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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Thoughts on October 20th Anti-Cuts March, by John Frugal Lakey.

A posting by John Frugal Lakey.  Re-posted with permission.

“A couple of thoughts on yesterday in London.
Although it was a great day out, it was also a long day.  Up at 4am , drive to Plymouth to pick up Steve, and blag a free lift on the union bus to London.
The bus…, well, I think they sussed we weren’t union members, but put up with us, as we were there to support the protest and oppose the cuts.  They handed out blank banners and pens so we could make our own protest signs with prizes for best designs.   Needless to say we won the prize with our “yes Dave .. the peasants are revolting”  sign.  The prize was a xxl purple unison / union tee shirt.  Ah well, at least i can use it to wash the car.

Once in London we arrived a little too late to meet up with UK Uncut – as this was the plan – and a shout-out on Facebook for info didn’t return anything, so we went along with the march, and it was massive!!  I was quite impressed and easily 150,000 people attended.

The problem was, well, they seemed happy…?  And i questioned myself why they were there ?  It all seemed like a, well , a sponsored walk.   All the signs seemed to be the same.  Everyone seemed to dress the same,  all the same chants from the last few years, lots of use of the word `comrade`, `brother`, `sister` etc.  No one smoked, everyone was polite.  Even the police ??!!??   And, to be honest, it was a little, may i say, boring.. ?
We searched in vain for a little action, someone to do something a little out of the norm.  Maybe just a little little naughty, but, zip, nothing.  No-one stept out of line.   No sit in protests – nothing – it all seemed robotic.

As soon as they got to the end of the march at Hyde park, they turned around and went back to the buses.  Some stayed to listen to a few speeches from the likes of  Ed Miliband( who attended an austerity speech in a Rolls Royce !! i shit you not !) – but to be honest of what little i caught of the speeches it was more of the same, comrade, brother sister speeches going over recycled crap with no real positive outlook to the future.

Now, I like what the unions have done for the working person in the past, but i honestly think if they seriously want to be a voice in the future they need top step things up,  and BIG.  This government and the Labour party are not listening to you, they think you are pussies.  And yesterdays  march proved that to them.  While you marched the Tories held a day out at Ascot for the boys.  Ed rubberband turned up in a Rolls-Royce and you allow this shit to happen???  I think someone is taking the piss.

What I did come away with was a bigger understanding of apathy.  At the end of the day, people don’t really give a shit until it effects them personally, and then it will be too late.  We have 3 main parties in the UK and, well, there is no real difference in any of them.   All 3 will fuck you over in the interest of the corporates that pay them.

Would i go again??  Well maybe.   Just in the hope that a few of the people there might actually be a little pissed off and inspired enough to do something other than a sponsored walk.
In fact,  I’m tempted to try and go up for the 5th November action, so if anyone is looking for car-share and is up for it, give me a shout…..”

Assange to Sweden – Latest

From the Financial Times –

Ecuador’s government may ask the UK to allow safe passage for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to its embassy in Sweden so that he can respond to sex crimes allegations there.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who is likely to meet Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague in New York next week at the UN General Assembly, said Ecuador was considering the transfer as an option to solve a diplomatic stalemate over Mr Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The two foreign ministers will resume their discussions on Mr Assange’s case among other foreign policy issues.  Britain has repeatedly said it will not grant him a safe passage to Ecuador.Safe passage to Sweden would allow Mr Assange to “remain under our protection while also satisfying the demands of the Swedish justice system,” Mr Patiño said.
The British Foreign Office said on Saturday it had a binding obligation to extradite Mr Assange if he left the Ecuadorean embassy and that it fully intended to do so.  “We want to reach a diplomatic solution but need to make sure our laws are respected and followed,” said an official.

The WikiLeaks founder fled bail three months ago when he lost his legal appeals against extradition to Sweden.
On Friday, Mr Patiño also hinted at fresh developments in the Swedish case against Mr Assange, saying that “several elements of proof have been dismissed.”

Mr Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador in mid-August, having been holed up since June in its London embassy, where he enjoys diplomatic protection.
Mr Assange has said that once in Sweden he would be at risk of being extradited to the United States because of WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing activities and involvement in publishing of thousands of secret US diplomatic and military cables.  Both Stockholm and Washington reject the claim.

“I think Ecuador is making a huge effort to resolve the diplomatic problem and protect Assange from the gorilla in the room: persecution by the US,” Michael Ratner, Mr Assange’s lawyer in New York, told the Financial Times.  “Ecuador is suggesting many solutions.  We hope the UK is likewise willing to come to a solution.”

Mr Assange is seeking asylum from a government that has a controversial attitude towards independent media. “If he sets foot in the US, it is very likely that he won’t see the light of day,” said Mr Ratner.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ec97e5ae-04a9-11e2-b64f-00144feab7de.html#axzz27Jo0uttS

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.  Sweden gets to question Assange in Sweden and he remains protected from any US machinations by the Ecuadorian embassy.

On the London 2012 McOlympiCola Games.

To those of us who look beyond glittering surfaces and misleading headlines, the London 2012 Olympiad was a spectacular carnival of conspicuous consumption which demonstrated much that is wrong with what we like to call ‘civilisation’.

If aliens had visited Earth during this Olympic Orgy they would have been amazed to see stupendous sums spent on a largely inconsequential jamboree, while all around massive cuts are being made to vital public services that are central to the health, wealth, and happiness of human beings everywhere.  And while millions around the world remain at risk of starvation, thirst, hypothermia, disease, war, poverty or disaster, the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on these Games and the air of supreme importance attached to them, just cannot be justified in any sane universe.  In a time of so-called ‘Austerity’, when people are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives, this extravagant luxury is pretty much offensive to me.  Somebody somewhere is making out like a bandit from these Olympics, and it sure as hell isn’t the taxpayers who subsidised the success of the UK athletes, to the tune of, according to this article, about £4.5 million per medal won.

I do feel a little sorry for the athletes though.  No blame can be attached to them for what the Olympics has become.  All that hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in pursuit of extraordinary feats of physical ability or endurance, only to find their efforts in effect hijacked by corporate and political vultures.  The athletes have become little more than pawns, or lures.  And indeed, in my own case,  I was lured into watching through the sheer brilliance of the athletic displays, despite my initial ambivalence.  In an ideal world sport would be just about sport, but sadly the ideal world is still some way off.

As David Cameron has admitted, the Olympics are about “more than medals”.  There are games being played around The Games, by politicians and businessmen.  For these people, the Olympics is not about the sport, it is about the opportunity to exploit the event for their own ends.  And their efforts in that regard are as single-minded and determined as that of any athlete.  But instead of a constant quest for Personal Bests, this is a  constant quest for power and profit.

And while we know already that Team GB enjoyed a heady yield from London 2012 in terms of medals won, only time will tell about the ‘return’ for the likes of the Coalition Government, and the host of corporate sponsors.  Already the indications are that the Games have served some of their political purposes.  The Sun claims that the Olympics has sparked a “massive feelgood factor”, whose “afterglow” will “help us through these tough times”.   Cameron is quoted in The Scotsman outlining exactly what the message of these games is supposed to be –

We do face a very tough economic situation and I do not belittle that at all.  It is a very tough economic world we are in.  But in a way, what these Games show is that if you work hard enough at something, if you plan something, if you are passionate enough about something, you can turn things around.  I think that is the lesson people can take from these Games.

What we have there is the reinforcement of neoliberal capitalist myths, that anyone can make it if they work hard enough, and that competition is good and healthy.  Never mind that most of elite sport in the UK is subsidised by the State, or from semi-nationalised Lottery funding.

The Independent claimed just before the opening of the Games that –

Mr Cameron will say he intends to devote his energy to drumming up business on the back of the global event, which will give the Government a chance to sell Britain to the world.

On other words to find investors for the public services he is selling off, and increase the profits of his buddies in major corporations.

In the Daily Mail, David Cameron is said to be pleased that the Games provided a “boost to the Union”, which no doubt will be useful to him when it comes to the referendum on Scottish independence.  The jingoistic coverage of the Games by the BBC will have, of course, played a large part in that.  All those lingering, loving shots of the union flag.  And of course, when the Conservative MP Aiden Burley tweeted “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multicultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!“, it allowed Cameron, who had previously claimed “multiculturalism has failed”, to position himself as the soft, liberal and tolerant face of British nationalism.  In the same speech he claimed the UK “needed a stronger national identity”, and undoubtedly he is using the success of the UK Olympians to further that cause.

The sensational success of Mo Farah has already been utilised by David Cameron for propaganda purposes, namely to lend credence to the myth that the UK government is sincerely committed to tackling the problem of world hunger.  Millionaires Against Poverty don’t ya know?  It’s kinda like when in 2005 the Labour Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, claimed the Games would help advance the good health of the nation.  Presumably that is why McDonald’s, and major  environmental polluters like BP and Dow Chemicals ended up as major sponsors of the Games….?

Forgive me if I think it’s all a load of bollocks.  And dangerous bollocks at that.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this, the failure of the Olympic Truce – Syrian delegates were refused visas into the country,(incidentally, this article is a must read for the outrageously biased reporting), UK troops remaining on active service in Afghanistan, surface-to-air missiles on roofs in London, or the kettling, beating, and arrest of nearly two hundred Critical Mass cyclists at the same time as Danny Boyle’s feelgood Opening Ceremony was extolling the virtues of past protest in this country. But at least Boyle reminded us a little of that legacy.   One of solidarity in the struggle for a better tomorrow, won for us by the struggle of our dissenting foremothers and forefathers.  And that is the real legacy we should take from these Games, not some tawdry promises from the likes of  Coe, Cameron, or  Johnson.

We should not be content with bread and circuses.