Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 31 October 2014

Quote of the Day - Roger Hargreaves, where art thou?

Some time ago, we discussed the (many) shortcomings of Junction 10 of the M40, an intersection which is clearly the brainchild of someone who hates motorists with a passion and must take great pleasure in the daily queues that build up there.

A few miles further on lies Junction 11 on the north side of Banbury, where a planned retail park, industrial development and a vast quantity of new housing are set to cause traffic chaos in a few years' time.

Thinking ahead, a group of concerned residents have started - inevitably - a facebook and twitter group calling for a new junction to be built between 10 and 11.

There is, however, a slight problem, possibly related to the spontaneous late-night genesis of the 'Banbury needs 11A' campaign, as its charmingly aptly-named founder explains:
Mr Muddle added that the group, which was set up in a hurry, is technically calling for junction 10A but, once he realised the mistake, it had too many likes and followers to change the name.
As a bonus, this is, I think you'll agree, an excellent example of the media tail wagging the dog in true 21st-century style.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Of mud and stars

Oh dear; decisions, decisions!

Returning from a few days of bracing (if somewhat muddy) walks in one of the more picturesque parts of the country, I am faced with not one but two irresistible topics.

Firstly there is 2014 UF56, a bus-sized asteroid passing by a mere 158,000 km above our heads just after 9pm tonight - have your glasses filled and ready!

And secondly, to brighten up a dark October evening, there is the boy racer who spent yesterday watching his pride and joy sink slowly into the mud near Burnham on Sea.

We have, of course, reported from the area before;  despite warning signs and publicity, a combination of Britain's biggest tidal range and vehicle access to the beach is clearly too much temptation for some.

Just a few months after a father-and-daughter team discovered the hard way that coastal mud makes a less than ideal driving surface, a 22-year-old from Bristol decided that his Saturday night would not be complete until he had taken his souped-up Celica for a spin on the beach.

Finding himself inextricably embedded in mud over the axles with an incoming tide, he abandoned the vehicle (and his chances of a Darwin Award - this time, at least) and escaped to shore. Recovering the car, however, has proved considerably more problematical, as the pictures show.

And there's more to enjoy in the comments:
It's got a GT-Four boot spoiler on it but DVLA states that it's a 1762cc car, which means it's not actually a GT-Four (they were 2 litre).
So, a Saturday night boy racer and a poser; our cup of Schadenfreude runneth over!

Speaking of which, it's about time for our annual musical comment on Sober October; after a sparse few months, we are entering a reasonable crowded part of the orbit - last Friday produced the undeniable convenient 2014 SC324 - and can look forward to plenty more close approaches in the near future.

The man who drinks cold water pure
And goes to bed quite sober
Falls as the early leaves do fall
So early in October,
But he who drinks just what he likes
Until he's half seas over
Shall live until, until he dies
And then lie down in clover.




Sunday, 19 October 2014

Quote of the day - "I'll just need to photocopy the baby..."

Spare a thought - if only a small one - for the problems of law-abiding tattoo artists beset by unreasonable demands.

We've already met the unfortunate chap in Wolverhampton whose attempt to deter would-be customers who don't understand English earned him a slap on the wrist from the authorities, multiculturalism being, apparently, more important than the ability to communicate with the person about to ink a permanent design into your skin.

Now it's the turn of a Birmingham tattooist to attract media attention with a notice in his window:
"I don’t care if it’s your 18th next week. The answer is still no – and your children are not ID. Most of the girls in Northfield have a child by the age of 13."
The last statement is, by his own admission, hyperbole* - though that may not prevent a torrent of abuse heading his way in the near future - but the underlying intention is clear:
“I put up the notice because I kept getting young mums coming into the shop for a tattoo and when I ask them for an ID they try and use the child as a form of ID.
This was, he says, happening on a weekly basis, which offers food for thought when you consider the costs involved; the teenage mothers of Northfield clearly have money to burn**.

In any case, the 'House of Pain' tattooing studio hardly seems an appropriate environment for a small child - though opinion on that may differ; regular readers may remember that a mock advert for specialist children's tattoos - 'a gift for life at pocket money prices' - apparently received ten genuine enquiries from parents.

The oddest thing about this story, however, is the suggestion that the child should somehow constitute a valid proof of age. Do the mothers likewise brandish their unfortunate offspring while buying a round in the pub or purchasing age-restricted DVDs or fireworks?

And, more seriously, what is likely to become of children raised by immature mothers whose disregard for the law is matched by their willingness to abuse shop staff when their unreasonable demands are thwarted?


*But not complete fiction; official figures show that over 100 13- and 14-year-olds in the Birmingham area have given birth over the past 5 years.

**Interestingly, subsequent research has turned up this memorable quote on the subject:
'The amount of gold worn by people in Northfield could probably redecorate Tutankhamun’s tomb twice over.'

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Blackened toast

Politicians generally get short shrift in the Tavern but we are always prepared to be open-minded; this week, therefore, we are raising a brimming tankard to none other than David Cameron.

The Prime Minister was photographed at a folk festival on Saturday amid a Border Morris side complete with traditional costume trappings including - and here's the rub - black face paint.

Given that, these days, an image can travel halfway round the world while the text is putting on its shoes, this could be seen as a somewhat courageous move, in the time-honoured political sense of the word. In the words of one Canadian academic,
"...it seems unlikely that North American audiences who encounter Morris [...] would see in blackface dances anything other than a white peoples' representation of black culture."
Sure enough, even on this side of the Pond, knees are apparently jerking in a veritable Riverdance of protest - at least according to those newspapers doing their best to fan the flames. The Independent, for example, merrily relays this charming example of liberal intolerance:
"If you're a Morris dancer and you want to black up, ask yourself if it's really appropriate. If the answer is yes, you're wrong.”
Never mind over four hundred years of documented practice and the stated aim of disguise, for which soot long provided the cheapest and most effective medium; someone has decided to be offended so it has to stop.

Thanks to recent media fuss over the Bacup Coconutters, whose blackened faces adorned, successively, Will Straw's twitter account and the label of a guest beer in a House of Commons bar*, Cameron must have been fully aware of the implications of posing for the photograph.

While it's unlikely to have lost him any votes - it certainly won't be the Tory faithful carping away on Twitter - it shows a certain moral courage to ignore the critics and publicly embrace a tradition that has been so emphatically misinterpreted.

And a Prime Minister prepared to stand up to the offence-seeking mob and their ill-informed revisionist prejudice is a welcome sight to see.

So, just this once, David Cameron, your very good health!


*Regular readers may remember that this was the subject of a longer post back in May, which contains further historical detail and comment.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

One (more) night in Clacton

Dedicated to JuliaM, for inspiring me to resume work on this - an earworm shared is, it turns out, an earworm doubled.





www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9cNtrrCP0E

Clacton, Northern Essex setting,
And I think we all know what Westminster's getting;
The delectable sight of Carswell in the
Role of spectre at the Tory dinner.

Time flies, doesn't seem a minute
Since Nigel Farage said he’d help him win it;
All change, don't you know that when you
Piss off the electorate they turn against you?

In Eastleigh, Heywood and Middleton
Or Rochester or, or this place...

One night in Clacton and the world's his oyster;
Carswell got a mandate for the world to see.
He left your ship, now you can watch him hoist a
Purple skull and crossbones there beside the sea;
Cameron, here’s a taste of how it just could be.

One town may yet lead to another;
Are you really sure of those places, Brother?
It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity
You Tories ignored the world outside the city.
What do you mean
'It's just one unimportant provincial town'?
Get out, walk in any street;
Ask some questions of the people that you meet.
You’ll find they’ll say it’s too late to restore the myth your motives are the purest;
No chance - expenses scuppered that line, Sunshine!

One night in Clacton and the Tories humbled;
Media portray despair and ecstasy.
One night in Clacton, now which seat will tumble
To Nigel Farage and his company?
I can feel that Devil walking next to me!

Friday, 10 October 2014

One night in Clacton

A busy week continues to keep me away from the blog but this seems a good time for an updated version of of this post from May 2013...

*****
This song was somehow inevitable, given the quasi-mythical status that the media seem to be attributing to this larger-than-life character.

With apologies to Stan Ridgway...



I was sitting in my local, feeling rather down;
I’d been drinking on my own since half past five.
It was visiting the polling station left me without hope
When I'd seen the parties hanging around outside.
I was looking for the courage to go back and see who'd won
And I sighed as I contemplated Britain’s fate;
Just then a chap in a fedora with a shocking purple tie
Appeared there at my shoulder and said "Wait."

 He offered me a pint and said "Don't worry, son, I'm here;
If Cameron wants to tangle now, he'll have me to dodge."
I said, "Well, thanks a lot!" I told him my name and asked him his
And he said to me "The name’s Nigel Farage".

'Oh, no, no, no!' said Farage;
'The English aren’t as docile as they seem;
Oh, no, no, no!' said Farage;
'Things are going to change now UKIP’s on the scene.'

Well, we talked all night, side by side, while the votes were counted in
And I wondered how the drastic shift began
'Cause now support for UKIP seemed to spring up everywhere
And I wondered if this was all Farage’s plan.
"They called us clowns and fruitcakes, but UKIP have the last laugh," he said,
"Perhaps the government now understand
That Britons may be tolerant but we’ll only take so much
Of the EU wanting to keep the upper hand -
Just let them try..."
And I knew this was somethin' we'd seen in Brussels,  'cause I remember how he was pullin' a metaphor right outta thin air and swattin' von Rompuy with it from here to kingdom come...
When the count was nearly over we shook hands and said goodbye;
He just winked at me from the door and then was gone.
When I got back to my family I told 'em about my night
And about the time I'd spent with Nigel Farage.
When I said his name, the others gulped and then they took my arm
And said to me, “That really can’t be right”,
And they pointed to the television; “There’s Nigel Farage
And he's been right there on News 24 all night!
(Feels like he's been there all week long...)"

 Well I know I must have imagined it – I’d been drinking like a fish –
Though as hallucinations go, it’s pretty large,
But it’s certain UKIP’s won a seat and it looks like they're here to stay,
And we’re all going to see much more of Nigel Farage.

(It's been drawn to my attention that iPads and phones don't always display the embedded videos; if you spent the mid-80s doing more worthwhile things than listening to the top 40 on a Sunday night - "No, honestly, I am doing my homework!" -  you can follow the 'Stan Ridgway' link to Youtube to hear the tune.)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Holding up the mirror


(LONDON, 1751, about tea-time...)

"'Ere, are you Mr 'Ogarth?"

"Yes, I am. What can I do for you?"

"'S about that picture you got in your window."

"Ah yes, 'Gin Lane'. A satirical portrayal of modern society. I'm rather proud of it, actually; in fact, I'm planning to make a print of it to sell."

"It'll 'ave to go, squire."

"What?"

"It's a bad influence, see? All that drunkenness and so on; it's offensive, like. The Beadle's on 'is way and 'e wants you to get rid of it; it's all part of 'is new plans for a sober October. Burning's best - it'd go up lovely on the fire!"

"You can't do that - it's a work of art!"

"Don't matter, squire; can't have a picture like that where people might see it and get the idea they wants a strong drink."

"But... but... the whole thing is meant to show the evils of drinking cheap spirits instead of good honest beer. It's satire!"

"Couldn't say anything to that, squire; Beadle's against beer too, he is. In fact, 'e's dead set against all that sort of thing. Now 'and it over before 'e gets 'ere and we'll be on our way. I'm sure you don't want any trouble now. After all, it's 'ardly as if it's a loss to future generations, is it?"


(Inspired, of course, by recent events in Clacton.)