Late Night Stargazing

Watching the “There’s No Glastonbury This Year, Here Some Old Footage” on Friday, there was one show devoted to the solo or acoustic perfomances which had happened just for us lucky viewers back home (cursing those that were there, wishing for rain).

One such performance was this, just one man and a piano, and it was pretty darn special.

Here’s what he can achieve with the same song and the added help of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra:

John Grant & The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Sigourney Weaver (live)

More soon.


Now. I know the other week I said that I didn’t want to just come on here and moan about how hopelessly inept the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis has been, or what absolute dullards/heartless bastards our Goverment is made up of, and I really want to keep to that.

You can sense a “But…” coming this way, right?

But…it’s rare that a week goes past when something doesn’t get my dander up, and this week, that thing came on Thursday. (There were things before that, of course: Johnson’s absolute inability to answer any question Kier Starmer asked him at PMQ’s for the umpteenth week running, for example, but given the frequency of that happening I figured I can mention it at pretty much any week I choose going forwards.)

But on Thursday, a new low, and a sneek preview of how things are going to be for the next few years at least.

For on Thursday, there was a vote in the House of Commons, tabled by Labour, to bring in weekly COVID-19 tests for NHS workers.

This is a no-brainer, right? We all saw first hand the explosion of gratitude across the nation to out NHS workers, with weekly rounds of appreciative applause echoing up and down our streets. We want to protect them, so they can continue to protect us, right?

We all remember Boris, standing out on Downing Street, having announced that the NHS had saved his life (the recuperative powers of watching Withnail & I previously having been unknown), joining in with the clapping before retreating back indoors to carry on making his buses out of wine boxes, write another racist article for The Spectator, try and mount anything which looks vaguely female, or whatever it is that he does behind closed doors. And he was not alone amongst the cabinet in taking to the streets, or as close to the streets as their moats will allow them, to join in the applause. There were the usual suspects: Raaaaab, Patel, Hancock.

In the meantime, there was the sloganeering. There was the very clear:

…and the rather less clear:

Not so much about protecting the NHS in that one, but that’s implicit, right?

I mean, it must be when you look at figures like this:

In case it’s not clear, those jobs -particularly the ones towards the top of the list – are predominantly the lower-paid, who can’t work from home but who have been told it’s okay to go back to work.

Just to pick out some of those: there’s Nurses crashing in at #5 with 101 deaths linked to Covid-19 between 09/03/20 and 25/05/20; Nursing auxillaries and assistants at #10 with 61 and, in with a bullet at #1, it’s care workers and home carers with 204 deaths linked to Covid-19.

So you would think that, in these new times, where we appreciate the work our NHS and care workers do, ensuring they – and by extension, us – are protected by way of weekly checks would be an obvious way for our politicians to double down on their words of praise.

But you’d be wrong. The motion was defeated 344 votes to 198.

If you’d like to see how your MP voted, you can check here. Spoiler alert: of those 344 votes, 343 were from Conservative MPs, and 1 was from the DUP (Jim Shannon, who seems to think the Government haven’t quite got enough out of that £1 billion they lobbed in their direction to prop them up after the 2017 election.)

343 MPs more concerned with toeing the party line than actually doing something good for once in their otherwise vacuous existences.

If you disagree with the way your MP voted, you can let them know by emailing them. Just Google their name and you’ll find an email address.

So you’ll forgive my cynicism, skepticism, call it what you will – but I’ve never believed the Tories when they say that they value the NHS. Right there is a clear indication that actually they don’t give a fuck about them, or, by extension, about you.


She & Him are a collaboration between singer and actor Zooey Deschanel (probably best known over this side of the pond for her roles in sitcom New Girl and films Elf, Yes Man and 500 Days of Summer) and M. Ward (of…um…M. Ward and Monsters of Folk fame). Since I read about the above on Thursday, I’ve had this tune by them lodged in my noggin:

She & Him – This Is Not A Test

More soon (unreliable broadband allowing).


It’s been a pretty frustrating week for me, with my broadband crashing sporadically, popping back up again for a short time before crashing again, which made working from home pretty much an impossibility. Out of five days, I think I managed to work for a total of about two and a bit days, time which, since the issue was with my IT rather than work’s, I feel duty bound to make back up.

Friday was a total waste, as I waited in for a BT engineer to arrive, who never did. Cheers for that. But as I sat watching the Glastonbury coverage on the BBC last night, suddenly a message popped up on my TV screen: Your BT YouView Box has reconnected to the internet.

And so here I am, for as long as the connection lasts.

What I’m trying to say is that if my posts for the next few days seem uncharacteristically brief, it’s because I’m trying to get as much written as possible before my broadband inevitably goes down again.

Recently on these pages, I predicted there will be a second wave of Covid-19, because the rules regarding our behaviour have been relaxed too quickly.

What, of course, I should have also said is that the likelihood of a second wave is greatly increased by those who take no notice of the rules/advice anyway, and you only have to look at the recent pictures of people going to the beach in the past few days – and indeed, those going to parks and beaches historically through the “lockdown” – to see that social distancing has not been observed by too many people.

One of the recent rules that has come in is that when travelling on public transport, one must wear a face mask. And so the other day, two or three days after this rule came in, I thought I would see how closely it was being observed.

I needed to get provisions, and my local supermarket is within walking distance, but the bus goes right past my flat, so I thought I’d catch that and see how closely the new rules were being observed.

The bus in question is one like this, and under normal circumstances it probably can carry 30 – 40 people:

As it pulled up to the kerb to collect me, I noticed a poster on the doors which read something along the lines of: “To observe social distancing, this bus will carry a maximum of 8 passengers. Driver have discretion to allow up to 11 passengers, where large groups are travelling together.”

So, I got on board, tapped in, and joined the…wait, let me count….14 other passengers. None of whom appeared to be part of a large group; a couple of people were sitting together, but were clearly not with anyone else.

And I looked around; of the 14 people (not including me) 7 of them were wearing face masks. 3 had face masks, but they were around their necks. 4 had no face covering at all.

Who do you blame at this point? It would be easy to point the finger at the driver for failing to implement the rules, but then again would you want to be the bloke refusing to let people on the bus to go home? These drivers get enough grief as it is, without having to enforce new rules.

No, I blame you, the general public. It’s been well known for weeks that face masks on public transport is mandatory, so to my mind there’s no excuse in failing to comply. Goverment messages might be unclear or contradictory, but where one isn’t – “Wear a face mask on public transport” – there’s no excuse.

It seems there are still some people who either think the rules don’t apply to them, or who consider it an infringement on their civil rights, without bothering to consider the rights of those who don’t wish to catch anything from them.

Wise up.

Looing at the sleeve of this, I’m not totally convinced Iggy is talking about the same kind of mask – it’s a bit too Zed and The Gimp for my liking – but it’ll do to illustrate a point:

Iggy Pop – Mask

And just in case you didn’t get that Zed and The Gimp reference, then a) why have you never watched Pulp Fiction? and b) here you go, but this is as Not Safe For Work as can be, and c) spoilers:

Saturday morning, eh? S’what this kinda content was made for.

More soon (broadband reliability allowing).

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Yes, I know this is where I usually post a Short Song. (That’s my definition of “usually” by the way, I could just have easily have written the phrase “when I can be arsed”.)

And no, I didn’t forget to post today’s song on Sunday morning, where Country tunes usually reside round these parts.

No, this is a song which I’ve loved for many years, and whilst musically it sits in the Sunday morning slot, lyrically it can only really be posted here, on a Tuesday morning.

Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning, the opening track from Cowboy Junkies’ third album, 1990’s The Caution Horses, is a beautiful, sad, but ultimately empowering story of a woman who is, at first glace, getting used to a return to single-dom.

She lists the things she used to blame her ex for, but which still keep happening even though they’ve gone (“Guess you forgot to close the blinds last night. Oh, that’s right. It was me.”), the things she misses (…the smell of black coffee in the morning, the sound of water splashing all over the bathroom, the kiss that you would give me even though I was sleeping, but I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed…”), and the things she now feels free to do which she couldn’t before (“…Maybe tonight it’s a movie, with plenty of room for elbows and knees, a bag of popcorn all to myself. Black and white, with a strong female lead. And if I don’t like it: no debate, I’ll leave.”)

At the song’s bridge, we find our strong female lead floundering (“Here comes that feeling that I’d forgotten, how strange these streets feel when you’re alone on them: each pair of eyes just filled with suggestion. So I lower my head, make a beeline for home, seething inside”) before, safely ensconced back at home, she reflects once more – we get a repetition of the blinds being left open, the extra space in her bed.

Cowboy Junkies – Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning

It is, as described so far, the opposite of ABBA’s finest moment, The Day Before You Came. In that song, Agnetha describes the mundanity of her life on, as the song title pretty much gives away, the day before she met a significant somebody for the first time. But the reason I think that record is so brilliant, is because you’re never quite sure whether the person she met (and who presumably is no longer part of her life, hence the reflection) has been a good or a bad part of her life, nothing is given away. Yet the song is so melancholic – so anti-ABBA, if you like – that you can’t help thinking that she actually rues the day she met the titular You.

I wasn’t going to post this, because it most definitely does not sit in a Sunday morning Country slot even if it has been moved to a Tuesday, but I think if I’m going to make the comparison you should be able to hear them both without having to go off searching:

ABBA – The Day Before You Came

Incidentally, in what way is that an appropriate sleeve for that record? The Day Before You Came is an unexpectedly mournful slice of early-80s electronica, which is in no way appropriately represented by badly cut-and-pasted smiling headshots and a pink disco light.

I’m reminded of a section from my favourite ever episode of the much-missed Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish, which aired on the TV channel Dave for a few years. Dave (the channel) is more renowned for showing repeats than making original content, but when it does stray into the realms of producing new content, it has had some success (Modern Life... being an example, along with the consistently hilarious Taskmaster, which has now been sold to Channel 4). I read today that the BBC has announced that, since they haven’t been able to make any new programmes since the Covid-19 lockdown, they’re now starting to run out of repeats to show. They should perhaps take a leaf out of Dave (the channel)’s book, and just keep pumping out old episodes of QI, Have I Got News For You and Top Gear rather than draw attention to it. Besides, there must be heaps of old BBC dramas which haven’t had a re-airing, even on the BBC iPlayer. The Buddha of Suburbia, for example, or Tutti Frutti. Some of the old Dennis Potter’s like The Singing Detective, Pennies From Heaven or even Blackeyes. Or some of the old Hancocks, Steptoe & Sons, The Likely Lads, Monty Python for Gawd’s sake. Anything must be better than showing Peter Crouch’s Save Our Summer on Saturday night and then repeating it two days later, surely?

But back to Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish. This is probably my favourite episode of that show; the bit I’m referring to comes in at around the 07:24 mark, where he discusses inappropriate magazine covers. You might want to watch it from the start to give it some context, and if you happen to have 45 minutes to spare I’d thoroughly recommend you watch the whole episode:

But I digress.

Whilst The Day Before You Came and Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning appear to be the same song written at different ends of a relationship, The Day… keeps you guessing about what happened next, but Sun Comes Up most definitely alludes to something bad having happened, not just in the final lines where the singer reminds herself “…there are some things that can never be forgiven…”, but in a middle section where she pops out of her house to buy breakfast from Jenny’s.

“She’s got a black eye this morning, ‘Jen how’d ya get it? ‘
She says, ‘Last night, Bobby got a little bit out
of hand’.”

It’s tossed away like this is a normal occurance in the lives of Jenny and Bobby, and that’s what makes it stand out: the utter mundanity of the long-term abuse that Jenny has suffered at the hands of her partner.

So when that “…there are some things that can never be forgiven…” line comes in at the end, although it hints at something dark, you kind of feel a little cheer being supressed when our strong female lead quickly reminds herself that she kinda likes the extra few feet of room she now has in her bed.

And I mention this now, in the wake of my recent ranty post about the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions because….well, my own, purely selfish, preference would be that restrictions shouldn’t be eased until we’ve beaten the virus, not when we’ve nearly beaten it. And that might seem closer at the moment than it did both globally and nationally, but we’re not there yet. South Africa now has over 100,000 infections, the highest on the continent; Brazil has passed 50,000 deaths, whilst in the United States (where two more members of President Trump’s staff who attended the campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday have tested positive for the coronavirus, which from the photos and footage I’ve seen seems to be 50% of attendees) the death toll has passed 120,000. Global cases have reached 9 million, not least because our own border checks are so pathetically insufficient that we allowed two infected UK citizens to travel to New Zealand. Truly, we are the Plague Rats of the world.

But I also acknowledged in that post that getting the balance right between starting to get back to normal and maintaining public safety is difficult,and certainly not one I’d like to be responsible for.

This dilemma is made all the tougher when you consider that during the pandemic crisis, there’s been a 20% global increase in reported domestic abuse. The UN have described it as “the shadow pandemic”. In April, it was announced that in the UK alone there had been a shocking 49% increase in calls to national domestic abuse helplines, where the abused were literally trapped at home with their abuser.

If you’re in the UK and have been or continue to be affected by domestic abuse, please reach out to somebody. And if you don’t feel able to reach out to someone you know personally, then perhaps consider some of the people you can find here: Information and Support: Domestic Abuse.

Don’t become another Jenny and Bobby.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

As this series deals with what is colloquially known as “chill out” tunes – I always hated that phrase – I suppose it’s criminal that Master of Ambient Brian Eno hasn’t appeared yet.

Time to put that right.

Here’s the opening track from his 2014 album Someday World, where he collaborated with Underworld front man Karl Hyde, who sounds like the Flight of the Conchords dudes doing an impression of Phil Oakey here:

Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – The Satellites

More soon.

Saturday Live!

I was working on the next instalment in The Chain last night (yes, it will be with you soon) when I fell into a bit of a You Tube worm hole.

Happens to the best of us, I’m sure.

Anyway, as a result I have nothing to post here this morning.

Oh, go on then. If you insist.

This (amongst many others) is what I was listening to, the band everyone said I would grow out of loving when I was a kid (I never did) and a track from one of the albums my buddies bought me on vinyl for my 50th last year:

Status Quo – Big Fat Mama (Live)

And that’s why The Chain isn’t finished yet.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Back at the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, Michelle Shocked went on a run of releasing four really great albums: The Texas Campfire Tapes, Short Sharp Shocked, Captain Swing and Arkansas Traveller.

I lost track of her after that, and since she seems to have developed some political and religious views that I’m definitely not onboard with, I’m in no great hurry to see if any of the albums she has released since then are any good.

Every now and then, though, one of hers pops up on shuffle, and I’m reminded of just how good she was back then.

This is one of those songs, taken from 1992’s Arkansas Traveller:

Michelle Shocked – Come A Long Way

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

So, what have I been up to this last couple of weeks, I hear somebody disinterestedly mumble.

Well, eating. A lot. Sleeping. A lot, but rarely at night. The other day I timed my lunch break so I could watch the first half of one the Euro football matches the BBC are currently showing. I woke up on the sofa about four hours after the match had finished, which was also the approximate time that had elapsed since I should have started back to work in the afternoon.

Watching a lot of TV, and I’ll probably do some recommendations at some point.

One thing I did watch was the second series of Tin Star; the first series had been shown on Channel 4 a couple of years ago, but can’t have been a big hit as they didn’t pick up the rights for the second series, which aired on Sky Atlantic and is available on NOW TV, which I’ve recently got.

The first series of Tin Star is about an English cop relocated to Canada, where his son is murdered and he sets out to get revenge on the bad guys, who were actually after him, but he can’t remember why. I loved it, mostly because said cop was played by Tim Roth, who I would happily watch pretend to have a particularly difficult poo if I could. Only if it’s essential to the plot, of course.

I thoroughly enjoyed series two, which picks up right where the first left off, and without giving too many spoilers away, let’s just say some chickens come home to roost.

One thing I love about binge-watching box sets is that you become immersed in the sights and sounds, including the soundtrack, and it was whilst watching Tin Star that tonight’s song came on. I’d never heard it or its singer before, but a quick Shazam provided me with the details to allow me to go track it down.

Here you go, this is pretty great:

Jackson C Frank – Blues Run the Game

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

This post was prompted by a message from mine and Llŷr’s old mate Martin.

“Got any old French music I can listen to? I’d usually ask Al but he’s not logged in anymore.”

Al or Alun was how many people referred to Llŷr; it was mentioned at his memorial service that he had this dual identity, and Alun was the name by which I was first introduced to him.

He used Alun at work because he couldn’t be bothered with having to spell or explain the name Llŷr, and so that’s how many people knew him.

When I last went to Glastonbury and met up with all the people he had met there previously, they all called him Alun or Al.

“Do none of you call him Llŷr?” I asked.

“Why would we call him that?” they replied.

Realising what he’d done, I didn’t try to explain either.

In his younger days, Llŷr had spent some time living and working in France; as such he was pretty fluent in French, and had, of course, jumped at the chance to learn about their musical heritage whilst he was there too. Hence him being the touchstone for those of us, like Martin, who wanted to know more.

A former friend of mine, a teacher, once asked if we could put together a CD of French music for her to play to her class. When she called me to remind me she needed it the next day, I hastily cobbled together something which included Edith Piaf, Vanessa Paradis and Kylie’s Je ne sais pas pourquoi. Llŷr was furious when I told him, and I don’t doubt for a second that he’d have done a far, far better job than I had.

Which is why Martin now has this gaping hole into which Llŷr would feed la musique Francais, and my ability to assist can be seriously and legitimately questioned.

But I do have some stuff, not least an album of the finer moments of a band called Pussy Cat called, simply, and brilliantly French-ly, Boof! The Complete Pussy Cat 1966 – 1969.

Here’s something from it which bears more than a passing resemblance to The Small Faces’ Sha-La-La-La-Lee:

Pussy Cat – Ce N’est Pas Une Vie

Careful when you Google them, Martin!

More soon.

Back With a Rant

….And we’re back in the room.

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet around here for the past couple of weeks. Nothing is wrong, as such, just…*gestures hopelessly at everything*…y’know….stuff.

When I was younger, my dear Mama taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. (Other pearls of wisdom: “Your face will stay like that if the wind changes”, “I can see you, you know” and “Keep doing that and you’ll go blind.” Mind you, when teaching me about road safety, my parents also once told me that one of my aunt’s had their head chopped off when they got run over by a cyclist. I remember challenging them on this: “But she’s got a head now?”, which elicted the response that “it had grown back but took a very long time”. It’s probably a good job I never challenged the “you’ll go blind” one, or Lord knows what I’d have been told.)

But I digress.

What I’m trying to say is that I try to be positive, especially here, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve found that an increasingly difficult façade to project. I didn’t want to come on here and just whinge and moan about how tough things are when pretty much everyone is feeling it; I wanted to be upbeat, overwhelmed by some notion that I was a guiding light to all who visit here. And if I couldn’t do that, I’d rather say nothing at all, to misquote Ronan Keating.

I’ve sat at my laptop several times over the last two weeks, determined to write something, anything, just to dislodge the blockage, but on each occasion I closed my laptop again, article half-written, no faith in what had splurged out, and returned to scrolling through Netflix or NowTV in the hope of finding something to cleanse the soul.

And then it occured to me: at the moment, in these days of Covid-19 “lockdown”, this is my only outlet for venting. I’m still working from home, so the opportunity for a rant at the metaphorical water-cooler isn’t there; I can’t visit friends, who all live down in South London, as far away from me here in North London as possible (I’m really bad at taking hints); my parents have had enough on their plate without having to listen to me banging on about how frustrated I feel with the world right now; and God forbid you express an opinion on a social media platform like Twitter for fear of it being taken wildly out of context and misquoted as unequivocal evidence that you’re a racist transphobic mysoginistic homophobe. None of which I am, I hasten to add.

Which just leaves here.

So apologies to those of you who roll their eyes when I have one of my episodic rants, but I need to get a few things off my chest.

Here goes.

You’d think from what I have just said that I’d be delighted that “lockdown” restrictions are gradually being lifted. And you’d be wrong.

Before I go any further, I fully accept that these are unprecedented times, and that managing the country in such times is an incredibly difficult thing to have to do. And that the balancing act of the economy versus public safety is tricky, to say the least.

What would be nice right now would be to have a leader who was actually just that: a leader, rather than one who is just playing at being one and who looks increasingly out of his depth with every Wednesday PMQ’s.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that I also think the Government has got pretty much every important decision wrong from Day One.

This shouldn’t have been that complicated; I don’t know if you’ve noticed – although I think it’s a fairly safe bet that Dominic Raab hasn’t quite grasped it yet – but the United Kingdom is an island (or one big island, a slightly smaller island, and lots of teeny tiny ones, if you’re going to be pedantic) and so restricting the movement of potential virus carriers from coming into and going out of the country should be fairly straight-forwards.

Freedom of movement, that’s basically what Brexit was about, right? Stopping them pesky forreners from coming over here? Well here you go, here’s your chance to close the ports and airports, a dry run for when the Brexit transition period ends. Fill your boots.

But just as we failed to implement rules which were in place when we were in the EU (and then blamed the EU for that), so we failed to do anything. It’s only now, what, eleven, twelve? weeks in, that anyone entering the country who is displaying symptoms of the Covid virus must self-isolate for 14 days. Stable door, horse, bolted.

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that if your job was one where you cannot work from home, then you must return to work, as long as you observed the social distancing rules at all times. Cue those in low-paid jobs – cleaners, retail workers – crammed onto public transport, where social distancing is simply not possible.

It’s hardly surprising that people in those kinds of jobs, who are more likely to come from BAME communties, have been found to be most susceptible to contracting the virus. Yes, because we’ve thrust them out into a potentially hostile environment to see how safe it is before us whities emerge. They are our canaries in a coalmine.

Let’s also not forget that at the start of the lockdown, we were told that wearing facemasks was a good idea, but might not have any real effect. And now, a couple of weeks after the poorly paid have been crowbarred onto buses, are we told that wearing a facemask when travelling on public transport is mandatory. Why wasn’t that in place when certain sections of our communites were told it was safe to return to work?

And this creates a ridiculous situation where some schools have reopened and teachers are told that they have to wear face masks should they travel to work on public transport, but not when they’re actually at work, as if a school is protected by some sort of force field which viruses bounce off of.

Plus, how disconcerting must it be for the children who have returned to school? It’s been sold to them as if they are returning to normal school life, when the reality is that there are whole load of new rules to observe. To them, right now, it must be unbearable, thinking that life will never get back to normal. I’m not sure we’ll ever know what psychological damage has been done to some of them.

See, much as I wish they were gone altogether, I don’t think restrictions should be getting lifted. Not yet. Not until we have a day, or preferably several days, when there are no new cases of people either contracting or dieing from the Covid virus. Which I fully accept is a very draconian position to take, but saving lives must take precedence here, surely?

The austerity measures we’ve all had to endure for the past ten years, the cutting back of social services, have been shown to be a lie. Remember when those on the right mockingly goaded that “there’s no magic money tree”? Well, we suddenly seem to have found it, not just to promote the notion of a No Deal Brexit (soon to be returning) but also to fund the furloughing of employees to save their jobs.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’m saying this isn’t quite what we’ve previously been told.

And much as the Government try to claim that herd immunity – the idea that the virus should be allowed to spread throughout the country, until everyone has had it and (hopefully) can’t catch it again, and never mind that thousands may (and have) die – has never been the policy (and right at the start, it definitely was, I watched the press conference when they announced it), it seems pretty clear to me that’s exactly what’s going on now, albeit in a different name.

So brace yourself, for I fear there’s going to be a second wave, and all those lifted restrictions will slam back into place again.

Time for a tune:

Pixies- Wave of Mutilation

Part of the problem here is the constant moving of goalposts, the flim-flam of governmental advice – and again, I totally get that as circumstances change, so does the advice.

The thing is, since “lockdown”, for the most part, the advice was quite consistent: Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.

To extrapolate: remain indoors, only venture outside to buy food or medicines. This will lighten the load on the (criminally underfunded and underprepared) NHS, and by extension, save (some) lives.

Which of course leads me on to Dominic Cummings.

We all know what happened by now, but to recap: on 27th March, Cummings and his family drove from his London home to his parents’ property in Durham, at a time when the public were being told to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As it all unravelled, it also became clear that Cummings had driven to Barnard Castle, a thirty-minute each way trip, to check that his eyesight was good enough to allow him to drive back to London. Witnesses, however, described seeing him and his family enjoying a picnic at the half-way point of this hour long round journey.

As calls for Cummings to be removed grew louder, Boris defended his plotter-in-chief’s action, refusing to sack him, and instead claiming that he had “acted on instinct” and that that was fine.

This was a massive slap in the face to all of us who had observed the very rules which Cummings had been part of devising. Regular readers will know that on April 19th, just days before his 80th birthday, my Dad had a fall which resulted in a five-week stay in hospital. Because of the lockdown rules, I could not visit him, nor could I visit my Mum, who – and I don’t think she’ll mind me saying this – alone for a sustained period of time for the first time in their many years of marriage, was perpetually worried and at a loose end throughout. We all felt helpless, impotent, useless. I took a few days off work, because whilst sometimes it’s good to have something to take your mind off whatever is going on in your life, I simply could not focus and I worried that I might be making expensive mistakes.

I can, but don’t, drive, so to visit my Mum would have involved me getting a train; I knew that at all London stations, police were out (not socially distancing or wearing PPE, I should add) challenging people as to the worthiness of their journey. I know damned well that had I rocked up at London St Pancras and told the enquiring officer that I was acting on my instinct I would have been sent back home pretty sharpish.

But it’s okay for Cummings, because he’s the puppeteer pulling Boris’ strings.

It was with much amusement and indignation that I read an entry from Brewer’s slang dictionary which said “Barney Castle” was existing slang for a “pathetic excuse” deriving from a 16th century general’s refusal to leave his fortified position there to engage in battle. I have no idea if that’s true or not – I suspect not, it’s just too delicious. But still, in these days of Fake News, worth repeating.

So here’s one for you and your ridiculous excuse of driving to check your eyesight, Cummings you absolute cretin:

Ride – Drive Blind

And so to the other main event from the last two weeks: the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in America, here in the UK, and all across the world.

Anyone who has seen the footage of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer cannot help but have been horrified. I would only recommend that you seek it out if you have a strong stomach and really, really need verification.

There’s a tendency with such things to say “Well, they must have been doing something….”, but I have watched a lot of footage of peaceful protests where the police response has been alarmingly disproportionate. If I linked to every one, this page would never load for you to read.

Here’s some lowlights. Firstly, a car, containing a pregnant woman and in no way involved in the protests, has pepper spray fired at it by US Police:

Here’s your friendly Minneapolis police firing tear gas at journalists:

And here’s some footage of Minneapolis police slashing the tyres of parked cars, irrespective of whether the owners are or are not, involved in the protests:

Meanwhile in Houston, a protestor is nonchalantly trampled by a police horse:

Many years ago, I was in a protest in London where the horse-mounted police were sent in to disperse the crowd. It was – and excuse my language, for I have managed to get this far without the need for expletives – fucking terrifying. I’ll save this story for another day, because this is not about me.

Let’s not forget how we got here: by peaceful protestors being dispersed so that Trump could dog-whistle to his Bible-belt redneck supporters, by awkwardly holding up a book he has never read at a photo-opportunity:

And how do I know he’s never read it? Because of this:

This should have been sorted out years ago. In the 1990s, there were riots after the beating that Rodney King took at the hands of the LAPD, and it was promised that things would change. But they didn’t.

If you only watch one of the clips I’ve posted here, make it this one:

There’s only one song to play when faced with such horrors:

Deep Purple – Black Night

Okay, there’s more than one song. This is perhaps a more expected one. It came out in 1971, when there was genuine hope that the civil rights movement might have some long-lasting effect. And yet here we are, almost fifty years later, fighting the same fight:

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

I’m not quite finished yet.

And so to the protests on this side of the pond. In spirit, I’m with the protestors, of course. Systemic authoritarian racism is not limited to America, much as we might want to kid ourselves that it is.

But I have concerns.

Firstly, that if there is a second wave of the virus, that the Government will be able to point to the UK BLM protests as the cause, rather than any failing on their part.

Secondly, that solicitors Berryman Lace & Mawer (BLM) are going to be getting way too much business come their way.

And thirdly, that, as seems to be happening already, the dialogue is shifted away from matters of such great social importance as racial inequality, to a discussion about which statues are good and which are not.

I lived in Cardiff for many years, and visited Bristol many times, often going to see gigs at a venue called Colston Hall. I had no idea who Colston was, and even less of an idea that there was a statue erected to his memory and his legacy somewhere in the city.

For the uninitiated, we’re talking about Edward Colston, who amassed a personal fortune and subsequent notoriety on the back of his involvement in slave trading.

Had I known that, would that have been enough to stop me going to gigs at a venue named after him? Probably not, if I’m honest.

But when you have an historical figure held up as someone to be respected, by way of statues or public buildings or whatever, there has to come a time when their actions are scrutinised. The question has to be asked: does this person, with whom our city is so closely linked, continue to characterise and epitomise how we feel now?

Last weekend, protestors in Bristol gave a resounding thumbs down to this question, pushing over the statue of Colston and dumping it in the river.

Do I agree with it being removed? Absolutely. Do I agree with it being tossed into the Avon? Absolutely not.

What should have happened is that the statue was removed from public display and placed in a museum, where their fame, wealth and actions can be viewed and explained in a correct social context.

A statue says: We, as a city, respect and agree with this person’s actions. A museum place says: this person did a lot for this city, which is appreciated, but it’s complicated and here’s why:….

It’s all about the context.

Which is why I don’t have an easy answer to the question of Winston Churchill and the many statues erected in his honour. This is much more complicated: he is undoubtedly, and rightly, considered a hero of our wartime efforts. But at the same time, he held a lot of views which in the current climate would be considered racist. Because they were. Does one cancel out the other? Does his WW2 leadership mean that we should ignore the unpleasant stuff?

I have no answers on this point.

I do have a song though, which shouldn’t be taken too literally:

Redskins – Kick Over The Statues!

What I do have is a worry that the statues shenanigans will overshadow the BLM movement on this side of the pond.

It’s not about statues. It’s about equality.

More soon.