The Plastic Hippo

April 8, 2011

Dry your eyes mate

Filed under: Music,Politics — theplastichippo @ 3:56 pm

“I am not a punch bag” bleats Nick Clegg to the rather lovely Jemima Khan in The New Statesman. Well, should the Deputy Prime Minister stray within 100 yards of the hippo lair in Hatherton Lake, he will discover that along with so many of his previous promises and pledges, that statement will be proved to be manifestly false.

It is possible to feel some sympathy for Clegg. Once the golden boy, wiping the floor with grumpy Gordon and greasy Dave in the televised debates a year ago, he now looks like death warmed up. Perhaps this is a result of compromise and capitulation or possibly the last shred of conscience leaving his body. But this “poor me” interview with socialite Jemima, complete with a Downing Street minder in attendance to provide instant spin on the inevitable gaffes, has done nothing to excuse his perfidy. Heart warming accounts of how his children ask him why students dislike “papa” and his thoughts on being portrayed as a cardboard cut-out certainly attracts pity, but pity is hardly forgiveness.

For a man now committed to “social mobility”, the only way for this public school millionaire from a background of immense privilege is down. Having been duped into abandoning what now turn out to be false principles, he will be lucky if he goes from “intern” to internment. Being compliant in cutting Surestart, EMA, the teaching grant, agreeing that a university education should only be available to the rich and stating that young people should work for no pay, the heir of Gladstonian Liberalism has revealed his true colours. Blue, and not in the Joni Mitchell sense. His Pupil Premium has yet to be explained but it is probably the biggest lie since the Book of Genesis. He tells us again that he regularly cries when listening to music.

Most of us will shed a tear at hearing certain pieces of music. A song or passage may bring back memories of happy or sad times and evoke old friends, lovers and places. More profound though, are pieces of music that provoke lip-trembling emotion, sniffs and tears because of their sheer beauty. The 1st movement of the Appassionata Sonata by Beethoven or the slow movement in the Faure G minor piano quartet or the Nimrod theme from the Enigma Variations have been known to reduce this cynic to a blubbing, blubbering heap. More “accessible” songs describing the human condition can have a similar effect. Cry Me a River, the Sinead O’Connor version of Nothing Compares 2 U and Tom Traubert`s Blues by Tom Waits can make people stop and listen and reach for a hankie.

So when he is getting down with the yoot after strangling their education, what music makes Clegg cry? We may never know, but here are a few suggestions.

Pathetique Symphony No. 6 in B minor – Tchaikovsky

The First Cut Is The Deepest – Cat Stevens

Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Nowhere Man – The Beatles

You’re History – Shakespears Sister

It’s Over – Roy Orbison

As the coalition sets about destroying everything of value in the name of ideology rather than prudence, government is descending into a complete shambles and instead of encouraging growth, their mindless cuts to everything are achieving the exact opposite. With cabinet ministers refusing to answer questions and making policy up as they go along, the Liberal Democrat party is on the eve of destruction. Clegg will be blamed and it will take decades to clear up the mess. When he is told to hand in his ministerial MP3 player when his love affair with Cameron hits the rocks, this might well be the last piece of music he hears as the tears roll by.

April 6, 2011

St Matthew Passion

Filed under: Music,Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 2:54 pm


When it comes to banging out a few decent tunes on an old piano, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Johann Sebastian Bach. His sublime St Matthew Passion proves that not everything touched by organised religion results in hatred. But, for those unable or unwilling to become passionate about St Matthew, there is always a cheery little Paddock two-step performed by a one man band.

Eyebrows were raised when jobbing local Paddock councillor Barry Sanders was elevated to a cabinet position after the May 2009 local elections. As a qualified accountant, who better than an unimaginative bean counter to oversee all things cultural and leisurely in the aesthetic hotbed of Walsall and, more importantly, allow himself to be set up to take the fall when the axe started swinging. Not long after he took his seat at the top table, Willenhall Leisure Centre suffered its long-planned closure along with the Grange golf course and the Conservative councillor was in the press talking of difficult decisions and hinting at more to come.

It would be delusional to suggest that Walsall cabinet have no idea what they are doing. These people know exactly what the plan is and, for obvious reasons, will not divulge “confidential” and “commercially sensitive” information to the low-life who pay local taxes and provide cabinet with their allowances. Not telling the electorate what is going on is a political imperative designed to avoid hurting the brains of stupid people and, horror of all horrors, attracting criticism. One only needs to consider the present day buskers, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Sadly, nobody told the hapless Paddock councillor and he committed the unforgivable sin of opening his mouth and uttering something approaching the truth. Of all his bumbling failings, honesty has no place in the council chamber or in the committee rooms or in the press.

By January 2010, Sanders was once more on the back benches, allegedly wishing to devote more time to his business activities. His fall from grace and favour was brought about by ill advised candour in suggesting that the cultural highlight of the year in Walsall, the awful and embarrassing Illuminations, were history. “Irresponsible scaremongering” bellowed the tiny despot in the leader’s office, “we are committed to our cultural heritage and the Illuminations”. The Illuminations are no more, the beautiful plumage has gone the way of accountability. It is an ex-Bird.

The completed “review” of leisure services is still under wraps and “efficiency savings” in the library service will not be revealed until after the next local elections. But here comes the twist.

Councillor Sanders, by all accounts a decent, hard-working representative of his ward, champion of the Arboretum and all round good egg, has been de-selected and will not be standing as a Conservative in the May 5 local elections. There is, it seems, no place for honesty or loyalty within Walsall Conservatives.

The decision to de-select a sitting candidate from a safe ward with a 700 plus majority offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Mike Bird regime. Firstly, he bears a vindictive grudge against any underling that does not adhere to the party line of secrecy and duplicity.

Secondly, the dumping of Sanders is a warning shot to any dissenters who might be tempted to break ranks and be honest with electors. Another sitting Conservative councillor came close to having his tea and biscuit privileges removed when he assured his constituents that their library would not be closed. Clearly, with an eye on May 5 and having had a peek at the final solution to the library problem, the whistle has been slapped out of his mouth.

Thirdly, Bird and his cronies are expecting a thumping at the next poll and have begun to retreat behind the barricades preparing for no overall control. Bird, of course, is safe in his cliff top eerie overlooking Pheasey Park Farm as a corpse in a blue rosette would gain a landslide majority in that particular North Birmingham suburb. Closer to home, things do not look as safe for the goddess of social care, councillor Barbara McCracken. Defending a majority of 184 in St Matthews has proved to be too risky for the cabinet member and having kicked down the stable door and vaulted over the border, she will stand in Paddock. Voters in St Matthews should not view this desperate attempt at political survival as a betrayal because her husband will ask for their vote instead. Similarly, the good people of Paddock would be wrong to think that cabinet are displaying utter contempt for the electorate by putting self-interest before representation. After all, there is absolutely no evidence that cabinet act with anything other than municipal philanthropy is there? “Rien de tel que son chez-soi” as Mrs and Mr McCracken might say in France.

This little wheeze might have worked but for the decision of the sitting councillor to remain Sanders of the River rather than Sanders sold down the river. Standing as an independent one man band, he is likely to attract a large sympathy vote from his loyal constituents and might result in the Conservatives being rejected in both Paddock and St Matthews. The campaign is going to be rough as the leadership will throw everything they have at Paddock including their expertise at negativity. The prospect of watching Tories fighting like ferrets in a sack for survival will be compelling to even the most ardent humanitarian.

Cabinet may not have any passion for St Matthews, but it is worth remembering that the ward shares its name with the disciple, apostle and evangelist who is the Patron Saint of bankers, tax collectors and, as Barbara might find out on May 5, accountants.

April 1, 2011

Walsall to stage Olympic Games

Filed under: Fiction,Sport,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 12:00 am

Image credit: dubsteps.blogspot.com

Following the recent widespread civil unrest that destroyed most of central London, the International Olympic Committee in emergency session have decided to stage the games away from the capital in 2012. After considering a number of alternative bribes, Walsall will now host the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

“Walsall was the obvious choice”, said council leader Mike Bird. “With our superb track record of delivering major projects like the ring road, the Waterfront and the Gigaport ahead of schedule and under budget, staging the games will be a piece of cake. I keep saying this”

Deputy leader and regeneration boss, councillor Adrian Andrew said: “We already have ambitious plans to redevelop our world-class sporting facilities. The Rushall Olympic Stadium in Dales Lane will be re-named the Primark Olympic Retail Park and will stage the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field events. We are in negotiations with Mr Sizzle to introduce a burger van and as part of our commitment to sport, we have insisted that the club construct a urinal.”

Other venues for the greatest sporting event on earth have yet to be finalised but it is thought that the nearby Daw End canal will be used for canoeing and the new Olympic sport of shopping trolley fishing. Neighbouring Chasewater will host the sailing regatta with organisers flying in special Olympic water from the Great Barrier Reef to top up the lake bed.

Bescot Stadium will stage the darts, domino, cribbage and pool finals and the synchronised swimming will take place in the Gala Baths if the electrical rewiring is finished in time. Table tennis, badminton and fencing will be contested on the piece of waste ground that used to be Willenhall Leisure Centre and the dog fighting venue will be the back yard of a pub in Bloxwich. The equestrian events will take place on a field at the back of the Beechdale, already home to some abandoned ponies. Shooting will take place in Palfrey.

The centre piece of Walsall’s Olympic vision, beach volleyball, will be staged on Morrison’s car park which will be transformed into a specially constructed “beach”. Transport supremo, councillor Tom Ansell said: “Being so close to the strategically important Arboretum junction, young women in bikinis should attract motorists from as far away as Brownhills. There is, however, some uncertainty regarding our usual sand supplier, M Gaddafi and Sons of Tripoli, so we will be using road grit from our massive stockpiles. To fund this, we have secured sponsorship from Elastoplast and entered into a PFI contract with Germolene.”

A spectacular opening ceremony is being planned which will rival the breath-taking splendour of past Walsall Illuminations. Leisure and Culture chief, councillor Anthony Harris said: “This is a golden opportunity to improve Walsall’s booming tourist trade and will attract literally hundreds of people to my fun fair which will be in place at the Arboretum for the duration of the games, all rides £5.”

Councillor Bird stated that no expense will be spared to ensure that Walsall produces an Olympic games to remember. “I keep saying this,” he said. “When we make a commitment to deliver, we keep our promises. I can assure people that the games will be a great success and will not incur any costs to the council tax payers of Walsall. To achieve this, I and my cabinet colleagues will spend the next 12 months working flat out on fact finding missions to Beijing, Athens, Sydney, Atlanta and Barcelona to learn lessons from the huge mistakes made at previous games. I keep saying this.”

It is estimated that the games will create more than 4 million jobs in Walsall and generate more than £500billion in revenue. Income from American television networks alone will wipe out the national debt and the wise decision to start all competitions at four in the morning will ensure that the games will not clash with re-runs of I Love Lucy and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in on NBC. This Olympic legacy will allow Walsall Council to abolish council tax and offer every resident in the borough a personal hovercraft, gold-plated jacuzzi and a replacement green recycling bin.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin has been dead since 1937 and so is not available for comment.

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