Adapting to 40 – Not Quite Out Of The Game Yet!

I have had 6 whole days to get used to the fact I am now 40 years old.  This time last week I was a young 39yr old, full of vim and vigour.  But those days are gone now, and I even have the slippers to prove it.

To be honest, I was dreading turning 40.  There really didn’t appear to be anything good or joyful about the whole ordeal as I contemplated it in the days and weeks leading up to it.  But I was wrong.  I had two of the best evenings I have had all year last weekend.

On Friday evening, the day of my birthday, I traveled up to Bristol with a young lady friend to see the awesome brilliance that is Rufus Wainwright in concert.  Having seen him live once or twice before, I was expecting a good show, but Rufus managed to surpass all of my expectations.  Not one person left that concert hall who was not grinning from ear to ear.  The concert opened with an a capella rendition of Candles, the closing song from the new album ‘Out Of The Game’.   The album version of Candles is not one of my favourite songs, but the version he performed on his own in Bristol was stunning.  Here is a video of him performing said song in London earlier in the year.  I have found myself singing this all week!

Other highlights of the night included fabulous versions of ‘Out Of The Game’, ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’, ‘One Man Guy’, ‘The Art Teacher’, ’14th Street’, ‘Going To A Town’, ‘Montauk’, ‘The One You Love’ and a truly memorable cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’.  The end of the concert was also pretty wild and bizarre, with Rufus dressed in a toga, a stage invasion, and a giant panini singing ‘Gay Messiah’.  It had to be seen to be believed!  In fact, you can see it right here –

It does give me pause for thought that one of the campest guys in the music industry is singing the current soundtrack to my life, but them is the breaks.  I have had a pretty shitty year up til now – I won’t recap on my year of heartbreak and dodgy health – but it was hugely reassuring to find that I can listen to Rufus and still smile.  All is not lost, not by any means.  I had worried that listening to Rufus would be too painful, but the exact opposite was true.  It was glorious.  Thanks for the tickets, Dad!

The very next night I was out to celebrate my birthday with a bunch of the girls from work.  The wonderful Anne went to the trouble of making me a quite splendid cake, which you can see pictured below –

Birthday Cake

Anne the cake-maker is sadly leaving us next month, which is a devastating blow professionally.  Though, I suppose it is a lucky escape for me, as the cake I feel I would be obliged to make for her birthday next year would likely get me the jail….
And so, anyway, it transpired I spent the first few days after my birthday eating jam sponge breasts.  And it is not every year I can say that!  The girls from work  ensured I celebrated my birthday in fine style, plying me with booze and making me dance to Robbie Williams.  I love every single one of them, even if they did make me dance to Robbie bloody Williams.  They helped make an old man very happy😀

Here’s to 50!  Bring it on!

I shall leave you with Jericho, a song that I dedicate to you know who😉

“We Teach Life, Sir.”

I have just discovered this wonderful, and very moving poem, by Rafeef Ziadeh.   It deserves to be widely heard.  Pass it on.

Deja Vu – Death, Gaza, and The BBC.

I am struck by a horrible feeling of deja vu as I watch, once again, Israel’s ultra-modern war machine pound the besieged civilian population in Gaza.  Yet again the death and suffering falls mostly on the Palestinian side – Israel killed more Palestinians in one day this week than Hamas have killed Israelis in 3 years – and once again the mainstream media, exemplified by the not-quite-impartial BBC, take great pains to obfuscate and lie by omission about the causes of the conflict.

The story, as provided by the BBC etc, acting as a mouthpiece for Israel, is that Israel is defending itself from rocket attacks.  Because only Israel is allowed to defend it’s citizens.  Palestine is not allowed that right.  It is noteworthy that the BBC and others say that “relative calm” prevailed before the recent upsurge in violence.  This “relative calm” is when Palestinians die quietly.  For Palestinians, every day is oppression, with shortages of water, food, medicines, the freedom to move, to travel, and just about every other thing you and I take for granted.  Gaza has been described as the world’s largest prison, as a refugee camp, and as an open-air concentration camp.  “Relative calm” for Palestinians is daily humiliation and death.  We, in the West, only notice when they dare to resist.  And that is only to tell them to stop, to, in effect, die quietly.

But the context is nearly always missing from media reports.  The history of the Israel/Palestine conflict did not start last week, or even last month.  It didn’t even start last year, or the year before.  Neither did it begin the last time Israel blitzed Gaza in 2008,  killing thousands, and nor did it start when the people of Gaza elected Hamas to be their government.

The occupation of Palestinian land by Israel has been going on for decades.  And they are taking more and more every year.  This ongoing criminal and immoral theft of land is the context that is regularly missing from media reports.  For example, when was the last time you saw this map on the BBC?

See how much land has been taken from the Palestinians?  They are being squeezed continuously into a smaller and smaller patch of land.  Their ever diminishing borders  and skies are controlled by Israel.  Israel controls how much food etc goes into the Palestinian territories.  Much is spoken about Israel’s ‘right to exist’, but rarely, if ever, will you hear about Palestine’s right to exist.  Palestine is slowly but surely being ‘wiped from the map’.  It is not going over the top, I think, to call it ethnic cleansing.  What else would you call what you see on the above map?

Israel occupies, blockades, settles, evicts, invades, destroys, brutalizes, bombs and kills.  Yet somehow our media always seem to pain it as the victim.  It is perverse, and an absolute travesty of the truth.

The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas.  It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

“The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war.  It is not a war, it is murder.

“When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing.  You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land.  That’s not defense.  Call it what you like, it’s not defense.
Chris Hedges/Noam Chomsky.   Quote widely attributed to Chomsky, but turns out to be splice of Hedges and Chomsky.  The point remains.

Further reading –

Dissecting IDF Propaganda – The Numbers Behind The Rocket Attacks.

Analysis/Background from Jews For Justice.

Who is Jonathon Sacerdoti, the BBC’s ‘neutral’ expert on the Middle East?

Gaza Blitz – Turmoil and Tragicomedy at the BBC.

Latest Israeli Offensive Aimed at Destroying Chance of Peace.

Siding With the Powerful – UK Media Coverage of Assault on Gaza.

TIMELINE – Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza.

Chomsky on Gaza.

We Don’t Want No Radiation.

Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth is where the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines go to be refitted.  This dangerous and dirty work is done in close proximity to 250,000 Plymouthians, and within a matter of a few hundred yards of at least one primary school.  The ‘reward’ of a couple of hundred jobs is a poor return for the risk the whole city runs of cancers and leukemia.  Never mind that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(N.P.T.) the UK is meant to be working “in good faith” towards complete nuclear disarmament.  But sadly the UK is intent on building bigger and more destructive weapons of mass destruction, while lecturing the world on the perils of having weapons of mass destruction.  Such hypocrisy, you could hardly make it up.  Trident Ploughshares activists today took a simple message to the base.

What would your message be?

The Right Way To Burn A Poppy.

A picture can be worth a thousand words.

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