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Thursday, August 18, 2011

16th August - Mystery Song

A few weeks ago 5 school friends and me met up all together for the first time in 35 (nearly) years. I'd not seen one for that long, and another only once before in all that time. I must admit I did have a sense of trepidation. I was never quite as 'cool' as they were. They always seemed to be closer to fashion, music and boys than I ever was. What would we talk about after so long? Why did I worry? I was on a high for days afterwards, it went so well.

As you would expect from women of 50, (35, if you're asking), we'd all been through the mill a bit, with bereavements, divorces, redundancy, new relationships, kids and grandchildren, so you would have thought that we'd been jaded, and maybe bitter. Not one bit.

It was as though Marty Fly's car had hit 88 miles an hour and we were back in 1976. After we'd got over the formalities of, so where do you work, how many kids etc., we started to reminisce. We were all a bit disaffected in our 5th year at secondary school, age, rebellion, adulthood was calling, but as we shared our careers, there's not one of us that hasn't ether got a decent job, maybe not in the bank balance, but certainly enjoyment and fulfilment. There were two sales managers, a mortuary technician, an accountant and a replenishment planner, as well as myself - well I was still employed at that point. We have 13 children between us, and three grandchildren ( that we know of, with twins on the way). And A's 6 chou dogs. The conversation went along the lines of 'have you got kennels for them?' no, they live in the house - my husband and kids are in the kennels'. 'Do you have to touch the willies of dead people?' 'I don't even touch my husbands'.

Within 15 minutes we were all 16 again, and we tuned into our sense of humour, which was all still on the same wave length, even after this length of time. I realised what we all had in common all those years ago. A joy of living - and lots and lots of childish giggles. The banter was bang on the whole time, so much so you wonder why we drifted apart all those years ago. Maybe becoming an adult forces you apart. Whilst its not a race, we all hit it at different times - but for most of that night we hadn't got there yet. You were all looking good for your age girls - I reckon we could pass for 45, (35).

I expected to make my excuses at 10, get up early for work, etc. etc., but didn't get in until after midnight - on a work night, and I didn't want it to end!!! I can't remember the last night I felt like that. I'm normally ready for bed by 10, even at the weekend. Memories of the laughter lasted all week. I hope its not 35 years next time - 35 months would be too long.

Mystery Song was one of Status Quo' least known hits, but when it was in the charts some of the girls were rockers in that wonderful summer of 76.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

15th August - Make it easy on yourself

I'm now on public transport and Shank's pony. And to be honest, cost aside, I'm actually quite happy with it. I have lost a lot of time, but I have been able to read a few books, the morning Metro, and most of my Sunday paper, while 'the train takes the strain.

As a driver, I used to get frustrated by cyclists. As a passenger and pedestrian, I also get frustrated by cyclists.
When I took my cycling proficiency test on my Raleigh Shopper, (great for carrying stuff like sports kit etc.- crap for peddling up hills with the 12 inch wheels, and only 3 gears), I am sure that the Highway Code said that cyclists had to ride one a breast on narrow or busy roads, so the red Austin car in the picture wouldn't ditch us. We were not to ride on the pavements, which was an offence, and dangerous to pedestrians with or without Zimmers, and every other law/rule in the book was equally applicable to cyclists as 'other road users.' I make a point of saying this as perhaps someone could let me know when all this changed as I was out of the country or asleep.

So when I was a passenger in G's car today, waiting at the lights, a cyclist went over a red light at full tilt, talking on his mobile. It was OK though he had a fluorescent jacket on, so any traffic in the opposite direction would have seen him - not. He then carried on his phone to the next junction, a Give Way, where he didn't, and joined a busy A road at rush hour, without looking.

In walking from the train station into town, I stepped to one side to allow a mum to carry on walking with her child, and a cyclist cut me up from behind. No bell, or horn. Obviously don't need them any more either.

And why do they only wear black at night? Obviously with no lights, as well, as they are no longer needed, as headlights on cars are so much stronger than when we kids.

My other moan is the Sunday morning Lycra wearers. What is in Lycra that protects a cyclist? Does it stop broken bones or just make your breakfast re visit your mouth with the grossness of it all. Obviously designed to reduce drag, I would have thought for some of the cyclists I see, losing 2 stone would have more effect. So we all have to put up with the crime against style and taste on the roads. We don't just get one Lycra clad cyclist though, they hunt in packs. I believe its called time trails or something. Therefore,they have to ride three abreast, as the Highway Code doesn't apply on Time Trial Sundays. A driver approaching and over-taking usually gets a series of hand signals, suggesting that their appendage is stuck to their head, there are two of something and a wave at the end of it.

Of course to encourage us all to use cycles, the Government has put red tarmac down, narrowing roads, or pavements for cyclists to use. These are called cycle paths for cyclists only. Only they don't use them, preferring the pavement or road as it is flatter, faster, straighter. Spotting a cyclist on one of these roads, is less likely than Torres scoring a goal for Chelsea.

There used to be a trike rider on the A38. ( Not the cycle lane that ran parallel to it.) My heart used to go in my mouth when I saw him on it - your car wobbles if an artic passes you so it must be like a gale on a bike or trike. He still went on it though - cycles were allowed. It says so in the Highway Code - a rule that cyclists liked. It enabled him to rack up the miles easily, to ride towards his goal of a million miles rode on a bike. His last 100,000 will be around heaven. Meanwhile the driver who made the mistake if there was one, is going to be prosecuted.

Cyclists, cars weigh a ton plus, lorries are 40 tonners - your stupidity, ignorance and refusal to obey rules mean that you may cause drivers to have to live with your death for the rest of their lives. There are no excuses, you may have every right to be on the road, but not the pavement, but that doesn't stop you does it? You choose the rules to obey to benefit yourselves only.

And then there's the train. A cyclist told me to move the other day, as I was sitting by the bike rack, and he was entitled to put his bike there (Seat ticket price= £14, Bike = £1). Every other cyclist leans their bikes on the other side of the carriage, to maximise seats. Not Lance Armstrong though. He wanted to use the rack. And when getting off the train, cyclists are desperate to hit the tarmac, so they cut you up on the stairs, ticket queues and platforms.

You may well be 'saving' the planet, but that doesn't mean that you are holier than thou, and can treat the rest of us with contempt. Passengers, pedestrians, and drivers can't all be wrong can we?

Make it easy on yourself - Walker Brothers - because its not for everyone else. Hope you get a puncture and have to push your bike home in the rain.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

14th August - I heard it through the grapevine

I was alone among my friends when Johnno was appointed in thinking that it was an absolutely stupid decision done to keep Rob Andrew in a job. Everyone thought that being a World Cup winning captain would get us back up there. I had my doubts. He hadn't cut his teeth by coaching or managing a Premiership team. Hell, he'd not even managed Burton's U8's side. He had no coaching qualifications, something which the RFU insist on for every level of rugby except it seems for the top team. Another doubt stems from a question I asked Dan Hipkiss and Andy Goode when they came to the club for a Q and A session just after the World Cup. The question was 'Much is made of Johnno's leadership qualities, what does he say in the changing room hat lifts the players and gets them to follow him?' The answer was that he says very little as he leads by example. At the time Woodward's skills were being underplayed, as just being the logistical genius that got the conditions right for the players. I don't think that is the right traits for a manager/coach. You can leave the motivation to the captain, but there is also a role to play to sort out when things aren't quite going your way. Like yesterday. A definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing to achieve the result. Bashing away at a resolute Welsh defence, which really didn't look under too much treat, as it was only a matter of time before the bosher knocked on. 87% of the territory and possession for the same amount of points as Wales. So half time would have been an ideal time to talk through with the team, put plan B into place, change a few players, but there was no sign of it in the second half.

I am not convinced by his support coaches either. Wells and Ford were two of the coaches which presided over the Argentina game in 2006, where the players tactics and general fed upness of the fans saw more people in the bars than watching the game. They were also two of the coaches for the last World Cup, where it is well documented that the players rebelled against the tactics following a 36-0 drubbing (we were lucky to get 0) by South Africa. Sheer character and leadership by the players got England to a Final. I await the autobiographies of those players and the present crop to see what went on. Johnno stuck with them, rather than get his own team in - again probably because of loyalty. In life, sport and business, hard decisions have to be made and sometimes people you like and trust have to be let go. Johnno hasn't showed this at all. As a captain, you are loyal, you don't make the hard decisions - that's the coach's job, in this area he hasn't stepped up.

He stuck with under-performing players until the decision was made for him. Borthwick, Armitage, Monye, Jonny, Payne, all continued to get played, but in each case the players that came in - Lawes, Foden, Ashton, Cipriani (and then Flood) and Cole have made an incredible difference. Meanwhile, one cap wonders, who possibly needed a second chance - Allen, Armitage (round one), Narraway were never given a second chance if they under performed.

I await someone to explain why Tindall (Know fondly as Trundle) is still there. He never was the best player, in terms of skills, but could break a line. Now he plays with Oven Gloves on, looks for contact so he doesn't (can't) run too far and passes like a prop. Yet he's likely to be captain in the World Cup campaign if Moody doesn't recover. (And he's not even first choice for his club anymore).

In his time away from the game, the power game is no longer in the ascendancy. Contact is only there to set up the runners - from deep not flat, like yesterday. New Zealand have big players - Ma'a Nonu, Sivavatu, but they are in to pick a line and because of their speed. Pace not power is the tenet in the current vain, and 'space not face'. Manu Tuiliagi is a big guy, but he can pick a line and is also fast, where as Matt Banahan is just big, no pace looks for contact and has doubtful skills.

With a strength in depth in the back row, 7 aside, why do we persist with the pod system and clogging up the midfield with one out props taking the ball into contact when we are not putting enough bodies in there? Why have we sent all the backs with something different home? (James Simpson Daniel, David Strettle) I am sure that Sharples will follow soon.

Johnno seems to like 'stalwarts', and has picked a team in his image. I want to be excited not bored to death.

Cipriani, who like Henson is a Marmite like player, is in exile. Brought back too soon from an injury, but no fly half has made the backs run like that game against Ireland in 2008. He needed careful management,which he has expressed his frustration at tactics, so he is unlike to ever play for Johnno.

I will support the players in New Zealand, but I would also like them to entertain me. England aren't good enough to win it this time, so let the players have a blast gain some experience for a serious challenge in 2015.

I heard it through the grapevine, as I think that there will be some fall out from this that will hit the press.

Friday, August 12, 2011

12th August - Anarchy in the UK

Today is my last working day in the Agency. Tomorrow I need to start on a quest to be economically active again. I do this from a position where my cv has 'Civil Servant' on it. Rather like 'Banker', 'Teenager' I am tarred with the same brush as being lazy, ineffective, wasteful, greedy and all the other terms thrown at Civil Servants by politicians and the press to distort the truth. This annoys me immensely. Obviously from my own career prospects, but also from my hard working colleagues (in the main) who are still applying themselves to closing down the organisation with almost the same level of enthusiasm as they had when they had clearer more positive roles.

I joined because I'd lost my job in the private sector for the third time in my life. I'd had enough of the vagaries of the market, the incompetance of people in positions of power simply because they could play a better political game than me, rather than any inherant skills or knowledge that they might have. I always remember a boss saying to me -'never shit on someone below you as you go up the ladder, because when you come down it, and they go up, they will shit on you.' That idealistic view never quite held true as I had to wipe quite a lot off in my working life. The new job provided me with money - the reason we all come to work, to pay my bills, but as I got more and more into the job in the Agency, I realised that it fitted my work ethics so well - helping businesses to become better, improving neighbourhoods for people, and the most important thing for me when I started work, was to retire knowing that in some way I'd made my mark on the world. And that seemed to be the prime motivation for my colleagues.

I think of the new start ups ringing me for help, that are becoming household names, because the contacts I gave them were able to assist them to grow. I had a small hand in this. The strategies and projects that I created, negotiated for, and built, will provide a legacy for many businesses and employees for many years to come. Many of my colleagues can say the same. I recognise that the world is no longer the same place. As a family you can't holiday in Barbados, when all you can afford is Bognor. As a country we are in the same boat. Hence me losing my job. The bankers and Governments encouraged debt for countries and individuals in the cause of growth and profit, tapping into people's greed, envy and desire to live a better life than the neighbours. That wasn't the fault of the Civil Servants. The key word being servant. They have to work delivering Government policy, often with one hand tied behind their back, which is often where the waste is. So many hoops have to be jumped through, chasing a procedure that it stops them from being as reactive, co-operative as they could be if that hand was untied. Nothing at all to do with laziness, attitude etc.

Of course, like every organisation, there are the brown nosers, the care in the community employee where you wonder how they were ever taken on and where they will work next. (Some of them are still in the Public Sector - you really sorted that one out didn't you Pickles). But generally money wasn't the main motive for work. It was making a difference. Over £8 profit for every £1 invested. Businesses would die for those figures, but of course, we're lazy Civil Servants who are a drain not a contributor to the system. So I believe I have still a lot to offer a business if they can remove the blinkers that have been put on them by the term Civil Servant.

I wrote to my MP, about the libellous way we have been treated in both the press and partliament, asking him to say that we were hard working and had made a difference. I wrote 3 times without an answer. He didn't care. I won't next election either.

Anarchy in the UK - Sex Pistols. Because we are scapegoats for successive Government's incompetance, the colour may change, but the manipulation remains.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10th August - Electric Avenue

I’ve not had chance to write a blog recently. Being very worthy and using public transport comes at a price – my time. It has been an interesting experience that will no doubt be mentioned in blogs when I do have time to catch up.
I was let out of work early yesterday. Rumours were flying around the office that New Street Station was closing and Birmingham City centre would have a curfew at 3pm this afternoon. This is as the result of Monday night’s riots. I struggle to call them riots, as I am not sure that there was a political purpose to them. Attacks were not on civil buildings, there were no placards explaining the protest. Just wanton vandalism and looting. Pure criminality and theft.
All porporting to be by the 'youth'. A generation that has had the shitty end of the stick. Parents that haven’t encouraged them, in life, failed schools and then no jobs  for their limited skills. Well that’s the woolly liberal in me out in the open, and that’s enough. Too many of our population has a sense of entitlement that hasn’t been earned – it’s their human right to have a Sony Plasma, the Adidas trainers and i-phone the rest of us have had to work and pay for. All taken from shops selling them. Of course when the court cases come forward (as the most watched nation by cctv, many of them will inevitably get caught) the majority of them will already have had free money to live off via the Welfare State, preferring that as a career option to work. No wonder they’ve got the energy to nick a plasma at 11 o’clock at night – I’m fast asleep then as I’ve got to go to work in the morning. (In Burton, we have Greggs to thank for the lack of rioting – everyone is so fat, that they haven’t got the strength to smash the window to nick the goods and are too unfit to run away. Maybe I’ve hit on a solution to over crowded prisons and crime prevention. Get prisoners to eat 3 Greggs pies a day and they will be too fat to commit burglary.)
Walking to the station was intimidating. I’m not sure how much of this was in my mind, and how much was actuality. It’s the summer holidays, so you’d expect kids to be hanging around in the city centre, its what they do. But normally the manager of the shop does not have bouncers on the door. Or wood where the window used to be. There are always plastic plods about, but today the real police were out and about. In New Street station the shutters were coming down on the shops – the mobile phone shops had not even bothered to open.
Stories were coming out all day at work.
The Father in Law who’s pub was trashed in Digbeth – an ordinary guy, trying to make his way in the world, running his own business.
The youths with wheelie bins that emptied their electronic contents into the boot of a car in a side street, sounds a little too organised to be a spontaneous reaction - and an adult involved? Organised crime perhaps?
200 kids running past your window, as you have your tea.
And of course the internet rumour of the Bull in the Bull ring losing its head. (yep solid bronze – don’t know who brought the acetlene torch and cutting gear.) If it has been the one made of jelly beans in Selfridges I’d have believed it.
G asked me if the Villa shop had been burnt out. My reply was, of course, ‘no, only their players are’.
This morning I walked from the station to work. Last night Corporation Street got it - the trendy boutique, another phone shop, or two caught my eye. Workmen were out boarding up shops. I was walking across a lot of broken glasss. The little pub on the corner by work with the Victorian leaded windows - gone. Two little newsagents operating without a front door. Decent hard working individuals being hit. Broken Britain.
It of course reminded me of the summer of 1981, when 4-5 years of youth unemployment, heavy police presence led to rioting in Brixton followed by Toxteth, Handsworth, Hyson Green Chapeltown etc. The music of the time reflected the frustration of the youth - the generation that are now watching their businesses being trashed. I am spoilt for a song to choose for a title to highlight the issues – Police and Thieves – Junior Marvin, White Riot-- Clash, Electric Avenue – Eddy Grant, and Ghost Town The Specials. I chose Electric Avenue, as my nan proudly told me that's where she lived when she first got married. I didn't believe her, thinkinig that it was a coincidence for some sunnt beach as it was a happy tune, but the message about the Brixton riots around in the lyrics was a serious one. A wise old bord, she was right (again).