the events of April 1st 2009 and after says a great deal about how this case has been handled and the attitudes of some of the individuals and institutions involved.
Like many others who were at that ill-fated G20 demo in April 2009 (and who witnessed the behaviour of the TSG first hand), I have been following the progress of this case with much interest and I have been impressed with the quiet determination of Ian’s family in their search for the truth. In an ideal world, many of us would very much have liked to have seen Simon Harwood found guilty in last year’s manslaughter trial, but, as Ian’s widow Julia put it, this apology “is as close as we are going to get to justice”.
They may not have got the kind of justice many of us were hoping for, however, but I wish the Tomlinson family all the best for the future, whatever that brings, and I hope this apology (and the out of court settlement that accompanied it) can go at least some way towards helping them all move on from such a terrible and traumatic experience. I am sure that Ian would be proud of their tenacity, strength and bravery in standing up to the institutionalised violence, incompetence and cover-ups that surrounded his death with such dignity.
Like a number of other countries, Britain is currently sweltering in the midst of a heatwave. It’s hard enough for humans to cope in the hot weather (personally, I hate it – when it’s freezing cold you can always put another jumper on, but in this heat you can’t take your skin off!), but imagine what it must be like for our wildlife, which has already been battered by the strange weather we’ve been having so far this year.
Fortunately, anyone can help keep an eye on our wildlife during this heatwave – and here’s some simple and really good advice on how to do just that from Val Osborne, who is the head of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ wildlife enquiries team:
While we all revel in an unusually sunny summer, our garden wildlife might not be having such a good time. The hot weather could be causing natural water sources to dry up, meaning birds and hedgehogs could be left without anything to drink.
Turning your outside space into a home for nature by doing simple things like topping up your birdbath, creating a make-shift pond from a washing-up tub or putting down a saucer filled with water could offer a vital lifeline to some of our garden favourites that are already fighting against declines.
Some critters are going to need extra food too, as Osborne also notes:
When it’s particularly dry, worms tunnel right down into the soil, meaning they become out of reach to the wildlife that usually feasts on them, such as blackbirds, robins, hedgehogs and frogs.
If the hot, dry conditions carry on we may see wild plants start to die, meaning bees and butterflies will find it hard. If that happens, our gardens and the well-watered plants in them will become even more important to these insects.
You can find some more good advice on looking after wildlife in hot weather here.
Plus, if you have pets, there’s some great info from the Battersea Cats & Dogs Home on keeping them safe during a heatwave here.
Oh, and if you’re out and about, you can bring me back an ice lolly please!
Stay safe and stay cool…
As a human being it is very difficult not to have sympathy for somebody that I cared about deeply, but it is also important to remember that that person that I cared about deeply did not in fact exist. I cared deeply for somebody whose life was intermingled with mine, and that person’s life story is a fiction.
These are the words of an activist, named only as Lisa, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month. Lisa’s testimony about her ex-partner is part of the Committee’s Interim Report on undercover policing, a subject which has rightly caused a great deal of outcry and controversy over the last year or so.
The collapse of a high-profile court case against a group of environmental activists in early 2011 revealed that a police spy known as Mark Stone (real name Mark Kennedy) had successfully infiltrated various activist groups over a long period of time, acting as what can only be described as an agent provocateur.
This case was just the start of a series of revelations concerning the activities of Kennedy and a number of other undercover officers – revelations which have left many within the activist community quite rightly shocked and angered, and have led to wider calls for public inquiries and investigations into the use and tactics of police spies like Kennedy and his colleagues (hence the Home Affairs Committee’s involvement) .
She believed in genuine inspiration and was able to write quickly because she was so talented, but she never just knocked something off. She had real craft as well.
She wasn’t a good musician technically. She wasn’t interested in mastering an instrument, but she was great at putting chords together. Her expertise was melody, lyrics and harmony. She’s one of England’s greatest ever pop lyricists, she believed her songs should be almost like mini-novels, and she was a fucking Jedi at harmony… She had her own system that was all her own [...]
She came from Stiff records and she was well suited to that no bullshit mentality: “A good pop song, get it right, don’t fuck about, we’re not hippies”. She was no nonsense, but at the same time she believed in magic. A true artist, in a class of one, and irreplaceable. – Johnny Marr
Twelve years ago today, the music world lost one of its most original and memorable talents to a tragic and completely avoidable accident. The untimely death of Kirsty McColl on December 18th 2000 came as a shock to music fans everywhere – her witty, wry and honest songwriting and endearingly distinctive voice had gained her many admirers over a twenty-plus year career.
Born into a musical family (her father was the legendary folk singer Ewan MacColl), Kirsty started her pop career – like so many of her generation of musicians – in a punk band. Although this project was unsuccessful, it brought her to the attention of the influential Stiff Records who signed her to a solo deal.
I was about 19 when I first heard a Patti Smith record. It was Horses. I remember sitting there, very taken by the sound of her voice, this ferocious delivery. Later I was struck by how literate her lyrics were, how intellectual and political. I loved how, in her songs, she talked about anything other than the love in her heart for a man. And I loved her image: this non-glam look with the chopped-off hair, looking like a skinny boy. She was the complete opposite of the images that were pumped into me as a child, of what I was supposed to aspire to as a woman.
She is a soldier. She will not be defeated. I look at today’s charts, at the women who are selling the most records, getting the most column inches, and I’m terrified by how so many of them are controlled by a male corporate idea of what women and rebels should be. When some teen-pop singer is taken seriously as a rebellious figure, we have a huge problem. I’m just glad that Patti is still willing to get up there and fight for what she believes in. It makes me feel less alone. - Shirley Manson
Whether you like her music or not, Patti Smith still cuts a distinctive, empowering figure in the creative world. Never less than entirely herself, she has stubbornly endured the decades, the changes in musical fashions and her own personal tragedies to remain an inspiration to generations of female (and male) musicians, poets, writers and artists – yet there is still no-one else anywhere near like her.