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 😉

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Poppy Pride and Prejudice.

It never ceases to amaze me at this time of year how bigoted, ignorant, and intolerant people can be to those, such as myself, who decide to wear a white poppy instead of a red one.  Just this week for example, someone I know very well posted a picture on Facebook that had the caption “if the red poppy offends you pack your bags and Fuck Off!”  Rational and civilised discussion are just not on the agenda it would seem.  There are none so deaf and blind, or dangerous, as those who willfully refuse to see or hear an opposing point of view.  We are not allowed to be heard.  It is their way, or the highway, which is sorta reminiscent of the fascism our ‘heroes’ apparently vanquished some 70 years ago, funnily enough.

As a long time anti-war activist, I have often heard variations on the theme, “but those soldiers died for your right to protest/freedom of speech”.  If I had a pound for every time I had been told that, I would be a very rich man indeed.   More than once I have been told, in effect, that “these soldiers died for your right to speak, so shut your bloody mouth…”

Though, of course, the Freedom of Speech claim is utter nonsense, especially in light of recent cases in the UK, where a man was prosecuted for something he had written on a T-shirt, disabled women are having their doors knocked at the dead of night by Police over Facebook postings, people being arrested for Twitter postings, and folk being arrested for heckling the Prime Minister.

Freedom?  Aye, for the rich and their peado friends maybe.

Lest we forget, Remembrance Sunday was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of The Great War, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Those who fought and died in the trenches thought they were fighting ‘The War To End All Wars’.  The Great War was supposed to be the Last War.  And this war was so horrific, so brutal, so pointless, that the general sentiment afterwards was of NEVER AGAIN.  That we have done it again, and again, and again and again, is a huge slap in the face to the millions who thought they were fighting in the last ever war.   Those that died in the mud of Flanders Field did not do so in the belief that their war was the first in a sequence.  The last 100 years have shown that they fought and died for nothing.  And that is not something to be proud of.

It seems obscene to me to take “pride” in events that have left millions dead and injured, and whole nations crippled and scarred.

Remembrance Sunday glosses over the details of various British military adventures, as if there is no distinction between WW2, Iraq, Kenya, WW1, the Falklands, Afghanistan or Ireland.  Ironically, Remembrance Sunday is not about remembering that our politicians regularly lie about war, or that war is mostly unnecessary, and evil.  It is only about remembering what is termed the “glorious dead”.  Details like causes and consequences can be forgotten.

And it is phrases like the “glorious dead” that also make me refuse to wear a red poppy.  Calling the dead ‘glorious’ serves only to glamorise and romanticise dying in war to our young.  It says, in effect, that it is a great, noble, and honourable thing to die in war.  Wilfred Owen railed against that thinking in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est, and Harry Patch, the last UK survivor of the trenches, went further, calling war nothing but “legalised mass murder”.

I wear a white poppy to show my distaste with war, with the misery it causes, with the lies that cause it, with it’s utter futility and pointlessness.  War is terrorism writ large, and nothing about it should ever generate pride.  I shall wear my white poppy with sorrow, sadness, and a fair grasp of what war has meant for generations, from World War One to Iraq.

… The white poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war, not just one nation’s dead, or one nation’s fallen soldiers; but all deaths in all wars, civilian and soldiers, past conflicts and present. The death of one individual in conflict has the same worth and sadness attached to it as any other, and the white poppy promotes that.

The red poppy does not. It promotes one nationality, it promotes one profession, it ignores civilians, and worst of all it encourages collective silence in questioning British involvement in current conflicts that continue to see casualties week in week out, from all sides.

And if you don’t like that, argue with me, politely 😉

Further reading –
Lest We Forget 2012, by John Andrews.

The Cult of The Fallen Soldier by Matthew Vickery.

White Poppies Are For Peace.

Another Dream Bites The Dust.

It looks like the dream of going to Brazil with the Tartan Army for the World Cup in 2014 is over, finito, deid.  The dream is no more, it is an ex-dream.  I have absolutely no idea what made me have any kind of hope or optimism in the first place.  I should know better by now ffs.

Ironically, we played better in defeat that we did in our previous two drawn games.  We could claim we were robbed in being beaten 2-1 by Wales, a perfectly good goal was disallowed, and the Welsh looked lost til they got a rather dodgy penalty ten minutes from time.  But that would only distract from the main problems – we have a joke as a Manager, the S.F.A. needs a radical overhaul, and the grassroots of the game in Scotland needs major surgery.

To restore some pride in our national sport, maybe we need to vote YES in this referendum on independence.  Look what independence has done for small nations like Croatia.  How a man like Craig Levein, who not only lacks tactical acumen, but also is reported to be a staunch Unionist opposed to Scottish independence, can instill national pride in a squad is beyond me.  Get him gone, NOW.  Along with all those others in the S.F.A. who think we Scots are incapable of governing, or achieving anything by ourselves.

Jail For Offensive Slogans? I Am Spartacus.

*WARNING – This Post May Contain ‘Offensive’ Material.

People are being jailed for Facebook postings, tweets, and t-shirt scribblings.  Some guy got the jail today for writing “offensive” slogans on a t-shirt.  So much for freedom of speech in jolly old Britain.  I work every day with old people who think they fought in a war to protect things like freedom of speech.  Am I alone in thinking something has gone far wrong?  I used to share a flat with a guy who wore a Cop Killer baseball cap.  It was some US hip-hop artist’s song, Ice-T maybe.  Changed days now.

And so I have launched a counter offensive on Twitter 😀   Care to join me?  The right to free expression is an important one.  It should not be restricted and defined by the Powers-That-Be.  How long before they round up and jail Frankie Boyle?  The writers of Family Guy?  Are we going to start banning books and records cos some people find them ‘offensive’?

I hardly use Twitter, but for this I thought, fuck it, it might as well be useful.   Join me at @johnthegasrobb.

Maybe it’s just me and I’ll wake up in the cells in the morning…..

“8 months in JAIL for “one less pig, perfect justice’ on a t-shirt? How much for tweeting #NoMorePigsPerfectJustice? #FreedomOfSpeechTweets”

“8 months in JAIL for “one less pig, perfect justice’ on a t-shirt? How much for tweeting #FuckYouYouFuckingCunt? #FreedomOfSpeechTweets

“8 months in JAIL for “one less pig, perfect justice’ on a t-shirt? How much for tweeting #SavilesShrivelledKnob?”

Jail 4 ‘one less pig…’ on a t-shirt?? How much for #nomorepigsperfectjustice or savilesshirvelledknob? #freedomofspeech #IAmSpartacus #bbcqt”

Jail 4 ‘one less pig…’ on a t-shirt?? How much for #hairyfannysandballs? or #gofuckachicken? #freedomofspeech #IAmSpartacus”

Jail 4 ‘one less pig…’ on a t-shirt?? How much for #YourMumTakesItUpTheGaryGlitter? #FreedomofSpeechTweets #IAmSpartacus”

When Killing Kids is Just A-OK….

The murder of children is quite rightly seen as one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.  There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth this week over the abduction of the five-year-old April Jones, and the subsequent arrest and charging of Mark Bridger with her murder.  I guess I speak for many when I say I would happily take five minutes alone in a room with this alleged child murderer.  Nothing exercises the moral indignation of the British people more than those who set out to harm kids.  Unless, of course, those children happen to live in the Middle East.  In which case, we appear, at best, to be a bit ambiguous about the whole thing.

Just this week, far down the newsworthiness pecking order, was a report on the effect of sanctions on Iran.  It makes horrifying reading.  Not content with the reported 500,00 dead children as a result of sanctions on Iraq in the 1990’s, it would appear we are about to repeat the process in Iran.  The consequences of enforcing food and medicine shortages on a civilian population are predictable, and morally indefensible.  Yet there is no outpouring of grief or righteous fury over the fact that our government is embarking on a child killing spree abroad.

In an article in the Guardian, Philip Hammond, the UK Defence Secretary was reported to have said there would be “more pain on the streets“, and that –

There is further tightening (of sanctions) we can do.”  He added: “We can definitely make the pain much greaterNobody wants to cause the Iranian people to suffer unnecessarily but this mad scheme to build a bomb has to be brought to an end.”

Read that again.  “Nobody wants the Iranian people to suffer unnecessarily but..”
But, we are going to do just that nonetheless, make the Iranian people suffer “unnecessarily”.  This is Philip Hammond advocating a policy that will result in the deaths of untold numbers of children, from hunger and lack of basic medicine.  And he is justifying this on the LIE that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.  Maybe he should speak to his intelligence officials.  The only “mad scheme” here is that advanced by Hammond and his ilk, the one that thinks killing kids is ever a legitimate thing to do.  If “terrorism” means the use of violence aimed at civilians in order to force change from a government, what is it called when intense suffering is imposed on a  population in order to force change from their government?  It is also called terrorism, pure and simple.

American Democratic Representative Brad Sherman also justified the sanctions on Iran this way – “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.

These people disgust me.

Where is the outrage?  Where is the anger?  Is it cos they are brown that no-one turns a hair?  Is it because, as the barbarous Joseph Stalin once said, that the death of one person is a tragedy, but the deaths of a million is just a statistic?

Mark Bridger is not the only child killer needing brought to justice.

Further reading –

Iran Sanctions Now Causing Food Insecurity, Mass Suffering.

UK Warns Iran of More Sanctions Pain.

Iran Uranium Used For Exclusively Peaceful Means, Despite Propaganda of War-Mongers.

Effect of Sanctions on Iraq.