Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Last Post (for a while at least).

Bye Bye Byker

Okay this is it.

This is likely to be the last post on Space Hardware for some time. I had originally planned to run this alongside my new blog Our Man in Hanoi, but it has dawned on me that it will be hard enough to find the time to update one blog never mind two.

I've really enjoyed blogging. I started after being inspired by reading Salam Pax's book. I was also greatly moved by Riverbend, another Iraqi blogger.

Since then blogging has become a real passion. For someone like me who spends their life writing information for other people, the chance to write for yourself was very welcome. Each mention by other bloggers was a real compliment. Being mentioned by The Guardian was an incredible thrill.

Fellow bloggers have become almost an extended family. Bob Piper's blog, for example, manages to both entertain and inform. In addition, Bob comes across as a totally decent, principled bloke. In a time when so many of us are attacking the Labour Party, Bob is a real reminder that the Party itself still stands for so much that is good. The fight against war and capitalism is about removing Blair and some of his more Thatcherite cronies - it's not about removing the Labour party.

Peter Gasston also continues to impress me with his blog The Inside of my Head. He's another whose argument and depth of understanding of the issues shames my own shaky grasp on world events.

The there's the Geordie lads at New Links. A bunch of them run the site and they have much to be proud of. They produce a site that is always amusing and always professinally produced. I'm constantly amazed that a group effort can remain so consistent in its quality and output.

Other sites worthy of mention are Bacon Cheese and Oatcakes whose author Lynn championed this site when I was just starting and has herself written some of the most moving words I have ever read on the net. She was also always quick to offer advice when I was still a blog novice.

I've also argued and agreed in equal measures with Gia who writes a superb blog. We all have our favourite blogs and, quite naturally, mine tend to be the ones that I agree with. The fact that Gia winds me up from time to time and I keep coming back, suggests that she is doing something right.

I should also mention Bloggerheads. Bloggerheads is the giant of the UK political blogging scene. It is brilliantly written, hugely ambitious in its intentions and to match this has made a real impact on both other bloggers and the understanding of the power of blogs.

Finally, I wanted to mention a couple of fresh sites because there is always a new kid on the blog (pun courtesy of The Guardian).

I've really enjoyed reading Left a Good job in the City. It's a cracking mix of personal diary, observations, political comment and travel diary. Secondly, while I am away, I will be reading Black and White and Read all Over with interest as it disects the day to day soap opera that is Newcastle United.

From here on in, for the next two years, you'll be able to keep up-to-date with my Vietnam adventures on my new site. I fly out on Thursday and hopefully by this time next week you should be getting my thoughts from Hanoi.

So, as far as Space Hardware is concerned it's a break rather than the end.

As always Billy Bragg says it best:


Never saw a meaningful TV advert
I don’t think shopping is a metaphor for life
Don’t waste my time at the gym in the morning
Try to keep trim by living my life

Wanna feel the wind blowing in my hair
Wanna hear the waves crashing on the beach
I’m not seeking easy answers or inner peace
I’m just looking for some release

I want to help to make the world better
But I can’t do it all on my own
Try to keep the lid on my disappointment
‘Cos cynicism’s such a cop out I know

Watch the shadows of clouds moving on the hill
Open my eyes and drink my fill
On those days that I feel dejected
I come up here for a bit of perspective

Gonna follow the path that climbs up through the trees
Walk along the cliff top and gaze out to sea
I feel free when I come up here
And if it's clear some days I see the point

Hello Hanoi

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, August 26, 2004

What's the point?


Okay the following post is inspired by the utter laughing stock that is Newcastle United. It's bitter. It's twisted. But, hey, read it anyway.

When you think about it football is pretty abhorrent.

I pay £450 a year, money that is often difficult to find, to watch Newcastle United play at St James' Park.

To divvy up where that goes - I suppose it breaks down as running costs, shareholders, our fat cat chairman and various board hangers on.

But the vast majority goes to the players. Players like our beloved Kieron Dyer who refuses to play anywhere that isn't his favourite position. Then when he's indulged by his overly understanding manager and allowed to play where he wants to, he spends 85 minutes in a strop before he's subbed.

Kieron's personal wealth, that I contribute towards, goes on delightful consumer goods such as his "Hummer" vehicle that does ten miles to the gallon. Originally a US army vehicle its commerical equivalent is notorious for being owned by complete wankers.

Other vehicle information courtesy of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle:

It (the Hummer) will certainly be a change from the classic £167,000 Aston Martin Vanquish he already owns and from the £103,000 Ferrari he wrote off in December 2002 when he spun out of control on Newcastle's Swing Bridge.

The previous year his £50,000 Mercedes hit another car in Chester-le-Street.

In that crash, Dyer suffered cuts and bruises and the other driver was left with head injuries.

In May last year, he received his second speeding ban after clocking up his fourth motoring breach in two years.

He was banned for six months after being caught doing 63mph in a 50mph zone.

He was also banned for two months in July 2001 or speeding.

But then there is the other great earner. Selling replica shirts. Our chairman once boasted what a money spinner they are. The reason - kids stitch them for pennies in Indonesia and we, the fans, pay £45 a throw.

Then there is the coverage. To watch live football you have to pay for Sky. That's Sky as in Rupert Murdoch's Sky. That's Rupert Murdoch of The Sun, Fox News, etc etc. The man who backs Blair and Bush and made sure that every one of his newspapers, of 170 worldwide, carried a pro-war message.

Of course the players claim they hate the papers. That doesn't stop, however, our manager and captain both have paid columns in Murdoch papers. It doesn't also stop our manager advertising the News of the World on the telly.

So, what's my £450 being used for now, apart from paying ten minutes worth of Dyer's wages? Well, we're apparently putting a bid in for England wonder kid Wayne Rooney. The nation's favourite slackjawed teenager and Britain's most famous user of Brothels.

So by paying my money I'm contributing towards Dyer's many road accidents and his wrecking of the environemnt via his moron mobile. If by any vague chance Newcastle do end up buying Wayne Rooney then I shall also be conbtributing to his brothel bill.

In addition by buying a football shirt I'm condoing the use of sweatshop labour. By paying for Sky I'm funding Murdoch in his apparent quest for global war.

If Newcastle United, or any football club for that matter, was a burger bar I would be protesting outside by now. So why do I pay them my money?

Finally though, it all stopped as of yesterday. Next Thursday I fly to Vietnam for two years and there is a vague chance I may never watch Newcastle United again.

So that was why I wanted last night to be special. That is why after 25 years of trophyless support I at least wanted to go out on a high. And that is why after 90 minutes of utter crap, I felt like bursting in to tears as I left the ground.

I will miss Newcastle United so much and I can't for the life of me think why. They are not worthy of my support. I owe them nothing, and they owe me, and 50,000 other people like me everything.


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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Freeway blogging.

Can you spot the difference?

More here.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Johnny Johnny Oooooh.

Who's the best player I have ever seen playing for Newcastle?

Could it be the brilliant but lardy Paul Gascoigne? The mercurial Peter Beardsley?

No. It's neither.

It's also not Chris Waddle, who evolved into a genius somewhere between Tow Law and Marseille.

Tino - brilliant but not the best.

My favourite player is easy - it was Tino Apsrilla - but he wasn't the best. Neither was Sir Les Ferdinand or former European player of the year Kevin Keegan.

And it's not even God himself, Alan Shearer.

No, the best player I have ever seen at Newcastle United is Jonathan Woodgate. And he looks like he's leaving. To Real Madrid no less. With the price tag at somewhere around £15m.

Of course this isn't a foregone conclusion. Firstly he has to have a medical. Anyone who follows football will tell you that Woody is prone to injury. So prone in fact, that he's still not due back to play for Newcastle for another three weeks at least. It's been the story of his career to date.

I'm not sure I have ever seen him really fit. You have to play for a couple of months straight before you get that real first team sharpness. But with Woody you take what you can get and even half fit he's gobsmacking. I've heard it said that pairs of straikers are telepathic. Well Woody is too - but his mental link is with his opponent.

I have never seen a better reader of the game. He doesn't even need to tackle. He just nudges and leans and glides away with the ball. Then he'll launch a 30 yard pass to feet to set another attack in motion.

When he's up against a pacy straiker who knocks the ball and runs, you wonder whether Woody's dodgy knees we'll get him their ahead of his opponent. But, if he doesn't suffer a hamstring injury, he'll win the race. What's more he'll get there first despite it looking like every stride is absolute agony.

Whatever you think you know about English defenders then let me tell you this. Woodgate is twice the player that either Ferdinand or Campbell are. The likes of Terry and King are not fit to clean his boots.

But now he looks like being on his way and I'm not sure what to make of it. We're losing, to my mind, potentially the best defender in Europe. But what use is such a quality player when he spends his time on the treatment table?

But who do we replace him with? The transfer window closes in a matter of days and who else is available? Perhaps Real will give us someone in part exchange. Perhaps we can launch a bid for a British player who will do a job, albeit without a fraction of the style of Woody.

What I really want is a fully fit Woodgate who would last an entire season. I wouldn't swap that for £50m. But I'm starting to realise we will never see that. So maybe £15m is a decent price to take.

So Dyer is going. Woody is going. Perhaps Sir Bobby is just getting rid of his headaches one by one.

I just wish it was bloody Lee Bowyer.

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, August 18, 2004

It's in my ears and in my eyes.

I love the way the right tune at the right moment can suddenly transport you.

I was walking down Northumberland Street this afternoon when the sound of saxophone drifted towards me.

There was a youngster outside Fenwicks, she could only have been 13 at the most, and she was playing a very funky version of Penny Lane. It immediately brought a smile to my face and seconds later I was back at Glastonbury, listening to Macca and dancing in inches of mud in my wellies.


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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

You must read this.

I have a hunch that my tagline should change to "All conspiracy theories all the time".

But put aside any doubts you have. You simply have to read this. It is quite simply the most amazing piece of blogging I have ever read.

It is quite extroadinary.. As I have said before - whatever you believe about 9/11 you have to admit that there is a great deal of information that is still being withheld from us.

See how much you can read of the link before you run screaming from the room.

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.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Very British Coup

Kimberly Fortier

So Blunkett is having an affair with an American who publishes a right wing magazine?

(Takes deep breath)

I think I need a break. I'm seeing conspiracy theories everywhere.

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, August 15, 2004

A Very Venezuelan Coup

Hugo Chavez

If Iraq has proved anything, it has proved that the press are not to be believed.

Even the supposedly hard and fast facts can easily turn out to be little but spin and lies. Everyone knows now that there were no WMDs, it's less widely understood that the information on mass Iraqi graves was also untrue.

Public relations and spin are the new front line of any war. We, the people must be dragged along, and give our consent to a war so that our political masters can carry on their agenda, while also being confident about the next election.

Before the Gulf War, we heard of tales of Iraqis soldiers ripping Kuwaiti babies from incubators and leaving them to die on cold floors.

The lie was cooked up between US PR firm Hill & Knowlton and the Kuwaiti Government. Even years after it has shown to be untrue the same story still crops up.

Then there's Libya. Demonised by the press most noticeably over Lockerbie. But despite officially admitting the bombing the country is still unofficially denying it. Indeed there are a number of commentators including the late Paul Foot who believe that Libya had nothing to do with Lockerbie at all.

At a time when, if you speak out against the Government you risk shame and resignations, there are also now newspapers that are coming to the fore and admitting their own reporting has been shameful.

But what of the anti-war newspapers and the more liberal press, surely they are trustworthy? No, they still largely toe the Government line - at least on the accepted "truths" even if they're not in agreement as to policy.

The way war and conflicts are spun and the way they are reported can have a huge impact on how they are perceived by the world at large.

Take this article that deals with the errors in the reporting of Iraq and of the Israel Palestine conflict:

The Glasgow study shows that BBC and ITN news reports are biased in favour of Israel and against the Palestinians. Almost three times as much coverage is given to each Israeli death as to each Palestinian death.

Killings by Palestinians are routinely described as "atrocities" and "murders", while Palestinians deliberately shot by Israeli soldiers have been reported as "caught in the crossfire".

In the period the researchers studied, Israeli spokespeople were given twice as much time to speak as Palestinians. Both BBC and ITN reports have described the West Bank as part of Israel.

And it happens time and time again.

I've got to a point where I don't believe anything from any source, give or take one or two journalists.

But as a handy, cut out and keep guide as to whether or not to believe international stories. Always question the story when:

1. It comes directly from the Whitehouse

2. The "evil" dictator presides over large oil fields

3. The "evil" dictator is an avowed socialist and his efforts are forcing up labour costs for US businesses.

4. The "evil" dictator is described as "hating freedom".

5. They are reported to have links with Cuba/Castro

I was prompted to write all of this as I read about Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

I'll admit to knowing nothing about Venezuelan politics. But skipping through the news reports the same words came up - oil, socialist, US interests, dictator, evil, Cuba, Castro etc etc etc

The democracy loving USA only really support democracy when it suits them. They have been known to pour resources into right-wing parties - just as they have taught the benefits of torturing your opponents.

Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba etc. The list goes on.

So when you read that the opposition to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is headed by the media barons, big business and supported by the USA then it's enough to make you question all the facts.

Some time ago I wrote about a book called "A Very British Coup". What is happening in Venezuela is merely a Latin American version of the same scenario.

It will be interesting to see how it transpires. But I have a hunch that whatever the outcome there may be a bloody end to all this. And yet again,the USA will have blood on its hands.

But don't expect the real truth to come out for another couple of decades at least.

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, August 13, 2004

It's taken two fools such as we to make love deaf, dumb and blind.

I love this time of year.

The day before the big kick off. You're wondering how the new signings will settle and looking forward to Saturday afternoons meeting your mates in the pub again.

I think that's what I like most about the football season. The way it brings structure to my life. Particularly the weekends.

Saturday morning starts with Soccer AM on Sky. Then if you're lucky there's a lunchtime kick off. To enjoy it best the first half should be viewed at home, followed by a taxi dash to the pub where you watch the rest with your mates before walking to the ground.

Then after the match, if you've won, then you set the video for Match of the Day. If you drink enough you can usually enjoy this twice. Once on your return from the pub and again in the morning when it all seems vaguely but not entirely familiar.

Then there's always Goals on Sunday, before the two Premiership games on Sunday start up.

By the New Year this arrangement can get a little dull. Suddenly most pastimes are more entertaining than Bolton versus Everton or whatever but in mid August all games are worth watching.

Of course this year, the beginning of the season is all I have to enjoy as I'm off to Nam on September 2nd. I'll keep up with team news via the net and probably even catch the occasional game on ESPN.

I confided in a friend that it would be typical if, after 33 years of trophyless support, Newcastle actually won something this year to spite me. After persuading me that this was unlikely to happen another friend did ask me to picture the scene.

Imagine me, in a bar, in a Toon shirt, surrounded by football mad Vietnamese. We're watching the cup final and, by some strange fluke, Newcastle actually win. I watch, probably sobbing by this point, as Shearer goes up the steps to pick up the cup.

In between my sobs, songs, and cheers, Vietnamese friends are lining up to pat me on the back and shake my hand. They ask me about my team and in the days and weeks following I start to see Toon shirts all over Hanoi.

It's not a bad scenario. And if me leaving is what it takes for Newcastle to win something then it will be a small sacrifice. I know in my heart of hearts that we're not fit to win anything this year but who knows.

Can't wait for kick off.

Oh and I've rather belatedly set up a fantasty football team. If anyone reads this then you can enter.

Go to:

Press the register.

Pick your team

The press the leagues option

Under the private leagues option cut and paste this number


Hope that works. But be quick - you have to register before tomorrow morning.

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.

Monday, August 02, 2004

And that's the price I pay for loving you the way that I do.

There are times when people just get it so right and all you can do is sit back and applaud.

On Saturday, I attended the evening do of two friends who were getting married. They put on quite an event.

It was held on the banks of the Tyne at the Baltic arts centre. Only 24 hours after the square in front played host to Top of the Pops.

We took our places on a lovely open terrace, overlooking the river, and as the sun set behind the bridges and the lights on the Millennium Bridge lit up, it really was a beautiful evening.

Better still because the wedding band were local favourite The Baghdaddies - a band whose mix of world music and ska always gets people up and dancing. And when I say dancing, I mean of the high kicking, making an arse out of yourself but you don't care, variety. They are superb.

Anyway, with the Quayside all lit up and the band taking a break before their second set, we walked out on the terrace to cool off. There was much interest as the bridge opened for a party boat.

Once it had cruised up river and turned ready to return, another small craft sailed into view. Minutes later there was ooohing an aaahing a plenty as a succesion of fireworks were let off from the vessel.

It really was a special moment. It was made even more special because Special Person herself was with me. If you've read this blog before you will know I met her through VSO and that she is soon to depart for Mongolia. This was our farewell weekend.

With this in mind, we opted to stay in the rather lovely Malmaison Hotel on the river front.

Special Person wowed my friends who queued up to pay her compliments. In the meantime we were all wowed by the wedding, the quayside and, in general, what Newcastle has become.

As I said, on Friday it hosted Top of the Pops, on Saturday 15,000 fans football arrived for a tournament. The city felt like its years of regeneration were paying off handsomely. I was very poud of Newcastle. For the most part the weather largely held out, and the city just looked beautiful.

On every level - Newcastle, my friends and Special Person, it made me realise just what I'll be missing when I depart.

And I wouldn't have missed a second of it for the world.

Oh and Special Person, if you are reading this, then take care, but I know you'll be just fine. Newcastle's, Aberdeen's and my loss are the Gobi's gain.

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.