What Coals Around Comes Around

Yes fantastic news – 590 coal miners are losing their jobs in Scotland.  Let’s get out on the streets and party, celebrate throughout the night.  I’ll get on the case and get some Facebook events set up.

Dig dong they’ve lost their jobs!

I am being facetious.  The only time I celebrate unemployment is either my own (assuming a nice redundancy package) or every time Chelsea or Blackburn sack another manager as that is hilarious and good for the economy and the transfer of money from Russia/India to the UK.

I actually would like to see the reversal of those expensive European Union regulations that are causing our coal plants to close bringing the potential of an energy crunch – and yes, blackouts.

By the way – which government didn’t invest in energy plants?  I’ll give you one guess.

So despite my political misgivings, I actually support the idea of coal mining in the UK.  Fuck the environment, I’ve been recycling since 1988 – before the word was even in the dictionary.

I will leave you with much wiser words than I can ever manage from the real hero of the underground.

Get digging coal.

Margaret Thatcher

I guess this blog post is nearly as long-expected as dearest Margaret’s passing away.

I thought about doing a post last Monday night about her influence on the country, her legacy, etc, but there was so much commentary elsewhere that I decided against adding to the wealth of opinion.  I wouldn’t exactly have been breaking new ground by arguing how she saved the country.

The question I would prefer to answer is why I personally hold Lady Thatcher in such a high regard despite coming from the north of the country and why I revere her so much – why I feel I connect to what she was a part of.

I had a mix of emotions last Monday.  I was initially saddened although it was an expected (and slightly feared) event, but the memories of what she had done for the country put a smile on my face.  As the day went on, a rage grew inside of me seeing people celebrate the death of someone I so admired.  I calmed down in the evening – overnight, instead of sleeping, I started to think more of my place and whether I was respecting her legacy – silly questions like whether I should give up clubbing and just work hard all the time to achieve ‘stuff’.

It does perturb me to see those who were not born during her reign, especially those who are well-off that are complaining – you know the sorts, Rory and Tarquin complaining that Maggie took away the jobs/milk, etc.  During the 1970’s this country was known as the sick-dog of Europe.  We were thought of like Greece are now.  We were a laughing stock.  We had to go to the IMF and beg for a loan as the markets wouldn’t lend to a bankrupt country.  A 3 day working week.  Power black-outs.  Most public services on strike at times.  The unions in control rather than democratically elected leaders.  29 million working days lost to strikes per year.  Is that seriously what people would have preferred another decade of?

Fuck right off.

However, that said, I understand the bitterness that some have.

Many manufacturing bases for example in the north of England, or in Scotland, continued their decline during Margaret Thatcher’s era, and she is an easy target to pin the blame of globalisation on.

I do not begrudge those who lost jobs in loss-making industries from blaming others.  It is easier to blame someone in an office 200+ miles away instead of your own union leader that you regularly pay money to ‘represent’ you.  Or perhaps more pertinently to blame someone else for your own perceived failings.

I guess blaming Margaret Thatcher for the closing of the coal mines is similarly analogous to me solely blaming Gordon Brown for the failings of the bank regulators, or even for myself being made redundant a couple of years back.

Although it is worth noting that when Margaret Thatcher took over in 1979 there were 235,000 working in the coal industry.  In the early 1950’s – there were 700,000.  Quite how she gets the blame when 66% of the coal jobs were lost long before her I am not sure.  It doesn’t add up but why should that stop anyone from hating her?

Hmm.  I’ve just done what I said I wouldn’t do.  This isn’t supposed to be a political rant, though it is so easy to fall into that trap.

I am writing to outline the reasons why I cherished her so highly, and why I am so appreciative of what she stood for:

1. Determination and hard work.  I wish I could survive on 4 hours sleep a night.  OK I do now and again go into work having had zero hours sleep but I am not exactly able to function 100% let alone run a country, give speeches, fight for causes in parliament.  Everything about her embodied hard work and determination and whenever I am feeling a little lazy or unmotivated  I just need to look at my Margaret Thatcher mouse mat, see what she achieved and bring that into my vision.

2. Breaking boundaries.  I kind of know what this feels like myself, as a northerner with an obdurate linguistic slurred grunt way of speaking back in 1998 – I didn’t exactly find it easy to fit in down south initially.  Margaret went far further in not only breaking boundaries at the stuffy Oxford University in her studies, but also as a woman in the equally as stuffy Conservative party of the post-war era.  And then was elected and re-elected.  Her personal achievements are absolutely 100% admirable in breaking through social structures.

3. Leadership.  Mrs Thatcher was a leader.  She knew what she wanted, she knew how to bring enough people along with her.  I greatly admire leaders – I require heroes and leaders in my life.  I require people to look up to.  At times in my life I have had some awful managers at work and it is so hard to work for someone you despise and still do a good job.  Even more important is a strong leader of the country.  David Cameron does a decent enough job of leading, especially compared to his gold-giving-away predecessor and having a good strong leader makes me happy to pay tax.

4. Individual Responsibility.  When I was at university, I thought the world owed me a living.  Whether I got a degree or not, I believed that someone should give me a job just for being half-intelligent.  When I voluntarily got chucked out of university, I reluctantly took up a job with Natwest.  I thought nothing of turning up 4 hours late because I could and I totally thought it was 100% acceptable because the world owed me a living.  A few years later of further study and I had discovered the idea of individual responsibility, through reading about the values that Margaret Thatcher espoused.

5. Freedom.  Finally and most importantly – freedom.  The idea that everyone should be free.  Free from trade union control, free from socialist dictats, free from over-burdening bureaucracy but absolutely most importantly – freedom from state control, especially from evil empires.  This especially resonates with me now as I watch the Arab Spring and the fight that citizens of many countries have to have their basic freedoms – to be allowed their opinions.  Those critical of Margaret Thatcher should be thankful that they don’t live in one of dozens of countries across the world with strict or selective censorship of the freedom of speech.  Some don’t even have freedom of movement.  A few regimes are just so awful that they are sickening in their contempt for human life.  Some countries would torture you and your family for having an alternative opinion.

Margaret Thatcher fought against the advance of the state and unelected bodies trying to wield power over the government – and pushed an agenda of freedom across the Iron Curtain to assist in bringing freedoms back to our European brothers and sisters to the east of the continent.

I personally have her to thank for allowing me the freedoms to follow my life as I do, to have the freedom and the enjoyment of life, the opportunity and also some of the friends that I have met along the way – would I be living in Reading enjoying relative prosperity were it not for Thatcherism?  Or would I be living in a run-down council estate in Hull, bemoaning the lack of fishing docks?

Sure there are many other contributors in history but for me, following the values I have outlined above, makes me who I am, and the post-Thatcher United Kingdom allows me to follow my beliefs and I feel that I hold a great debt of gratitude to someone I will forever hold dearly in my heart and memory.

Austerity Weekends

I don’t like 5 weekend months.

I have to budget nowadays.  Long gone is the post-redundancy spend what I feel like kind of budgeting.  I have to be responsible nowadays.

As soon as I get paid, I subtract £480 for rent, £120 for bills, £60 per Friday for food shopping and £26.60 per full week for train fare to work.  Whatever I have left is my fun money.

I could have spread it out equally over all 5 weekends with roughly £100 a weekend, enough for one night of fun (out of my fun money also comes other unexpected expenditure so it isn’t like it is all spend on nightclubs and beer).  This month I decided I would split it into 3 weekends of fun and 2 of austerity.  Gideon would be proud of me.

Easter Fun.  Austerity.  Reading clubbing/London birthday Fun.  Austerity.  Cubed/Villalobos Fun.

The problem with austerity weekends is trying to fill the time.  Hence this blog post.  I am sat here wondering what to do that doesn’t cost money.  I quite fancy a bike ride, but I would need to buy a bike.  I could always use my weekly train ticket and go to Bracknell for a walk around.  I bought a couple of carrots and some potatoes earlier so I can make a roast dinner.

I made some cookies earlier.  My first ever attempt at baking.  It went ok but my lack of rolling pin hindered me as the ingredients were supposed to make 12 Christmas Jammy Stars.  Instead I have 5.  A little rough around the edges but truly beautiful.  Just like me.

What else have I done?  I listened to Sven Vath In The Mix The Sound Of The 13th Season – and I have to say both CDs are absolutely top notch, especially the more minimal groovy underground house second CD.

It really is a fantastic listen – and very sparkly looking.  I like sparkly.

I’ve spent more time trying to learn Photoshop but I’m still so much a beginner and it is frustrating as I cannot do anything that I want to yet.  I know some basics but not enough to do my planned redesign of my Free House Project logo, and also do a logo and some art for Ubereadoolische.

I’ve done a tiny bit of touching up on my aforementioned website and also got behind the decks for a practice.

This used to be my everyday life 15 months ago when I was unemployed.  I remember loving those 6 months but I really don’t know how I got through the boredom at times.

Maybe I am so used to being busy again that I just don’t understand how to relax and do nothing, spend nothing and consume nothing.

I think there is some dusting to do.

The Iron Lady – Book Review

It has taken me more than a year to get around to writing my first ever blog book review.

You all should know that I love Margaret Thatcher.

So imagine my joy when I received a book on The Iron Lady at Christmas before last.

I do not actually remember the last time that I read a book, certainly not a 555 page book that goes deep into political analysis – my busy life tends to mean that I don’t have time for much more than The Economist and Mixmag, but 6 months of unemployment certainly gave me the time to do so during January 2012, and I read it with some vigour – part wanting to know more about the great woman but also wanting to fill in the gaps in the knowledge of my political history.

Of course, being a huge fan of Maggie, I wanted to hear much more about how great a woman she was, though I was aware that the book was supposed to be a balanced insight into her life and workings, so I was expecting to read about her flaws too.  If even someone like me has the odd flaw, then surely my dearest Maggie did too.

However the book didn’t quite balance as I expected it would.  For the first part, it described her rather staid and Christian upbringing, and the courageous battle she took on to get to the top of her party.  It made her out to be an even more magnificent woman than I ever dared imagine.  Then slowly but surely and eventually rapidly and repeatedly, the author took swipe after swipe at her character, enough to make Ken Livingstone and Arthur Scargill smile.

It also showed how close we came on a few occasions to losing one of the best leaders this country has ever had; she overcame adversity so many times, not only politically and economically, but coming back from an IRA assassination attempt on her life.

I think I now have to admit that she wasn’t perfect.  She was quite cruel sometimes, and she was often unable to compromise.  Loyalty was often temporary.  A good leader that makes though?

Yet if you can see past the character swipes, and also a few arguably dubious decisions like selling arms to Iraq then you realise not only what a transformation to the country she made – economically for sure as the sick man of Europe was turned into a worldwide powerhouse, but also politically – she thought Tony Blair of more of a Tory than John Major.  That was her true victory against socialism.

Not only that, one also realised that she had an even more important role to play in the ending of the Cold War than I previously imagined.

It is a really good book, a bit annoying at times but I guess you have to give the socialists a little comfort in defeat.  Well worth the read but very in depth and rather political so an understanding of such subjects would be of benefit otherwise you just wouldn’t get through it.

Next up for review is the Boris Johnson book I got this Christmas.  Expect the review sometime after he has been Prime Minister.

Nina Kraviz, Secretsundaze @ Electric Brixton

Nina Kraviz first came to my attention with a mix for Sankeys in early 2011 that for me was a totally new direction in terms of music and DJ styles, despite at that point having been listening to house and techno for over 20 years. A really fresh sound. I knew even at those tentative stages that she was a star in the making.

It took until September that year to persuade friends to go see her, though it wasn’t too difficult as she was warming up for Sven at Amnesia in Ibiza.

I was suitably impressed with her style and music, and thought she exuded a lot of warmth and personality, with unique music and I just couldn’t stop dancing.

Electric Brixton was visited last year for Cocoon. We left early due mainly to a shocking sound-system.

Secretsundaze I had never been to. It has always massively appealed however Sunday parties (as they normally are, hence the name to my uninitiated readers) need that extra bit of commitment, especially when having to travel to and from London. But with a whole 4 days to recover (ok 3 days by time I decided sleep was useful), and my favourite dancing partner in tow along with her friend, and a couple of very good friends habituating London, I finally had chance to put to rest the Secretsundaze 10 year wait.

Of course I decided to make it more difficult by going out on the Wednesday night, sleeping 3 hours and subsequent suffering all day at work.

We arrived at the club later than probably ideal, and then had to queue for ages to get in, my friend nearly didn’t get in as the bouncer didn’t stamp her hand properly, so cue having to go out and rescue her, me then nearly not getting back in myself, followed by a 30 minute cloakroom queue, 10 minutes toilet queue, 15 minute bar queue, 20 minutes looking for one lost and rather drunk friend and it was already 2:30am.

It was hard work getting to this point! Just 3.5 hours of potential fun left.

Nina was brilliant though. I loved every minute of her set, so much energy, never a dull moment, I could not stop dancing. Except for the bits where I was trying to find lost friends! Again.  I don’t mind losing friends as long as it isn’t for too long as the finally finding them and obligatory oh my word I thought I had lost you forever hug is brilliant!

It seemed like all DJs were having problems with the vinyl decks and a little skipping – such is the payoff sometimes for the beauty of vinyl. If you want perfection – go bore yourself with a sync button.

Lights are never the most important aspect of an evening to me, they can be annoying sometimes but Secretsundaze did a very good job with them, the backdrop was also good. The sound quality was good too – not awe-inspiring like fabric but more than good enough. To me the sound quality is massively important and I am pleased to say I was sufficiently satisfied.

The crowd were pretty good. It seemed like there was a family of Secretsundaze regulars, a few people that I spoke to said that they go to every Secretsundaze night without fail.  I managed to resist the temptation to shout “Oioi”.  Was quite amusing to see the faces of total disgust from a few when the odd dancer was accidentally doing a shuffle.  It’s just dancing.  You are unlikely to need me to tell you some crowds in London are appalling nowadays.  This crowd was most definitely not.

So a really enjoyable night with some brilliant music – but then I had to queue an hour for my coat to be able to go home.  And spend 20 minutes outside the club trying to find lost friends again!  Oh and an hour and a half train as the Paddington to Reading line was closed.  8 carriage train with no toilet.  It wasn’t an easy journey home!

The whole night gets an 8 out of 10.  Nina was sensational and I am already awaiting the next opportunity to see her in London.  All other DJs that I saw were good but I didn’t pay enough attention – shame as the whole line-up was excellent.  Thankfully some of the sets are available on be-at.tv so I will be watching what I missed.  Not sure what happened to Nina’s set – it was there on Friday but not now.  Very sad.  However it is available for listening purposes and is keeping me smiling whilst receiving abuse from customers (it only took 8 minutes this morning to be told I am rude and unprofessional.  Fuck you).

Secretsundaze I will be back.

Will I go to Electric Brixton again? Not if I need to take a coat.

Much thanks to all involved from promoters, to DJs and fellow dancers.  I am still smiling now.

Conclusion – We miss fabric.