Category Archives: Writing 101

One Lovely Blog Award

I want to thank MargretDJ for nominating me for the One Lovely Blogger Award. I am always grateful to everyone who drops into my little corner of the internet to check out what I have written.  I am even more grateful to those who take the time and trouble to like a post or, even better, to leave a comment.

As I am sure you can imagine I was delighted that Margret took the trouble to nominate me for this award.  I shall therefore do my best to follow the rules and spread the love 🙂

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The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by fellow bloggers for those newer and up-and-coming bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and also to help the new blogger to reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the fellow bloggers who choose them. This award recognizes bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog:

Seven facts about me:

1. I have been married to Shirley for 21 years.

2. I love reading fantasy novels my favourite authors are Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan

3. I grew up in Northern Ireland but joined the Navy at 16 and never went back.  I have lived in England since 1977

4. I listen to any type of music and never go a day without listening to at least one album

5. I Have seen Van Morrison live over 200 times

6. I am not much of a TV or movie fan.  If I watch TV by choice then it is probably to watch sport, especially Rugby

7. I am a diving instructor and am qualified to dive mixed gases to 100M (330 feet in old money)

I am hopefully nominating some new people for this award, they also have a lovely blog:

  1. Side by Side in Mental Health
  2. Doug Warren
  3. A Momma’s View
  4. Stories without Border
  5. Sofia, Wisdom of the ages
  6. The Inspiration Angel
  7. Inspiring Max
  8. Flooding August
  9. State of my Heart
  10. Zen and Pi
  11. Sunday Epidemic
  12. Blue Crescent Fading
  13. Little Learner
  14. The quiet Fantasy Book Blog
  15. Stark Raving Mad

The majority of these bloggers are making their early inroads into the world of blogging so do pop over to check them out and give them some love.  If I do say so myself, this is one lovely list of blogs!

The Forget-me-not – Writing 101

Todays writing 101 task is to talk about an object that we treasure.  This was an interesting challenge for me as I am not a hoarder.  Well I am not a hoarder of anything except my music collection.

I don’t have possession of a single item from my childhood, I left home not long after my 16th Birthday.  My parents put me on a boat from Belfast to Liverpool with a single bag.  From Liverpool I travelled to Plymouth to join the Royal Navy.  My parents divorced shortly afterwards and after several house moves both settled with new partners.  I spent 9 years in the Navy, married and had several house moves myself eventually settling in Dorset.  As a result everything from my childhood was lost through the years.  My younger brother even sold my collection of rare and fairly valuable LP’s.

In 1991 I became a Freemason.  Shortly afterwards my mothers partner, who was also a Freemason, gave me a small lapel pin.  A little blue forget-me-not.  Freemasons began using the flower in Germany in 1926 as a message not to forget the poor and desperate. Many other German charities were also using it at this time. In later years Masons in Nazi Germany adopted the flower as a means of recognition in place of the square and compass design. This spread across Nazi occupied Europe to avoid any danger of being singled out and persecuted. The symbol of the forget-me-not in modern Masonry has become more prevalent and today it is an interchangeable symbol with the square and compass.  Some also use the forget-me-not to remember those masons who were victimized by the Nazi’s. In English Freemasonry it is more commonly now worn to remember those that have died as a symbol that you may be gone but not forgotten.

In Newfoundland the forget-me-not was a symbol of remembrance of that nation’s war dead. This practice is still in limited use today, though Newfoundlanders have adopted the the Flanders Poppy as well.

Sadly Trevor, my mother’s partner, died from a particularly virulent cancer shortly afterwards and so my little forget-me-not became a memento of someone I was very fond of.  It is however so much more than that.  Given its symbolic origins my forget-me-not is a symbol of freedom, of resisting oppression, of distrusting authority and of my abhorance of prejudice, discrimination and inequality.  Now thats a lot of symbology from a little flower.  Let me try to explain a little more.

I have written a lot recently about my views on the illegality and futility of the so called ‘war against terror’ in the Middle East and I promised in an earlier post about the situation in Gaza that I would try to give some insight into how and why I believe that some of the people in Gaza become radicalised and carry out terrorist atrocities against the Israelis.  I grew up in Northern Ireland, a small province that was torn apart by “the Troubles’, a period of sectarian conflict that cost over 4000 lives.  The Troubles began in 1969 when I was just 9 years old.  The reasons are complex and beyond the scope of this post but if you would like to know the background there is a comprehensive summary here.  Shortly after the troubles began my family moved from Belfast to a small coastal village in County Down.  It was the sort of place where kids were safe to run free on the beaches and in the fields.  The community was almost entirely Unionist and of the Protestant religion.  There were only a couple of Roman Catholic families in the village.  You knew immediately who the Roman Catholic families were because the children went to separate schools.  This is a situation that still exists in Northern Ireland today.  Isn’t it incredible that in Britain in 2014 a social apartheid still exists, even today over half of the children in the province attend schools where over 95% of the pupils are of a single religion.  In the 1970’s it was much worse.

My first real personal exposure to the troubles came in 1974 during the Ulster Workers Council Strike.  In May of that year the strike brought the Province to a standstill, schools, offices and factories were closed by the strike.  Even the power companies closed down meaning no electricity.  Loyalist paramilitary groups setup road blocks and barricades to ensure that the strike was not broken.  My friends and I manned some of the roadblocks around our village.  At just 13 years of age we were delighted that the schools were closed and we thought manning the roadblocks was great fun.  In all honesty at that time I didn’t really understand what was going on, but there was an association with Loyalist paramilitaries.  Several of my friends and I were also in loyalist flute bands in what we saw as a celebration of loyalist and protestant culture.  Of course what we did not understand was that many of the adults involved were members of paramilitary organisations and that we had already been identified as possible recruits.  Dod we see those friendly laughing, joking men as terrorists?  Of course not, they were simply guys who were in the band, who lived down the street or who drank in the pub with my dad.  The terrorist you see isn’t necessarily a monster, they simply feel that their situation is hopeless, that no-one is listening to them and that they have to take radical action to be heard.

A sense of injustice can so easily lead to young people being radicalised and becoming involved in terrorist organisations.  Indeed many people I knew as I was growing up and even members of my family ended up in jail and some died as a result.  The economic system in Northern Ireland was dire indeed and for many the only way out was to do as I did and leave the country.  Of my peer group and classmates at school some joined the armed services or the police, others emigrated, some turned to religion and others joined paramilitary organisations and got involved in terrorist related crime.  The Northern Ireland I grew up in had the army on the street, Police stations were behind high fences, parking in town centres was almost impossible as parking was not allowed because of the fear of car bombs.  You had to pass through security checkpoints and submit to searches before you could even enter Belfast town centre.

The situation was not helped when the Westminster Government introduced internment without trial for those suspected of being involved in terrorism.  One of my Uncles spent over a year in prison.  He was never charged with any crime, he was imprisoned because he knew people who were suspected of being involved in terrorism.  He tells tales of beatings and torture by the Police and security forces.  Internment proved to be the biggest boon to recruiting that the paramilitary organisations ever had.  It is so easy to draw comparisons with the situation in the Middle East.  Whilst I do not condone terrorism in any shape or form my forget-me-not reminds me how easy it is for the marginalised to be drawn into armed struggle.

As I mentioned above I left home at age 16 and joined the Royal Navy.  After completing my basic training and my trade training I was waiting for a posting to a ship.  Whilst I was waiting my class were asked to volunteer to attend the military research facility at Porton Down to assist with research into finding a cure for the common cold.  We were offered additional pay of £10 a day and an additional two weeks leave if we volunteered for the six week trial.  This was a huge amount of money at the time, my first monthly wage after I joined the Navy was £28 after food and accommodation charges were deducted.  Thankfully I had learned early in life that if something appears too good to be true then it usually is.  It has since emerged that those who thought they were helping with research into a cure for the common cold were in fact being unwittingly subjected to the testing of chemical weapons.  My forget-me-not reminds me that you cannot trust those in authority.

I mentioned above that my mothers partner, Trevor, had died from a virulent strain of cancer.  Trevor had served as a Royal Marine and had been present when the UK carried out the testing of nuclear bombs at Christmas Island in 1962.  Those present were not given any form of protection, they were simply told to turn their backs on the explosion and to shield their eyes with their hands.  Many of the veterans present during those tests later died from cancers.  The UK Government and Ministry of defence fought tooth and nail to avoid paying compensation to those affected or their families.  You can read more information about this situation here.  My forget-me-not reminds me that Government cannot be trusted to look after those who serve their country, and of course it reminds me of the man who gave it to me.

Many of you will remember that in 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.  The British Government sent a task force to the South Atlantic to recover the Islands and in the ensuing conflict 907 people lost their lives this included 86 Royal Navy personnel and 27 Royal Marines.  Several of the Navy personnel who died were former shipmates and friends of mine.  My forget-me-not reminds me of those who lost their lives during that conflict.

In recent years I have seen at first hand how the UK government marginalises and criminalises those who choose to live differently to the rest of society.  The root of my awareness lies in the criminalisation of those who chose to live on the road during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  The introduction of the Poll tax by Margaret Thatchers Government was seen to be so unfair by some people in our society that many people moved to of their homes and into vans, buses and trucks to avoid paying it.  As a result government passed laws making it an offence to park on land and even made it an offence to damage grass on the land they parked up on.  The media in the UK portrayed these travellers as drug crazed thugs and sparked a moral outrage across the country.  I came to realise that the people they were talking about included my little sister.

In recent years the government and the media in the UK has been on a crusade to portray those on welfare benefits as feckless scroungers.  They give the impression that huge amounts of cash is being ‘stolen’ by those who are not entitled to support.  The fact that the vast majority of welfare spending goes to old age pensioners or to the working poor seems to be immaterial.  This is merely an excuse to demonise the most needy in our society whilst taxes are cut for the richest.

The media and government continuously demonise those who seek political asylum in our country, claiming that the vast majority of immigrants into the UK are economic migrants who come here to sponge off the welfare state and the National Health Service.  The fact that the vast majority of immigrants are from EU countries and are entitled to settle and work anywhere within the European Union is conveniently ignored.  The remainder are often those who are displaced by conflict in those countries in which the western governments are waging war.  Once again the most vulnerable in society are a convenient scapegoat to cover up economic mismanagement by successive governments.  My forget-me-not reminds me that government often makes bad laws and demonises the poor and vulnerable, society is unfair and over the last 35 years the rich have got richer whilst the   poor get poorer.  It reminds me that inequality, prejudice and discrimination are rife in our society and that government sometimes make laws that reinforce that inequality.

My forget-me-not may only be 10mm across but it provides something of an anchor and I think you will agree it has quite a story to tell.  It is a treasure beyond value.

The Dangers of Blogging!

I was pleased to see that todays assignment is a free write, because I have had something on my mind for a couple of days now and I really wasn’t sure how to approach it. A few days ago a fellow bloggers wrote a piece on ‘Open Mic Nights’ a phenomena that is becoming increasingly popular in my hometown.  He used the piece as an opportunity to vent his spleen in what was perceived as an attack on ‘Open Mic Nights‘ and their comperes.  The problem is that the piece was an opinion piece and clearly designed to generate discussion.  Boy did it do that!  I don’t really think that that the writer anticipated the kind of discussion it would generate. Unfortunately the discussion was interpreted by some as an attack on certain individuals who host Open Mic’s around our area.  It wasn’t immediately clear that he intended a follow up piece in support of the events.  Before he managed to publish his piece he was subjected to a torrent of abuse and personal attacks, not just on his comments page but also by e-mail.  Although he did post a follow up in favour of the events the next day he was accused of writing the second piece in an attempt to pacify his attackers.  I was saddened by this as I know the writer personally and I know that he is a massive supporter of the local music scene.  His WordPress site  exists solely to advertise, support and review local gigs and artists.  I suspect that this article and the response it illicited has harmed his credibility with many of the artists and promoters who are influential in the local music scene.  I do hope that a temporary increase in traffic driven to his site by the article doesn’t in the end harm his site. The attacks on the article writer had me thinking about my own writing.  By coincidence I had an evening out last night and a friend informed me that some of my own articles had been noted by others and that they could lead to difficulties for me at a later stage.  Initially I was a bit annoyed by this as the articles were picked up via my private twitter feed.  My feed does not identify me as a member of the organisation I attended nor do the posts relate to that organisation but the message was passed to me that “I should be careful about posting articles which are controversial”.  This was a clear reference tony recent posts criticising UK Government Policy in a number of areas, particularly with regards to the war in the Middle East and it’s approaches to welfare. I have given the issue a lot of thought.  What came out of it for me was the fact that opinion pieces are likely to provoke strong responses, that they can be controversial and that people in influential positions may take a dim view of your public writing. What also came out of my thoughts is that I will not be cowed, if I see something as an injustice I will speak out.  I will not be silenced.

Black Dog Attacks

I can feel him long before I see him.  He is drawing closer, slowly, stealthily, hiding in the darkest corners, keeping to the shadows.  The muscles in his haunches are bunched and powerful, rippling under his jet black fur.  As he creeps forward he is almost silent but I can hear him breathing.  He begins to pant, gently at first, not through exertion, it’s his excitement that has raised his heart rate.

“I am coming for you” he whispers, I can hear the hatred in his voice.

“Keep back”, I shout, “I don’t want to see you, you are not coming in”.  He withdraws a little but starts to move forward again as he detects a tremor in my voice.  He can sense my fear, the signals passing down the invisible leash that connects us.

“Go away!  leave me alone” I yell.  I hear him moving slowly closer my yells and screams have no effect, he feeds on my fear.  For the first time I can make out his shape, his body a slightly darker black against the blackness of the shadows.  As he looks at me, I can just make out the whites of his eyes, rimmed in red, demonic.  I hear the beginnings of a growl rumble in his throat, I can feel his hackles rise and for the first time I see the glint of his teeth through the darkness.

“I am coming for you”, he says “You can’t run, you can’t hide”.  My heart starts to beat faster, heat rises to my face, my palms start to sweat as I feel panic rising, fear beginning to take over as he says  “Come on let go, one more minute and I have you”.  Suddenly it hits me, knowledge comes to the surface.  Through the morass of fear that my mind has become, a strand of sanity arises, a thread of hope.  I remember!

I have owned dogs all my life and I know that the vicious ones are usually the most cowardly, they feed off fear, they hide their fear behind aggression.  To defeat them you must remain calm, to assert control of them you have to project your authority.  Any dog can be mastered with time, calm and patience.

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, in through my nose and out through my mouth.  In for five seconds, hold for three seconds, out for six seconds.  In for five seconds, hold for three, out for six, and again, and again.  I focus on my breath, on the expansion of my chest, feeling air fill my lungs, feeling calm descend.  I can hear the dog getting agitated, angry.  “I am coming for you” he barks, “you are mine, I have got you”.

I stand taller, calm now, my breathing slow and steady as his anger rises.  I raise my hand slowly, palm out towards him. “Stop!”  I say, my voice firm and steady, calm.  “You only have power over me if I let you have it”.  “No he screams, you’re mine, I will drag you down, tear your throat out and feed on your entrails”.  His anger is rising, I know I am winning.

“Down boy” I say, smiling now as calm spreads through my body, spreading with the oxygenated blood pumping from my heart as it flows through my body.  I step towards him and he starts to whine. “Quiet now, Good boy” I move slowly, looking at him but not into his eyes.  I want him to submit, not feel challenged.  “Here boy” I say tapping my leg. Slowly he emerges from the dark and moves towards me, ears down, tail between his legs, beaten again, at least for today.  He comes to my side, I reach down, scratching between his ears.  “Good boy, now go in your box” I say.  He turns walks to his crate and lies down, his stomach exposed, showing me that he has submitted to me at least for today.  He may try again tomorrow, but for today at least the black dog of my depression has been vanquished once more.

The end.

This post is my response to a writing challenge where we are asked to express contrast through a dialogue.  Having suffered from depression for many years I have discovered that mindfulness exercises really help me.  The key to mindfulness is to try to live in the moment, to accept and acknowledge your feelings, to put them away and to move on.  To be able to do that a form of guided meditation can be used and I find the best route into this is through controlled breathing.  I came across the story of the black dog whilst dealing with a bad bout of depression.  I love dogs and have lots of experience in dealing with them.  Patience, calm, reward and repetition are the tools that work best when training a dog.  The same tools can be used to master your depression.  When you are training a vicious dog, if you show fear you are likely to get bitten.  I have found the same when I feel the black dog of depression creeping up on me.  I have tried to use this exercise to explain how I try to tame my black dog.  I hope you found it interesting, informative and entertaining. 🙂

Black dog image from:  http://positivepsychologynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/blackdog.jpg

The Homecoming – A Marines Story

The crowd is huge today, they stand waiting patiently in the autumn sunshine.  It won’t be long now, the aircraft passed overhead some 30 minutes ago.

Amongst the crowd stands a Royal Marine, his Green Beret positioned perfectly on his head, the Globe and Laurel cap badge highly polished.  The sunlight glints off both the badge and the row of medals on his chest.  As you would expect he is immaculately turned out.  His shoes highly polished, the creases in his trousers razor sharp, no fluff on his jacket.  He stands tall, his shoulders back, chest out, back straight, his bearing unmistakably military.  His now white hair and moustache neatly trimmed, his bright piercing blue eyes alert as he glances down the road waiting for the first glimpse of his brothers car.

Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road all is ready his brother is about to disembark from the RAF Hercules Transporter plane.  In his mind he knows that his brother will be greeted first by seven of his younger brothers.  They will board the aircraft, proud but nervous, lost in their own thoughts and memories.  They will touch the simple casket and then slowly and reverentially they will cover the casket with a union flag before placing a green beret above their brother head.  They will slowly and carefully slow march down the aircrafts loading ramp and they will place their brother into the waiting hearse so that he may complete the last few miles of his journey to the arms of his grief stricken family.  As the casket is placed they lower bared heads in respect and grief at the loss of a fallen brother.repat 3

As the hearse moves slowly away they give knowing glances to each other.  They know that their brothers story will never be known to the wider world.  They know that as a member of a family within a family the details of their brothers death will never be revealed to the press and never be discussed outside of the Special Forces Base at Poole in Dorset.  In the operation centre a photograph and a plaque will join the others on the wall, it will give only the time and place of his death no details.  The full details will only be known by those from his unit of the Special Boat Service.  To the rest of the world he will be known simply as a Royal marine who died on active service.  The details of the operation kept secret lest it provides the enemy with intelligence that could endanger his brothers later.

The hearse moves away with it’s Police escort, blue lights flashing as it drives the couple of miles to the memorial garden in Norton Way.  Those lining the roadside stir as the cortege approaches.  As if by telepathy the old men come to attention and the Marine raises the standard of the Royal Marines Association.  Dozens of standards are raised as the men and women from veterans associations the length and breadth of the country come to pay their respects to the fallen.  There may be over fifty years separating these brothers, they have no blood connection but the grief is palpable.  The Green Beret that they have both been proud to wear a badge of honour and a bond of friendship that will never be broken.  In this, the 350th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Marines, the bond of tradition and shared history is even stronger.  repat 2wb

As the cortege reaches the memorial it slows to a crawl.  The standards are lowered in salute and people leave the crowd to place flowers on the hearse.  Thousands stand to honour a young man who fell serving his country, united in respect and grief.  The Marine cannot even remember how many times he has done this, he has attended almost every repatriation for well over a decade.  He has stood in silence to honour the fallen hundreds of times, first at Royal Wooton Bassett and now at the memorial gardens.  He is 74 years old now but he stands straight backed and head held high to honour his brothers in arms.  it gets a little more difficult on every occasion but he will continue to do it for as long as is necessary or until death or infirmity stops him.  On every occasion he marvels at the dignity and shared sense of loss of those who gather.  On every occasion he hopes it will be the last time that they have to gather.  On every occasion a tear forms in his pale blue eyes and his heart swells in pride and gratitude to the fallen and to those who come to honour them.  As always he feels particularly sad when the fallen comrade is a Royal Marine for the loss is the loss of a family member.  Those who have earned their Green Beret share a lifelong bond, they are a family and each time a brother falls a little piece of them dies too.

Scotland the Meek – Writing 101

As I walked through the early morning rain todays news ringing in my ear, I bend and pick up an open letter urging the people of Scotland to say yes to Independence.  The reply shoots into my brain:

When we needed our courage

We chose to be weak

No more Scotland the Brave

Now it’s Scotland the Meek

Serially Lost – Procrastination

They say that procrastination is the thief of time, well I have learned over the past few years that there are much bigger thieves of our time.

There are many things in our lives that we can lose, loved ones, pets, marriages, trust, hope, money, keys.  You name it and we humans can probably lose it.  Some of these things have a major effect on our lives, others slip by causing barely a ripple on the surface of the lake of life.  Some loss has a devastating effect on our lives, others less so.  Many of the things we lose we can replace or regain in one form or another.  There is one thing that you can never reclaim however.  Time!

Time has a way of just slipping through our fingers.  One day you are at school, you look around a moment later and your own kids are leaving school and getting ready to leave home.  What on earth happened to those years?  Where did they go?  How can it be that one day you are in front of the mirror fussing over your hair and the next you are wondering where your hair went. How can you go from almost weekly trips to the barber to having more hair on your back than you do on your head?

In the 21st Century one of the best ways to lose time is by sitting in front of one screen or another.  If we are not watching television we are sat in front of a computer screen, playing games, writing blogs.  Sometimes we even use them for work.  If it isn’t a computer it’s a tablet, our iPhone or some other gadget.   dinner_instagram-small_0

Recently my wife and I spent an evening at a fairly expensive restaurant.  It’s a nice place, great food, great range of cocktails, good wine, great staff and a great atmosphere.  Why then did the young couple on the table next to us spend the entire evening with their faces buried in their smartphones.  Ignoring each other, seriously what ever happened to talking to each other whilst you are on a date?

Screens may be a major way to lose time, but there is something else that steals away your life.  Something quiet, invasive, all consuming and insidious.  Something that creeps up on you and steals away a huge chunk of time.  So what is this thief of time?  Well dear reader you will have to wait for my next post to find out.

Cartoons from http://s42.photobucket.com/user/rockdogrecords/profile/

Writing 101 – 3 political songs

Wow!  So today I have been set a challenge to write about the three most important songs in my life and to explain what it they mean to me.  Quite honestly I almost ignored the challenge.  3 songs, seriously.  Just for a moment let me give a little context to the size of the task.

My CD collection is at a minimum 5000 discs.  In addition to that I have cupboards full of vinyl and tapes that haven’t seen the light of day in over 20 years.  I listen to music almost constantly, not a single day ever passes in my life when I don’t listen to music, not one, ever!  I have boxes of discs that have never been listened to, I have 30k songs on my iPod and I am being asked to pick 3 songs.  It is an impossible task, my favourites would change on a day to day, if not an hour to hour basis.

However, in the UK today we are seeing a political frenzy as we get ready for the people in Scotland to go to the polls in the referendum on Scottish independence.  I am an Ulster Scot, a unionist by tradition and yet I am hoping that the Scots will vote for independence.  There is no doubt that  a yes vote will tear down the entire British political system and this is the real outcome that I want to see.  Why?  Because the whole political system in the UK is corrupt from the bottom to the top.  So what has all this got to do with the 3 songs I am going to pick to complete my task?  well I believe that music can be a power for good, that it can make people think, that it can challenge the establishment, that it can generate an interest in Politics.

So what songs have I picked?

1.) Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers

2.) Battle of the Beanfield – The Levellers

3.) Criminal Justice – Ferocious Dog

Alternative Ulster is a song from my youth and is the song that awakened my ability to question the status quo, to examine and to be sceptical about what we are told by the arms of state and politicians, to realise that vested interests are at play and that society at its heart is deeply unfair.

The battle of the Beanfield by the Levellers tells of how the Police and the state criminalised people in the UK simply for wanting to visit Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  There was a an anti government movement in the UK at the time, a campaign of civil disobedience.  This was primarily based around the introduction of the ‘Poll Tax’ a tax that was seen as deeply unfair as there was no means testing, The mega rich paid the same as the person on benefits.  People in their thousands were being criminalised and sent to jail because they couldn’t pay.  Thatchers Government used the Police to smash the resistance.  The Police were accused of being heavy handed and of extraordinary levels of violence towards protesters.

The lead singer of Ferocious Dog worked until very recently as a miner in Nottinghamshire.  The song Criminal Justice explains how the Police and arms of state were used to crush the miners during the strikes in the mid 1980’s.  Thatchers Government were forcing UK mines to close whilst at the same time importing millions of tons of coal from Poland and elsewhere.  Thatcher set out to crush the trade unions, to undermine workers rights, collective bargaining and to make it easier for employers to sack employees.  She was ultimately successful.  In the years sine we have seen poverty in the UK increase.  In 2014 there are an estimated 2m people in the UK who are dependent on food banks, this at a time when taxes are being cut for the richest in our society.  Once again the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

So those are my three songs for today, politically charged songs for a politically charged atmosphere.

Beautiful Days at Beautiful Days

As I sit down this morning to complete my daily writing task my attention is drawn to the living room window.  It is a grey scene today, the sky is overcast, the clouds are low in the sky. The leaves on my cherry tree are turning from green to gold, some are already on the grass as summer fades, the days shorten and autumn spreads her golden fingers across the land.

I slept well last night and I am feeling relaxed.  I settle in my chair and close my eyes as I take a few minutes to contemplate the day ahead and to consider my writing task.  My mind begins to drift through my window to the world, I turn to the west and drift over the Dorset landscape, across green fields and gently undulating hills.  Beneath me the A35, a black tarmac scar through a wondrous landscape, draws me ever westward towards Devon, towards the Beautiful Escot Park, towards the highlight of my summer, towards the Beautiful Days Festival.10428482_10152341757513651_721626255692836701_n

As I drift across the landscape I feel the warm sun on my back and a gentle breeze on my face. I become aware of a presence beside me and I turn dreamingly, lazily to see a small bird flying beside me.  It’s a Wren and the king of birds looks at me with a twinkle in his tiny eye as he whispers “keep going, happy days are ahead”.  Below me I catch my first glimpse of Escot park.  I see a field of camper vans to one side and a sea of small tents.  The hills around the site draw the eye, like an artists brush strokes, towards the main stage nestled as it is in a little valley, the river Tale at is back.  My eye is drawn to the ferris wheel and beyond to the huge tents that serve as the ‘big top’ and ‘little big top’ stages.  People flow through the site in currents and eddy’s, a seemingly never ending stream moving to and fro from stage to stage, to bar and to fast food stall.  The site stretched out below me is beautiful, wondrous and above all exciting.P8166342

I begin my descent and as I do I am struck by a wall of scents.  The smell of the fast food stalls mingles with the smell of beer and cider from the bars, the delicate smell of warm sun on sun kissed bodies.  The smell of fresh sweat rises from those who are dancing and jumping to the music all across the sight.  The occasional sweet smell of cannabis smoke drifts on the breeze. All the smells mingling to create the distinctive aroma of a music festival.  As I drop closer to the site the sounds of the festival become the dominate focus of my senses, music rises and falls in waves from the variety of stages across the site, folk, roots and reggae sounds mingle with rock and punk music.  The crowds sing along with their favourite bands.  Laughter and singing and shouting and screams of delight.  The sounds of joy and happiness and friendship and love.  The sound of old friendships being renewed and new bonds being formed, friendships that will last a lifetime.  The joy of being amongst friends, amongst people who share the safe interests, have a similar outlook on life, people who are friends that you haven’t met yet.

10575205_10204225175886258_3844615502285349935_oAs my feet finally touch the ground I feel an overwhelming sense of belonging, of coming home, of being amongst people I love of reaching the place that I feel most at peace with the world.  An enormous sense of wellbeing washes over me as I am clasped to the bosom of those I love, I feel the heartbeat of those I hold dearest, of my friends and family.  My own heart swells with love as its rhythm slows and falls into time with the heartbeat of the festival itself.

Slowly, gently and willingly I give myself up as the festival claims me and I become part of the moving, pulsating, beautiful, living organism that is the Beautiful Days music festival.  I allow myself to drown in the waves of happiness knowing that for the next few days at least all will be well with the world.

Apple and U2

Over the past couple of weeks I have been getting increasingly excited about writing 101.  I have been blogging for a few months now and really enjoy it.  I have a small and growing following and blogging gives me an outlet to share my passion for music. I love music of all sorts from classical to hardcore punk, the only thing I don’t really care for is the rap, hip hop and disco style of music.  I am also an unashamed Apple fan.  I have an iMac, Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone and iPod.  I love them all.

Despite all of the above I find myself sitting down to tackle my first assignment in a really angry frame of mind.  Why?  Two words, Apple and U2.  Well U2 isn’t really a word but you know what I mean.  Do you want to know why I am angry?  Well read on because here it comes.

Last week I sat and watched the webcast of the big Apple event where the new iPhone 6, iWatch and so on where shown to the world.  I, like many others, was somewhat taken by surprise when it was announced that the new U2 album ‘Songs of Innocence’ was given away free to everyone with an Apple device.  My first thought was ‘big deal’ I won’t be downloading that.  I did like U2 in their early days but in my opinion everything they have released since ‘The Joshua Tree’ has been garbage.  I also totally detest Bono.  If ever a man has let success go to his head it is Bono, the man is so far up his own backside he can see the light  shining from his the space between his ears.

The following day I logged onto my computer to find that this album was available from my ‘purchases’ tab and was on my cloud storage.  That is when my ire started to rise and my blood started to boil.  I don’;t want this bloody album, even for free and screw you apple for forcing it on me in a marketing stunt.

This is the most awful sell out from both Apple and U2.  Apple!  The whole brand is built on image, on being sexy, desirable and cool.  U2 are as far away from all of those things as it is possible to be.  The world does not need another U2 album, much less does the Apple aficionado deserve to have it thrust upon them in this way.

The real bile however is reserved for U2.  Firstly they should just fade away into obscurity.  They have done nothing of worth in musical terms for over a quarter of a century.  That is bad enough, but by allowing their music to be given away free they have kicked every struggling musician on the planet squarely in the nuts.  They have shouted to the world “This is what music is worth!  Nothing”.  Young and emerging talent find it a huge struggle to make any sort of a living from music as it is now they  have the quidzillionaire ‘rock superstars’ giving music away for nothing.  Except of course U2 apparently received $100m from Apple for the right to give their music away.  How could they!  This is a band who grew out of the UK post-punk and New wave scene.  This is a band who’s success was built on the anti-establishment, anti-system, anti-capitalist wave that swept the UK during the years of Thatcherism.  An era that destroyed British Industry, that shifted an ever increasing share of the countries wealth into the hands of the rich whilst the poor get poorer.  This is the worst sell out in the history of music.  In the long term this will do untold damage to the music industry.  It will blight and damage the young and emerging talent trying to make a living from music.

Damn you U2 and damn you Apple!