Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Two minutes' hate #1

 They've been in power less than a week and already we see the fruits of their success:

  1. Cracking down on crime by issuing Get Out of Jail Free cards to empty our prisons;
  2. Rubbishing the economy so they can say how great they are when inflation and interest rates rise fall thanks to Rishi;
  3. Claiming the public finances are worse than they thought so they can justify raising taxes much more than they ever admitted they would;
  4. Appointing a Minister for Women who doesn't know what a woman actually is;
  5. Ploughing over the Green Belt to accommodate...
  6. ...all the illegal immigrants they are giving an amnesty to;
  7. Stuffing doctors' mouths with (our) gold (again).

Thursday, June 27, 2024

The world's first great journalist

 I've just submitted the following to Historic England in the hope they will put up a blue plaque to Marchamont Nedham:

Marchamont Nedham (1620-1678) wrote more than 30 books and pamphlets and was the -pre-eminent newspaperman during the English Civil War from 1642 to 1660.

Eminent American historian Prof Paul Rahe describes him as ‘the world’s first great journalist’ and ‘one of the minor wonders of the age’. He also says: ‘If we live in secular republics distinguished by a separation of church and state, if we are no longer in thrall to princes and priests, it is in part because of the challenge laid down in the 1640s and 1650s by a disreputable journalist who shifted his political loyalties almost as often as he changed his shirts.’

Nedham is not much remembered these days, partly because he switched sides several times. His first paper, “Mercurius Britanicus” supported Parliament’s rebellion against the King; his second, “Mercurius Pragmaticus”, was written on behalf of King Charles I and, later King Charles II; his third, “Mercurius Politicus”, backed Oliver Cromwell and the King-killers. Finally, after the Restoration, he wrote political pamphlets attacking the King’s political rivals.

Nedham was jailed three times – twice for attacking the King, once for supporting him – before fleeing the country in fear for his life at the restoration.

An Oxford graduate, in the years he was not earning a living as a journalist, he worked as a doctor. He was the first to describe the era’s dissidents as ‘the Levellers’, he coined the phase ‘New Model Army’ and re-introduced the doctors’ maxim ‘first do no harm’.

He was born and brought up in Burford, Oxfordshire and a plaque could be placed at what was then the George inn, his probable birthplace, the old Vicarage, where he lived throughout his youth, or at Burford School, where he was educated and his step-father was head.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Born yesterday - the unwary customer

 Big companies treat us like idiots and should be treated likewise.
When they put their prices up annually, by inflation plus whatever number they can think of, or when they renew a subscription assuming you won’t query the direct debit, they rely on the fact that most of us can’t be bothered to query the new price and we will simply accept the increase without doing anything about it.
This is not the way to treat loyal customers but it happens all the time.
On four occasions recently I have baulked at the latest impost and, by cancelling or haggling, discovered these price increases are nonsensical attempts to rip-off the unwary.
For instance, Vodafone announced my charge was going up £2 a month to £27. A lengthy, painful phone call involving two separate departments eventually led to a charge of £12 a month with 5 gigabytes of data instead of 2.
The Daily Telegraph on line soared from £39 a year to over £180. I cancelled the subscription and was immediately offered the original deal for another year.
Norton, the anti-virus scam, came down from £100 a year to £40 after I rejected their price increase (apparently it's only £14 at Currys - so much for loyalty).
Meanwhile, in biggest scam yet, Sky said our TV and broadband package would go from £84 a month to £125.
After many negotiations and hours on the phone, they offered us the same deal for £110, then £100 if we took their new Sky Glass TV and eventually – when it was too late – they tried £90 a month without a new telly.
Instead, we cancelled the subscription (we were out of contract) and we’ve bought exactly the same package through Currys for just £64.50 a month.
Admittedly there is a danger that the transfer won’t go smoothly and we could end up without broadband for a while. It’s not concluded yet so there is always a chance this will fail one way or another.
Especially as the new deal means they insist on replacing a perfectly decent router and Sky box and propose sending someone out to do the work at their expense (on a Bank Holiday Monday) so it will be unnecessarily costly for them.
But it’s their own fault.
The helpful Sky call centre chap said Currys shouldn’t be making us offers like that but the fault lies not with Currys but with Sky’s nonsensical rip-off price rises.
Sadly, you just can’t trust any of these shysters. Doubtless other scamsters are playing the same game.


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Jethro Tull = screaming agony


WANTED for murder: Ian Anderson, singer, flautist and only constant in the band Jethro Tull. The crime: Murder of a much-loved classic.

We saw Jethro Tull at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and, had it been possible to do so without disturbing half a row of geriatric fans like myself, we’d have left long before “Locomotive Breath” finally chugged into view.

This was supposed to a celebration of Tull’s seven decades in the music business but the result was a torture session in which we were obliged to listen to Anderson’s greatest flops.

Almost all the songs from Tull’s 1970s heyday were omitted (if you must, you can check out the setlist here), replaced by apocalyptic dirges, inaudible lyrics and interminable flute solos performed by someone so well past his prime it was embarrassing to witness.

The first, short, half included “Heavy Horses” and “Good Morning Weathercock” as well as “BourĂ©e” but other than that it was a flat five out of ten. We hoped for better from part two and were bitterly disappointed.

The last straw was the extensive, pointless, tuneless, gabbling drivel which preceded a perfunctory rendition of “Aqualung”. This was, supposedly, the culmination of the performance. Thesong, one of Tull’s bona fide five-star classics, was positively murdered. It was lamentable, awful, I could have cried.

By the time we got “Locomotive Breath” as an encore, I and many others had lost interest. I couldn’t bring myself even to applaud the end of the show – though in retrospect perhaps I should have clapped to celebrate the end of this hideous ordeal.

Sadly, this concert had determined me in the view that it is no longer worth attending any gig, concert or performance given by any artist or band older than me. It’s just so unutterably disappointing.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Taking the taxpayers for idiots

 Just heard two whingeing luvvies on BBC Radio 4 blaming ‘Government’ (ie those wicked Tories) for the ‘lack of funding’ which means Birmingham Rep is to receive no grant from the city council this year.

Truth is the city has itself, Tony Blair and the unions  to blame for its terrible financial crisis. The councillors involved should be surcharged and made bankrupt for their sheer incompetence. Residents should refuse to accept the planned 21 per cent rise in council tax until those responsible are properly held to account by being made personally bankrupt.

The Government is not to blame and when it comes to theatre subsidies, why does The Rep deserve special treatment? Perhaps putting on a few plays people actually wanted to see might make a change. As Samuel Johnson said:

‘The drama’s laws the drama’s patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live.’

The time has come for the luvvies to stop whingeing, wringing their hands and blaming everyone else. Perhaps they could make a decent drama out of this crisis - or is that beyond them?

A quick glance at what's on there at the moment suggests that it is: 'Tales Till Ramadan', 'Bhangra Nation' and 'Black is the Color (sic) of My Voice' not to mention 'Emma Rice's Blue Beard' (a 'celebration of female power... a music-fuelled feminist revenge plot') suggests it's unlikely the luvvies will have 'em queuing round the block with or without their bung from the council.