Thoughts On Syria

2 years ago I wrote to my MP to question why we hadn’t
intervened in Syria, like we did in Libya, when Assad started to slaughter and
torture his own people.
We did nothing, mostly because of Russia and China who are
afraid of similarly authoritarian regimes being challenged and overthrown.  Yet this man is vile and evil.
So as a humanitarian, I had my answer as to how many people
it is ok to kill – over 100,000.  Include
over 1 million refugees, the minor use of chemical weapons and countless injured
and that apparently until this weekend just gone was perfectly acceptable.
This is not the only human tragedy of recent times that has
gone unanswered by those able to assist – Darfur, North Korea and Rwanda are
particular stains on the human conscience as far as I am concerned.
There are occasions when we have taken action and stopped
atrocities, such as Libya, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and done significant good
to countries.  However foremost at many
people’s mind will be the bloodshed in Iraq where we inadvertently initiated a
civil war, along with those deaths our previous government and leaders should
take responsibility for.
The time to act was 2 years ago.  Now it is a total mess with several simultaneous wars –
Sunni vs Shia, Iran and Hezbollah on one side, secularists on the other,
Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Russia’s little arms business –
not to mention their Mediterranean port which they are very fond of.
As far as I am concerned, the question is – is it ok for
Assad to continue to barbarically kill his own people?  And are we happy for other potentially
murderous regimes to believe they have a green light to butcher their citizens?
There are definitely risks in acting – amongst those that come to mind
are Islamists taking over Syria, revenge attacks on Israel or other western
targets, further and widespread use of chemical weapons and that particularly
cold saying “collateral damage”.
I am still for action – as a humanitarian I believe in
saving lives.  Though due to the added
complications, I believe in only limited action – that of destroying missile
systems, destroying military planes and helicopters – any potential delivery
systems for chemical weapons.  If we can
seize said chemicals then that would be ideal.
No all-out war, no regime change, no fighting the Syrian infantry, tank brigades, etc.
I would also love to see a protected humanitarian corridor, where refugees can flee safely, without the fair of further violence.  Added to that, further assistance in the way of aid, particularly to countries with large amounts of refugees such as Jordan.
I still believe there is the potential for a negotiated
solution, and perhaps Assad may come to the table if and when he feels under
threat.  We should not publicly reject
the possibility of regime change as Assad needs to believe that his days could
be numbered.  At the moment he believes
in his invincibility and has the criminal state of Russia backing him covertly, along with other aforementioned actors.
My solution is that the country splits into 4.  The west becomes an Alawite state, headed by
Assad.  The Kurdish areas have their own independent
state, along with a separate state for secularists and yes, Islamists.
Can you suggest any other solution except
continued slaughter?

Secretsundaze Go Bang Review

A night out in London used to be amazing, guaranteed.  I have had about 6 nights out in London this
year, none of them have been amazing, all have been slightly or significantly
spoiled by crowds, and sometimes even disappointing music.
So I took affirmative action and booked a ticket for the
daytime Secretsundaze party the day I found out about it, taking no notice of
which DJs were playing – I had only been to one Secretsundaze party before and
the crowd there seemed really nice. 
Decisive.
I arrived early on, it was very quiet to start – but aren’t
all parties in the first couple of hours. 
It gave me chance to talk to lots of randoms – it was a ridiculously
friendly crowd – and have a few strawberry ciders.  The music was good – first DJ was resident
and creator, Giles Smith, who warmed it up nicely.
Quite a few people seemed to recognise me, apparently I now
look like the son of Camilla Parker Bowles.  
Someone must have been on drugs to say that.
Also I look like some guy from the recent series of Big Brother (I definitely
don’t look like him!), oh and that guy with the blog, and who comments on
Resident Advisor.  I’ll take that.  There was an excellent
Seth Troxler lookalike near me too – even had the accent perfected.
I liked the venue – Studio 338, fairly easy to find not too
far away from Tony Blair’s Dome.  Simple enough inside, with a large terrace
where the DJs and the vast majority of the crowd were.  Unusually there were plenty of toilets –
though they also doubled up as a sauna. 
The roof of the terrace created a sun-trap (good practice for my upcoming Ibiza trip) and was frustratingly hot
underneath.  Just like my office.  Shame it wasn’t
raining.  Praise also to the venue for
supplying plenty of bar staff.  Security
were also friendly and relaxed.
Next up was Floating Points, the first 20-30 minutes of
their set was slow and predictable disco and funk – I don’t think the crowd
quite got it, but once they upped the bpm to something more usual, the
dancefloor filled, mixing deep house with disco and a very commendable set.  They could have done to smile a little more!
I don’t remember much about the live set from Portable, I do
remember the changeovers not being massively smooth.  I enjoyed it as I was dancing, but I cannot tell you much about it as I maybe not have been at my height of sobriety.
The final DJ I saw was Omar S – he was outstanding.  One of the best sets I have heard all year –
starting off dark and quite sinister, but never afraid to mix up the tech-edged
sounds with something more house-oriented, some of his own productions and some
definite classic party tunes too.  Really
have to see him again.
Tune of the night was this little surprise party gem – I might have to play this when I DJ on Saturday.
I lost everyone and decided it was best to mission back to
Reading around 9/10pm, thankfully avoiding the Russian Mafia who I had become
convinced were after me and safely navigating the melting escalators of the
station upon arrival.  Not to mention the
festival twats smashing bottles at Reading station.  Delightful.
In conclusion – the best night out in London this year,
superb music, lovely crowd – I cannot wait for next year.
Only downside was not meeting Tonka.  Or maybe I did?!

London Part 1 – Egg Chasing

So for the first part of an un-missable double-headed
weekend in London.
Saturday was the 7th or 8th time my
rugby league team, Hull FC, had got to the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.  For those not familiar with rugby league,
which I guess is all my friends and readers not from oop north, this is the
rugby league equivalent of the FA Cup. 
Except it is arguably the most important trophy in rugby league because
if you win the league (sorry, Super League) then you haven’t actually won the
league – all you have done is finished top. 
The top 8 teams (of 14) then have a play-off to decide who is the grand
champion.  How English.
We have never won at Wembley.  We did win when it was in Cardiff, and we won
a replay at some random ground up north once. 
For my Dad in particular, it was of the utmost importance.
We were not favourites – for comparison Hull FC vs Wigan is like Hull City AFC vs Manchester United.
 
We started brightly, for the first 2 minutes.  Then Wigan who have won the trophy approximately
598 times, came back strongly, but couldn’t break our defence until later in
the first half, with a try and a conversion to go 6-0 up.  Yes, we have tries in rugby league.  Tries and tackles – none of that kicking it
down the other end constantly shite in the gay whisky-drinking land owners version of rugby
down south.
6-0 at half time was commendable and we were still very much
in the game.  A quick pint to replenish
our thirst which unlike the hooligan game of football, one can drink in one’s
seat as nobody at rugby fights, except the players.
However the second half was one of constant
frustration.  Again, a bit of explanation
for my southern friends, you get a set of 6 tackles in rugby league – once the
team has been tackled and held to ground 6 times consecutively, without making
an error such as dropping the ball forward (a knock-on), the ball is handed to
the opposition for their set of 6 tackles. 
Normally after the 5th tackle the ball will be kicked down
the field to gain extra territory.
Hull decided to drop the ball consistently on the 2nd
or 3rd tackle during the second half, which meant that Wigan were
kindly given the ball far too often. 
They struggled to take advantage but did get two penalties to make it
10-0.
Defeat was inevitable as we were crap.  Wigan scored a very late try to seal it – but
not before roughly 15-20 of our fans a few rows back decided to have a decent
scrap to liven things up.  No stewards and no
police (rugby fans don’t fight so not required), it was eventually sorted out
by other fans.  Apparently someone
spilled someone’s beer.
Other typical Hull traits was every single person in front
of me at the bar questioning the cost of people and fellow Hull fans all
dripping with sweat on the Bakerloo line.
It was still a really enjoyable day out despite defeat,
plenty of beers were sunk and some nice pubs around Baker Street discovered.
A surprising discovery was that Strawberry & Lime cider has gone from a poof’s drink to a man’s drink in just one year.
For those with some interest in rugby league, the World Cup
is in this country at the end of 2013 and England have qualified along with
Australia and a load of countries nobody has heard of such as New Zealand and Wales.  You can still buy tickets for all of the
games I believe, and there are two semi-finals on the same day at Wembley with tickets from
the bargain price of £20 for both games. 
I have tickets for the final in Manchester – cannot wait to say I have
been to a World Cup Final (as I will never have £10million to afford a football
World Cup Final!).

Wasting My Money

I checked my bank balance earlier this week.  I am shockingly overdrawn.  For my standards anyway.  If I were a country, the IMF would be called
in.  Actually, no…the trade unions would
go on strike, crippling the economy further just for their own individual
selfish means.
So perfect time to waste further money unnecessarily, as getting into further debt when you are indebted apparently helps you get out of debt according to the Labour Party…and
because it is Friday, please go along with me as if I am playing Bullseye:
Iiiiiiiinnnn 1 – Why take the key out of the inside of the door, when
you can leave it inside, make your morning more interesting, interrupt your
work, embarrass yourself to your landlord and let the locksmith laugh all the
way to the bank for the most simple of call outs for just £78.00.
Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnn 2 – Most people opt to buy a train ticket from Bracknell
for £5.70, but you can get lucky like a robot by not bothering to get one until
you get to Reading Train Station where you can receive this superb prize of a
Penalty Fine, yours for the meagre sum of £20.00, served by the most
wonferfully Bob Crowe-alike Nazis in their finest neon regalia.
Iiiinnnnnn 3 – Salad.  Waste of time that was.
Iiiiiiiiiiiiin 4.  OK
I may be running out here so just make up some of your own.
And Bully’s Special Prize – Yours for just £75.00 – A weapon
of mass danger, engineered to terrify those annoying pedestrians and with the
license to go through red lights on those rare occasions that you need to use
the road.  You may not have used one
since the early days of John Major’s premiership, where he stewarded the UK
economy to the next level of greatness, only for New Labour to come in 5 years
later, claim the spoils and fuck it up like socialists always do when they run
out of other people’s money to spend. 
No, not a caravan – but a second hand bike.  As if you will ever use it.

(Random photo – I was going to put a photo of the Nazi symbol to represent the First Great Wester staff but thought that probably wouldn’t help my future employment prospects.  If I had Photoshop at work then I would have downloaded the Nazi logo and put it on a picture of First Great Western staff.  Albeit that would probably not help my current job prospects.  I hope the above picture is sufficient).

One Wedding, Elvis & A Hangover

My Dad said before my weekend away – “The local pub are
doing 2 steaks and a bottle of wine for £20, are you up for it?”.  Hell yes was my obvious response.
He then proceeded to advise me of the Elvis tribute act.  Thankfully there was a second room to this
pub where I could escape to thrash my sister at pool for the 4th
consecutive time.
Even my Dad said he was the worst Elvis tribute act he had
ever seen.  It was my first.  And hopefully last.
Ahh entertainment in Hull (actually Cottingham to be exact). 
Apparently Hull now has a museum of club culture.  Could be interesting – yet another reason to
go to Hull on holiday.  That and the
world’s only submarium, an excellent bridge that Jose Mourinho approves of and
the smallest window in the country.
My reason for going to Hull wasn’t just the steak, which by
the way was very average at best – oh and how did I nearly forget – it came
with fucking peas on the plate.  I asked
what it came with and they advised mushrooms, chips and salad.  I assume they mixed up the chips for peas as
they were no chips.
Do you see any salad on there?  Or chips for that matter?
It was to attend my cousin’s wedding.  It was a lot of fun.  My cousin’s are very loud, confident and
funny people – a Winfield wedding is never too quiet.  I don’t remember leaving, apparently I fell
asleep.  I can only guess at the amount
of wine consumed.  I think I told my
staunch trade unionist uncle that I went to Thatcher’s funeral.  I couldn’t help myself aafter hearing loads of
shite about ‘Tory cuts’!  Oops.  I wore a horse’s head mask at some point.
Oh and my phone reckons I spent several hours on the other side of the river.  Thought I would have remembered the mile-long bridge crossing.
The wedded couple were also blessed by a fair proportion of
the Hull City team who clearly popped by just to give their approval to the
marriage.  Who said footballers have no
heart?
 
I would advise what I did on Sunday but it is a state
secret.  However I can advise that Sunday
roasts of a large size actually have sufficient meat unlike the tight sods that
run pubs down here.  And extra gravy is
no problem at all – real gravy too!  None
of that poncy shit.

James The Baker

I decided that I should add to my already burgeoning variety of talents and learn how to make bread.

This is the top half of the bread:

And this is the bottom half:

I guess I will be shopping for a new baking tray tomorrow.

According to Jamie Oliver, making bread is a lot of fun.  For my blog readers perhaps.

It doesn’t actually taste that bad, away from the burnt areas.

2013 Goals

I thought that it was time to formalise my goals for 2013.  Having them in writing is likely to help me focus where required – and in my current case, refocus.

These were what I wrote down at the beginning of the year:

1. Continue to do well at work and beat targets.  At some point though I do need to increase how much I earn.

2. Studying.  I really want to continue to learn web design, in particular CSS3 and also Photoshop.

3. My web sites.  Start updating Ubereadoolische every week and see where I can take it.  Also design and implement www.jameswinfield.co.uk.

4. DJing.  Last year I DJ’d out four times, twice for me and twice for others.  I really want to step this up now I have had my first few sets under my belt and are much improved.

5. Free House Project.  It’s a lot of work and it costs me money but I think I need to have another crack at this.

6. Weather Forecast For Reading Page.  Started on around 35 likes – aim to get at least 100 by the end of 2013.  I need to devise a marketing campaign.

7. London.  Now and again I have this craving to live there, and I think I should at least investigate how much it would cost, what I would need to earn to live there, what accommodation I could afford, etc.  I love the house I am in and am settled but if close friends keep moving away then maybe maybe.

8. Clubbing.  I think clubbing 12 times is a reasonable target.  Maybe sneak Cocoon In The Park in too.

9. Ibiza.  DO NOT GO!  I must go on holiday to somewhere different.  Assuming I can actually afford a holiday.

10. Get On My Bike.  I need to get less unfit.  I should buy a bike and start ramming into some pavement cyclists.  “These are my pavements now”.

11. Badminton.  Getting fit part two.  Finding someone to play with is not exactly easy.

12. Eat Less Gravy – Ha ha only joking but I want to step up recent efforts to cook properly (ie following a recipe and trying new things), from once every 2-3 weeks to at least once a week.

13. Lose weight – I started the year at a hefty 95kg so a fall to 90kg would be nice and now I actually believe I can lose weight, unlike last year where I believed it was impossible.

Project Boring James

Today is the birth of Boring James.
Mundane, monotonous, tedious and tiresome.
This will be my most challenging project for many a
year.  This most crazy yet supremely dull
endeavour will involve lots of staying in, and very little going out.  Old forms of fun such as drinking, partying
and nightclubs will be sent to the gutter. 
Yes from now on, fun will consist of making bread, buying new pillows
and re-organising music folders.
Staying in is my new going out.  Except for the fact over the next few weeks I
have a family wedding, a daytime London clubbing sesh, two DJ sets and a trip
to Wembley for the rugby league cup final.
Erm…not exactly sure how successful this is going to be.

But I have to do this so I actually have something to spend in Ibiza and am not
relying on the poolside banana trees for sustenance.
It is time for change and reprioritisation.  I need to start achieving other goals –
concentrate on the medium-term goals and my dreams, instead of always stimulating
the short-term desires of life.  Time to
behave like a responsible Tory instead of a reckless Champagne Socialist of the
Labour party.
Expect a lot more bullshit status updates and random blog
posts.
Enough about me, I’m too boring.

Perturbations & Alterations

A very good friend of mine has been visiting recently and
asked me an unexpectedly pertinent question – “So what’s new, James?”.
I thought for a couple of minutes.  My answer was, “Fuck all”.
I am a little perturbed with myself at the moment.
I seem to have lost control of my life.  All I do during the week is work and
sleep.  Then at the weekend party and
sometimes sleep.
Work
Sleep
Work
Sleep
Work
Sleep
Work
Sleep
Work
Don’t Sleep
Drink, party
Feel like shit
Sleep
Work…
You get the picture. 
This is a more than acceptable existence and I have had lots of fun but
perhaps the fun has been lost a little. 
It is all the same.  Nothing
new.  Repetition.  Staleness.
Some may argue stability is good but I want something more
than an acceptably stable existence.  I
need some change, I need to mix things up a bit.  More excitement!
The other thing that really annoys me is the lack of money,
and the amount that I waste.  Thanks to
the previous Labour government, my standard of living is much reduced.
I have concluded that I need to make some changes.  So to mix it up I have decided to go to Ibiza…for
the 11th time.  Variety is the
spice of life, as they say.  I could have
gone somewhere new by myself but this is way too good an opportunity – the
villa is stunning and my holiday companions include some of my favourite people
in the world.
 
To save up so I actually have some spending money will mean
having to stay in 6 out of the next 8 weekends. 
I think I have stayed in 6 weekends this year at most. I haven’t had a
weekend in since…possibly May.
All this staying in will give me chance to work towards other
dreams and goals of mine that have been neglected in recent months.
Meanwhile there are plenty of good times in the pipeline,
including a London clubbing sesh at Secretsundaze, a DJ set, a family wedding (yes people in
Hull my age actually get married) and a trip to Wembley.
6 weekends out of 8 without really spending any money is a massive challenge for me but the reward is worth it.
All about the self-discipline.

Goodbye Student Loan

A monumental milestone in my life.  My student loan is repaid.  The “wee stopsie” is in place and Glasgow’s
most efficient company have stopped taking payments.
Yes I actually went to university back in 1998.  Left in 2000 voluntarily without a
degree.  I achieved many things in that
time, including learning that just putting your name on an exam paper doesn’t
get you a mark, that discrimination against common Northern oiks by the future
landowners of this country is endemic, men get stalkers too, that there is not
a limit to the hours that should be spent playing Championship Manager, that 2
bottles of wine for £5 is a very fun evening and that the only way that you can
get to lectures after a night at Utopia is when you have to get the notes for a
friend (me and a close friend had the genius idea to go to lectures every other
day so we wouldn’t miss any notes and only had to attend half of the lectures – it worked). 
I also reversed my Hull schooling and discovered that foreigners, gays
and those of a different skin colour were actually nice people too.
I definitely had a drink or ten every night and may have
indulged in the smoking of a cannabis spliff but I did not exhale.  Honest. 
It was peer pressure.
Looking back I wish student fees were as high as they are
now as I would have thought more sensibly about what to do – Maths?  What was I thinking.  Oh it was boring.  I did gain two excellent life-long friends
and those that know how important friends are to me will know that I view my
£6.5k loan as an investment in life.
Annoyingly thanks to Reading Council’s ineptitude I am not
debt-free as I dreamed and still have a large balance of overpaid housing
benefit to pay back before I am debt free. 
Perhaps slightly my stupidity too.
Now all I have to do is reclaim any overpayment from the
Scottish.  Och eye.