Friday, 28 May 2010

Now That's What I Call An Argument, Vol.97

First Gentleman: The classical methodology of the rational dialectic is our only road to truth. Don't try to deny it!
Second Gentleman: You and your dialectic. Mindless repetition of the post-Enlightenment meta-narrative! You have to start with radical doubt; post-structuralism is just classical sceptical thought cast in the language of semiotics!
First Gentleman: You've got a point there.
Second Gentleman: Good of you to say so.
First Gentleman: Fancy a pint?
Second Gentleman: I don't mind if I do.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Ziggy Clegg

Stumbled across this at It is allegedly Nick Clegg aged 22 dressed as David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust persona. The resemblance is not very good, either to Ziggy or Nick Clegg. He looks more like some plonker in a cheap party wig from the £1 shop who's been mucking about with his little sister's face paint set.
No doubt yet more embarassing details and/or pictures of Clegg will emerge now that everyone knows who he is.

The Birds

There are five species of birds that we have a lot of around here. There's the ubiquitous pigeons which make the most monotonous noise ever; cu-coo-cu, repeatedly, and it's about as irritating as an alarm clock that you can't turn off. If I could get my hands on these blighters I would gladly throw them across the room. We have zillions of sparrows whose chirruping is considerably more varied and cheerful. Several hooded crows, with their caw-caw cackle as they fly past the window, back and forth every morning. And squillions of swifts. I have identified two different types so far; the alpine swift, with the cream coloured breast, and the common swift. These fellows are just passing through on their way to or from Africa and Northern Europe. They make a spectacular display of flying from the mid-afternoon to evening as they swoop and glide whilst catching insects in mid-air. They seem to do this stunt flying for fun as well, dive-bombing each other or grouping into squadrons that zoom around in formation, dodging buildings.
None of them pay any attention to the humans.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Fun on a Sunday - FUNDAY FLAPJACKS!

"What do you want to do today Susannah?"
"I want to eat. I want flapjack. Make me flapjack."

It was a round half past three that we realised we had no oats. So rushing to the Co-op who are gud with fud we picked up a few. One kilogram to be precise.
Recipe for the flapyjacky can be found in Susannah's brain as she pretty much made it up. Baked for around 20, until we smelled burning baked goods.
Out of the oven, cut into uneven squares and taste test.

Result: P.D.G (pretty damn good). Chewy flapjack goodness.

Old Faithful's Big Brother

Here's The Boy Wonder fiddling about during a sound check thingy, plectrum between his teeth. But that's not the main import of our attention today. No. It's the amplifier doodad through which his twiddlings are being passed.
This is a Selmer Treble n' Bass 50 Watt tube amplifier going through a Selmer 100 watt cabinet, containing four (count 'em') twelve inch speakers. I acquired this noble assembly in 1974 when I swapped my 30 watt combo amp for it with the estimable 'Big' John Devereaux. Since then it has had two reconditionings, most recently last year, and been carted around various dives and dens, garages and attics. It is not often played at full volume as planning permission is required, and the Health & Safety Executive must be in attendance along with members of the emergency services.
More cumbersome than yer average modern-day set-up but more powerful than Mr Mighty Megaton McMegaton after a megaton breakfast.

Keats and Chapman: Great Military Victories, Part 94

Keats and Chapman once undertook a perigrinatory tour of Mesopotamia, travelling across much of the teritory which had once been conquered by Alexander the Great, prior to his death. The intrepid travellers had traversed the northern part of what had once been Assyria and were close to its ancient capital of Nineveh when they paused for the night, and sat and pondered as they watched the River Tigris flow past the site of ancient trade routes which had connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
"Of course," enunciated Keats, "You will recall that it was nearby that Alexander fought and destroyed the last army ever raised by an Achaemanian king, leading to the eventual destruction of the palace of Xerxes in Persepolis."
Chapman hoped his face was hidden in the darkness as he recognised the portents of another of Keats' expositions.
"There was a lunar eclipse, which enables us to date the battle as having taken place on 1 October 331 BC."
Chapman raised his eyebrows as Keats continued.
"Darius III had sent his General Mazaeus and his Bactrian cavalry to oppose the conquering Macedonian. But to no avail, as yer man Alexander was a crafty devil and no mistake. If you cast your eyes over in that direction you will see the location in the great plain of The Battle of Guagamela where Darius was put to flight, along with his camels and mercenaries."
Chapman inhaled as he realised that the great scholar was waiting for him to ask for an explanation of the the historical conflagration. He bit the bullet and ventured an interogatory remark. "So, how was it that Alexander overcame the Persian hordes?", he queried.
"With the utmost guile and originality, my friend. Alexander could see that Darius' forces although numerically stronger were concentrated in one body. So he deduced that a pincer movement would make short work of them. Coordination of the two arms of the pincer would be crucial, as I'm sure you would agree."
Keats jabbed the dozing Chapman in the ribs.
"Indeed, indeed" dribbled Chapman, who had unconcsciously begun to anticipate his night's rest after a long day in the company of The Great Man.
"Alexander summoned the two generals who were to command the pincer movements. He gave each of them a cloth rag and instructed them to bind these around their left wrist, and to take their troops under cover of night to opposing points on opposite sides of the plain and to wait till dawn. 'You will be out of sight of each other and of Mazaeus and his soldiers,' explained Alexander, 'but when the sun rises and shines on that cloth rag, which is currently coloured red, you will see that it changes colour to amber. This is a sign that you should prepare your troops to advance. After a short time, the sun's light will cause the cloth to turn green. This is the time to move. If you proceed at the speed for which I have trained you, your respective forces will arrive simultaneously on the necks of the accursed Persians, just as my central force attacks their vanguard.'"
Chapman was transfixed in rapt attention as he clung to Keats' every word. "And how did the the action proceed?"
"It was a tremendous success! The Persians were obliterated in a three-pronged assault, perfectly coordinated. And it was all thanks to Alexander's Rag Time-Band."
Chapman bade his friend good night and retreated into his sleeping bag.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Old Faithful

Some time ago, I brought my old guitar to Cyprus where it has remained for playing purposes whenever one visits. It's a Fender F-15 acoustic that I bought in 1972 at the Fender Soundhouse in London, for £29. Incredible price really, even for 38 years ago - it was 'shop-soiled' i.e. the finish on the neck is scratched and there's a small dent in the back. Made in Japan.
Any road up, it has provided amazingly good service over the years. I've just been up to 'Nicos Musical Instruments' and bought some new strings - Dean Markley HDXL - and given the guitar a wash and brush up and it sounds great. Still stays in tune, only a slight amount of warping in the neck (not so's you'd notice unless you were a guitar geek). The saddle on the bridge is plastic - I reckon if this were to be replaced with one made from bone or synthetic bone, it'd sound even better. But I'm afraid 'Nicos Musical Instruments' does not stock such things.
I got engaged in a conversation with 'Nicos' and it turns out he spent 34 years in London working as a guitarist and bouzouki player before returning to Larnaca. Quite a cool person musically, but he exhibited the xenophobic/racist attitudes that are becoming prevalent in Cyprus these days. According to Nicos it seems all life's problems can be attributed to the existence of 'Arabs' and 'Musselmen'. (That's an old-fashioned word for Muslims). I mentioned Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam as an example of a cool musical Greek Cypriot 'Musselman' but the point was lost on him.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Hot Flushes

We've had a few problems with the plumbing on this here building project. A proper plan was not drawn up initially by the architect because he thought one should not be needed seeing as it wasn't a particularly big job. But he reckoned without the perverse outlook of the builder and his sub-contractor plumber chappie. Consequently it's been a case of make it up as you go along and everyone has a different idea next day. At no point did either of them ask for a plan.
When El Prez saw what a mess things were she chipped in with some solutions which were implemented and gradually things got going. Meanwhile, the builder and the plumber had a hissy fight and the plumber walked off the job. They are all a bit temperamental, these fellows. El Prez persuaded him to come back on the grounds that he ought to fix the things he's messed up and it would cost a lot to get someone else in to take over.
There is a major difficulty yet to be overcome, which is that all the pipes are just laid  higgledey  piggledey across the roof rather than tucked neatly away inside the roof space. This is basically because the builder put the roof on too soon; or he didn't get the plumber in soon enough. Either way it's going to mean a bodge it job to put it right. And they want to charge us extra for doing it!
While the plumber has been coming and going he's been disconnecting and reconnecting the water supply to the rest of the house. So for several days we had cold mains water only, and for a couple of days none at all. But since last Thursday he has had the hot water connected to the cold taps and the cold water connected to the hot taps. And this means that the toilet cistern fills up with hot water when you flush it. It's quite novel to have steam ensuing from the toilet bowl. He's putting it right today.
(Note: The plumber is an Arsenal fan. Need I say more?)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Check it out!

Tonight was the opening night of my photography course's exhibition at The Courtyard Arts in Hertford.

Take a look at Courtyard Arts

From the website:

The Speed of Light - Hertford Regional College - NCFE
18th May - 22nd May
Digital Photographic exhibition of exciting varied images created by participants from Hertford Regional College - department of creative arts and industries, using cutting edge digital technology.

It all went swimmingly well with quote an impressive turnout. Emma made some snazzy brochures and there was a free wine!

We could all pick our own theme, so there was quite a collection on show. Some landscape, some portraits, some close-ups, some experimenting with shutter speed and some of boats. Mine involved mirrors and trees. More on that story later.

The show is open until Saturday, so go and have a wander around.

They Must Think We're Stupid, Vol. 97

In the coalition agreement that Cameron has persuaded Clegg to sign up to, they propose to change the constitutional provision for removing the Government and forcing a General Election. Hitherto, this has required only a simple majority in a 'No Confidence' motion voted on by Parliament. Cameron wants to change this to require the vote to be by a majority of at least 55% of MPs. Now then, even if the Lib Dems get fed up of the coalition and vote against Cameron together with all the other MPs that only adds up to 52.8% of the total. So to unseat Cameron, there'd have to be some suicidal Tory MPs joining the opposition, willing to risk losing their own seats in an election.
Cameron intends to introduce this change by a simple motion in the House of Commons. In addition, he intends to introduce a fixed Parliamentary term of five years. So, in effect, he's guaranteeing himself at least five years in the job. Plenty of time to set yourself up for a lucrative post-Parliamentary career.
I remember the Alternative Vote system being discussed in the election campaign - it was in the Labour Manifesto. But I don't recall anything about these particular proposals. Does he think we haven't noticed?

Migrant Labour Part 2

Most of the illegal migrants from Mexico pass through Arizona. The 'Arizonians' have become a bit fed up with this so they've just passed some laws that enable the police to stop and question anyone they suspect of being a filthy dago... This law is somewhat draconian and empowers police to harass anyone they don't like the look of, basically. So, don't go wandering around Arizona wearing a poncho or speaking like Speedy Gonzales.
In a neat little twist, however, Chief Standing Wolf of the Navajo has issued a statement pointing out who are the original residents and has issued a warning “reverse your laws entitling only English-speaking people to inhabit Arizona. Only then will we back down and allow peace to again grace Arizona, but if you deny our fellow red and brown men their rightful place in this state, there will be bloodshed.” Of course, Chief Standing Wolf was speaking in his native tongue, so the lawmakers in the State weren’t exactly sure what the message was. (via eons).
Another point is that these Mexicans are only looking for work - they don't  intend to steal anybody's land or wipe out the local population.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Wot I Been Reading

I've been in a kind of C S Forester (author of Hornblower) groove these last few weeks and so I've read:
The General: A story about a career soldier who makes his name in the Boer War and goes on to get promoted beyond his capabilities in the First World War through being in the right place at the right time. The book tells us a lot about the cack-handed way that the War was managed by the senior commanders - the 'lions led by donkeys' motif. You do sympathise with the central protagonist even though you can see where he gets stuff wrong or is just out of his depth emotionally.
Payment Deferred: A quite absorbing story with a similar moral to The Treasure of The Sierra Madre by B Traven in which a murderer struggles with his sense of guilt and it gradually drives him a bit nuts. He buries the body in the back garden and becomes obsessed with watching the empty flower bed in case it gets discovered accidentally. There's an ironic twist at the end. Good characterisation of the murderer and his dim, docile and innocent wife.
Plain Murder: The central protagonist here is a psychopath - not a raving loony axe-murderer type but someone who is utterly self-centred and so sees it as quite acceptable that he should bump off anyone who is in his way or who might be a threat. Guilt is not something that occurs to him and otherwise he's quite a normal member of society functioning as well as anybody. And the whole thing starts off from a relatively trivial misdemeanor.
Randall and The River of Time: Not science fiction. The title refers to how time (or life) just flows along through eddies and channels and one can get carried along in a different stream by the simplest of actions or deflections. The story includes heroism in the trenches, adultery, murder, scientific invention, an Old Bailey trial, commentary on class divisions and the consequences of war, and the emotionally repressed nature of yer average Englishman.
These books are all quite old; the first three were written in the 1920s and the last one in the late 1940s. So the language and context is a bit dated and occasionally stuffy, but its all very English.

Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star

I think it does the world good to be reminded every now and then of the existence of Todd Rundgren.
His middle name is Harry.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Cyprus Cup Final

Yesterday was also the Cyprus Cup final, played between Apoel, from Nicosia, and Apollon from Limassol. Apollon won it 2 - 1. A disagreeable result for Apoel who have finished second to Omonia in the League.
Apoel's fans are probably the worst behaved in Cyprus, and could give some of the Dutch,  Italian and/or German nutters a run for their money.  They call themselves 'Ultras'. Consequently the Cyprus FA banned Apoel from playing matches at home. Moreover, there is a traditional rivalry between Limassol and Nicosia pretty much like there is between Liverpool and Manchester. So the game was played at the AEK stadium in Larnaca. The game kicked off at 19:00 Cyprus time.
El Presidente and I didn't attend the match, nor were we particularly interested in it. We were invited to dinner at El Prez's cousin Tasos' house, where we sat down to a splendid meal outdoors on their patio. However, their house is just round the corner from AEK's stadium which was mildly entertaining as we could hear the roar of the crowd and see the smoke of the hooligans' flares drifting across the sky. But when the match finished, things became a bit ugly as the Apoel fans left the ground and the police over-reacted a tad by firing tear gas. Of course, tear gas is impartial and the breeze gently blew it into Tasos' back garden, thereby spoiling our dinner. By jimminy that stuff is vicious and stings a bit when it gets in your eyes, I can tell you. So we hastily retreated indoors with our grub, parked the cars out of sight and closed all the doors and windows.
The police kept all the Apollon fans in the stadium until after all the Apoel mobs had dispersed, and meanwhile there was a ceremony in which The Cup was presented. This was followed by an extravagant fireworks display using 15 megaton rib-rattling pyrotechnical devices which gave us some unexpected after-dinner entertainment. Apparently, most of the Larnaca police force was deployed to ensure order was maintained - I suggested to Tasos that perhaps yesterday evening might have been a good time to rob the bank!
Update: 24 hours later and my eyes are still sore from the tear gas. Should I sue PC Plodolopoulos?

FA Cup Final, Supplemental: Socks

I adjourned to 'The Country Pub' down the road, near Ayios Lazaros, to watch the Cup Final on their big screen. Via the usual semi-legitimate arrangements that apply in Cyprus, the pub was relaying the ITV coverage which unfortunately includes Andy Townshend, who is an idiot. And Jim Beglin providing commentary - he could teach Professor McDrivel of the Drivel University a few things about drivel. Be that as it may, however, I was caused extreme embarassment by an assembly of middle-aged English men wearing socks with sandals in the pub. Now, I confess I have occasionally been guilty of this offence when the weather has been cold, i.e. in the English winter, although never in public. But it was 33 degrees Celsius yesterday - there's no excuse! And  they had their socks pulled up right up tight. Cringe.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

FA Cup Final: And What Do We Need Calcium For, Malcolm?

Scissor artists will be disappointed with this year's FA Cup Final. No winner for 'Daftest Haircut Of The Day' but plenty of contenders for 'Most Boring'. Amidst the embarassment of 'Shaved Heads To Avoid Revealing Baldness'; number ones and number twos (ahem); and chav-like gel overkill (John Terry), the only thing worthy of note was that David James and Malouda had the same hairstyle as did Boateng and Kalou. Blow Dry and Tinting fans will be particularly disappointed with Mr James for opting for what, in his case, was a somewhat conservative choice. We were hoping for another variation on the bleached fuzzy-wuzzy but perhaps he was trying to look sensible for the benefit of Signor Capello.
Special mention, however, for Ray Wilkins who looks more and more like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family every day.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Hello Sunshine! Crikey!

A large solar prominence eruption time-lapse sequence captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The Sun is quite active at the moment and is expected to reach solar maximum in the next few years. I guess thereafter it's downhill all the way.
(via NASA)

It's a Plot

Prompted by the awkward squad at 38 Degrees, I e-mailed loads of Labour MPs about whether they could form some kind of progressive alliance, to exclude Cameron and Co. Most of them just sent me an automated reply but Maria Eagle actually sent me a considered response in which she suggests the whole thing was a stitch-up from the outset.
I'm hearing today that some Labour MPs are a barrier to forming a progressive coalition. Now is the time for cooperation. I urge you to put the country's interest first, not tribal party political differences. Fair votes and protecting the interests of ordinary working people are worth it.It is time to move away from the outmoded adversarial approach, party political dogma and vested interests and towards consensus.
Live long and prosper, Xorg
Thank you for your email regarding the result of the General Election, and the possibility of a "progressive alliance".
The Labour Party was willing to discuss such a "progressive alliance" constructively with the Liberal Democrats in order to ensure the economic recovery and prevent a 'double dip' recession, and to protect front-line services from swingeing Tory cuts.
However, it quickly became clear that the Liberal Democrats were not serious about reaching an agreement because of the quite unreasonable demands they were making. Indeed it seems that their decision to open negotiations with Labour was nothing but a ploy to increase their leverage and secure further concessions in the negotiations they were conducting with the Tories.
During the election campaign Clegg said he would work with the party that had the strongest support, which the polls clearly suggested would be the Tories. Furthermore, once the result of the election was known, Clegg again indicated his preference for an agreement with the Tories. In fact as you can see in the article linked to below, very early in his leadership of the Liberal Democrats (February 2008) it became clear that Nick Clegg had a preference for working with the David Cameron's Tories.
I am deeply alarmed by the prospect of the Tories being in government and I wish it could have been prevented. However, the Liberal Democrats have quite deliberately chosen to form a governing coalition with the Tories. The Liberal Democrats are responsible for that decision and they alone. I fear it may be the first of many unpalatable decisions for which they have to accept responsibility, as it sadly becomes clear a vote Lib Dems is as good as a vote for the Tories.
Maria Eagle MP
Lab. Garston and Halewood 
Update: I just had a reply from Maria's sister Angela in which she makes the same points and adds:
The Parliamentary arithmetic meant that it was for the Liberal Democrats to determine the shape of the new government and they have sadly chosen to team up with the Tories. I expect you share my disappointment at this turn of events, disappointment that no doubt turns to bitterness for those who actually voted Liberal Democrat in the expectation of progressive politics.
Yours sincerely
Angela Eagle MP
Lab. Wallasey
[She won't remember me but way back when, in the first Blair parliament, I was one of the civil servants 'advising' Angela Eagle. Small world!]

Little Stevie Wonder

Guess who's now eligible for a bus pass?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Hi Cuz!

It's smiles all round as David Cameron meets The Queen and gets the nod to form a new Government. They are, of course, already acquainted. Cameron is The Queen's fifth cousin, twice-removed. It all dates back to William IV who produced several illegitimate offspring via his mistresses. Cameron's branch comes from a Mrs Dorothy Jordan, who was an actress, and one of her ten children, Elizabeth. All these little ba**ards were officially recognised by William IV and given the name Fitzclarence. There followed a series of interminglings, eventually arriving at Cameron. Full story here, researched by Debrett's Peerage and reported in The Independent. William IV's wife produced no heir, so Victoria became Queen, and hence the present encumbent has the job.
It is reported by the BBC that Buckingham Palace made a phone call to Conservative Central Office back in 1988 when Cameron first applied for a job there endorsing him as 'a truly remarkable young man'. Now, I'm not saying that our own dearly beloved Her Queenship is involved in any funny business, and two coincidences don't make a conspiracy, but it all looks rather neat, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Migrant Labour

In a globalised neo-liberal capitalist economy we have free movement of capital and increasingly in the last 25 years this has been de-regulated. Governments are now (allegedly) thinking up ways of reversing this trend because of the financial crisis it has caused (Xorg's Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again). But they face an uphill battle as it will inevitably limit the financial whizz-kids' scope for making 'money' out of nothing. So we'll see what happens. But it strikes me that if we allow free movement of capital we should also allow free movement of labour - why restrict one sector and not the other? After all, it was the arch-capitalist free-market Thatcher government who told the unemployed to 'get on your bikes' and look for work.
But apparently it's not as simple as that. The election campaign in the UK has revealed that there seems to be a considerable amount of opposition to migrant labour. 'British jobs for British people' and so forth, not to mention the infamous Mrs Duffy who harangued Gordon Brown about 'East Europeans'.
I'm sorry to say this phenomenon is occurring in Cyprus as well these days, which is bizarre considering how mobile Cypriots have been in the labour market since the Second World War. It is strange to see a people who are renowned for their hospitality be so xenophobic, and downright racist, towards 'foreigners'. People from the middle-east are all called 'Arabs', much like the English call anyone from the Asian sub-continent a 'Paki'. Anyone with a darker skin than a Cypriot who is not an 'Arab' is a 'Black' - this includes Sri-Lankans. And so forth. Of course, the migrant workers can only get the jobs the Greek Cypriots don't want and they have to settle for lower wages. Foreigners are not welcome to engage in the professions or skilled trades.
It's all very contradictory. The builder is a Greek Cypriot refugee from the North who has worked on several jobs in the middle-east in places like Dubai. He employs some Syrians as his labourers but treats them like dirt - he calls them 'animals' to their faces - and meanwhile he moans to us that Cyprus should be for Cypriots. The drains men are Australian Greeks; drainman senior emigrated to Australia where his sons were born and they've all moved back to Cyprus where they now work in the drains business. The plumber is a North London Greek - the perjorative term for his ilk is 'Charlie'. Turkish Cypriots are alright, apparently, but Turks are the lowest form of life. And everyone seems to resent the presence of the Russians who all, so I'm told, have too much money and a blatant disregard for the Law as well as Cypriot customs.
Despite our colonial past, however, the English are pretty much regarded as acceptable if slightly bonkers. Mid-day sun and all that, what?

Wayne Krantz at Ronnie Scott's

Last tuesday I saw Wayne Krantz, a guitarist who has played with Steely Dan (also involved with Donald Fagen's 'Morph the Cat') , John Zorn, Tal Wilkenfeld, Michael Brecker, and Billy Cobham. Naturally I was rather excited. His current trio includes Keith Carlock on drums and Tim Lefebvre (French for "Smith") on electric bass and weird noises. For this outing however, it was Gary Novak on drums. Originally I was a bit disappointed that it was not Keith having a whack, but Gary was totally on it.

The tunes involved switching between half-time and double-time grooves, and at some points it left me guessing where the first beat of the bar was. The drums provided the groovy fusion base and the guitar (a strat shaped beauty going through some analogue effects into a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Marshall half-stack) added loads of different rhythms and textures. Then out of nowhere comes the bassline! Tim Lefebvre uses a beautiful sounding Fender P-Bass, with outrageous effects on it including an octaver and a ring modulator. He looked like a caveman. I was loving it for and hour and a half.

Every bit of improvisation was like a composition. Krantz himself has said that he doesn't consider himself a stylist, and that he has not really been influenced by many other players. Initially I was skeptical, I thought no-one could make more noises on a strat than Jimi Hendrix, but I'm glad to say that I was wrong.

Incidentally Wayne Krantz is one of Danny Fisher's favourite guitarists. I could immediately tell from his chord voicings and crazy melody lines that this was the case. He even looked and spoke like him.

It sounded really tight and there was a great atmosphere at Ronnie's but the sound guy was a bit of a loser with his announcements. Also he could have turned the guitar up a bit. Otherwise it was amazing and one of the best guitar gigs I've ever been to.


Hats off to Gordon Brown for blowing wide open again the negotiations over who will form t'next Government and how. You could tell that the Lib Dems were instinctively unhappy about forming a coalition with the Tories and I don't blame them. Cameron's offer of a government inquiry into proportional representation was laughable - we already did that back in 1988 - and I don't see how they could easily come up with an agreed programme of legislation to last for a whole Parliament of five years.
The inquiry in 1988 recommended an 'Alternative Vote' system, which would mean the second choice votes of the lowest scoring candidates would be redistributed until one candidate has acquired more than 50%. There's a nice explanation with graphics over at The Guardian that even William Hague could understand. This is the system that t'Labour Party proposed to put to the electorate in a referendum.
I have always preferred a consensus approach to life rather than an adversarial one so I'm quite content for the politicians to be forced to start negotiating and actually work out policies that will make life better all round, rather than merely follow political dogma and vested interests. And bol**cks to those who say you need a 'strong' government that 'first past the post' (usually) provides. First, it is unrepresentative - the lib Dems got 3.9 million fewer votes than the tories but 250 fewer Parliamentary seats, whilst their 6.8 million votes only got them 57 seats. Secondly, there are 'strong' governments in North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and many more. It ain't necessarily a good thing!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Get Yer 'Aircut!

My grandfather's last words to me were "Get yer'aircut!"  At the time I was, allegedly, a student and long hair was almost revolutionary in the workplace so when it came time to seek employment I complied. Once I'd got the job, however, I let my hair grow again and no one seemed to mind. Incidentally, this was a time many moons ago when only men wore suits and women were not allowed to wear trousers in the workplace. Not that I'm a woman, but I was amazed when one of my female colleagues was sent home by the manager for this heinous offence. These days, all sorts of weird hairstyles, trousers and non-trousers are worn to work.
I was amused therefore to stumble across this clip from BBC Panorama in April 2010 in which Lord Digby-Jones tells two lads to get their 'aircut if they want to get a job. Both lads are reasonably articulate and say they are willing to smarten up for a job interview and even to get a haircut if offered a job. Meanwhile, look at Lord Digby-Jones. He's wearing a suit, but what a state he's in!  He's overweight and his gut is bursting out of his shirt; his hair looks awful and if anybody needs to visit the barbers it's him!
Fat, scruffy, middle-aged old fart, or what?

Oh Well...

It seems a lot of left-wing bolshies like me who usually vote Labour in my neighbourhood also decided to vote tactically to try and unseat the complacent Tory chappie, but it wasn't enough. There was a swing away from Labour of 10.5% with a swing towards the Lib Dems of 7.5% and 3.6% towards the Tories. So some who previously voted Labour must have voted Tory - these are presumably yer actual floating voters. However, the Tory got 53.8% of the vote so even if everyone else had voted Lib Dem he would still have retained his seat. Obviously the Tories worked hard at getting their voters out. 
Our local Greek Cypriot only managed 325 votes. Oh well, δεν πειράζει!
I am slightly worried that the BNP picked up 1,297 votes. Vigilance remains our watchword.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


A famous victory for Spurs last night against the Man City All-Stars. Man City had a fair bit of the posession but apart from  ten or fifteen minutes while Tevez was on fire, Spurs always looked the better side and more likely to win. What we want now is for Arsenal to lose against Fulham whilst Spurs beat Burnley on Sunday and Spurs will finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since I don't know when. Spiffnifficent!
Update:   I just learned that Harry Redknapp pockets a £1,000,000 bonus for qualifying for the Champion's League. A smart bit of contract negotiation there, Harry. The Spurs board must have felt it unlikely that they would have to pay up so soon when they signed Harry up while they were bottom of the Premier League.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Don't Forget To Vote!

I know some folks have theological objections to voting, which is fair enough. But there is no excuse for apathy so extract your digit and put your cross in the box. Democracy works best if everyone takes part!
I've been in something of a quandary which way to vote. As a left wing bolshy I've always been inclined to vote Labour but I can think of lots of reasons not to this time, the main one being the Iraq War. I know it was Blair's thing but Gordon Brown was complicit in it and the Parliamentary Labour Party could and should have done more to stop Blair. They were all too concerned with hanging on to their meal tickets. However, there is no way I am going to vote for the Tories. Not only because of their policies and experience of previous Tory governments, but also because Cameron and Osbourne are a right pair of vacuous twerps who I wouldn't trust to run a bath never mind a government.
Ignoring the xenophobes in the BNP and UKIP, that leaves me with a choice between an independent and a Liberal Democrat. I'm kind of sympathetic towards the independent chappie because he's a Greek Cypriot but, frankly, although he is a serious candidate and not a loony, his policies don't hold together. So that leaves the Lib Dem fellow. And seeing as I'm in a constituency that has been a safe Tory seat as long as anyone can remember, he's probably the only candidate with any real chance of challenging the Tory in any case. Moreover, I would like to see a change in our electoral system away from the first past the post arrangement and if the Lib Dems get a big share of votes (if not Parliamentary seats) then the pressure will be there for some kind of change. Furthermore, Vince Cable has given a good impression of knowing what he's talking about and he ought to be given a chance at doing it for real. Time for a shake up, perhaps.
But what swings it finally is that I have learned today that Floella Benjamin supports the Lib Dems.  As well as Brian Eno. Enough said!

Zenfeet Reflexology

We're all getting a bit stressed out here, what with this and that and worrying about the builders and whether Spurs will beat Man City tonight. But if you're feeling a tad stressed, tired, worn out, and you've generally got aches and pains all round, you could do worse than sign up for some reflexology treatment. There is an element of the mystic arts about it and it is kind of related to acupuncture in that the reflexologist uses pressure points on your feet to diagnose and/or treat your symptoms. Whether or not reflexology can cure your ills is doubtful, but you will feel a lot more relaxed after a treatment session. If you're in Hertfordshire I recommend Zenfeet. A one-hour session, with Brian Eno's album Thursday Afternoon in the background is just about the most chilled-outest of chill-outness experiences you could experience.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

He's To Blame! He Dunnit!

Ages ago, when I was working at Millbank Tower, my boss (known as The Dragon Lady) once murdered us all because she had made a mistake in some briefing she had prepared for some big cheese or other. Sounds bizarre, I know, but her logic was that none of us had told her that she had made a mistake so it was all our fault. Notwithstanding that none of us had been given the opportunity to give her efforts the once over - she'd wanted to do it all herself so she got all the credit. And in her paranoid delusion she'd now convinced herself that we were to blame. Well, people are the same the world over. Someone else must be blamed.
The builder says it's the architect's fault because the architect didn't tell him he was doing it wrong. The architect says it's the builder's fault for not following the plans. The sub-contractor says it's the builder's fault for not explaining it to his workers properly. The architect says it shouldn't be necessary for him to check basic things such as where a wall goes. The builder says he thought the architect told him to leave room for a water tank. And so on and so forth. It's all somebody else's fault. Why not just own up and we can get on with sorting it out?
The meeting between us all to discuss the way forward was quite, errm, dynamic with lots of shouting and bickering and recriminations between the builder and architect. At one point El Presidente had to speak rather firmly and tell them to stop it and calm down,  pointing out that this was supposed to be a 'business meeting'. The highlight was when the builder said he was going to walk out because he didn't like discussing money as it upsets him. I asked why, if he didn't like discussing money, he had submitted a bill for an extra €8,000 the day before.
El Prez and I had the psychological advantage - she chaired the discussion whilst I took the minutes and whispered occasionally to her, or passed scribbled notes. (The idea was make them wonder whether in fact I understand da lingo and actually know what they're blathering about). El Prez was on top form actually, well prepared with a checklist and everything. 
So we'll see how we go. There certainly was a difference yesterday, with three separate teams of workers busily doing this and that. Don't get your hopes up, but we might get the drains finished in the next day or so!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Flower Festival

Here's a brief slideshow thingy of yesterday's flower festival. It all dates back to ancient Greek times when they used to have a big do to honour Dionyssios, and to celebrate nature and rebirth after springtime. Their version of dancing round the Maypole.

T'Cyprus Footy: Omonia Πρωταθλήτρια!

Yesterday was the final day in the Cyprus football league season, and the outcome came down to the result of the match between Omonia and Apoel, which Omonia won 1 - 0, making them champions. This was the cause for much celebration hereabouts and, being excitable mediterranean types, the Omonia supporters got in their cars and drove round town tooting their horns, generally yelling and waving flags. Fair enough, and entertaining. Up to a point. I have to tell you that all that flipping racket gets a little tedious after a while, especially if you are walking along the road on which a slow-moving disorganised motor procession of tooting and blaring Omonia supporters is making its way driving round the town in circles. It were making my ears hurt and no mistake.
A couple of them collided at the crossroads in front of the police station, making for total chaos. In typical Cypriot PC Plodopoulos manner, the cops did nothing about it, merely standing on the corner watching the collapse of society as we know it. Meanwhile, the Flower Festival at the seafront was coming to an end and they let off loads of fireworks. Not titchy little fizzy ones but 15 megaton blasters that make yer ribcage vibrate. Added to the Omonia supporters' noise it were most cacophonous. Actually, come to think of it, that would be a good name for a noisy Greek - Kako Kakophonous.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

May Day, May Day!

Whilst the May Day celebrations in Greece turned to violent protests with petrol bombs and stone-throwing youths, the workers of Larnaca got on with things in their usual shambolic and easy going manner. Parades of marching bands, red flags, Che Guevara t-shirts and speeches under the banner of the Pancyprian Workers Organisation.  They brought their families and the kiddies joined in the flag waving. The police took a passive interest, confining their duties to managing the traffic. The chappie leaving the stage in this picture is t'Union Chairman/President/Supreme Leader, and he's just delivered a rousing speech all about how t'Unions have made life better for yer average pleb and his mates in the proletariat - which is fair enough, and reasonably accurate. The slogan on the banner translates (more or less) as "We continue the struggle for a just solution and a just society." Can't argue with that!
One of the workers then delivered a disjointed poem all about the struggle, and the musical ensemble sang some jolly songs about freedom and emancipation. The bloke on the sound desk needs some remedial training, though.


We here at The Xorg Collective are up to date with all the latest whizz-bang technology so, despite being in the far flung corners of The Empire I was able to watch the Spurs match against Bolton Ditherers via the interweb tubes. I signed up to LTV online who charge €3.45 per match for live streaming. The picture is not exactly high-definition as I've only got a 1 MB service, but it was just about good enough to see what was going on - certainly when Tom Huddlestone fired in his Exocet goal. The commentary is in Greek but, to be honest, that doesn't make much difference compared to the drivel you get from the likes of Alan Parry, Jim Beglin and colleagues back in Old Blighty (The Blessed John Motson apart, of course.) The Greek pronounciation of the name 'Huddlestone' is something to be treasured, however.
We were hoping that Man City and Villa would meanwhile draw nil nil, but there you go. City have some darn good attacking forwards. Nevertheless, Spurs remain a point ahead of Man City so if they can beat City on wednesday that'll be it and Spurs finish fourth; likewise if it's a draw assuming Spurs beat Burnley next week. But if Spurs lose to City, then they have to win against Burnley next weekend and hope that Man City lose to West Ham. But if Spurs draw with City and lose to Burnley while City beat west Ham, then its down to goal difference - City are currently two goals ahead so it would be Good Night, Vienna. Meanwhile, if Liverpool beat Chelsea today and Hull next week by loads of goals while Spurs and City draw and lose to Burnley and West Ham respectively, then Liverpool finish fourth and Rafa Benitez will be a strong candidate to be the next Pope. Not that anyone is interested in Man Utd, but Liverpool would also thereby help them win the League, assuming they can beat Sunderland and Stoke, even if Chelsea defeat Wigan. I hope that's clarified things for you.