The Plastic Hippo

December 31, 2011

Should old acquaintance be forgot

Filed under: History,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 6:04 pm

It has been a very long year. 364 days ago, this humble blog expressed worries over what 2011 might bring. On reflection, those worries now seem the product of rosy optimism and as we welcome the dawn of 1982, mere worries have been replaced by actual fear.

Twelve months is a long time in politics, and it would be superhuman for our hard-working politicians to remember everything they said and promised. Having not actually been elected, all that stuff about not destroying the NHS, building houses, improving social care, “fairness”, investing in education, “progressive reform” and stimulating growth by reducing unemployment seems to have slipped from the minds of busy ministers and their back bench familiars. Anything in the party manifestos should now be considered as allegorical and not the true word of God as revealed to Michael Gove and David Cameron.

If 18 months ago is too hard to recall, imagine the scale of collective amnesia after 30 years have elapsed. Way back in 1981, two years into Margaret Thatcher’s first Conservative government, riots, savage cuts to public services, rising unemployment and an economy run by the greedy few for the greedy few brought the nation to crisis. Cabinet minutes released under the thirty year rule give an insight into what is actually in the minds of those who claim to rule us. The day the papers were made public, a succession of retired ministers, senior civil servants and military men were wheeled from their care homes covered in warm knee rugs and, brandishing ear horns, claimed complete ignorance in front of the microphones and cameras.

“I was misrepresented”, claimed one.

“I don’t recall saying that”, said another.

“I was not aware of that discussion. I knew nothing of that”, bleated a senior advisor to the Prime Minister.

“Look, it was all a long time ago and these things happen”.

The parallels between 1981 and 2011 are astonishing. There was even an heir to the throne marrying a fairy tale bride.

The released papers reveal that Margaret Thatcher was in negotiation with Irish Republicans regarding hunger strikes by IRA prisoners demanding political status. After telling the commons and the nation that she would never, never, never negotiate with terrorists, she went to her study to edit telex messages to the IRA. Using a pen, she would cross things out and change the wording. It should come as no surprise that a British Prime Minister tells lies to parliament and people. One need only think of Tony Blair.

Selling tanks to Pinochet’s evil dictatorship was good for the British “defence” industry because Chile was an expanding market. Similarly, a contract to repair and refurbish British made tanks sold to Iran and captured by Iraq would preserve British jobs. At this time, Britain was officially “neutral” in the Iran-Iraq war and we all surely remember what happened when Saddam won…and then lost. When Libya fell, Cameron took arms dealers to Benghazi. It doesn’t seem to matter who the dictator is as long as they have deep pockets to pay for stuff that “defends” them and kills people.

The minutes reveal that dead sheep Geoffrey Howe advised that, following the Toxteth riots, Liverpool should undergo a “managed decline” and that spending money on that blighted city would be wasted on “stony ground” and would be like “trying to make water flow uphill”. Geoffrey should know. He was once the MP for a posh part of Birkenhead called Bebington, a commuter town inhabited by the well-off working in Liverpool. Geoffrey was kicked out of town in the 1966 general election and followed The Beatles to that there London.

It is unlikely, to say the least, that your humble correspondent will live to see New Year’s Day 2042, but that really doesn’t matter. The cabinet minutes released in late December of that year will have a strange familiarity, especially if they have internet connection in heaven or hell. One can understand the devil creating the world wide web but why would God come up with such a subversive invention? Eternal paradise – no signal.

The on line minutes will be the same as 1981. Sell weapons to nasty people, crush the poor, protect the greedy, dismantle everything that has been hard fought for since the Tolpuddle Martyrs, categorise anyone who objects as a terrorist, remove legitimate financial support from terminal cancer patients and disabled children and continue to allow bankers to pay themselves obscene bonuses. For good measure, throw in some good old-fashioned austerity for those who can’t afford it.

If you need proof of who is valued in our coalition of the incompetent and the vindictive, take a look at the New Year’s Honours List.

Paul Ruddock receives a knighthood. His company, Lansdowne Partners made £100million by speculating that shares in Northern Rock and other banks bailed out by the tax payer would fall. So short-selling that results in small businesses going under and throwing people out of work is okay in coalition Britain. He has, by the way, donated half a million to the Tory party.

You might not recall Gerald Ronson, but from now on he is entitled to put CBE after his name on his business cards. He was the chap who was sent to prison along with Ernest Saunders and Anthony Parnes in 1990 over the Guinness share fixing scandal. Jack Lyons, also guilty but too old and frail to go to prison, was stripped of his knighthood.

Peter Bazalgette is awarded a knighthood, presumably for his contribution to media and culture. He is the man who gave us Big Brother and Deal or no Deal and is the great great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the genius civil engineer who was instrumental in constructing the London sewage system. How ironic that Peter’s forbearer, who was tasked with removing the crap from London, now turns in his grave at the news that his descendant is ennobled for pipping crap into British television.

Britain has changed since 1981 and so has the demeanour of Tory Prime Ministers. Mrs Thatcher’s implacable Iron Lady image brooked no compromise and apart from little white lies regarding dead hunger strikers, her legacy remains a divided nation and a dead cert Oscar for Meryl Streep. The lady, as we all remember, was not for turning. Cameron, on the other hand, is attempting to play Hugh Grant with Andy Coulson providing the screenplay. His many U-turns, lack of coherent policy and incompetent stewardship of the economy is explained by “listening” to the people and masks a deep rooted and spiteful desire to preserve the power and wealth of greedy at the expense of everyone else. This is where worry becomes fear.

Given the savage attack on the most vulnerable in society and Osborne’s complete failure, one would assume that HM`s Loyal Opposition would be landing body blows on this vindictive government on an hourly basis. Sadly, Ed Miliband comes across as a whining sneering scholarship schoolboy facing Flashman at PMQ`s and the Labour Party is not an effective opposition. We are now on our own.

In 1982, the internet was in its infancy and the powers that be saw it as a powerful tool to maintain the control, manipulation and compliance of the masses who funded their wealthy life-styles and shiny toys designed to kill people. Thatcher, to her credit, realised the potential of the internet to allow free access to information and, worst of all, allow a platform to express an opinion. She hated the idea that the controllers and manipulators should be held to account and criticised by those that refuse to comply. She made it very clear that she wanted it stopped.

Our present illegitimate government, along with other governments around the world have suddenly woken up to Thatcher’s prophesy. Dark talk of shutting down the internet during times of civil disobedience is rife and in 12 months time, the opinions offered in this humble blog might be impossible to publish. That would undoubtedly please certain local politicians of all political shades who seem to resent any form of criticism even during periods when there is no evidence of public unrest. So before this humble blog is shut down:

Welcome to 1982.


December 26, 2011

Not just for Christmas

Filed under: Society,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 11:51 pm

I don’t like dogs. Nasty, stupid, vicious creatures. Quite how I ended up being dragged around Walsall Arboretum after a huge Christmas lunch by a hound from Hell remains a complete mystery.

The excellent Kate Goodall has documented the “delights” of dog walking in Walsall on her beautifully observed blog, so there is no need to repeat lurid tales of picking up turds with plastic bags here. Her insight into the human and canine condition is a rich addition to the local blogging scene.

She, however, writes from the perspective of actually liking these vile, repellent animals and forgets that even the cutest descendants of vicious wolves still have the propensity to rip your lungs out given half a chance. Quite how I was lumbered into exercising the offspring of Cerberus is a sad story of misplaced obligation and a salutary lesson in never volunteering for anything.

Many months ago, on a glorious Spring morning, enjoying good conversation and even better coffee in a fecund back garden, a dear friend and neighbour was suddenly taken ill. It soon became clear that medical attention was required and an ambulance was summoned. Seeing the symptoms, I sniffed the coffee and thought of Agatha Christie.

After what seemed like a geological epoch of waiting, a paramedic arrived with all manner of equipment, including the one that goes “bing”, and first stabilised and then treated the dear friend. An admission to hospital was needed and as we loaded the invalid into the vehicle, the dear friend handed me the house keys with a request. “Will you walk and feed the dog? Just for a couple of days.”

The answer was, of course, yes. But again thinking of Miss Marple, the idea of giving the dog the coffee or finding the cellar and buying some stout engineering bricks, three parts sand, one part cement and a trowel became strangely attractive.

The efficient, professional and very charming paramedic asked for some paperwork to be signed before the patient was whisked away. He wanted confirmation of the time of the 999 call and the time he knocked on the door. The geological epoch lasted exactly three minutes and 49 seconds. Why any here-today, gone-tomorrow politician would want to destroy this free, superb and vital National Health Service is beyond the comprehension of this simple minded Shanghaied dog walker.

And so, the humiliation and embarrassment began. Having the great, stupid lump jumping up at you at the front door and lacking the basic comprehension that licking a face is not considered polite outside the sanctity of marriage, it was clear that our forced relationship was going to be strained. To be fair to the beast, he at least understood the basic commands of “sit” and “wait”, but when it came to the more important instructions such as “behave rationally” and “stop being stupid”, the idiot remained clueless.

Having a companion that sniffs every tree in the Arboretum before deciding which one to urinate on might be de rigueur for some citizens of Walsall, as might offering a probing nose into the nether regions of anything resembling a similar species, but the fact that dogs are different to people does not make it any less repulsive.

Fortunately, the dear friend and neighbour made a speedy and complete recovery and was again able to walk his own bloody dog. So what on earth made me knock on the door the day after his return from hospital and sheepishly ask if the dog needed walking?

The answer has nothing to do with any possibility that I have any affection for this stomach on legs with a breath reminiscent of the smell of Widnes. No, it is because the daily walks since the early Spring through the Arboretum and across what once was the municipal golf course are good for my health. The dog is incidental. Watching the seasons come and go, day by day has been an absolute joy. The Arbo is wonderful, and so are the people that care for it. Any pleasure gained from seeing a big dog off the lead running as fast as he can just for the sake of it is for sentimental fools. Nothing, however, concentrates the mind like six stones of bone headed enthusiasm coming at you at 30mph on the promise of a small doggy treat held aloft in a clenched fist.

The animal is so stupid that he ignores the clearly worded signs warning of the danger of deep mud in the brook that runs through the Arboretum and plunges in with blatant disregard for all that is holy in the world of health and safety. This Baskerville hound is so thick that he has yet to master the simple procedure of climbing onto the dog poo bin to deposit his breakfast. Instead, he stands next to the bin performing a ridiculous circular dance and then waits with big, pathetic doleful eyes until a plastic bag is placed on the ground beneath his foul bottom. Inconsiderate ingrate.

He is also a terrible conversationalist and stubbornly refuses to answer the questions I ask him. His implacable silence when under scrutiny has led me to suggest to his owner that the dog should stand as a councillor during the next local elections.

He does, however, serve some useful purpose. When passing by strangers, the default attitude is to avoid eye contact and keep walking. This is impossible for dog walkers. There always is, at the very least, a cheery exchange of good morning and often a conversation about dogs, weather or the beauty of the Arboretum. Sometimes, when meeting an acquaintance who expresses surprise at seeing me with a dog, I am allowed to adopt an outrageous accent in the style of Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther and say: “Eee`s not ma dorg”.

Only once have I come across an unpleasant dog walker. On an autumnal morning, an enormous, obese man waddled breathlessly after an equally enormous, obese dog. My good morning was ignored and when the genital sniffing started, he shouted at my stupid mutt, “f**k off!” and aimed a slow and futile kick. The effort of raising a leg left him close to death and the instinct that allows mothers to lift cars off trapped babies kicked in. My adopted dog might be stupid, but he’s my stupid, adopted dog. Some very nasty words were said of which, I am not proud. Realising that the fags, booze and pies would finish him off before my cruel sarcasm, I walked away. Mercifully, his sort keep themselves to the town centre and walk their attack dogs off the lead as a way of compensating for a lack of brain or penis.

There are, though, amazing benefits in walking a dog. Once, at the height of Summer, and in a remote copse out at was once the seventh green of the golf course, the world went suddenly into soft focus. Gentlemen, and indeed some ladies, of a certain age will remember the Cadbury`s Flake television adverts from the 70`s. Approaching through a meadow of wild flowers, a vision of loveliness in a cheesecloth dress and wide straw hat was walking her Dalmatian. Under normal circumstance, a middle-aged man alone in an isolated copse would have made this beautiful young woman run a mile. Instead, the presence of the dogs facilitated a good morning and a chat. It is heartening to know that having a big, stupid dog in tow renders you as being considered harmless. It also helps that the dog is considerably better looking than me.

So, after a Christmas lunch that could have fed the entire nation of Canada, instead of snoozing on the sofa listening to the creak of arteries hardening, I was out in the Arboretum walking this bloody stupid dog, even though I don’t actually need to. The saddest part is I bought him some doggy chews for Christmas. The ungrateful sod didn’t buy me a present.

I bet he loves the snow.

December 23, 2011

The election that never was

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 11:55 pm

The vital ingredient in a perfect banana daiquiri is Rose’s Lime Cordial. Lime juice or, heaven forbid, lime squash will simply not do. Trying to buy a bottle of the stuff in Walsall three days before Christmas proved to be as elusive as finding citizens eligible to vote in local elections.

In a borough where strategic policy only extends to supermarket development and parking charges, it should come as no surprise that Thursday saw empty council car parks, queues of traffic waiting at the entrances to supermarkets and almost deserted polling stations in Birchills Leamore. Whatever bright sparks decided to exercise their democratic right to force a ward by election three days before Christmas will be delighted that democracy has been served with a woeful 16 per cent turn out.

Following the sad death in November of Joan Barton, a popular and hard working ward councillor, the result of the poll was a foregone conclusion. In a safe Labour seat, with a Tory government slashing and burning its way through the very fabric of Britain and a completely clueless local Conservative council, the Labour candidate would need to don a Gestapo uniform and drink a toast to Hitler not to be elected. Oh, sorry, yeah, that`s Cannock.

But all that is not to say that Tina Jukes does not deserve her victory. To embark on an election campaign so soon after her mother’s death is courage beyond the call and a fitting tribute to Joan Barton’s many achievements. The new councillor for Birchills Leamore will be a fine representative and her 300 plus majority will be the envy of other Labour councillors who consider themselves to be in safe seats. It seems a shame that she will have to contest the seat again in May.

However, after setting aside the congratulations of a “good” win, the Labour group in Walsall cannot indulge in the triumphalism of assuming control of this basket case borough. A victory in a safe seat with a turn out of 16 per cent is no reason to celebrate, especially as Labour has yet to offer any alternatives to municipal melt-down. There were many more people in ASDA Bloxwich and the retail experience hell of the town centre Tesco than there were in polling stations on Thursday. In other regimes, people are throwing rocks at tanks. Labour are downloading the latest Status Quo single. Facing an open goal with the goal-keeper sent off, Labour refuses to swing a kick because the ball belongs to the club chairman.

So who forced the unnecessary by election in Birchills Leamore that could have so easily waited until May? The Labs and the Cons immediately blamed each other but it turns out that this was not the case. It couldn’t have been a bunch of idiots called English Democrats who wish to take any opportunity to peddle their nonsense, UKIP are not that bright and the Greens just go with the flow. It was probably some random anarchists intent on wasting money and causing mischief in an attempt to draw attention to their failed and rather pathetic ambitions at being somebody.

Interestingly, and completely unrelated, the Liberal Democrats did not put up a candidate in Birchills Leamore. Clearly this is a similar paperwork error that occurred at the last by election in Bloxwich and is not in any way a lack courage for the fight. With Clegg in government and local Liberal Democrats in full retreat, the increasingly monosyllabic Ian Shires continues to have a go at Ed Miliband. As obnoxious as Miliband is, this utter shambles is not his fault and we are seeing the Liberal Democrats being absorbed into the public school Tory hierarchy as fags. Is it any surprise that people wish to legally loot Morrisons rather than go to a polling station?

For the perfect banana daiquiri, the Rose’s Lime Cordial was found at the local corner shop. Mr Singh also stocked the white rum, the bananas and the demerara sugar. We provided the ice and the Pisang Ambon liqueur. Watch out for banana skins in May.

December 20, 2011


Filed under: History,Literature,Politics,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 11:27 pm

George Orwell was right. At the front end of negative growth, increasing deficit and the least worst option in a single Europe, we must agree to disagree that our government are giving 110 per cent in coming to a qualified conclusion in the fairly accurate fact that oxymora are the living dead in a post modern coalition.

The doublespeak employed by those that consider themselves fit to rule nations has become so double-plus-ungood that it is impossible to decipher any sense or meaning from the whispered shouting of despots reluctantly craving power. These humble servants of states and people talk of accurate estimates, anticipating the unexpected, cautious optimism and the necessary evil of the only choice. The use of oxymoron is not a planned accident.

When the dear leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il popped his clogs, state media in Pyongyang wept and wailed that he died of overwork and people were seen crying the streets. After inheriting that abused nation from his Dad, Kim Il-sung, he passes rule to his son, Kim Jong-un, now known as the great successor. The perfectly false oxymoron of a communist family dynasty is right up there with fighting for peace, all in this together and American military intelligence. Even as we mock the mass hysteria in North Korea, some sections of the press are comparing the death of Kim Jong-il to that of Lady Diana. This individual collective grief is beyond the imagination of even George Orwell.

Oxymoron, when used correctly, can be beautiful and when used accidentally, hilarious. Shakespeare was, of course, the master. Romeo says at the start of the play:
“Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first created;
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”

John Donne, also a bit of a clever bastard, could have been commenting on the current state of the banking system. In Devotions upon Emergent Occasions he says: “O miserable abundance, O beggarly riches!”

Winston Churchill, another who would have winced at the mention of fresh yoghurt, alcohol free beer and disposable income, could not have imagined the goings on in Pyongyang or even Whitehall when he said:
“Socialism would gather all power to the supreme party and party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of civil servants, no longer servants, no longer civil?”

Given the recent duplicity at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and at the Department of Work and Pensions, Churchill seems justified in his observation. Strangely, it wasn’t socialism but compassionate conservatism that allowed the bureaucrats to hit the poor in exchange for a lovely lunch paid for by the rich. A smiling Cameron has started a rather civil, civil war.

But, for pure comic genius, we have to turn to Sam Goldwyn. The film producer probably thought that oxymoron was a stupid bison and without any sense of irony and in total innocence offered us these pearls of wisdom:

“A hospital is no place to be sick.”

“Any man who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.”

“Don’t worry about the war. It’s all over but the shooting.”
In a world of negative growth, defensive strikes, collateral damage, clean kills, smart bombs, friendly fire, Christian militias observing a partial ceasefire and the faithful blowing people up in the name of a peaceful God, oxymoron has become an instant classic. As Cameron returns from a Christmas photo op, one can only hope that his non-stop flight from Afghanistan will not stop in the UK and instead go to infinity and beyond. As he boldly goes, he and his spin doctors might find some sad amusement in constructing sound bites that include the words victimless crime, well preserved ruins, rap and music, religion and consensus, virgin birth and the greatest oxymoron of all:

Prime Minister David Cameron.

December 18, 2011

Blessed are the cheese makers

Filed under: Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 4:39 am

On this last Sunday morning before Christmas, churches across the nation will, no doubt, be packed to the crumbling steeples with the devout heeding the call by David Cameron for a return to “Christian values”. Logs, eyes, splinters, camels and needles spring to mind.

The Prime Minister, who describes himself as a “vaguely practising” Christian, took the unusual step of “doing religion”. Celebrating 400 years since the publication of the King James Bible, now available in a new edition complete with a foreword by the apostolistic Michael Gove, the Prime Minister told the Church of England:

“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”

Once you get past the rather strange use of language, it would appear that “moral neutrality” will not be tolerated and what Britain is today is the fault of the Bible. God knows what the bishops thought. In terms of fighting something with nothing, he and his coalition government seem hell bent on removing basic human rights, support for the poor, the sick, the old, the young, the dying and just about anybody else who is not inclined to vote Tory. His logic is clear. He will take away everything so you will not be able to, using his words, “fight something.”

This “vaguely practising” Christian goes on to quote the Gospel of St Matthew:
“In Matthew`s Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done “unto one of the least of these brethren”…they have done unto him. Just as in the past it was the influence of the church that enabled hospitals to be built, charities created, the hungry fed, the sick nursed and the poor given shelter…so today faith based groups are at the heart of modern social action.”

Presumably then, the NHS, the National Insurance scheme and an underfunded education system are the work of the Devil and should be closed down forthwith. Charity shops and destitution are the answer. By now, Jesus and the rest of his brethren are having a right old laugh.

Not content with appropriating some fairly sensible words from St Matthew, Cameron goes on to quote the blessed St Margaret:
“The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country. Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible”. Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love…pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities…these are the values we treasure. Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.”

Jesus has now stopped laughing and is looking at the small print in St Matthew and is also checking the small print in the Gospel according to St Luke.

There may be some evidence of hard work in the coalition cabinet, but the responsibility, charity, compassion, humility and self-sacrifice must be hiding under a bushel somewhere. There is certainly love. The love of power, influence and money. The common good and social obligations for the salt of the earth remain an inconvenience. Jesus is now loading his spear of burning gold and arrows of desire into his chariot of fire in preparation for a a second coming.

Cameron ends his speech to the Lords Spiritual with a deft avoidance of responsibility:

“Whether you look at the riots last summer…the financial crash and the expenses scandal…or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamic extremists around the world…one thing is clear: moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality…has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots.”

Nothing to do with him, then, or his government’s attack on young people or the huge increase in youth unemployment designed to destroy and so alienate an entire generation. An eye for an eye has become 18 months in Strangeways for a pair of trainers. Cameron goes on:

“Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.
Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism.”

At this point, Jesus wept, and turned to the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3-12 as recorded during the Sermon on the Mount. After all the stuff about the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers, our Saviour turned to Luke 6: 20-22 reported during the Sermon on the Plain.

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you that hunger now: for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you that weep now: for you shall laugh.

Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”
Luke, unlike Matthew, also gave us four woes from the Sermon on the Plain, no, not the one Cameron took back from Brussels:

“Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation.

Woe unto you that are are full now! For you shall hunger.

Woe unto you that laugh now! For you shall mourn and weep.

Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! For in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.”
The translation, of course, coming from Aramaic, through Hebrew, Greek, Latin and early 17th century English might be a bit dodgy. But it’s not as dodgy as Cameron in his desperate crusade (remember them?) to win votes by suggesting that those with a different faith or no faith at all lack morality or responsibility. Perhaps he should instruct his speech writers to put down the King James Bible and take a look at Dante`s Inferno.

Where the hell is Christopher Hitchens when you need him? He is probably in heaven, laughing at this nonsense and sharing a birthday drink with Jesus.

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