We watched last night’s ten o’clock news – and it didn’t make for easy viewing: the stories included a court appearance of one of the suspects accused of Lee Rigby’s murder, ongoing trouble in Syria, the arrest of someone in connection with the disappearance of teenager Georgia Williams—and the sentencing of Mark Bridger for the kidnap and murder of April Jones.
Bridger has been told he will die in prison, after being found guilty of an horrific crime which robbed a five year-old girl of her life... her future and ripped apart a family who have so far been denied the (albeit minimal) comfort of knowing the whereabouts of their daughter’s body.
April’s mother, Coral, showed remarkable composure in reading out a statement following Bridger’s sentencing. I doubt I’d have been able to show such courage and dignity given the circumstances. Their focus, quite rightly, was on their daughter, but personally, I’d still be wanting nothing but bad things to happen to Bridger during his incarceration.
Bridger clearly possessed an ability to fool those around him into believing he was someone or something he evidently is not. Such people are “clever” in the manipulation of people and situations and much as there will be shock at the revelation, those who “knew” Bridger should not berate themselves for not seeing the reality behind the mask.
He was described as a “pathological liar and a paedophile” and despite his continual claims to the contrary, he will remember every detail of the fate that befell poor April, and his unwillingness to reveal the truth is yet more proof of Bridger’s totally evil, yet unfailingly cowardly nature.
His actions have denied an innocent child the chance of growing up and fulfilling whatever dreams filled her young head. Yet the only thing Mark Bridger is being denied is his liberty. How can that be right?
Notwithstanding any number of ethical arguments, surely there is a potential punishment that befits a crime such as this..?
The sad reality is that the world will move on. New stories will hit the headlines and April’s name will soon become a fading memory for most of us. My thoughts are with her family and friends, for whom the truth is that the years will pass, but the image of this fresh-faced five year old child will be forever frozen in time—the memory of a life taken, and the unimaginable pain that will never disappear.
Gorffwys mewn heddwch April Jones x
Despite having been minus the use of one ear since 1996, I absolutely love listening to music and going to see bands whenever I can, but whilst there have been times when I’ve come across some fantastic, but not particularly well-known groups, there have been other periods when I’ve tended to stick with the tried and trusted (which usually meant The Alarm!).
Much as the late 70s/early 80s was a brilliant time to be growing up (speaking musically) with the arrival and equally swift departure of punk, coupled with the “post-punk”, “new wave” and “indie” bands that emerged as a result, things were perhaps not quite so vibrant a decade or so later... or perhaps the sounds of the age just didn’t appeal to my taste...
You can count on the fingers of one hand the bands that have truly changed the face of the musical world (I’ll give you the Beatles and the Sex Pistols, you can debate the others...), but there have been certain genres that have arguably influenced a generation – to a greater or lesser degree. Bands and sounds tend to be pigeon-holed and the term “Britpop” might mean different things to different people – maybe The Stone Roses were the catalyst, maybe not – but for me the music briefly revived feelings of younger years and by the mid-90s, bands like Oasis, Blur, Cast, Suede, Pulp, Elastica, Sleeper etc were household names and regularly featuring in or near the top of the singles charts.
My absolute favourite band from those days was Echobelly. They just had a great sound and in Sonya Madan a singer who, whilst blessed with a wonderful voice, just seemed to have a presence, that unexplainable something that set the band apart from the others.
Their first two albums (“Everyone’s Got One” and “On”) reached the top ten, although singles chart success (“Great Things” apart, possibly) eluded them. A third album “Lustra”) followed in 1997, but despite releasing more work early in the new decade, little had been heard of Echobelly (well at least not in my house) since those heady days in the mid- to late-90s.
Then, just a few days ago, I replied to a Facebook post from Lex Pretorius, lead singer of the excellent young band Everybody Looks Famous, in which she asked about favourite “front women”. My reply mentioned Sonya Madan and I took the opportunity (via the miracles of YouTube of Spotify) to reminisce... only to discover that Sonya and guitarist Glenn Johansson had recently recorded some acoustic tracks under the name Calm of Zero.
I listened to the songs... two or three times over... and was captivated all over again by the haunting beauty of Sonya’s voice. I felt compelled to send a quick message to the duo, letting them know how much I had enjoyed their latest recordings – I even got a reply – but sadly the story doesn’t have the happiest of endings.
Elaine and I don’t get out much, but we have two big nights out in June, one of which happens to be on the 17th, the same date that Calm of Zero are playing in Newcastle. I would have loved to see Sonya and Glen, but unless they fancy meeting up for a coffee during the afternoon, it looks like I’m going to be denied...
But undeterred, I will end this short musical offering by wishing both every success now and in the future – and, in the words of Agnetha and Frida: “Thank you for the music”.
I normally have two subjects that I try to avoid writing about... work and religion, but after quite a bit of deliberation following events from the past few days, I’m going to break my own rules this once.
The work aspect of the blog came just over a week ago when members of the local Muslim community attended a blood donor session in Middlesbrough. It would not be right to mention anyone by name, but on the day and in the meetings that led up to the event, I will admit to being welcomed (if that’s the right word) by people of a religion and culture to which I’ve rarely been exposed, but with whom I would gladly sit down and discuss at length the deity and doctrines that guide them. It won’t change my own personal beliefs,
but I don’t see anything wrong with trying to understand more about the diverse nature of the country in which we now live.
I can appreciate the difficulty of trying to challenge stereotypes and change the popular (as in “of the people”) perception of the general Muslim community. I’m not going to get drawn into any sort of analysis because I would be out of my depth, but I believe those I have met and started to get to know are representative of the overwhelming majority of Muslims across the country, genuine, good people striving to make a positive difference to the communities in which they live.
On Wednesday, Drummer Lee Rigby was brutally murdered, an indescribable act carried out in the name of religion but for which there can be no justification. The simple unavoidable fact is that a child has been robbed of his father in devastating and needless circumstances.
The media coverage was understandably extensive but arguably did exactly what the perpetrators hoped and allowed their fanatical ramblings to get totally unwarranted airtime and, in some quarters, incited words of racial, religious and cultural hatred that could potential escalate into yet more pointless violence, but distracts completely from what matters the most – the shattering effect on a family trying to come to terms with the inhumane slaughter of a loved one.
I just don’t accept that any religion can be offered as a valid excuse for the disgusting crime that took place earlier this week. You can claim allegiance to any God you like, but bad things are done by inherently bad people and the two men deserve nothing more than to be locked up... and forgotten.
Tragically, for the friends and family of Lee Rigby, forgetting is something they will probably never be able to do and this blog is respectfully dedicated to Lee’s memory. Rest in Peace young man.
I watched some of the British Soap Awards last night and once I’d got over the irritation of each group of cast members “whooping” when their respective show received a nomination, the results were actually quite interesting.
Coronation Street won half of the awards, including three of the five that were decided by a public vote. It was perhaps as well that the programme wasn’t even more successful, because all the other potential recipients are currently on bail...
In stark contrast, Eastenders sloped away from Manchester with only Adam Woodyatt’s Lifetime Achievement award to show for another year of misery in Walford. Hollyoaks (which I must admit I’ve never watched) scooped five awards including the year’s most Spectacular (and it certainly was) Scene for “the bus crash” and the prestigious Best Actress was presented to Claire Cooper.
It was no real surprise that Natalie Gumede featured extensively during the evening for her wonderful and convincing portrayal of Corrie’s Kirsty Soames – the abuse storyline enabling Alan Halsall (as Tyrone) to show off his skills, his reward was to be named Best Actor. Natalie looked lovely in a short red and gold dress, but surely there’s only one way to finish any soap blog... with the sexiest female... for the fifth year running: Michelle Keegan. A decent effort since her character has been pregnant for several months, but as this picture proves, she’s a stunningly attractive young woman.
So with the ceremony done and dusted for another year, is there a “New Order” in soapland?
I don’t know, but for the Eastenders cast, I’m sure today will have been a very “Blue Monday”.
See what I did? That’s really clever...
Many hobbies have come and gone down the years. Writing is obviously my number one pastime at the moment, cricket has been a massive part of my life, but I’ve also been a bit of a collector too: various things ranging from PG Tips cards (The Race into Space 1971... Prehistoric Animals in 1972 etc), via York City football programmes, through to Jean Harlow cigarette cards.
Luckily, Mrs Whiting from the local store saved the tea cards and gave them to my Mum, rather than her and Dad having to drink twenty cups a day in the vain hope of finding that missing dinosaur. She also gave me some plastic figures that fitted on top of each other to make a totem pole... I think they were from boxes of Sugar Smacks. We used to get those little selection boxes where you got a choice of eight different cereals - the Ricicles always got left until last...
During my teenage years, I accumulated a large collection of vinyl 45s from the punk/ new wave era. All were in picture sleeves, quite a few were coloured vinyl and they would probably be worth a fair bit right now, but unfortunately they were traded in many years ago to temporarily delay yet another financial crisis. My ex-sister-in-law Emma still has some of the records. She claims they were a gift, but that’s not how I define the word
The York City programmes are from the 1983/84 campaign when the side won the old 4th Division, becoming the first British club to reach 100 points in a season in the process. I went to virtually all the home games, but the only away trip I made was to Feethams, then home of Darlington, for a 0-0 draw that I don’t remember at all. At the last count, I’m missing five away programmes and with a bit of luck, eBay will come to the rescue at some point.
But now, I spend my pocket money on cigarette (and confectionary) cards from the 1920s and 1930s featuring Jean Harlow and Marie Prevost, two of the Hollywood actresses about whom I’ve written. The cards can cost anything from 99p upwards. The most I’ve ever paid for a single card is £6.99 (or £2.99 if Elaine’s reading this) and I have something like eighty cards now, which are all displayed in a nice little folder.
The thing about hobbies is that whilst some people might find your particular pastime or collection interesting, others just don’t get why anyone would possibly want to just sit and look at... let’s say a cigarette card in an album. That said, I am currently setting up a small web site where you can view the cards for yourself.
The address is www.harlowcard.weebly.com – feel free to have a look and if it’s not completely updated, it’s just because I’m trawling eBay for that elusive Mansfield
On Saturday 15th September 1979, York City travelled over to Springfield Park for a Division 4 clash with Wigan Athletic. The game ended in a 5-2 away win for City and amongst the scorers was the gentleman pictured above, Peter Lorimer, the former Leeds United star, famed for his “one hundred miles an hour” shooting.
On the following Monday morning, I put up a “5-2” banner in the window of the room I shared with several other fifth formers at school – “shared” might be a bit of an exaggeration, they weren’t exactly what I classed as friends – and promptly got a bollocking from the housemaster for my art work...
A few months short of thirty-four years later and City have just managed to escape the Blue Square trapdoor, having dropped out of the league and clawed their way back in the intervening years. For Wigan, the story has been nothing short of remarkable as the “Latics” won promotion (as champions) from the country’s bottom division in 1997, repeated the feat in Division 2 in 2003 before securing a place in the Premier League just two years later.
As I write, their top flight survival hangs in the balance, but yesterday their fans were rewarded with a brilliant FA Cup final success over Manchester City which highlighted two things to me: firstly, you should never write off an underdog in a two horse race and secondly, just how wildly fortunes can fluctuate in sport.
Well over a quarter of a century ago, I celebrated a long-since forgotten York City victory against a club who, in thirty or more years time, will still be talking about the day when Ben Watson’s header brought the FA Cup back to Lancashire...
I offer my congratulations to the good folk of Wigan and wish you luck for the final two games of the season. The table never lies and you will finish where you deserve... but I sincerely hope you stay up.
I joined LinkedIn on Monday... mainly in response to a letter sent to staff at work about the upcoming restructure that has been “impending” for just under two years. Regular readers will know that I love my job... but that I don’t go into great detail about work-related matters in what is essentially a public forum. Safe to say it’s bloody hard not to feel unsettled...
And so I uploaded a photo and added various bits and pieces about my education and work history. The end result wasn’t too bad...well I’d employ me!
Three days later and I’ve gained quite a number of contacts from various times and aspects of my life – including an old school friend I haven’t seen for more than thirty years. I genuinely have no idea what the future holds; if I had a choice I would love to keep doing what I do... and help to develop those around me, but I guess things will become clearer with time.
I have to admit that searching to try and find one or two names from my past was becoming potentially addictive – but the fact that my school contemporaries all seem to be CEOs, Directors and the like soon cured me. Evidently I might not have climbed quite so high up the career ladder (for “might not” read “have not”), but I’m good at what I do... and how many other people are about to have a Doctor Who book published?!
Anyway, this is a quick “thank you” to those with whom I am officially “connected”. If you want to join the fun, just click this link!
Onwards and upwards Kirbs...
The blogs have been relatively few and far between recently, but as another week draws to a close, now is the time for a new post.
It’s been a bit of an up and down week. The lighter mornings are a blessing, but I tend to wake with the dawn and I’ve been getting up, ready and driving the fifty miles to work before the clock’s reached half past six. The knock-on effect is that I’m usually shattered by nine in the evening and there are some days when Elaine’s barely home from a late shift by then and I feel pretty bad that some nights I’m just no company at all.
I occasionally manage a quick nap which can then extend my evening as late as the ten o’clock news, but if I sleep during the day (for however long), I tend to jump awake, in the style of a mild panic attack and last Sunday, I genuinely had no idea where I was for a split second (I was in the conservatory, if you were interested) and felt weird for the rest of the afternoon.
I still have incredibly vivid dreams during the night and their effect is somehow draining, almost as if I’ve physically experienced what my mind has imagined and it can take a good couple of hours before I feel properly awake (although the process can be hastened by some serious chocolate intake!).
Having two “fast” days during the week isn’t helping, nor is the fact that I haven’t added to the five pounds lost so far and on Wednesday, I was tired, hungry and in a real fettle with myself. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t get tetchy very often (honestly I don’t), but if I’m at work I tend just to go quiet and this must be such a contrast to my usual jovial self (!) that the offer of a hot chocolate and a chat is happily never far away.
Thankfully by home time, I felt much better and with Elaine finishing relatively early too, we had a nice relaxing evening together. Today’s been fine, but tomorrow is my second fast day and it’ll just be my luck to stay awake long past ten o’clock safe in the knowledge that the chocolate muffin will just have to wait...
All my own work... almost.