Monday, 14 July 2014

Wisdom from Kazantzakis

From Nikos Kazantzakis' The Fratricides:
Father Yanaros watched her as she climbed and disappeared from sight. For a moment, he forgot himself. "What strength," he murmured, "what life, what youth! Why do I demand virtue and honor of such a body? Let her get it out of her system first; let her eat up the world and become satiated and have her mouth fill with ashes! Then, virtue and goodness will appear from the ruins."
I reproduce this quote as a recommendation to those of a religious persuasion. I do not understand why, but many religious leaders seem to spend an almighty amount of time proscribing various activities and behaviours, simply because they associate too much with the body. They'd be much better off letting life run its course.

*                              *                                *

Somewhat related perhaps... I read today that Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimming legend, has revealed in an interview that he is gay. Growing up in Australia in the 90's, I remember Ian Thorpe as an Australian champion of the first order. I've read since of his various struggles with depression and alcohol. I hope that this revelation will allow him to find some happiness. And, for what it's worth, he will always be a legend as far as I'm concerned.

(I.T. made one particularly striking remark in the article I read: in his dark times he had felt embarrassed to admit to feeling depressed, knowing as he did that the life he was leading was the stuff of many people's dreams. There is definitely an issue in modern life about people being allowed to be unhappy. Even (especially?) when `they have everything.' I've had friends who've also struggled with such an admission, feeling guilty because they had no good reason to feel unhappy, they just were... The simple act of saying "I'm unhappy" can be immensely liberating.)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

English Integration

David Blunkett was on the radio a couple of days ago, carrying on from where he left off as home secretary. i.e. he was spouting a load of nonsense that skirted awfully close to plain old racism.

This time his victims were the Roma residents of Sheffield. He was sounding off about them congregating in large numbers, he made some rather cryptic remarks about them not living in a village any more and needing to use toilets, and he finished by predicting some kind of conflagration if `something isn't done'.

The key word in this largely incoherent rant was the word integrate -  woe betide the immigrant who does not integrate, for they shall not be welcome.

Two responses: let me note first that there are quite a few Roma people living round my neighbourhood in Bristol, some of their kids go to my son's school, one old man busks outside our local greengrocers etc etc. We do not seem particularly close to a conflagration. I'll go further - I rather enjoy having them about - brings a bit of colour init.

Secondly, on `integration'. What does it actually mean? Who's integrating into what in this county? An anecdote: We moved house about three years ago, just round the corner. As we were  visiting the house to see if we'd like to move in I had a brief conversation with the woman who is now my neighbour. It was a 3 sentence conversation and it's still our longest - her opening gambit was ``ooh, you'll like it round here. People keep themselves to themselves". I remember thinking to myself  ``Brilliant. So I can live here for years and make no friends. A perfect English neighbourhood.''

Three years on, living in the same house, it turns out we have made a couple of friends. Only a couple, mind. We live in a cul de sac, which would be perfect community material you might think, yet more than half of the people who live here I've never said more than ``Good afternoon" to... and some I've never sighted. We've had a street party for the last two years and about 2/3 of the people have stayed away.

So this is England - the country where people keep themselves to themselves. Where our home is our castle. Where we don't bloody well integrate. So what exactly is Blunkett's problem? Perhaps it's that the Roma are a little too willing to speak to those around them? Are they over-integrated? Enlighten us please David, because thus far you aint making much sense...

*    *   *
Actually David Blunkett has turned up in my life a couple of times in the last week. We watched an old episode of Gavin and Stacey, in which Nessa muses on the glory years with John Prescott - reminiscing about `Dave Blunkett and his bitch coming round for dinner'. Hilarious! I only hope he didn't bore her rigid with his after dinner rants on immigration.

Friday, 11 October 2013

A man after my own heart

I just read about a tweet from the comedian Kevin Bridges. I generally make a policy of giving twitter the cold shoulder, but this warmed the cockles of my heart. (A warm cockle is better than a cold shoulder, surely?)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

What I did on the week-end...

A great day, great atmosphere, great people..... But I have never been so cold in all my life.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Almost everything is impermanent

One of our household's favourite mantras is the old chestnut,
Everything is impermanent.
It can be genuinely helpful in times of stress. It can also be said with a wry smile, when you've nowt else to say.

I was in the latter mode yesterday, when my oldest was complaining hysterically that my youngest had broken his lego tower. But on hearing my ever-so-ironic response, he came right back at me:
What about permanent marker?
(We'd had a little chat about permanent marker some hours earlier, in relation to scribbling on walls.) In any event, he'd got me - I could think of no comeback.

So now, acknowledging the boundlessness of my son's spiritual wisdom, I officially propose a Buddhist aphorism for the 21st century:
Everything is impermanent, except permanent marker.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Carp Guardian shit in a bag

I aint been writing much recently, so I thought I'd break my silence with a triplet. Gems, each and every one. First up....

.... Shit in a bag. What is it with all the dog shit in bags that I see hanging off bushes in my neighbourhood? Can someone please explain what they are doing there?

Could it be that dog owners are picking up their dog's turd, placing the turd in a plastic bag, tying the bag in a neat bow... and then launching it into the bushes? Surely not. For this would, clearly, be the behaviour of a moron. Dog shit has one single positive quality: it biodegrades. BUT NOT IF YOU PUT IT IN A PLASTIC BAG AND HANG IT ON A BUSH.

Please, people, stop it. Those turds are going to be hanging there for ever.

Enough. Next gem...

....Why the Guardian is a shit in a bag. The reason can be found on reading this article about Andy Murray's notable achievement in winning the US Open. I'm guessing the article is supposed to be a bit of a giggle, written in that knowing style so beloved of your average Guardian columnist, but jeez AVERAGE is the word. Or maybe even offensive.

First Murray is COMMENDED because
the first thing he did after defeating Djokovic [was....] scrabble around in a panic for the Rado watch he is paid gazillions to wear precisely at moments like this. He hasn't had a lot of practice at bringing out the bling on the big stage before... At least he had the presence of mind to remember it.
Let's just remind ourselves that Murray had just won $1900000 for winning a tennis tournament. Indeed he'd won $950000 just for winning the final. Some people might call such amounts obscene... I'd be one of those people. That Murray's first thought after achieving a lifetime's goal was to satisfy his sponsor so he could get EVEN MORE MONEY doesn't make me admire Murray any more. It makes me think he might need his priorities realigning. And it makes me think the writer of this article is a bell-end.

There's plenty more where that came from. Later in the article:
 Murray needs new sponsors. Now that he can be officially listed as one of the tennis greats, it's time for him to rethink his branding. In particular, his sponsorship by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which dates back to the bad old days when Fred the Shred was running the show. RBS is a thoroughly discredited organisation and is not worthy of the association with a true champion. Loyalty is all very well, but there comes a time when a player of Murray's quality needs to move on.
Jesus CHRIST. His BRANDING?! Where does one even begin picking this shit apart? (There are some musing about Murray's haircut after that. The writer apparently needs to convince himself that, despite appearances, Murray has style and so his brand remains legitimate.)
Let me remind you that this article can be found in The Guardian, beloved champion of the down trodden.
Last gem...
... Total Carp. It's the name of a fishing magazine. I was taking my little feller to school and I saw it lying on the dashboard of a white van as I went past. A whole magazine devoted to the subject of carp! And people buy it! Brilliant!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Nick Nolte, The Falklands and Today

Two snapshots from the last couple of weeks:

1. I'm watching The Thin Red Line. Tremendous. A bunch of American soldiers are trying to take a grass-covered hill somewhere in the South Pacific. Every time they move forward they're cut to threads by Japanese machine gun fire. Their sergeant tells them to dig in and gets on the phone to the colonel.
``Colonel'', he says, ``We can't move forward. My men are being slaughtered.''
The colonel on the other end of the line is apoplectic. Ranting and raging he repeatedly orders the sergeant to get his men forward or God help him he'll cut his goddam balls off. The sergeant steadfastly refuses.

Eventually the colonel makes his way to the front where he treats the sergeant with contempt - ``Are you prepared to give an order that will result in your men dying?'' - and removes him from command. Those soldiers will go forward now!

In the immediate aftermath the colonel pauses and reflects that this is ``my first war''. That ``I've waited my entire career for this chance and I'm not going to let it slip now.'' The viewer watches horrified. These men will be driven to their death because this is the colonel's chance...

* * *

It's a compelling sequence, although I wondered if it were a little over the top. The ranting colonel is played by Nick Nolte and I couldn't help thinking he over-egged it a little...

2. A couple of days later the Today programme are commemorating the thirty year anniversary of the Falklands war. They interview two navy brass - a commodore and an admiral I think. They witter on for a while in plummy accents, then the interviewer asks one of them ``Was it worth it?'' I guess he's thinking of the 900 dead, the maimed, the wounded, the insane...

One of the two, the commodore I think, replies: ``Oh yes. It was certainly worth it... We had a whole generation of sailors who'd never experienced war. It was my first war'' (the last sentence emphasising incredulity). The admiral chimes in, ``One got to see what the navy was really for.''

* * *

Deja vu all over again. Turns out Nick Nolte got it spot on - war really is the chance that the top brass spend their lives waiting for.

You could hear the relief in those two sailors' voices when they spoke of the war and how it showed off what the navy was all about. That generation without war must have started wondering whether we really needed such a spectacularly well-equipped military. Too long without war and the armed forces were starting to look over their shoulders...

Of course, since the Falklands, this country has regained its appetite for war - we've had half a dozen in the last fifteen years. Everyone knows what the navy, the air force, the army are really for. Now no one need worry...