Bite yer legs


I know we used to hate Leeds United, and we still do, but I have to mark the loss of another to this bloody COVID-19. The hard man of Leeds – and to stand out in that team of hard men, you had to be HARD – Norman Hunter has died aged 76.

He may have been a bastard – and he was their bastard, not ours – but Norman Hunter is unforgettable, and long after all of us who were fans during his prime have passed on and only old clips on YouTube remain, he will still be a legend.

Re-Blog: Nathan Anderson, from Facebook


I agree with every word, but he says it better than I could.

Before you start blaming individuals who in your own opinion are not obeying the rules have a read of this…

As this crisis deepens and the death toll mounts, a narrative is going to emerge that will be very seductive to many of us. It will all be the fault of “the people.”
The people who failed to practice social distancing. The people who hoarded. The people who didn’t listen to the government. The people who didn’t listen to the science. The people. Those selfish people. Look at them in their parks. The government will start trotting this out. Right wing media will push it hard. Police forces have already begun assigning blame to “the people”.
Many of us will feel the tug of this seductive reasoning. Our brains will be tempted to lash out at “the people.”
When we do, we must remember some things: –
The government had 3 months to prepare. This was a train coming down the tracks. At first we were told the plan was herd immunity. Then it wasn’t.
As the first few people started to die, Boris Johnson boasting of shaking the hands of hospitalised coronavirus patients. This was a week before the lockdown.
Why weren’t we in lockdown like other European countries, some asked. Trust us, they said.
Then we got the lockdown order. What did they say? The initial government advice was only “essential workers could travel to work”. A day later this was changed to “essential travel for work.” See the difference?
They told us to practice social distancing as MPs crowded around each other in the House of Commons.
They said only the old and immuno-comprised were at risk. Then healthy twenty-somethings started dying.
They said the NHS could cope, then they started building field hospitals in stadiums.
They said the NHS had the protective equipment it needed, then we logged on to social media.
They said we were in it together, then they got tested before the front-line workers.
They said there was no such thing as society and it was survival of the fittest, then said we needed to show solidarity.
They clapped when they voted against a pay-rise for NHS nurses in 2017, then they clapped for the NHS.
They spent a decade telling us cuts were needed to save the economy, then they said the only way to save the economy was to spend trillions.
They spent a decade insisting £94 was enough to live on, then admitted it wasn’t. – They got us to vote for Brexit by rubbishing “experts,” then told us to trust experts.
They told us retail workers were low skilled, then said they were key workers.
They said homelessness was sad but inevitable, then they order it ended overnight.
So yes, “the people” ended up a little fucking confused. Because our so-called leaders have utterly failed to lead. They don’t know what they stand for; they couldn’t believe the world could change so quickly; they resisted “alarmist” when the only proper response was to be alarmed; they had no idea how to use the power of the state, having spent a decade dismantling it; they were arrogant and complacent, wallowing in privilege.
The fundamental duty of government is to keep us safe. That’s what we pay them to do. They have failed.
As the death toll mounts, remember that our leaders are to blame, not “the people,” and we must resist the temptation to blame each other.

Author Nathan Williams

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One, two, three…


Stirling Moss, Tim Brooke-Taylor and now Peter Bonetti, all in the same day,  as awful a cull at once as any we experienced in 2016.

Though he was a truly great goalkeeper, Peter Bonetti was doomed to be remembered, by those of us who were not Chelsea fans in 1970, for coming into the England team for the quarter-final of the World Cup against West Germany. After conceding only one goal in his first six appearances for England, Bonetti conceded three, as England slipped from a seemingly impregnable 2-0 lead. He never played for England again.

It’s unfair to him, but that is the memory. It can haunt him no longer.

So it’s true then…


I’ve spent the last ten minutes or so trying to find out if it was true that Tim Brooke-Taylor had died, aged 79, and it’s true: this morning, at home, of coronavirus. So that makes today a double-header, with the loss of the legendary Stirling Moss.

I don’t feel the same loss with Moss, partly because motor-racing has never really been my thing, but mainly because, for all his lifelong fame, Stirling Moss belonged to my Dad and his generation. Dad’s preference was for motorbike racing, but he would also watch the Grand Prixs.

But Tim Brooke-Taylor was of my time and my generation. Obviously, the world knows him for his role in The Goodies, and I spent many years watching their programmes with great joy and laughter, though they haven’t worn anything like as well as Monty Python, having always had more of a pantomime aspect and, with only three writers as opposed to six, less variety in what they did.

Instead, I remember Tim Brooke-Taylor for two long-standing BBC Radio comedy series. The first of these was the righteously celebrated I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, in which all three future Goodies appeared, along with John Cleese, David Hatch and Jo Kendall: quick-fire, absurdist comedy, excrutiating (in all senses) puns and an anarchic desire to reduce everything to the unexpected. I still adore the sketch where a spoof of Brer Rabbit was disrupted by Animal Equity demnding equal parts for overlooked animals so that it turned out to the story of Brer Bandicoot (“It was a lovely day. The grass was waving. (yoo-hoo!), the sun was raging (ooh, I am cross!)”

And who could ever forget Tim as Lady Constance de Coverlet, whose entrances got the same level of audience applause as did Bluebottle in The Goon Show.

But the other one, which I admit to enjoying even more because I got to hear all of it, from the start, instead of discovering it when it was already travelling at top speed, was the now mostly forgotten Hello Cheeky, which paired Broke-Taylor with the unlikely combination of John Junkin and Barry Cryer.

Hello Cheeky was, like ISIRTA, a sketch show, if you can call it a sketch when so many items didn’t even run a minute long. It just crammed the jokes in at what was a breakneck speed for 1973 and after, so fast that if you didn’t laugh at one, two more that had you howling before you notice, and if you didn’t laugh at one it was probably only because you were laughing so hard at the three before it that you simply didn’t hear it.

Anything went on Hello Cheeky. I used to be able to recite a large section of a spoof on Agatha Christie, featuring Hercule Parrot, and I can still remember dozens of lines from random sections. It started: “My name is Scarf, Inspector Scarf. I thought I’d get a gag in early. This case started when I was sitting at my desk in the Yard. Next year they’ve promised me an office. There was a knock on the barbed wire and my sergeant entered with bleeding knuckles…”

Ah me. Though he went onto lots of things that didn’t interest me, like humdrum sitcoms that hadn’t a hundredth of the wit of a line from Hello Cheeky, he still did these, and I thank him for the raucous laughter he could reduce me to so easily, even on The Goodies, which may well bore me know but which I devoured then. Be at ease: the mark you made will not be forgotten.

 

Bill Withers: Ain’t No Sunshine


They’re talking about him in the context of ‘Lean on Me’, his only British hit and a fine song, but Bill Withers, who has left us aged 81, also wrote ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’, which gave Michael Jackson one of his earliest hit singles over here, but his original was infinitely superior (not that Jackson’s fans will ever agree).

But Withers was a veteran, with a deep voice and one in which a wealth of experience lay, audible in every syllable. Jackson sung a song, but Withers felt it, in every dark second of the loss it portrayed.

By one more degree we who are left move deeper into that dark for which there is no sunshine.

Felicitations: Farewell Julie Felix


Two deaths in a day brings back uncomfortable reminders of 2016, when the gifted seemed to be dying in batches. As well as Albert Uderzo, I now learn that we have lost the gentle and lovely Julie Felix, at the age if 81.

Julie’s chart career cnsisted of two singles, only one of which, a cover of a Paul Simon song from Bridge over Troubled Water got as high as no. 19. But I never associated her with pop, nor did she. The lady sang folk, with long dark hair, a flashing smile and an acoustic guitar. I saw more of her, perhaps, in those last days before I finally started listening to the radio, on TV shows like David Frost and her own BBC series.

And Ed Stewart would regularly play ‘Goin’ to the Zoo’, her most well-known song, on Junior Choice at weekends.

To be truthful, I know and remember very little of her music, but I remember her so well from those last days of musical ignorance. She was pretty and bright and you enjoyed her songs because she was full of a joyful energy of which there’s been a dearth for oh so very long, and now it’s a world with no Julie Felix in it and that brngs me nothing but sorrow.

Ave Albert


It’s just been announced that Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix and Obelix with the late Rene Goscinny, has died at the age of 92. He’d long since passed the reins on Asterix to other hands, for good or ill. No matter that the strip was never as fiunny or sharp again after Goscinny, Uderzo had the absolute right to continue their creation, and his art never lost the confidence and seemingly effortless grace he brought to the Gauls. Quite simply, he was a genius and once again the world is colder and darker place without him.

I’m trying to think of a way to work a “These Romans are crazy” line in, but i can’t. It is us who are crazy, but no amount of tapping a finger against your head will make it funny.

A Manchester Expedition


I don’t usually categorise my monthly trips into Manchester City Centre as Expeditions but, in the current climate, they feel like the exception rather than the rule: I doubt I’ll be going further afield for some time. Buttermere in July or thereabouts might be over-optimistic.

There isn’t much to go out for anyway. I’m seldom there more than a couple of hours. It’s a for-once stress free ride in on the 203, whose driver was kind enough to wait at the stop for me as I struggled to ‘run’ with my right knee gypping me badly.

Town was still crowded but the crowds were much thinned out from the normal. My inexpert eye suggested maybe a third down, but I got to a cashpoint with no queuing, and I walked unhindered through the normal squash-points on Oldham street

There are usually three stops. There’s the big Oxfam Shop pn Oldham Street where I comb the second-hand DVDs, which are now 99p or two for £1.49. They had the complete Third Season of Breaking Bad which, for all its reputation, I have never seen. I wouldn’t (and won’t) start with Season 3 (right now I haven’t got the free time to start season 1), but for 99p it’s the basis to start a collection.

The main reason for my visit was going to Forbidden Planet. They had two of my regular order reserved for me, but I’d hoped to pick up the first issue of a new, 12-issue series by Tom King that appeared last week. Hoever, it’s sold out both at Planet and its nearer, newer rival, Travelling Light.

So I went acrss the road to Pizza Hut where I was seated immediately, though that proved nothing about the crowds or otherwise, because the times I go, it’s very rare I have to wait. A leisurely tuna and red onion pizza later, I set off back. Incidentally, for the first time in years, I was not offered a free salad bowl. Is this a sign of the times, or a slip by a young and sweet-faced server?

There was a disturbing and disgusting gathering in Piccadilly Gardens, some white thugs ‘exposing’ Muslim Grooming Predators. I bet they werebn’t saying anything about the far more prevalent White Grooming Predators, but then truth and reality have never played any part in racism. Bastards.

On the way home, I stopped off at the Gorton Tescos. I didn’t need much and i didn’t venture among the pasta and toilet rolls but i didn’t see any soigns of locusts stripping shelves where I shopped and I had to go almost all the way round the store.

Waiting at the bus stop outside, I noticed a group of children playing silly buggers at the traffic lights, on a busy four-lane traffic artery, with one boy, who can’t have been more than ten years old deliberately running across in front of traffic. It’s at times like that that some of the forgotten practices of the Fifties that we don’t usually endorse, because back then, half a dozen blokes and houeswives would have grabbed them, given them a swift belt round the ear and told them to bugger off hme before they got themselves killed.

Thirty seconds later, I’m gathering my bag when there’s a cry from two of the other people in the queue, blokes who would have been ear-belting when I was that age. The boy had come within two seconds of being knocked down and kill and I was not looking, which in its way is the best things that happened during this ‘Expedition’. I shalln’t be going out again until Sunday.

An Incredible Temptation


As a long term Dan Dare fan, an unbelievable opportunity has come up. In 2017, B7 Media recorded and released six audio adventures, freely adapted and modernised from Dan Dare’s adventures in ‘Eagle’. They’re now trying to crowdfund a third set of three via Indigogo, the first of which is my favourite Dare story, All Treens Must Die.

There is an opportunity for one person – just one person – to actually play a role in ‘All Treens Must Die’.

Though the synopsis makes it plain that this story bears very little resemblance to the 20 episode story by David Motton and Keith Watson, this is All Treens Must Die. All Treens Must Die. The desire to be a part of this, in however small a role, be actually enter the world and Universe of Dan Dare: i literally cannot say how much that would mean to me.

No-one’s taken it up. No-one’s beaten me to the punch. I could grab that now. If I could afford to spend £500 for the privilege.

There have been times in my life when I could have done that. If anyone ut there wants a complete collection of Dave Sim’s Cerebus 1-300 plus extras, several (including no. 1) signed by Sim and, where relevant, Gerhard, you can have the lot for £500 (and postage).

But I don’t have the money now. Just an incredible temptation.

Sometimes, smart ideas…


…don’t make you feel inspired, they make you feel dumb, as in, how dumb am I not to have thought of that before? I had one of those today. Fortunately, for my wounded feelings of smartness, it turned out the idea was impractical in the first place.

It’s all about a day out. Last summer, I got from Manchester to Glenridding and back, including trips each way on the Ullswater Steamer, in a day. I started thinking about whether I could get even further afield. It appeared that Buttermere was possible, and would even be very easy if I were to go up one afternoon and stay in either Penrith or Keswick overnight.

At the moment, it looks like being something that I can’t free up time for until July and the start of the new holiday year.

Then, thinking about it this morning, I suddenly thought: You Idiot! The mainline through Ambleside and Penrith isn’t the only railway line through the Lakes, there’s the coast line, through places like Whitehaven and Workington: the bus journeys from there to Buttermere will be so much shorter and easier (if not quite so appealing in terms of the countryside you pass through).

What a maroon. What an ultra-maroon.

This was a brilliant idea. Until I checked Cumbria County Council’s Bus Timetables and learned there are NO bus services from Whitehaven or Workington into Buttermere. As far as I can tell, the only bus service to Buttermere comes from Keswick over Honister Pass.

Back to Square one, people.