TTFN

I suppose some of you regulars may have started to wonder where I’d gone. The brutal truth is I just can’t write at the moment. I’m only pushing myself to write this because I feel I owe you for your loyalty over the past couple of years. This week, I experienced a bereavement that has utterly numbed me and completely killed the urge to compose. I can’t offer any sort of take on the remaining weeks of this vile, wretched year and the last thing I can face right now is the thought of having to relive it by reviewing it. Even if I tried, the end result would be so bilious and bleak that it’d make the last-but one post read like a jolly holiday brochure. You may have noticed a more cynical and pessimistic edge creeping into recent posts, anyway; I didn’t want this to become a permanent trend or a defining characteristic of a blog I’ve always tried to enliven with gallows humour as my hand is on my heart and my tongue is in my cheek.

Some might say carrying on regardless by churning out sardonic articles about something in the news every day could serve as a convenient distraction; to be honest, the most time an average post takes to write isn’t much more than a couple of hours, anyway, so it’s not as if the exercise is especially taxing. But if all you feel like doing is raging at the world in a relentless tide of negativity, it would quickly grate with the reader; besides, if that’s what the people are looking for, there’s always Alex Jones’ YT channel.

At the moment, anything I even attempted to write would just be too depressing, too despondent and, frankly, too much – not just for you, but me too. Away from online discourse, I’ve even broken a previously-unbroken habit of 13 years, that of writing a private diary entry every night before bedtime, because I can’t face documenting the day’s events anymore.

I won’t inflict any of this on you, so I’ll be taking a break for a bit. Right now, I definitely doubt I’ll add another post to 2017’s long list, and I can’t say with any degree of accuracy when normal service will be resumed. Bidding good riddance to 2017 implies 2018 will be welcomed with open arms, but I’m certainly not looking forward to 2018 because I simply can’t see it being an improvement on the twelve months we’ve just endured. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll probably be even worse. It’s hard to envisage anything remotely positive up ahead, which does somewhat reduce the likelihood of posts that might put a smile on your face. And I don’t want to dwell on how much I’m hurting because it could easily translate as self-pity, like ‘All By Myself’ on a bloody loop – the Celine Dion cover. Imagine that.

For two years on the Telegram and perhaps around the same amount of time on another (now-defunct) blog that I reckon most of you here can recall, I’ve been a busy bee and haven’t paused to catch my breath for more than two or three days at a time. In the end, I may find that two or three days more than that away from the blog might rekindle the compulsion to pick up where I left off and I could be back within a week; but I don’t feel that way today. I feel burnt out. Maybe a longer sabbatical than I’ve so far taken really will help to recharge my jaded batteries. Who knows? I’m not intending to call it a day completely. Even though it has brought me zilch financial riches, writing’s all I can really do and I generally can’t stop myself from doing it. With that in mind, I suppose it’s inevitable I’ll return as long as I feel I’m wanted.

For many, the majority of life is lived in a monochrome Kansas that is made tolerable by brief glimpses of Technicolor Oz. It should be the other way round, but it never seems to be, alas. Kicks in the teeth are commonplace, body blows par for the course. It sucks. And it doesn’t matter how hard you work and how many hours you put in, the rewards are usually conspicuous by their absence. When/if that rare moment of magic called happiness comes along, for God’s sake grab it, cherish it, and always remember just how precious it truly is; never take it for granted; it can be painfully transient, and when it’s gone it’ll rip your heart out.

I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity to say it, but thanks for your constant support, and have a good Christmas if you can. After all, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

© The Editor
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THE GOOD-TIME GIRL NEXT-DOOR

Some exits appear preordained in terms of timing. That Christine Keeler should pass away just a month or so after Westminster was mired afresh in a so-called sex scandal that pretty much paled next to the one she will be forever associated with is pretty immaculate timing. Her death at the age of 75 also came just a week after declassified files revealed her brief beau John Profumo’s involvement with a Nazi spy in the 1930s. When the knee-touching exploits of Michael Fallon and the office porn of Damian Green hit the headlines, the Profumo Affair was never far away from being evoked again; but 1963 was a different world to 2017. Christine Keeler’s involvement with a prominent Cabinet Minister as well as an alleged Russian spy is often credited with not only contributing to the demise of a Tory Government, but for also shining a light on the double standards of our ‘betters’ that helped bring about the collapse of the curse known as deference.

Private orgies at one end and bits on the side at the other were equally permissible amongst the upper echelons of British society as long as discretion was practiced. Vices were not paraded as they had been during the Georgian era, but vices had never gone out of fashion; they’d merely gone behind closed doors. After all, it was the job of the ruling class to ‘set an example’ to the lower orders; if they fancied a bit of rough in a Lady Chatterley fashion, they went about it quietly because that was very much frowned upon. The social melting pot of clandestine gay drinking-dens was a perennial source of anxiety to the powers-that-be not so much because they were concerned about the ‘scourge’ of homosexuality, but because the mixing of the classes would negate deference and risk bringing about the downfall of all they held dear.

Working-class ‘tarts’ of either sex remained alluring forbidden fruit to the upper-classes, however, so it was no surprise that Christine Keeler and her fellow London night-club hostess Mandy Rice-Davies hooked-up with a man bearing the unforgettable job description of ‘Society Osteopath’, Stephen Ward. Ward opened the doors to that Society for two girls of humble means, and who could blame them for grabbing it with both hands at a time when their alternative options were both limited and humdrum? Ward’s impressive client list included Viscount Astor, bastion of the establishment, and rising star of the Conservative Party, John Profumo.

The affair between Profumo and Keeler was brief, as was the simultaneous liaison with Soviet naval attaché Eugene Ivanov, and chances are neither would have attracted any outside attention had not the police and press been drawn to an incident outside Ward’s plush Mews flat. Keeler’s jilted West Indian lover Johnny Edgecombe firing shots up at the window Keeler was hiding behind led to the exposure of the Profumo connection with Keeler and then Ivanov’s presence. In the wake of several spy scandals involving the likes of George Blake and John Vassall – not to mention the high-profile defection of Kim Philby – any Russian association with members of the aristocracy was bound to provoke jitters, and Labour naturally exploited the situation when MP George Wigg employed parliamentary privilege to accuse Profumo of having an affair with Keeler. The Secretary of State for War was forced to deny it in the Commons; it was this lie, and the resignation that followed the subsequent admission he’d lied, that condemned him in the eyes of his peers.

However, it was Stephen Ward who was really hung out to dry by the establishment, charged with living off immoral earnings – something Keeler always denied – and tried at the Old Bailey in the summer of 1963. Journalist, broadcaster and campaigner Ludovic Kennedy described the guilty sentence handed out to Ward as a blatant miscarriage of justice; but before Ward could be made an example of by the loathsome set who’d nominated him as a patsy, the abandoned osteopath had slipped into a coma courtesy of a deliberate overdose that resulted in his death three days later. Christine Keeler ended up inside for nine months on a charge of perjury relating to the overturned sentencing of Johnny Edgecombe’s love rival Lucky Gordon. John Profumo left politics and devoted the rest of his life to charitable works in the East End of London.

Between the public revelation of her affair with Profumo and the death of Ward, Christine Keeler was perhaps the most infamous young woman in the country. That her infamy should come at a moment when a changing of the social guard was already gathering speed via the breakthrough of The Beatles and the defiantly non-deferential satire boom in retrospect seems no coincidence. The iconic shot of her sat naked on a chair – perhaps the first of the Swinging decade’s such images – was memorably parodied on the cover of ‘Private Eye’ by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in Keeler’s seat. Macmillan himself was gone by that autumn, citing ill-health, yet with his replacement being the Earl of Home, the Tories had clearly learnt nothing, assuming the default toff would save the day. He didn’t, and Harold Wilson led Labour back to power a year later after 13 years in opposition. The times they definitely were a-changing.

The exposure of the ruling class as decadent hypocrites trashed forever their self-appointed role as the nation’s moral guardians, whereas Christine Keeler’s overnight notoriety was a novel innovation for a girl born with a plastic spoon in her mouth. We’re used to working-class girls-made-good spread across our tabloid pages in the twenty-first century; that didn’t really happen before Keeler. Whether or not we can hold her responsible for the cast of ‘Geordie Shore’ isn’t perhaps a legacy she’d have wished to lay claim to, though she had to live the rest of her life in the shadow of something she did in her early 20s, both despising the fact yet ultimately dependent upon it for an income. But the timing of her arrival in 1963 was nevertheless as perfect as that of her exit in 2017.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

A WORLD WITHOUT SUMMER

The Year Without Summer – that’s what they called 1816. Pre-Industrial Europe was in the middle of recovering from the long, lingering impact of the Napoleonic Wars and was then hit by an agricultural disaster, one that was mirrored across parts of North America and China. In Ireland, failed crops sparked famine; in Germany, they sparked riots. Switzerland slid into a deep-freeze whilst India was plunged into an outbreak of cholera as the period known retrospectively as ‘The Little Ice Age’ climaxed in catastrophic fashion. Most of the blame was laid at the door of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, a dormant volcano that had suddenly sprung into life after a thousand years with the largest observed eruption in recorded history. Lava continued to sport forth for more than eighteen months, dispersing ash into the atmosphere that caused severe climate change, reducing global temperatures and resulting in upwards of an estimated 10,000 deaths worldwide.

The distorted colours of the sulphuric skies that Tambora’s eruption caused are believed to have inspired the distinctive smudgy shades of JMW Turner’s paintings as well as creating the apocalyptic ambience that provoked 18-year-old Mary Shelley into penning ‘Frankenstein’ when holidaying with Percy Bysshe and Lord Byron on the gloomy fringes of Lake Geneva that non-summer. Whilst such a baleful location may have suited Gothic sensibilities, no doubt there were many who perceived the dramatic alteration in the climate as a sign of God’s displeasure with mankind. Mind you, God generally lets mankind get away with a hell of a lot before he can be arsed intervening.

200 years on from that remarkable climatic event, humble little me wrote a post called ‘Something in the Air’; take a look – it’s still there. In it, I commented on a pessimistic malaise that seemed to have settled upon the world, something that was manifested via a variety of dismal news stories, the impact of which was possibly exacerbated by the instant ping of social media. Coupled with very personal crises friends of mine were simultaneously undergoing at the time of writing, it felt as though the external and internal were bleeding into one overwhelming weight on the shoulders of numerous generations inhabiting the here and now. A year or so on from that particular post, it would be nice to come to the conclusion that this was a piece of reportage chronicling a moment of madness, a missive from the dark that preceded a dawn we happily reside in as 2017 careers towards its climax. Oops!

In a couple of days, this blog will have been in existence for two years. As a writer, I couldn’t have wished for more eventful times to have been documenting on a near-daily basis. Since the inaugural post on 6 December 2015, I’ve been able to comment upon the rise of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right as well as his loud opponents on the left and those in North Korea. When I began, we were barely six months into a Conservative Government released from the constricting shackles of Coalition, yet six months into the blog David Cameron had lost an ill-advised gamble (and his job) by leading the country into a chaotic state of uncertainty it has yet to recover from. One more indecisive General Election and one more ineffective Prime Minister later, Brexit remains the ultimate barometer of division as neither Remainer/Remoaner nor Brexiteer are happy with what Government is doing in their name. And this Whitehall farce seems set to run and run well into 2018.

Of course, it is the raison d’être of online news outlets to focus on the horrible with sensationalistic relish, just as it remains so for the traditional print and cathode-ray mediums that predate them, regardless of the ‘and finally’ solace at the end of the carnage. The public wants what the public gets, as Paul Weller said almost 40 years ago (I know; it’s scary); a YT video I produced in 2014 took that line as its title whilst a catalogue of contemporary images accompanied the theme tune from the distant childhood adventures of Teddy Edward.

One of these images was of a couple kissing, under which a caption announced ‘This is Rape’. Far be it from me to adopt the guise of a twenty-first century Nostradamus, but this particular statement is suddenly relevant courtesy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, whose latest Tweet is as good a reason as any why law-enforcers should steer clear of social media and concentrate on solving genuine bloody crimes. According to a now-deleted Tweet that has nevertheless been posthumously seized upon by the Daily Telegraph, kissing a lady under the mistletoe (something that apparently still occurs) is classified as ‘rape’ unless consent is first acquired. Say no more, twenty-seven-f**king-teen.

I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do. It’s insane, and I don’t know how we got here, let alone how we get out of it. I poke fun at it with a sardonic eye, but I’m well aware I’m just pissing in the wind, satirically fiddling as our rotten Rome burns. Over a year on from ‘Something in the Air’, the fog hasn’t cleared and people who matter to me – good people who don’t deserve the shit they’re having to deal with – are even worse off now than they were then. I try to be a tower of strength to them, but I often feel a bit of a hypocrite ‘cause I know deep down I’m as f**ked-up as they are. I could be bold and declare I start most days struggling to come up with a reason to keep buggering on and end most days unconvinced that I found one; but my ego likes to think I make a difference, so I stick around.

Simon le Bon was once ripped to shreds for carelessly describing Duran Duran as the band to dance to when the bomb drops, but part of me knows what he meant. We may be almost four decades on from a throwaway comment made in the heat of early 80s Cold War paranoia; but if this is the blog that people read before they take a leap into the unknown from Beachy Head, so be it. As long as I’m here, I’ll KBO and I’ll love a select few as I do so because they make life worth living. And I’ll still be here when you switch on tomorrow, for good or ill.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

US, THEM AND THE REST

One of the key – and, yes, (sorry) iconic – moments in one of my favourite movies, ‘Blow-Up’, comes when David Hemmings’ Swinging London photographer attends a druggy party with the hip set and he runs into one of his top models, played by an actual 60s top model, the exotic Veruschka. Under the impression she couldn’t make one of his shoots because she was otherwise engaged, Hemmings says ‘I thought you were supposed to be in Paris’, to which the stoned beauty replies ‘I am in Paris’.

Personally, I haven’t physically been in Paris for over 30 years, though I’ve regularly been there in a Veruschka sense; even stone-cold sober, I know where she’s coming from. I guess we’ve all imagined ourselves in surroundings we regard as more conducive to the people we feel we are. Combating inverted snobbery and the ‘know-your-place/don’t-get-ideas-above-your station’ default mindset intended to protect the little people from overreaching their origins is something anyone emanating from an estate will be familiar with; but visiting Paris in one’s head is often the only option. Others, of course, judge greatness by the amount of material goods they can call their own, believing ownership of such items somehow elevates them into a higher social strata because those who can match the goods to an equivalent bank-balance are who they aspire to be; get the goods and you can manufacture the impression of affluence. And making an impression is half the game today.

It’s been a staple diet of mainstream TV for well over a decade, whether in property porn shows, ‘Come Dine with Me’, the Essex/Chelsea un-reality programmes, or the ‘I-wanna-be-famous’ Cowell approach – presenting the viewers with an ideal it implies they can attain and make them better than their nearest neighbour. All feed into the same necessary fantasy generated by the National Lottery because knuckling down and putting the hours in can no longer guarantee an actual escape route, whether doing it academically or working your way up the corporate ladder. Today’s resignation of all four members of what is known as ‘The Social Mobility Commission’ is being cynically dismissed by some as political point scoring, bearing in mind one of the most prominent voices on the panel was ex-Labour Minister from the Blair era, Alan Milburn. But the Tory Peer Baroness Gillian Shephard has quit with him.

In his resignation letter to the PM, Milburn wrote ‘the Government as a whole is unable to commit the same level of support’ to social mobility as it claims to do with education; he also addressed Theresa May directly when he wrote ‘I do not doubt your personal belief in social justice, but I see little evidence of that being translated into meaningful action.’ Milburn expanded his reasons behind quitting a post he has held for five years on ‘The Andrew Marr Show’, when he blamed the Government’s all-encompassing focus on Brexit as relegating other important and pressing issues to the bottom drawer. The Commission is intended to oversee the Government’s attempts at ‘freeing children from poverty and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential’, though Milburn compared this to ‘pushing water uphill’.

The Government has responded to the decision of the Commission by saying Milburn’s tenure had reached its natural conclusion and that it would be getting fresh blood in. Even though Milburn claims Education Secretary Justine Greening wanted him to remain in the post, Greening herself toed the Government line re the ‘fresh blood’ remit and has stuck to the positive script despite the publication of a report by the Commission last week that pointed out ‘political alienation’ and ‘social resentment’ as well as the indisputable divisions the EU Referendum result exposed to a far wider audience than had acknowledged them before.

The oft-aired theory of London as an economic citadel separated from the rest of the country – particularly old industrial heartlands, isolated rural outposts and neglected coastal enclaves – also formed part of the Commission’s report. None of this will have come as a surprise to anyone outside of the capital (or at least its booming boroughs), but perhaps the Government will only listen when they’re told so by a committee they set-up; mind you, it doesn’t even sound like they’re listening to this one.

The report studied all of England’s 324 local authorities and upheld the postcode lottery syndrome, even if it proved to be far more widespread a division than a straightforward North-South split. West Somerset was down at the bottom of the league table, for example, and the likes of relatively wealthy Crawley and West Berkshire also performed poorly when it came to their most vulnerable sons and daughters, exhibiting a greater gap between their high and low earners. Wages, limited career prospects and the chances of anyone starting life from a lowly position being able recover from it were important factors in the report, and as a collective region, the East Midlands came out worst of all. Newark and Sherwood in Nottinghamshire were found to be the poorest performing local authorities, with anyone there from a disadvantaged background less likely to rise above it than anywhere else in the country.

Some of Alan Milburn’s recommendations in the review of ‘Left-Behind Britain’ sound like stating the bleedin’ obvious, but even if they were implemented we’re probably talking another generation before they’d show any impact, and who knows how much rarer social mobility will have become by then? Really, when one strips away familiar factors – including disproportionate levels of immigration in some areas that have further limited job and housing opportunities, not to mention savage cuts to social services – at the root of it all is the same thing that has always been at the root of this problem: class. The old saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ remains the mantra for getting on in this country. Not enough of us know the right people, and most of us never will.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

SHOP TILL YOU DROP

As I’ve stated on more than one previous occasion, online shopping has been a Godsend for me, liberating me from having to make the dreaded trip ‘into town’ – especially this particularly appalling time of year. Only this morning, dashing down the aisles of my local Sainsbury’s in search of something to invigorate my jaded appetite, I received my first exposure of 2017 to the soundtrack that pumps out the same old seasonal songs on the same old loop until any lingering nostalgic affection for the individual tracks in question is finally, belatedly, obliterated. Yes, even ‘Fairytale of New York’, perennially held-up as the ‘Cool’ Christmas song, is beginning to grate after 30 years and is now firmly settled alongside Noddy, Roy, Greg and Jona as an earworm only marginally less unwelcome than the Radio 1 ‘mix-tape’ my new neighbour plays at 4.30am every weekend to obscure the bottom-spanking sex sounds emanating from her flat door.

I rarely make the journey into the nearest city centre now; until I stopped smoking I was mainly making the journey solely to purchase cheap tobacco from a small shop I frequented for the best part of fifteen years – baccy that supplemented the 40 cigs a day I was addicted to. Since I switched to vaping, I’ve been spared the fortnightly trek, and now I have no reason whatsoever to set foot there. A recent conversation with a friend on the horrors of physical shopping made me realise that I literally have nothing to venture into such an arena for anymore. All the shops that lured me there for the majority of my adult life have gone.

Memories of childhood city centre shopping outings mostly consist of being reluctantly dragged around ‘mum stores’ such as M&S and C&A, sterile feminine emporiums with little or no appeal for a bored boy; appeasement came as a reward before the bus-stop, when the bookshelves of Boots or WH Smiths would provide momentary portals to more exciting alternatives.

Once free from the maternal jackboot, locations that would provoke exasperation in mothers were ports-of-call on adolescent wanderings around the same square-mile – second-hand record, book and magazine shops situated down seedy side-streets off the previously beaten path, emitting intoxicatingly musty odours and manned by grubby geezers or shady ladies with mouths as foul as the enticingly archaic stench produced from the piles of yellowing 70s NME, Sounds and Melody Maker issues or LPs from record collections offloaded in the wake of the thirty-something CD exodus that such shops specialised in. Emerging from these divinely dark caves, one’s fingers were as dirty as the neglected corners of the town they were hidden away in.

The mainstream choices weren’t really mum-friendly either – mainly Virgin and HMV, which were initially as deliciously ‘alternative’ as the aforementioned independent specialist shops in the first half of the 80s, at least. If there was a colour scheme, it was sex-shop black; even the staff looked like they should be in bands, albeit The Specimen or The Slits; one pink-haired vamp was a particular personal incentive for making Virgin a regular haunt of bunking-off sessions during the last desperate days of school – sessions that would sometimes inadvertently lead to encounters with other truant wastrels dressed in uncharacteristic ensembles that would never be permissible in the place we were supposed to be attending. Of course, I didn’t ‘chat-up’ the pink-haired vamp behind the counter; I didn’t know how. But I occasionally wonder what became of her.

The shop sold videos too! ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ was on sale in there – and they’d never broadcast that on the telly. It’d cost you around £25 to see Sid Vicious strolling through Paris and offending the natives, mind; and you’d also have to wade through the VHS/Betamax debate in order to work out if your primitive family VCR would play the bloody thing. It was all academic, though; the tape was way out of your pocket-money league, so all you could do was study the packaging and wish YouTube into existence 20 years early.

By the time the HMV morphed into just another mall monstrosity aimed at game-boys, and Virgin briefly became known as ‘Zavvi’ – or the more common nickname, ‘Spazzi’ – there were other reasons to venture into the city centre, such as bookstore Borders. Books, CDs, a café, and another alluring female member of staff to moon over – that was a good enough reason to make it an essential stop-off point on a circuit that remained a fortnightly routine. And then came 2008. In a matter of months, the small list of shops that still made shopping bearable for me suddenly vanished. The disappearance of the traditional singles chart display in HMV and ‘Zavvi’ had already curtailed a 30-year habit that made 2007 the final year I bought a physical single, but now all the other stores that had constituted the map of my shopping ceremony had gone.

The news that Toys R Us are preparing to close a quarter of their 106 UK stores, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs, is the latest casualty of online shopping’s ascendancy almost a decade on from the 2008 crash. Although it wasn’t a shop I frequented, the announcement marks the latest development in a seemingly ongoing saga in which the ease of purchasing goods via eBay or Amazon has supplanted the undesirable experience of mulling around stores with one’s ears polluted by archive Xmas ditties and one’s person constantly confronted by the fat, sweaty crush of other people. It’s one more sign of our changing times, but one I don’t necessarily mourn the loss of. I left it all behind a long time ago.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

AM I BOVVERED?

‘Meh’ was once the term particularly prevalent on social media five or six years back (could be more – who cares?) that was intended to verbalise a shrug of the shoulders and condense ‘I couldn’t give a f**k’ into one short, sharp shock of a statement. I never thought I’d miss a word so characteristic of this rotten century’s habit of shortening the English language into an endless sequence of edited sound-bites; but ‘meh’ seems so apt when it comes to the last 48 hours. Prince Harry getting engaged – meh; Donald Trump tweeting Britain First videos – meh. There are people I know who are having to deal with serious issues considerably more significant than ‘the spare’ getting hitched to the whitest mixed-race divorcee on the market or the President of the USA presenting virtue-signalling MPs with another opportunity to denounce him as the reincarnation of Hitler.

Prince Harry, the Hooray Henry of disputable parentage and the Margaret to William’s Elizabeth, spent his youth cutting a ginger swathe through the tabloids either in the altogether or wearing a Swastika, and then redeemed his reputation in the eyes of those who give a shit by playing the soldier for Granny & Country before embarking upon the tried-and-tested route of doing something charitable for ‘Our Boys’ to show he wasn’t just another upgrade of self-indulgent Hanoverian excess in the absence of something to do. By announcing his engagement to a glorified Kardashian, Harry has gifted Fleet Street with one more reason to recycle the same tired old clichés anew in its never-ending Windsor propaganda programme for a nation that wouldn’t be remotely interested were it not for BBC1 and ITV plugging this nauseating shit on a loop as some form of superficial panacea for the people while they struggle to make ends meet.

With Meghan Markle being American, it was only a matter of excruciating seconds before the spectre of Wallis Simpson infiltrated the coverage, though it should be noted that Mrs Simpson was having it off with a man poised to become King and Emperor in an age in which both Catholics and divorcees were barred from ascending to consort status. Harry is currently fifth in line to the throne and will drop another place come the birth of the third sprog to emerge from the marriage of William and Kate, scheduled to be born on the front page of the Daily Express next spring. It’s not exactly a constitutional crisis, is it?

As for Meghan Markle’s countryman ensconced in the White House, this has been a week in which Mr President has given the left in this country one more open goal they’ve made the most of. His ill-advised re-tweets of gruesome videos posted by Britain First have led to renewed calls to withdraw the invite for a state visit that Theresa May made with uncomfortable haste in the wake of his victory in the US Presidential Election last year. The Donald’s Twitter adventures were a source of both entertainment and outrage even before he ascended to the pinnacle of power, but the hounds unleashed by his latest social media faux-pas have certainly sparked some delicious holier-than-thou hypocrisy in the Commons this week.

A few Tories such as Sajid Javid have broadcast their reactions, whereas Labour MP Naz Shah – a woman so thick and quick to virtue-signal that she re-tweeted a mischievous comment by the fake Owen Jones without pausing to notice his surname was spelt differently – has added her voice to the Trump condemnation by agreeing with a veteran backbencher from her own party that the President should be charged with ‘Hate Crime’. The usual Labour suspects such as ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ dummy David Lammy and Emily ‘Lady Nugee’ Thornberry have lined-up to wear their mortification as T-shirts, and Chris Bryant reminded the electorate he’s still alive by accusing Trump of ‘inciting religious hatred’ – sorry, but are we living in Cromwell’s Commonwealth? Blasphemy laws should have been blown to smithereens with the Gunpowder Plot. They have no place in the twenty-first century, regardless of how Islam has been ring-fenced as a special case above and beyond any criticism, thus sending those unable to express reservations into the arms of illiterate rabble-rousers like Britain First.

Theresa May has added her voice to the condemnation and provoked a defensive response from Trump himself; the PM’s scripted stance has earned her support amongst Trump’s opponents in the US, including a rather worrying Tweet from Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (no, me neither), who declared the PM was ‘one of the great world leaders’ and proclaimed he has ‘incredible love and respect for her and the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence’. Is that the turbulence of Brexit, the turbulence caused by her own unruly Cabinet, or ‘the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom’ that the President spoke of following Mrs May’s criticism of him, I wonder?

Donald Trump is too dim and full of himself to avoid walking into these PR disasters, yet those who are on a permanent vigil to rip him to shreds whenever he puts his foot in it again, and are anticipating being showered in plaudits for doing so, are no better – the same self-serving, egotistical wankers whose desperate cries for attention mean no more to me than Prince Harry’s nuptials. F**k the lot of ‘em.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

PATRICIDE IS PAINLESS

If, as Philip Larkin infamously observed, they f**k you up, your mum and dad, what about the other way round? What do children do to mum and dad? A fair few parents have certainly been f**ked-up by awful offspring whose appalling activities are conducted with a conviction mummy and daddy will love them regardless and forgive them anything. It’s a bit harder to ensure love and forgiveness when the target of verbal patricide has been dead for almost twenty years, however. The fact that Sacha Newley, skint artist with a book to plug, has decided to brand his deceased father Anthony a ‘paedophile’ seemingly to drum-up interest and make a fast buck is as sad an exercise in celebrity grave-pissing as we’ve had for quite a while. His comments in last weekend’s Sunday Times, derived from the Woody Allen/Mia Farrow manual, have provoked public rebuttals from both his mother Joan Collins and his sister Tara Newley.

Sacha Newley is either a vindictive and shameless publicly seeker with unresolved father-son issues or is in possession of a limited grasp of the English language. Like many who retrospectively invoke such a contentious term, he seems to believe his father’s liberation from the repressive 50s via having a good time with the opposite sex in the 60s made him a paedophile. ‘My father was drawn to youthfulness,’ he declares. ‘He thought innocence was an aphrodisiac. That was his sexual proclivity, and it’s a very dangerous, destructive thing.’ I hardly think, as a successful singer and actor, Anthony Newley was an anomaly in the Swinging decade when it came to enjoying the company of young ladies. Indeed, it’s hard to name anyone of comparable fame and fortune that didn’t do likewise given half the chance – and any ageing Lothario with a handsome bank-balance will always pull women young enough to be their daughter. Just ask Bernie Ecclestone; or maybe the current occupant of the White House.

To even call the late, great Anthony Newley a pederast would be an abuse of that term’s true meaning; to call him a paedophile, which implies he had a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children, is both lazy and inaccurate. Newley’s ex-wife and Sacha’s mother Joan Collins has called her son ‘naive’ and questioned his understanding of the word. ‘Tony loved young women,’ she said. ‘Young women of 17, 18 (and) 19 years old, not children by any means. Never in a million years would I be married to somebody like that. It’s categorically not true. I never saw any of that kind of behaviour from Tony.’ The couple’s daughter Tara said she was ‘shocked by my brother’s comments…I had an incredibly close relationship with my father and am deeply upset by these false allegations.’

Chiefly remembered these days for playing the Artful Dodger in David Lean’s celebrated 1948 version of ‘Oliver Twist’, being one of Joan Collins’s numerous husbands, and for exerting a key influence on the early recordings of David Bowie, Anthony Newley was an unsung national treasure who subverted the career path he could have followed by doing things his own way. An unlikely pop star in that odd little period between the decline of 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll and the rise of The Beatles, two chart-topping singles in 1960 made him the hottest property in British showbiz, and the call came from ATV (the light-entertainment leader of the original ITV companies) to star in his own television series.

What makes Anthony Newley so special and admirable is that he spurned the routine variety show ATV clearly expected and instead opted to produce the first ever genuinely ‘out there’ series UK TV created, predating ‘The Prisoner’ by seven years. ‘The Strange World of Gurney Slade’ was not what Lew Grade ordered, and after debuting in prime-time, the programme baffled both audiences and critics so much that it was shunted to a late-night graveyard slot thereafter. Basically, a mainstream viewing public was simply not ready for ‘Gurney Slade’ in 1960, though it’s no wonder considering how radically different it was to anything that had preceded it.

What the unprepared viewer is exposed to as Newley’s character exits the set of a generic TV show of the time and wanders out into a real world that his imagination transforms into something wonderfully surreal is his inner voice; Newley uses facial expressions in the style of silent movie actors to convey what he’s thinking as his dubbed thoughts provide a running commentary on what he sees. It’s remarkable to realise ITV had only been in existence for five years when the series was made, yet Newley satirises commercial television’s formulaic clichés with the genius of someone who had spent twenty years shouting at his TV set.

In my humble opinion, Anthony Newley isn’t remembered enough as it is; the last thing he deserves is to be only remembered for this kind of unproven and un-provable accusation, though this pernicious trend now appears to be the default setting of so many seeking attention that even if Sacha Newley doesn’t suggest his father acted inappropriately towards him (and he mercifully doesn’t), the damage is already being done to a life and a reputation.

It’s a strong, sorry possibility that half-a-decade of relentless post-Savile historical revisionism has now served to cultivate the belief that every man in the 60s and 70s expressing his natural red-blooded tendencies with willing and consenting women of a legal age was a retrospective rapist at best or Paedo at worst. Sacha Newley’s irresponsible comments have poured further fuel on a fire that shows no sign of burning itself out because there is now an entire industry that relies upon the heat it generates. And those flames don’t distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

SLEEPING UGLY

‘Insomnia’ by Faithless – ‘I can’t get no sleep’ etc. – was a hit emanating from a culture in which insomnia itself was a by-product of ingesting certain substances to excess and therefore spoke volumes to the core audience that lapped it up when staring bleary-eyed at ‘Teletubbies’ on mid-90s Sunday mornings. However, now being over 20 years away from that culture means when insomnia returns to the E-free fibres of one’s being, it can’t be blamed on the drugs. Yes, the condition can blamed on legal highs such as nicotine or caffeine, though not everyone who smokes or drinks coffee struggles to sleep when night falls.

The ceiling may be being stared at, though it looks different at 4.40am to how it looks at 4.40pm; night-light paints the room in such sinister shades that the dream disrupting the twilight slumber that eventually overcomes the insomniac is entirely complementary to the ambience natural darkness sketches with malicious relish. Ever woken-up yourself or a sleeping companion by shouting out loud? I did last night, though the imaginary fat man (like the imaginary wizened old lady in a headscarf) who had invaded my space and provoked an operatic cry wasn’t there when my eyes opened; he lingered, however, as nightmares do in the shadows of the autumnal dawn. Oh, dreams can be horrible sometimes; when you snap out of them, the unfamiliar landscape of surroundings retouched by nocturnal fingertips is a barrier to realising one’s imagination has been having sadistic fun again. You are safe, but this eternal truism isn’t initially obvious. Switch on a bedside lamp and awareness of the divide between imagination and reality gradually – if belatedly – sinks in.

The room always looks different through the eyes of the short-sighted, anyway; once I remove contact lenses or spectacles, my perception of the world alters. I once compared the sensory impact to the stark visual contrast prevalent in 1970s-produced TV drama, whereby interior studio scenes are shot on crystal-clear videotape and outdoor location footage is shot on grainy film. My bedroom transforms from videotape to film the minute my eyes are deprived of artificial stimulants, anyway; but abruptly waking from some unpleasant encounter with a figure conjured up by my sick subconscious renders the room even stranger than it looked when I switched out the light.

It doesn’t help matters when these periodical phases interrupt the necessity of rest and recuperation from the grind of the day by drenching bed-sheets in gallons of sweat. I often awake feeling as though I’ve just been swimming in my clothes and am confronted by the kind of uncomfortable scenario parents of small children who wet the bed have to deal with. But even getting to that stage can be something of a marathon. Clambering under the covers in the wee small hours should really be an end to all problems, though it tends to be the beginning. Regardless of how exhaustion when awake suggests sleep will descend with ease once enveloped in the paraphernalia of bedtime, it’s remarkable how elusive such sweet surrender can be.

Tossing and turning – and the former isn’t a euphemism for masturbation in this case – are par for the course when something that should be a given proves to be a bastard. The sheet covering the mattress feels like it’s covering the uneven surface of a mountain, with petrified ripples and frozen bumps permanent hindrances to comfort for the back; the duvet that should be the ultimate pair of friendly furry arms wrapped around the unloved torso becomes a weighty medieval torture implement designed to crush the life out of the reluctant recanter; the pillow that is intended to give the head a facsimile harbour to dock in overnight is transformed into a sack of rocks retrieved from the wreckage of a recently erupted volcano, cool for a minute and then heating up to insufferable oven temperatures. And then, right at the very point when all these factors are triumphantly overcome, the twat next door opens his audition for the Ministry of Sound. At ten-to-five.

As unwelcome side-effects of life go, insomnia isn’t one that bodes well for its sufferers as far as the stats are concerned. Surveys regularly suggest persistent sleep deprivation not only adversely affects one’s ability to function when awake, but also reduces one’s lifespan. Anomalies such as Al Herpin, the so-called ‘Man who Never Slept’, are not exactly commonplace. The American who died aged 94 in 1947 attracted the interest of the medical profession when he claimed he didn’t sleep; possessing no bed, he apparently rested in a rocking chair through the night and read the paper before resuming his working day without any notable negative effects.

Then there was Paul Kern, a Hungarian solider who never slept again after receiving a shot to the head; and over in Vietnam, 75-year-old Thai Ngoc is still alive despite claiming not to have slept since recovering from a fever in 1973. These are more freaks of medical science rather than customary cases of insomnia, however; for most of us, the inability to either go to sleep or to sustain sleep over a prolonged period of hours can produce a disorientating ‘out-of-body’ sensation when awake that might cause observers to conclude we’re under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.

Insomnia is something of a vicious circle for its recipient; depression can provoke it, yet depression can be maintained by it. Whether or not vivid nightmares are associated with the condition when sleep actually comes, these are symptoms I can confirm as particularly personal products of insomnia, things that render the prospect of sleep far-from desirable when one knows an unwanted reunion with one’s demons are on the cards. Then again, we don’t all require the same amount of hours per night. Some need the full seven or eight to feel as though their batteries have been comprehensively recharged, yet others can get by on half that. Some succumb to afternoon cat-naps whereas others survive the full waking day without recourse to such luxuries and show no discernible signs of fatigue as a consequence. Maybe I should stop trying and just let my body dictate the pattern as it sees fit – or devour all reports on Prince Harry getting engaged; that should do the trick.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

THE STATE BENEFITS

I bumped into a friend in Sainsbury’s this morning who I haven’t seen for a month or two, and he informed me he’d been banned from driving for six months on account of receiving repeated thumbs-downs from those electronic smiley faces monitoring traffic speed; as a roadie-for-hire with his own state-of-the-art wheels, this imposition on his living was something of an inconvenience, to say the least. But, hey, I replied (in an attempt to put a positive slant on the scenario), you’ll miss out on all that crap that constitutes the winter motorist’s lot – struggling to start the engine in sub-zero temperatures and having to scrape frost off your windscreen; then you can return to the road in the spring! I don’t know what prompted me to adopt a positive slant, though perhaps it was just knee-jerk instinctive optimism manifested as lame consolation for a pal confronted by the unlucky loss of his living.

As a largely conscientious driver, in terms of not drinking before sitting behind the wheel or indulging in ‘jazz cigarettes’ whilst ferrying ageing musicians from one gig to another, my friend seemed unfairly targeted by a system seemingly installed to provide local councillors with an additional income for a gravy train that already supports their lifestyle choice in spades. I don’t regard him as a danger to other motorists, let alone pedestrians, but he’s unfortunate to be driving in an era in which the traditional officiousness of the Great British Jobsworth has been given a hi-tech makeover that punishes with punitive pettiness and doesn’t distinguish between the truly terrible driver and the one who occasionally exceeds limits designed to appease the dismal motorcade of the Sunday family saloon en route to the latest horrific theme (or retail) park.

As a kind of add-on to this anecdote of the way we live now, I received an update today as to the progress of legal proceedings on the part of the State to deprive the mother of a ten-year-old child I choose to call ‘X’ of her full parental rights. Long-term readers will be familiar with a sorry saga I’ve been documenting periodically for the best part of a year, and I’ve no doubt links to previous posts on the subject will appear at the foot of this one; but X is a learning-disabled child whose mother is a close friend of mine and whose time in the care of the local authorities has been marked by a sequence of inept cock-ups that hardly support their chances of ‘sharing’ control of the child.

In order to strengthen a case they could never win on actual evidence, the local authorities have stooped so far below the belt that they’re almost at ground level. They’ve chosen to blacken the character of the mother in ways that have no bearing on the care and consideration of the child, nitpicking and clutching at irrelevant straws they imagine reflect badly on her. For example, X’s mother has been described as ‘strange’ by a nurse supposedly overseeing a recent medical examination of X that the authorities she entrusted with her day-to-day care buggered-up yet again.

Another unreliable witness to X’s mother’s exasperation with the system – an employee at the care unit where X resides – has added his untrustworthy voice to the systematic condemnation of (and contempt for) this particular parent; despite physically preventing X’s mother from kissing her daughter goodbye when dropping her off at the residential care unit – an aggressive gesture that led to police involvement – this dickhead has been roped-in to uphold the authorities’ dodgy dossier against X’s mother, thus increasing the strain the whole process is undoubtedly placing upon a woman whose sole concern is for the wellbeing of a child too difficult for one person to permanently look after.

She handed over her daughter to authorities allegedly qualified to take care of children whose mental incapacity is so incompatible with society that only the State can control them; but repeatedly highlighting the State’s uselessness where most submit without question has left the mother up against a State intent on exacting revenge for her outrageous impertinence.

The court case arising from this dispute is scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks; the State has resorted to desperate measures to discredit X’s mother as a means of robbing her of full parental rights, though we shouldn’t really be surprised by authorities without a moral leg to stand on stooping to such despicable tactics in order to save face. Their record is so appalling that the exposure of ineptitude would bring the whole facade crashing down; every injury X has received has come whenever she’s been in the care of the State – every black-eye, bruise and bite – whilst her time in the care of her mother has been injury-free. This doesn’t look good on paper, so the State has cobbled together a case that desperately seeks to justify its attempts to wrestle away the mother’s full parental rights. If the State succeeds, the mother would have to go back to court every time she disagreed with a decision by the other party. It stinks, just as every fat bossy woman whose pension scheme is in peril should the State lose stinks.

The family courts are a closed shop, by the way, so don’t expect our great democracy to highlight the outcome of this farcical trial or to give it any publicity outside of this blog. But I shall report it because I resent the State’s interference in such matters and because I am sick to death of the State passing the buck and blaming everything on good people that it hopes lack the energy or nerve to challenge it. Speeding fines or parental rights – if we let these f**kers win we may as well wrap ourselves in the white flag for life. And I know X’s mother is right. Watch this space. Or watch this instead…

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

ANGELA’S ASHES

This has not been a good week for world leaders who’ve overstayed their welcome. Robert Mugabe had to be effectively woken-up in order to be notified he’d been overthrown by a military coup; and Angela Merkel’s twelve-year reign as German Chancellor seems less secure now than it has at any time since her rise to power. Not that you’d know it from her body language, however; with the characteristic arrogance that has become a hallmark of the institution Frau Merkel sponsors – the EU – Germany’s figurehead is carrying on regardless. Her party achieved its lowest share of the popular vote since 1949 in September’s Federal Election and a Government still hasn’t been formed, yet Merkel’s failure to cobble together a coalition from the chaos appears to be a mere storm in a democratic teacup to a woman whose dominance of German politics in the post-war era can only be matched by that of her one-time mentor, the late Helmut Kohl.

One thing you can say in Tony Blair’s favour (okay, I realise that’s not easy) is that he timed his exit at precisely the right moment, just on the cusp of an imminent economic crash he left his hapless successor to deal with. He didn’t wait to be pushed; he jumped. For politicians with a decade or more as top man to their name, such second-sense skills are rare. After that long in power, the talent that propelled them to the pinnacle is usually numbed by a notion of unassailable invincibility that generally tends to constitute their downfall; Mrs T inevitably springs to mind. One wonders if Angela Merkel has finally reached the point in 2017 that Maggie reached in 1990.

Theresa May’s unconvincing assertion that she intends to go ‘on and on’ a few months back was either a grandiose act of self-delusion on the part of the PM or Central Office propaganda that few of even her most devoted insiders swallowed without coughing-up again seconds later. When it comes to her counterpart in Central Europe, however, I have little doubt Merkel herself is a serious subscriber to her own political immortality. September’s abysmal election result, especially following the historic landslide victory of four years before, doesn’t seem to have dented Merkel’s conviction that nobody else is capable of controlling her country, and she’s prepared to go back to the German electorate if need be to ensure her survival after the collapse of coalition negotiations.

At a time when many Western Governments were practising understandable caution when it came to relaxing their immigration rules for admitting Syrian refugees, Merkel embarked upon a grandstand gesture in the wake of 2015’s European migrant crisis that masked the motivation behind the opening of Germany’s gates – i.e. the fact that the nation has an ageing population and too many jobs for too few young natives to fill. The plaudits she received beyond Germany for the publicised arrival of people fleeing Middle Eastern and African war zones also conveniently contradicted Merkel’s own opinions on multiculturalism, expressed in 2010. Addressing the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union party, Merkel said attempts to construct a multicultural society in Germany had failed. ‘The concept that we are now living side-by-side and are happy about it does not work’, she said, before going on to emphasise immigrants should integrate and adopt German values, something she evidently believed they hadn’t up to that point.

Seven years later, Merkel’s previous beliefs were ironically expanded by the right-wing party Alternative for Germany in the Federal Election, claiming 94 seats in the Bundestag and making AfG the third largest party. Needless to say, Merkel is not looking to form a coalition with them. Up until AfG’s success in September’s Federal Election, they were led by Frauke Petry; but Frau Petry, whose views are far-from ‘moderate’, nevertheless announced she would sit in the Bundestag as an independent for fear of her political career being tarred with the kind of extremist far-right brush parties such as AfG invariably attract. The surge of support for AfG, however, undoubtedly represents the first real electoral backlash against the policies Merkel has pursued on immigration in the last few years; and as someone so closely associated with the EU, Merkel for many represents a strain of European politician whose pursuance of economic, social and racial integration between nations overrides concerns for home-grown natives left behind by the great Brussels gravy-train.

The success of such a project is rarely judged on the impact it has on those directly affected by it, anyway. An arch-advocate of the EU, Angela Merkel is as detached from the mindset that propelled AfG to such a strong showing in the Federal Election as one or two of our own broadsheet ‘cultural commentators’ are from some of the less-publicised negative effects that EU membership has had on Britain – mainly because they largely reside in wealthy, all-white neighbourhoods in which Eastern European immigrants have a fixed and lowly subservient role as au-pairs and nannies, glorified coolies for the post-imperial nouveau-riche, representing no threat to the position of those who employ them. As a ‘Question Time’ audience member recently memorably observed, who will serve us our café lattes in the event of an open-door policy being abandoned courtesy of Brexit?

Angela Merkel is no idiot; she is perhaps the most skilful professional politician of the past decade, one who has used her considerable talents to keep herself at the top of the tree whilst so many of her contemporaries and counterparts – Sarkozy, Cameron, Berlusconi et al – have fallen by the wayside. Yet even the greatest of political sagas has to have an end as well as a beginning and a middle. Merkel’s journey from the GDR has been one of the stories of our times; but nothing lasts forever, as Echo and the Bunnymen once said, and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that another one of this year’s Ms – along with May and Mugabe – is reaching the end of the road. What that might mean for Germany, for Europe, and for the EU, is too early to say; but maybe we’ll find out if the Germans are poised to go to the polls again before 2017 is out.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1