Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bye George

So, since my last post, George Best died. Not hugely surprising given his lifestyle, but deeply saddening nonetheless. The footage of him as a young man playing football almost brought tears to my eyes; his natural ability and the lack of cynicisim in his work is unique.
Celtic players applauding him, along with the Celtic fans - who apparently invented the whole 1-minute-applause thing - seemed deeply appropriate.
Sadly some Liverpool and Leeds fans couldn't separate their long standing tribalism from a sense of respect for a great football player. A great football player and a deeply flawed man. One of the most astonishing things about George Best was his complete lack of blame for anyone else. He knew his situation was his fault, and he never sought to blame one single other person. And not one single other person, remarkably given his life, had a bad word to say. Except the ones that sold stories to the tabloids, clearly.
Two weeks ago he was the subject of the "These Things I Know" piece in the Observer Magazine. His final comment was "I'm not afraid to die."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Last Orders Please - or not, your choice.

In one way it's ironic that George Best should be close to death on the same day that licensing hours are finally detached from the state, but on the other hand it is long since time that the state left licensing hours to the people that enjoy it. I'm utterly unconvinced by the argument that longer licensing hours equals more drinking; trust me, I'm able to tell you that if you need a drink you can just plan ahead; buy your drink while the offies are open. It's not hard.
I'll qualify that, and quickly. In the short term, in the next few years, I'm sure that later licensing will lead to more alcohol being consumed; there will be a large number of people who are ecstatic about the toyshop being open later. Right now it seems like an early Christmas.
Over time, though, and it might take 20 or 30 years, de-regulating licensing hours is the only way forward. You simply cannot tell people when they should be allowed to drink. It's not your place. I might want to have a double Lagavulin at three'o'clock in the morning, or, if I'm being sensible I might not. It's my choice - isn't it?
Alcohol kills people, and de-regulating licensing hours in the short term may kill more people. In twenty years time, however, we will have got the hang of it. I have a feeling that my two-year-old son will look back and say "Did they really shut pubs at 11'o'clock?"
It sems to me that this is a step forward. You might disagree.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

England win again. And again.

It's been a great day for English sport. The rugby team won, the football team won, and the cricket team looks like being in a good winning position. Cricket, of course, is supposed to last for 5 days, so it's hard to tell at the moment.
On the other hand, the Scottish football team has failed to beat a nation that seems to have never even heard of the game of football.
It seems like a good day to consider the question "Why don't you support England?" Again. The simple answer is - I'm not English. Being English is as strange to me as being Jordanian. I just don't get it. True, I live in England. True, I love living in England. But why do you expect me to be English? I'm not. Simple as.
There is a following assumption that I therefore hate the England team. I don't. I wish English fans would recognise that David Beckham is a truly world class football player, and the best you've seen for many years. I deeply wish he was Scottish. Real Madrid are not a trivial team. Wayne Rooney may be better given time, but right now David Beckham is your star player.
Given the fact that I'm Scottish I have an attenuated interest in English sport. Simply put, England does not come first in my mind, sporting or otherwise. Scotland does. I'm pretty sure the Welsh, the Cornish and the Northern Irish feel the same.
The main reason why I'm not ecstatic about England beating Argentina is because Scotland didn't beat the USA. It is simply the case that I'm Scottish, and whatever occurs with the English is less relevant to me. Why should that not be reasonable?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Good Night Ted

The death of Ted Wragg is one of those things that just pulls you up short and makes you think about everything you do. Ted Wragg, like John Peel, was just one of those people you aspire to be. He had an understanding of the importance of education that put to shame our society's general contempt for teachers. He understood that teachers should be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that successive governments have used teachers as whipping boys when they should have been working with them to give children the education they deserve.
The personal memories of Ted Wragg on the BBC website are testament to his influence.
He will be sadly missed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

90 days bad, 28 days good.

Well, New Labour lost a Commons vote, for the first time ever. Why they needed to force this vote I do not understand. I do understand that public opinion is in favour of the 90 day thing, and that this vote will enhance Tony Blair's public standing at the expense of parliament. My personal view is that 90 days of detention without charge represents a failure of evidence gathering. But then again I enjoy watching Spooks and I recognise that nothing is that simple. There are indeed very scary people out there, intent on doing bad things to us and ours. Nonetheless, it seems like a fundamental failure if the security services have to detain anyone for 90 days on spec. These are our Security Services we're talking about here - if it becomes impossible to detain a bad person in custody we have a myriad of ways to keep watch. We pay taxes so that people can sit in the back of white vans with video cameras keeping watch on other people who might threaten us. Let them get on with it.
I can't get my head round the vituperousness in this issue; it seems to me it's not that difficult. It appears that it's all about what to do when there isn't actually enough evidence to charge a suspected terrorist with an actual crime. What to do? Hold him for 90 days just in case? You can certainly do that, but you lose the public argument.

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's all gone a bit pear-shaped.

Is it just me or has politics become a bit fractured of late?I'm trying to imagine a world in which a Labour government is arguing for detention without trial to be extended to 90 days and the Tories are saying "nae chance, pal, we'll give you 28, but that's fucking it". Well, maybe not in those precise words.
It is at the very least a bit odd. Labour are insisting that it is necessary to hold suspects in custody for the equivalent of a 6-month prison sentence without even so much as saying "I arrest you in the name of the law." They propose a 7-day cyclical judicial review. Given that we don't have an adversarial judicial system, I imagine that would go something like:
Judge: "Well, my dear chap, why are you holding this rather tanned looking bloke in custody?"
Inspector Knacker: "Caught him bang to rights, Your Honour. Bit short on the old evidence though - might take a few months to charge the fucker with anything."
Judge: "Carry on, old boy."
I know it seems like an unreconstructed old lefty point of view, but left to their own devices our security services might accidentally manage to detain the wrong person - could you imagine what would would happen if they shot dead an innocent, rather tanned, and unseasonably dressed young Brazilian bloke ("I might seem overdressed to you, mate, but London's fucking freezing when you come from Rio de Janeiro. And those wires coming out of my jeans are my fucking IPod, you twat. Ouch.")? Doesn't bear thinking about. I bet Santa Claus is nervous, what with global warming, the furry hood, and the rucksack and all.
The bottom line: Labour, of all people, want to increase the use of detention without charge; the Tories, of all people, oppose this. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eastenders - An Everyday Tale Of Ordinary Folk

Wasn't Eastenders great fun tonight? Phil and Grant running through their repertoire of menacing arm-folding and eyebrow-raising, Dennis behaving like a little boy in a playground, and Johnny Allen (I've heard it said that Billy Murray is a real life gangster, but surely this can't be true? Wouldn't he act better?) threatening to kill anyone who moves.
Much more interesting, though, is the news that Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden have apparently, and separately, both been victims of domestic violence today. This seems like too much of a coincidence to be true. Phil and Grant beaten up by women? Police say both incidents did occur but are not in any way related. Somehow I imagine that every newspaper tomorrow, except possibly The Sun, will manage to find a relationship. I mean, it's not often that the editor of a national newspaper gets arrested. For beating up her husband. Shortly after running a campaign condemning domestic violence.
Perhaps Rebekah will learn something about being on the wrong end of the tabloid press. Or perhaps not. At the very least some of our newspapers might recognise that domestic violence is an everyday brutal reality and not some working class pursuit to be used for political point-scoring.
Today's newspapers also condemned police reaction times to 999 calls. I wonder if The Sun will be following that up tomorrow....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

God, Is It November Already?

Well. Hello again blogworld. As my regular reader will have noticed, I've been rather quiet for a while. What with one thing and another meatspace has been taking precedence lately (meatspace?? bloody hell, did I really say that? I really must get out more...) and so my increasingly random wibbling (mmm.. has Dr Rob copyrighted the word 'wibbling', do you think?) has been sadly neglected. Or, perhaps, not so sadly depending on your viewpoint. Thanks to those of you who commented on a couple of posts I thought better of in the end, especially sheweevil. It's an interesting debating point, I think, whether retracting posts is 'playing the game' or not; should a blog be a warts and all experience for the reader? If I post complete shite, as I am wont to do, either through being completely bolloxed or because I'm feeling sorry for myself, is it somehow cheating to change my mind later? If I'd published on paper I'd have no such luxury. I have a feeling it's not really in the spirit of blogging to take posts down. Discuss.
Anyway - I'm not putting them back up, you prurient bastards!