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Sheri S Tepper

I see Sheri S Tepper has died.

She has a long list of SF works and awards to her name but the only one I have read so far is Grass. So many books, so little time.

Sheri S Tepper (née Stewart): 16/7/1929-22/10/2016. So it goes.

Poppy Watching Again

I was actually thinking last night it was that time of year again, and also that if I caught sight of any of that unholy brigade of Farage, Johnson, Gove, Fox and Davies sporting a poppy this year I would be livid with rgae.

How dare they?

How dare they blazon their attempt to corral patriotism to their own ends?

How dare they coopt the sacrifice of those who died in the cause of better relations with our European neighbours rather than worse ones?

I actually saw some poppies for sale in the bank today when I was paying some bills. When I got home I got my first sighting of this year when there was a guy labelled as a historian wearing one on the news. He was commenting on the non-story of the Russian aircraft carrier which travelled through the Straits of Dover today en route to Syria, saying they normally went by the top of Scotland as it was shorter that way.

Really? Shorter to go straight down the North Sea than travel across the top of Scotland and all the way round Ireland?

I suppose the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen etc made their channel dash in 1942 because that was the longer route? Pull the other one.

I found the tone of the news coverage of this perfectly unexceptional use of international waters to be verging on the hysterical. I do hope we are not being softened up for something.

Life Goes On

In amongst all the stuff going on in the world – a certain referendum result, the resultant resignation by Mr Irresponsible (see posts here,) a constitutional coup d’état in the UK followed by the appointment of a buffoon as Foreign Secretary, an inadequate with mental problems rampaging along a packed, festive promenade in a lorry deliberately targeting families and children, a seeming military coup d’état in Turkey with characteristics that are very odd and which swiftly fell apart, not to mention the ongoing mayhem in Iraq, Syria and so on – people have to get on with things and carry on, marking the milestones in their lives.

So it was that I missed Sons opening game of the season (about which the only thing positive to be said is that we twice came back from a goal down.)

Why did I miss a game so easily travelable for me?

I was at a piss-up in a brewery.

To clarify: it was my younger son’s wedding and the happy couple decided to hold their nuptials at the West Brewery, in part of the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory, near Glasgow Green, (which I now realise I haven’t yet posted my photographs of.)

One of the advantages of holding a wedding in a brewery is …… beer. As well as the usual immediate post ceremony libation of wine the choice of beer was available, great foaming jugs of the stuff (and half-pint glasses – just as well; the beer seemed quite strong.)

Then these two jugs appeared on the table before the meal. The beers were Munich Red and St Mungo, both very palatable:-


A few minutes later another jug was added. This was a wheat beer of some sort, to the front in this shot. Less to my taste, though:-

More Beer

There was a lot of dad dancing going on – and not just from the older ones like myself. But a good time was had by all.

Theresa May Not

Of course I caught on the news Mr Irresponsible‘s last Prime Minister’s Questions. What a parade of sycophancy that was (with a few exceptions.) The man has been an absolute disaster for the country and he ended up being applauded for walking away from it! [On which note whatever happened to the convention that applause was unparliamentary? They just make it up as they go along.]

And did anyone else notice the journalist’s comment that austerity was forced on him? Forced? FORCED? It was a choice, a political choice that could quite easily have been made otherwise. In all probability it contributed mightily to the situation we find ourselves in. They say journalism is history’s first draft. In this case it was history being rewritten before it was history. David Cameron’s place in history is of course utterly secure – as the worst Prime Minister since the office was instituted, with the possible exception of Neville Chamberlain (though even he managed to delay war with Hitler till the country’s defences, in the shape of the RAF, were just up to the task.)

Then there was the fawning over the new PM, Theresa May. Did nothing else happen in the world today?

I did notice her claim that her government will not be to the favour of the privileged few but for those who are struggling. This reminded me of “where there is discord may we bring harmony” and we know how well that worked out for the less privileged.

And in one of her first acts….. She has appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary!

Words fail me.

Apart from:- on this evidence, Theresa certainly won’t.

What is Occurring, Terence?

The title of this post is, of course, taken from the TV series Minder, George Cole‘s signature role.

It is however the only appropriate phrase with which to greet the latest news from the soap opera that British politics has become. Yea, verily; Angela Leadsom – it seems only two seconds after anyone first came to hear of her – has abandoned her attempt to become Prime Minister.

So, not only is the architect of the catastrophe, Mr Irreponsible, quitting, his main nemesis been shown up for the buffoon he is and betrayed, his assassin defeated, and one of the last two standing has weaselled out (which is entirely in keeping with the way she weaselled in.)

Who leaned on her? Is Angela Leadsom really so thin-skinned that she cannot take criticism of a statement she made – on tape – to a journalist? Why has she suddenly decided she is no longer the person most suited to run the country? She seemed confident enough about her abilities a week or so ago.

This is the sound of the Tory party closing ranks, partly to presume upon Labour’s disarray, partly because it is just what Tories do. They can be ruthless in cleaving to what they see as their advantage. Its members may feel cheated of their chance to give their input but I suspect the Tory grandees have never been too keen on democracy – even democracy within the party – and may always have been looking for a way to engineer the result they wanted.

But…. To look at it another way it is actually a coup d’état. The Government has been removed and will be replaced with another, another that is liable to propel the UK even further rightwards, make it even more divided, even less fair, even more prepared to kowtow to the barons of the Press and their agenda, even less likely to address the concerns of those whose votes were suborned in order to enable it, even more likely to eviscerate – and even dismantle – the NHS and the BBC.

She may possibly have been the lesser of two evils but if the answer is Theresa May what the hell was the question?

And note, the wider electorate has been totally excluded from all this. I very much doubt there will be a General Election to sanction the change of government and due to the Fixed Parliament Act our new Prime Minister will have four years to do more or less as she wills. Her government’s majority of 12 in the House of Commons will not see serious inroads, unless there are by-elections. Tories, without the bee of the EU in their bonnets, won’t want to upset the apple cart.

On a happier note, congratulations to Andy Murray on winning Wimbledon for a second time. A thoroughly professional, accomplished performance.

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…”

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.

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