When the phrase ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ was conjured up by the Sun at the height of the Winter of Discontent in 1979, splashed across the front page and capturing the mood of the moment with characteristic simplicity, the headline was deemed so effective that it was revived for a Conservative Party campaign broadcast during the General Election that May – just in case spring memories of January proved to be short. The initial use of the phrase was in response to what was perceived as Prime Minister Jim Callaghan’s cavalier dismissal of the chaos enveloping the country as every public service going appeared to be on strike; it felt to everyone but him as though militant agitators bedded deep within the trade unions were holding the country to ransom, thinking less of their members and fellow working man and more of their own egos and subversive political agenda. The weather was rotten, the people were down and dejected, and the PM was in the Caribbean Paradise of Guadeloupe; he may have been attending a pre-arranged economic summit with other world leaders, but images of Sunny Jim splashing about with bikini-clad photo-bombers whilst the nation shivered in the dark played their part in condemning Labour to 18 years in a less picturesque wilderness.

If the country and its people are going through tough economic times – not to mention experiencing severe privations normally associated with wartime measures – there are always some who imagine they are exempt from restrictions imposed upon the proles. In the case of the luckless Jim Callaghan, he had a legitimate reason for being away and didn’t fly to Guadeloupe to escape the crisis because he thought himself above it; the summit was merely ill-timed from both his and Britain’s point of view. Even the current occupant of Jim’s old abode, for all the justifiable criticism aimed at him, hasn’t broken the ‘we’re all in this together’ mantra in quite the same way; indeed, the fact he himself was struck down by the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic seemed to emphasise the scale of the contemporary crisis and underlined that power, position and social status were no guarantee of immunisation from infection.

Lockdown Britain bears some of the hallmarks of the Winter of Discontent. There’s the same financial struggle for those at the bottom of the pile, the same sense of a country falling apart at the seams, the same crippling burden carried by those not responsible for its making, and the same dismal feeling of no end in sight – even if where we are now often makes the Winter of Discontent feel like a storm in a chipped 70s teacup. However, it’s not so much leading politicians being regarded as parading their exemption from the worst of the restrictions this time round; after all, if the unions were the authors of 1979, the political class have scripted today’s melodrama and are keen to be seen as practitioners of all they preach. Equally, forget the small minority of rule-breaking ‘Covidiots’ who have become the designated Enemies of the State and convenient scapegoats – they’re no better or worse than wartime spivs; the real Covidiots are those whose inflated sense of entitlement gives them carte-blanche to bypass the restrictions the rest of us are being forced to live under – and only a tiny minority have anything to do with politics.

Over the past ten months, we’ve had several Premier League footballers, the odd pop star, numerous nondescript MPs, Dominic Cummings, Kay Burley, Piers Morgan and – a man who is still mystifyingly being wheeled out by the BBC as an ‘expert’ – Neil ‘massage the Staats’ Ferguson all being exposed as abusers of a soul-destroying system we’ve been subjected to for almost a year. Yes, this is an age when the insufferably sanctimonious and chronically patronising Duke and Duchess of Sussex can issue lectures on privilege from multi-bedroom mansions and private jets; but even they have not so catastrophically misjudged the public mood on this one topic as the so-called social media ‘influencers’, that group of bafflingly famous narcissists and ‘bikini bloggers’ whose mind-boggling online following vastly outweighs their contribution to cultural civilisation. Just as I have never personally found anything remotely interesting about the vacuous trailblazers in this inexplicably popular fad, i.e. Kim Kardashian and her Addams Family clan of Warhol rejects, the appeal of bimbos and himbos posing by pools in ghastly Dubai hotels utterly escapes me. And I don’t believe it’s an age thing either; I’d be just as despairing that people boasting such a frightening absence of talent, creativity and something to say had amassed billions of global disciples if I was seventeen.

Okay, so it’s not uncommon that glamorous escapism is the one industry that flourishes when the world takes a turn for the worst. Hollywood practically invented the trend in the Depression-plagued 30s, and think of the gloomy early 80s, when pop music dressed-up and embraced decadent hedonism as everybody was counting down the days till the Bomb dropped. With the apocalypse narrative now rebranded as Climate Change rather than Cold War, perhaps the emergence of the influencers advertising their frivolous fantasy lifestyles was inevitable when the rest of the internet was hardly brimming over with reasons to be cheerful. The new medium of social media was merely reviving what vintage mediums such as the movies and pop had done when they themselves were young, free and single. As with the Hollywood starlets and exotic pop stars of the past, most of the influencers had come from fairly humble backgrounds and had managed to carve careers despite (in their case) having very little to work with. Although some had their big break on what remains of the reality TV circuit, others were bedroom Bardots, pouting their way to stardom and eventually able to charge between £400 and £20,000 to endorse brands, depending on the size of their following. If their school-leaving alternative was a call centre, who can blame them?

Something has changed now, though. The coronavirus and the lockdowns have impacted on the lives of influencer followers in a way that Global Warming never has; and being bombarded with silly selfies of their restriction-breaking idols still prancing about faraway pools and beaches when the average disciple can’t go to school or university or see friends or family or basically do anything that will make their lives worth living appears to have sparked an influencer backlash. Some of the most prominent have lost thousands of followers – which, to them, is like a company or corporation watching their shares tumble; and even the Government has temporarily stopped blaming its inability to bring down Covid fatalities on the general public and is now pointing an accusatory finger at influencers whose latest jaunt to the sun was falsely claimed to be ‘essential work travel’. The Home Secretary this week attacked influencers for ‘showing off in sunny parts of the world’, and it seems the elevation of footballer Marcus Rashford to a socially-responsible celebrity using his fame to promote something other than conspicuous consumption is in danger of rendering the old-school influencer an irrelevance.

Continuous exposure to doom ‘n’ gloom will naturally spark the yearning for escapism again, but perhaps this decade’s unique strain of doom ‘n’ gloom has served to call time on those who have pedalled their own superficial brand of escapism during Instagram’s brief existence. The next generation of social media-users will maybe find new heroes and heroines, for this is such a young medium in the mass-communication game that trends may well echo what pop music used to do when it was still fresh enough to reinvent itself every four or five years. Jim Callaghan eventually came to recognise he had indeed stepped into a crisis when he flew back from Guadeloupe, but only when it was too late to save his premiership. And it may well be too late for the original influencers as well. How will we manage without them?

© The Editor


One of the advantages to living in rented accommodation is that, should any of the fixtures and fittings require repairing, they will be repaired free of charge. The expensive headaches of broken boilers, faulty radiators, leaky guttering and all the other recurring failures that cost home-owners a small fortune are not issues that the renter has to lose any sleep over. Of course, the rapid reaction of the landlord or letting agent can depend on what sort of landlord or letting agent they happen to be. I recall one property I lived at for several years which boasted an intercom system for callers, though it ceased to be operational about eighteen months into my tenancy, and despite repeated requests for it to be attended to, it never was. However, I can’t really complain where my current address is concerned. Repairs are seen to pretty promptly, as are the legally-required annual inspections of all gas appliances. This was attended to last week and the repairman – who has been doing the job more or less all the time I’ve lived here – became only the second person to enter my humble abode since the first lockdown got underway last March.

Okay, so a repairman examining the cooker and the gas fire doesn’t really constitute receiving a visitor, but it’s the next best thing when you haven’t received one for so many months. Therefore, I was eager to inquire as to his personal ‘lockdown experience’. He told me his workload hadn’t diminished since the country embraced a Soviet system of governance, but it was a different story re his girlfriend, a hairdresser by trade and naturally not making much in the way of a living now. Chatting to someone outside of your own small circle and eliciting their response to the situation is far more accurate method of gauging the real feelings of the public than weaving your way through the alternate reality of social media. This is someone whose profession precludes working from home and requires him to gatecrash social bubbles on a daily basis; in a way, he has a unique insight into the damage being done to households confined to quarters, more so than those passing judgement on Twitter or gutless hacks reluctant to criticise government policy lest it should jeopardise their future prospects of being employed by Downing Street.

The repairman and I were in agreement that, for all its surface familiarity, the latest lockdown – as with its regional Tier predecessors – hasn’t really recaptured the atmosphere of the original. Weekdays no longer feel like childhood Sundays. He openly admitted he enjoyed the ambience first time round – the absence of traffic; the sudden disappearance of the usual urban soundtrack and its replacement with a more rural vibe; people finding themselves with rare time on their hands in a nation that, up to that point, worked some of the longest hours in Europe. Yes, last springtime was a unique public holiday that, on paper, should have served to ‘flatten the curve’ along with achieving all of the other naive aims of an administration that was flapping around in the dark; but the novelty vanished when, as with the tortuous Brexit process before it, this thing just kept going and going and going way beyond what we were promised, and the people got stir-crazy. Last summer’s eruption of public disorder was an early indicator of what placing a population under indeterminate house-arrest can do as social media discourse spilled out into the real world. Those who indulged still had enough energy stored away to release it then; six months on, most now just seem too miserable, too weary, too scared and too browbeaten by an excuse for a life lived with no end in sight to even bother kicking up a fuss.

The shopping list of ramifications is as unnerving as it is depressingly familiar by now: The collapse of the economy and racking-up of debts that will take generations to pay off; the unnecessary destruction of the hospitality industry along with small businesses and the final kiss of death to the high-street as the online giants clean-up; the over-zealous tactics of the police that have alienated the institution even further from those they profess to serve; the damage done to the young with the suspension of education; the deaths from illnesses edged aside by Covid’s preferential status; the incursion of the classroom and the workplace into the private home space; the prolonged separation of loved ones; the incalculable impact on mental health. Hell, I even read the other day that pet-owners making that agonising decision to put their ailing animal companion to sleep aren’t even allowed to be there and provide comfort in their final moments as the vet does the deed anymore. Yet perhaps the scariest aspect is the fact we’re getting accustomed to the restrictions; however much we may resent them, as a means of controlling the public and forcing people to adhere to any curtailment of civil liberties, they work; and governments won’t forget they work. They now have a default system in place that they can instigate at a moment’s notice because they’ve seen for themselves how easy it is to condition the public into compliance.

Criticism is deflected with the same cop-out techniques the Woke crowd apply when shouting ‘racist’ in order to neutralise debate. Oppose the restrictions and you’re a Covidiot, midway between Brexiteer and far-right activist; question the viability of the vaccine and you’re to blame for every Covid-related death; repeatedly find fault with ‘the science’ online and your account will be closed; stage an orderly, socially-distanced protest against the restrictions and you’ll receive the kind of treatment from the police that BLM are mysteriously spared. The heavy-handed policing of perfectly natural responses to the first snowfall of the winter a few weeks ago seemed to characterise the state of play after ten months of this; and if we appear to be valiantly combating the coronavirus, have no fear – another mutation will be gleefully announced to justify further clampdowns.

I’m lucky to have a platform and to have the ability to articulate all this in prose. The repairman I spoke to last week was just a regular guy, but he was no less convinced of both the futility of, and the danger in, stringing this policy out indefinitely. He’s in the community far more than I am and he can see for himself just how catastrophic the effects are proving to be. Outside of the false hope served up to pacify those still gullible enough to believe this is all being done for our own good and that it will eventually resolve the problem in a few months, the general (and more plausible) consensus now seems to be that this year – not even quite a month old – is effectively a write-off and we can forget any real return to normality before it’s over. 2021 already feels like the shit sequel to the blockbuster movie, the piss-poor follow-up single to the No.1 hit, the early exit from European competition after a title-winning season – and we haven’t got to February yet. It’s like being on honeymoon and belatedly realising the person you married is an arsehole; the glorious life you envisaged sharing has barely begun and yet you know it’s going to be a long, drawn-out waste of everybody’s time.

On Saturday mornings I walk a friend’s dog through some neighbouring woods, which is always a welcome respite; on Wednesdays I do my weekly shop at the supermarket round the corner and also indulge in an extended stroll along the same dreary old streets that were briefly beautiful in the autumn and have now reverted to type. These are my only first-hand exposures to the world outside my window and the only real way I can size-up what’s actually happening. During both fixtures I see plenty traffic on roads I was able to stand in the middle of (and take photos of) last spring without fear of being hit by a passing car, and I see more pedestrians than I did back then too, even if most are distinguished now by covering the lower half of their faces in nappies. A small handful of cafés soldier on by selling takeaway cuppas to those prepared to queue up at the door, but most places that could easily open without super-spreading remain mothballed, maybe for good. Never mind. It’ll all be over by Christmas – though precisely which Christmas is difficult to determine…if we’re ever allowed to have a Christmas again, that is.

© The Editor


I don’t subscribe to Netflix, but I do have a friend who can ‘access’ it (if you know what I mean), and she kindly stuck some of its more celebrated output onto a memory stick for me recently. I appreciate I’m receiving a miniscule sample, but what I’ve seen has pissed on most home-grown TV drama output I’ve encountered in the past five years. The first two seasons of ‘The Crown’ easily surpassed my low expectations, and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ – the one about the orphaned girl who rises to become world chess champion in the 60s – is, I have to admit, utterly gripping viewing. Sometimes the hype is justified. In the make-believe landscape, this is permissible, especially at times like these. Quite frankly, if I wasn’t watching ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ in my online downtime, then it’d be back to all the vintage television and cinematic produce I routinely review on here. Perish the thought I’d be tuning into ‘Newsnight’ instead. Not that the dear old BBC is operating in a vacuum, mind.

If you believe the balanced impartiality of CNN, for example, America has gone from Pearl Harbour to JFK’s Camelot in barely two weeks. Yes, just in case you blinked and missed it, the West has pulled back from the kind of earth-shattering precipice to rank alongside 9/11 and the Wall Street Crash and has strolled into a glorious sunrise in which Critical Race Theory is reintroduced to the curriculum and male athletes can smash women’s sports by identifying as female. And, let us not forget, US tanks are rolling back into Syria now that the nasty ‘Literally Hitler’ era of non-interference in foreign affairs is mercifully over; Team America is restored to its rightful place as the World Police Force. Moreover, the sick bucket that has been empty ever since Obama exited the White House four years ago has been retrieved from the Oval Office broom cupboard, now swilling to the brim with a fresh intake of puke courtesy of both Kamala Harris’s cosy TV chinwag with her old man and the response to a cute little Girl of Colour reciting a poem preaching unity in a nation poised to heal the great divide by impeaching the Bad Orange Man in order to satisfy Nancy Pelosi’s deranged appetite.

It was interesting that the heavy military presence in Washington on Inauguration Day passed by without the MSM outrage that would’ve accompanied a similar show of strength had Trump been sworn-in again, but equally poignant was the fact that Antifa were burning flags and vandalising Democrat premises in Portland, Seattle and Denver whilst Sleepy Joe was taking the oath before his afternoon nap; the party is quietly disassociating itself from the Brownshirts it was eager to egg on last year. Having served their purpose, anarchist collectives are suddenly finding they’re surplus to requirements; more fool them for thinking the new administration would still need them now they’ve seized power. A flurry of Antifa-related accounts vanished from Twitter as soon as Biden took office, underlining their usefulness has now expired as well as highlighting how deeply engrained big tech is in this New Woke Order. The nauseating euphoria bleeding into social media is the sound of a million silly sods receiving an antidote to the self-inflicted mental illness they were struck by in 2016; Trump’s exit is their vaccine. But if they want to believe things can only get better, let them; after all, only a mean killjoy would tell a child Santa Claus doesn’t actually exist.

Anyway, Biden’s not my President anymore than George Washington was; not that you’d know it if your sole newsfeed was that of the mainstream variety. When was the last time the UK’s most-watched terrestrial TV channels devoted live airtime to the swearing-in of a French President or a German Chancellor – or even the man heading the Government of one of the USA’s neighbours like Canada or Mexico? Good luck with finding an answer to that question if it happens to be anything other than ‘never’. Sorry, I momentarily forgot about the Special Relationship. Immediate post-war Governments in the UK were torn between the choice of maintaining that and forging alliances with former enemies on the Continent; half-hearted unions with mainland Europe from 1973 onwards never really supplanted our ongoing love affair with America, so it’s no great surprise a majority of the electorate rejected the EU in 2016. Perhaps if a fast-food chain specialising in bratwurst or frog’s legs had seduced the Great British palette in the 80s, things might have turned out differently.

Not that it really matters; the showbiz circus of US politics is a mere distracting sideshow from domestic concerns, anyhow. Now that half of the country is living in the new workplace, the SNP’s aims of criminalising private opinions in the private space has acquired a greater relevance, for home is no longer where the heart is but has instead become both classroom and office for those whose escape from either is restricted to bedtime, an environment in which every move is being observed and monitored by outside forces. I have friends in relationships whereby one half is permanently engaged in Zoom conferences that the other half has inadvertently gatecrashed with a bollock-naked stroll-by as the mystique of work colleagues’ home life has been exposed to a nation of nosy parkers. One of the many memorably chilling sequences in the John Hurt version of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is the interactive TV set nailed to the living room wall whereby the proto-Joe Wicks fitness instructor transmitting the daily regime to the proles is able to see the viewer’s performance. As far as I can remember, she doesn’t go by the name of Alexa, but who knows?

Oh, well – let the plebs deliver to the door and the rest can continue to self-isolate in unison with the corporate world at the kitchen table. True, curtail the furlough scheme tomorrow and see how long the pro-lockdown class support the policy – yet throw £500 at infected lepers and watch the cases rise in line with the dubious stats as the rush to identify as a victim soars. Yeah, less than a month in, and 2021 is proving to be one hell of a new dawn. Bar the mandatory mask parade, the novelty of Lockdown Mk I is nowhere to be seen now as traffic flows along roads that were temporarily emptied last April and a weary populace sinks into shoulder-shrugging amnesia; no, on the surface, it doesn’t feel quite the same. But twelve months of Project Fear has undoubtedly imbued the sufficient level of compliance with undemocratic Government edicts, so the people being frozen in the kind of paranoid stasis that suits nobody but the professional fear-mongers and those who are having a ‘good lockdown’ appears to be a satisfactory compromise.

Yes, I’m rambling because no singular story has prompted a post, and like most, I’m invariably still reflecting on how the New Normal is impacting on me personally. I couldn’t attend my friend Barbara Hewson’s funeral in Ireland last weekend because of it all, but I did manage to dispatch a wreath over the phone, which was the best I could do. I went to the trouble of sourcing some appropriate lines by Yeats for the accompanying card and hoped they’d suffice. The service wasn’t streamed, but having the anticlimactic experience of ‘attending’ an online funeral described by a friend who’d been through it, I concluded those denied being there in person were perhaps better off setting private thoughts aside for the dearly departed on the day. The likes of ‘Songs of Praise’ is staged by expert TV technicians well-versed in overcoming the variable acoustics of old churches and bringing the best virtual recreation to the audience; expecting such venues to suddenly acquire these skills and please potential attendees forced to watch events on their PCs is a tall order indeed. Maybe PC monitors should be reserved for ‘bootleg’ copies of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, even if a chessboard and its pieces are racist. They must be by now, surely?

© The Editor


Owning up to loving the creative output of someone whose personality has been revealed as distinctly unlovable shouldn’t require a disclaimer; after all, artists in any field should always be judged on that creative output above their flaws as human beings. But perhaps a consequence of the faux-intimate nature of modern celebrity and the way in which its stars insist on sharing every innermost thought with the public – a practice that makes the selling of the star as a person as important as their art – is that artist and art have become inseparable in recent times. Therefore, any revelation of character traits or activities that suggest the star isn’t as nice a guy as the public have been led to believe can trigger a backlash that ultimately ruins the reputation of the art; the public feel betrayed and the art is held as responsible as the artist. However, expecting the artist to live by the same standards as the consumer can often be an unfair demand; it is often the artist’s failure to adhere to these standards that has led to them turning to art as a means of self-expression in the first place.

Overnight blacklisting in the wake of a scandal is nothing new. It happened with Oscar Wilde in the 1890s, whereby his plays suddenly disappeared from the London stage following his trial and imprisonment, almost as though the audience risked being infected by homosexual urges if they attended a performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Of course, Wilde today is fully (and rightly) rehabilitated, but the practice of blacklisting has never gone away; and it undoubtedly has its hierarchy. Despite being one of the UK’s biggest chart stars of the 1970s, Gary Glitter has been written out of pop history, his hits removed from oldies station playlists and his name only permitted to be mentioned in the context of his convictions. At the same time, it’s still okay to play Michael Jackson without being outed as a ‘Paedo apologist’, maybe because Jacko continues to generate generous income for the music industry and therefore a universal expulsion of his recorded legacy would create a far more severe dent in streaming profits than the censure of ‘Leader of the Gang’.

And then there’s Phil Spector. How much has the art been damaged by the artist in his case? A controversial character more or less from the off, his deranged genius in the recording studio was carried over into his private life and escalated way beyond providing pop biographers with a string of memorably mad anecdotes. After dramatically quitting the business following the inexplicable US chart flop of his peerless production on Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ in 1966, it took being made an offer he couldn’t refuse to coax Spector out of retirement. That offer came in 1970, when he was persuaded to salvage The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ project; Paul McCartney may not have been overjoyed with the results, but Spector’s magic touch made what became ‘Let it Be’ sound considerably more than the scrappy demos he was presented with. John Lennon was impressed enough to hire Spector as the producer of his first post-Beatles solo recordings, and George Harrison followed suit. It’s probably fair to say that the best stuff either ex-Beatle did in the aftermath of the split was done with Spector at the helm.

John Lennon’s patience with Spector’s increasingly erratic eccentricities finally broke during the recording of the ‘Rock n Roll’ album in 1973, a project that was abandoned until Lennon eventually decided to finish it off on his own; the two never worked together again. Spector’s casual attitude towards firearms – even in a country where attitudes towards firearms can be alarmingly casual – appeared to have been the main cause for concern; but Spector’s appalling treatment of his ex-wife Ronnie during their marriage would be enough to condemn him with or without the recurring spectre (sorry) of guns. Again, however, what about the art? After another bout of inactivity, Spector returned as the unlikely producer of pioneering New York punk band, The Ramones; the band themselves may have found the experience something of a nightmare, but Spector’s magic touch did the trick once more by giving them their only proper hit single via their cover of ‘Baby I Love You’. Tackling one of Spector’s own early smashes was an inspired move by The Ramones to pacify the producer, but it is those early smashes upon which the creative reputation of Phil Spector still stands.

Spector’s first brush with fame came as a member of pop trio The Teddy Bears, whose 1958 No.1 ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ was written, arranged and produced by the then-19 year-old; the title was inspired by the inscription on his father’s headstone, ‘To Know Him Was To Love Him’. Spector Senior had committed suicide a decade earlier. His son was clearly something of a prodigious talent, setting up his own independent record label at 21 and rapidly bringing an epic Wagnerian scale to music that had previously been regarded as a disposable adolescent fad. Nobody had treated teen-based rock ‘n’ roll-fused pop as Art before Spector, but he imbued it with a heightened drama that expertly mirrored the heightened drama of how it feels to fall in love as a teenager. With his uniquely meticulous work ethic, innovative (and influential) ‘Wall of Sound’ production, and a dependable core of session musicians nicknamed The Wrecking Crew, Spector attracted the finest songwriters in the business to collaborate with and unleashed what he called his ‘little symphonies for the kids’.

Spector gradually found that the female voice best articulated the sensations the songs encapsulated, and session singer Darlene Love was the voice he favoured; she sang lead on the 1962 No.1 ‘He’s A Rebel’, though the record was credited to The Crystals. By contrast, The Ronettes were a girl group in possession of a strong lead singer in the dynamic shape of Veronica Bennett, whose voice dominated such cinematic classics as the original ‘Baby I Love You’ and ‘Be My Baby’, two of the definitive Wall of Sound recordings. Spector could seemingly do no wrong in the studio – his immortal production of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ was eventually certified as the most played song on American radio in the 20th century. But the shock flop of arguably the finest Wall of Sound production of all, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, provoked the retirement that left his temperamental behaviour without a fitting context. When he married Veronica Bennett and she took the name Ronnie Spector in 1968, this unchecked side of his personality was manifested as psychological abuse that left her under virtual house arrest for four years.

With his strange character defects tolerated and encouraged to an extent by virtue of the uninhibited, larger-than-life parallel universe he inhabited, Phil Spector’s inability to distinguish between the legendary evil genius of the recording studio and the man he was outside of it eventually proved to be his undoing. Producing a gun to prevent female visitors leaving his home was a favourite seduction routine, but it was viewed as an unnerving – if dangerous – bluff on his part; perhaps it was destined to end in tragedy one day, and that day came in 2003 when actress Lana Clarkson was shot dead in his home. Spector claimed her death was an accidental suicide; the resulting trial led to a hung jury, with the judge declaring a mistrial. With events in court televised, the sight of the reclusive Spector as a withered old man bearing a bizarre fright-wig leant a comic element to proceedings; but there was nothing comic about the crime that led to a retrial in 2008. Second time round, Spector was found guilty of murder in the second degree, sentenced to a minimum 19 years behind bars. He died in prison on Saturday at the age of 81, the artist permanently disgraced despite the eternal magnificence of the art.

© The Editor


Considering where my interior excursions have taken me of late, it probably won’t come as a great surprise to learn I spent some of the weekend watching the ultimate visual alternative to the media here and now, i.e. BBC Interlude films from the 1950s. Most of them are on YouTube, and I wandered into their comforting embrace totally unplanned, albeit probably driven by the kind of subconscious craving for unusual escapist options that has become the norm over the past year. As these curious little films predate my lifetime, they’re something I’ve always found quaintly intriguing ever since I saw a few repeated during the BBC’s 60th anniversary in 1982. Although British television had yet to morph into a 24/7 landfill site in 1982, the launch of breakfast TV the following year pointed the way forward, so it now feels as if 1982 was the last year in which television could get away with putting its feet up for a while; and what better way to do that than the Potter’s Wheel?

The Interlude films, ranging from five to ten minutes, hailed from a time when virtually all television went out live; this seems an important point. For example, should the evening’s showcase programme be the broadcast of a play staged at Lime Grove, it would naturally follow the same pattern as in the theatre, with an interval required for scene and costume changes as well as giving the actors a breather; therefore, a short Interlude would plug the gap for viewers, providing a barely moving image on a static camera if one wanted to watch, but a visit to the privy or the boiling of a kettle could be attended to without fear of missing any action; return to the room and nothing had changed.

These famous fillers, which appeared to have achieved iconic status even during the era in which they were broadcast, have a unique period charm that serves as quite a sedative in 2021; I guess their original purpose wasn’t too dissimilar, but some of the subliminal messages inherent within those seemingly innocuous images are now so redundant that their antiquated appeal is considerably enhanced. Of all the ones I’ve chilled out to over the past couple of days, perhaps the ones that appear to embody a particular ‘this is what we fought the War for’ vibe are the ones that could just have easily been immortalised as patriotic propaganda on canvas as on the television screen. The Interlude featuring an old lady at a spinning wheel has an almost-‘Whistler’s Mother’ ambience; I should imagine even in the early 50s use of the spinning wheel had become something of an eccentric choice in the age of the sewing machine, but the fact the old lady is also sat outdoors lends the vision an even greater Olde World potency, as though she represents a gentrified impression of a pre-industrial rural idyll of the kind evoked in a song like ‘There’ll Always Be an England’.

Similarly feel-good nostalgia permeates the Interlude of the windmill in Bury St Edmunds and the lady sedately engaged in embroidery by the fireside. However, maybe none quite spell out these sentiments with such elegiac serenity as the Interlude of horse-drawn ploughs slowly plodding along the field. In reality, the tractor had already all-but replaced this ancient agricultural sight – indeed, one of the earliest storylines on ‘The Archers’ (which began in 1951) concerned the retirement of two Shire horses as the farmers of Ambridge moved into mechanisation; but this archaic Interlude is effective. It makes one think of the wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign and the enduring mythology of Merrie England’s green and pleasant land, both the nutritious womb of the nation’s diet and the scenic Arcadia of the Romantics. It’s a step back to a gentler pace of life in that uncertain interim between the horrors of the Home Front and the white heat of the Swinging 60s. I suppose it could also be looked at as a subtle reminder for the everyday trials of a 50s audience that an evergreen England will still be there when austerity and rationing are finally over – that garden beyond the bombsite which proved immune to the jackboot.

Many of these Interludes boast a Light Programme-type soundtrack, whereas some simply feature the melody of nature, whether rolling waves on a distant Jamaican beach or the sounds to be found rowing along a quintessential British river; those belong to the ‘landscape’ variety of Interludes, of which there are several. Some of the more ‘domestic’ indoor Interludes reflect a nation of animal-lovers, particularly the one in which the camera fixes on the inhabitants of a tropical fish tank and the one starring a characteristically animated white kitten romping around what looks like a middle-class drawing-room. The latter is perhaps the liveliest of all the original Interlude films, unless one includes the famous fast-motion ‘London to Brighton in Four Minutes’ short in the Interlude list, which plenty often do.

Generally, however, the Interludes were not necessarily designed to stimulate the senses; on the whole, the opposite was the intention. Lest we forget, the Britain that produced these films was one in which a day like Sunday forced its citizens to take it easy, to relax with a pipe and a paper because there was nowhere to go and nothing to do; an Interlude therefore mirrored the mood in most post-roast households. Although they seem to typify the pre-ITV, so-called ‘cosy’ British TV experience of the 1950s as much as ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ and ‘Watch with Mother’, BBC Interludes appear to have made it into the brave new world of the 1960s, though the test card began to claim the majority of downtime hours as the decade progressed.

One of the last Interludes I’m aware of dates from the mid-60s and was quite a contrast to its more soporific predecessors in its dynamic style and tone. Titled ‘Toy Fair’, it features a range of children’s prized playthings from the period, such as clockwork cars, toy soldiers, train sets and dolls that have all been wound-up into life. It also shows the encroachment of tie-in merchandise onto the Christmas shopping list and into the nursery as toy Daleks make an appearance, unsurprisingly cast as the villains in this enjoyably melodramatic vignette that bears little relation to the old lady with the spinning wheel; in its own way, however, it shows the country was moving in another direction, a long way from horse-drawn ploughs and potter’s wheels.

Bar the occasional impromptu Interlude I faintly recall stumbling upon when manually channel-surfing in the 70s – perhaps bridging the gaps between acts on a BBC2 Shakespeare production – Interludes disappeared unless dusted down for a repeat outing during BBC anniversaries. In recent years, the arrival of what has been labelled ‘Slow Television’, which has periodically infiltrated the BBC4 schedule, shows that the spirit of the old Interludes can be refigured to suit contemporary mores and sold as novel innovation. The examples of Slow Television seen on British TV tend to span several hours rather than several minutes, promoted as programmes in their own right as opposed to unlisted fillers; but they are undoubtedly welcome breathers that there should always be space for. When one considers the brain-mashing guff that constitutes so much mainstream TV today – not to mention the current desire to lose one’s self in somewhere that isn’t here – the occasional presence of Slow Television, even for five minutes, is something this licence fee-payer wouldn’t object to.

© The Editor


When the dawn is delayed to the point whereby doubts begin to circulate that it will ever actually arrive, the tendency to turn to quotations from those who lived through – and commented upon – the unique traumas of their own respective eras often proves irresistible as a means of seeking solace. In an age that is currently facilitating the repetition of history’s worst mistakes by wilfully erasing evidence of them, to disregard the wise words of those whose reflections can shine a new (and simultaneously old) light on where we are now is as foolhardy as it is sinister. Take Friedrich Nietzsche, unfairly tarnished with a posthumous Nazi lionisation that would have appalled him. He may have greeted the New Year with the pessimistic – if prescient – observation, ‘Yesterday, the first day of the year, I looked into the future and trembled. Life is dreadful and hazardous’, but he also issued statements that retain the power to speak to modern ears battered by the cynical newspeak of collectivist propaganda: ‘State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people”.’

As an assault on a long-corrupted symbol of democracy provoked a level of outrage in contrast with the hypocritical dismissal of the damage done to Washington by Antifa and other assorted anarchists on Inauguration Day four years ago, the latest victor’s wheels are set in motion for vengeance as a rich man’s feud feeds the poor man’s ignorance. The increasingly unhinged Nancy Pelosi failed to eject Trump from the White House with the first impeachment farce, so she has now helped initiate – in the best Nicola Sturgeon/Remoaner tradition – ‘Impeachment 2: This Time it’s Even More Personal’. Sharing a somewhat overcrowded bed with big business and big tech, the Democrats have also applauded the decision by their unelected paymasters to bar the (soon-to-be) ex-President from social media, and the frenzied campaign to eradicate all traces of the loser now even echoes the way in which past pop cultural figures to undergo revisionist demonisation have been edited out of history; apparently, plans are afoot to remove a brief cameo by the Donald in one of the ‘Home Alone’ movies. Personally, I couldn’t care less if the whole film was junked, but that’s just the opinion of a cinema-lover.

Anyway, amidst the undignified grave-dancing, further wise words of Nietzsche spring to mind: ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.’ The attempt to quash an alternative to Twitter in the shape of Parler – which has unsurprisingly seen a migration by the more fanatical Trump supporters to its libertarian platform – shows how pushing something underground just creates ghettos that ferment disaffection which can then be cited as justification for another bout of cancel culture. Yesterday, Twitter even demonstrated its Harry & Meghan-like absence of self-awareness by criticising the Ugandan Government for issuing an order to its citizens to desist from using social media and messaging apps in the approach to the country’s imminent election. ‘We strongly condemn internet shutdowns,’ declared the statement. ‘They are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights, and the principles of the #OpenInternet’ – unless you offer an alternative to Twitter or happen to be the democratically-elected President of the most powerful nation on Earth, of course; then internet shutdowns are fine.

With Joe Biden already announcing his Identity Politics agenda to prioritise small business-owners on the colour of their skin – what a healing, unifying force this administration will be – a Facebook ‘friend’ of mine (whose pronouncements I keep in my newsfeed solely for the unintentional entertainment value) upheld the persecuted victim narrative so beloved of the lunatic fringe that now dominates the Left with a fresh statement. Or perhaps she was simply responding to another strand of the Project Fear narrative, one propagated by those whose one-time authority has been so damaged by their own arrogance, avarice and hubris that this is what they now resort to in order to reclaim some of the power they once wielded over the people. They can no longer command our respect, so they have to terrify us into obedience – whether equating the Right with fascism led by ‘Literally Hitler’ or generating the belief that the coronavirus is ‘Literally Bubonic Plague’. Anyway, my FB acquaintance expressed solidarity with our American cousins and was ‘scared for my friends, for POC and LGBTQ folks’ – seemingly only scared for those POC & LGBTQ folks who are beholden to an ideology that controls Congress, the Presidency, the mainstream media, social media, academia, Hollywood, publishing, the Arts, sport, and every imaginable institution. Trust me, my dear – the view’s not great from whichever bridge you’re on; but you’ve got some quite considerable clout on your side.

Things could be worse, mind, like back in the UK. With 12 official reasons for now stepping outdoors – a socially-distanced countryside walk with a cuppa and a friend apparently not one of them – the nation’s favourite soothsayer Chris Whitty is here to bring us comfort and joy. He may look like a 1950s ‘Eagle’ comic prediction of how human beings will evolve in the future, but the No.1 medical Mekon has assured us we can all get back to normal…in a few years. Look forward to it. Meanwhile, as Boris cycles beyond the five-mile limit, his Government has sneaked-in a loophole to its eviction armistice when it hoped nobody was looking. The ban on bailiffs turfing tenants out of their homes that was introduced last March may have been moderately extended, but little attention was given to the caveat that entitles landlords to press ahead with evictions of those whose rent hasn’t been paid courtesy of pandemic unemployment.

As a renter who has often had peace and quiet routinely disturbed by inconsiderate arseholes, I was sympathetic to the reasonable rule that enabled landlords to evict tenants in ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as antisocial behaviour; but the rent arrears of a maximum nine months that also made eviction legit regardless of the renters’ behaviour had been modified during the first lockdown to protect tenants who, through no fault of their own, had been made redundant thanks to the Government closing down their place of employment. However, that modification has suddenly been altered so that the protection for tenants whose arrears since last March had not previously been added to the standard nine months has vanished. If a tenant hasn’t been able to pay rent for more than six months, they are now entitled to be added to the expanding roll-call of Britain’s homeless.

With the latest stats showing 127,240 children are trapped in temporary lodgings and 1,440 households with children are marooned in bed & breakfast accommodation, there have been calls for councils to requisition the country’s considerable vacant housing stock via Compulsory Purchase Orders. I suspect the majority of those children aren’t receiving much in the way of online home schooling at the moment; but it’s not as though they’ll grow up to become Prime Minister, is it? The housing crisis was a boil that desperately needed lancing long before anyone had heard of Covid-19, but the economic and social ramifications of a pandemic are not the responsibility of those whose safety net has been abruptly whipped away by a Government that cannot keep a promise.

‘There are no facts,’ said Nietzsche, ‘only interpretations.’ Interpretations of facts are all around us today, and if facts aren’t available, so be it; we’ll just print opinion and pass it off as fact. It’s so difficult to know who to believe and who to trust that it’s inevitable people opt for whichever account fits their existing belief system. And the disseminators of fact know this only too well.

© The Editor


I remember around a year ago I had the difficult task of announcing that one of our most passionate and consistent contributors, who went by the username of Windsock, had sadly left the building. Being one of the original team, Windsock was someone most long-term regulars had interacted with throughout the first three years of the Winegum Telegram, and the announcement was greeted with a heartfelt outpouring of genuine sorrow and affection for the man. From my own personal perspective, having to put that announcement into the right words and do Windsock justice was one of the hardest posts I’ve written; I felt like the copper in a scene so familiar to viewers of TV drama that it has inevitably become a cliché – having to inform someone that their loved one has passed away. Anyway, I think I just about managed it. In my position I have no real excuse not to pay tribute, no excuse but to try and articulate the sudden removal of a beloved character from the cast in a way that will hopefully register with readers; it feels like a duty that I have no right shirking from.

I appreciate the older one gets, the more frequent one begins to lose those who have impacted upon one’s life, yet the unfairness of it never lessens. Today I lost a friend some of you may have heard of, the barrister Barbara Hewson. Unlike Windsock, she wasn’t part of this community, but she was an important person in my life over the past decade – not central to it most of the time, but always there if I needed her; and I often did. In some respects, the way in which her passing will be marked by different tribes on social media is a telling signpost of our divisive, troubled times. This was something Barbara was an early victim of because she stood up to the vicious brickbats of the trolls and refused to compromise; one side recognised her as a brave, gutsy warrior of a woman and the other demonised her to the point whereby she was little more than a cartoon She-Devil. I guess Barbara was one of the first notable figures whose character was assassinated in such a manner, and her experience is one many have undergone since – even if few have been exposed to the sustained, relentless ferocity Barbara received online for several years.

I’m sure there will be other tributes paid to her that can cover her career and its achievements with far greater accuracy and detail than I could manage. And, to be honest, that’s not necessarily something I feel qualified to do or even really want to. It’s easier – and more fitting – for me to simply try and describe how she came into my life and the difference she made to it. Quite frankly, I’m in a bit of a state of shock just writing this; at the time of beginning it, I’m only an hour or so away from hearing of her passing, and I’m hammering at the keyboard because I feel a bit lost and don’t know what else to do.

Barbara Hewson was someone who appeared on my radar around seven or eight years back when I was producing one of my early YouTube series, a parody of the post-Savile Yewtree witch-hunt, titled ‘Exposure’. This, for those of you who never saw it, was a satirical take on the moral panic that replaced ageing Radio 1 DJs and TV personalities of the 1970s with popular small-screen puppets from the same era; to begin with, the humour was characteristically crude and bawdy, but as the series began to attract attention way beyond my usual YT viewers and subscribers, I was introduced to people personally affected by events, all of whom supported the series. Stretching to an eventual 14 instalments, the later episodes of ‘Exposure’ benefitted from the input of these supporters, something that made the satire far sharper in the process. I gradually became aware of Barbara as one of a small handful of brave souls questioning this particular narrative and quickly realised she was receiving a great deal of grief because of that.

Looking back to the height of the Yewtree hysteria, it’s interesting that there were perhaps less than a dozen of us publicly commenting on events in relative isolation, each in our own different, distinctive ways, and each as valid as the other; having come to conclusions that so few seemed to be coming to at the time, it’s no surprise that we attracted one another’s attention and then ended up befriending each other. A shrewd and incisive 2013 article penned by Barbara for ‘Spiked’ – the online platform for alternative opinions that is mercifully still with us – saw her commit the heinous crime of condemning Yewtree for destroying the rule of law, a piece that was also heavily critical of both the NSPCC and the Met. In possession of a higher profile than most of us courtesy of her lengthy and successful career in Law, Barbara was thereafter an easy target for some of the most unhinged and fanatical zealots of that dubious moral crusade. In an early example of ‘Channel 4 News’ displaying the reprehensible tendencies that have subsequently made it unwatchable, Barbara was invited on to give Matt Frei the opportunity to play Robin Day, a shameful set-up I redubbed for an ‘Exposure’ episode; Barbara enjoyed my impression of her.

Of course, the eventual – if belated – revelation of Carl Beech as a loathsome charlatan encouraged in his twisted delusions by certain despicable MPs, numerous Twitter vampires, the MSM and, naturally, the Metropolitan Police Force utterly vindicated Barbara’s stance; but she paid a heavy price for her commitment to the truth. Her suspension from practising Law by the Bar Standards Board in 2019 was a consequence of ongoing online assaults to which she understandably retaliated at times; coupled with launching a libel suit against the Times following a defamatory article about her in the pages of that august publication, it was no wonder Barbara’s health suffered. I remember her contacting me during her BSB tribunal, asking if I could provide her with a short statement; hard as it was for me to believe, one of my YT videos satirising Operation Midland was being used as evidence against her; in the end, she didn’t require the statement as the BSB unsurprisingly rejected the video. Even during this testing time for her, Barbara emphasised she was – in her own words – ‘praising your talent’ when the video came up in court.

Considering the controversies that pursued Barbara throughout the time I knew her, she will no doubt be bracketed as a ‘divisive’ figure; but I take people as I find them, and Barbara was nothing to me but kind, generous, supportive and helpful. When my minimal ‘criminal past’ was being illegally investigated by a rogue cop in the Met, I turned to Barbara for advice; when I wanted to know where to go for information on a trial my late friend Alison had been involved in 20-odd years earlier, I turned to Barbara for advice; she was always willing to provide it. More than anything, she was a huge supporter of my more satirical YT videos, twice requesting a box-set of the ‘Exposure’ series and on one occasion sending me a financial ‘thank you’ that I neither requested nor expected but certainly appreciated. I recall once chatting to her and she told me she was having lunch later on with Merlin Holland, who just happens to be the grandson of Oscar Wilde; she even collaborated on a book he wrote about his rather well-known grandpa. It was evident to me she certainly had a wide circle of fascinating friends, which made me feel rather flattered that she counted me as one of them.

My last contact with Barbara Hewson was around a month ago, when she informed me of her condition; she herself had only learnt of it in August, by which time it was terminal. The Times had finally given up the ghost and apologised; this was followed by the lifting of her BSB suspension. Too little too late. I messaged her on Saturday, congratulating her on the news. I had no idea she’d already gone. I can’t really say anything else other than I’ll miss her support and her friendship. She made a difference to a lot of people’s lives, including mine. RIP.

© The Editor


It seems America owes a debt to the ‘patriots’ who gate-crashed Congress on Wednesday after all; the universal condemnation of their actions finally provoked the Donald into belatedly acknowledging his lingering grip on the Presidency has indeed slipped from his tiny hands. 24 hours after the dramatic events at the Capitol Building, Trump grudgingly conceded he was committed to an orderly transition of power in a fortnight’s time, even if his announcement exuded all the sincerity of a chastised child being forced to apologise to the neighbour whose window he broke. To be fair, he had nowhere left to run; short of barricading himself in the Oval Office and turning it into his own panic room-cum-fallout shelter, perhaps one last defiant gesture his disciples could undertake by proxy was his way of bowing out disgracefully. Once the shock-horror MSM and social media reaction to the incident subsided, however, it seems evident that there are many beneficiaries – from Beijing to Moscow, and not forgetting Washington itself.

Trump’s most unhinged supporters served up precisely what the President and his enemies goaded them into and gifted the incoming administration with confirmation that the deplorables are indeed deplorable; four years they’ve been craving just such a moment and they finally got it. This presents them with the ideal excuse to press ahead with greater policing and censoring of opinions that the incursion of a certain virus had already laid the ground for; and a bunch of hicks in fancy dress costume handed it to them on a plate. Just as the actions of extremists on both Leave and Remain sides tarred moderates of either with the same damning brush, any American resistant to Identity Politics can now be bracketed along with every Confederate flag-waving yahoo that stormed the Capitol, every blinkered redneck that highlighted just how strangely inadequate security at one of Washington’s most politically sacred citadels is. A sceptic might even come to believe security was deliberately lax in order to allow such a stunt to happen, thus justifying the inevitable clampdown to come. That four people apparently died in the melee is, I guess, the price you pay for playing the pawns in someone else’s cynical chess game.

The Democrats devoted all their energies before last November’s Election to overturning a result they didn’t like, four whole years spent trying to oust Trump by foul means, desperate to find a way to remove a man from office they never once considered would contribute towards his own downfall in the end without any help from the opposition; four years which the Democrats could have spent weeding out the Woke cancer from their own party and presenting a non-divisive alternative to Trump. Anyone watching the chaos taking place on Wednesday would have been shocked, but it does stick in the throat a little that those who have voiced their outrage over the anarchy and the desecration of a government building weren’t so vocal when Antifa and BLM mobs were burning down Portland or taking over an entire district of Seattle, destroying ordinary people’s homes, livelihoods and neighbourhoods in the undemocratic process – y’know, those ‘mostly peaceful protests’.

Democracy wasn’t viewed as so precious then, nor when the Democrats scrabbled around for proof that Trump’s 2016 victory could be negated. Indeed, when the likes of Caroline Lucas, who did everything within her pitiful powerful to prevent the enactment of one particular democratic process, gets on her moral high horse yet again and condemns America’s ‘attack on democracy’, you know you’re in hypocrite heaven. That the mob intervened as Congress was going through the lumbering motions of verifying the result of the Presidential Election gave their protest additional potency; it appeared they, in their own clumsy way, were attempting in a couple of hours exactly what Remoaners here and Democrats there have exhausted their energies on for four years, and that is the real reason why their actions are worthy of condemnation. Lest we forget, what they disrupted was the last act of a democratic process that their man claimed was corrupted to guarantee his defeat. For all the Democratic Party’s hard work of ensuring this state of affairs would eventually come about, Trump himself has to take a great deal of credit for events; not only did he criticise his Vice President for refusing to countenance the President’s delusions, but his increasingly ridiculous conviction he was cheated out of a second term when the evidence simply isn’t there was destined to provoke civil disorder sooner rather than later. He effectively issued a call to arms, inviting his most diehard devotees to descend on the capital and disrupt confirmation of a result he’ll probably never accept. He no doubt had an inkling of what would happen, but so did anyone with the half-a-brain absent from the Presidential cranium.

Whereas the invasion of the Capitol Building occurred in the blink of an eye when compared to the sustained assault on Portland, the symbolism of the location undoubtedly elevates its significance. However, what struck me when the initial images unfolded was the way in which the gate-crashers appeared almost as amazed at the ease with which they’d managed it as the viewer; posing for selfies and wandering around like giddy, unsupervised kids on a school trip to a stately home, they seemed too gobsmacked to indulge in any overt vandalism; I suspect had Antifa got inside they’d have slashed the paintings, toppled the sculptures and started fires. Then again, whereas one side claims to love America, the other claims to hate it. The USA’s problem with condemning any physical manifestation of ‘revolutionary’ ideas is that it was forged from the flames of just such a move, so the Trump extremists fond of referring to themselves as ‘patriots’ can cite 1776 as a tradition they’re merely following in. Indeed, what could be more traditionally American than insurrection?

With the Democrats now controlling Congress as well as the Presidency, it is the Republicans’ turn to be enveloped in the kind of existential crisis that the Democrats were confronted by whilst Republicans took their eye off the ball during the distracting Trump circus. Having let the Donald in, they now can’t get rid of him; he has hinted more than once he intends to run again in 2024; and how do the Republicans reinvent themselves as a credible political party with him still representing them? On the surface, it may seem the Democrats have no such dilemma, though they’re just as rotten to the corrupt core as the opposition. Joe Biden in the White House is seen by many as a resumption of where we were before November 2016, as though the last four years can be erased from the record books and therefore never happened. However, they did happen, and the Democrats turning back the clock in their own ‘great reset’ feels a bit like the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in the wake of Napoleon’s abdication. They’re just papering over the cracks.

Of course, had the Donald won the Election anywhere other than in his head, it would have been Antifa and BLM storming the Capitol; but what’s the bloody difference, anyway – bar the reaction on media both mainstream and social? ‘Just think of the carnage had they not been white’ was an archetypal Twitter comment at the height of events on Wednesday, underlining the Identitarian thought processes behind giving the moral thumbs-up to one form of protest and the moral thumbs-down to another. The problem is if leniency is shown to one side, the gains they make serve as a gauntlet thrown down to the other; on and on the pissing contest goes and where it stops everyone knows. Mob rule by one begets mob rule by the other, and it’s never a good thing, whether in Portland, Seattle, Washington…or Bristol. A little love wouldn’t go amiss right now.

© The Editor


The temporary removal of Talk Radio’s YouTube channel yesterday could be viewed as something of a storm in a teacup in that it was unsurprisingly reinstated within a matter of hours. Mind you, a station with Rupert Murdoch and the best legal brains money can buy behind it was hardly going to be a permanent absentee online. I’ve never been a listener myself, but I have watched many of the ten-fifteen minute Talk Radio chats on YT in recent months, especially the ones in which TV historian Neil Oliver has revealed himself to be a rare beacon of sound common sense and reasoned, enlightened argument in a sea of fearful conformity and blind acquiescence to the consensus. I definitely would have missed him being given the kind of sensible platform he’d never receive from his principal media employer of the past decade or so had the suspension become permanent. Anyway, Talk Radio has been slapped on the wrist by Silicon Valley and now it’s back, just as though nothing ever happened. But it did.

A radio station that passed all the stringent tests of Ofcom and one that is hardly the home of today’s Lord Haw-Haw’s, Talk Radio has nevertheless insisted on transmitting dissenting voices actually questioning the unimpeachable wisdom of our elected representatives and their pandemic panaceas; and this didn’t find favour with the big tech overlords who are pulling the strings of all western world leaders. Any conspiracy theory involving clandestine organisations plotting a ‘great reset’ should always remember that the men and women fronting the governments of the globe are, on the whole, not exceptionally bright individuals; as with the Hollywood A-listers whose intellectual shortcomings are exposed when they mouth their own lines rather than those written for them by a scriptwriter, our Presidents and Prime Ministers are consummate salespeople for the brand and little more. If there are nefarious figures currently conspiring to reshape the planet so that it runs along lines more conducive to their worldview by inventing a virus that will finally give them the absolute power even Kim Jong-un can only dream of, they ain’t heading any democratically-elected administrations at the moment.

What the abrupt albeit brief absence of Talk Radio from a visual medium that has long-since abandoned its outlaw origins really demonstrates about where we are now is just how intolerant the true powers-that-be are of free speech, free thought and free opinions. Using a company with such financial strength-in-depth to make a token example of was an interesting development that sent out a message to all bedroom ‘influencers’ that nobody is beyond censure in this climate of fear; those who stood up to applaud when renowned rentagob fruitcake Alex Jones was excised from the history books did so in the belief Silicon Valley would only ever single out the most hysterical and intentionally outrageous online critics whilst respecting the rights of the rest to express their concerns without fear of cancellation. Think again. Whilst Talk Radio receives the maximum publicity due to its high-profile status, what of others on the hit-list who can’t command the same viewing figures, those motivated into setting up their own little online operation because there appears to be no other outlet if one has something to say? Who would even know if they vanished overnight, never to be seen again? State your case at your peril if that case doesn’t fall neatly into line with the orthodoxy.

Yes, it could be paranoia and it could even be simple hubris, but I have to admit the practice of ‘shadow banning’ – whereby one’s online output is still there yet is mysteriously no longer visible to the casual browser and non-subscriber – has increased in the past few months to the point whereby I wonder if I myself have been victim to it. Whenever I publish a post on here it automatically appears on my Twitter account, a process that has traditionally resulted in a modest albeit steady supply of likes and re-tweets. However, recent events prompted me into taking a look at the response of my 124 Twitter followers to the Winegum posts on there of late and I realised I hadn’t received a single like or re-tweet since the back end of November – the post titled ‘The Emerald Aisle’. There have been 17 posts since that one (not including this) and none have received any recognition from my Twitter followers whatsoever. Okay, so I have no divine right to receive such endorsements, and one might reasonably assume nothing I’ve written since November has been to the taste of 124 people who had previously been appreciative of my oeuvre; but I can’t honestly believe there’s been any dip in quality or a sudden drop in the variety of subjects that fall under my radar; I genuinely think I’ve continued to do what I do – that is, what regular readers expect and enjoy – and that doesn’t really warrant this overnight absence of interest. Makes you wonder, though, dunnit. If they could suppress an important story regarding the President-elect’s son, they’re hardly going to lose sleep over shadow banning me.

Anyway, I think the timing of the Talk Radio disappearance was particularly relevant, coming as it did on the first day of Lockdown 3, the latest sequel/reboot in a shitty franchise that nobody with half-a-brain wanted. 100 years on from the Prohibition of alcohol, the Prohibition of social interaction goes from strength to strength. As Boris addressed the sufficiently terrified masses, we were encouraged to believe any increase in infections was all our fault and were once again told to stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS – lest the latter found overflowing wards an impediment to TikTok dance routines, naturally. Mind you, it was refreshing to learn one more lockdown zealot had been caught out; this time round it was our favourite human oil-slick Piers Moron, exceeding Kay Burley’s birthday shindig by jetting away from the capital’s Tier 4 Hell to the more relaxed climes of Antigua during the festive season. You may well ask how a hypocrite sleeps at night, but normal rules don’t apply; after all, if they were in possession of a conscience that would immediately disqualify them from being a hypocrite.

Of course, I’m largely focusing on events in England here, for Soviet Scotland and the People’s Republic of Wales are already lost causes behind their own little Iron Curtains. And let us not neglect the fact that another national lockdown south and east of our respective borders is good news for that beleaguered public service which is especially gifted at shooting itself in the foot as it takes the knee. As was pointed out by Triggernometry co-host Konstantin Kisin on Twitter today, we’ve gone from flattening the curve to police demanding the right to smash your door down in less than a year; this was in response to an article in the Grauniad whereby David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police Commissioner, called for power of entry into the homes of suspected lockdown-breakers; the good old Met, never slow to gleefully leap on any passing bandwagon that earns them a few chattering-classes points, has simultaneously claimed it will be ‘more inquisitive’ with people out and about in the capital. You vill show me your papers! All well and good for a constabulary with such an impressive record of always getting the right man and never making a mistake when invading anyone’s personal space in their size nines.

So, school’s out for winter once more – and probably spring and summer as well – and it’s back to online learning for all those middle-class parents with the time and space to enforce it; as for those in the wrong catchment areas, good luck and tough shit. How fortunate we are to live in the age of the goldfish; Boris tells us the tunnel will be illuminated by a glimmer of light sometime around the back end of February and we’re supposed to believe him – just like we were supposed to last year. I have no doubt whatsoever that what six days of 2021 have shown us is essentially a condensed compilation of the entire twelve months ahead of us. I can’t bloody wait, though I must be careful what I say on the subject…

© The Editor


We may only be four days into this crappy New Year, but efforts to avoid and evade 2020 already appeared to have spilled over into 2021; and they can take you to some strange, unexpected places. Whilst meandering from one ‘related video’ to another on YT is hardly a trend exclusively brought about by lockdown, I can’t help but feel this uniquely awful situation has pushed traditional archive mining to an unprecedented level. The last few days I’ve found myself navigating my way through vintage BBC radio broadcasts from before my time, sampling complete shows originally transmitted on the Home, Light and Third and probably recorded off-air by an enterprising listener who had access to a Grundig tape-recorder. There’s something oddly soothing about immersing one’s self in a world that only just predates the twinkle in the milkman’s eye, one uncorrupted by personal living memory and therefore imagined as a monochrome Neverland on mono Medium Wave.

I listened to an hour-long ‘Midweek Theatre’ from the Home Service, a play involving a pair of spinster sisters running a village tea shop and featuring all the gloriously clipped diction of ‘Brief Encounter’; and I heard an intense performance of Ravel’s String Quartet from a Third Programme series called ‘Music at Night’ – one that somehow felt more intense due to the non-digital audio of the recording. I went from ‘Round the Horne’ and ‘Hancock’s Half-Hour’ to ‘Listen with Mother’ and ‘Two-Way Family Favourites’; the comments accompanying the latter were richly nostalgic reminiscences by the generations for whom the requests from servicemen stationed overseas evoked the scent of Sunday dinner. I myself associated the programme with the spoof that appeared on one of the Xmas discs produced by The Beatles for their fan-club, perhaps demonstrating how deep those wireless mainstays of the 50s were embedded in the British psyche before the BBC radio shake-up of 1967.

Perhaps the most surreal but characteristically esoteric Third Programme recording I listened to was called ‘The Dreams’, a disturbing sound collage from 1964. Concocted by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s sonic alchemist Delia Derbyshire, this unnerving excursion into the subconscious blended the kind of nightmarish noises Ms Derbyshire routinely conjured up for ‘Doctor Who’ with vox-pop voices discussing especially unsettling dreams. It sounds like radically eerie stuff today, so I can’t imagine what it must have sounded like nearly 60 years ago. The fact it shared the airwaves with something like ‘Music While You Work’ – which was next to drift into my time-travelling orbit – maybe demonstrates the impressive width and breadth of the BBC’s radio output at a time when it had a complete mainland monopoly.

‘Music While You Work’ had its origins in wartime, devised as a means of providing the home front with a jolly, uplifting instrumental soundtrack intended to permeate the factory floor and keep the wheels of industry turning. The standards and show-tunes would be played by various Light Orchestras (albeit not of the Electric variety) and was transmitted twice a day, weekday mornings and afternoons. In its way, the programme pioneered the non-stop ‘party’ concept much later trademarked by James Last, and proved so popular during the Second World War that it continued right up until the end of the Home Service and Light Programme over 20 years later. One can’t imagine the then-antiquated nature of the music had much appeal for the youngsters chained to the conveyor belt in the 60s, but I should imagine Tony Blackburn eventually provoked a similar boost in ear-plug sales for the more senior workers once Radio 1 superseded the show on the speakers.

I wonder what an equivalent programme would be to inspire the same surge in productivity today – ‘Music While You Work from Home’? ‘Music While You Claim Universal Credit’? ‘Music While You Contemplate Economic Suicide’? Sampling these snippets of a lost world in which the national broadcaster sealed its place as the unifying force of its original remit, I can’t help but reflect on how low the standing of the Corporation has sunk, courtesy of mismanagement and a gradual, systematic contempt for all listeners not sharing the narrow gene pool from which it recruits its ideological missionaries. Of course, the BBC has always had an ‘agenda’; back in the day, it was viewed as the ultimate paragon of ‘Queen and Country’ establishment, though for many decades that position largely cut across the class barrier. Today, it represents a different establishment, albeit one whose design for life doesn’t stretch much beyond the M25. It used to be said BBC radio announcers wore dinner jackets; today one can imagine them in BLM T-shirts and rainbow badges. A poll published over the last few days should have panicked the BBC into an emergency overhaul of its attitude, though we all know it’s too late. The BBC’s sanctimonious arrogance is fatally set in stone.

The YouGov poll appeared in the Sunday Times this weekend, revealing a mere 33% of Brits believe the BBC accurately reflects their concerns – this is down from 62% in that most game-changing of years, 2016. In the latest poll, 48% of ‘older people’ (over-40s?) thought the Beeb represented their views badly; a regional and political breakdown claimed 51% in ‘the North’ echoed this opinion, 47% did in Scotland, and 58% of those who voted Leave. If any public institution – the police, parliament, the BBC – fails to honour the contract between servers and served, it’s no wonder public confidence in it diminishes rapidly; all of these bastions in which Brits placed their trust for generations have been found wanting of late, but so deep have Identitarian sensibilities infiltrated the controllers of these institutions that it’s hard to see how they can reclaim their former respect amongst those who pay their wages.

Sadiq Khan’s Unconscious Bias Training masquerading as a New Year’s Eve firework display, promoting divisive dogma at a moment when further division is the last panacea needed, was no doubt sold as a ‘good thing’ by the BBC bosses broadcasting it on TV; one can imagine them standing up to applaud the clenched fist of a Marxist political party or the EU flag, endorsing their blinkered belief that the whole nation mirrors their mantra. When I recorded a down-the-line interview on Radio 4 a few years back, receiving a ‘Yentob-esque’ taxi home laid on for me free of charge, I got an extremely brief taste of how BBC people live. These are people whose entire working lives are lived on expenses; they never pay taxi fares, they get sent free tickets for Glastonbury, Wimbledon, and the Last Night of the Proms; and then they devote a huge proportion of broadcasting hours funded by the great unwashed to wagging their fingers and reminding the rest of us how privileged – albeit ill-educated – we all are. Ah, if only Eton and Oxbridge were available on the NHS!

I’ve recently been watching the first two seasons of ‘The Crown’, courtesy of a friend kindly popping it on a memory stick for me; the story in this Netflix series unfolds at a glacial, sedate pace that allows events during the early years of Her Majesty’s reign the space to breathe in a way that a BBC equivalent condensed into six episodes wouldn’t. The attention to period detail is admirably meticulous, but were it in the hands of the BBC, the Corporation’s diversity & inclusivity rules would require a token quota of BAME actors to tick the boxes. Accusations of historical inaccuracy levelled against ‘The Crown’ would be just as valid were the Beeb producing it, albeit for different reasons; the BBC approach is to project the idealised Woke worldview of the here and now onto the past, rendering all drama as merely another facet of what someone recently referred to as the BBC’s Jehovah’s Witness-like compulsion to convert non-believers and convince them that their way is the right way, and the only way. If it is the only way, then the destination of one of this country’s truly noble gifts to the world is, I’m sorry to say, that great Broadcasting House in the sky.

© The Editor