Is Melvyn Bragg the Most Boring Person on the Radio?

It is a rainy morning here in Wales (no scoffing about the Welsh weather it has been remarkably dry up until now and our newly planted trees are enjoying a watering) so no need for us to rush to get up. When we did it was time for a leisurely breakfast of home made bread and home made marmalade.

Being a creature of habit I flicked on the radio which is pretty much pre tuned to BBC Radio 4 (which probably is the standard behaviour for middle class ‘old farts’ like us). Actually I don’t know how to retune it as nothing yet has grabbed my attention so much that I must listen to it. So generally I listen to a bit of the Today program to keep me vaguely attuned to what is going on in the world outside our valley. But of course, being a ‘prickly old git’ I tend to end up turning it off, or at least hurling verbal abuse at it, when yet another slime ball politician is given air time to feed the population more bullshit. Wouldn’t it be great if just one of the tossers  was honest for once and said something like; ‘We’ve been enjoying lavish lifestyles on the backs of the poor in the ‘third world’ for years and borrowing way beyond our means to fund it. Growing of GDP (as presently worshipped to get us out of the shit) in the future is impossible in a world of finite resources. With the oilfields depleting and Peak Oil somewhere close by, cheap oil is a thing of the past. We have a large population living on a small little island, we owe huge amounts of money, have unsustainable lifestyles and basically we’re fecked. So you better get used to having less. Meanwhile us (politicians, bankers, royalty etc.) are keeping our indexed linked pensions, massive bonuses and palaces etc) because we’re worth it and you mugs can keep paying for them’?

‘Thought for the Day’ is also guaranteed to have me reaching for the off button as there is no way I can stomach having to listen to some ‘believer in some super tooth fairy’ spouting on about their thoughts and ludicrous beliefs. Even if I was being really generous and agree that these ‘nut jobs’ should be able to spout this bollox at least give us Atheists an equal platform.

Anyway, I digress, as it was still raining I made more fresh coffee and spread more marmalade on yet another piece of toast (yes readers this is the life of the retired) just as the clock ticked past 9.00 a.m. and Melvyn Bragg came on the radio muttering something about Plato. For fecks sake does that man sound boring or what? He may be intelligent (I’m not clever enough to know) but he could be prescribed on the NHS for insomniacs (take 5 minutes of Melvyn ‘nocte’ and you’ll be out like a light). Holy cow; I’d rather listen to ‘The Archers’ and that should have been put out of its misery years ago.

At this stage just before reaching for the off switch yet again I had a short fantasy about being in an episode of Farther Ted.

Father Ted
Ted, where the feck is Melvyn when you need him?
Father Ted: Who’s got the most boring voice?
Billy: What?
Father Ted: Of the lot of us, who’s got the most boring voice?
Father Fitzgerald: (extremely dull voice) That’d be me, Ted…

      Me: (extremely pissed off voice) That’d be Melvyn Bragg,  Ted

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High Salaries and the B(w)ankers

We’re both pretty laid back and don’t get usually get excited enough about things to get off our backside and blog about things political. Why do you think we retired to Wales? – partly so that we can live amongst decent, hard working, straightforward folk and don’t have to listen to the endless clap trap spouted by London-centric politicians and the media.

banker
Says it all really.

However, the recent excitement in the media about bankers bonuses and executive pay deserve some straight talking so I’m going to give it both barrels (rant alert).

It really is time that someone stopped this greed and selfishness. The huge salaries and bonuses, we are told, are essential if we are to prevent this tiny percentage of selfish, money grabbing arseholes from moving overseas. Without their expertise how would Britain cope?

Well I’ve got news; the grave yards are full of people who thought they were indispensable. If these bankers (rhyming slang) who, in the main, don’t actually do anything productive other than skim money off hard working folk (usually in the third world ) lower down the food chain disappeared tomorrow there would be dozens of others who could easily do the same job with a few weeks training.

And if these twats are so fecking clever how come the fecked it all up in the first place and expect everyone else to pay for it?

It really is time to re-prioritise our whole set of values as a society. If someone is worth a million quid a year (they aren’t) because they are so indispensable then it must follow that the doctor who can cure them when they are sick must be worth even more (not to mention the nurse who nurses them or the teacher who taught them to add up).

Personally I’d argue that no one (other than a self employed person working entirely for them self) should be allowed to earn more than 20 times the lowest salary in any organisation. And if they don’t like it and they want to take their overrated talents elsewhere – well tell them to feck off with a cheery two fingered salute.

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This World is Truly Barking Mad

“It is absurd to accept the weakling excuse that a world which can send men to the moon cannot join with sufficient willpower to get food to everybody who needs it.” ~ Neal Donald Walsh

Once again it’s Sunday morning and I’m in contemplative mood. Perhaps because I went to neighbours party last night and had plenty to eat and drink before walking back up the lane to our house. But once again I’m struck by the absurdity of a world where people are dying in the Horn of Africa whilst a quick Google reveals that the annual global air fresheners market will reach $8.3 billion by 2015. I dread to think what the worldwide spend on dog food is whilst  people starve.

Child in Ethiopa
A poor village boy we met in Ethiopia- Can you look him in the eye and tell him air freshener is more important?

We (mankind) really are as mad as the proverbial box of frogs.

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The Royal Welsh Show 2011

Well we trotted along to the Royal Welsh Show at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells yesterday. As a recent incomer to Wales and only having a smallholding I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment in detail. However, we had a great day. The peripheral car parks (park and ride) and traffic management worked great as far as we were concerned and we sailed into the show with no traffic problems (on the second busiest Tuesday ever) and that was a lot better than a previous experience at the Bath and West.

The show left me feeling very positive about about the rural community (despite me being a critic sometimes of some farming practices). In a world of ‘sleaze balls’, corruption and political chicanery (this on the afternoon parliament was investigating more wrong doing in the Murdoch empire) farmers were showing some stupendous livestock, youngsters were involved in all aspects from shearing competitions to horse riding to helping out the family look after the stock.

Sadly your ‘average city dweller’ who unwraps their pork chops out of the supermarket packaging does not have the slightest idea of the work and dedication that goes into their food. Whilst happy to whitter on endlessly about their favourite restaurant or celebrity chef it really struck home that they don’t have a clue about the really important bit at the sharp end. If farming could only do better in getting its message over and really show people how important it is to everyone.

In a whimsical moment I sometimes think it should be compulsory for ‘Joe Public’ to have to spend a month working on a farm and engage (many for the first time) with nature and where their food comes from. You don’t see too many obese sheep shearers and if you’ve ever had a go you will know that is one of the hardest, backbreaking jobs going. Perhaps a community sentence of a month’s sheep shearing would be far more beneficial for some of our criminals than the other deterrents not to mention that it would be a lot cheaper than many NHS interventions for obesity.

I was also pretty impressed by the teams of young riders on very fast ponies displaying their riding and athletic skills in a series of obstacle and relay type races (known as mounted games). I doubt if these youngsters figure too high on the ‘delinquent radar’. No doubt some will view these comments as right wing (strange as I’m usually accused of being fairly radical) but I’m just saying how I see it; that a good dose of reality amongst these hard working country folk is worth far more than the endless trivia of the celebrity obsessed, tawdry media controlled, shallow society that we have become.

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Dennis Potter Must be Having the Last Laugh

Events this week are a timely reminder of the ever astute words of Dennis Potter in 1993:

“I’m going to get down there in the gutter where so many journalists crawl… what I’m about to do is to make a provenly vindictive and extremely powerful enemy… the enemy in question is that drivel-merchant, global huckster and so-to-speak media psychopath, Rupert Murdoch… Hannibal the Cannibal.”

and the famous interview just before his death

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A ‘Real’ Sunday Morning

Got back late last night from a wedding in Bristol. This was our second foray into the big metropolis in three days having driven to Bath a day or so earlier to see Martin and Dennis in concert at the Assembly Rooms. So this was a chance to have a ‘real’ Sunday morning. By that I mean we could get up late and do absolutely nothing. ‘Absolutely nothing’ is of course a comparative term because even in doing absolutely nothing one still has to make breakfast or wash up etc. most of which usually falls to Liz (sorry).

This morning is dull and rainy; but I don’t care I never fail to wonder at how lucky we are to live here as I look out of our bedroom window.

From our Bedroom Window
The View From Our Bedroom Window on a Wet Sunday Morning

The recent trips to ‘civilisation’ just reinforce how depressing I find our culture (I’m not sure that we really have a culture here in the UK) ; shops selling the same crap and people putting up with the same old crap. On the trip to Bath I’d bought a copy of John Peel’s Autobiography/biography Margrave Of The Marshes, in a charity shop, which I’ve just finished reading this morning over my second cup of coffee. It’s great in places, weak in others but did have me laughing in fits and is a refreshing antidote to the usual famous person who is  ‘up their own backside’. Not that I’ve met many famous people or indeed read any of their autobiographies. There would seem to be little point in Super Injunctions as far as I’m concerned because I don’t even know who these people are, what they do or what they look like. Then again I could probably tell you who the original members of the Irish group Planxty were.

I wish that people would wake up. I’m sure that I’m over generalising but people seem to be content to be led like lambs to the slaughter through life. How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it! How scary it was to reread Brave New world a few months back. At least in the late 60’s and 70’s youngsters would rant against injustice and the Vietnam war. Now they are more likely to need counselling because they’ve lost their mobile phone or because Primark doesn’t have their ‘must have’ item of consumer fashion in stock.

Most times I just feel like a fish out of water when I visit the big city. Don’t get me wrong I love some cities but I can’t see the point of shopping malls that all look the same where dazed consumers add more debt to their credit cards for the short term buzz they get to escape from their day to day lives working in jobs they hate, to pay off the same credit card bill plus interest.

I can’t see the point of celebrity magazines or Big Brother or any other ‘reality TV’ (What the f**k is all that about, I just don’t get it – some misfits in a house! Why would anyone waste their time even turning it on?). I can’t understand why footballers earn more in a couple of days for kicking a pig’s bladder full of air around a grass field than a nurse gets in a year. I don’t understand why anyone (almost everyone) moans about their lot in the west and look glum when the people I meet in the ‘third world’ have virtually nothing, no running water, no health care, no job and smile all day long. Why on earth is someone now a ‘celebrity’ just because they have appeared on TV? Someone should slap these morons around the head (and the people who watch said TV) and tell them straight ‘Look love just because you’ve got big hooters and appear on TV doesn’t make you a star – it just means you’re a vacuous twat with big hooters’.

Ah well, just the rant of a grumpy old git you are no doubt thinking? You’re probably correct.

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Almost Banned from B&Q

One of my (John’s) unusual traits (some would use the word puerile) is my complete hatred of corporate business and multinationals. I have on many occasions been known to take direct action in the supermarket by ‘accidentally’ knocking over some display of consumer goods that I find annoyingly blocking my genial saunter up their crappy aisles (I digress). Indeed my eldest son was particularly aghast when at a dreadful and expensive motorway service station (the type where they extort vast sums of money because there is nowhere else to go to have a leak and take a break) I pocketed an unopened bottle of tomato ketchup to use later at home because the menu helpfully exclaimed ‘free sauce’. Without any mention of a limit to this offer I felt it only fair to take them up on their largesse and get back some of the cash that they had previously extorted.

However, being a hypocrite, I do occasionally find myself ensnared in their evil clutches. So it came to pass today, when Liz and I  decided to set about building a log shelter to keep our ever increasing stack of wood from fallen branches dry for the winter. Being somewhat surprised by a pleasant sunny day (after several days of soggy rain) we set about the task only to realise that in our unpreparedness we were lacking some essentials.

Firing up the Landrover I took off to B&Q to get the missing bits and pieces. Grabbing one of those large trolleys I set off to the rear of the store only to find the aisle fairly well blocked by other trolleys of stock that the poor inmates were obviously trying to find space for in the helter skelter of having to meet the corporate sales targets handed down from ‘on high’. As I wheeled past bits of overhanging stock flew off and the staff looked on aghast particularly when I exclaimed ‘for feck’s sake’ (or words to that effect). One female inmate did start to remonstrate with me and I did, in a somewhat firm but not rude (I hasten to add), manner, inform her that they were clearly failing in their obligations under the The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 – the poor woman was somewhat taken aback to find out that the Troglodyte personage in front of her had been, in another life, an Environmental Health Officer (who had seen the light and decided any life was better than watching the clock tick by in local government – I’m digressing again) who clearly knew his stuff (even barristers do not know that The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 has an etc. at the end).

Anyway I was happily (that’s a lie I’m never happy spending my dosh in such places) collecting the things I needed when the manager appeared and asked if he could help. Luckily I refrained from one of my more obtuse replies (like could he lend me 20 quid?) as he continued to inform me that one of his female employees had been reduced to tears by my actions and that if there was any further trouble he’d have to ask me to leave the store. This left me with at least a couple of dilemmas (is that a dichotomy?); firstly should I have felt amazed that someone who deals with Joe Public all day has to go off for a cry (and probably a week’s sick leave) when they meet someone who doesn’t conform to the usual show of devotion in the temple of commerce or secondly should I just tell him that being banned from B&Q would not actually affect my life too much and I think I could exist without going there again (not to mention the revenge I could cause in other stores by ‘accidentally’ knocking over the annoying displays of consumer goods – sorry if you’re having deja vu). Anyway after I’d given him a full run down of his responsibilities, particularly the bit about safe access and egress (great word to bamboozle) under the aforementioned HASAWA (notice the sophisticated use of jargon to help confuse) he sheepishly backed down and offered me a 10 percent discount for my trouble.

After such an exciting start to the day the log shelter construction was a bit of an anti climax but it does look rather functional even if I say so myself.

Log Store
The Log Store (almost finished and sans logs)
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Then Dies Having Never Really Lived

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered

“Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

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