In the week that we said goodbye (well, we said goodbye, the deaf signer could have been saying anything as it turns out) to a true twentieth century hero in Nelson Mandela, two other famous faces have shuffled off this mortal coil with contrasting public emotion seeing them on their way.  Hellraiser Peter O ‘Toole downed his last double scotch, folded his Florence of Arabia headdress and took his leave.  He was, perhaps, the epitome of “loveable rogue”, tales of hard living and even harder drinking staying with him ’til the end.  He once claimed that he was unaware that JFK had been shot “until about 1985..”  The other dead ‘un is the infamous and opinion splitting robber Ronnie Biggs.  Held up by some as a hero from a time when armed robbers had real kudos and “cock-er-ney geezers” were said to ” look after their own” and they all, obviously, “laaaa-vhed their Old Mum” Ron was a thief, a thug and did a runner as soon as the beastly rozzers came calling.  Biggs’ grinning schtick as man of the people and gentleman thief wore a bit thin when he came crawling home for medical treatment when the money ran out and he couldn’t play the Brazilian-sponge game anymore.  Mandela, the last true hero.  O’Toole, the last hellraiser.  Biggs? Thief and charlatan.  

 

 

 

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You enter a shop, there is no CCTV and the shop staff are nowhere to be seen.  You could, quite easily, trouser a couple of items and saunter out in the full knowledge that you would never be caught.  Would you steal the goodies?  Honestly?  According to research, over 80% of people would not steal; heartening stuff.  However, according to some sections of the media, some players of the beautiful game ain’t quite as honest as the rest of us.  The rise (and rise) of online bookies, in-play markets and the shadowy “far eastern” betting syndicates seems to have caught one or two round ball kickers with their back pockets open (as well as, figuratively speaking, their trousers down).  Of course, “Player refuses to take bribe and throws dodgy middle eastern looking gentleman out on his arse” does not make for newspaper selling headlines, “third rate aging pro willing to take get himself a yellow card” does.  The figures being bandied about seem ridiculous and fantastical to me; thirty grand to get a yellow?  Thirty grand is an awful lot of small-time bets with an awful lot of different firms to place.  Especially as the gaming industry giants are hyper sensitive to strange betting patterns and the market shutters come slamming down as soon as anything untoward appears.  I also wonder how many pro footballers have been approached before the fake sheikh and his pals snared one willing to do the dirty?  I would wager that like the general population, over 80% of them would tell ‘em to get on their bike.  Newspapers; dontcha love ‘em?

In excellent news for us all this week MPs have had their biscuit allowance slashed!  Yep, bourbon bakers and digestive designers are the latest to suffer from the recession as the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority have decided that our elected members can now no longer claim for dunkable delights.   The IPSA was set up to oversee Parliament’s expenses and pay following several high profile scandals (renovated duckhouses, mended moats and the like).  Sir Ian Kennedy, top mandarin and IPSA boss, spoke about having to take “hard decisions” in these times of austerity and told MPs that they would have to abide by his findings.  Now, make yourself a cup of tea, break out the Tesco value garibaldis and have a nice sit down as you mull over the following; public sector workers have had pay rises capped at one per cent, many private sector employees are on pay freezes and the march of the insidious zero hour contract continues unabated.  The removal of biscuit-based-privileges for MPs could be considered as “Austerity in Action” and shows that they are also suffering as recessionary pressures continue to bite.  Well done them!  This heartening display of all-in-it-togetherness is, perhaps, ever so slightly tempered by the other main IPSA recommendation; that MPs pay is to be jacked up by an unbelievable eleven per cent!  Is this some sort of austerity / recession japery?  Still I suppose they can buy their own bloody biscuits now.

Hero.

Posted: December 6, 2013 in This is the Voice of Lefty Reason

Today’s title says it all really.  Nelson Mandela has died.  Nelson Mandela; Prisoner, Socialist, Freedom Fighter, Inspiration, Leader and Icon.  He, by his own admission, was not without flaws and did not like being held up as a “Saint”, unless, as he said, a Saint is one who makes mistakes but keeps trying to be better.  Incarcerated for decades, he undertook his Long Walk to Freedom in the full knowledge that he could have exacted hideous and swift revenge on his captors and the minority who had beaten him down for so long.  His first words as he emerged were “I can’t believe how many white people have turned up to greet me”.  That one phrase, and his subsequent almost other worldly levels of forgiveness and grace, allowed South Africa to begin the re-building process towards democracy.  The sight of him in a Springbok rugby jersey presenting the World Cup to Francois Pienaar is one of the twentieth century’s most surprising, enduring and uplifting images.  The world is seemingly full of people given the moniker “hero”, often because they can play sport or belt out a tuneful ditty, the word has become overused and has lost some of its meaning; true heroes do not come around very often.  We lost one yesterday.  RIP Madiba.

Today’s title (shamelessly stolen from the Guardian) paraphrases one of warmonger Blair’s most famous pieces of political spin.  This week brought the less than startling news that the nation’s youth are falling behind in their studies and international pupils are forging ahead in the race to the top.  Rather like all the sports we invented that have been hijacked by johnny foreigner, who took our games and then began to regularly beat us at them, so the British schooling system seems to have been adopted and changed by others giving little German and Chinese children the upper hand.  The despicable Gove-ernator continues to tinker and meddle as he puts the blame squarely on teachers and parents.  Funnily (not really) enough old Govey has never actually spent time at the chalkface; he is yet another spad-mandarin- bod that sees all change as progress and views every teacher as lazy liberty takers.  The LibCons may be full of chancers and expense-guzzling sleazebags, but Govey is an almighty piece of work.  He has been behind much of the current holy mess; free schools, academies, almost constant syllabus and assessment tinkering, and the utter belief that education professionals are out for themselves and that he and his new-age-management loons know best.  Perhaps if we had teachers (who have taught) running policy things just might be a little better?

Lidl by Lidl.

Posted: December 3, 2013 in This is the Voice of Lefty Reason

Where do you shop?  Not for clothes, shoes or big ticket items like cars, TVs and fridges but for everyday stuff that you eat?  According to the latest retail news the Germans are invading grocery land with Lidl, amongst others, ready to launch new attacks against the established giants like Tesco and Sainsburys.  The pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap merchants thrive (a bit like undertakers and bookies) when recessionary pressures reduce consumers’ cash in pocket.  The continental uber-undercutting-chains are eating into the big boys’ market share as shoppers scour the aisles for cheap veg or rummage in search of “centre-aisle-madness” bargains (a small generator, a motorcycle helmet and  a chest of drawers anyone?) It is clear that the big boys are starting to take note of the German imposters and that consumers are becoming more price sensitive as the recession continues to bite; cue absolute unadulterated joy for the Lidl-meisters back home in Germany.  Keep an eye on the shelves; a price war beckons, the only winner will be you, the consumer.

The Mayor of London caused a bit of a stir this week as he appeared to step off message and launched an incredible tirade against the stupid and the un-greedy.  I may be wrong (I often am) but I did think the current scapegoats were the Romanians and Bulgarians?  Following on from the Irish, the West Indians, the Bangledeshis and the Poles, Eastern Europeans were the logical choice for the Government to blame for our economic and social woes, surely?  BoJo, however, instead of parroting the “gypsy-thieving-scum-coming-over-here-and-taking-our-jobs” party line went off at a tangent as he spluttered and foamed about the members of our “species” that were IQ sub-normal and who should be sold down the river so we can do more to help the rich.  The utterly ridiculous Johnson included greed, envy, inequality and even a box of cornflakes (?) in his inane ranting.  Cam may be the appointed leader of the Eton Mess but the Bouffant Buffoon is still its spiritual mouthpiece.  The Thatch may have perished but her society smashing thinking lives on.