Archive | June, 2016

What a Wonderful World /(Even More Strangers on Trains)

24 Jun

This was the title of the piece I wrote on Tuesday. I still believe that it IS a wonderful world but last night’s events have shaken me.

I was standing on Sutton station at 7.30am. Destination? Croydon. Problem? The RMT workers on Southern Trains were on strike. My Thameslink train seemed OK. I checked my diary. The last 15 journeys with Thameslink had been delayed (5 mins or more) or cancelled. Naturally the Chief Executive got a huge pay-hike recently. I had a meeting to go to but time for a Costa coffee.

I sat outside in the sun with my double-shot Americano, downwind of those in need of both caffeine and nicotine. I was about to shift upwind when two youths joined my table and started a rapid conversation in Polish (I think). One lad was a smart, blazered sixth former, I judged on his way to an exam. The other was a little older, in working clothes, manual. I was caught between smoke and incomprehension. By and by a couple more blazered lads came along, saw my Polish schoolboy and shouted, “Yo Johnny. Y’alright!”

Johnny’s response was to wave and slip effortlessly into Croydonion. “Cheers Jez. Got Economics. Shit scared.” He took another sip of an expresso and continued his impenetrable chatter with his overalled buddy. I mused on the yoof of today and thought that things were OK.

Meeting over and back on the train to London. Only 5 minutes late. Southern doing OK even if the commuters coming up from Brighton were spitting feathers. My copy of the Metro showed just how much the capital’s main commuter rag was backing Remain. Unfortunately almost all other tabloids had the Brexit bug. It could be ‘Gotcha’ all over again in the Sun if the Leavers get their way.

I overheard two conversations. There was a group of two women and a man – all over 70 I guessed – discussing how many Nectar points would get you a Flymo. This was followed by a long critique of the film Mama Mia which the ladies had watched, with wine, the night before. The man said little throughout save for, “Make sure you get a Flymo with wheels.” Being a Flymo man myself, I silently agreed with him.

My attention turned to the guy opposite who had taken a call. Now I have, more or less, got over the fact that train travellers don’t give a toss about who they disturb with their ‘devices’; nor are they remotely concerned with privacy. If this chap had spoken a tad more loudly, they would have heard him in the next carriage. I noted the following:

“Des, we’re on the same bloody page mate. I don’t see the fucking issue. The projections allow us to move rapido. Don’t need the say-so of bossman. Get along to Andy’s office and kick himinto fucking gear.” Pause. Then:” Don’t fucking worry about her. She’s a pussy. I’ll deal with her if you won’t.”

Thereafter there was a mixture of silence and laughter and macho ‘Yeah, Rights’. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about but the table vibrated with his vibrato. I found myself wanting to know if I had enough Nectar points for a little Flymo.

On the walk from Waterloo to Charing Cross I happened upon a large number of frocked, suited and booted students. Gowns and mortar boards filled the walkways outside the Festival Hall. Clearly yet another degree ceremony with lovely excited youth-chatter and champagne corks primed to pop. I strolled through feeling good for them all. Hope and fun was in the air. I had almost left the throng when I saw a slim, fragile, heavily tattooed girl standing in her finery holding her Mortar Board sheepishly at her side. She was with a small, elderly couple. Were they parents or grandparents? As I neared I heard the new graduate in classic, authentic, cockney opine,” I dunno what the fuck I’m doin’ ‘ere, I really don’t.” She said it with a sweet smile but through a grid of lip-rings.

I was a yard or two past the group when the little lady rejoined, ” You do look , lovely, Em.”

*     *     *     *     *     *

I would normally end my little blog there. After the events of last night I wonder how many of our young people will be wondering what the fuck they’re really doing here. I am resolved, henceforth, not to bang on about the dreadful position in which we have placed ourselves,. Division and complaint become habits that do no one much good at all.

Can we vote again, please…? A plea to David Cameron.

24 Jun

Dear Dave,

You have done the honourable thing by resigning but have you been too hasty? Honour has been little in evidence throughout the tawdry campaign. Now that the markets are in free-fall and Nigel Farridge has admitted that the Leave financial argument was a mistake (aka a con, a lie, a deception); now that the Irish are set against the Welsh, the English against the Scots, London against the Brummies, town v country and families infighting; now that recession looms and Boris the spider appears to be in position to Trump you as leader; now that politicians have reached a nadir in the public esteem – save for the tragic and recently departed Jo Cox; now that the young realise that the greybeards have outvoted them and they wish that more of the under 25s had left the boozer in time to vote; now that Great Britain has metamorphosed into Little Britain; now that the mini-Sturge woman will trigger another independence vote for the Kilties; now that the IRA are flexing their own trigger fingers; now that we have no say at all about what goes on in Europe and yet must toe the line for the next two years anyway…

NOW why don’t you wait a few days, have a little rest, reflect on things while the country realises its mistake and…call for another referendum! I guarantee a few things: 1. There would be a greater turnout, particularly among the younger voters; 2. A significant number of Leavers (I voted Leave just to see what would happen, types) would jump ship; 3. REMAIN would win.

Of course the people have spoken but we made a mistake (like Mr Fridge) and so we’d like to do it again. Leavers might think that I am being patronising. Not at all. When pupils in my class gave a wrong answer I always invited them to think again, more carefully and come up with a different response. I’m sure that it would work on a national scale. A week from today would be convenient.

I fear that you are already out of the back door of Number 10, thinking about your property portfolio and the fees you can charge for after-dinner speaking, book deals and the like. Meanwhile Boris the Spider and pouty Gove are marching down Downing Street with a misplaced Churchillian swagger (just a hint of jackboot) while secretly thinking ‘what the fuck do we do now?’ First things first for them – get to the top of the greasy pole – become PM by October. Armageddon or what?

Don’t let it happen Dave. Keep the memoirs under wraps; retract your resignation and call for a re-vote. We got it wrong first time for all sorts of reasons. As with most exams, can we do a retake? We let our kids do it, why not the whole nation?

With little hope but lots of heart,

Simply Sorro

Mad and Bad and….Sad

24 Jun

I couldn’t quite credit what unfolded before my little eyes in the early hours of this morning. What on earth were the English and Welsh thinking? My own little corner of England voted to leave. My age group across the country, largely, voted to leave. What future have we given the young who voted, largely, to remain?

Mad? Farage went on national TV this morning and told the leave voters that it had been a mistake to suggest that our EU contribution was £350mill and that this figure would be pumped into the NHS.

Bad? The vision of integration and working together for a better and more united Europe has been replaced by the rise of a nationalistic, divisive and, possibly, neo-fascist faction in both the major parties – and others.

Sad? That we have set ourselves against eachother. The Scots and the Northern Irish wanted remain. What now for the UK? What now for the fragile peace of N.I.? Honourable men and women will step aside and the opportunists will take over. What mess have we dumped upon the next generation?


Ali now trending…..even transcending

6 Jun

A weekend to consider sportsmen and push politicians to the corners of our minds. Mohammad Ali’s death brought with it the necessary hyperbole as the world’s media tried to capture the impact of the greatest boxer, probably the greatest sportsman of the twentieth century. He transcended boxing, his influence transcended sport, so we heard. The T word is often used to convey a degree of influence and excellence beyond that of the activity for which someone is paid. Transcendent Ali certainly was- and somewhat transcendental into the bargain. As a teenage growing up during the height of his fame and power, he was simply the greatest sporting show on earth.

Ali’s rejection of the ‘slave’ name by which his fame had first flickered, Cassius Clay, was the first of many publicly honourable and seismic shifts in his life which became world headlines. Embracing Islam; rejecting the draft and suffering nearly 4 years in the boxing wilderness; wit and wisdom to fight with words as well as fists; showmanship of an unparalleled order; extraordinary public exposure of his decline-by-Parkinson’s; and the Parkinson Show, of course. A few marital slips ‘twixt cup and lip but heroes need an Achilles heel,  I suppose.

Now he’s gone; another hero bites the dust. Are we running out of titans who raise the spirits and transcend? Well, I thought Djokovic got close to transcendent when he defeated grunty, grumbly Andy at Roland Garros on Sunday. The sheer elan of the Serbian makes him, along with Federer, a man of some substance. Both of them have sportsmanship writ large in the psyche. Novak was supreme in his graciousness in victory. All four slams in one year. There is something about the man v man, woman v woman gladiatorial thing. The confrontation is raised to a heroic level that team sport can’t quite manage. To be fair to shouty Andy, his magnanimity in defeat was heartwarming and noble. George Foreman talking about his old adversary, Ali, likewise. The Rumble in the Jungle lives on.

Now politicians don’t transcend much do they? This literary technique which I have just employed is bathos – a somewhat ludicrous descent from the exalted to the ordinary. Geddit? The EU back (and front) stabbing debates have been evasive, shabby, vindictive, scaremongering, fictional (mostly), unworthy, divisive, uninformative and unprincipled. This last word – unprincipled – may be the most significant. The rhetoric has rarely risen above the gutter when most of us want to aim for the stars – or something like that. Cameron and Corbyn have been abjectly disappointing. So too, the little minx north of the border. Sturge the scourge is backing both horses, methinks. Principles be hanged.

As for pouty Gove and Boris the Spider – they have reduced the whole thing to an opportunistic roadshow of high-sounding nothings. No wonder the media people were pleased to stop the front pages for Ali this weekend. The footage from the last 60years told a mesmeric tale. His grandstanding was part-circus, part high-principles. As a boxer he was the consummate and brave ringmaster with a smile on his face and a lion in his heart. Boris and the others fall woefully short. Our politicians need to find some honest values from somewhere, stick to them, work hard and behave honourably. Most of them will never find themselves in the position of defying the US government, fighting for the right to eat in a restaurant in their home town or face the biggest, most brutal punchers on the planet. Sadly they are more bovvered by trending, than transcending.

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