Just Cook Will Yer?

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What is it with today’s chefs? They don’t seem to be content with merely rustling up tasty meals these days, no they want to be philosophers, artists, campaigners and politicians. Jamie Oliver is perhaps the most arrogant and obvious example of this new wave of chefs on a mission.
Ever since his ‘crusade’ to replace turkey twizzlers with organic carrots as part of school dinners, Jamie (he only needs one name) – the nation’s favourite Mockney – now sees himself as some kind of mealy mouthed messiah. For someone who has based his entire career upon being a pretend prole, all dropped H’s and lavvly jabbly and geezer this and fellar that, he don’t arf talk some ‘potato blight’ . In fact his whole shtick reminds me of another posh boy pretending to be a Cockney on the make; Bish, bash, bosh! Loads-a-moneyyyyyy!

It’s all a pretence of course as Jamie’s very far away from the humble Essex pub landlord’s son he cracks on to be. But that doesn’t stop Jamie from having a pop at poor people, oh no. Jamie’s ‘spent a lot of time in poor communities. ’ Apparently, in these poor communities that Jamie’s spent so much time in, mums feed their offspring ‘cheese and chips from Styrofoam containers’ whilst watching a ‘massive fucking tv.’
This kind of ‘modern day poverty’ just doesn’t add up to Jamie. That’s to say, it isn’t poverty at all, not like old skool poverty; kids dying of rickets, no fancy tellys and take away food, just the workhouse, jellied eels, gin and er, TB. Blimey Guv, aint you never seen Oliver? Poverty looks so glamorous and fun!

But Jamie’s ‘not judgemental.’ Nah, tarring every ‘modern poor person’ with the same plasma screen poverty brush isn’t being prejudiced because it’s based on FACT. Poor people eat shit and watch shit. They eat ‘convenience food’ unlike the middle classes who zap a M&S ready meal and swig a bottle of 12 quid rioja after a hard day’s graft in the…..wherever it is middle class people work these days.

Now Jamie has many supporters in high places. People who don’t see him as a self-publicising , greedy, narcissist with delusions of grandeur but a genuine ‘guy’ who’s only concern is the health of our children. He is courted by politicians and populists desperate for some of that cheeky, down-to-earth Jamie magic to rub off on their grey pragmatism.

Yet perhaps what Jamie and his culinary cabal don’t fully understand is that the poor are not a lumpen mass of couch potatoes shovelling cheesy chips into their mushes whilst watching Jeremy Kyle on 43 inch 3D tellies bought from a 3000% interest loan from Easydebt. No, that’s some of them, we agree on that, just as some posh people go out to ‘dinner’ every night to avoid cooking their own fucking tea and go to the theatre to watch state subsidised orchestras whilst living off tax free legacies from their slave owning ancestors.

Is that judgemental? Of course it is but I AM judgemental and I AM prejudiced. I’m prejudiced against people like Jamie Oliver, who should take the advice of the star of reality TV show, The Adelphi Hotel’s head waiter when confronted with another puff pastry potentate “just cook will yer?”

Power, Corruption & Lies

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In any other universe, a story that the SAS were involved in the death of the world’s most famous princess would at least make the front page of most tabloid papers, reliant as they are such sensationalist stories, whether true or not.

However, in Britain’s secretive, castrated media, any story that casts doubt upon the accepted establishment narrative is either suppressed or dismissed as the wild imaginings of ‘conspiracy cranks.’ Now there ARE plenty of conspiracy theory cranks out there such as our own Kenny Kicker (it’s all a Mossad Plot lad!) but that’s not to say that there aren’t any conspiracies to withhold the truth of certain events from the public.

Such events that would spell deep, deep shit for the establishment. I dunno, maybe the army colluding with loyalist paramilitaries to murder Irish republicans, or the police and the government, the secret service and the police colluding to break strikes or cover up the death of 96 football fans or the highest legal powers, the prime minister, the press secretary and the armed forces using bogus intelligence to remove legitimate rulers in order to secure oil and ‘re-structuring’ contracts.

Sshh! That’s just tittle tattle, the militant ramblings of unpatriotic naysayers determined to do Britain down.

If you were cynical you’d wonder why this story from one of our beloved SAS ‘heroes’ wasn’t treated with the same respect and sycophancy shown to other men from this crack regiment. Men like, I dunno, SAS man, Danny Nightingale, who was recently court martialled for the second time after illegally importing guns and ammunition into the country. The media lead the cheerleading campaign for the charges against Nightingale to be dropped even though he was clearly guilty yet pretended he’d ‘forgotten’ how these ‘gifts’ from tribal elders ended up stashed in his Cheshire home. Wonder if they’d do the same for say, an alleged drug dealer who somehow managed to import guns and bullets into the country, for his own personal use ofcourse.

Now a seven page letter written by the parents of the estranged wife of a chief prosecution witnesses against Nightingale, another SAS man known only as ‘Soldier N’ has come to light. In it, the family state that ‘Soldier N’ claims that the SAS were involved in the death of Diana in 1997. Of course the usual suspects were wheeled out to rubbish the claims. People like Andy ‘Bravo Two Zero’ McNab who has made a fortune from selling SAS tales to infatuated blood lovers. People like former SAS man, Col Tim ‘Battle Cry’ Collins, a man who obviously sees himself as some kind of modern day Patton and makes a nice living giving ‘motivational speeches’ to white collar whoppers across the country. Solider N is bad for their business, so no self-interest there.

The Met is now investigating these claims despite all this hysterical rubbishing of the story. Although the palace is keeping shtum (so noble of them) the BBC and ITV, Sky and Channel 4, the tabloid press, the broadsheets are now being whipped into action to propagandise on behalf of Diana’s son and the Modern Royal Project. The last thing the puppet masters need right now is something spoiling their succession plans and so, the story is dropped, dismissed and those plastic grins are plastered on news presenters faces as they quiz Nick Witchell and other ‘royal correspondents’ about William’s interview on American TV where he sensationally claims that he changes nappies.

THIS is news! Only the ever dependable Diana obsessed Express carried the SAS story on their front page, the other tabloids preferring the much more important story of a Masterchef presenter in a fracas with a man who groped his girlfriend. Hold the front page! The broadsheets and ‘serious’ papers too refuse to explore these claims in any depth because there is still one final taboo in our beloved ‘free press,’ the royals and their shadowy ‘advisors’ must be beyond scrutiny. You start digging too deep in that cesspit and bad things start to happen.

I sound like a conspiracy nut myself but you know what, one day, there will be a reckoning. One day the truth will finally emerge about how the British establishment managed to enrich themselves for a thousand years by murder, corruption, threats and cover ups and then we will ask ‘why didn’t anyone expose this?’

Power, Corruption & Lies. Hey, that’d make a great title for an LP.

LIlly Timid

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Maybe Paul O’Grady has been living in his lovely Kent farmhouse for too long. In his prime time BBC1 programme ‘Working Britain’ the former Miss Lilly Savage fell into the trap that most self-declared ‘prole and proud’ presenters seem to get snagged by, that of sentimentality.
O’Grady traced his family roots back to the ‘hard working and proud’ heyday of Ye Olde Working Class employed in the shipyards and the mines, on the busses and the soap factories. “What happned to these once proud and hard working people(that’s PROUD AND HARD WORKING OK? Just ion case you missed it)?” Paul asked.

Why that Maggie Facha did away with em. That’s what! In BBC terms, even to hint at anything this POLITICAL is anathema. After all the hagiographies paid to The Iron Lady upon her demise, the BBC, desperately currying favour with her devil spawn now in power, are doing everything they can to cheerlead for GBPLC. ‘I Love My Country!’ That’s more like it, Tony Hall. Have a licence fee increase and a knighthood. Keep up the good work.

New BBC Head Honcho, Hall is himself a Wirral lad like O’Grady, all be it one from the rather wealthier side of the peninsula. Perhaps that’s why this series, which seems to have been in gestation for years, has now finally been broadcast. O’Grady now seems to occupy a space in our TV schedules somewhere between Rolf Harris (pre-Yew Tree allegations) and Graham Norton. He’s camp and kind to animals, so who could object to such a ‘National Treasure’? All these once outspoken and maverick talents (Jonathan Ross, Johnny Vaughan, Graham Norton et al) who began life on Channel 4 eventually become castrated puppets of ‘Aunty’ as soon as they get used to the wage packet. Have a late night chat show, a Radio 2 weekend slot and a light entertainment ligature to hang your pride with.

It came as no surprise therefore, that O’Grady’s first programme entitled ‘Work’ was little more than a puerile opportunity for Paul to dress up as a bus conductor (like his beloved Aunty Chrissie) and a miner (not like his beloved Aunty Chrissie) and swap ‘banter’ with REAL WORKING CLASS FOLK. The mines eh? Such hard work but so noble! Bus conductors eh? So glamorous and respected. Bleurgh!

Maybe O’Grady really does believe that all ‘working class’ people need to be happy is ‘work.’ Maybe he really does believe that ‘pride’ and ‘hard work’ are now no longer supposed virtues of the proletariat, maybe he sincerely believes that, after a chat with a handful of Glasgow call centre workers, that the young regard themselves as ’classless,’ maybe he feels guilty for having a posh house and an Aga when he returns to Birkenhead and sees the devastation wrought by Tory ideology.

In this ‘chavs and rioters’ versus ‘strikers and social campaigners’ revisionist narrative, O’Grady is following in the footsteps of other class traitors who denounce the young as amoral, materialistic and thuggish whilst pardoning the crimes of the ruling classes (including the BBC) who propagandise on behalf of the establishment. If Pauls’ so proud of being working class then why does he hob nob with Tory maggots like Cilla Black (she’s on next week folks!)?

Class is and always has been fluid never as static as O’Grady claims and class vices and virtues are not uniformly spread amongst everyone. Some working class people are utter scumbags and some are saints. Some smell and some dress better than anyone else in the country. Class is in the guts, not the head or the pockets.

To align yourselves with the working class is easy, but at a time when those at the bottom of the economic pecking order (those horrible ‘chavs’ and ‘benefit scroungers’ ) are being demonised and punished by the most revolting, right wing government in modern history , this programme is about as threatening as a flutter from Lilly Savage’s false eyelashes.

Adult Content

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One abiding memory I have of childhood is being sat on the back seat of whatever lousy car me dad had bought, en route to North Wales for our annual summer holiday, sharing the cramped back seat with my two younger brothers, my younger sister and me nan.

Passing through those old, coast road towns like Connah’s Quay, Flint and Gronant, with my mum and dad and nan’s ciggy smoke filling the tiny space inside the car and Glen Campbell’s greatest hits blaring from the cassette player, me and our Claire would cheerily sing along to every word of Galveston, Wichita Lineman, Where’s The Playground Suzy and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

These Jimmy Webb compositions are still ingrained in my subconscious, not only because of their beautiful melodies and orchestral sweep or the haunting, strong yet tender voice of Campbell but for the impossibly sophisticated lyrical stories of relationships breaking apart.

Webb was not yet 24 by the time he had written all of these heart rending epics. likewise The Beatles were still in their mid 20s when McCartney wrote ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘She’s Leaving Home,’ Lennon ‘In My Life’ and ‘A Day In The Life.’

These songs had such humanity and empathy for the lonely, the elderly, those touched by loss and failure, love and pity, it’s hard to square them with the young pop stars who escaped their whirlwind world of screaming adulation to place themselves in the shoes of others far less fortunate.

As with most things in pop music we should probably blame or praise (depending on your point of view) Bob Dylan. Dylan fused together the older tradition of folk protest with rock rebellion and, rather than rely on simply singing standards or seeking the assistance of Tin Pan Alley producers, did it all on his own.

After Bob, everyone had to up their game and not only the Beatles and British beat bands; The Who, The Kinks and The Stones but The Beach Boys, and the Motown artists still reliant on the Holland Dozier Holland formula. The Isleys, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops began to forge far meatier and substantial songs by the mid 60s.

If rock n’ roll was all about sex then these songs were more about getting, having and holding (or dropping) just as country and the blues were tales of economic or emotional woe. The largely Jewish Broadway tradition also filtered through with the suave orchestration, lush melodies and lyrical brilliance of Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Phil Spector, Bacharach and David, Simon & Garfunkel.

If Hal David’s lyrics were deceptively simple they raised Bacharach’s silky not to say gloopy symphonies above mere pastiche. ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’ is maybe the greatest song about the myth of the American Dream ever written despite the happy go lucky skippy dippy melody and Dionne Warwick’s sterile vocal.

My favourite lyrics in pop are still these from Jagger’s ‘Satisfaction.’

“When I’m watching my tv
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me’

An entire culture of advertising, consumerism, male insecurities and the mass media is dissected in those five short lines. It speaks more of the 60s than an entire volume of academic narrative. The whole song is a discourse upon the false Gods offered up capitalism; sex, knowledge, material goods. It’s all surface, all message, all spin and spunk and even though Jagger realises this, still, he’s seduced by it.

Of course when I was growing up and heard ‘Satisfaction’ these lyrics went totally over my head as they probably did with most people of Jagger’s own age or older. My dad always claimed he went off The Beatles once they went ‘weird.’ Yet both Sergeant Pepper and Abbey Road were both Coast Road favourites along with The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, 10cc’s ‘How Dare You’ and 100cc, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and er, Neil Sedaka’s ‘The Tra La Days Are Over.’

Speaking of Sedaka, his rather paunchy MOR image belied his past as (Oh) Carole King’s former beau. Carole was no wilting violet when it came to her men.

‘It’s Too Late’s’ brutal admission that something inside Carole had died and she just couldn’t hide it or fake it with lover and writing partner Bernie Goffin must have killed him. This 1971 song is just one of many from the era that transcended the usual hippie and pop clichés. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ LP of the same year also brought into sharp focus the juvenile parameters imposed by Motown’s Berry Gordy. Marvin was a man, an adult, an ARTIST, not a kid to palmed off with coy duets and conveyor belt ballads.

In ‘Awopbopalubopabopbamboo’ published in 69, Nik Cohn bemoans the rise of ‘solemn’ pop, pop that take itself far too seriously, pop that wants to educate and inform, pop that pretends to be poetry or worse, philosophy. His Gods are Elvis and Little Richard and PJ Porby, the young, dumb and full of cum entertainers who shake their hips, rattle their gold and roll their eyes and make young girls scream with nubile arousal.

The Beatles are belittled as victims of this LSD fuelled pseudo-spiritual slide into pomposity and decadence. He’s right too. The Bealtes best LPs are still Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles may well have been a wiser band post 66 but they were undoubtedly a worse band.

Now, aged 47, I’m old enough to appreciate what Jimmy Webb was writing about when he was 25 years younger than I am now. I admire his ability to spin such tales of adult regret, love lost and dreams shattered. His lyrics occupy a space that makes small town British boys think of vast prairies, Laurel Canyon love nests, rural dustbowl towns and Texan motels where grown up people do grown up things.

But y’know what, now I can relate to these feelings and these emotions, I prefer the twee, ‘Neandethal’ thump of The Who or The Temptations, the childish blow job whine of ‘Please Please Me’ and the cars and girls cheap Cali thrills of ‘I Get Around’.

Maybe adult songs are meant to be heard by children and childish songs by adults. Life’s complicated enough to be reminded of it, after all.

I said a-one for the money!

Between The Rock & A Hard Place

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I visited Gibraltar for the first time earlier this year with my wife and her gay cousin who lives just up the coast in La Duquesa. He has lived with his Spanish boyfriend on the Costa del Sol for the past five years in a succession of seasonal holiday jobs and was scouting out the Gibraltar branch of British Home Stores as a potential employer. Like many British nationals living close to ‘the rock’ he felt that a job on this colonial outpost would provide better pay and working conditions than a Spanish alternative, given the severe economic conditions now affecting all areas of his adopted homeland.

As we approached Gibraltar, we ended up in a huge traffic tail-back thanks to the border being closed for an Easyjet flight. I didn’t even know Gibraltar had an airport or that Easyjet flew there. It would’ve saved us a few bob in petrol for the hire car if we had’ve known. This temporary closure caused absolute chaos as the main roundabout become clogged with car and lorries, vans and bikes all trying to cut each other up. In the end we parked about a mile away in La Linea and walked through the checkpoint.

Outside gangs of South American immigrants exchanged boxes of duty free ciggies with EC passport carrying Spanish nationals who could legally cross into Gibraltar and purchase these items to sell on the mainland. I always thought ciggies were cheaper in Spain but as a non-smoker maybe I’m out of touch with import and export duties these days.

This is just one of the many anomalies of this last European outpost of the maritime British empire. The canny Victorian imperialists allowed the French, Belgians, Portuguese and Spanish to claim vast tracts of South America, Africa and the far east. The British (India apart) concentrated on strategic outposts that controlled the flow of raw materials to and from ports. Places like Cape Town, The Falklands, Hong Kong, Suez, Bombay, Shanghai and Gibraltar. Before road, rail and plane travel, control of the seas was vital for the greedy men at the heart of the human and material cargoes being transferred from country to country.

As you enter Gibraltar, the surreal contrast between the poverty of the surrounding Spanish town of La Linea and indeed the squalid tenements and flats of the outskirts of Gibraltar with the luxury of the harbour area comes as a shock. Military emblems and a karaoke theme park atmosphere dominate the colony. High above on the rock itself, monkeys scrabble around looking for food from tourists whilst below them, billions are being made mostly by offshore banking and gambling companies relying on the special tax perks of basing themselves in a semi-autonomous zone.

The main shopping street is however, even more bizarre. As Paul went to do a bit of research in the small, quaint BHS store, we mooched about the various shops, a mixture of high end jewellery and accessories shops, tourist tat and numerous tobacconists. The High Street stores were also represented but the general atmosphere was akin to early closing day in a small market town…circa 1983.

However, we did find a great tapas bar in a back street and suddenly we were transported into Andalucía once again. The weird mixture of the local dialect, part English, part Spanish mixed together, sometime in once voice, sometimes another was unsettling, as was the gangs of non-drinking arabs sat outside British boozers.

There is an almost David Lynchian aspect to Gibraltar that makes you feel as if somewhere on this rock, dark cabals are at work under the veneer of twee, polite rusticity. An episode of The Prisoner could easily be set here. Yet despite, the bizarre conflict between a romanticised military past and an uncertain political future, Gibraltar has become emblematic of the failure of the European project.

Spain, now desperate to raise tax revenue and improve its economy, is sick of watching valuable tax revenue flow out through the digital cyberworld of modern monetary transactions. The British meanwhile, also in a deep economic hole are desperate to preserve the colony’s status to shore up their own ‘business friendly’ policies. All this underlines how blurred the lines are between abstract ideals of ‘free trade’ and the hard headed reality of share dividends and exchequers altering the rules and laws of finance and citizenship when it suits their own selfish needs.

Back in the real world, Paul got the job and is happily employed by good old trustworthy stalwart of all that is Great and British, BHS and we returned to depressed old Merseyside dreaming of tapas bars and chiringuitos. Whatever happens to the future of Gibraltar and its inhabitants and workers, the cosy post-colonial days of back scratching and special arrangements are well and truly over as the global economy becomes ever more cut throat.