Rant O’Clock

You may have missed this, but last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “…Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of Food and Drug Administration restriction.”

The thing is, Melton Mowbray pork pies are not sold in Thailand and Iceland, as confirmed by The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, who probably know what they’re talking about.

The pie currently holds EU protected status, which means that only 10 manufacturers can legitimately claim to produce the most famous of pork pies. Ironically, this protected status will, in all likelihood, be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, leaving the door open for any number of non-UK manufacturers to claim they are the real purveyors of pastry products whilst actually making piss poor parodies of the pork pie, and thereby increase the risk of job losses within our own proud ground pork industry.

“Why are you talking about pork pies, Jez?” I hear you ask. I bet you’re thinking it’s just an excuse to post this:

Well, you’d be wrong.

It’s because, deliciously, Johnson had been caught telling pork pies about pork pies.

Question: How can you tell when Boris Johnson is telling a lie?

Answer: His lips are moving.

As I write this, our undemocratically elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember when Brexit was all about standing up to those pesky, supposedly undemocratically elected EU ministers?) has stepped out of No 10 to make an annoucement, which had widely been expected to be that he was calling an election.

Of course, he said the opposite, and that he really, really doesn’t want to have an election. No: what he wants is to either be able to negotiate a new deal for Brexit with the EU, or failing that, to leave on October 31st without a deal.

That would be a different deal to the one which he voted in favour of at the third time of asking, by the way.

I think what he wants is a little more complicated than that, though.

What I don’t think he wants is to go down in the history books as the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU without a deal, because deep down he knows just how catastrophic that would be for our economy.

And how do we know that a No Deal Brexit is going to be catastrophic? Because today the Goverment launched its campaign to get us all ready to leave the EU at the end of October. It’s called Get Ready for Brexit and is reportedly costing the taxpayer around £100 million. That’s roughly double what the National Lottery spends on advertising in a whole year. Call me a cynic, but you don’t spend that kind of money on something which is going to be as great as leaving the EU was described to us as being in the build-up to the referendum.

The Housemartins – People Get Ready

For example: you’ll recall how former Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was derided for failing to understand the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing? Well, his replacement, Steve Barclay doesn’t seem to be that clued-up either: just last week he tweeted this:

Good idea Steve! Best to do it now, with two months left until the deadline, rather than, say, at any other time in the last three years!

It’s not just the Dover-Calais border which is going to be problematic post-Brexit, of course. The main bone of contention, of course, remains the Irish border, where the back-stop is written into the Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May failed to get through Parliament on three not-very-different-really occasions: Johnson wants it scrapped, but the EU insist that there must be something in place to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Ireland, who will not be leaving the EU anytime soon

The Sunshine Underground – Borders

Johnson insists that he has several viable alternatives up his sleeve – I actually saw one (not credited to Johnson, I must admit) which suggested that the Republic of Ireland should temporarily give up its EU status so that no border checks are required, like the problem was all their making – and he told EU leaders as much when he did a flying visit last week, along with his attendance at the G7 summit. Their unified response was: “Okay, let’s hear them then”. Given that most of these have already been suggested, and dismissed as unworkable, I think we can understand their scepticism.

Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.

So what we have here is the biggest game of chicken you can imagine; Boris doesn’t want us to leave on No Deal, but he believes that to have any kind of leverage with the EU, he has to make them think that we are prepared to walk away without a deal, and that as a result they will make concessions. It’s a case of who’s going to blink first.

But it isn’t simply a case of staring down the EU, for there is – at last – some cross-party unity in trying to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, and there can be little doubt that blocking them was the reason that Boris got the consent from Her Maj last week to close down (prorogue) Parliament in an effort to shut down any opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Don’t forget, that after the recent by-election in Brecon, the Conservative Party has a majority of just one, so he cannot afford any dissention amongst the ranks.

Obviously he didn’t say that was the reason for doing it (although he inadvertently alluded to it a day or so afterwards), because to openly admit it would be accepting that, having banged the drum in the build-up to the EU Referendum in 2016, citing “taking back control” of our sovereign Parliament as one of the main reasons for leaving, it would be rather inconsistent to then close Parliament to prevent it doing the job he claimed he wanted it to do.

It was interesting to note that certain Conservative MPs – Gove, Rudd, Javid, Hancock, Leadsom, Truss, Morgan – who, in the race to become leader of the Tory party, or since, had all been quite out-spoken against and critical about the idea of proroguing Parliament, now, satisfactorily bribed with positions within the Cabinet, were suddenly unavailable to do any press interviews.

I do love someone who uses pop records to make a point. It’ll never catch on though.

What I think Johnson massively underestimated was the outrage which prorogueing Parliament provoked across the country, and the determination of those MPs who wish to prevent No Deal are. For just because Parliament isn’t sitting, there is nothing preventing them from meeting elsewhere, which is exactly what I have read they are doing, the resourceful little scamps.

Over the weekend, there were whispers and rumours that any Conservative MP who rebelled against the Goverment by voting against them would have the whip withdrawn; in other words in the event of an election, they would not be permitted to stand as Conservative MPs. Instead, they would be replaced by a candidate who is fully on board with the party’s position.

And this tells us a lot. It reminds us that all of this has never really been about the EU, that’s just the backdrop against which all of this has been played. It’s never really been about curtailing immigration either, as there’s been nothing stopping us doing so for years had the inclination been there – certainly nothing the EU is insisting on anyway – our governments simply haven’t bothered to implement the rules which the EU have introduced. It hasn’t even been about dodging the EU laws to close tax-avoiding loop holes, although that’s certainly a benefit the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would enjoy.

No, all of this has been about the survival of the Conservative Party, firstly in the face of the challenge from UKIP which led to then-Prime Minister David Cameron (who, allegedly, also had a somewhat unsavoury relationship with pork), and now it is about the challenge from the party which has replaced UKIP, The Brexit Party, led by the same (self-appointed, undemocratically elected to the position of party leader) foe, Nigel Farage.

It’s not just the EU that Boris is trying to out-stare: it’s the whole of the British electorate, or, more specifically, those who are likely to switch from voting Tory to Brexit Party. He needs them to think that his position on the EU is the same if not stronger than theirs, which he hopes will nix any allegiance swapping ideas those pesky pensioners might be having.

And that’s why I think we’re probably going to have an election before the 31st October, whilst Johnson can still maintain the facade that he wants No Deal, and whilst he can point the finger elsewhere: he’s told us he doesn’t want an election and now, if the cross-party conglomerate are succesful in blocking No Deal before Parliament closes, then the finger can be pointed squarely at them.

Whatever happens next, the sad thing is that it’s too late to put all of the division, the hatred, the racism which Brexit has unquestionably stirred up back in the box.

Blondie – Island of Lost Souls

The Adventures – Broken Land

More soon. Undoubtedly.

A Surprise Discharge

There’s not much more to tell you about my time in hospital, or rather there’s very little left that I can wring a bit of humour and/or a tune or two out of. So I’m going to rattle through the rest of the incidents of note and wrap things up.

Firstly, there’s something I omitted to tell you; in between the nurse’s call to my folks and them walking in on me mid-grease, there is some news as to what exactly I’m still doing there.

The nursing staff remain concerned about my vomiting episode. It is thought that I may have a tear ‘somewhere’ which has led to any liquid I’ve consumed to fall into places not intended to store liquid (you’ll let me know if I get too technical, won’t you?). I am to remain on a water only diet for the time being.

Added to that, and more definitively, on a couple of occasions, it has been observed that I get short of breath rather easily. Test results are now back in and I am told I have a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood-clot on my (left) lung to you and me. As a result, I am placed on a oxygen mask, which makes talking to my parents when they visit rather difficult.

R-233600-1433386918-5419_jpeg

Radiohead – My Iron Lung

For the record, I am not placed on an iron lung, but this post needs breaking up a little bit and I can’t think of any other songs which are even vaguely appropriate.

Although, maybe this:

R-1551930-1438858655-9911_jpeg

The Sweet – Love is Like Oxygen

or perhaps..

41RBZMYX05L

JJ72 – Oxygen

In other news, in a conversation with one of the consultants, I am told that my “sepsis is now under control”. This is a condition which has never been mentioned before and doesn’t crop up again; I assume at the time it is to do with the alarm over my blood tests which first led me to hospital, but it is also omitted from my discharge report.

However, a little research tells me that sepsis is not necessarily, as I thought, a blood problem, it’s a serious complication of an infection, which, if untreated, can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Not so funny anymore, right?

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • a high temperture
  • chills and shivering
  • fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing

…all of which I have presented with or complained about at some point during my admission and stay in hospital.

Although it’s not specifically mentioned in my discharge papers, it seems pretty clear to me that the alarm the hospital showed when they got my blood tests back just before I was admitted was because I probably had sepsis due to the pulmonary embolism.

(After I’m discharged, I go to stay with my parents for a week or so, to convalesce. During that time, various family members visit me, including an aunt who for many years was a nurse, and whose opinion is often unwanted, but on this occasion is gratefully received. She reads my discharge papers, and mentions that it was a pumonary embolism that killed my grandmother. Later, she sends me a message where she mentions me having had a “near-death experience.” I show it to my mother, and flippantly comment that she’s exaggerating things a tad. “No,” says my mother, “I don’t think you realise how serious things were.” Having done the research, I get it now.)

No clever song for this bit, so you can let it sink in just as I did.

Oh ok, maybe one:

R-11369534-1515091276-4017_jpeg

The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

For the rest of the week,  friends visit: Hel, Kay and Ian on Monday; Richie on Tuesday, Jo on Wednesday. It’s absolutely love to see them, to know friends are true friends concerned for my well-being (that’s not to sound like I’m dissing those who didn’t visit; I got texts from everyone who knew I was in hospital asking how I’m doing and wishing me well). I am snowed under with fruit, magazines, books and an ipod charger.

This last thing is essential as by Monday evening I’ve decided that the in-house entertainment leaves a lot to be desired. There is a television in my room, attached to one of those moveable crane-arms. But here’s the thing: you can only watch the terrestial channels (which is fair enough, I suppose a Sky subscription is a little too much to ask of a cash-strapped NHS), and you can only watch those between 7am and midday.

My morning routine now includes catching the end of the BBC’s Breakfast show (I’m ill, but not so ill that I’d choose to watch Piers Morgan on ITV), followed by a progam about celebrities tracing family members who fought in the First World War, followed by Homes Under The Hammer (seriously: what is former Manchester United striker Dion Dublin doing on that show?), followed by the first fifteen minutes of some sort of ‘criminals caught on CCTV’ show, hosted by short-arse slaphead do-gooder Dom Littlewood, and then the screen is filled with a message asking me to purchase credits if I wish to keep watching.

I pay my TV licence, and I pay my National Insurance contributions, so I feel a little put out by this demand. I decide I’m not sufficiently obsessed with Bargain Hunt or Flog It! to pay for (what I consider to be) a third time for the privilege of watching them. Thankfully, the radio is free, but none of the digital channels are provided as options. No 6Music then. I end up listening to Radio 2 from mid-day onwards, to idiots calling in to Jeremy Vine, and then Steve Wright, who I find hasn’t changed since the last time I listened to his show, around thirty years ago on the bus home from sixth form (this is not a recommendation).

Alarmingly, repeated exposure means I find myself quite liking the new Michael Buble single. Ipod it is then.

Over the course of the week, I have some physiotherapy, designed to help me walk better again. This is more because I have been laid up and have not actually used my legs for days, rather than addressing the pain, loss of strength and grip in both my hands. But still, on the second session, I progress from standing and walking from my bed to the door, to completing a circuit of the hosiptal floor.

Rem Murmur demos

R.E.M. – We Walk

R-2735354-1409899717-6115_jpeg

Helen Shapiro – Walkin’ Back to Happiness

On the Wednesday morning, I go to have a scan on my left arm, to see whether or not I have a blood clot there too. As I am wheeled out of my room, my physiotherapist happens to stroll by. He tells me that he probably won’t come to see me again today (as we had arranged) but he would definitely be back before I am discharged. He gives me the impression this is not going to be soon, that there’s no real rush, and that I’ll be here until the weekend at least.

Back in my room, I’m visited by a consultant who rather sheepishly tells me that they may have lost the results of the biopsies they did the week before. I think she is expecting me to kick off, but it’s not in my nature.

“Ah well, these things happen,” I say. “So you’ll need to do them again, I suppose?”

She looks at me, somewhat surprised.

“If we can’t find them, yes. We have got somebody going through all of the results trying to find them, though. I must say,” she adds,”you’re taking this very well.”

“Well, what’s the point in getting angry about it?” I reason. “It’s not going to make the results magic themselves back into existence. It’s an admin error, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always blaming admin for things going missing at work, so I can’t really complain when I’m on the receiving end, can I?”

But the following day, before I can have any more physiotherapy, or find out whether my biopsy results have been located, I am told I am to be discharged. Given everything that has been said or alluded to previously, this comes as a bit of a surprise. But several hours later, after a lot of paperwork is completed (the discharge report lists not just the pulmonary embolism and the vomiting event, but also tells me I had pneumonia. As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has been mentioned during my stay) and I have been given a load of medication and creams and strict instructions about how to use at least one of them, I am waiting outside for a taxi.

118986291

Simon & Garfunkel – Homeward Bound

And that’s it.

But.

I can’t leave it hanging there, so let’s rewind a few days.

It’s just after my first session that my physiotherapist suggests the catheter should be removed so that I can build my strength up by actually having to get out of bed to go to the toilet. The day before, I had summoned the nurse and advised her that having not had a bowel movement of the solid variety for several days, the urge was now not quite overhwelming or urgent, but certainly imminent. She provides me with a bedpan, offers to help me position myself upon it (“No thanks!”) and then leaves me to my own devices.

I climb on board.

Have you ever tried to use a bed-pan? It’s really difficult. For although you know that everything is in place to catch whatever emerges, your mind remains resolute.

“You learned a long time ago”, it says, “that having a shit in your bed really isn’t the done thing.” I’m not Spud from Trainspotting, for God’s sake. I have control.

And so my body resists, and I have to ease myself back off the bed-pan and admit defeat, mission unaccomplished, .

The next day the catheter is removed. Just so you know, it hurt more coming out that it did going in. Ouchies.

And the combination of these two events (the failure to crap, and the begrudging knowledge that I now have to get up to pee) leaves me with a song in my head, the title of which explains my thought process now I have to actually get up to perfom my daily ablutions in a normal way:

R-8050538-1454185832-1155_jpeg

Slim Whitman – I’ll Never Pass This Way Again

More soon.

The Election Section V2.9

A change of plan, a Dubious Taste U-Turn if you like.

Instead of presenting “an overview of what the main parties are offering” – what’s the point? You all know what I’m going to say – just a few songs which sum things up for me:

the-housemartins-sheep-chrysalis

The Housemartins – Sheep

billy-bragg-waiting-for-the-great-leap-forward-7-inch-single_10356938

Billy Bragg – Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

redskins_front

The Redskins – Keep on Keepin’ On!

a1656444d71035942bbdb45989b20a6d

The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down

20046-1

Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – The Impossible Dream

Oh and this:

More soon.

The Election Section V2.5

IMG_20170519_175436

Today is the last chance you have to make sure you are able to vote in the forthcoming General Election.

housemartinsjpg

The Housemartins – Sitting on a Fence

At the risk of banging a point home, here’s that pie chart showing how many people didn’t vote in the EU Referendum:

C43Mq4SWQAA9-x7If you want to make sure that you have a say in matters on June 8th, you need to go here by the end of today, the 22nd May 2017.

It only takes five minutes, and all you will need is:

  • your National Insurance number
  • your passport if you’re a British citizen living abroad

And don’t give me any of that “They’re all as bad as each other” nonsense, because they’re not. Some of them are clearly much, much worse than others.

You can help stop them from being in power for the next five years.

More soon.

The Election Section V2.3

I mentioned last week how the Tories had hoovered up most of UKIP’s policies.

Turns out it wasn’t just theirs.

In the 2015 election, Ed Miliband, then leader of the Labour Party, announced his proposals to cap the amount that energy companies could charge for their product. Here’s how it was reported in the national press:

IMG_20170510_001713In 2017, Theresa May announced her plans to cap the amount that energy companies could charge for their product. Here’s how it was reported in the national press:

IMG_20170510_001717So, to be clear: Labour propose something, it’s a backwards step, to be vilified and ridiculed. Conservatives propose exactly the same thing, then it’s a great idea, to be celebrated and promoted.

Strongandstablestrongandstablestrongandstablestrongandstablestrongandstable

In 1986, The Housemartins released “London 0 Hull 4”, an album which concluded with this:

housemartinsjpg

The Housemartins – Freedom

31 years later, nothing much has changed.

I suppose I can’t get through the next month without posting anything at all by Billy Bragg, so here’s something by The Bard of Barking on the same subject:

R-3105199-1315996279_jpeg

Billy Bragg – It Says Here

More soon.

I Am The Mouth

Shortly after I came up with the idea for what is now a hypothetical Indie night (just to recap: this was to play the songs by Indie acts which got forgotten in favour of more established dance floor fillers; indie music for the discerning palate, if you will) I  met up with my older brother.

We had a few drinks and discussed, first and foremost, music; we’re a long way down the road from when we were kids and we’d rather expose ourselves on the school bus than admit to liking the same music as our sibling.

In fact, for the past twenty five to thirty years or so, we’ve both given each other tips and nudges (and the occasional mp3 or burnt CD, which we later went on to purchase from a reputable dealer) about who we were listening to and who we thought the other would like.

Anyway, in this conversation, we started talking about bands who most people (and I don’t mean you, discerning reader, of course) hadn’t heard of, but who had obviously influenced an artist who was very much “of the moment”.

So I decided to extend the remit of the “I Am The Mouth” night (which has never happened) to include songs which had clearly made an impact on current acts.

And here are the two we were talking about. First, C86 stalwarts, The Shop Assistants:

shop-assistants-safety-net-53rd-3rd

The Shop Assistants – Safety Net

and then, The Long Blondes:

blondes

The Long Blondes – Once and Never Again

Hmmm. Now I listen to it again, that chord progression over the chorus reminds me of something else…

R-429324-1230852244_jpeg

The Smiths – I Want the One I Can’t Have

…which of course was borrowed for this Top Ten’er that I deftly avoided posting recently:

TheHousemartinsHappyHourvinyl

The Housemartins – Happy Hour

More soon, don’t you know.