An Interesting Idea

Monday 31st July

When I was back in England about a week ago I watched an interesting programme on BBC4.  This channel seems to be the home for all sorts of strange stuff, things you might have expected to be on BBC2 once.  There seems to be no pattern or even regular programming.  Anyway the programme was the idea that through using statistics you could predict a chart hit.  Of course, record companies and producers have been doing this in their own sweet way for decades.  Artists were persuaded and pressured into re-producing ‘Hits’  – ‘Just like the last one’ or ‘Copy the Beatles’ – and many have succumbed, but this is also inevitably the kiss of death as their ‘fans’ move on to the next group, the next sound…

Anyway.  The statisticians ‘analysed’ every top 40 record over the last 60 years and plotted them according to various parameters.  In fact, the charts were all over the place, as any music fan could tell you.  In 1967, the year of ‘flower power’ you had hits by Ken Dodd and Englebert Humperdink, sentimental drivel to all us hippies, but there you go. The only things they really came up with were ‘Beat’ music in the Sixties, with the drums progressively higher in the mix, the rise of Disco in the Seventies and Electonica in the Nineties.  The strangest statistic was that the closer to the ‘average’ sound at the time (whatever that was) the more likely a record was to be a hit.  Seems obvious, but there you go.  What they couldn’t really measure was the effect of a band or artist’s popularity; the Beatles used to be Number One on pre-orders before the next record was even released.

Also of course they had no real way of measuring originality, the way that quirkiness, or a different voice, a strange musical hook can capture an audience.  Then, of course there would be the influence of Radio D.J.s, who largely and especially after Pirate Radio was silenced were the sole arbiters of what was heard, in fact they largely decided what was ‘Hit’ material.  And repetition must also play a large part in the mix; quite often the first time you hear a record it makes little impression, but by the third or fourth listen you begin to recognize it and want to hear it again.

This statistical analysis was combined with producer Trevor Horn, who was producing a new black girl singer-songwriter.  But when they applied the statistically most likely sounds like a touch of rap, or electronic beats, it ruined the song.

Thank goodness too.  Music is bland enough anyway these days with most Artists keeping to their safety zone, endlessly repeating similarities to a small fanbase.  We need those mavericks, those weird musicians, people who can take the music somewhere different – or real music fans like me will simply keep on buying the old stuff, endless box-sets, bootlegs, radio concerts at last available on CD etc…

If music has any future it must come from the ground upwards, and not be dictated from above.

The Next Prime Minister…..

Sunday 30th July

There are those who say that Britain has become too Presidential, that the Prime Minister has too much power.  But power is always limited – unless you are Kim-il-Jong I suppose, but even there he may be restrained by some of those around him. I remember reading a book about Henry the Eighth, popularly imagined as all powerful, and it described how limited his power was, how he had to take his Cardinals and Barons with him at every stage.

But now in the Twenty-First Century we have a Prime Minister who, everyone from Tory M.P.s to newspaper editors, all admit will not last very long.  The best predictions are until the end of the Brexit negotiations and many are shorter than that. They could all be wrong of course, and Mrs. May’s misfortunes might be reversed, she could even contest and win the next election.  But let us examine the field, let us see the fillies and stallions parade around the ring, let us indeed see who might be the next Prime Minister.

Now, many think it might be Jeremy Corbyn; a crisis in the Tory party and a vote of no confidence, a resignation and Labour taking over.  I think that is most unlikely, before that there would almost certainly be either a leadership election or indeed a coronation and a new P.M. given a chance to steady the ship.

So, who is up first.  Well I suppose it must be Boris.  But in a way we are all tired of Boris, he was Mayor of London for eight years, he has been on our telly screens for years and his Buffoonish style and outlandish comments, though good for a laugh almost rule him out as Prime Minister.  What we have to remember is that before the final two contenders are put before the members of the Tory Party the M.P.s whittle them down, and I suspect there will be more enemies of Boris than supporters.  The same is probably true of Michael Gove, whose reputation for treachery makes him an unsafe pair of hands.  Andrea Leadsom? Forget her, she blew it last time.  Jacob Rees Mogg – well, he will certainly get the youth vote…hahaha.  No, I am sorry he is a joke and a caricature. So who does that leave.  David Davis, too old and the architect of Brexit, he will be blamed by all sides. Amber Rudd, of course.  And compared to Theresa May, she is the warmest of refrigerators.  She certainly oozes competence….but, she has a tiny majority which could easily fall to Labour next time, and would they really go for another woman after the Maybot?

So that leaves Hammond.  Steady and boring….but then, so was John Major and he went on to win against the odds in 1992.  At least he looks like a Prime Minister, even if one from the Century before last.  And he was and remains a remainer.  The mood of the country is gradually turning again, as the obvious disadvantages of Brexit become more apparent.  What happens then is anyone’s guess.  He could steady the ship, or crash it.  He, or whoever takes over, may hang on until 2022, but hangers-on, like Major and Brown are rarely rewarded at the ballot box.  An election in 2020, a year after Brexit may be the best bet.  With a transitional arrangement in place maybe most people won’t feel that different.  And…..the shine may just have come off Jeremy.  Or…he might make it next time.  We will just have to wait and see.

The Couple Next Door

Saturday 29th July

The couple next door?  Oh, don’t go asking me about them.  Well, of course, everyone does, don’t they?  I mean people are always nosy, aren’t they?  You know how it is, they see them on the telly and can’t help but wonder what they are really like.  But you know me; I don’t like to talk about it.  Besides I had to sign so many pieces of paper when I started here – oh, it must be twenty years ago now, soon after Bert died.  I never really read them, but the man told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should not divulge (yes, that was the word he used – why didn’t he simply say ‘talk about’?) any details of either my work or the clients I cleaned for.  Well, you know me – I never gossip – and can keep a secret as well as anyone.  Bert, used to say I was the soul of discretion, God rest his soul.

Now where was I?  Oh, yes – the couple next door.  Well, all I will say is that they are nothing like you see on the telly. It is a strange arrangement here.  I live and work mostly at number 11.  I have a tiny flat round the back.  The houses are much larger than they look from the front and number 11 is almost twice as big as number 10.  But since the cuts Dave brought in I now clean in both houses.  Hmmm…only thirty quid a week extra too, and I am supposed to do it all in eight hours, twice a week too.  Not quite the minimum wage, is it, but I don’t complain.  I go in and clean Madam’s private kitchenette, bathroom and their bedrooms.  Bedrooms in the plural, mind you.  They don’t sleep in the same room – not like Dave and Samantha did.  But they used to actually live here, in number 11. It’s a much bigger flat than next door and what with the kiddies number 10 would have been too small.  There is a connecting corridor between the top floor flats so the public is none the wiser. Tony and Cherie (stuck up cow if you ask me) lived here too, while Gordon slept over in number 10 while he was Chancellor, and when he took over as the boss.  Lovely wife he had mind you, too good for him by far, if you ask me. And do you know she was the only one who ever had time for me.  She always asked how I was and if I needed anything.  None of the others ever spoke to me; not the bitch Cherie, or Samantha (another one ‘too important for their own good’ if you want to know) or George’s wife or of course Mrs. Phillip either.  No, none of them ever spoke to me.  Too high and mighty to talk to a mere cleaner.

And as for her, Madam, why she doesn’t even smile.  She just brushes past me if she is in the flat – it’s as if I don’t even exist.  And messy.  My Goodness is she messy.  Clothes all over the place, slung on the bed, or the chair.  Knickers on the floor sometimes too.  And shoes?  Now Samantha liked shoes, there is no denying that, but she always had them lined up on those rails in her wardrobe, all in neat rows like.  But this one – just kicked off anywhere on the floor.  Sometimes I even have to crawl under the bed to reach one.  And me with my bad back too.  No consideration for others I say.  Now her husband – what’s his name.  oh yes, he’s a Phillip too – just like my Phillip here in 11, nice man he is, polite too – always says Good Morning to me he does.  No, her Philip, Madam’s Philip, he sleeps in his own room.  Smaller than hers of course.  But he is very tidy, his suits always put back on the hanger, and his shirts all neat in the drawers.  And this will make you laugh, his socks are folded in pairs in one drawer and his underpants all lined up in another, he even has them in two piles; white ones and black ones.

I don’t think they ever sleep together.  Not that that is any of my business, but you can’t help noticing the state of the beds, can you.  Both doubles of course, but his is barely disturbed.  He sleeps on the left side; the right pillow is never creased.  Now Madam’s bed is quite different.  She must kick the duvet off in the night, it is usually on the floor along with half of her clothes.

Did you know, they have a laundry service?  Both houses.  They have a large wicker basket in the hallway, and everything dirty, or what they consider dirty – not the same thing at all – is dumped in there along with sheets and towels and they are dry-cleaned or laundered twice a week.  All wrapped in cellophane too.

They each have their own bathroom as well.  En-suite they call it.  I have a tiny shower cubicle and toilet in my flat, but it’s nothing like what they have.  All marble sinks and gold taps – and the baths.  You could almost swim in them baths.  And they have all these water jets too.  Mind you, makes it easier for me to clean.  Now he, her husband – that Philip.  He never uses the bath, he is a shower man.  Well, he is in business you know.  He leaves the house early in the morning.  Madam uses the bath, and she uses this expensive bath oil.  Leaves a nasty scum mark round the edge I can tell you.  She’s one of those people too who always leaves the top off the toothpaste.  I mean, how hard is it to put it back on.  Cherie was the same, never put the lid back on and a dribble of dried goo there for me to clean on the sink.   They slept in the same bed, Cherie and Tony, no problems there I can assure you.

But I meant to tell you.  She.  Madam. She keeps a diary.  It’s in her bedside cabinet. It’s one of those posh ones in white leather with a little strap and a lock.  I had one like it as a child once.  I never wrote in mine.  But she does.  Now, this is really naughty.  There is a lock on her diary, but it isn’t locked.  And once or twice I have had a peek.

Now, even though I am, you could say, at the heart of Government, I am not really that interested in Politics at all.  They are all the same underneath, and in my job I get to see them as they really are.  Not that they are so different from us at all, even if they love to act as if they are, so high and mighty.  ‘Everyone gets to sit on the throne at least once a day’, as my Bert used to say.  And I am the one who gets to clean their thrones.  Not that I mind that really, what with me Marigolds and a bottle of bleach it don’t bother me none.  They are all a bit stuck up if you ask me.  Not like normal people at all.  Oh, except her – Gordon’s wife.  She was nice, the only one who ever really talked to me in twenty years.

But, back to Madam’s diary.  She didn’t write very much most days, lots of initials which I never understood.  But I do remember a couple of entries.  Just after Dave announced that ‘referender’ thing she wrote that this was her big chance, she’d been waiting patiently for years but now she saw her way clearly.  And after that big vote she wrote “Hooray – now for it.”  Then when she became the big boss, she said it was the best day of her life.  What about her wedding day, I thought?  But she added she had better watch out for Boris, better tie him down. Now what was the phrase she used.  Very unladylike I thought, but then you should have heard the words that Cherie used.  F…ing this and F…ing that all day long.

She, Madam, said it was better to have Boris pissing out of the tent than in.  Not sure what she meant by that, maybe she meant the marquee they sometimes have in the Rose Garden, but surely where he goes weewee is none of her business at all.  But the worst was after the last election.  She was furious alright.  You could see where the pen had gone right through the page in a few places.  She said it was all the TV’s fault, that she hadn’t had the chance to explain how wonderful she was going to do that Brexit stuff.  UNFAIR she wrote in big letters, and underlined it again and again.  She even called Mr. Corbyn a ‘you know what’ but the writing was so bad and it looks like she had spilt a few drops of tea or something on the page, made the words hard to read. It might have been a card, or a cad – but I think I know what it really was.  Very un-lady-like.  But then a day or two later she was back to her usual self. “Determined to hang on” she wrote, “they won’t get rid of me that easy.”

Anyway, look at the time I must be going soon and as you know I don’t like to gossip.  That man asked me not to divulge any details and I have been as good as my word.  No, it doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I won’t tell you any details.  Except to say, they aren’t at all like you see them on the telly, the couple next door that is.  In fact, hardly anyone even knows what I do for a living.  The soul of discretion, my Bert used to call me.


Friday 28th July

It all started by accident of course.  It should never have happened that way at all.  It was term-time and midweek, so Harriet should have been at University at the time.  What none of them realised was that she had practically dropped out of her courses by then.  It was, of course, the heroin.  She had started off, and had confidently asserted to Jane, that she could control it – in fact she said that she would never let it control her.  She was cleverer than that, she wasn’t hooked on it, she did enjoy it, but knew it was dangerous and she respected it and would therefore make sure she was always in control.  But though Jane was sure she started off that way, just dabbling with it, enjoying the thrill of doing it, the excitement, the incredible high it gave her, slowly, or maybe not that slowly at all, it started to control her.   Where she had decided when and where to smoke it, she now couldn’t go so long without it.  It just pulled her in, and dragged her down with it.

It would be easy to blame the people she was hanging out with at University, but Harriet was an intelligent girl, she should have known better.  No matter how Jane tried to rationalise after the fact, she couldn’t fail to come to the conclusion that Harriet knew what she was doing, and didn’t really care.  There was obviously nothing important enough in her life to stop her; her family, and by that Jane meant her, even Jane didn’t mean enough to her.  Her education, her University course must have seemed such a drag to her, all her old connections must have counted for nothing, compared to the overwhelming allure of this stupid druggy culture which she had slipped so effortlessly into.   And so the drugs took over, and then nothing else mattered to her; she had made it pretty bloody obvious on her visits home that they all counted for nothing, that they were all ‘boring as shit’, as she so politely put it one dinnertime.   The family stupidly shrugged this away, as ‘Just Harriet showing off’; in fact she can still recall the benign smile as her mother let these really hurtful words slip over her.

*  * *

The footsteps got closer and closer and June was sure they must be right outside the door by now.  She frantically gestured to Ted not to make a sound by putting a finger to her mouth and silently shushing.  He seemed to shrink into himself and slowly started to pull the blanket up and over his legs.  June was watching the bedroom door which wasn’t even shut properly and praying that Phil would decide to go back downstairs and just leave them alone.  All she wanted in the whole world was to be left alone.  Everyone always seemed to need her for something when all she wanted was to be left alone.  Then for what must have been almost a whole minute there was this deathly silence.  A silence you knew must end, but you were desperately hoping never would.

*  * *

The day after her impulsive London stop-over Harriet got up and left quickly.  She had to decide whether to carry on and go up to Leeds, (her ticket was still valid) or stay there in London.  Maybe she could get a job and somewhere to stay and start another life for herself, away from Jim and Leeds, away from stupid Stowmarket and her useless parents.  She just needed to get away from everyone and start again, she would be alright then.   But she needed money, and desperately.   She realized with some sort of sickening clarity that she would have to go back to Stowmarket and get hold of some money.  Maybe she could talk to her Dad; maybe he would listen to reason and set her up in a nice little flat in London.  But how could she explain to him why she had to get away from Leeds, he would feel so let down.  She remembered how proud he had been that she was going to University, how he had sat her down and talked to her about the new life she would be starting and what a wonderful opportunity it would be for her.  How could Harriet tell him that this brilliant opportunity – she was so casually throwing away, and at the first hurdle too.  That would be heartbreaking.

She mooched over a second cup of black-mud-masquerading-as-coffee, in a greasy little café off the Whitechapel Road, when, all of a sudden the solution came to her.  She remembered that she had a Trustee Savings Book at home; relatives had regularly given her small sums of money which Dad had insisted she save.  She couldn’t remember how much was in it, or where exactly it was in the house, but it must have been nearly a thousand pounds by now.  she was over eighteen and was sure she would be able to withdraw the money without having to have her Dad countersign it.  She reckoned the book must be in Dads study and she would have to wait till they were all in bed and slip down and find it, she would just need an excuse for being back so soon.  Perhaps she could pretend to be sick, or that she had forgotten something important, like some text books or something, she would think up something on the train back.

If she really wanted this to work she should simply have gone back to Leeds and acted as if nothing had happened and come down in two weeks time as planned, but she felt she couldn’t wait.  She had to do it while the idea was fresh in her mind, or she might chicken out.  She decided to stay in London another day and go back on Tuesday morning, maybe no-one would be in, and she could rummage around and find the book and they wouldn’t even know she had been back.

Harriet stayed one more night in Grotsville Towers, and left and got the nine o’clock out of Liverpool Street back to Stowmarket.   She had decided that she would just brazen it out and tell them that she was having a short break from my studies – ‘that she was tired and needed a few days rest and recuperation and the halls of residence were far too noisy for revision, so she’d decided to come home for a few days.’  Anyway it was her life and she could do what she wanted, she wasn’t a kid anymore.

V – is for Suzanne Vega

Thursday 27th July

Ever since the early Seventies I have been looking out for female singer-songwriters.  Not that there weren’t plenty around then – Joni, Buffy, Joan Armatrading, Carly and Carole King were making the best records of their lives, and there were many others bubbling under.  But since that gloriously creative time they have seemed to come fewer and further between.  And every so often a new singer-songwriter has been hailed as the successor to Joni and Carole King.  Tori Amos, Sinead O’Connor, Tanita Tikaram and Julia Fordham were all splendid.  As was Suzanne Vega.  Although Suzanne’s fame rests almost entirely on only a handful of songs, and barely two or three albums.

Her first self-titled album was released in 1985 and had the single ‘Marlene on the Wall’.  It was a slow-burning hit, and it was certainly different.  A simple arrangement and a fairly undramatic vocal – but there was just something about the song that wound it’s way into your brain, and then refused to leave.  Her next album ‘Solitude Standing’ was probably her best.  It had the a cappella ‘Tom’s Diner’.  In essence this is just a few moments observing the staff and customers in a coffee shop.  But it is simply beautiful and carefully observed and sung again in an almost abstract disinterested way.  The album also contains the song ‘Luka’, about a physically abused child who refuses to seek help, almost defending his abuser.  Again, the vocal is almost detached and matter of fact “My name is Luka, I live on the second floor”, belying the seriousness of the situation.  The album sold millions, but Suzanne simply refused to be a star, even when it was released as a dance record by two record producers called DNA and became a worldwide hit.

And since then she has released an album every few years.  They are all quite good, but somehow lack the impact of her first two albums.  She shuns the spotlight and rarely appears live.  Her records sell less well these days – and even I haven’t bothered buying most of them.  In fact only the two songs most people have heard of hers are Marlene and Tom’s Diner.  But they are so remarkable in their simplicity and the lyrics and the melody that they still seem totally modern and relevant.  So, a minor addition to my collection of female singer-songwriters but still a treasured one.

If It’s Such A Good Idea

Wednesday 26th July

Then it probably isn’t…..

Sorry to disappoint you, but that almost certainly is the reality.  In my working life, I have discovered that this is really the best mantra. How many times have both I and others thought we had a great idea; a new way of doing something.  But when it is tried out we realise the pitfalls, the obvious reason why it wasn’t such a great idea in the first place.  And the most blinding obvious is that if were that simple, then almost certainly someone would have thought of it before us.  The best way forward is to build on established methods and maybe, just maybe, some small improvements may be stumbled upon.  For aficionados of Dragon’s Den like me it is amazing that so many ‘great ideas’ either don’t solve a problem, or fill a gap in the market which doesn’t actually exist, or are exactly what others, often unknown to the budding entrepreneurs, are already doing.  It is really quite rare for someone to come up with a really great new idea.

And this shouldn’t surprise us.  There are over 7 billion humans on the planet, plus all those who went before.  Is it any wonder that very few of us will have a truly original idea – something that no-one has ever thought of before?  Even in writing, I may think that my ideas are original but the betting is that someone has written a book, or a story or an article quite similar at some point.  Okay, so not exactly the same – but plot-lines and characters are actually quite limited – it is only the style of the story-telling which really varies.

But please, do not let that stop you thinking.  You never know, you may be the one who comes up with that great idea.  But, chances are that someone had that idea before you, tried it and it didn’t work.  Maybe with modification your idea will work.  And almost all inventions are just that, modifications on an existing idea, small improvements – and actually, even small improvements can be great.  But as to inventing the wheel, or a new form of energy, or even a new design of bottle-opener that has never been tried before – sorry to disappoint you but your great idea probably isn’t.


Tuesday 25th July

I have never questioned my gender.  I have sometimes wondered what it must be like to be a woman, but have never had any desires to change my gender.  It has never occurred to me.  I grew up a boy, I knew I was a boy – and although I sometimes played with my sister’s dollies I never wanted to be a girl.

We have grown up since the Nineteen Fifties having to assimilate an awful lot of change.  We have had to re-learn and overcome our possibly nurtured prejudices about Race and Religion and Sexual Orientation.  I never had that much difficulty as I worked in the cosmopolitan Catering industry where black and brown people are everywhere.  As to Gay men; there often seemed more than straight men – and open with it too, though Gay women have tended to be less open.  Then there have been Transvestites and openly Bi people too.  Now, Gay marriage is generally accepted – and hopefully most parents can accept a gay child.

But I do struggle with the idea of Gender Re-assignment.  I suppose I just feel a bit queezy and nervous about the idea of people going through what must be serious surgery and drug therapy for something that, in my mind, is not an illness.  I feel the same way actually about Cosmetic Surgery when it is simply for vanity.  But, I accept that the technology is here and we cannot go back.  And if people feel that they will finally be happy then who am I to stop them.

But I do wonder if this Gender Re-Assignment will really make them happy.  Humans are complex creatures and unhappiness is part of our make-up.  Many of us struggle with depression and self-confidence, and we sometimes fixate on one thing as the cause of our unhappiness.  My own view is that without experiencing unhappiness you don’t really appreciate the good times.  But it does seem a strange world where a lot of money and surgeon’s skills can be spent on this sort of surgery when many people have to wait years for far less invasive and routine surgery for real physical ailments

Hatred and Trolling

Monday 24th July

Every invention brings with it dangers.  The fact that the internet is (almost) free and fairly unregulated gives us great freedom.  The freedom of free speech, of expressing our opinions, of seeking out and agreeing with like-minded individuals.  But all too easily this freedom slips over the line and becomes abuse.  I have recently seen many hateful posts on Facebook.  And not only against Muslims, but really nasty posts about some Tory MPs and Theresa May in particular.  Now, I am no friend of Mrs. May and I wish she were not Prime Minister or conducting the Brexit in such a divisive way – but I don’t like personal abuse, calling her a and such-like.  That is no way to conduct a debate.  In fact it is just megaphone politics, and shouting mostly to people who probably agree with you.  And it seems that women come in for far more nasty abuse than men.  To be called a bastard or even a prick or an ar….le is almost a badge of honour for men, whereas the insults hurled at women at far more hurtful and hate-filled.

Although I disagree with the Political philosophy of Conservatives I still believe that the majority of Tory M.P.s (with the possible exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg) have gone into Politics because they believed they could improve the country and its citizens.  And despite anger at their recent pay-rise and the expenses scandal I am sure that money is not the motivation behind their seeking to become members of Parliament.

It is barely a year since this hatred spilled over into the murder of Jo Cox – and yet female M.P. s are still receiving threats of rape and murder and even abduction of their children on an almost daily basis.  How you stop this I really don’t know – Pandora’s box has been opened and tipped upside down and maybe there is no way back in.  And today we have learnt that the nurses and doctors treating baby Charlie are also receiving hate-filled death threats, both on-line and in person.  Disgraceful, as they are simply doing their jobs to the best of their ability.

Democracy is not only about the majority winning but about the right for people to differ and to express freely those differences.  There has been far too much intolerance, especially since the Brexit Referendum – and sadly I suspect far more when the negotiations eventually conclude.  The ballot box is the way to settle our differences.  There is nothing wrong with posting sympathetic articles but when it turns into trolling and threats it is simply wrong.

The Legacy of the Age of Capital

Sunday 23rd July

The Eighteenth Century was the Age of Capital, when our present-day Capitalism finally overtook Feudalism as the economic basis of the West. Although banking had already been established in Italy 200 years earlier, and markets in such diverse items as tulips had long soared and collapsed, money generally had to be earned and saved before being used as Capital.  It was the emergence of Credit which stimulated the rise of Capitalism.  And speculators soon learned to channel their greed into Ventures.  The most notorious of which was the Slave Trade. Ships sailed from London and Bristol to the west coast of Africa, where slaves were crammed into the holds bound for the American Colonies and the Caribbean.  The ships returned with Sugar, Tobacco and Rum – all harvested by the slaves.

Many famous British family’s wealth was started by this vile trade, even though they sought and achieved ‘respectability’ by marrying into the Aristocracy.  With the growth of the British Empire into Africa and India, Capitalism had both cheap raw materials and labour and a ready market for new finished goods.  And it hasn’t looked back since.  The cancer of greed has grown and grown.  And the Legacy is still with us.  Slaves were considered as a commodity, not as people – and certainly not as in any way equal people to their white owners.  Because ownership was the entire basis of Slavery. Slaves, just like any other commodity could be bought and sold and whipped and punished and even killed with impunity.  And our deep-rooted attitudes to black and brown people were forged out of Slavery; somehow they were less than human – their physiognomy closer to animals than the refined white bodies we were used to.  The World we live in, with our fears of Terrorism, of Radical Islam, of Refugees and Immigration – all stem from this legacy of Slavery, where whole tranches of people were considered as not even human.  And wherever we went we killed them, by cruelty or disease or simply by bullets.  Whole civilisations were wiped out or reduced to reservations – and all in the name of greed, of Capitalism, of the concept that having and using Money to make more money was an end in itself.  And even now, our own poor people are considered white trash, chavs, benefit scroungers – somehow incapable of making their way in this splendid Capitalist World.  But the bitter truth is that the Rich need the Poor far more than the Poor need the Rich – and will always try to create a society where there are many poor and only a few rich, for otherwise, if we were all wealthy, what would be the point of being rich, for being rich is only of value when you can look down upon those who are not rich.  And consider them as somehow less valid human beings – just like the Slaves.

U – is for U2

Saturday 21st July

U2 seem to have been with us so long that it is easy to lump them in with the old Sixties bands, but in fact they only started in the early Eighties.  Their big leap to stardom came with Live Aid, which itself seems pretty ancient now – but at the time it was the greatest musical event ever.  I had heard a couple of their songs before Live Aid but cannot remember being that impressed.  Live Aid changed all that.  They stormed the stage with a burst of energy and creativity only matched by Queen.

I started buying their records, and have by and large continued.  Probably their best albums are Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum from the late Eighties.  Songs like “I Still haven’t found what I am looking for” have become standards and are still played on the radio.  Remarkably the band have never split, or changed their members.  Bono has strutted the World stage, glad-handing with Presidents, and trying to influence politics.  But the real musical force is the Edge, who almost invented a new style of playing guitar, a ringing strum which ran through their early songs like mercury.

They still play live now and then and release an album every few years.  And the last one “Songs of Innocence” was really quite good.  And actually, since U2 there hasn’t really been a ‘huge’ band that has lasted, or been as universally appreciated.  So.  Not the greatest band in the world, not even one of my very favourites, but they are still there and especially when you listen to their two Greatest Hits compilations you realise they released some very good songs.  And will probably continue to do so, where many of the great Sixties bands are simply playing the old hits and rarely record anything new or even good.