Friday, April 30, 2004

His apologies are tired 'cos he uses them a lot. His excuses are so lame if they were horses they'd be shot..

I should have guessed, but I was blinded.

Blinded by the fact he was Labour.
Blinded by the fact he supported my football team.
Blinded by the fact his constituency is just down the road.
Blinded by his Britpop pals.
Blinded by the fact that for the first time since I was eight, the PM wouldn't be a Tory.

I made excuses for him when friends criticised him. Any negative coverage I blamed on the Tory media. Even his pact with Murdoch I dismissed with a shrug and a "well, if that's what it takes."

Once upon a time, whisper it quietly, I even thought that Mandelson was a political genius. I even tried to ignore it and forgive him, when he said: "We're all Thatcherites now". Ouch. You speak for yourself Mandy.

But I was conned. Tony Blair is no Labour politician and it is time he was gone.

If he is still the leader of the Labour Party by the time the next election comes around then I will not vote for him. Not voting Labour will be hard. Beneath that tacky New Labour veneer is Old Labour, a real party with pride and history.

In the end it took the Iraq war for me to really wise up to Blair. Even then though, right up until the last minute before shock and awe, I thought his toadying was a plan to get close to Dubya in order to reign him in.

But in the end there were no reigns. The more Blair left Bush's actions unchallenged the more the Toxic Texan took advantage. Witness the recent Israeli embarrassment. It has got to the point when Blair and his flunkies are incapable of independant thought.

I want to be able to vote Labour, but I won't if Blair is in charge. It is that simple. I want Blair out and preferably I would like to see Blunkett, Straw, Reid and Hoon to go with him. I'll give Brown and Prescott the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile Robin Cooke remains the only high profile Labour MP to come out of the whole Iraq mess with any kind of credit. This is a man who was telling us before we went to war that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps we should start listening to him.

If Blair stays then I have no idea where my next vote will go. I guess it's likely to come down to either Green or Lib Dem. But, in all honesty, I have no real passion for either party.

So I'm backing the campaigns started simultaneously by UK Today and Bloggerheads. It appears that great minds thinks alike. If you feel the same as I do then go to the sites, get your logo, and link up.

I'm tired of being ashamed of this country. I want a Government that is ethical. That is all I request. I just want a leader who knows the difference between right and wrong.

I want no more sexing up, no more spin, no more of those "I'm almost in tears, how new man am I?" speeches that Blair likes so much.

Most of all I want a leader who has the guts to stand up to the USA, big business and the press.

And I want the old Labour Party back too.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.
Help save the youth of America. Help save the youth of the world. Help save the boys in uniform. Their mothers and their faithful girls.

The pictures of Iraqis tortured by the US are all over the media today.

One picture in particular stirred a feeling of deja vu within me. It's the one of the young soldier, standing in front of the scenes of torture, flashing a smile and a thumbs up to the camera.

It reminded me of a picture I saw in the War Museum in Saigon. The picture showed a GI holding the severed head of a young Vietnamese man. With the other hand he's giving the thumbs up and he too is smiling.

We now know the atrocities that went on in Vietnam. There was the massacre of My Lai where an entire village community was killed.

There was the napalm. There was also agent orange.

In the same Saigon museum you can see large jars of formaldehyde with grotesque, distorted feotuses inside. This is the result of agent orange. In Iraq swap the agent orange for depleted uranium weapons the long term health effects are likely to be equally horrific.

And there were four million Vietnamese killed.

I guess my point is this: War is horrific. These kinds of atrocities happen during war. Despite what they tell you about smart bombs and the accuracy of shock and awe, war remains repugnant. There are no clean wars.

Just as witnessing a murder in civilian life is likely to have a traumatic effect on you, the same goes for the military. Soldiers will witness many hundreds of murders. Is it any wonder that they become capable of such atrocities?

But, if you were, or are, in favour of this war then you should know that in times of war these atrocities happen. You cannot be in favour of war and against this behaviour. One goes hand in hand with the other.

Apparently Tony Blair is "appalled". Well they were torturing British citizens in Guantanamo and I don't recall him being appalled at that. What's the difference?

Also, apparently "appalled" was Brigadier General and the Deputy Head of coalition forces in Iraq, Mark Kimmitt. He said the torturers: "let their fellow soldiers down". A typical USA army response. They let their fellow soldiers down? What about the poor bloody Iraqis?

Among this great big "being apalled" hyperbole has anyone heard an apology?

So did the president himself let his fellow Americans down when he allowed torturing to go on in Guantanamo?

It will surprise a lot of people to know that the USA is no stranger to these kinds of techniques. The pleasant practice of electrodes on the testicles is a technique I have read about before in conjunction with America.

It's something they teach at the School of the Americas. Essentially this "school" helps America push its own agenda in South and Central America. It works with right wing political parties who, on occasions, are overthrown and discredited governments. In certain cases their enemies have been democratically elected governments , or political parties that have come to power as a result of a popular uprising.

The USA ,that is the first to bleat about atrocities of so called "rogue states", actually spends the tax dollars of ordinary Americans on teaching other nations how to main, kill and torture.

So if there are still apologist for this war then bring on your arguments. Any one out there who still thinks that this despicable, ugly, cruel and evil war is still a good idea then let me hear your reasoning.

My country may be part of the so-called "Coalition of the Willing", but this is not in my name.

And don't let them fool you that this is a one-off. Or that this was some rogue unit that was acting outside army law. Don't accept their lies - this is still happening. The chances are, as you read this, an Iraqi prisoner is being detained and tortured. No rules, no laws, no accountability, no trial.

I think we will probably only really get to know the full extent of the atrocities when this war is over. Just like with Vietnam, the horror stories will come thick and fast for decades to come. When you hear them you will be ashamed of what your country did.

We can all do something, however small, to show our displeasure at Blair, Bush and their war. If we do not then we too, when we look back at this sorry episode, will have something to be ashamed about.



Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 29, 2004

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer. We'll keep the red flag flying here.

“I’ve spent all my time going to places like Ninian Park and The New Den just getting harassed about the colour of my hair to the point where you want to fight back so the last thing I need really is 15,000 people all in ginger wigs drawing attention to it…… It does cause offence to me and I’d like to thank the club for not even asking me if I minded!..... From my point of view it is something I can do without”.

So said Dave Kitson of Reading FC, whose contribution to the club's season is being marked by his own fans who intend to wear ginger wigs at their upcoming match against West Brom.

This news item prompted a discussion on Radio Five this afternoon which I caught while on my way home from seeing a client.

Now I think that Dave Kitson is being a little overly sensitive but I can understand his feelings. You see I too am ginger. I wouldn't change my hair colour. It's not me that has a problem with it.

Now don't get me wrong. I wouldn't claim the abuse I get for having red hair is anything like racist abuse and it annoys me rather than upsets me. But it does really get on my nerves.

Like on Sunday when, after the match, I was stuck in traffic on my way out of Newcastle to visit my parents. There were three drunk lads hanging out of the windows of a black cab. I had my windows down too and they saw me and started shouting abuse at me based on the colour of my hair.

Embarrasing? Undoubtedly, I was blocked in traffic and everyone else could see where the abuse was aimed. I wound my windows up and ignored them. What else was I supposed to do?

On TV comedies the red head is always the nerd. On TV dramas they are usually peadophiles, violent loners, weirdos etc.

I have heard it said that the reason Kinnock never became Prime Minister was because he was ginger.

I have never understood why ginger is a term of abuse. Why can no one ever slag off Chris Evans, Paul Scholes or Mick Hucknall without prefixing it with the word "ginger" ?

Listening to the Five Live callers was interesting. One person claimed that you can't talk to redheads about their hair colour because "they always have such firey tempers". A mother also texted in to say they have to spend £40 a month on colouring their daughter's hair because otherwise she gets bullied. That text was followed by a handful of others in a similar vein.

I have met women in night clubs who later, under more natural lighting, have exclaimed: "I didn't know you were ginger!". They don't normally manage to hide the shock in their voice. This has also happened, the morning after, in bed. Which is really nice.

I recall comments at school but nothing you could really class as bullying. Most weeks at football matches there is a ginger player playing for the opposition and he's either a ginger tw*t, c*nt or w*nker.

Then you have the people who want to be your friend, for whatever reason. They say things like "ooh it's not really ginger it's more auburn gold," or something else equally nonsensical. No, I am ginger, or a redhead, and I have no problem with it. Don't try to patronise me by pretending it is anything else.

But, like anything that others might see as some kind of weakness, you do get paranoid about it. I am sure it has cost me girlfriends. I can almost imagine the scene:

She says to mate:

"Oooh he was really nice, we had loads in common and we chatted for hours but I'm not sure."

Mate says:

"Why not? He sounds ok to me".

She says:

"Well, he's ginger".

Mate says;

"Ahhhhh I see your problem."


My Mum (bless her) once told me that when she was pregnant she said to my Dad. "I just hope the baby is healthy...oh and I hope he's not ginger."

Thanks Mum.

So I have some sympathy with Dave Kitson. But, like I said, he should just live with it. I wouldn't change being ginger. Being ginger is part of what I am.

And yes I know that Hucknall, Evans and all are tw*ts. But they are not tw*ts because they are ginger. For my money Jamie Oliver is one of the biggest tossers on the planet but no one ever uses his hair colour as part of their abuse towards him.

Maybe people hate Mick Hucknall because he's ginger and yet he's still a bit of a playboy. It's as if they think: "how dare he, doesn't he know that he's ginger?"

And yes, I am crap in the sun. Yes, while I am on holiday it takes me two days to turn from blue to white, before I even start going red.

Actually my hair is going increasingly gray. Which is quite cool. I am watching the grayness grow with fascination. But, at 33 I do still have a very thick head of hair. Are gingers lower down the social pecking order to baldies?

So, unlike Mr Kitson, I am not going to make a fuss about it and I shall try to avoid being a "ginger whinger" - another term growing in popularity. Obviously neither blondes nor brunettes ever whinge.

But think about it next time you take the piss out of redhead, just remember we've heard it all before.

We look like Duracell Batteries, our pubic hair is like rusty watch springs etc etc etc etc

Feel free to add any new ones in the box below, I can take it.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 27, 2004

And lately it seems that as it all gets tougher. Your idea of justice just becomes rougher and rougher.

Once, while I was enjoying a cigarette break at an old employer, I was sat in the canteen with two female colleagues. I can't remember the actual topic of the conversation but I took great exception to one statement.

The statement was: "All men are potential rapists".

I had heard the line before. It's an old feminist piece of rhetoric and it never fails to annoy me.

I am not a potential rapist. It is an act that is not within me. It is also an act that is not within most men. Just as the act of child battering is not within most women. Yes, I have the equipment to be a rapist, but certainly not the potential.

Now let me put this in black and white for the record before I start:

I am pro choice. I believe in equality. I believe that we need more women in the top jobs in this country. I believe we need more employers to provide creches so this can be achieved. I believe in equal pay for women at all levels of business. I believe that violence against women is abhorrent, just as I believe that violence is abhorrent in general.

Basically I believe in equality. And I mean just that. In other words we are equal - we are not worse. Some of us may be worse. Some women may be worse. But, people of different genders, like people of different races should not be stereotyped.

Working in public relations, I have spent a large part of my career in a female-dominated industry. I have no problem with that. Just as I have no problem with having a female boss. But what about the time when a bit of pre-meeting chat turned into one woman telling a story about her bloke and my boss retorted: "Men are such wankers". Could you imagine that being said about a woman if it was a room full of men and one woman?

Or how about the time when my boss organised a "girls night out" for the female workers? In other words, everybody but me. Would men get away with organising blokes nights while leaving the only female behind?

Or earlier in my career when I worked in a mixed office and a new female boss took over. Her first act was to set up a "glass ceiling" club to help women get promoted more quickly. All women employees met up once a month and had tea and cake while the men were left to do all the work on their own for the afternoon.

I used to work with a man-hating divorcee. She was quite senior and had a lot of young female account executives working under her. When any one of them had man trouble - whether it was them staying out late, or not doing some task around the house - she always dished out the same advice: "you should slap him".

Is that really acceptable? It's not acceptable to hit children. It's certainly not acceptable for a man to hit a women. Are these kind of double standards okay?

This post follows on from yesterday's and from what Gia has posted. I have no argument with her pro-choice stand. I am totally behind it. Just as I am totally behind the one million American women who went on the March for Women's Lives in Washington DC. All in all she writes a great blog.

But I refused to be told, as she has said in her comment box:

"The biggest choice a man has is to decide whether he makes a large purchase or not. Men's big decisions tend to revolve around money. It's easy to be detached about it."

That is simply untrue.

For example, a friend, and this is going back a few years, found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. He couldn't have been more supportive. He asked what she wanted to do, it turned out that she wanted to keep it. Now, they were both very young, both students at the time, and he knew it would be difficult.

But he took the choice to support her in her decision. I talked to him a lot at the time and he was worried about how they were going to cope. Slowly though he started to become increasingly taken with the idea of having a child. By the end of one night talking we were even thinking up names and planning the future for the child. Yes, we had a few drinks.

A couple of days later, his partner told him that she wanted a termination. He was gutted. In his mind he had already given this child a future.

Of course, he remained supportive. He helped her through the ordeal despite the fact that he was distraught himself. He never questioned her decision.

Years later I heard the song Brick by Ben Folds Five and it reminded me of what my mate went through.

So you see, abortion does affect men too. Most men are understanding that it is the woman's decision. But in this instance, not being able to make that decision, is also pretty harrowing.

Life can be hard. There are hundreds of decisions to be made along the way for both men and women. If a women decides to have a child then more than likely there will be a man who will have to support that child.

Sometimes decisions are made by someone else and you have no option but to go with whatever they decide and to it with good grace.

But I refuse to be told that men are somehow inferior, that men's lives are easy. While supporting pro-choice, it is worth remembering that if the fight against anti-abortionists is successful then women will still have that choice. In these situations men will still have no have a choice and that is tough.

And it's tough despite the fact that we all know that this is way it has to be.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 26, 2004

God didn't make you an angel, the Devil made you a man.

Having read about the March for Women's Lives on Gia's blog, its sentiments reminded me of a post that I read before I started blogging which really moved me.

The march, which mostly centered around the support for pro-choice, was also in solidarity with women suffering across the world.

The post comes from Riverbend of Baghdad Burning. I hope she doesn't mind me cutting and pasting it here. I would strongly reccommend visting her site.


Sunday, August 24, 2003

Will Work for Food...


Over 65% of the Iraqi population is unemployed. The reason for this is because Bremer made some horrible decisions. The first major decision he made was to dissolve the Iraqi army. That may make sense in Washington, but here, we were left speechless. Now there are over 400,000 trained, armed men with families that need to be fed. Where are they supposed to go? What are they supposed to do for a living? I don’t know. They certainly don’t know.

They roam the streets looking for work, looking for an answer. You can see perplexity and anger in their stance, their walk, their whole demeanor. Their eyes shift from face to face, looking for a clue. Who is to answer for this mess? Who do you think?

Bremer also dissolved the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Defense. No matter what the excuses, these ministries were full of ordinary people with ordinary jobs- accountants, janitors, secretaries, engineers, journalists, technicians, operators… these people are now jobless. Companies have been asked to ‘cut down’ their staff. It no longer has anything to do with politics. The company my uncle works in as an engineer was asked by the CPA to get rid of 680 of the 1,500+ employees- engineers, designers, contractors, mechanics, technicians and the administration were all involved.

Other companies, firms, bureaus, factories and shops shut down as a result of the looting and damage done in the post-war chaos- thousands of other workers lost their jobs. Where to go? What to do?

It isn’t any easier for employed people… the standard $50 being given out in various ministries and hospitals is not nearly enough to support a single person, let alone a family. But at least it is work. At least it is a reason to wake up every morning and accomplish something.

Someone asked why the thousands of Iraqi men roaming the streets don’t go out and get work. For weeks, after the occupation, men would line up daily by the thousands outside of the ‘Alwiyah Club’ filling out papers, begging for work. But there is no work. Men were reluctant to apply to the Iraqi police force because they weren’t given weapons! The Iraqi police were expected to roam and guard the hellish cities without weapons… to stop looters, abductors, and murderers with the sheer force of an application to their warped sense of morality.

The story of how I lost my job isn’t unique. It has actually become very common- despondently, depressingly, unbearably common. It goes like this…

I’m a computer science graduate. Before the war, I was working in an Iraqi database/software company located in Baghdad as a programmer/network administrator (yes, yes… a geek). Every day, I would climb three flights of stairs, enter the little office I shared with one female colleague and two males, start up my PC and spend hours staring at little numbers and letters rolling across the screen. It was tedious, it was back-breaking, it was geeky and it was… wonderful.

When I needed a break, I’d go visit my favorite sites on the internet, bother my colleagues or rant about ‘impossible bosses’ and ‘improbable deadlines’.

I loved my job- I was *good* at my job. I came and went to work on my own. At 8 am I’d walk in lugging a backpack filled with enough CDs, floppies, notebooks, chewed-on pens, paperclips and screwdrivers to make Bill Gates proud. I made as much money as my two male colleagues and got an equal amount of respect from the manager (that was because he was clueless when it came to any type of programming and anyone who could do it was worthy of respect… a girl, no less- you get the picture).

What I’m trying to say is that no matter *what* anyone heard, females in Iraq were a lot better off than females in other parts of the Arab world (and some parts of the Western world- we had equal salaries!). We made up over 50% of the working force. We were doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, professors, deans, architects, programmers, and more. We came and went as we pleased. We wore what we wanted (within the boundaries of the social restrictions of a conservative society).

During the first week of June, I heard my company was back in business. It took several hours, seemingly thousands of family meetings, but I finally convinced everyone that it was necessary for my sanity to go back to work. They agreed that I would visit the company (with my two male bodyguards) and ask them if they had any work I could possibly take home and submit later on, or through the internet.

One fine day in mid-June, I packed my big bag of geeky wonders, put on my long skirt and shirt, tied back my hair and left the house with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension.

We had to park the car about 100 meters away from the door of the company because the major road in front of it was cracked and broken with the weight of the American tanks as they entered Baghdad. I half-ran, half-plodded up to the door of the company, my heart throbbing in anticipation of seeing friends, colleagues, secretaries… just generally something familiar again in the strange new nightmare we were living.

The moment I walked through the door, I noticed it. Everything looked shabbier somehow- sadder. The maroon carpet lining the hallways was dingy, scuffed and spoke of the burden of a thousand rushing feet. The windows we had so diligently taped prior to the war were cracked in some places and broken in others… dirty all over. The lights were shattered, desks overturned, doors kicked in, and clocks torn from the walls.

I stood a moment, hesitantly, in the door. There were strange new faces- fewer of the old ones. Everyone was standing around, looking at everyone else. The faces were sad and lethargic and exhausted. And I was one of the only females. I weaved through the strange mess and made my way upstairs, pausing for a moment on the second floor where management was located, to listen to the rising male voices. The director had died of a stroke during the second week of the war and suddenly, we had our own little ‘power vacuum’. At least 20 different men thought they were qualified to be boss. Some thought they qualified because of experience, some because of rank and some because they were being backed by differing political parties (SCIRI, Al-Daawa, INC).

I continued upstairs, chilled to the bone, in spite of the muggy heat of the building which hadn’t seen electricity for at least 2 months. My little room wasn’t much better off than the rest of the building. The desks were gone, papers all over the place… but A. was there! I couldn’t believe it- a familiar, welcoming face. He looked at me for a moment, without really seeing me, then his eyes opened wide and disbelief took over the initial vague expression. He congratulated me on being alive, asked about my family and told me that he wasn’t coming back after today. Things had changed. I should go home and stay safe. He was quitting- going to find work abroad. Nothing to do here anymore. I told him about my plan to work at home and submit projects… he shook his head sadly.

I stood staring at the mess for a few moments longer, trying to sort out the mess in my head, my heart being torn to pieces. My cousin and E. were downstairs waiting for me- there was nothing more to do, except ask how I could maybe help? A. and I left the room and started making our way downstairs. We paused on the second floor and stopped to talk to one of the former department directors. I asked him when they thought things would be functioning, he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes stayed glued to A.’s face as he told him that females weren’t welcome right now- especially females who ‘couldn’t be protected’. He finally turned to me and told me, in so many words, to go home because ‘they’ refused to be responsible for what might happen to me.

Ok. Fine. Your loss. I turned my back, walked down the stairs and went to find E. and my cousin. Suddenly, the faces didn’t look strange- they were the same faces of before, mostly, but there was a hostility I couldn’t believe. What was I doing here? E. and the cousin were looking grim, I must have been looking broken, because they rushed me out of the first place I had ever worked and to the car. I cried bitterly all the way home- cried for my job, cried for my future and cried for the torn streets, damaged buildings and crumbling people.

I’m one of the lucky ones… I’m not important. I’m not vital. Over a month ago, a prominent electrical engineer (one of the smartest females in the country) named Henna Aziz was assassinated in front of her family- two daughters and her husband. She was threatened by some fundamentalists from Badir’s Army and told to stay at home because she was a woman, she shouldn’t be in charge. She refused- the country needed her expertise to get things functioning- she was brilliant. She would not and could not stay at home. They came to her house one evening: men with machine-guns, broke in and opened fire. She lost her life- she wasn’t the first, she won’t be the last.




Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 25, 2004

My breakfast was half-English and so am I you know. I had a plate of Marmite soldiers. And I have a veggie curry about once a week. The next day I fry it up as ‘Bubble ‘N’ Squeak’. ‘Cos my appetite’s half-English and I’m half-English too.


I can't think of a more fitting person to name as my St George's Day "Man of the Day".

Step forward Shola Ameobi. Born in Nigeria, brought up in Newcastle's west end.

And the first goalscorer for Newcastle United in our 2-1 win against Chelsea.

Shola Ameobi. Superstar.

And like those stickers say that the anti-fascist campaigners used to hand out at St James's Park: "Geordies are black and white".


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Take down the Union Jack it clashes with the sunset. And pile up all those history books but don't throw them away.

It would be fantastic if we could really celebrate St George's Day.

If we could use the energy of English pride and put it to good use solving problems rather than creating new ones.

No doubt there are elements of the population who would hijack such celebrations for their own cause. But let's out shout them, out party them. Let's shame their negativity with our positive intentions.

Of course I wouldn't trust The Sun not to use the occasion to have another go at asylum seekers and no doubt the Daily Mail would use it to have another pop at European Union.

Why, in this country, can we not celebrate our own achievements without belittling other nations, races or cultures?

And tell me this: If England, and indeed Britain, is so great? If Britons never shall be slaves? Then why are we, politically speaking, hanging on every word of the President of the USA? Why are we acting out this role as the 51st state? Whey are we being press-ganged into not only fighting in Iraq but also refusing to denounce the atrocities of Israel? Whether it's Sharon or Bush who is ultimately calling the shots, it is sure as hell not Blair, and it is definitely not the will of the British people.

So let us inject a little humility into our celebrations.

Let's use St George's Day as a way of celebrating the positive parts of our society. Let us promote the multi-culturalism of our cities. By all means let us remember the people who died fighting fascism in the World Wars. But let us not wallow in nostalgia for war.

St George's Day shouldn't just be for white English people. It should be for people of all races and religions who call England home. Let us fight terrorism from within by building bridges with British Muslims rather than creating suspicion and mistrust.

St George's Day should be a celebration of all cultures and religions. We should toast each other with Cobra Lager and scoff platefulls of Chicken Tikka Masala.

We should dance down the streets to skiffle, folk, bhangra, rock and pop. Let us celebrate British music, one of our most successful exports, but also let us remember that we didn't invent it.

There has been something of a campaign to change our national anthem. I would agree with the sentiments. I no longer want to speak of Ruling the Waves or Saving the Queen. I would back the suggestions for Blake's Jerusalem .

So let's take this celebration back from the BNP and make it into a celebration of the real positive aspects of our society. Let us show how out of touch the press are with what England is now. Let's dwarf the sumbag racist upstarts' own events with massive, happy, colourful carnivals that create bonds between all elements of society and remind us all what being English can be about.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 22, 2004

Some photographs of a summer's day. A little boy's lifetime away.

There are songs that will always stay with me. I remember the very second I first heard them. Some I associate with good times. Others have seen me through bad experiences.

A couple of years ago. Midway through my travels, of firstly South East Asia, then Central America. I had a two week stop in San Francisco.

Rather cleverly, I managed to get food poisoning on the flight there. I spent the first week climbing up and down from my dorm top bunk in order to make frequent trips to the toilet.

To add to this there wasn't the same traveller vibe in SF that I had come to enjoy elsewhere. There were next to no independent travellers and, when I was well, I ended up sightseeing on my own and on occasions walking the streets just to put off returning to my bunk.

I started to feel very sorry for myself.

It was also the first anniversary of the 9/11 bombings. I turned out for a small peace festival which was aimed at remembering the dead while also demonstrating against the possibility of war in Iraq. It was a very moving occasion.

Whether it was the isolation I felt, the sickness, or my surroundings but I started to feel very emotional about everything.

Anyway, I had discovered this great record shop on Haight Ashbury where I bought a Ewan MacColl CD. For those of you who haven't come across the man before his best known song is First Time Ever I saw Your Face. It has been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis.

The legend has is that it was written virtually on the spot when he called his wife, folk singer Peggy Seeger, in the USA. She was upset because she didn't have showstopper ending for an upcoming TV performance. He made it up over the phone for her to sing. Later she sung acapella and it resulted in a standing ovation. For me it is still the most beautiful love song ever written.

But listening in San Francisco, looking out over the bay and the Golden Gate bridge, the song that moved me to tears, and still does is Joy of Living.

It was written by Ewan when he knew he was dying. He had written extensively about walking in the northern hills and the song is about saying goodbye to the places that he loved and to his family. It manages to be both very very sad but still life affirming.

The Joy of Living.

Farewell, you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye
Moorlands and stony ridges, crags and peaks, goodbye
Glyder Fach farewell, cold big Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven
Sun-warmed rocks and the cold of Bleaklow's frozen sea
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you're drunk on the joy of living

Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion
Years pass by and they're gone with the speed of birds in flight
Our lives like the verse of a song heard in the mountains
Give me your hand and love and join your voice with mine
And we'll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living

Farewell to you, my chicks, soon you must fly alone
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone
May your wings be strong may your days be long safe be your journey
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth
Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I may be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I'll be part of the curlew's cry and the soaring hawk,
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I'll be riding the gentle breeze as it blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 21, 2004

You privatise away what is ours, what is ours. You privatise away what is ours. You privatise away and then you make us pay. We'll take it back some day, mark my words, mark my words. We'll take it back some day, mark my words.

I hate British Gas.

Strike that. I hate all businesses that use call centres.

I've just spent the last hour and half on the phone to British Gas.

This was prompted by a slip of paper that was put through my door while I was out today. It told me someone had visited my house with the intention of cutting me off.

It was a surprise. Especially as I had paid the Gas Bill two weeks ago.

So I rang the number on the card. It was answered by someone who didn't know whether I had, or hadn't, paid two weeks ago. He admitted he didn't actually work for British Gas at all. He was a contractor. I've heard this before, from the numbskull that installed broadband for me. When it didn't work he pulled the "well actually I don't work for them" routine. This despite wearing a BT uniform and driving a BT van. So, instead I had to ring a call centre (arrrgggghhhhh).

To cut that long story short. It took over two months to install broadband. BT sent out my start-up disc to the wrong address (a boarded-up house) on three occasions. Four weeks after it was up and running, they cut me off again for non-payment. Despite the fact that it had only been working a short time. Their records showed it had been working since installation. They had sent the bills and disconnection notice to the wrong address.

Three weeks ago, the phones went mental, starting at 2am they all rang continuously. It took them two days to mend that.

First though, they suggested I took a screwdriver to the wall socket and check it out myself, because if they were to attend it would cost me £60 before they started. Hang on, what am I paying for? If I have to pay for the damn thing to be mended what is the rental fee for? Surely paying it means they have an obligation to provide me with a working phone line.

It turned out numbskull had wired up the broadband wrongly, hence the malfunction. To this day, if I use the phone, the computer goes off-line.

Incidentally, I only finally got broadband properly installed when I tracked down the names of all their non exec directors, via the net, and emailed them all separately, at their other places of work, and copied in the letter I sent to Watchdog.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a British Gas rant.

I will proceed:

I rang the British Gas call centre. I went through the "press one for", routine. Then I waited. And waited. I heard the most awful orchestral version of U2 songs for 50 minutes.

I heard the same stupid voice saying: "all our operators are currently busy...," several hundred times.

After half an hour I was bursting to go to the toilet but I didn't dare. After three quarters of an hour the empty Evian bottle on my desk was starting to look like an option.

Then, finally, just as I was about to start banging my head off the desk. Someone answered.

They had no record of my payment. They suggested perhaps the card number had been taken down wrongly.

But, apparently if THEY cock up payments then the next step is just to ignore it and go ahead with disconnection. Now I know my payment was late, but it WAS made.

This was, I was told, my own fault. Apparently, every time you use Switch you should immediately contact your bank to see if it has gone through.

Does anyone do that? For every single transaction? Is it me or is that plainly ludicrous?

Also, she told me, I could have requested to be called if the money hadn't gone through. Does anyone do that either? Every time you make a Switch payment do you remember to say: "ooh but make sure you give me a ring if there's any problems".

So I paid again.

This time, she said, they would ring if there were any hiccups. She would ring Saturday, she said.

Actually though, she corrected herself, it might be Tuesday. If they are busy.

Marvelous.

I asked to speak to a superior. Incredibly she put me through. This is in itself a step in the right direction. When I asked BT if I could make a complaint, they told me to put it in writing. Brilliant, a company that specialises in phone/internet connections can only take complaints through the post. Who the hell would be bothered to do that?

I bet they sit back, at end-of-year meetings, thinking what an amazing service they provide. Meanwhile, the poor headphonees are taking craploads on a daily basis.

Anyway, I ranted at the superior a while. He let slip that actually their automated Switch machine had broken down recently. I was glad to hear it. I was starting to think that I had imagined paying the bill.

However, he seemed incredulous that I didn't know whether the money has gone from my account. I don't know, call me reckless and irresponsible, but I just spend the cash till it's gone. I pay the bills, assume (apparently stupidly) that it's gone through, and spend what's left in the pub.

Call centres are a blight on society. I say this despite them being a major local employer. What's more I hate the fact that my wrath is dealt with by the poor bastards who answer the phones.

Call centres are not there to improve service. They are there to maximise profits. It's that simple. In the North East we have been told we have so many call centres because callers like Geordie accents. Bollocks, call centres are here because locals are cheap.

But we're not as cheap as the third world.

What makes it worse is that whenever there is a complaint about this kind of practice, whether it's the appalling service or staff being laid off, the same argument is always used.

"We have a duty to our shareholders" etc etc etc

Not a duty to their customers, or their employees, nor the local councils and regeneration bodies that bunged them millions to locate to this region. No, just a duty to their shareholders. Just a duty to make as much money as humanly possible and sod the rest.

It stinks.

Now I really must go to the toilet.


Love, light and peace (except to the suits at BT and British Gas),

BykerSink

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, April 20, 2004

Is this the 19th Century that I'm watching on TV? The dear old Queen of England handing out those MBEs. Member of the British Empire - that doesn't sound too good to me

I've been thinking recently about whether or not I could do without television.

Like I said, just thinking. But even thinking this is a radical step for someone who lines the pockets of Murdoch every month with an "includes everything" Sky package.

While the TV is always on, it seems I watch very little. Basically, I watch the Channel 4 news, when I remember, Friends on a Thursday, The Sopranos, when it's on, and Globe Trekker on some obscure satellite channel.

Oh and the football.

To add to this there is a certain amount of wallpaper viewing. There's Friends repeats, numerous average sit-coms on Paramount and the occasional movie.

Increasingly though I just can't be bothered with it. On either side of the spectrum I dislike reality TV (except a fascination for Big Brother) and as far as TV dramas go - can't anyone come up with a new idea that doesn't include either the police, hospitals or Victorian toffs?

Does anyone else find themselves, worryingly, wishing that one of the Jackass members would seriously hurt themselves so it would end the constant repeats and copycat shows?

Does anyone else find themselves secretly hoping that a starlet, wronged by Simon Cowell, will carry out some horrific revenge attack?

I find it incredible that I can have hundreds of channels and yet I still watch something because my flatmate claims "there's nothing else on".

When was the last time you were genuinely challenged by something on television? When did TV last push back the boundaries of creativity, rather then of bad taste?

So the logical step would be to do with out it. I could still keep the television, but just use it for DVDs. And if there is a new series of the Sopranos, then I could buy the box set and it would be an event, rather than just part of my viewing diary.

I already listen to enough Five Live to get my news. Any holes could then be filled in with what I can glean from the Internet. I could watch any matches of note in the pub.

But would I become a social outcast? Would I endlessly sit in the middle of pub conversations, bemused as to what the hell people are on about as they repeat TV catch phrases?

On the positive side, however, with my new spare time I could read more. I might even exercise more than my weekly five-a-side game. I would almost certainly go the cinema more.

I guess, when I move overseas, the chances are I will get to test out my ability to live without the box. I've done it before and it's not nearly as hard as you might think. I lasted for nine months on my last travels with only the occasional evening watching television in a hostel.

Instead people socialised. They had conversations. They discussed their days. They had viewpoints and arguments and they aired their thoughts accordingly.

I went to bed when I felt tired rather than just when the best telly stopped. I avoided those days when you switch on the TV when you first enter the living room and hour laters you realise you haven't moved.

At the same time though I have mates who would laugh at this post because I can be a couch potato.

Yet, flicking on the box is the opposite of actually "doing something". Imagine how different your life would be if you were always "doing something" rather than sofa lounging? How many more people would you meet? How much more would you learn? How much fitter would you be?

In the end though, I probably couldn't do it. I'm sure I would end up making surprise visits to friends' houses just on the off chance they were watching The Premiership. Or when we were planning a night out I would be angling instead for an invite to their place just for the treat of TV viewing.

Maybe I will try it for a week sometime soon. I think that would make an interesting blog. Life without television. I'll see instead what I can achieve in the space of seven days.

Trouble is, as I sit here writing this, I am already trying to work out when the TV schedules will be at their worst so I could actually achieve this.

Right then, it's penciled in for the first week in August.

Before the football season starts.

And after Big Brother has finished

And once England have been knocked out of the European Championship.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.
The stock market holds the answer to "Why him? Why here? Why now?"

Included simply because everybody should read this.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 19, 2004

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own. Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone.

I don't buy Nike clothes.

Which isn't of course that difficult. I mean, I don't do much in the way of exercise, and I'm not a chava, so I'm outside their target market. In addition they make Man U and Sunderland's kit.

I do, however, have a black Nike t-shirt somewhere in the back of my wardrobe, but after reading about sweatshops in No Logo I can't even bring myself to wear it. Despite the fact it has already been paid for.

Now, don't get me wrong, it appears that virtually all our clothes are now made by ill-treated minors on the other side of the world, but Nike seems the least apologetic. They also seem the least willing to address the issue.

Officially I also have a McDonalds boycott in place. Unofficially, occasionally there is nowhere else open on a Sunday afternoon and my hangover needs something to help it soak up last night's lager. The very second the last fry is consumed the guilt kicks in.

Starbucks is also on the list. I never go there, sometimes I'll order a Fair Trade cappuccino at Costa Coffee or I'll go somewhere locally owned (is it best to support Nicaraguans or locals?).

I've given up buying football shirts. This started as a mini-protest against Newcastle United buying racist scumbag Lee Bowyer. Unfortunately my one man protest, and the loss of £44.99, failed to sway the club chairman. No matter, I now have a classic TOFFS shirt.

Other than this, I occasionally buy clothes at Gap, but I feel bad about that too.

Anyway, I mention this simply because now Coca Cola has also popped up on my boycott radar.

Damnit. I love Coke. I live on the stuff.

It does seem to cure all with me. It sorts out hangovers, gives me a sugar kick when I'm knackered, I can add the diet version to vodka when I'm trying to lose weight, and still get pissed with the lads.

So how crap am I? Coca Cola is throwing it's weight around on the other side of the world and I'm so hooked I can't conceive of not drinking it. If only I had been born Scottish I would have been weaned on Irn Bru and I wouldn't have this problem.

Pepsi is rank, Virgin Cola is worse and don't even think of trying to tempt me with one of those horrible cheap Rola Cola type brands.

Any suggestions for a new soft drink?


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.
You can be active with the activists, or sleeping with the sleepers, while you're waiting for the Great Leap Forwards.

Now how do you start a post on the EU Constitution while ensuring readers make it to the second line?

I doubt that was the answer.

Anyway, apparently we are to have a vote on the EU Constitution. I had a bit of a problem with this one. I tend to get my news through a level of osmosis. I don't watch, read, or listen to anything in particular, but somewhere over the day, hopefully, I can soak up the most important points.

But this EU stuff is tricky. It's not a definite answer on whether we are in or out. It has nothing to do with adopting the euro as our currency. I had to dig a little deeper on this one. Apparently, however, it does affect what parts of our lives are run by Europe and which are run by our own Government.

Which parts of our lives, specifically, I am not sure about - except that apparently tax and defence will not be included.

So what the hell is the question then? Do we each get a think log of Euro babble to wade through to see if we want to give it our backing? What if I mostly like what I see but not all of it? Am I missing the point altogether? Why can't they have Newsround on earlier in the day so I can have the difficult bits explained to me in little words?

I guess, what it will come down to is this: If you are anti-Europe (in general) you will vote against and if you are pro-Europe (in general) then you will vote for.

Except I don't know what I believe.

Ordinarily I have an opinion on everything and I still don't know.

My reasons for being pro-Europe:

* The Sun is against.
*The Tory Party are largely against.
* The North East still relies heavily on manufacturing and apparently the likes of Nissan would welcome the Euro.
* Because it's Europe and its not America.
* Most people who I meet who are anti-Europe are Daily Mail reading xeonophobic, racist types.
* A united Europe may just help offset the USA.
* Europeans seem to have a far healthier attitude to labour laws, and longer holidays, shorter hours and better conditions. What is good enough for them is good enough for us.

My reasons for being anti-Europe:

* Does the world need a new superstate?
* Does it actually speed up change, or slow it down?
* I quite like the idea of just being a little island which isn't run, bothered, influenced, or cohersed into doing anything by anybody.
* Does less financial control for us mean more power for big business?
* Voting against Blair is always appealing.

Like I said, I don't know. I don't even know if my arguments above make any sense.

Here's another one, if the pro-consortium vote wins then Blair might resign, but is getting rid of him a good enough reason for vote with him?

I suspect my confusion is pretty much mirrored by most of society. So will people base their vote on real knowledge or will they base it on the garbled reasons such as I have highlighted above? Even worse, how many will base their vote on the kind of bile, bollocks and lies as churned out by ever-xenophobic Sun and Mail.

If there is to be a vote then there is a huge job between now and then to educate the masses. And how exactly is that to be achieved? No doubt there will be a certain amount of literature falling on our door mats. There will be debates and news coverage on our TV channels. And there will also be plenty of column inches from less-than-impartial newspapers.

So who do we trust? Who should we listen to? Who will shout the loudest and sway the most voters in this referendum?

The other question is: should we even have a referendum when people (myself included) don't really know a) what they are voting for, and b) what vote to make.

So, if there is anyone still awake by the time they got to this line in the post, then feel free to add your comments below. All attempts to sway me politically will be considered.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 15, 2004

Ho ho ho. I'm gonna go to the movie show. 'Cos I'm a big boy now.

Just as there are days when it seems that nothing goes right, there are others when it all comes together.

Days like these have a plot line, a beginning, middle and a happy ending.

There has been too much navel-gazing on this blog in recent days and for that I apologise. This post is the last episode in that particular mini-drama.

After a couple of days spent feeling wretched thanks to both flu and arguments, yesterday, despite it being my birthday, could still have been another no-fun day.

As determined as I was to try and pull myself out of the fug, I feared it could still end badly.

The arguments and misunderstandings were still bubbling under until the afternoon. Probably as much in my head as anywhere else, but still I felt uneasy about the situation. I was due to meet my mates in the pub before yesterday's match and I wasn't entirely sure what the reception would be.

Then in mid afternoon I got a call from a mate who wanted to talk things through. He deserves a lot of credit for this because, if it had been left to me, I would have buried my head in the sand and hoped it would all go away. It was a constructive chat. We put to bed some old arguments, reached a consensus on others and what we couldn't reconcile we agreed to amicably differ.

My entrance to the pub was delayed. I was invited out first by Teacher Toon and missus for a quick birthday tea. It was a very nice gesture from people who I have come to expect nice gestures from. I hope I never take these gestures for granted. It gave me the opportunity to bury some of my apprehension and have a couple of beers in easy company.

In the end the pub wasn't a problem. Everyone was friendly, there were no jibes and no falling out. It was the way it should be. And really, I shouldn't have expected anything else because I know what good people they all are.

By pure coincidence, Designer Toon had bought a match ticket that was only a couple of seats away from me, so with a bit of seat swapping with neighbouring ticketholders we were able to sit together.

To set the scene, this was a tense match. A match we had a real chance of losing. It was the quarter final of the UEFA Cup. For none football lovers what you need to understand is that Newcastle haven't won anything in my lifetime. If we were to win this game then it would remove another significant hurdle to breaking this duck. The score was one's each after the first leg against Dutch league leaders PSV.

PSV, I have to admit, are a better side than Newcastle. But worse sides continually beat Newcastle so, for once, we hoped we would reverse that tend.

After Newcastle scored early on, a equaliser from PSV meant everything could still go horribly wrong.

But, as I said, there are days when everything comes together. We got a second goal. Then we started showing a resilience I have rarely seen from my side.

Of course there was still time for a PSV equaliser which would have seen us lose on away goals. But, for once, I never felt worried. You can attribute these feelings to the brilliance of Jonathan Woodgate in our defence or to the fact that, yesterday, it genuinely felt that everything would be okay.

And so it was.

In the pub afterwards everyone was smiling. Doctor Toon, Accountancy Toon, Linguist Toon, Rain Toon, Designer Toon, Teacher Toon and me.

Despite still having a tough semi-final to get past, wildly optimistic plans were already being discussed for taking in the Gothenberg final. My favourite idea was to drive all the way there, in a convoy, like a bastardised version of the Italian Job meets Swingers.

Today, the wedding invitations from a friend arrived on everyone's doorstep. The last few days have made me value that invitation more than I ever could have done before. I am honoured to be invited and I know it will be a fantastic day.

Finally, we're all getting together again on Monday. They're filming a football-based film trilogy in Newcastle called Goal! and they are using the opportunity of a Newcastle v Sunderland reserve game to film some action scenes.

Entrance is free and, of course, there is the opportunity to be one of several thousands extras in a potential blockbuster.

It'll be a laugh, and for a change we'll all get to sit together. Maybe we'll even be able to spot ourselves in the film.

If that is the case then the DVD will be a treasured souvenir for all of us. And who knows, just supposing we did manage to win the UEFA Cup, then the film would forever remind us of our greatest ever season.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 14, 2004

I can feed and dress and wash myself and sleep without the light on. Honey I'm a big boy now.

So I'm 33.

I didn't manage to live fast, die young or leave a pretty corpse.

Bill Hicks never saw past 32 but then again Jesus stumbled at 33 so I'm not out the woods yet.

I was born on April 14th, 1971. It was the anniversary of the Titanic setting sail. Somehow, I have never been able to shake the feeling its maiden voyage set the tone for my entire life.

If you've read recent posts you will by now have realised that the last few days have been less than fun. A combination of arguments with friends over the content of my posts, coupled with spending time in bed with flu, have left me in something of a fug. Irritatingly I have been able to shake this bad mood.

But.

It's my birthday so I'm determined to be cheery.

And I'm going to smile if it kills me.

Actually my timing is out. I'm due to visit the dentist tomorrow after which my smiling pearly whites should be far, err, pearlier and whiter.

So, in the as an act of self boosting I will try and sum up all my positive achievements of the last year.

Firstly I set up my own business which was no small feat. I achieved this despite BT's best attempts to undermine my business with their inability to put in a broadband line that works. For eight to ten days read over two months.

But I managed it. I have my own website. Some nice looking stationery thanks to the brilliance of Logoloco and somewhere along the line I have picked up a handful of very nice people who are my clients.

It's been a little scary at time. Late bill payers have left me literally counting coppers to pay for a pint of milk. But I seem to have seen off the worst of it.

Actually working for myself has been a tremendous experience. For starters it has made me appreciate the employers that I have worked for before. In particular the small businesses. Juggling money-in and money-out has been hard enough on my small scale. I don't think I could handle the pressure if there was anyone else relying on me.

Feedback, with one notable exception, has been excellent and that, in itself, has been confidence building. To add to this I have been offered no less than four jobs in the past 12 months. So, someone out there rates me.

Typically the job that I was most tempted by was with a extremely friendly local business. I said no, then they offered me a little more plus a car. I said no again. They offered the job to someone else who accepted. Then my car exhaust died on me and I had to find £800. The phrase "d'oh was invented for such occasions.

My work hours are sporadic. And that is the way I like them. Just as I have worked entire weekends, I have also taken numerous days off in the middle of the week. I like what I call my Ferris Beuller days. I'll stroll a long Newcastle's Quayside, check out what's on at the Baltic , have a coffee in the Intermezzo coffee house and watch a film at the Tyneside Cinema.

It's a nice way to live your life. I am aware that it all wouldn't be so easy if I had to feed any mouth other than my rather large one, but I don't. So there.

On days like these I find myself rediscovering parts of Newcastle. A recent FB day with a mate also included a look around the Biscuit Factory (it doesn't make biscuits and it's not a factory) and a walk through Heaton Park that includes the amazing, if slightly sinister shoe tree.

As far as work goes I can honestly say that every last one of my clients are a force for good. Being self-employed I always promised myself that I would turn down anything that I felt was unethical. In the end I didn't have to, which was probably just as well, as it would have meant a difficult squabble between my head, heart and wallet when money was at its tightest.

And then came VSO.

I'll admit that it was my parents and sisters who first suggested it. I have never really settled from my travels in 2002. Those travels not only changed me but they also gave me time to think. It also gave me time to read and in many ways, educating myself about the world in general has been as beneficial as actually seeing some of it.

Anyway, maybe they were just trying to get rid of me, but my family thought it would be something work looking at. I dismissed it for a while. I thought it was for home counties types doing gap years. Later, when I was having a bad day, I checked out their website and I was impressed.

Since then I have been through an assessment day, followed by a training weekend. The more I learn, the more I think "I can do this" and more importantly, "this is what I want to do". VSO continues to impress me in its attitudes, its employees and its volunteers.

The start date for my two-year tour of duty looks likely to be September. No, I don't know where I'm going yet and no I don't know what I will be doing. But yes, I am very very excited.

The only other major piece of personal news this year was this blog. While recent reactions from friends to it have made for difficult situations, I have never regretted starting it. It has become a real passion. I was so excited when the Guardian first listed me among their "weblogs we like" and even more exhilarated when they actually put the Space Hardware url in print in Observer.

I'm constantly amazed that people want to read what I write. I find it incredible that I'm about to shoot through the 3,000 visitor barrier (made possible by CCC linking me in his most recent post).

I must be doing something right, somewhere. And, spending my days, as I do, writing copy for commercial purposes, it's nice to know that I can create something to my own specifications.

Finally, and I know this is a huge turn off to some of you, so I'll keep it brief. Newcastle United have had a dull, drab, uninspiring season. However, this evening we play PSV in the UEFA Cup. If we win this then it's the semi finals.

I have supported them all my life and for that loyalty I have been repaid with a cup-count of zilch. Despite their current absolute rank mediocrity there is still a chance that we could actually win something this year. If that happens then it will be greatest season of all.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.
If no one out there understands. Start your own revolution and cut out the middleman.

It's my birthday. I'm 33 today.

What, no cake?

No cards?

How did this happen? I never used to be this old.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 12, 2004

He smirks and shrugs his shoulders as he drops another clanger. In the game of life he's just a dreadful goalhanger.

Since starting this blog early this year, it's only in the past week that I have received criticism.

The critics have come in two varieties. Firstly from friends who have been unhappy as to how I have described them.

Secondly via Joella's blog, and a subsequent email conversation. Apparently my writing is a bit long-winded.

Before this, I have taken some criticism for political beliefs and ideas and I'm always happy to argue the toss with the likes of BritishSpin and his support for the Iraq war.

I'm not someone who takes criticism well. But, if you'll forgive me I'll ignore the first set of critics and concentrate on the latter. Specifically, I'll try to defend my style of writing.

For me weblogging is to writing what punk was to music. It's stripping away the pretension and the corporate forelock tugging and replacing it with something that is personal, low-tech and, on occasions, angry. It's a snapshot of the very second it is written.

For these reasons I would never deem to criticise the style of a fellow blogger. Each blogger brings to the table something that is made up of their own ability, lifestyle and ideas.

I do tend to write to a reasonable length. I hate the "text message" culture that pervades everything from day time television to Question Time. If you want amusing snippets then there are plenty of other blogs out there that will provide them. Work Hate would be my top tip.

Apparently if you write to a shorter length then there is a greater chance that someone will read it. Fair enough. I can't really argue with that. I am sure it is true. I could write 20 words a post and then I am sure everyone who read every word. But who cares? Isn't it more of a challenge to get readers sticking with you right until the last word of a longer entry?

In addition, I have often thought that the difference between a left wing and right wing argument is simply the length of the answer.

As an example - if the question is: "What do we do with a persistent young offender?". The right wing answer is: "Lock them up,". The left wing answer is: "Check into his background, is there a problem with his education? Is the environment that he lives in a problem? If we do lock him up - will that solve anything? What are they other alternatives?". Etc etc etc.

That's why tabloid newspapers always seem to graduate towards the right wing. Their headline-driven copy is not conducive to debate at any level. Instead they offer only easy-to-explain, quick-fix solutions.

I think blogging is a broad church. There is room in cyber space for all of us. If you don't like any blog then, like a television program you find offensive, the best thing to do is just to switch over or switch off.

That said, I guess my ultimate aim with every post is to get each passer-by to read it, from top to bottom. And while I am aware it is unlikely to happen, hopefully the majority of visitors will stick with a post and give me a chance to put all my ideas and arguments to them.

I also have certain values that I try to aspire too. I try to avoid just posting link after link just for the sake of it, unless I have something to say about it. I try to avoid those pointless diary entries if they are going nowhere. I honestly don't think anybody cares what new clothes I have bought or what I am going to have for my dinner.

I try to cut out all spelling mistakes but I am sure they do slip through from time to time.

I am also aware that there are some topics that will provoke a response and there are others that will go largely ignored. It's very easy, I think, to write too much with the reader in mind. However, there is a danger that if you do this your blog quickly becomes sterile and formulaic.

With all this in mind, I will continue to write in the same that way that I have since starting this blog. As always I welcome your comments. Or at least I do, if you got this far.

And if none of this makes sense then blame it on flu. Because, yes, I do still feel like shit.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 11, 2004

Oh you cannot hear me. Can anybody hear me out there?

I'm having a bad day.

Essentially it's because I have flu. I haven't been ill in ages. When I worked in an office I used to get ill all the time but since I switched to working from home I've been fighting fit.

Or, at least I have been till today.

Being stuck in bed, not feeling well, is always guaranteed to bring down your mood. It's very easy to remember the days when you were a kid and your mum would run you a bath. Then while you were washing, she'd change the sheets and make you a hot drink.

When you're grown up life isn't that simple. You can go mad lying in bed. To add to this there's been a home football game today, which I missed. I was supposed to go round to a friends for Easter Sunday lunch too, and I didn't make that either. Although I did provide dessert. I wonder how my trifle was received? How "new man" am I?

So, here I am, sniffling in front of my PC, feeling very sorry indeed for myself. I also have the overwhelming feeling that everyone out there is having a wild time.

It seems hard to believe that it's a week today when I was on top of the world following my VSO training.

I guess you can always guarantee that something is going to knock you off your happy perch. The last post but one will probably explain part of my miserable mood. Since posting it, I must admit, that I am finding if very difficult to write anything in case anyone should have a problem with it. Which is, of course, a ludicrous situation for a blogger.

I suppose I will get over it. But it's far easier writing something that you know only faceless people will read. The beauty of a blog is that it is personal and you shouldn't have to justify it to anyone.

Although, I admit, that is a hopeless ideal.

So please, stick with me. I need to figure out what the hell is happening to this blog. And, in general, I guess with me.

Somehow I also can't help but feel that if Newcastle had beaten Arsenal I would feel so much better.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 09, 2004

In 1649, to St George's Hill. A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the peoples' will.


With apologies to Gil Scott-Heron.

The Revolution will not be televised 2004.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.

You will not be "just lovin it”.

You will not be able to “taste the difference”.

And things “won’t only get better”.

Because the revolution will not be televised.



The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will be brought to you via the Internet.

From across the world without commercial interruptions.

The revolution will not show you pictures of Bush.

Serving turkey or piloting a plane.

There will be no party political spin.

Not Campbell. Nor Hutton. Nor Mandelson.

The revolution will not be televised.



The revolution will not be brought to you by Rupert Murdoch.

And it won’t be the “Sun wot won it”.

It will not star Gareth Gates, Will Young or Girls Aloud.

The revolution will not “cut out the carbs”.

The revolution will not ask “how you doin'?”.

The revolution will not make your lashes thicker nor your hair softer.

But it will be "worth it".

And the revolution will not be televised, Brother.



There will be no pictures of Posh and Becks,

Wearing bling bling at a Westend premiere.

There will be no national lottery.

There will be no Arthur, no Guinivere nor Camelot.

No Fame Acadmey nor Pop Idols.

The revolution will not be televised.



There will be no Footballers' Wives

No Chat, Hello or Take a Break.

There will be no pictures of Jade’s new love nest.

Nor the cheating Major.

There will be no Hamiltons. There will be no Simon Cowell.

Celebrities will get themselves out of there.

There will be no Champions League.

Brought to you by Visa, Amstel, McDonalds and Nutella.

There will be no Adidas, Puma nor Reebok.

Nike will not “just do it”.



Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm

Will not be shown.

No one will care about Jordan and Peter Andre

Or which one is Ant,

And which one is Dec.

Big Brother will be driven out.

From the Government and the diary room.

No one will text in their nominations

Because the revolution will not be televised.



There will be no 24-hour live showing on E4.

No highlights package with Tara Palmer Tompkinson,

Vernon Kay or June Sarpong.

The theme song will not be written by Moby.

It will not feature Craig David, Daniel Bedingfield

Robbie Williams, Christina Aguillera or Britney Spears.

The revolution will not be televised.



The revolution will not be right back after this message.

About soul music brought to you by KFC.

It will not “do what is says on the tin”.

It wil not help you “work, rest and play”.

The revolution will not “take a Diet Coke break”.

The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.

The revolution will not be fuelled by tall skinny latte’s.



The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,

will not be televised, will not be televised.

The revolution will not be re-run on UK Gold.

The revolution will be live.




Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 08, 2004

What happened in the past. Remained a mystery of natural history.

When it comes to a traditional diary, it's not advisable to read someone else's.

But what of webloggers? We write our diaries on-line knowing they will be read by others.

We can cloak ourselves in anonymity and to a certain extent we may pretend that this can excuse our lack of care for those close to us.

I've just had a visit from a very good friend. I had been so chuffed by that Guardian article and from the response to my weblog that I mentioned it to him. Not surprisingly he looked it up.

It didn't occur to me at the time that there was information there that should have remained private and, more importantly, probably shouldn't be included at all.

In the past I have criticised friends on here. Or, at least, it may appear that way. For that I should apologise. The only defence I can make is that the feelings that I put to words were a reflection of the very second I was typing. I can't defend them as either rational or fair.

This blog is very much a document of a personal journey. Post thirty I think we all get that feeling of what the hell we are supposed to be doing with our lives. In the next 12 months a few of my friends are getting married. My comments on this can be read as being anti-marriage. I am not, it's not something I envisage happening to me in the near future, but it does not mean that I am not happy that my friends are settling down.

I can say, without exception, that I like, and have the greatest respect for, each of the partners they have chosen. Both brides and grooms-to be have chosen well.

My comments should be read as a demonstration of my own insecurities and weaknesses rather than any failings of others. There is also the problem that cold, hard text can appear so much more brutal than a tongue-in-cheek line delivered with a smirk and wink.

In the wake of that Guardian article, I suggested another blogger doesn't amend her past posts. In hind sight I was wrong. I am going to be amending old posts, because as they stand they are not representative of either how I currently feel or how I should have felt back there.

I have a lot of very good friends to who I owe more than what I have written. As a demonstration of their good nature and friendship they were willing to discuss what they found hurtful about the blog, rather than simply stop taking my calls. That, in itself, demonstrates what good people they are.

There are a few people I owe an apology too. This posting is the first step in that apology. However, I am also aware that I have a little more work to do in order to demonstrate that the apology is heart felt.



Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 07, 2004

The generals want to hear the end game. The allies won't approve the plan. But the oil men in the White House. They just don't give a damn.

Tune in. Turn up.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.
It's been a long, long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come.

Today US helicopters fired three missiles at a mosque in Iraq, killing 40 people.

Yesterday, it was announced that there would be £7.3m lottery funds being given towards celebrating the work of the Home Front and the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

Let me put it another way. While celebrating our Home Front, our Dad's Army, our last line of resistance etc, we are blowing the hell out of Iraq's and a good many innocent civilians too.

I find the timing of the lottery money allocation sickening. I am sorry, but much as we should never forget the lessons of past wars, I think it is time to stop celebrating the triumphs.

Yes we "won". And millions were killed on both sides. It was not glorious. It was a war that had to be fought and it had to be won. We should never forget the heroism but these memories should also include the horror that was both world wars.

In school I learned nothing of the world wars. I learned nothing of our shameful imperialistic past. In history I learnt about William the Conqueror and I learnt about the industrial revolution. But I learnt nothing that was modern enough to be relevant.

I remember tabloid newspaper headlines a decade or so ago about so-called loony left councils that were advocating peace studies. It's an easy target. Let's laugh at the hippies. It's political correctness gone mad etc etc.

But what about peace studies? Is it such a bad idea? Perhaps it could incorporate the history of war with the emphasis on human cost rather than glory.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I am just too cynical.

Does no one else find it sickening that while literally millions of people in this country oppose the war, Blair is investing money in promoting a time when the folks back home rallied round the flag and did their bit for the war effort?

It is blatantly obvious why the US was for the war and the majority of Europe against it. The US has not suffered a modern war. Isolated incidents like Pear Harbour and 9/11 aside it has not had its cities bombed and burnt. Europe has suffered. It has also learnt the lessons of war. It is these lessons we should be investing in.

Perhaps if Bush hadn't dodged Vietnam by virtue of privilege then perhaps, he too would have learnt the lesson.

Today 40 Iraqis died. To quote the Guardian: "The strike came as worshippers were gathering at the mosque for their afternoon prayers."

The report closes: "Senior Pentagon officials believe that the current situation is a 'test of wills' between US-led troops and resistance fighters and insist they will prevail".

It is not a 'test of wills'. It is a test of how many people each side are willing to sacrifice in the name of winning their own battle. It is that abhorrent. And the "wills" they are referring to, on the American side, are the wills of politicians thousands of miles away. Not the will of the soldiers.

This war was a mistake. Those people who marched against the war at the outset did so believing Iraq probably did have WMDs, but we still felt war was wrong. It turned out there were no WMDs, yet still the war is being fought and people are dying. Still Bush and Blair are defending their decisions.

So those of you who believe this war is right - how many of you would be willing to give your life for your beliefs? Would you fight for what you believe in? Would you put yourself at risk? If you wouldn't make that ultimate sacrifice, then ask yourself why you believe it is right that others should.

The recent insurgency is a further reminder that the war is not over. It was never over. It wasn't over when the statue of Hussain fell. It wasn't over when Bush flew in to say it was. While there are people dying, no one can say it is over.

Does anyone really believe that in 10 years time it will really be over?

So, while the war is still on-going, the campaign to stop the war must also continue. This is an illegal war fought over false pretences. It is important that the millions who mobilised at the outset of war shouldn't be distracted or endure protest fatigue.

As regards previous wars it's not the heroism we should be remembering but the sacrifices made by so many.

By investing in remembering the last world war, Blair is investing in nationalism. He is investing in nostalgia for a time when the country was united behind it's leader and its troops. In 2004, this is not the case. There is no just cause for this war.

If this war can be stopped, and if Blair is one day made to pay for his role, then we can move on as a country into a new era where, hopefully, war once again becomes as abhorrent to its politicians as it is to its people.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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, April 06, 2004

With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands. There is power in a Union.

As much as it's nice to say that weblogging is about sharing information, individual empowerment and the enjoyment of writing, deep down we are all hits junkies.

I don't believe there is a blogger out there who doesn't get that thrill when they log on and find that unexpectedly their hit counter has shot through the roof.

When that happens the next step is to go to your referrals list and find out who is linking you and is thus responsible for the extra traffic. Personally most of the time, it is someone I have linked first, but if another site has made that first step then it is very flattering.

It's also a huge personal boost. We all show our arses in public with our blogging and there is always the fear that our offerings will be derided, or worse, ignored.

That's why I have made Busy Making Other Plans my link of the week. The person behind it was inspired to start their own blog as a response to THAT Guardian article.

The writer has included a link to my page and I recently used the same John Lennon quote that inspired their weblog name. I hope it is not too presumptuous to say that my enjoyment of all things blogging has gone some way to inspiring BMOP. If it has then its a very big compliment indeed.

Including the link is also a way of repaying the likes of the very talented Moi and Jazz who were both good enough to champion my own site when I was just starting out. I am sure BMOP will also pass on that assistance to another new blogger somewhere down the line.

It was these aforementioned bloggers that first brought to my attention this idea of highlighting new weblogs. It's great to be able to discover new people out there with something to say and they deserve our support.

In recent weeks I have been avidly reading A Beautiful Revolution, which for my money is most addictive blog that I have come across. It's a brilliant piece of writing. So good, in fact that I have found myself, at times, questioning its authenticity. I am sure, however, that writer Andre, is for real. I do find it annoying though when someone like Andre can write so well, apparently so effortlessly. I write for a living, albeit non-creatively, so it kills me when an "amateur" does it so much better.

Andre's blog is another example of a lifestyle blog. Like Bridget Who, it's not just the quality of their writing, it's the quality of their lives that makes them such required reading. I am in awe. I don't drink nearly enough and I certainly don't sleep with enough people to be that interesting. Instead I have to rely on what's going on in my head, and what's going on in the world, to fill my posts. I would guess that neither Bridget nor Andre would describe themselves as remarkable but they clearly are. Perhaps we all are if you get to know us well enough and a weblog can provide that opportunity.

It feels a little like THAT Guardian article has become a bit of a watershed for the Blogging Brits. Hopefully too it represents the increased importance of the "kitchen sink" blogger over the more gimicky Belle De Jours of this world.

While BDJ's apparent personal situation may make her blog initially attractive, I believe that it also misses the point. The beauty of the blog is that you soon realise that all bloggers have little quirks in their characters that make them so interesting. I must have read hundreds of bloggers and I would struggle to name two that are alike.

In short, it's the content, not the situation that makes for a good blog.

I have also noticed that I have been relying on traditional media far less since I joined the ranks of the bloggers and that has to be positive. Leave TV to its pop competitions and the papers to slavishly following the guidelines of their millionaire owners - meanwhile there is a genuine independent media revolution taking place on the web.

In the meantime, fresh blood like BMOP are, day by day, joining our ranks.

Blogging has become a real obsession with me in recent months. It's a shrink's couch, a daily diary and a crutch.

Perhaps when we reach a critical mass we can kick start the real revolution and everyone else can join in.

I suggest Rupert Murdoch as first against the wall. Anyone else got any nominations?


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

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.