The Woman in the Purple Mini-dress

Thursday 20th June

You couldn’t miss her.  She was bright purple.  Not even a subtle shade of lilac, or a pale creamy pastel shade.  Her dress almost vibrated with purpleness.  And sad to say she was far too large to wear a mini-dress.  She was that classic pear-shape which women who sit at a computer terminal all day seem to grow into so easily.  It is as if two bodies have been stitched together, a normal size 12 maybe top, and a 16 or approaching 18 lower half.  There are ways of dressing which help to hide this disparity, long and loose tops and dark trousers or a mid-length skirt for example.  But the purple mini-dress just made things worse.  It was also made of some sort of clingy elasticated material, so that it came in sharply at the top of her thighs and hugged her legs, which had the effect of making her largish hips look enormous.  It may well have been the first time she had worn it because she obviously felt very self-conscious in it.

I was walking behind her in the swirling mass of people descending the Jubilee line at Canary Wharf, and as we descended the three enormous escalators in this concrete cathedral she was like some sort of emergency beacon constantly bobbing up just ahead of me.  She had short blonde hair and the dress was mostly backless, and at least she had managed to wear a low-slung bra so we didn’t have to witness that all too-common fashion disaster – the different coloured visible bra strap.  But the skirt was causing her great difficulties as she walked.  Despite the material being clingy it also had a tendency to ride up, maybe her shiny tights weren’t helping, and crumpling with each step she took it was threatening to expose her rather large rump.  She was carrying some folders in one hand with a large handbag slung over one bare arm and with the other hand she was constantly tugging at one side and then the other of the hem, trying to retain a grain of modesty, when if she had bothered to look carefully in the mirror before she left the house, or even the changing room before she bought it, she would have seen what a disaster it would be.

Later that day I saw a much younger and very slim young woman in a mini-dress, swirling browns and greens and straight not-clingy material.  She looked spectacular, her gentle curves almost rippling beneath the material, and those long legs offering just a hint of promise.  It just doesn’t work on anything above a size 10.

M is for McCartney – a talent wasted?

Wednesday 19th June

There is no doubting that Paul McCartney is incredibly talented, he was one of the Beatles, a brilliant songwriter, a wonderful entertainer, but I cannot help thinking he could have been more. In many ways he was more talented than John Lennon, and yet even before John’s untimely death John was held in far greater veneration than Paul.  And this has always annoyed Paul, even to the point of him changing the songwriting credits from Lennon-McCartney to McCartney Lennon on some re-releases.  But after he left the Beatles he seemed to lack something.  It wasn’t talent, it wasn’t ability, it certainly wasn’t ambition; maybe it was soul.

He has written classical pieces, he has made a film, he has released good, bad and indifferent albums, he has made millions and yet, and yet, somehow he fails to satisfy us.  Ringo, we know was just a drummer, (and the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine) but even he sounds more genuine than Paul.  George hardly seemed to be trying but some of his albums knock spots off those of Paul.  And John was just getting back into his stride with the brilliant Double Fantasy when he was shot.

So what is it about Paul McCartney that gives me the sense that he is somehow a wasted talent.   Maybe because we just expected so much from him, after all he was a Beatle, and apart from that brief few years before and during Wings he hasn’t written many really memorable songs.  Albums come and albums go, but when they are finished I don’t really want to press repeat.   So it goes.


Arming the Rebels?

Tuesday 18th June

Mr Cameron seems to want to carry on the mantle of Blair in being keen to sort out all of the Worlds problems, first in Libya and now in Syria.  When will we ever learn?  The only way to settle war is by talking.  Even if you defeat the enemy you still have to talk to the defeated and give them back their dignity.  I really do not know that much about Syria, I suspect that few of us do.  I have read that they did have (before the conflict began) one of the best educated people and a well-funded health service, but of course this could have been propaganda.

I do not take sides but I suspect that most of the rhetoric hurled at Assad is also propaganda.  And we know absolutely nothing of the rebels, except an extremely nagging doubt as to where the hell they have got their weapons from so far.  Both Britain and the U.S. have denied arming them, though they must be getting their weapons from somewhere, and it isn’t Iran because they support Assad.  It is almost certain that Assad cannot win and that sooner or later he will be beaten.  But what and who will follow him?   There are rumours, which again could be propaganda that Al Queda is supporting the rebels.  Who knows?

There must be a political solution, and I cannot understand why there are not urgent talks taking place at the U.N. as we speak.  Or is this just another proxy war, like those in the last century where America and Russia fought each other in far-off places, each side arming one or other of the protagonists while thousands of innocent men and women died.

Remember the words of the Sutherland Brothers “All wars are civil wars, all men are brothers, after all.”

The Weather is like the News

Monday 17th June

Occasional sunny spells, but mostly overcast dull and drizzly.  And don’t expect it to get much better for a while either, it is British Summer after all.  I know that there are some who say that you shouldn’t be on telly all the time, you should hold back a bit until nearer the actual election, but come on Ed, we hardly ever see you.  A speech and maybe a weak exchange at PMs question time and then you run back behind the hedge so that we can’t see you.  I am certain that quite a large section of the population wouldn’t recognize your face, let alone your name.

And all the while that lead over the Tories appears pretty fragile, veering between a lead of 10 points occasionally to 6 or 7 when UKIP begins to do well.  Which really isn’t good enough.  I understand that Labour has a credibility problem regarding the deficit reduction and spending in general.  But to roll over and say that Labour would accept the Government spending plans for 2 years if elected in 2015 seems to be sending all the wrong signals.  Labour is supposed to be the alternative, not the same as the Government.

And so we have a Dutch auction in fear and wetness and not rocking the boat.  What we need is some real policies, and even if Labour cannot promise to reverse all the Tory cuts, surely they can reverse some.  Give us a bit of hope Mr. Milliband, or you may inadvertently drive too many into the arms of smiling Nigel Farage. And so the politics is a bit like the weather, whenever the sun makes a brief appearance, it clouds over and begins to drizzle again.  So, don’t put your brolly away yet folks, it still looks dull out.


The State of the Nation

Sunday 16th June

I live in two places, or rather I spend time in two places –  sometimes I’m not really sure where I live anywhere.  London and Walton-on-the-Naze.  Two entirely different places and yet only about 80 miles apart by road.  London is all rush and bustle, and peopled by bright young confident people, I see them in  the mornings in Pret, putting on their make-up, checking their e-mails, reading papers for meetings, putting on their brave faces for all the world to see.  In Walton people emerge from their homes like little country field-mice, unkempt and dressed awkwardly and shuffle along the high street to the Co-op for milk and papers.  So many are old and infirm and I wonder just how they manage to eke out their existence.  Many are overweight and wobble along between hospital appointments and visits from neighbours.  It is certainly a big difference from London with its bright young things all immaculately dressed and looking healthy and confident.

But look behind the veneer and here in London too there are the sick and overweight, those who have given up, those who have lost hope, those who just eke out an existence too.  I live in the shadow of Canary Wharf, whose towers dominate the skyline, but even here there is poverty, crumbling tower blocks, teenagers pushing prams with maybe their own, maybe their sister’s baby’s in. old guys with bad legs hobbling along, overweight women in crimplene trousers and dressing gowns calling into the newsagents for fags.

Why are so many of us ill, why are so many of us overweight, why have so many of us given up?    The state of the nation is quite depressed, even those bright young things are worried about the future, if they will ever afford the deposit for a mortgage, if their job is secure, if they will get another one if this one ends.  And one wonders about the future we are sending our children (my grandchildren) into.   This is the sorry state of the Nation at present.

O Vanitas, O Vanitatum

Saturday 15th June

This is the Latin beginning of the postscript of Thakeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’.  Followed by the almost cryptic ‘Which of us is truly happy in this life’ or something to that effect. To be honest I cannot be bothered to look it up.  And despite two years at school of attempting to learn Latin I cannot read it at all.

I think O Vanitas…means Oh Vanity, we are all vain, or something along those lines.  It doesn’t really matter, I am just using it because I like the sound of the words.

The point is that I am amazed at how vain we all are, and sad to say women far more than men.  We all want to look our best, but men, in general I think, want more to conform to the accepted norm, than to look outstandingly gorgeous.  Men are more concerned at turning up in a jacket and tie when everyone else is in T-shirts than about whether their skin is totally unblemished or they may be developing a slight beer belly.  Mind you, things are changing, and apparently cosmetic surgery for men is on the increase, led of course by America which is led of course by L. A.  The latest craze in that city is for wrinkle-free bollocks; I kid you not.  Apparently a smooth sac is considered the height of cool; not that one can imagine getting them out at a dinner party for all to admire, (between the dumplings and the profiteroles one supposes).

But the vanity of women never ceases to amaze me.  Yesterday at work I made a casual joke, asking a nice and attractive sixty year old woman to move her fat arse and let me sit at her PC for a minute.  I hasten to add that this particular lady is quite slim for her age, and loves a bit of banter anyway, enjoying raunchy jokes and comments in the workplace.

Oh my God.  The anger, the looks, the diatribe I had to suffer. “I do not have a fat butt.  How dare you say that…etc, etc.”  “But it was a joke, of course you don’t have a big bottom my dear.”  “Then why say it…etc, etc.”  On and on it went.

What is happening to the world that we are so body-obsessed that we cannot take a joke, and who cares anyway if your derriere is on the round side.  Of course you have a big bottom, that’s what we men like.  It is one of the first things we notice, and if we don’t find it unattractive why should you.  But the fashion dictators have declared that all bums should be slim and petite and so armies of women are petrified that someone should think or even worse dare say they have a big arse.  O Vanitas, o Vanitatum.

The relationship with your parents

Friday 14th June

As a teenager I couldn’t wait to get away, to leave home and start a life on my own.  Whether this was something in the air at that time I am not sure, but a hell of a lot of people felt the same way.  Our parents didn’t understand the new generation, ‘The times they were a changin’ fast and revolution was in the air.

So, I ran away from home, and though there were eventual reconciliations I was determined never to go back home again.  I sort of blamed my parents for a lot of my own failings; they had always talked me down, they had never actually talked to me about life itself, they had never shown me any real love.  I would have a totally different relationship with my own children. And so there was a polite stand-off.  A few visits a year, Christmas and Birthday presents but no real connection.  I thought that was how it would always be. I didn’t want to get too close to them, and they didn’t seem too bothered about me.  Besides I always thought they preferred my sister to me, she was much more like them in many ways.

But slowly over the years things have changed.  I now phone them every week, regular as clockwork at 6.30 on a Sunday, far more regularly than my own children call me.  I am genuinely concerned if one of them is poorly, I realise that I don’t want to lose them.

And it is getting worse the older we all get.  For so many years I never thought about them, always too concerned with my own self-importance.  I didn’t attempt to hide my moods, but now I protect them, I only let them see a smiling happy me.  And I am terrified of losing them.  And why should this be, what has happened to make the difference from the selfish person I was to the now concerned son.  Simple, I grew up.  It might have taken me until my late fifties, but I guess I eventually grew up.

M is for McCartney – the early solo years

Thursday 13th June

At the time it was seismic; the Beatles were no more.  For eight frantic years they had dominated both Music and increasingly the news.  And now they were no more.  What on earth would we do without them, and more to the point what would they do without each other?  We soon found out; an outpouring of creativity, which had maybe been constrained by the group format.

Paul released a solo album simply called McCartney even before the Beatles officially broke up.  It was self-made, Paul playing everything, and was like a scrap book of ideas.  Gentle melodic songs like ‘Lovely Linda’, atmospheric moody ones like ‘Kreen Akrore’, and a couple of real gems that would have been great hits with the Beatles – ‘That Would Be Something’ and ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ (later covered brilliantly by Rod) which if worked on more would have been outstanding.  It was almost a throwaway album, tossed off in his spare time.

His first album proper was Ram, which despite all the rumours of niggles at John was simply brilliant, great songs – any of which would have sat on any Beatles album.  It was in the charts for over a year, and is still a great favourite, ‘Back seat Of My Car’ is sublime.

Then came Wings, which despite Paul’s protestations that he was simply a member of, were just a substitute Beatles, but without any other competing songwriting talent.  What was he trying to prove; that he was a great songwriter; that he was The Beatles; that he didn’t need John.  Who knows, but despite a dreadful debut album, they were really very very good.  Maybe what the Beatles would have been if…..or what the Beatles might have been if Paul could have gained complete artistic control.  Anyway, for the record my favourite Wings album was London Town, which seems both spontaneous and mature at the same time. By this time it was labeled as Paul McCartney and Wings.

Then of course Paul decided to dispense with Wings altogether…..

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Still Reading Music Magazines

Wednesday 12th June

I cannot remember when I first read music magazines.  I used to have a paper round when I was twelve, and my love of music began with the Beatles.  I would regularly scan the Sketch and the Mirror for any news of the Fab Four.  I did deliver quite a few periodicals along with the Dailies, but can’t really remember specific music papers.  In the lower sixth form there were one or two smuggled copies of Oz and IT which featured stuff about music, and I must have glanced at the NME a few times.

Leaving home I started regularly reading NME and carried on for a few years, but it and I parted company when they fell overboard in love with Punk, a movement I felt was destroying much of the music I loved.  I was a regular buyer of Time Out, and City Limits and though not strictly music mags, they had good reviews, both of live gigs and albums.

In the eighties it was Q until I discovered Uncut sometime in the late nineties.  It was a bit more expensive, but the free CD on the cover made up for that.  For a long time I bought both and occasionally Mojo too.  It seemed I couldn’t get enough to read about music.  I was fascinated by the whole scene, especially Americana and Indie.

Of late I have dropped Q, as it strives to be more popular and chases a younger audience.  And to be honest Uncut is starting to get boring, and I find less and less I know the bands reviewed, and less and less do I care.  I still like the old articles, and lovingly read the reviews of the re-releases, tutting over the cost of the more and more extravagant box-sets with their endless bonus tracks (usually shit, which was why they never made the album in the first place).  And if flying to France I like to seek out a Mojo or Uncut special on say Bowie or Beatles in WH Smiths and read it from cover to cover, even though I know most of it off by heart already.

Maybe I just never grew up, but I will probably never stop reading music magazines.h

Would you blow the whistle?

Tuesday 11th June

It may have escaped you, but there is currently yet another whistle-blower story lurking just beneath the headlines of the news.  It involves the CIA and our very own spymasters GHCQ and a computer programme ‘Prism’; that has ‘allegedly been reading peoples e-mails and phone chat.  The Americans in particular seem to be enraged by the concept that anyone might spill the beans about a government organisation or a private company’s actions, even if, and actually especially if, they are unethical, immoral or even illegal.

We have had the ridiculous situation here too where whistleblowers in the NHS or government have been hounded through the courts, as if they indeed were the guilty party when all they had done was to reveal wrongdoings at the heart of our system.

I think it takes a particular type of bravery to be a whistle-blower, because they not only take away your job and livelihood and often drag you through the courts, but it is almost impossible to find a new employer who will take on a known whistleblower.  For obvious reasons they all stick together.

We have the crazy state of affairs where Julian Assange the founder of ‘Wikileaks’ is holed up in an embassy in London and Bradley Wiggins who conscientiously released thousands of documents detailing American foreign policy facing a possible 153 years in prison.  And I bet he gets no parole either.

Why is the greatest crime telling the truth?   And would you have the strength to blow the whistle yourself?  I am not absolutely sure I would have, because despite easy coffee-table assertions, when it comes to it it must be a lot harder to do than to say.  We are in the middle of a battle of freedoms and the internet is the battleground.  Will it become a democratic forum where no-one can hide, or another state and big-business controlled plaything?