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Jo Cox, MP

The attack on and subsequent death of Jo Cox MP is simply appalling.

That an MP should be killed in the course of carrying out her duties to her constituents strikes directly at the heart of representative democracy, especially as by all accounts she seems to have been one of the good ones, not in it for the money or the power but to help others.

Sadly it seems to be exactly that characteristic that has led to her being targeted by her assailant. A bitter testament to the level to which political discourse in the UK has sunk in recent months and the unsavoury attitudes it has engendered.

The greater loss is to her children and family but life in the UK has today lost a kind of innocence.

Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox: 22/6/1974 – 16/6/2016. So it goes.

Muhammad Ali

I woke up this morning to the sad news of the death of Muhammad Ali.

He was quite simply the best boxer of my lifetime, arguably of all time. To see him (albeit only on television) suddenly do that rapid shoe shuffle in the middle of a fight was to understand he had changed the game. This was new, someone who did not merely box: he performed. In the process he elevated boxing to something close to an art form.

That was not all though. His influence went way beyond his sport. Motivated by the racism he still endured despite winning an Olympic gold medal for his country – he was refused service at a whites-only establishment in his home town and threw the medal off a bridge into the river – he did not take the situation lying down but resolved to use whatever celebrity he gained to emphasise he, and other people like him, were as worthy of respect and consideration as anyone. It must have taken a great deal of courage to refuse being drafted into the army, saying he had no quarrel with the Vietcong, that they hadn’t called him names, taken his nationality, raped or lynched him.

Despite his occasional brashness the British public certainly loved him; his charisma, showmanship and general impish good humour (one particular interview with Michael Parkinson where he showed a darker side notwithstanding) outweighing any faults.

Most sadly it is likely that it was boxing that robbed him of his wonderful mobility; too many blows to the head cannot be good for your health and may have contributed to his contracting Parkinson’s disease. In one respect though he has done well. It hardly seems like nigh on twenty years since he lit the Olympic flame at the Atlanta Games, when his illness was all too apparent but he nevertheless transcended it with great dignity.

He became what he claimed to be: the greatest. The world is a smaller place without him in it.

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr): 17/1/1942 – 3/6/2016. So it goes.

The Things You Miss When You’re Away

As I’ve been away I only caught up with the news of the demotion of East Stirlingshire from the SPFL late yesterday.

61 years in the SFL/SPFL gone in a flash. It’s sad for them but they’ve been living on fumes for seasons on end now. It was always most likely that it would be the Shire that would be the first to fall victim to the play-off system.

Congratulations, though, to Edinburgh City. The role of third (or fourth) largest football side in Edinburgh has been taken in the past by St Bernard’s (defunct since World War 2) and Leith Athletic (demised 1955, reconstituted 1996 and as a senior team in 2008.) As those statistics suggest, surviving in the shadow of Hearts and Hibs is not easy.

Then there is the case of Meadowbank Thistle (Ferranti Thistle as was) admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 but weren’t satisfied with the sizes of crowds they were attracting in the capital and decamped to Livingston in 1995.

Speaking of Hibs, I see they managed to muck things up again. Hibsing it indeed. Then again they’ll probably win the Cup Final now and so put to an end the longest running “will this be the year” saga in Scottish football.

Leicester City’s fairy tale first top level title made the news in The Netherlands – as elsewhere I suspect. There was a newspaper article there about the length of time previous winners of their country’s football championship had been waiting to win it again. Schalke 04 topped the list at well over 20,000 days with Tottenham Hotspur second (also over 20,000 days.) Liverpool were about eighth on the list. I can just about make out some Dutch but a list is no problem.

I also divined from a radio report on the way back up that Roberto Martinez had lost the Everton job, paying the price for not getting enough out of a talented group of players. (An alternative possibility is that those players aren’t quite as good as their reputations would have them.)

And then there was the Scottish Parliament election, where the SNP paid the price of winning too many constituency seats and Labour actually did come second in the percentage vote in that element but not in the regional lists. We had voted by post before we left.

RIP Prince

Another total shock. Another untimely death. Prince was even younger than Victoria Wood.

There was a lot going on in my life around the time he started to make his way in the music business so it wasn’t till the single Purple Rain that I really became conscious of his work.

There were rumours he was very prolific; Wikipedia lists no less than 39 studio albums 17 more of various stamp. There are also rumoured to be hundreds of unreleased tracks hidden away in Paisley Park.

Prince was very protective of his intellectual property so there’s no video in this post.

Hum Raspberry Beret to yourselves.

Prince Rogers Nelson: 7/6/1958 – 21/4/2016. So it goes.

Victoria Wood

I was totally shocked to hear of the death of Victoria Wood. She always seemed so vital. And now she hasn’t had the chance to grow old.

She was a superb entertainer with lines that struck. Even yet when I walk through the cosmetic department of a high street chain (why are they always at the shop entrance?) I intone to myself – with appropriate nasality – “Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Sach…..er..el.”

I can’t say I remember her appearance on the talent show New Faces. The first time I really noticed her ability was in the TV showing of her play Talent, in which she starred along with Julie Walters her long time collaborator and friend, and its sequel Nearly a Happy Ending.

The sketch shows Wood and Walters and Victoria Wood as Seen on TV established her signature style, a coterie of actors (Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie) whom she would work with extensively, and her sublime parody of bad soap opera Acorn Antiques.

Not only was she a play and sketch writer, she could also play the piano, write songs and was a very good serious actress.

But perhaps her greatest achievement was the two series of the sitcom dinnerladies, a wonderful ensemble piece where all the characters got a share of the action – and the good lines.

With the possible exception of Bren’s mother in dinnerladies (so wonderfully played by Walters) she managed to treat all of her characters with compassion. No matter how flawed they might be they were living human beings with inner selves and anguishes.

Once seen and heard who could forget The Ballad of Barry and Freda, commonly known as Let’s Do It. “Bend me over backwards on me hostess trolley.” “Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly.) Priceless. The week that was first aired it was also featured on the TV round-up show Did You See? hosted by Ludovic Kennedy. At its end Kennedy couldn’t control his laughter.

Victoria Wood: The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Victoria Wood: 19/5/1953 – 20/4/2016. So it goes.

A Horticulture

I’ve been away for a couple of days and from the internet so couldn’t post this before but it’s too apposite to miss.

The Minister and the Prostitute.

Sounds like a short story title, doesn’t it? (Maybe a fairy tale title if the last word in it had been something else.)

Yet aside from the natural amusement over the fact that yet another Tory has been swept up in a furore over his sex life the first thing the revelation that UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has had a relationship with a prostitute brought to my mind was Dorothy Parker‘s wonderful pun when asked to give a sentence with the word horticulture in it. “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Not that I like the derogatory connotations of the first syllable of the word in question as Parker used it but: did he lead her to culture, do you think?

PS. I also noted the use of the verb to withdraw by those who called for him to resile from his role in regulation of the press. Very Westminster, that.

Not Friday on my Mind 39: Wilhelmina

I was sad to hear of the death of Andy Newman who lent his nickname to the group of whose biggest hit, Something in the Air (see Friday on my Mind 28) this song, an odd mix of oompah music, kazoo and a rock guitar solo, was the B-side.

My copy of the single did not credit Wilhelmina as the B-side as both were labelled Something in the Air. I’ve often wondered if that was a one-off mistake and my copy is a real rarity.

Andy “Thunderclap” Newman: 21/11/1942-20/3/2016. So it goes.

Thunderclap Newman : Wilhelmina

And It’s Goodnight From Him

The tag line was too good not to use as a post title but it’s still sad that now it’s The No Ronnies.

Mr Corbett never lost his Scottish accent. I believe for a while he retained a house in the village of Strathmiglo, which is only six miles from Son of the Rock Acres.

In my days as a teacher I was wont to employ a catch phrase from one of the TV shows he starred in, Sorry!, (even though it wasn’t Ronnie who ever spoke it.) Rather his character was the subject of its admonishment, “Language, Timothy!” [At least one bewildered child responded to me, “I’m not called Timothy.” ]

From his time on the “Class” sketch in The Frost Report through the immortal “Fork ‘Andles” in his heyday as the smaller half of The Two Ronnies he made memorable contributions to lightening the nation’s heart.

Some of his comedy from that era may have tired but the best of it is up there with with anyone’s.

The Frost Report: Class

Ronald Balfour “Ronnie” Corbett: 4/12/1930 – 31/3/2016. So it goes.

Johan Cruyff

Oh dear. Johan Cruyff, once the greatest footballer in the world, undisputedly the greatest in the time between the careers of Pele and Maradonna, has died.

Together with the coach Rinus Michels, he was the most exquisite of the proponents of Total Football. The Ajax and Dutch teams of which he was the prominent member were a delight to watch. He is also one of the few footballlers to have a manoeuvre named after him, the Cruyff turn.

He has a particular place in the memories of Sons fans of a certain generation for at least having considered joining the club at one point. A short-lived Sons fanzine (remember fanzines?) was titled Cruyff Says No in tribute.

One of the greats has gone.

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff: 25/4/1947 – 24/3/2016. So it goes.

Reelin’ In the Years 119: RIP Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson who died earlier this week was one of the arch proponents of Prog Rock. I’ve already featured several of his recordings with that most unlikely of progenitors of the form, P P Arnold’s backing band The Nice. America, where his reworkings of classical pieces in a rock style perhaps began and which has a good claim, in its extravagance, to be the first truly prog track, its B-side, The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon and their first single The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack.

It was, though, Emerson’s work with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer as Emerson Lake and Palmer (aka ELP) that solidified his reputation as one of the “rock dinosaurs” that punk rock sought to consign to oblivion.

Here’s a live performance of part of ELP’s take on Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Promenade and the Gnome

Keith Noel Emerson: 2/11/1944 – 10/3/2016. So it goes.

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