Monthly Archives: May 2012

Snappin da hood ~ day 3

I’m being controversial and leaving out the apostrophes today.

Taken in the *middle of the road about 50 yards from here, outside the water company’s yard.

*I was at risk of being squished, so it was one hasty snap and done.

Snapping the ‘hood ~ day 2

Now I think this short series should perhaps have been titled ‘Snappin Da Hood’, but never mind.

This is about 50 yards from my house, on the door of a boarded up pub. The pub has been bought and the purchaser has applied for planning to develop flats. This seems to be the way of the world now. It’s a lovely Arts & Crafts building; I’d like to get in there and take some black and white photographs some time.

Snapping the ‘hood

For the rest of this pre-Jubilee week, I am going to keep my words to myself (if I can) and concentrate on taking photos of things to be found in my immediate neighbourhood.

I am starting with Marilyn, who is going to be a hard act to follow…

I papped this celebrity about 75 metres due north of my house.

Rabies: Traveller beware

Tragically, the British woman recently bitten by a dog in India died at the weekend, in hospital. Having been through a course of post-exposure vaccines with my, then 6 year old, daughter last year, I have strong views on the UK’s handling of returning travellers who may have been infected with this potentially fatal disease.

Last year, I was in the position of having unlabelled rabies vaccines in my fridge and having to beg various doctors in the town to give my daughter the injection on the *correct day in the complicated post-exposure timetable. At least one doctor refused. My GP was no help, because the day fell on a Sunday. So much for the Hippocratic Oath.

If you are travelling abroad to an area that has rabies, get yourself informed. You will have to take steps if you are scratched or bitten by a warm-blooded mammal. Don’t rely on anyone else and don’t take any chances, it’s not worth it. Once symptoms develop, as in this grandmother’s tragic case, it’s too late – the vaccine won’t work, death is inevitable.

Personally, I think a new education campaign is well overdue – I still remember the skull posters plastered all over the cross-channel ferries in the 1970s. They may have been a blunt instrument – I thought I would die of fright when a dog came near me – but it gave me a healthy respect for animals abroad. It seems to me that airlines flying to areas that have rabies (many, many places) should inform you, your travel insurance should inform you, your travel agent should tell you (but they won’t because it won’t fit well alongside the glossy brochure description). Being told something ten times too many and being aware of the risks is better than travelling in ignorance.

It is worth remembering that, worldwide, children are the most frequent victims of rabies death, probably because they don’t always report an incident with an animal. My child, thank goodness, mentioned she had been scratched by a cat about three hours after the fact. If this happens to you, or your family, wash the wound immediately and go to a doctor. Don’t panic, because post-exposure vaccines are fully effective. Please though, don’t ignore it. It’s not a chance worth taking.

*The UK Health Protection Agency’s vaccination schedule does not count the days in the same way as other countries. It might be as well to get the regime clear in your head before you go, just in case. Otherwise, you will be like me, and be trying to make sense of the anomaly where some countries count the day of exposure as day 1 and others count it as day 0 – which has a knock on effect for the whole course of injections thereafter.

‘Our Daily Bread’

This programme has been on Radio 4 all week. I only caught episode 3, but it was worth it for this introduction which I have transcribed. I thought it was beautiful. If this is it, then life is far more simple than we like to make it.

When you are holding bread… you are holding the cosmos in your hands.

Bread is a microcosm of the macrocosm.

In the bread, is the sun; if there is no sun, there is no bread. In the bread is the moon. In the bread is the rain. In the bread is the soil. In the bread is the farmer. In the bread is the baker. In the bread is the eater. In the bread are all the elements because the bread is made, only, by all the elements put together. So, when you make the bread, bread makes you.

This complete non-duality and complete wholeness of life is represented by bread. Therefore, in Buddhist tradition, also in Hindu and Jain tradition, annam (food), which is bread, is very holy, very sacred, very precious; and through bread you can find your salvation, your nirvana, and your moksha.

Satish Kumar, Editor, Resurgence Magazine and former Jain monk.

‘Now spit!’

Got to go see this guy later; I’ll be the patient who’s stuck to the ceiling…

Still find this song highly amusing – the raising of a smile as a therapeutic approach to crippling anxiety and panic? We’ll see…

My worst nightmare would be a dentist, on a transatlantic night flight, with snakes *shudders*

A child comes to call

A few days ago an unknown kid from a few streets away rang the doorbell and asked if my youngest, aged 7, could come out to play. Apparently she’s a class mate. For a moment, it was just like when I was a kid in the 1970s, except now it’s the 2000s and there’s a lot more traffic on the road for a start, and that whole culture of playing outside on the street has sort of died out a bit. Notwithstanding my constant alertness to health and safety, the two of them played out, under loose supervision, for a while.

I then sent our visitor home, with a note with my telephone number on, saying she was welcome to come another time and giving my mobile number in case there is any problem with this arrangement. I’ve heard nothing and today she’s back for her tea. I’ve no interest in judging how other parents choose to bring up their kids, but I have gathered from this child that she’s from a big family and she plays out on her own a lot. Seems sensible, then, to come somewhere for food and glass of water (which is all I’ve got at the moment, unless she wants a cup of tea).

The girl is a white kid with a crew cut and she has a burly mountain bike she cruises round on. It looks like it’s been an older brother’s conveyance at some point. I am intrigued. I wonder how long she’s going to come round for. I wonder if she and my daughter will fall out. I wonder what’s going on in her own home. And she reminds me of something else. How Malcolm X, after his father died and his mother was left with seven and then eight children to care for, started roaming around town, calling on other people and sometimes getting fed.

Our visitor shows an enterprising nature and I like that. I still think I will walk her back home after tea though. Just in case.


Surreal times

Is it just my own, erroneous, impression of the UK at the moment, or are we living in strange times that just don’t stack up if you apply even a smidge of critical engagement with the issues of the day?

This morning the BBC Radio 4 programme kept banging on in the news items about a speech Nick Clegg was going to make later in the day. Apparently, he was going to say something about the lack of social mobility in this country, and it needing to be addressed. When I looked for the speech after it had actually happened, it was no longer news. Extraordinary, what someone plans to say is news, until they say it, and then it is not.

There was also an interview about energy security and the need for investment in more power stations and the like. They always mention renewables at this time, but we know they are really talking about more of the same industrial scale generation or importation. If they weren’t, why would they care that China is now using more and more of the world’s gas… Now, despite the utility companies already having a licence to print money, there is a move to charge customers about another ¬£100 a year as a hidden subsidy, so they can afford to build more power stations and charge us more of our own money that we can barely spare in the future.

I am not a fucking economic unit – I am a person. And, rather than cough up more money to British Gas or Npower or wherever, I would really rather generate my own, albeit variable supply of electricity, from a wind turbine on my roof, or whatever. But of course, the man won’t let me, because Planning says, ‘No’. And do you know what, Mr Expert on the radio? If my electricity runs out from time to time – I won’t care; in fact, it will be a relief. And do you know why? Because when the lights go out, I can be just me, the way I am meant to be and not some performing hamster running on the wheel of capitalist consumption.

And as I spent some time trying to get my head round the ludicrous nature of reporting things that haven’t happened yet, and us paying utility companies to build factories so they can sell us more crack, I mean energy, the IMF pops up with a forked tongue and throws me into complete cognitive dissonance.

The IMF say, on the one hand, that the UK government’s austerity measures are fine and dandy, and then on the other hand, and in the next breath, they say that the Bank of England must print more money for quantitative easing, consider cutting the interest rate even further (at 0.5% how low can you go before the shyster high street banks pass on the savings to customers, even as they increase mortgage interest rates this month), and the government should think about a lower VAT rate to help stimulate growth.

Nothing adds up, the world has gone completely cuckoo, and, yes mother, this is a rant.

The Lost Jockey by Rene Magritte: 1948 gouache on paper

You are a UK business

You can’t borrow from the bank to expand your business, but the government’s consultant asset stripper, equity manager Beecroft recommends that if you can summarily fire your most hated employee tomorrow, growth is bound to follow.


Seriously, every day I wonder where Gordon Brown has got to. At least the man would not be found wildly celebrating a Chelsea penalty at a G8 summit.

We are run by idiots with iPads. If only they had gone into advertising.

Why I believe in Frankel, but not Chelsea

Frankel pulled me back a little from the brink yesterday. I don’t mind saying I shed a tear or two, not when the race was won, but a little way into that wide verdant straight; at the point when Frankel indicated he was ready to go on from his pacemaker, Bullet Train. It seemed to me as if the horse was saying, with a slight nod of the head, to the man on board, Tom Queally, ‘Come on mate, let’s go.’ And they did. And I thought to myself, ‘Fuck me, it’s Pegasus’ and he doesn’t even know it, he just is.

That’s why I believe in Frankel, because he will do his best, regardless. He won’t fall out with the owner, the trainer, the lad, or even the jockey – he’ll just put his head down and get on with it, in his own remarkable, mythical style. One day, perhaps, Frankel won’t win. I don’t want to ever see it, but if I do, I’ll still believe because I’ve seen the essence of the horse.

That’s where I have a problem with Chelsea. I can’t ever get to the spirit of the side. They remind me alternately of a bunch of mercenaries with no loyalty, except to the self, or a cadre of the worst kind of public service union members who work to rule, to the detriment of their service. There is one exception to this: Didier Drogba, whose gradual transformation from habitual box dropper and tantrum thrower to staunch goal-scoring servant, shines brightly enough to cast many of his team mates demeanours into sharp relief. Drogba, of course, looks like he may have played his last game, and Di Matteo, whose main attribute seems to have been that he is not Andre Villas Boas, is uncertain of his future.

And that sums up why I can’t believe in Chelsea, a club that is run at the top by a plutocrat, and on the pitch by the whims and moods of the dressing room. Di Matteo has done well they say, and why should they not, given the 2012 silverware, but haven’t the recalcitrant squad of AVB’s reign merely consented to play since the caretaker manager came in? On their finest night, instead of being able to fully enjoy the scenes of celebration, a neutral looks at the assemblage and sees a lot of luck, not much soul, and not nearly enough of whatever it is that Frankel and Drogba have got.

Winners with heart & soul

This post was partly inspired by a conversation with a Chelsea fan not long after AVB had departed. A lifelong fan, his disappointed and pained recognition of the pumped-up egos in the Stamford Bridge dressing room was palpable. This morning I imagine he has a well-deserved headache and a hoarse throat and natually all the previous suffering is instantly forgiven. Football fans have strong stomachs, suffering goes with the territory, no joy without pain. That’s all fine and understood, but I can’t quite forget the head-shaking of earlier this year and the expression of the fact that his team wilfully and frequently just chose not to turn up at the game.