Sunday, 24 April 2016

Celebrity Death Bingo, 2016

Now... this Grim Reaper nonsense is all getting a bit silly. Those of us baby-boomers born in the halcyon days of the late 1950s and early 1960s have certainly had certain advantages.

1) We saw all the best bands before they were charging £50 a ticket to see them at the back of an arena. (My personal favourite: Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Newcastle City Hall, 3 support acts including a Punch and Judy show and all for £7.50. And they were throwing out free lapel badges at the end.)

Friday, 22 April 2016

Why So Much XXXXXXX Swearing?

I went to see the comedian Mark Thomas in Newcastle last night, doing his 'Trespass' stand-up tour. Mark's a political activist in the best sense of the term. He's the sort who stages weirdly humorous stunts to shame councils and corporations and politicians into doing the right thing when it's easier for them not to.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Time Vampires- a memory

The most boring job I ever had in the past, wasn’t having to clean out the bacon boiler in a supermarket. That was greasy and gooey, but in the end I saw it clean and sparkling. (Cleaning isn’t a boring job because there’s an end result, even if the thing you’re cleaning will be dirty again tomorrow.) Neither was it cleaning toilets in a factory – for the same reason. In the end, it all comes out sparkling. I took quite a pride in it, really.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016


Do you ever feel sorry for the dinosaurs? They were big, they were hungry, and by gum, they lasted for a very long time. Small children all have their favourites, especially everyone’s cuddly favourite, the T-Rex that embodied with big teeth and massive jaws, the idea of being the biggest, toughest kid on the block. And the palaeontologists tell us they lasted for millions of years, which sounds pretty successful to me.

But then something happened. Climate change? Earth being struck by a comet? Whatever it was, the world cooled down, and the best survivors just happened to be the creatures who were smaller, furry, social and intelligent enough to handle it. There was nothing actually wrong with the dinosaurs, but they couldn’t adapt to the new climate conditions, and so they faded away.

The Jurassic Park films (based on Michael Crichton’s original novel) play with the idea of bringing the dinosaurs back for human amusement, but then, gosh, would you believe it, everything goes wrong and then we have Jeff Goldblum et al (with attendant children) running for their lives and always forgetting to have a really big gun next to them. It all goes a bit Frankenstein (Scientists playing God and coming a cropper), but that’s Hollywood for you.

So which of our long-cherished public institutions could be in danger of going the same way of the dinosaurs in Britain? The Monarchy? Parliamentary Democracy? The National Health Service? The Church of England? Take your pick. Of course, we’re not unintelligent reptiles subject to the laws of evolution because we can also change the environment we’re in- we’re not subject to it. It all depends on the degree to which people are willing to notice the way the wind is blowing, and be prepared to make changes that ensure our survival without losing our identity- which isn’t always easy. How far can you change an institution before it becomes something completely different and alien- especially for those who liked it, just the way it was?

One solution, of course, is to put them in a theme park, for paying visitors. To some extent, that’s what happens already, as palaces and stately homes and cathedrals now open their doors with a view to tourism topping up the coffers. But remember the Jurassic Park thing. What might happen if the inhabitants of Buckingham Palace were to suddenly revert to their original nature, the one that put them in charge in the first place (Wars of the Roses Part 2, anyone?). Or if Parliament started taking on the established forces and started chopping off a few crowned heads (or their corporate equivalent). Or if a cathedral was to start doing again, the very thing that caused it to be built in the first place, and God’s Holy Spirit suddenly broke out among the people?

Dangerous creatures, dinosaurs. Hard to tame. Best keep an eye on them.