Friday, January 30, 2004

I offer up to you this tribute. I offer up to you this tank park salute.

Nobby’s Blues (with apologies to WH Auden)

Stop all the talking, wind up crowd
Band together, sing his name out loud.
Silence the manager and the board too
Overthrow the hierarchy in a black and white coup

Let Alan Oliver write up the crap
Of the Toon PR that falls in his lap
For Nobby has left the fans he adores
Why can this be? What is the cause?

He was my North Stand. My South Stand my East Stand and West,
My Saturday afternoon, Super Sunday and the rest,
My kick off, my half time, my team talk, my song;
I thought he’d stay for ever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now or so it would seem
Pack up the squad and dismantle the team;
If only we’d managed to sell the dead wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Don't know who Nobby is? Look here.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Outside the patient millions who put them into power. Expect a little more back for their taxes. Like school books, beds in hospitals and peace in our bloody time. All they get is old men grinding axes.

"Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. "
Robin Cooke's resignation speech March 18,2003.

The above quote was made BEFORE the Iraq war by Robin Cooke. Check out the posts he has held and you'll find he is a man who should know what he was talking about.

Moving back up to date, over the last two days we have had the Hutton report which basically painted the PM and his Government as whiter than whiter while demonising the BBC. The chairman of the BBC has already quit while Blair remains in power after the supposed "toughest week of his career".

In short the BBC's accusations that the dossier on WMD had been "sexed up" have now been held to be untrue.

Now without wanting to getting too much into the fine details of what was said by the Government, the BBC and the Hutton report, for me it comes down to this: was Iraq's threat overstated?

And the answer is a clear YES. It is ironic that while the Hutton Report was being released, which exonerated the PM, across the Atlantic senior US weapons inspector David Kay was telling a Washington Senate Committee once and for all that there are no WMDs to be found.

In fact Blair, appears to be the only person left in the world who, at least publicly, believes in the existence of these weapons.

So if there are no weapons, and Blair or his cronies didn't sex up the dossier, then why was it claimed that Iraq was a threat to the western world?

Now, it seems to be me that you can believe one of two possibilities. Either Blair purposefully oversold the dangers in order to support the US's war effort for political reasons or Blair was stupid enough to fall for inaccurate information.

At this point I don't care.

What's more, and I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but I am not particularly concerned about Dr David Kelly. What I do care about is the 10,000 civilians killed in Iraq by the "coalition of the willing".

That's 10,000 men, women and children killed because Blair either made a huge mistake or he chose to sacrifice them for political reasons.

I'm angry. Of course I want Blair to lose his job. Of course I want Bush to be kicked out of the Whitehouse. But that in itself is not enough. Surely, as the people behind what was an illegal war, carried out because of error and misinformation, they should both be tried for war crimes.

The Hutton report focused on the death of one man. It focused on minute detail in the wording of BBC reports. At the same time it appeared to disregard the bigger picture, the deaths of the 10,000.

The buck has to stop with the heads of both the US and the UK.

Unfortunately Blair is now being painted largely as the victim of the evil BBC. Poor old Tony. The papers have forgotten the scandal of the missing WMDs and are focusing instead on the smaller issue of Dr David Kelly.

In a truly civilised country we should expect more. Every day that no WMDs are found the clamor from the media, and the country at large, for Blair's removal should increase.

I am truly sickened by what my country has done. For the first time in my life, as a direct result of Iraq, I am ashamed to be British. I want out. I am applying to work abroad and I know that when, and if, I get there I will have to spend a significant proportion of my time apologising to people from other nations who are as disapproving about Britain's role in the Iraq war as I am.

Since Vietnam this has been the fate of the American traveler. Since Iraq it is something that the British traveler will also have to live with.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Don't offer me a place out in cyberspace. Cos where in the hell's that at?

I've spent the day cleaning up my computer after this new worm virus that is creeping through the world. The worst of it was watching the emails whizzing out of my machine to friends, family, clients alike.

Is being "virused" the very height of internet social shame? Let's face it:

1) You were stupid enough to open the attachment

2) You obviously were too tight to pay for decent anti virus software

3) Not content with having to spend hours putting it right yourself, everyone you know (who was also daft enough to follow steps one and two) has to do the same. What's more - it's all your fault.

I'm feeling the cyberspace equivalent of being slightly soiled. I'm lucky enough never to have been burgled but, when I was a kid, next door got done over and they said the worst aspect was the thought of strangers going through their cupboards, draws and private items.

I guess that's how I feel. In the very slightest of senses, violated.

Are computer virus merchants (CVMs) the most unpopular people in the world? Of course, not one of us has ever met them, but we know what they look like. Greasy hair, acne, spots and halitosis. They create these evil worms while simultaneously cramming more crisps into their mouths washed down with fizzy drinks that aren't going to help their undoubtedly rotting teeth.

CVMs need a cause. Why can't they delete all the records at the Inland Revenue? Or hack into the mainframes at Nike causing them to pay all their Asian sweatshop staff treble time? Could they mess with the recipe at McDonalds and add a laxative to the mix?

I want someone to hit George Bush's personal computer in a way that will fire off emails to the entire voting population of the US with attachments spelling out his dodgy deals. Failing that, at least intimate details of a long time love affair with a goat.

The CVM could yet be the revolutionary of tomorrow. Rise up CVMs pick the right targets and you could be welcome outside during daylight hours and become a cyber sex symbol.

But for fucks sake please leave me alone. I haven't got time for this.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

He's screaming and shouting and acting crazy. But at home he sits alone and he cries like a baby.

I had begun to question my dedication to Newcastle United recently.

I have been a season ticket holder for 23 years (give or take two or three) since I was nine years old. I've shed tears, downed beers and shouted myself horse for the cause.

However, I had noticed that the euphoria of a win, and the depression following a loss, was not as all encompassing as it once was.

My obsession for the team had always gone hand in hand with the pride in my city. Every game it was my city against yours and I knew even if we weren't the best team we were the most deserving in terms of history, sportsmanship and most importantly, support. Likewise in my eyes there was no city better than Newcastle upon Tyne.

I have loved many players and teams that have turned out in the black and white over the years. I remember watching Kevin Keegan's debut when I was only 10. Has there every been a bigger footballing gent than Keegan? In many ways, over the years as a player and then a manager, I identified with him. Passionate, romantic, the desire to do the "right thing". And then there was the other side of him. His pride that turned into raw emotion and hurt when things didn't go right. The occasions when he felt that the world was against him, when all the time the population of Newcastle wanted just to give him a collective hug and say thank you. There's a little bit of Kevin Keegan in all of us.

Further back there was my childhood hero Peter Withe who would throw his sweatbands into the kids' paddock where I stood. I never ever caught them but this huge striker formed a superb partnership with his diminutive sidekick Alan Shoulder. Shoulder was the last of the footballing pitmen in a line that stretched back to the likes of legend Jackie Milburn.

Then of course there was the holy trinity of Waddle, Beardsley and Gascoigne. During the heights of their careers (which unfortunately were at other clubs) they could all lay claim to be amongst the very best in the world.

Then there were honest pros like David Kelly. A player who never really hit the big time but who had a couple of magnificent seasons at St James' Park. Kelly was one of those strikers who supporters loved. He scored goals but he worked hard too and after a hellish time at West Ham you could see how much he valued the adulation from the terraces. It was his goals that got us promoted under Keegan. Tragically he was sold in the next closed season and he never did sample life with us in the top flight. He remains one of the few players who received a standing ovation despite returning in the red and white of deadly rivals Sunderland.

There was also the all-too-brief spell when we had Andy Cole with us. I remember he and Kelly knocking in a hattrick each as we celebrated Premiership promotion. Keegan had bought him for less than two million and it was that day that it dawned on the crowd that we had got ourselves a world class player. A couple of seasons later I was there when he cracked in a goal against Villa to beat the record for most goals scored in a Permiership season. I had tears of pride in my eyes and I wasn't the only one.

Later there was the elegant (Sir) Les Ferdinand whose goals nearly won us the league. A little later he was joined by mad Columbian Faustino Asprilla. I adored Tino he was a weird and wonderful player. His legend includes a hattrick against Barcelona, guns, drug allegations, mystery disappearances and a million tales from fellow Geordies who had seen him around town. Of them all Tino is my most favourite player. It was obviously a shared opinion. When we played in Monaco, several hundred fans from Palma, Tino's former club, made the trip because they loved him and never had the chance to say goodbye.

In the current team there's Nobby Solano an intelligent, unassuming, clever, slight little player. His continual spats with manager Sir Bobby Robson bemuse the crowd. His general demeanor suggests it would be almost impossible to fall out with him.

Then there is erractic genius Laurent Robert. The crowd fall in and out of love with in on a regular basis but my ardor has never cooled. I love Laurent Robert. His erracticness, if anything just makes him more mysterious. When the crowd are on his back I'm his one man PR unit. When they love him again I remind them that I never lost the faith. A friend recently took this role even further. As the crowd lauded Robert after the second of two amazing goals against Spurs - he stood up and pointed at everyone around him and sung: "where were you when HE was shit.". They were suitably shamed.

Then there is Alan Shearer. In many way's it's hard to love Shearer in the same way that I have loved mavericks like Tino and Robert. But that's also part of his charm. He reminds me of the best of Geordie men. Showing off is a very un-Geordie trait. We talk more quietly than cocknies, scousers or mancs. His quiet pride and determination is something that I associate with men formerly of shipbuilding and coalmining stock. The fact he also turned down cups, medals, and undoubtedly more money, to sign for his home town club also speaks volumes.

If I ever have a son I want to call him Alan and he could have no better role model. Even the name Alan suggests a down-to-earth bloke, no frills, old fashioned bloke. Is there a player of his stature who has been seen less in Hello, night clubs, fashion spreads and gossip columns?

So there it is a run-down of players I have loved. In the current team there are some undoubted scumbags who it's very difficult to love. Week by week there is the usual Sunday paper revelations - drunken excesses, rape allegations, driving offences, violence, racism etc etc. To add to this, we snapped up Woodgate and Bowyer from Leeds, two of football's bad boys. To be fair, however, Woodgate at least appears to be turning this reputation round.

But these antics, coupled with the growing financial gap between player and fan, and the general culture of the business of footbal,l has proved to be a turn off. The one time noise cauldron that is St James' has also become muted. Am I alone in being less than fully behind my club or does my attitude apply to many other fans? Or is it simply that the crowd, who first snapped up their tickets during the Keegan era, are getting older, more sensible and quieter together?

However, if it doesn't matter to me, how come I am still so gutted after yesterday's defeat by Liverpool that knocked us out of the FA Cup? I was shouting at the telly and chanting the mantra of "fuck fuck fuck fuck" to myself after the final whistle. Obviously while my love is dwindling it hasn't disappeared.

Like the gambler who keeps chasing his losses it would be nice just to be able to walk away while I am "up". But I'm still down 23 years of defeats and disappointments.

Next Monday I go to my interview for a two year placement abroad through the VSO scheme. That will mean no St James' Park for two seasons. The evidence suggests that they couldn't possibly get a good enough side by then to actually win something but who knows? And if they do win during the 24 months I am away what will that do to me after 23 years of unrewarded support?

I can't quite throw off the Toon addiction just yet. But will two years of footballing cold turkey do it? What's more do I want to be cured?

Love, light and peace


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

So you bought it all, the best your money could buy. And I watched you sell your soul for their bright shining lie.

I wanted to write something about ambition.

I was watching a documentary about Johnny Depp, which was on the Biography Channel. He claimed he thought that "ambition" was a slightly scary word. It struck a chord with me.

I think that the trouble is that "ambition" is always linked to money, power and status. If you say your ambition is to be a millionaire before you're 40 then no one would bat an eyelid. Tell them your ambition is to live a fulfilling and blameless existence and the chances are you'll get a few strange looks.

Isn't the very concept of ambition slightly sinister? The moving up the ladder, the "getting on", the collection of personal wealth. The definition of ambition is something almost unachievable - something that is just out of reach but something to strive for. Then, going back to the on-going thoughts on consumerism, you get the ambition to own things - a Porsche, your own country estate, or something smaller like a new extension or a set of dining room furniture.

I guess that this kind of ambition links into the whole capitalist culture. Make unnecessary items appear necessary. Then people have to work to buy them. Even better if they are just out of your financial reach, because then you have to borrow to buy them. Once you're in debt there's no getting out of the rat race.

I spoke to a friend recently who has been offered redundancy with a £10,000 pay off. I was amazed that he hadn't already accepted it. He's a single guy. My thoughts were - take it, rent out your house, go traveling for a year and worry about a job when you get back.

Except he's in debt. Not a huge debt by modern standards but still in debt. If he were to lose his job then his first task would be to pay off that debt. Whether he's in a job or not, whether he's working or not - the debts come first.

He's locked in. I try to avoid debt as much as I can but like everyone I carry a certain amount. And like everyone I can't just up and move on because debt is a consideration. I don't blame my friend, myself ,or anyone else for carrying that debt. When you work nine to five the sheer mundanity of it all dictates that you need to splash out occasionally just so that life doesn't become entirely meaningless. Everyone needs some kind of treat. Otherwise you're working five days a week for what? Just to live. And in the end you're living just to work.

I think the happiest I have even been is living in a wooden hut on a Thai beach. Absolutely no mod cons whatsoever. Shared cold water showers and a squat toilet are easy to put up with when you live with the sand between your toes and a view of emerald waters and palm trees.

To have no ambition is almost a modern-day sin. To say someone lacks ambition is certainly an insult. But should it be? Take for example the guy who makes a reasonable wage. He is a craftsman. Promotion would mean leaving his craft behind and swapping his tools for paper work. It's highly likely that he wouldn't find the paperwork - whatever the monetary remuneration - nearly as rewarding.

But if he doesn't take an offered promotion is he written off in his employer's and society's eyes? Does he then lack ambition?

But doesn't lacking ambition equate to contentment? And isn't that what we are all trying to achieve? Do we have to put a monetary figure on ambition? Shouldn't the ultimate ambition be simply to achieve a state of happiness?

But that isn't the way society is geared. Take for example the current row about tuition fees. It's more debt. Debt controls. Debt cuts down your choices. To pay it off you have to strive to get the best paid job so you least miss that chunk that's taken out of your wage packet every month.

Then there's the obsession with home ownership. The rest of Europe is far more likely to rent but owning your own home is a UK rites of passage. Then you have that 25 year mortgage to lock you in as well. Must get on the property ladder, don't want to miss the boat, house prices are rising all the time etc etc. In addition, it seems that nowadays even the most meagere starter home is beyond the salary of your average single man. You want a house? You'll need to get married too.

There you go - a mortgage, a wife, probably kids before you know it. Better get some ambition about you and get a better job, start working more hours - all these things don't come cheap. Perhaps the wedding will be paid for, as is traditional, by the bride's parents. Chances are they are in their sixties but the cost of wedding will put them back in debt and ensure they continue working just that little bit longer. No rest for them either.

Perhaps we could all be more content with less and be less affected by the consumer culture around us? I have a motto that I nicked from Flowered Up's Weekender video: "Whatever you do make sure what you do makes you happy".

It seems simple enough on the surface but can anyone of us actually be sure what makes us happy? Maybe hard work, long hours and a 25 year mortgage is a small price to pay for domestic bliss and the chance to see your kids grow up?

And if that is what makes you happy then go for it. But next time you're lying awake on Sunday night dreading the next day at work, it might be worth reassessing everything. Ambition isn't always a good thing. And ambitious people shouldn't always be admired. Ambitious people by definition are not entirely happy and are certainly not fulfilled. Likewise those that appear to have no ambition might actually be the most content of all.

Like the late great Bill Hicks once said: "I'm just planting seeds. Hoping they may take root and grow."

Love, light and peace


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

All my friends from school introduce me to their spouses. While I'm left standing here with my hands down the front of my trousers.

I woke up very hungover this morning. I got in at five am.

On the face of it - it was a good night. I stayed the duration (and more), I had fun. I drunk too much. My social life is way too sporadic these days to find any real complaints with any opportunity for getting together with friends.


I knew beforehand that the group that were going out would include a couple of friends. But, quite excitingly, there were lots of people who I had never met. That meant there may even be women I hadn't met. Hell, there may even be single women I hadn't met. You can see where I am going with this.

Now, about a year ago I reassessed my policy towards women and the pulling of them. I decided that post-thirty it was no longer acceptable to try and snog people in night clubs or bars. I was young once. I can remember how the 30+ guy looked trying to do that. When you're young it doesn't matter. You can try for it all - multiple snogs, middle of dancefloor snogs, embarrassing snogs with unsuitable ladies, snogs that will forever wreck relations with a female friend etc etc.

But it's just not cool when you get old. And besides who cares about snogging anyway? Short term it would be nice to take it a little further, sexually speaking. Let's face it "getting a snog" is hardly as impressive as it once was. Secondly, I guess, at the back of our minds, all us thirtysomethings are looking for "the one".

So having decided to hang up my letching boots - so to speak. I went with the mantra of: "If it happens it happens". Except of course, it doesn't happen. And it won't happen if you don't make it.

So I decided to force the issue last night. To actually put myself out on a limb and go for it.

Now there is one problem with that. In the world of the thirtysomething the single woman is a fairly rare. I reckon in total there was a group of about thirty people out last night. Single women count: two.

Actually it turned out to be one - as I will explain.

I managed to locate - single woman #1 fairly early on. We chatted, got on well. She laughed at my jokes and she even managed to slip into the conversation a couple of times that she was single. I always take this to be a good sign. However, I did those things you do to check how "in" you are. I moved seats to see if she would follow, I went to the toilet wondering whether she would keep my seat or even wait for me. The results, let's say, were inconclusive. Who is to say that she wouldn't have given me her phone number if I had asked? But I didn't. I never really felt comfortable.

And besides there was always single woman #2. In all honesty single woman #2 looked more my type anyway. So I excused myself from #1 and went over. She was talking to someone I knew and I joined in the conversation. After a while the other person left our little group and she asked me to sit down. To explain my type is (hopefully) intelligent, non dressy, non loud, has own opinion etc etc. She appeared to be all of this. In all a very sweet looking (tick), natural (tick) brunette (tick), local girl (tick) worked in a similar field to me (tick) and she seemed to like me.

We got on well and the people I was with caught my eye occasionally and raised their eyebrows as if to say "looking good". When I went to the toilet I came back and some other guy was in my place. I hovered for a while but she seemed to shake him off and a female acquaintance talked me into going back over to chat to her. Of course you then have to go through the process of actually finding out she is really single. This can be quite tricky. You can't just say "so, you single or what?". It's a little blunt and you sound like you are only talking to her on the basis that she might cop off with you. This of course is true.

I have two methods for finding this information. One is to come up with some kind of amusing story about being single myself and hope she volunteers the fact that she too is single (single girl #1 did this). The second is to ask who she came with. I went for this option. She pointed over to a group of three lads and I, of course, asked if they were just friends. She told me they were her flat mates. It was looking good.

From then we talked for another hour. At one point she asked me what I did for a living and I told her and we talked about being self employed. I mentioned the hassle of setting up and how happy I had been when I finally got my business cards complete with my new logo. She asked could she see it. I showed her one and when she made to hand it back I said "no keep it - you never know when you might want some PR doing, or (smiling) someone to go out for a drink with". So I guess I had sort of made my intentions plain without really coming out with it or making a move.

By this time there was a little more body contact and buying of drinks for each other. In the meantime my friends in the corner were raising their eyebrows and making even more positive signs.

Then she went to the toilet and a mutual friend came over and I casually enquired about #2's relationship status. She checked. One of the flatmates was her boyfriend. Damn.

Okay, so maybe she was entirely innocent and in my semi-lubricated state I read it all wrong. Maybe she knew the score but enjoyed the company. Maybe she just liked dusting off her own pulling skills to check she "still had it". Either way I was gutted. Game over.

In the modern age there are too many levels of commitment to be covered simply by either wearing a ring or not wearing a ring. We need new signs.

They need to cover:

In a relationship, but have my own place and nothing is set in stone.
In a relationship, live together, as good as married.
Not married, but in a relationship, but not happy and I'm looking around.
Married but it's over and I'm soon to be a free woman again.

That's before you even start to worry about homosexuals, bisexuals and the religious.

It's all too hard. I thought it was difficult when I was 21 but it's doubly hard now. To put it straight about what I am looking for - I don't really do one night stands but have weakened occasionally. I don't want to get married either. But I would like to meet someone for a long-term relationship. Hopefully someone who together we'll have more fun than either of us had as singles.

But post 30, the selections are limited. I mentioned my "type" before. In reality, however, you can't have a type at my age. Your type is whose available. Like it or do without.

I'm not the only one, of course, but it feels like it sometimes. Then you ask yourself why. Am I too choosy? Or is that just what I tell myself to explain my lack of success? Admittedly, with setting up the business, money has been tight so I haven't been out that much so that doesn't help. But do many people really meet their partners in night clubs? What a lottery. How can you choose a partner when you can't even speak to each other? Surely you are most likely to meet someone in a situation where you can actually talk.

I met my last girlfriend in Guatemala. She was a Londoner who had been doing immersion Spanish in El Salvador. I think she was just glad to talk to a fellow Brit. We talked a lot. We got it together the second night after we met and shared hotel rooms on our travels for three months after that. Such was its whirlwind nature we even talked about moving in together on our return to the UK. We didn't, I bottled it. She was prepared to sell her house in London and move up to Newcastle but in the end I wasn't sure enough about the relationship to ask her to do that.

So we split it up. But my point was - we met and got together and the result of talking, and talking a lot. I can do the talk. But, I'm no Brad Pitt. If I am going to pull I'm less likely to pull in an environment where it's only my looks which can be taken into account by the other party.

Or maybe it's just too hard these days to find "the one". We work too long hours, we have become a nation obsessed with agony aunts and talk shows. As a result we over analyse everything. Back in the good old days you got spliced to the first woman that came your way just so you could move out your mam's and you made the best of it. Not a lot of fun admittedly but certainly a far easier system.

I also wonder if my general points-in-favour fall between two stools. If I had a skin complaint, and I dribbled, I would cut my losses and go with a female version of me. Hopefully I can shoot a little higher. I'm intelligent - I think. I have a point of view. I don't have film star looks but I have no physical abnormalities either and I have good personal hygiene. In the relationship stakes I'm neither the cream or the dregs.

So again, no answers only questions. Most of the time I'm an independent soul who is happy to be on his own. But like all singles the blues, the peer pressure and the general weight of tradition conspires to make you feel a little inadequate if you're not one half of a couple. And it would be nice to share my evenings, nights and weekends with someone.

It'll happen I guess.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I am the milkman of human kindness. I will leave an extra pint.

Okay enough ranting. In the words of Ice Cube - today was a good day.

Things have been a little bleak since before Christmas. Setting up my own business was a little harder than expected. Having said that, in hindsight, I'm not sure why I anticipated it would be any easier than it has been.

But a number of things came right in the last couple of days and it felt like a black cloud had lifted. For starters a big contract came in. A good contract, with an organisation that looks like it'll actually pay me on time. It's also a company that does good work so no conflict of personal ethics there.

There have been other whispers of work too. On top of that I got a cheque in the post. The best news of all is that I have been invited for an interview to do VSO work.

Now, really there's no reason for me to get excited about the VSO thing. It's a selection day where they test your "soft" skills. You know, all the touchy feely stuff rather than your qualifications, experiences and ability.

I guess what they want to know is - you're not a complete dickhead. I like to think I'm not.

So it's all going to be group discussions, a few tasks to get my head around, and a couple of interviews. All in all I usually do quite well at these types of things. I've a big gob when I want to and hopefully I can get noticed without dominating completey. Then again if I fail the "dickhead" test then my ego will be shattered.

I applied for VSO initially during the dark pre-Christmas days when it looked like my world was closing in. The business was doing terribly and just when it looked like it could get no worse the gearbox on my car decided to disintergrate and I was lumbered with an £800 bill. I was forced to borrow the money from parents. I hate that. And at 32 you hope you are beyond it.

As things improved I questioned the whole VSO thing. But with VSO having made contact I'm now completely enthused. All in all I am not sure how much help I can be. Does the third world need PR (for that is what I do)?

Initially I also worried about being sent to the middle of nowhere in somewhere very frightening without any other westeners to speak too. South East Asia was high on my list of places I would like to go.

However as the days have gone by I've resolved that whatever they offer me, and wherever they send me I'm going to accept and resolve to complete my two-year "tour of duty".

Of course this is all jumping the gun on the basis that I've yet to be selected. And even if they do choose me, the selection process can apparently take a year. But I think you always need something to work towards. If I am to go then I have debts to pay and I need to do my house up in order to rent it out while I'm away. That is going to take money so, in the meantime, I better concentrate my efforts on actually making some.

The reason to be cheerful (part three) is that I'm off out tomorrow. A big, proper, bad-head-in-the-morning night out. They have been few and far between recently. My social life has taken a real hammering recently.

What's more if I can actually manage to drink enough in the pub I'll enter the subsequent night club in a nicely relaxed state without feeling the need to sneer at ironic mullet hair cuts or the DJ's choice of tunes.

So, it's getting better all the time. Not even the fact that I'm working tomorrow (Saturday) can get me down. And with the Toon not playing till Monday not even they can wreck my mood.

And I finished this blog without resorting to ranting.

Love, light and peace.


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

When the lights go out in the rest of the world. What do our cousins say. They're playing in the sun and having fun, fun, fun. Till daddy takes the gun away.

I've just returned from a meeting in Newcastle's west end. While driving back I noticed the Nexus building which has at it's highest point a scrolling LED display.

This display tends to include the temperature, some travel stuff and a snippet of news. Today's news was "Bush plans missions to mars.". That was it. Just that little bit of information.

It's not Newcastle news, it's not even news that relates to the North East as a whole or even the UK. It's American news. So tell me - is this really the biggest, most important, most interesting news that we need to hear?

I'm sick of the amount of importance that seems to be linked to everything American. I'm sick of their news. I'm sick of their TV. I'm even sick or every moron who uses phrases like "whatever" or idiots who call their trousers "pants".

Remember the blackouts in New York? That was the lead item for two days. They had a leccy cut. Big deal we all do. Incidentally it was followed by a London blackout for a massive half hour which also got news editors everywhere jumping up and down. To put this in context - as the world celebrated the dawning of 2004, thousands of households in the North East lost their power for over a day. That includes many hundreds of pensioners without heat in January, the very coldest time of the year. However, because it was neither London nor New York it was deemed to be of very little news value. While we're at it, if you ever meet a news editor from the national media please please tell them from me - the rest of the UK (which is the majority of us) couldn't care less about fecking congestion charges.

Ok ok - I'll save my London rant for another time. This was supposed to be about the USA.

In particular I hate the coverage of activities that are transparently little more than electioneering. BBC correspondents actually admit as much to their audiences but still give them air time. Mars mission? Don't make me laugh. The whole things reminds me of a brilliant Gil Scott Heron track called Whiteys on the Moon..

First off apparently this is just one more thing from Dubya's Things My Father Failed To Do checklist. Afghanistan (check), Iraq (check), Mars (check).

Now this all has a timescale of apparently coming to fruition in 2020. In other words it will be somebody else's problem. More than likely it'll be dumped long before then. However, in the meantime it gives the USA something to focus on and something to feel good about while Iraq gets messier by the day. There must be a very large part of Dubya that's secretly hoping he doesn't win the next election. He's going to have one hell of a mess to deal with.

Then again, his corporate sponsors are banking on him. Then after him it'll be Jeb. I have read view points that state that with Bush senior having been the former head of the CIA, then president himself, the Bush family have been pulling the strings as far back as Nixon. It's a frightening thought.

I remember Billy Bragg saying that when Americans choose a president they should take great care because they're choosing a president for the whole world. I would love to disagree and highlight our own autonomy but Billy's right. The whole word is in the grip of the political and cultural US agenda. Then again we are asked to put our faith in an electorate who thinks having Arnie as governor is "pretty neat".

But can we even trust their democracy when Bush didn't even win the election which ended with him never-the-less in power? This Florida coup would have been denounced if it had happened in some small Central American nation.

Talking of Florida. That's a place I never ever want to go. I seem to increasingly meet dull people who go to Florida every year. When pushed on why exactly, the size of the steaks seem to be the first answer. Then there's Disney Land and all the rest of it. Oh and don't you hate it when people talk about shopping as a reason to go somewhere? At what point does it become okay to turn into that "I WANT, I WANT, I WANT" character? Did greed really become good after all?

Have you ever met someone who goes on about fake goods. You know: "It's so great - you can get fake Rolex's for a fraction of the price". Let's think about this. You can buy a watch with Rolex branding that doesn't actually have the apparent brand values you would associate with Rolex - ie reliability. So in other words all you wanted was that little logo. You don't care that it loses a minute every hour or that it will leave a green mark on your wrist and it'll be broken a year from now. Are you that insecure that you have to a logo to justify your importance?

Again this goes to back to my last post on consumerism. People are now taking consumer holidays. They can't fit enough shopping into their daily lives so they are having to spend their holiday time shopping too.

It's the ultimate capitalist life style that has been exported to the rest of the world by the USA.

However as exports go it's still the language that bugs me most. Particularly the whole trash-talking Oprah thing. "Talk to the hand", "go sister" etc etc. Then there is the everyday words like garbage. It's rubbish and while we're on the subject it goes in bins not trash cans. Oh and people saying "That's the way it is - period". It's a full stop. A period is very definitely something very different over here.

I just wanted to point out that I'm talking about non-Americans here. Please, you talk how you like. I am sure it bugs you too when Madonna puts on that awful fake English accent. For the record I like the vast majority of Americans I have met too. I tend to go on about all things USA but I'm largely referring to the power bases rather than the people.

Ironically I'm about to put this entire weblog entry through a spell check that will Americanize (note the Z) my spellings.

As usual - this is just a rant. You must be starting to get used to them. No answers from me.

Love, light and peace.


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

You and I are victims of a love that lost a lot in the translation

Here goes...

Okay it's blank space time.

Right then. Not that I've checked through any others but I guess it's probably traditional to start your first blog with a little bit of an explanation as to why you want to be a blogger in the first place.

The truth is - I've just returned from seeing Lost in Translation at the cinema and it blew me away. I don't think anything has hit my mood so perfectly since I read Catcher in the Rye when I was 15. I know everyone is comparing LIT to Brief Encounters but to me it has the mood and atmopshere of CITR. Anyway, I wanted to put my thoughts in print plus I enjoy writing and have been meaning to join the ranks of bloggers for some time.

It seems to be the common wisdom that the film is all about making a connection with someone. In this case it's two people whose lives mean they are unlikely to pursue this connection. I wouldn't disagree with this synopsis but I think there are so many other levels to it. In particular the theme of consumerism. Japan, where it is based, must be the capital of consumerism and in the midst of the neon, the advertising and the fashionable bars are two people who have very real and very confused feelings. At the same time, Bill Murray's character is there to film a whisky commercial - something he is not very proud of. To me the film is saying that it's easy to lose track of your thoughts and feelings amongst this buy, buy, buy culture.

Murray's character's wife is at home, in the USA. She periodically faxes him with details of the shelving she's proposing to use in the furnishing of a room. She follows this up with Fed-Exed carpet swatches. As you can imagine he pays little attention. These DIY details don't really matter that much as he struggles with firstly the isolation of Tokyo and secondly his growing relationship with his co-star Scarlett Johansson.

In many ways it's these details that most hit home to me. I'll try and explain why, although I need to back track a bit in my own life for you to fully comprehend it.

In May 2002, after 12 years of working for a living I took some time out. Eight months to be precise. I traveled overland firstly from Hanoi in Vietnam to Singapore. Then on the second leg I traveled from Guatemala to Panama.

Okay I am just going to have to come out and say the rest because it's the tackiest of all cliches. OK. Deep Breath. Here goes. I found myself.

Yeah yeah, I know. But I'm not some home counties trustafarian. I'm big lump of a Geordie with a shaved head and a season ticket for Newcastle United. Don't judge a book by it's cover though - I'm soft as clarts.

Basically, traveling the world is a humbling experience. None more so than visiting Vietnam. I lost my heart to Vietnam. And like Cambodia, Nicaragua and El Salvador later you can't forget that these countries have had the most appalling crimes perpetrated against them by the USA.

Speaking particularly about the Vietnamese, and more generally about the other countries I mentioned, it's hard to believe we could fight such beautiful people. And I mean that in the sixties sense. The Vietnamese are hardworking, friendly, very very funny, resourceful, community minded, honorable etc etc etc. It's also understandable that in Vietnam, at least, the USA lost.

Imagine that. The USA "losing" a war. If any other country had beaten the USA they would still be doing a lap of honour 30 years on. However the Vietnamese are magnanimous about it all. Americans are welcome now. I was there during the World Cup and they cheered and beeped the horns on their scooters as loudly for "Team USA" as they did for any of the other sides. As they will remind you - they won - so they feel they don't have to be bitter or resentful about it.

Can you imagine anyone from Europe or America feeling the same way? The USA lost 3,000 people because of 9/11 and the Axis of Evil was created and a framework for a life time of wars was put in place. Vietnam lost four million people to Napalm, agent orange and some of the most blood thirsty soldiering the world has ever witnessed and they have forgiven. It beggars belief and is truly humbling. And yes, they do want and need the US dollar but it goes much deeper than that.

So anyway thanks to my experiences, and thanks to the many books I read during and after my trip, I changed my views on the world in general. I was always an anti-war person but since my trip around the world I have marched twice in London against the Iraq war. The big one early last year and for the visit of George Bush in November. I have also written to my local MP Nick Brown four times - needless to say he hasn't responded.

Of course by now you are wondering how all this fits in with Lost in Translation. Well, on my return to England it was very difficult to look at anything the same way again. The possessions we think we need for modern life seems increasingly unnecessary. The traditional way we choose to live our lives also seems shallow and just a little bit dull. .

Meanwhile the bars and clubs I used to frequent are slowly being bulldozed or being snapped up by chains. The dirty, grubby, friendly city that I live in and love, (Newcastle upon Tyne) is being turned into a true European City. New galleries, works of arts, restaurants and oh-so-trendy bars are opening by the day. Don't get me wrong, it's progress and I'm very proud of the way my city looks. But I miss the old Newcastle. And traveling has taught me that it's the people that make a place, not the number of Starbucks you have or how often you get mentioned in GQ or the Sunday colour supplements. I hate the way that we have to try to become as like London as possible before we are recognised by it.

Like Billy Murray and Scarlett Johansson I'm feeling a little bewildered by it all. I'm also wondering if the world has gone mad or is it me? Or am I just getting old? For your information I'm 32 and I haven't quite got over turning 30 yet.

What's more, because I have realised that we don't need half the possessions I thought we did, I have falled out of love with consumerism. The trouble is, if you stop wanting to buy all this crap then you suddenly find yourself with less motivation to actually make money. I recently set up my own business but I'm finding motivation hard to come by.

I hope all of this makes sense by the way. I do hope to travel again in 2005 and I have made tentative enquiries into voluntary work abroad. In the meantime though I need to try and find that missing motivation so I can get the required cash together.



I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.