Happy New Year

Here at Talking Bollocks, street urchins have already started letting off fireworks and we will, no doubt, receive bangers through the letter box in due course. To celebrate a rising hit rate Talking Bollocks reproduces the said works of fire here and, if technology does not fail us and the urchins can tear themslevs from the pubs, we MAY have LIVE fireworks at midnight here.

And check out New Year in London via the BBC London JamCams

Happy New Year!!!!

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over

Aladdin

As has become traditional I accompanied friends to see a Panto on Boxing Day. This time to the Cambridge Arts Theatre to see Aladdin starring Brad Fitt, Julie Buckfield, Matt Crosby and James Hirst.

All very well done and the kids loved it. The scene at Widow Twanky’s Washateria was my favourite though the magic carpet ride was also extremely effective.

The last of England

When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England

When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England

The Christmas edition of The Economist had a fantastic elegy on the British pub written by their obituaries editor. This is well timed.

When I first moved to Hove I of course researched the pubs. I found several good boozers quite close. Pubs, not bars. Places for a pint and some conversation. That was years ago and I have watched as one by one they have been “renovated”. The comfortable furniture has been removed and floor space maximised for vertical drinking. The landlords have been replaced with managers. Huge TVs have been hung on the walls, the music has been turned up to quash conversation and the interesting people have gone home. In line with the hyper-commercialisation of the rest of British society the hearts of the pubs have been torn out and the cadavers assimilated into the coproate Borg culture. A modern pub’s function is to generate profit for big business.

I could go on but The Economist article is far more eloquent. It quotes the Frenchman Hilaire Belloc who said: “When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.”

The article claims that, since 2005, more than 6,000 pubs have closed and “Communal imbibing with neighbours and passers-by is fading, in favour of the glass of wine by the television alone………pubs go bust, realising more value as awkward private houses…..”. The article is beautifully written and epitomises the spirit of the pub.

“The church can go, long since the preserve of a flower-arranging few.……but the vanishing of a pub means, by common consent, the loss of the beating heart of a community, in town or countryside. A pub can become a sort of encapsulation of place, containing some small turning’s grainy photographs, its dog-eared posters for last year’s fete, its snoozing cats, its prettiest girls behind the bar and its strangest characters in front of it.”

“They hold ghosts, myths, the memory of kings; Green Men live on in them, White Horses carry Saxon echoes, Royal Oaks keep the drama of civil war and restoration……the old names won’t go. They cling on in the soil and the air, as tenacious as the past itself.”

“In the pub he met his fellow men and, with them, formed a society of musers and drinkers. He mingled with people he might not otherwise meet, had words with them, was obliged to take stock of their opinions.”

The Economist is right. There are many reasons for England to lose it’s pubs but the main reason will be that we do not care. A brief look around the web reveals that people are starting to care and the theme of saving the pubs is becoming popular.

The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail and The Metro have carried articles on the subject and several campaigns are under way including one by UKIP.

Axe The Beer Tax

Save the Great British Pub campaign

SunTalk Campaign to Save the Great British Pub

London Pubs on Flickr

Edengate – did God overreact?

Edengate - Did God Overreact?

Should they have got off with a warning?

BBC Radio 4 and World Service are now broadcasting a lot of Christians singing in Church and a vicar reciting bits of The Bible. To give us a sort of festive feel I expect.

However, rather than selecting the story of the birth of Jesus which one might think appropriate for the time of year the vicar has told us of Adam and Eve. I quote from the good book (for those that came in late, God said don’t east the fruit, a snake told Eve she could eat it so she did, Eve then told Adam to eat and so he did. God has now discovered that they have been eating his magic fruit)

3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

The vicar finished off with “Praise be to God”.

Praise be indeed. How very festive. Personally I think that God overreacted. If he’d asked me I would have advised him to give them a warning and move the fruit trees away so that they couldn’t be tempted again. Or take it away completely. Put it somewhere else. On Jupiter maybe. That’s how I would have designed the universe. Put all the things that you don’t want near each other a long way away from each other so to speak.

Better still, if he’d used a bit of psychology he could have given them all some kind of magic temporary illness and then said: “Ha! Ha! I warned you? But oh no, you’d rather listen to snakes than the Lord thy God. Now look at you.”

I guess he would have had to reverse the effects of the magic fruit too but….Oh, well…obviously I’d need more detailed information to say exactly what God should have done in the circumstances and he didn’t ask me anyway but I still think he overreacted.

Snake Eve Adam General Comments
Cursed above all cattle Y


Bad
Cursed above every beast of field Y


Bad
Forced to move on belly Y


Bad
Eat dust all  days of life Y


Bad
Snake / Woman Enmity Y Y

Inconvenient
Snake seed / woman seed enmity Y Y

Inconvenient
Bruised head Y


Bad
Sorrow & conception multiplied
Y

Bad
Children brought fourth in sorrow
Y

Bad
Desire husband
Y

Personal preference
Ruled over by husband
Y

Bad
Not eat of it (the tree of knowledge)

Y
This is odd as they were not allowed to do this anyway and now it only applies to Adam.
Ground cursed

Y Y Bad
All eating in sorrow

Y
Bad
Land to bring fourth thorns & thistles

Y Y Bad
Eat herbs

Y
Good
East bread in sweat of face

Y
Bad
Mortality

Y
Bad

Free tube sponsored by Wonga! – What was Boris thinking?

Target Market

Target Market

Free tube on New Year’s eve sponsored by a company is becoming a bit of a tradition in London and it seems that London Mayor Boris Johnson has selected Wonga as the sponsor this year.

However, they’re getting flak from all sides including Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy.

Wonga’s supporters claim that their target customers are people who, perhaps, need money for a failed MOT but the New Year’s Eve tube sponsorship reveals precisely the target audience for Wonga: Young people out partying who have had too much to drink.

What on Earth was Boris thinking?!

wonga – greedy and irresponsible lending

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Roses

Roses

Men who think that they’re right

The Cardinal

The Cardinal

Being down with flu gives one a perfect excuse to not wash and watch television all day. This morning I watched The Cardinal an American film made in 1963 and directed by Otto Preminger and staring Tom Tryon and Carol Lynley.

The title sequence included fantastic cinematography showing, what I assume to be, parts of The Vatican. Leading on from there were some pretty bizarre scenes of priests laying around prostrate in full regalia and behaving in a manner bordering on the homo-erotic.
After this things settled down a bit and becomes more mainstream. An individualistic American priest travels in Rome, Ireland, Vienna and The United States and pushes the Vatican to do the right thing. In the U.S. he stands up for a black priest who’s flock face racism from white catholics. In Vienna he presses the local Catholic bishops to resist Hitler.

Considering the dubious reputation of The Catholic Church’s regarding Nazism and racism this film struck me as propaganda.

Interestingly Otto Preminger was a Jew who faced racism at the hands of Catholicism in Vienna when a boy. Wikipedia states that Preminger was born in what is now the Ukraine and his family fled to Austria when the first world war began. Wikipedia states that his school insisted on teaching him “Catholic dogma” and that his Catholic classmates teased him. Preminger’s father was later offered a prestigious job but told he could take it only if he converted to Catholicism. The father rejected conversion but received the position anyway.

This evening the news reports that Pope Benedict XVI has recorded a Christmas message to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day on Christmas Eve.

I find this quite provocative.

I find it provocative because it follows The Pope’s announcement of a new “Apostolic Constitution” to provide a legal framework for the many thousands of Anglicans and former Anglicans who are unhappy with Anglican policy toward homosexuals to convert to Catholicism. It is also provocative because, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of The Church of England and traditionally makes a speech on Christmas Day.

We should remember that the leaders of all religions are self appointed. They are men who think they are right and that everyone should do what they say. Considering the bad press that Catholicism has received regarding rampant and unrepentant child abuse this year I think this blatant empire building is ill timed and demonstrates that religions dignitaries have no more claim to morality that the rest of us.

As a good agnostic I am fairly tolerant of all manner of religious idiocy but religions poaching followers can easily lead to real confrontation. I often find it useful to reverse an argument or situation to getter a better handle on it. HOw would it be if The Queen did  a Christmas message on 104.5 FM Roma and announced a scheme for Catholics who a unhappy with their kids being abused by Catholic priests to convert to The Church of England?

With the situation in Ireland still fragile we do not need some bloody German stirring up sectarian antagonism.

Listen to the Pope’s Christmas Eve message on Thought For The Day

Snow chaos – Management keep their heads down

Phillip Hammond - Messenger boy for big business

Phillip Hammond - Messenger boy for big business

I have been watching the chaos that a few inches of snow has caused in The UK. It is interesting that we never see or hear from a CEO or manager of the private companies involved. When discussing the road we have cometary from a guy from the RAC. When discussing the railways we have a reporter quoting anonymous statements from “Network Rail”. When reporting on air travel BBC1 News had an interview with the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond.

This echoes a problem I had at London bridge last Thursday. The last train to Brighton was cancelled and the display board merely stated “ask for assistance”. From who? The girl at the ticket office suggested I go to Three Bridges but didn’t consider how I should continue to Brighton. Eventually I found three members of staff huddled together out of the way where nobody could take to them. They knew nothing.

It occurs to me that key british infrastructure has now been outsourced to the private sector but that CEOs and Managers of these companies refuse to be held accountable. They are happy to collect fat salaries but refuse to stand up and be counted when their organisations face challenges.

This has become so much an accepted part of British life that the Transport Secretary now goes to meet British Airport Authority and then, like some messenger boy, is forced to answer questions from the press. Mr. Hammond is a politician for God sake! He sets policy. He knows nothing about de-icing aircraft. He should not be held to account for the day to day operational control of infrastructure. Certainly if the infrastructure continues to perform badly he should be held to account but the guy standing in from of the camera on the day that flights are cancelled should be the manager of Heathrow Airport or the CEO of BAA.

The Chief Executive Officer of BAA is Colin Matthews.
The Chief Operating Officer of Heathrow Airport is Nick Cullen.
The acting Chief Executive of Network Rail is Peter Henderson.
The Operations & Customer Services Director of Network Rail is Robin Gisby.

It is time they spoke up.

Withdrawing payments services from wikileaks is wrong

the establishment is acting illegally to stop wikileaks

the establishment is acting illegally to stop wikileaks

So first Paypal and Mastercard and now Bank of America are refusing to handle payments for Wikileaks. This is outrageous. In the 21st century electronic payments are as critical to individuals and business as electricity and water supplies. The idea that the payments companies have the right to pick and choose who they provide these services to is wrong.

Electronic payment services should be provided to everyone. The only exception should be where an individual or company is prosecuted and convicted of some crime. Whether or not the release of information by wikileaks is right or wrong, as yet, wikileaks have not even been endeited of a crime let alone convicted. We are seeing the establishment illegally commandeering the mechanisms of our society to attack it’s critics.

I do not agree with the recent mass release of confidential information by Wikileaks because of it’s scatter gun approach. There is a legitimate benefit in diplomatic communication remaining confidential unless specific laws are broken.

However wikileaks provide a valuable service and if it’s actions are to be limited then this should be according to due process and the rule of law and not by politicians and business conniving extra-judicially to bring wikileaks down.

We should support wikileaks.