Monthly Archives: May 2012

POLITICAL CONTESTS & SPORTING CONTESTS

Since my last posting, the world continues to be a volatile place, and that’s not counting the many ongoing armed conflicts that remain to be resolved. A near 50/50 split resulted in the appointment of a new French President; Greece approaches another election after a consensus failed to be achieved, causing increased uncertainty about the economic future of many beyond the Hellenic borders; the juggernaut of USA Presidential elections continues to work up through the gears; and the debate ahead of a referendum on the future political landscape of Scotland finally seems to be starting to consider practicalities ahead of emotions. Turbulent times indeed, but at least I eventually received answers to a range of questions that I sent to an MSP last October.

I continue to get by perfectly well without F1 but do still note some of the developments from that forum, Lewis Hamilton’s pole position in Spain being forfeited due to insufficient fuelling and Pastor Maldonado’s first race win for a resurgent Williams team, followed by a fire in their garage. The main sporting events of the last week or so undoubtedly focus on end of season football; not that I’m all that interested in watching the games, but it was hard to escape the eleventh hour league title win for Manchester City, the so-called ‘Salt & Sauce’, all Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final and the EUEFA Cup Final. On a local level Greenlaw AFC gained promotion for next season, a fitting way to mark the official opening of the new facilities in the village. The latter is certainly the most important result as far as I’m concerned; after the fiasco (yet to be resolved) regarding Glasgow Rangers’, it seems far more important to develop home-grown talent rather than rely on buying success with money that isn’t actually there. The emotion displayed as the last minute action snatched success from Manchester United and passed it to their arch rivals was obvious even if I remained a bit bemused by it. The historic Scottish game turned out to be rather one-sided and the foul-mouthed venom spouted by some disappointed Hibs fans on my FaceBook wall reminded me of the ugly side of football, the EUEFA game, going to penalties seemed to be a far closer match. I’m actually amazed to find myself including so many references to football here!

The 2012 Olympics edges ever closer with the arrival of the flame on UK soil and the start of the seventy day torch relay, there may be many contentious issues surrounding the increasing corporate nature and commercial involvement in this massive celebration of sport but I would not like to see dissatisfaction with the money spent, or any other issues, detracting from the commitment and achievements of all participants, it’s time to focus on the positives and celebrate the sporting achievements and leave the politics for another day. It will certainly be interesting to observe how the stated ban on publishing photos and video from inside the venues will be policed and enforced with so many people having mobile technology at all times.

Finally, I get to mention the main reason for electing to write about sport – Kina Malpartida! As I write this I’m watching a live feed from tuteve, a Peruvian channel, ahead of the Kina v. Sriphrae Nongkipahuyuth fight – oh how access to the internet has changed my life. If I try to separate the work of Union Biblica and The Vine Trust from my memories of Peru as a country, one of the highlights of my first visit there in 2009 was the build-up to, and the televised coverage of, Kina Malpartida’s World Title defence against Halana Dos Santos. What made this even more significant for me was that I had chosen to watch only one in-flight movie during the out-going flight – ‘Million Dollar Baby’, followed by a documentary about Muhammad Ali, so the fact that watching a major boxing match as it took place while I was in Lima seemed to be a given. In our hostel room the night before leaving for Yungay, Chris and I watched the pre-match coverage, as I’m doing now, but Chris fell asleep just as the main event started, I, however, managed to remain awake for a memorable victory.

Since returning to the UK, I have continued to follow Kina’s career and have managed to track down video links to all subsequent live title defences. Having first won the title in a victory against Maureen Shea, she has successfully defended against Haland Dos Santos, Lyndsey Scragg, Liliana Palmera, and Rhonda Luna. One thing that I have to say is that the quality of pictures has definitely improved over the years. One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is the toothpaste advert featuring Kina where she punches 1, 2, 3 times towards the camera to emphasise the triple effects of Dento 3, it seems to be the exact same advert that I first saw in Lima. I find the range of sponsors for the match to be quite bizarre, in addition to toothpaste, products promoted are Gatorade (perhaps the most logical one), Mifarma (pharmacy), Claro (internet), Brahma (Brazilian beer), Mahindra (Indian 4×4 SUV, featuring Simon Cowell), and finally paint, cement and dog food.

I can now close by noting an easy victory for Kina, in fact the bout was possibly even more one sided than the Scottish Cup Final. Thirty two year old Kina totally dominated her nineteen year old Thai opponent until the referee quickly called a halt!

As the sky lightens and the sun prepares to rise, perhaps it’s time for bed.

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OPEN LETTER TO NEWLY ELECTED COUNCILLORS – SCOTTISH BORDERS COUNCIL

(whilst specific percentages and situations may differ, this may well apply in other local authority areas too)

It is now almost one week since last week’s polls for local authority elections closed and it looks like we might have to wait until next week before an announcement is made regarding ‘control’ / ‘ruling’ of the newly elected council here in the Scottish Borders. Perhaps it is time that you remembered that significantly more than 50% of the electorate didn’t vote for any of you; consequently it is perhaps time that you tried to adopt an alternative approach to the tried and ‘failed’ ‘ruling’ group and ‘opposition’ way of operating. None of you should be deluded into believing that you have been elected to ‘rule’, you have been given the privilege of being given an opportunity to seek to achieve what is best for the people living in the SBC administrative area. There is undoubtedly a limit to what you can and can’t do due to increasing centralisation of fiscal control to both Holyrood and Westminster. Within the scope of what you can do, it really is time to reflect on the way we, the electorate, have allowed you to operate. We will never agree on everything, nor will you. Ideally you should have been elected as a real person and not as some puppet representative of some political party, so you should always aim to ensure that you put the needs and desires of the residents in your constituency first in every decision you make. Personally I do not believe that party politics should be allowed government at any level, but I also accept that utopia remains elusive and highly impractible. Every time you vote according to a party line you go further down in my estimation, and I suspect this may well be one of the reasons why so many truly believe that there is little point in voting as nothing will really change as far as it effects individuals on a daily basis. Apart from an ability to run proceedings efficiently, it really shouldn’t matter who chairs committees of is appointed to similar positions of responsibility as their personal views shouldn’t matter, even registering a casting vote should be based on their objective understanding of what their constituents feel. Appointment should not be an opportunity for self aggrandizement, it should simply be viewed as an honour to be able to be able to effect the best possible decisions for local residents. It is high time that you attempted to work with, rather than against each other and genuinely seek to achieve true consensus whenever possible, at all times.

 

My analysis of the recent results are as follows:

  • by my calculations the average turnout across the region was 42% of registered voters = 58% couldn’t care who represents them or don’t believe that it makes any real difference who represents them.
  • 29% of elected councillors are nominally Conservatives = 71% ARE NOT
  • 26% of elected councillors are nominally Scottish Nationalists = 74% ARE NOT
  • 20% of elected councillors are nominally Independent = 80% ARE NOT
  • 18% of elected councillors are nominally Liberal Democrats = 82% ARE NOT
  • 6% of elected councillors are nominally Borders Partyists – 94% ARE NOT

PLEASE DO NOT BE DELUDED INTO BELIEVING THAT ANY OF YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A VALID MANDATE!

Our system of democracy may be better than that in place in other countries, but it does enable people to get elected whilst failing to represent the opinions of a majority of the electorate. In years gone by people have sacrificed so much to help us to get the representation that we have, low turnouts are a tremendous insult to the memories of those who struggled and gave so much. The system may be better than what many others in the world have but it is severely devalued when so few feel that they are able or willing to engage with the process. Perhaps it is time to consider compulsory voting for the UK, but I suspect that it would be far more productive to seek to achieve a situation where people felt motivated to vote positively rather than forced to under threat of prosecution, and subsequently vote negatively.

To finish on a positive note I would like to thank all who put themselves forward for election, whether successful or not, for all my criticism it really is essential that some people are prepared to put themselves in the firing line for what is inevitably, both an essential and a thankless task. Whilst many may feel that local government is the least ‘important’ tier, I believe that low turnouts in local government elections simply accelerates the tendency for other tiers to seek to centralise control. Only by airing and discussing various opinions, is it really possible to make positive progress.


THE PEOPLE HAVE ‘SPOKEN’, THE POLITICIANS MUST LISTEN

Supporters of the party to have received most votes in yesterday’s Local Government elections will now have to face the reality that they have no representation. ‘Turnout’ for the Apathy Party accounted for almost 70% of the electorate and as a result indicates a massive disengagement with the current crop of politicians, regardless of colour. In practice councillors who will be taking important decisions about the delivery of local services will be claiming that they have a mandate and represent the majority of voters, when in fact they have the backing of perhaps less than 20% of their electorate – self-delusion on a grand scale. The trouble is that as long as voters stay away from the polling booths in such large numbers we will all continue to have to suffer the results. It is so sad to think of all the dedicated people in the past who struggled long and hard, and in many cases gave their lives so that we could live in a relatively free society with the opportunity to vote freely in elections. Failure to use our vote is in fact the greatest of insults to their memories.

I may be quick enough to criticise many of the actions and decisions taken by our elected representatives, particularly when they act like sheep and dutifully follow party whip instructions – but at least they have been willing to put themselves into the firing line, I certainly wouldn’t wish their job. I feel that I have a licence to be critical as I have posted my decision into the ballot box; at times I often feel that there should be a ‘none of the above’ option, or that I might simply spoil my paper, but at least I feel that if I have taken part I have the right to complain. Perhaps it is time that we considered a system of compulsory voting. The fact that referanda to determine views on having elected mayors in a number of cities have tended towards rejection of that idea, is also rather telling.

If it is possible to take anything from the results already, and still to be declared – let it be that politicians accept that they do not have a strong mandate and perhaps start to behave in a more co-operative and less confrontational manner. At present the default seems to be if the other party is is favour, we must be against!  I suspect that many don’t vote because they don’t believe it matters who is in control, they are all equally untrustworthy and incompetent – sadly the good and honest politicians get ‘tarred with the same brush’, something must change.  Is it possible rewrite this old slogan – ‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in’?

At the time of writing counting has yet to start in Scotland – will there be a more positive outcome – or will ‘winning’ councillors here be elected with equally low support?


MODERN COMMUNICATIONS AND ROLLING NEWS

The phone call came out of the blue as we returned home after a routine shopping trip; our daughter had called to reassure us in case we had heard or seen a news bulletin – she was “OK” she said. Her shop had just been evacuated, “there’s talk of a shooting and people are throwing things off the roof next to the shop. As the situation developed I watched aerial footage of the scene as seen from a news helicopter – chilling to know that our daughter and her co-workers were somewhere below, but apparently safe. The hostage situation that followed seemed to have been triggered by a disgruntled client of an HGV training company who had failed to get an HGV licence and believed that he had nothing left to live for and was threatening to blow ‘everything’ up. It was suspected that he had an explosive device strapped to his body.

Thankfully successful negotiations led to the situation being resolved peacefully, but not before significant disruption to one of the busiest shopping streets in London. Our daughter and her team had to wait for over six hours before being able to return to the shop – if things hadn’t been resolved it would have been difficult to get home as coats, bags, house keys etc. had all been abandoned inside during the evacuation.

We were so glad that she had called as soon as she could and that we were able to monitor the situation via mobile phones and live news coverage.

We had previously had a worrying time when she had posted a FaceBook status stating that there was “a madman on the bus threatening to kill us all”! Instant communications enabled us to quickly establish exactly what was going on; imagining some kind of ‘Pelham 123’ hostage situation, I immediately asked how serious the situation was – my post being promptly followed by one from a police officer friend of hers asking if his friends in the Met had been contacted. As it turned out, there was indeed somebody on the bus arguing with the driver and shouting threats, but thankfully the threats seemed fairly empty and there was no attempt being made to follow through – just another inconsiderate rant. As our daughter added, “just another day on London transport”!

When we were preparing a group of school students ahead of a two week trip to Peru, we were insistent that they did not take mobile phones with them. Perhaps surprisingly, this request was accepted without real complaint. We were due to visit some very poor Peruvian children and didn’t wish to flaunt our affluence in front of them, and electricity for recharging when in the jungle was also likely to be in scarce supply. One other argument used to convince them of our strategy was a story, possibly an urban myth, that seemed quite effective.

‘A school group was on a bus about to leave a car park when it reversed into a bollard causing some very minor damage to the vehicle body work. At the same time a student on board was on the phone to her mother; “we’ve just left now – oh no, the bus has just crashed …………..”, and then the signal or battery died. Whilst the student’s statement was technically true, there was never any danger to the school party – mother however, was imagining something entirely different.

Modern instant communications are great when they are working, but can also lead to unnecessary worry. Undoubtedly, however, they are an inescapable part of our lives now so need to be careful how we use them.

 


WHAT TIME IS LOVE?

This wedding party had always promised to be unique. The party date had been intimated well in advance and was scheduled for a number of months after the extremely intimate Christmas Eve wedding. The invitation arrived in a hand decorated envelope and was in the form of a VIP pass to ‘What Time Is Love?’ That question was easy to answer, it was a Saturday evening in late April. Had the question been ‘where is the love’, it would have been very easily answered as it permeated the whole evening as friends gathered, having travelled via planes, trains and auto-mobiles to share the special moment in the magnificent surroundings of an 18th Century Palladian mansion in the Scottish Borders; the extent of the love was very clear to feel.

The couple are both extremely talented and creative and managed to imprint their own mark on every aspect. Their work with a variety of very talented musicians was reflected throughout the evening with live performances ranging from delicate acoustic numbers featuring voice and grand piano only, to full on rock bands. During the evening a number of public declarations were voiced affirming the high regard held for the couple, and thanking them for their support for developing careers.

Starting at 6pm with a champagne reception in the entrance hall, the evening progressed to the wonderful picture gallery with walls displaying a selection of paintings from Scotland’s National Galleries, where guests socialised and were entertained by a selection of acoustic songs. It was so good to finally meet in person, many who I had only previously met on -line.

A delicious buffet was served, the bride demonstrated her newly developed drumming skills in a mesmerising drum duet with her tutor, and a spectacular firework display outside; all were precursors to the final phase featuring three exciting live bands. The classical setting of the room now took on a very different appearance as the bands rocked their hearts and souls out on stage and the disco floor lights were switched on. The magical evening was brought to an all too soon close with a selection of ‘disco’ tracks, The B 52s ‘Rock Lobster’ being a particularly memorable one, and then it was time to say farewells and travel back home. Thanks so much to P&C for inviting me to share their special event.

 

 


RECORD STORE DAY 2012

I have a big soft spot for the philosophy of ‘Record Store Day’, it triggers many happy memories of music discovered, and time spent in Bruce’s in Stirling and Edinburgh, in the 1970s.

I was very happy when the subject of the excellent ‘Sound It Out Documentary’ was selected as last year’s ‘official record store day’ shop – so good to see truly independent stores getting recognition. A visit to ‘Sound It Out Records’ in Stockton-On-Tees is high on my ‘to do list’ for this summer.

On Saturday 21st April 2012 I decided to do my bit to support the special day by visiting ‘Media Mania’ in Berwick-upon-Tweed, no live appearances had been planned, and I wasn’t on the lookout for any ‘RSD’ special releases, I simply wished to support a local business whilst also adding to my music collection.

A while back I included a feature in my show where I chatted with Kyle about the way in which people’s music buying habits had changed throughout my life. As an anchor I used Theoretical Girl’s ‘Divided’ album. My reason for this choice was that I had come to own this in a kind of reverse order; I first got an electronic download version, then saw her play many of the tracks live, later on I got a CD copy, followed by a pre-release DJ version of the CD, and finally I bought one of the limited edition 12” vinyl copy that was released to mark the first anniversary of the initial release. Certainly there was no real need for me to get anything other than the download, but I really do appreciate the way that physical copies can enhance my appreciation of a product, into which the artists have invested so much of themselves. The fact that I will probably never actually play the vinyl is irrelevant. I recall Willie, who I worked alongside in ‘Bruce’s’ Rose Street shop; he was passionate about Jimi Hendrix and bought two copies of every release, even if it was an imported version of a UK release that he already owned. In these days our imports tended to come shrink wrapped, and he wouldn’t even open the wrapping on one copy of his purchases; his reason for getting two copies was to enable him to keep virgin unplayed copies, whilst also being able to listen to the other. In addition to the records, he was an avid collector of any memorabilia – if he maintained and still has this collection, it must be worth an absolute fortune!

So on ‘Record Store Day 2012’ I arrived at ‘Media Mania’ to be welcomed by Roger and Gillian. After coffee and a chat I had a look through the selection of vinyl and CDs. I came away with a pleasing selection; The Who ‘Tommy’ (12” vinyl double album), The Tube (12” compilation album of acts that had appeared on the classic Tyne Tees TV show), Juicy Lucy ‘Who Do You Love’/’Walking Down The Highway’ (7” single on Vertigo with the lovely ‘vertigo inducing’ centre logo), and Blondie ‘Live’ (CD). I was particularly pleased to find ‘Tommy’ as I had a plan. A while back I heard an interview on Radio Scotland with somebody who had started an ‘album club’; run along similar lines to a ‘book club’, people would come along to listen in silence to a vinyl album in its entirety from start to finish and then discuss it. They aimed to experience the totality of the production as it had been sweated over by the artists. In my youth, it was very common for us to listen to entire albums from side 1 track 1 to the end, although not necessarily in complete silence! Given that I rarely seem to listen to music in this way any longer, I thought that I would revisit this at some point. ‘Tommy’ seemed an ideal choice.

I can remember the excitement back in 1969 when The Who’s ‘rock opera’ was released, back then it all seemed so edgy and ambitious. I have to admit that listening now, it all seems rather tame, naïve and at times contrived. Listening to the lyrics of the closing ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, I found it hard to feel any real passion, yet at the time of release it had felt so inspirational! I don’t regret taking time to listen to the album again, but it did confirm my preference for fresh new music. Some of the old classics will forever remain great to listen to when I’m in the right mood, others are possibly best left in their original time and kept as happy memories.