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So there we all were, nervously going to bed on Sunday night wondering how on earth we were all going to survive the impending storm that was heading our way. Unusually for the UK, this storm had also been given a name – St.Jude – which to my knowledge is the first time this has ever happened here. The great storm of ’87 is simply known as the ‘great storm of ’87’ and the similar battering the country took in 1990 is only ever really referred to as ‘when it was windy in 1990’. So is there now a system in place where there is a naming protocol for storms, and if so, is it done simply to prepare ourselves for something terrible where all the hype is built up in advance, only for it to be arrive far less menacing when it eventually arrives? Also, although there seems to be a pretty steadfast naming protocol for tropical storms in those parts of the world where life changing weather is frequent, is it really needed here? So then this got me thinking. Someone must be in charge of these things and if so, how comes? And also,what is their system for assigning names? To my knowledge St.Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases, the saint that my mum would often encourage me to pray to should I be searching for my keys or an errant golf ball, so I had developed an association of kindness,caring and understanding with him. (Her?). I certainly hadn’t associated this particular saint with a destructive force of nature who’s impending presence would be responsible for a swathe of destruction sweeping across the land or even blowing over some garden furniture and the odd fence panel. It seems though that the reason for this name is simple… it was going to arrive on St.Jude’s day. Is that really the best we can come up with? Really? I have it on good authority that it was also St. Ferrutius day which sounds so much better. I can imagine in years to come when people look back at the blustery day we had and will gather in a pub somewhere reminiscing about weather in the olden days saying things like
” Do you remember the great St.Ferrutius storm, Dave?
” Certainly do Steve, it knocked the St. Wilfetrudis one into a cocked hat”.
And what would have happened if this storm had of arrived on St.Valentines day? Would we start to attribute a deadly weather system to a saint that we normally regard as the patron saint of over priced flowers and chocolates? Personally, I’d have paid good money for it to have made landfall on Pancake day.
As we are in the infancy of storm naming in this country I think we should start afresh and come up with a much simpler and less religious based system. I’d like to put myself forward as the chief of storm naming which apart from giving me a great business card would also give me an opportunity to vent some stored up anger. My naming system would be easy to understand and also give some clarity on what we were going to be faced with. For example, and for reasons that all men will be able to identify with, storms which are are difficult to predict and could change direction without any prior warning would be given women’s names. Names like Belinda, Annette and Harriet would be given to relatively gentle storms that arn’t likely to cause too much aggro whereas names like Chantelle, Britney and Chelsea would be given to storms likely to cause more widespread aggravation. For the ones that would affect the lives of many millions of people and lead to a widespread change to the landscape, I would simply name them hurricane Thatcher. Storms that were more simple and easy to predict would be given men’s names. Starting at the more devastating end of the scale, people should be left in no doubt as to the severity of what was about to come and so a storm that was going to make certain landfall and administer indiscriminate destruction on a catastrophic scale would be called hurricane Vader. Using my newly introduced system, this weeks highly anticipated and much hyped storm of cataclysmic proportions would simply have been called Trevor.
On Sunday night we were being urged to stay indoors and not to make any unnecessary journeys during the early hours of Monday morning especially during the rush hour. I’ve yet to fully understand though what exactly constitutes an unnecessary journey. Surely all journeys are necessary arn’t they? I mean, I’ve got to go to work as I don’t get the luxury of paid leave or the ability to work from home, and it’s highly unlikely my customers would come round my house to buy a car even if I wanted them to. A journey to work is very necessary indeed. Also necessary, is a late night drive out to the local kebab shop should I decide I need a snack. Or two. As the storm gathered momentum over both the Atlantic Ocean and sky news HQ, it was decided that as a precautionary measure the entire train system serving Europe’s biggest city was to be shut down and flights in and out of London were to be cancelled or delayed. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that people were arriving into Heathrow from parts of the world that are regularly affected by severe storms that devastate entire regions, completely bewildered as to why a metro system that runs primarily underground can’t operate.
Mondays storm was, however, strong enough to cause loss of life and destruction which is of course a tragedy for all of those involved and I suppose that given the the degree of damage that we were led to believe would happen, the loss of life and damage was much lower than expected. And maybe this is the point. The naming of a storm gives it an identity and therefore an additional resonance, and the announcement that the government was to chair an emergency cobra meeting served only to heighten expectations of the expectant carnage to come. David Cameron, we were informed, would be being briefed and updated through the night. Indecently, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to recently discover that far from being a James Bond style top level secret committee, cobra is simply the name given to the room that the meeting takes place in. C abinet O ffice B riefing R oom A. How mundane is that! Back to Monday morning though, and the only thing that was building and developing more quickly that the storm itself, were the 24 hour news broadcasters who were falling over themselves -quite literally in some cases- to present us with ever more woe inducing pieces to camera about what precautions we should take to survive it. Sky news suggested that we should all make sure our phones were fully charged and that we gather together a torch and a first aid kit which is all excellent advice. I certainly wouldn’t want to find that a large oak tree had fallen on my house and be without a few plasters or some salon. I was a little unsure of the recommendation of obtaining a chainsaw. In a world where we can be arrested for carrying anything sharper than a sausage, it’s hardly advisable to encourage the purchase of these things especially in the run up to Halloween. A Sky news outside broadcast team were sent to Brighton beach to demonstrate the power of the waves as the storm “slammed” into the south coast but instead of 30 foot high waves and the sight of water crashing over the pier, they were greeted by the sight of swimmers taking an early morning dip with a cloudless blue sky behind them. The most entertaining moment of the broadcast though was watching one of their cameramen falling into the water after being floored by a particularly aggressive 3 foot wave which appeared from out of the blue.The BBC, who were not much better but still a little sensationalistic, chose to interview a self styled “disaster recovery expert” who gave some great advice about how to clear fallen trees. Cheers fella. While all this was going on, a quick flick through the channels over to CNN showed live coverage from Australia where hundreds of homes were being destroyed by a fire which was engulfing hundreds of square miles of forest. Time for a sense of proportion then wouldn’t you say.
So with weather presenters and news reporters all trying to out serious each other their way to a bafta, where does that leave us? Well so far this year we have had warnings to stay in when it snowed, warnings to stay in when it’s been too hot and warnings to stay in when it’s too windy. What next? Warnings to stay in when it rains? If we haven’t yet already reached the point where we say enough is enough then we will surely soon do so. Like in the fable of the boy who cried wolf, we are getting so used to being bombarded with extreme weather warnings which turn out to nothing more than damp squibs, that one day the big one will arrive and we’ll not have heeded the warnings. In a country where the climate is temperate and the chances of getting killed or hurt by the weather is small, we are getting led blindfolded into believing that a relatively harmless batch of weather is a life changing event when for 99% it isn’t. And then one day when hurricane darth does arrive,we’ll be less protected than ever.
About 3 weeks ago I put on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn for many months and found a £10 note in the back pocket that I didn’t know I had. This is one of those moments when the gods of karma took some time out from throwing curve balls at me and therefore a sense of satisfaction washed over me as their backs were temporarily turned.A small piece of radiant joy was allowed into my life which lasted right up to the time when I spend it. And even after I had spent it, that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling still lingered around like the smell of an expensive perfume as I enjoyed my “free” pint as well as well as the process of buying a lotto ticket. While In the queue to buy the ticket, I was already planning what I was going to buy with my jackpot win and and even what treats I would get for family and friends such as cars and nice holidays and by the time I got to the front of the line I had even planned what I’d wear to the Aston Martin showroom when picking up my new DB9. Sadly the Karma gods turned their attention back in my direction, and at the precise moment that I told the cashier that I wanted a lucky dip ticket,the lotto machine decided to spew out the worst 6 numbers in the history of lotto. Still, as Monty Python once famously said I decided to look on the bright side of life and still believing myself to be in possession of free money I went home and logged onto ITunes to see if the were any new albums I wanted to buy. It was while I was searching through the lists that I remembered that I had some change left over from a voucher that my kids had got me for my birthday a few weeks ago and after just a few moments my attention was drawn to the most recent album by Volbeat which was released earlier this year.
I was first introduced to Volbeat a year or so ago when from out of nowhere Cally downloaded the song “A warriors call” and played it a few days running in the car on the way to work. I won’t lie, whilst I liked the song and thought that it was good, it didn’t really register much of a high score on my musical wowometer and although I too downloaded it, it rarely if at all got played either at home or in the car. Then,a few months ago at download 2013 we noticed that they were playing the zippo encore stage on the first day and although we had to endure “Europe” in order to get a good spot in the crowd, we were perfectly placed by the time they came on. My only complaint about their set that day was that it was over far too quickly. Fresh from seeing that show we got our tickets for their concert at the Brixton Academy so I thought it might be a good idea to use some of the money on my voucher to download their newest cd and the one that they are currently touring, namely “Outlaw gentlemen and shady ladies” and it has to be said that with the exception of my recent trip to Rome, I’ve not stopped listening to it and more to the point, when I haven’t being listening to it I’ve been missing it something rotten so the time has come to actually tell you exactly what I think of it.
Wikipedia list Volbeats influences as a cross between rock n roll, rockabilly and heavy metal which is totally spot on. It also lists another influence as schlager music which I must confess to knowing nothing about except to say that when I googled it it basically seems to be a kind of Scandinavian folk music centred around sweet love songs and a melancholy sound, which is again spot on as here we have a record which in some places is heavy enough to not sound sound out of place on some of the mid 80’s albums from Metallica but delivered with a classy, melodic and powerful style which is dripping with melody. The opening track is an acoustic almost flamenco mood setter which actually does little to tip you off about what’s still to come except that it sets the tone for the harmonious 55 minutes that’s still to come. First track proper is ‘pearl hart’ which DOES set the tone for the album as within 20 seconds this song tells you everything you need to know about the rest of the album. If I overuse the words melodic,heavy and classy during this review then please forgive me but it does have to be said that this song is dripping with all three and isn’t even the best track on the album. ‘The nameless one’ is next up and picks up where pearl hart left off with power chords a plenty. What you notice fairly on with this band is that although it’s not a revolutionary sound that they have got, they certainly do have a distinctive sounding lead vocalist in Michael Poulsen. His effortless vocal style draws you into the songs with an almost haunting quality. ‘Dead but rising’ is up next and is one of the two most ‘Metal’ songs on the album and a great big heavy slab of metal it is too. like the rest of the songs, it seems to change direction throughout the three and a half minutes that it lasts you start from a metal sound and end up in a rock n roll middle and climax.
The chances of turning on a radio and hearing any of these songs is slightly less than bugger all which is a crime worthy of a reconstruction on crimewatch which given that what volbeat have managed to do here, is produce a record which mainstream radio as well as the music tv channels could play on rotation. Given that at least three songs here are so radio friendly, enough to be played and yet systematically ignored,annoys me to my core and these songs are ‘Cape of our hero’ ‘My body’ and my personal favourite ‘ Lola Montez’. Or do I like ‘My body’ the most? Oh I don’t know. Picking a favourite song from these three is is a bit like being asked to decide which of my children I like the most. Please please please do not just take my word for it, download one of these three songs and see for yourself. You owe it to yourself to do so, you need a bit of this album in your life. Part rock,part metal and with a rich melody,these are the three stand out songs which deserve better than being hidden away in the middle of the record, just don’t expect it to hear them anytime soon on a radio. ‘Room24’ is back to the metal theme and in parts would be as at home on a 90’s Megadeth album as it is on this record. Featuring, as it does, searing operatic vocals as well as a heavy yet melodic rhythm throughout and in fact this is probably the most metal section of the whole album as ‘The hangmans body count’ will make you want to start a circle pit in your living room/train/car depending on where you’re listening to it. These songs follow Volbeats blueprint of alternating between slow and moody and on to powerful and fast, and If you’re sweating buckets from the moshing and running around,pray to god that they don’t follow it up with ‘Black Bart’ because that’ll be a whole 10 minutes of lunacy for you to absorb.
There are many light and shade moments here. It’s not just a fist pumping, heavy metal record, it’s also a rock record, and a rock n roll record too. Its the kind of album that rewards you for getting into rock in the first place. Rock fans are often derided for their tastes but this is a record that we can stick under the noses of those that sneer and show them what they’re missing. Although numbered in their millions, metal fans are still massively out numbered by their musical counterparts who regard us as being a bit odd or brainless but this is an album of high quality and intelligence that should prove them all wrong. This album should be a standard bearer for the genre, it should be held aloft as an example of what a group of four rock musicians can produce. Normally I’d be wanting to keep it quiet and keep it just for us, but actually it deserves more than that. It deserves to be raved about and hopefully this come across in what I’m saying. This deserves to have a much bigger audience and exposure to a mainstream audience, who like me need a bit of Volbeat in their lives. Unlike the £10 note that I found in my pocket which gave me a few hours of satisfaction, this album is going to give me a lifetime of enjoyment. It’s too early to say stuff like “It’s in my all time top 10 records” because there should be a 5 year wait before any album could be considered for such an accolade but I very much expect that it will be. So after finishing reading this, open up your iTunes, spotify or whatever platform you use for listening and downloading and do the following. Listen to and then buy ‘Lola Montez’.If you don’t like it then not only is there something wrong with you, but also thank you for reading up to this point but goodbye and see you next time. If however you like it, move on and buy ‘My Body’ and then message me saying thank you. Then buy the album, it’s called ‘Outlaw gentlemen and shady ladies’.Simple as that. It will set you back about £10 but you don’t wait until you find a tenner in an old pair of jeans before doing so. So do it now. You’ll thank me for it.
As a kid our house was under what I assume was/is the flight path for Heathrow and I used to look up with envy at all the planes going overhead and wishing that I was on one of them. I hadn’t given any thought to where I wanted to go to or even cared too much who I went with, but I remember pestering my Mum and Dad to take me on an airplane and the sooner being the better. The closest I had ever been was a trip to Duxford airfield where we got to sit in Concorde and although it was, and still is, one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, I remember thinking how cramped it was and that I couldn’t understand why this was regarded as the best plane ever. Then the great day came when my parents told me that my dreams were being answered and that we were soon to fly to Rome and at that moment the countdown to my first flight began. I can remember that when the day arrived my dad put his best jacket and tie on and my mum wore a smart new dress as even though it was only 30 odd years ago, it was then considered the done thing to dress up smartly before flying. The fact that flying used to have its own dress code seems strange in this budget airline world that we now live in, but stranger still was the fact that once we were airborne my dad lit up a cigarette. And now every time I fly and I see the no smoking signs it reminds of those days. Don’t get me wrong going on holidays with mum and dad was great and we had really great times but having the freedom to chose where and when you go, along with the places to visit when you get there is infinitely better and so with 30 years having elapsed since that first visit to Rome, the time had come to go again. Those semi halcyon days of air travel have now been replaced by the large scale,industrial process of the mass transportation of humans in a style that make the sheep involved in live animal exports look well catered for. From the moment of being herded into the coaches to get from the car park to the terminal, to the funnelling into the security section,and then on to the holding pen of airside, it’s become nothing more than a highly organised and impersonal filtration system before finally getting wedged into an aircraft which is staffed by crews that have spent months in training learning how to operate a seatbelt and how to maintain a stepford wives style smile. Having said all of that, I actually love the whole excitement of travelling and would love to do it more and more.
So with the mass transit system having spewed us out at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, we quickly found a coach to take us to the city centre for €5 and went on to enjoy being driven around one of the worlds most car dense cities,by a driver who had clearly watched two many Jason Statham movies. We shot through junctions when the lights were on red, sent pedestrians scrambling as we went over zebra crossings and caused scooter riders to swerve as we sped our way through to the main train terminal in the city centre, only to end up being upstaged by a pair of nuns driving a mini bus at the same speed in the opposite direction. We therefore arrived in the city centre a little bewildered and now totally reliant on the apps we had downloaded to guide us to our hotel. I had downloaded the Ulman Rome travel app before leaving which not only offers offline mapping but also acts as a guide book to all the usual tourist sights and although I found the mapping was a little slow to load it certainly does it’s job well. We found our way to the hotel where the guy on reception gave us another map followed by a detailed explanation of how best to get around the city which by all accounts would be on foot. And so with all the information at our disposal and a whole city in front of us to visit we went to get lunch followed by chilling out in our room.
Our hotel was ok without being anything special but it was also located just outside of the city centre with all of the places we wanted to visit being quite a distance away and annoyingly the metro station was about a miles walk away in the opposite direction, so as this was our first day and with money preservation being a top priority we decided to walk to the Trevi fountains which judging by the map was about 1km away. It was at the fountains that we first came across two of the most annoying aspects of this city, the first being other tourists and the second being the seemingly unending supply of looky looky men coming up trying to sell umbrellas. Having previously holidayed in Luxor I’ve become adept at ignoring these pests but Rome’s ones are especially tenacious. Standing at the fountains holding an umbrella wasn’t enough to deter one particular guy who came up to me and said “umbrella?” When I pointed out that I already had one he then said ” have another one?” When I told him to go away he did but only to return 2 minutes later clutching a load of multi coloured poncho’s instead. Assuming he didn’t know any English I gestured to him to go away only for him to appear yet again offering to take my photo! The fountains at Trevi are indeed beautiful and we did the traditional act of tossing a coin over our shoulders in the hope that the superstition would come true and we would one day return.
From the fountains we made our way to the Spanish steps which were just a short walk away where we were greeted by more looky looky men and yet more annoying tourists managing to photo bomb every picture we took. Ranking very highly in my all time list of top 10 holiday aggravations are moronic idiots who walk across your subject matter just at the point of pressing the shutter button. There should be a law passed where it becomes perfectly legal to chase these A holes down and kick them in the balls. I came home with 200 photos on this trip and must have deleted the same amount where I’d managed to capture the precise moment when some idiot had wandered in front of me picking his nose or scratching his bum. After we managed to get some nice pictures we decided it was time to eat. Now one of the things we were worried about before travelling was the reputation that Rome has for being an expensive place to eat and drink in, but the reality proved to be different. Sure, if you really want a beer or a glass of wine with dinner it will set you back between €6 and €10 depending on where you eat but we had lasagne and pizza with a soft drink each and spend less than €20. Later in the trip we found an Irish bar where we had a few Guinness’s as well as food and spent less than €25. After eating we made our way back to the hotel which was about 2 miles away and I won’t lie, my feet were beginning to ache after a day on the move and every single uphill step was a nightmare.
Day 2 saw us make the first visit of the trip to the colosseum. The memories I have of this place 30 years ago were that it was in the middle of a roundabout and that there were very few people around when I went in and I don’t even remember going in with anybody else. I remember standing at the viewing point looking at the ruins in front of me looking down into what were the cells where the prisoners were held before being thrown to the lions in front of the 50,000 strong crowd. I remember seeing cats roaming free and there being an overwhelming sense of what this place use to be. I think it must have been the first time I’d been somewhere that I’d learned about at school and subsequently visited, that had struck a chord with me. I remember standing there for what felt like ages while my childhood imagination saw all the seats full of people and all the action in the middle of the arena in what is now a ruined stadium, as well as hearing all the noises and sensing the atmosphere that would once have been so overwhelming. 30 years later I’m standing on the very same spot as I did then and although that youthful imagination has long gone, the same senses are still present. Few football stadiums in the the UK are able to hold the quantity of people that this place did and even though the colosseum has been standing there for the best part of 2000 years, it still has as much atmosphere as the Bernabau or Anfield. I’m lucky enough to have stood at the foot at the Pyramids of Giza but where as just out of view of the pyramids,where the idiot Egyptians have built a Pizza Hut and KFC, the good folk of Rome have almost de-comercialised their historical sites and I commend them thoroughly for having done so. Not only that, but entry to this place is a mere €12 which is about £10/$16 which is a refreshing change to some of the rip off lunatic prices that exist elsewhere in the world.For example it’s half the price of entry to the Tower of London and the same price as entry to the worlds dullest tourist spot which is Stonehenge. It’s worth coming to Rome just to come to the colosseum. If you’re in two minds then don’t be. Just do it.
Last on the list of places to go was St.Peters which Like St.Paul’s in London is the defining image of this city. Presented with a half mile long queue to get inside the basilica, we needed to persuade each other to join it and with virtually every second of deliberation the line got longer and longer and so we decided to join it and see how long it took. Luckily it passed quite quickly and before long we were paying the €7 to get the lift up to the top. Yes that’s right the lift. And yes that’s right just the £5 or so required here compared to the £15 needed to visit St.Paul’s in London.In the time it took to climb the final 300 steps to the top of the dome the weather had closed in and it was pouring with rain when we got there but that soon passed and we got an amazing view out over this fabulous city. After going down the same narrow winding spiral staircase back to the ground level it was a nice surprise to find that our entry ticket allowed us to gain access to the church itself so we were able to mingle with the visitors and pilgrims who were also here to soak up the atmosphere. And what an atmosphere it is too. There is a quiet serenity about the whole place, from the outside of the church in the queue to the viewing gantry both in and outside as well as the dome itself, all the visitors conduct themselves appropriately and afford the place the solemnity that is deserves. Having been raised in a catholic household many of the names inscribed on the many tombs are familiar and this gives the history of the place a great deal more meaning than it would do somebody that wasn’t aware of many of the significant items in front of them.
Our recent trips have all been very different in so far as all the destinations have had something new to offer, for example Dubai was ultra modern and futuristic while Paris was a day trip tagged on to a gig we went to,but Rome was the first city break we have done since Budapest 18 months ago. I’m a massive fan of the city break as it gives us the chance to fly in, see it, photograph it and fly out while getting a taste for perhaps a longer trip at a later time, and Rome is the first of these places that could well do the job of providing a base for a longer trip. While the metro in Rome is pretty rubbish at linking up the tourist trail it does seem possible to use the termini train station to easily link up other destinations such as Naples, Pompeii and Pisa so it would be possible to go back there and travel further afield while using it as a base for those travels. The bits of Rome that I have seen suggest that it is a city that is selling itself on its past historical importance which is by no means a bad thing as from experience some cities try to be all things to all people and end up failing to deliver. There doesn’t seem to be a modern new city being built alongside the ancient one which has preserved the importance of the old one for all to see and soak up. Despite its reputation for being expensive we found that actually it has been one of the cheaper breaks that we have done as when we returned to Gatwick we still had a third of our spending money on us needing to be changed back to sterling. We saw no seedy underbelly to this city and other than the annoying looky looky men, we got no agro from anybody and in fact far from it, all the Romans we encountered on our trip were welcoming, helpful and keen to allow us to make the most of our time there. I hope that the myth of throwing the coin into the Trevi fountains does come true as I would love the chance of going back there one day and would have no issue if it were sooner rather than later. So far this year we have managed to get some time away in Amsterdam, Paris, Edinburgh and we still have a trip to Barcelona to come which does lead some people to ask how we do it and afford it but like I’ve said to them, for less than the price of a family day pass to Chessington we have been able to travel, experience new things and have something to tell people about, so roll on Barcelona and if you have any doubts about going to Rome… Don’t. I loved it and you will too.
17 years ago I was the manager of a record store in central London which was one of the busiest in the country. From a shop which was the size of your average living room we would regularly out sell the megastores down the road particularly when it came to the big releases of the day. For example I remember that during the height of Brit pop we shifted more copies of Oasis’s ‘Whats the story, morning glory’ than the virgin megastores managed to and when the video for ‘Independence day’ came out we sold more than any other store in the country during it’s first week of release. Getting daily deliveries of upwards of 30 box’s of CDs and DVDs created logistical problems for storage which to be honest we never really successfully dealt with except that just about every nook,cranny and crevice in the building as well as the those in our sister company just a bit further up the concourse was stuffed with as much stock as we could lay our hands on. I became remarkably adept at finding ways of being able to not only display it,but also store it and from time to time no matter what we did, all of us working there would end up using boxes of stock as make do chairs as we had to get rid of most of our stools and chairs to make room for it. Once, With a busy bank holiday weekend approaching I took some petty cash out of the till and purchased 4 massive, virtually trunk sized plastic storage box’s to store excess stock in under the permanent racking that ran the length of the store and for a couple of weeks this provided us with some room to move around behind the counter and in the staff area. Even though I had legitimately taken the cash I hadn’t accounted for it properly in the weekly banking which resulted in our regional security managers turning up one day and suspending me while a hearing took place to establish whether I had been guilty of theft. During this week long investigation my team were informed of what was happening, my two team leaders, Les and Lisa, were instructed to take over my duties and word quickly spread,inaccurately and prematurely, that I had been sacked for gross misconduct. During my disciplinary hearing I was unable to convince security that I had been guilty of nothing more than failing to follow the processes correctly and although the till balanced and there was no evidence of theft, it was decided that I was guilty and therefore sacked on the spot. Naturally I appealed, but I lost and eventually took the matter to acas but the best I was able to get was an understanding that when a future employer wanted a reference, mine would simply say that I left for personal reasons. About 10 years later I got a friend request on facebook from an old colleague from that time who told me that whilst my case was being investigated, my line managers were busying themselves telling everyone that I was guilty and arranging my replacement,so clearly it was never going to be a fair trial so to speak. But what really annoyed me about this conversation was that everyone whom I knew from that fairly close knit business where I knew people in virtually all of our locations, where informed of my “guilt” without me having the chance to explain myself and my name was tarnished and the door behind me was shut for ever. It’s true what they say.. Mud sticks.
6 months passed before I got a ‘proper’ job and during that time I did a series of rubbish ones just to bring in some money. Looking back at that time now its true to say that although it was a time of upheaval and hardship it took my life in a new and better direction and maybe it’s true that good things sometimes come out of adversity. The reason I’m mentioning this now is that I was reading the newspaper reports of a number of high profile news events of the last few months and its got me thinking about the lack of any right for a person accused of a crime to remain anonymous until either charged,convicted or acquitted. Michael Le Vell is a cracking example of someone who clearly should have been afforded the right of anonymity as should anybody else being accused of the same heinous crime. Sadly though, the newspaper industry decided that the chance to sell thousands of extra copies was too much of an opportunity to pass up and having one of the best known British soap actors on your front cover for weeks looking stressed and distressed while being accused of child rape is clearly good for business. This very public reporting of the trial and alleged crimes was justified as being of public interest and therefore we were treated to what amounted to nothing more than salacious accusations and hysterical reporting day after day until he was found not guilty. Then it appears that the public interest in his innocence is not exactly worthy of as many column inches and by day 2 of his acquittal the press had got bored and moved on. I suspect there isn’t as much money in innocence. And so what are we left with? Well until the end of time he will be known as the guy who was accused of interfering with children and I’m sure some brain dead buffoons will regard him as the bloke who got away with it but his reputation will be tarnished for forever. Now you might read this and think that as he was found to be innocent that things will go back to normal, but I doubt if they will. Ask yourself this question.. would you let him babysit your children? It will be argued that the public have the right to know and media types will put forward a strong case for a free press which is free from political interference which will be self regulated and therefore highly valued.
To be honest I don’t really disagree but the way I see it is this. I’m not the slightest bit interested if Le Vell or anyone else is innocent of any crime be it a big one or simply a minor misdemeanour, but I am interested in it if they are guilty. But while the courts operate on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty it seems that the media, driven by the need to make a profit, are promoting the presumption of guilt before a trial has even taken place. With things never likely to change for the better I think it should be the case that anyone accused of a crime that would be put before a criminal court should be automatically afforded the right to anonymity. This right could of course be given up at anytime by any individual should they wish to waive it and if they are subsequently found guilty it should be made public that they had requested anonymity in the first place. These rights should be enshrined in law to the same degree as contempt of court is. It seems that if you’re a super rich footballer you can afford a so called super injunction to keep yourself clear of the press but anyone on a less extreme income can’t.
It’s not just celebrities that end up with lives ruined because of false accusations. Some ordinary people have become infamous because of false accusations made against them too. Colin Stagg was ruined by the police and the media before being wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell back in 1992. As part of the police investigation he was publicly outed as being a lot of a pervert who was encouraged to divulge fantasies of rape to an undercover policewoman posing as a potential love interest who was egging him on to come on to her by faking some fairly sick fantasies of her own. In an attempt to appear to be on the same page as this woman sexually and to try and have a bit of rumpy pumpy with her, he went along with it and unwittingly made himself prime suspect in the murder case. He will always be associated with this crime, so much so that even now, 20 years after her murder if you google Colin Stagg the first thing that comes up is a picture of Rachel Nickell. And the papers were so upset with his acquittal that they moaned about his compensation! Barry George spent 7 years in jail wrongly convicted of being the killer of Jill Dando , but leading up to the trial and indeed after it he was subjected to a complete character assassination on behalf of the tabloids and it’s not an unreasonable suggestion that this could have been avoided if he had of had a jury that hadn’t been bombarded by stories of his weirdness prior to his trial. And this month Christopher Jeffries who was arrested in connection of the disappearance of Joanna Yeates in 2010,finally received an apology from the police after his very public arrest and trial by tabloid made him the most hated man in the UK. He himself has only just this week called for changes in the law to allow anonymity until a formal charge is made. It’s interesting isn’t it that the “hang ’em” brigade go ever so quiet when confronted by stories of wrongful conviction. They should be reminded that even though medical science leaps forward at a seemingly quickening pace, it’s still a lot easier to release someone from prison than it is to dig them out of the ground after an execution. Saying sorry to a corpse doesn’t really make a great deal of difference. And the media still believes it to be good business to plaster the front pages with these stories and care not a single bit if they get it wrong and even on the rare occasion that they apologise, it’s always always printed in an obscure part of the paper, usually next to a story of a water skiing squirrel or an agoraphobic scarecrow.
My wrongful conviction that I spoke about earlier cost me my job and indirectly my home. I went through a period of depression, relocation and a lack of personal self worth. Sure, things got better but that’s only down to my own dogged determination to keep things going and improve things for myself. I was lucky that my case wasn’t being played out in front of the insatiable appetite of a cash hungry press and I couldn’t even begin to contemplate what it must be like to be publicly outed despite being totally innocent.
I wrote a kind of charity based blog last week which led to a request from a chum of mine to go back to my roots and write my usual kind of angry blog. At first I was kind of pleased that I seem to be developing a theme but then I thought do I really want to be just writing a weekly angry style blog. But then I kind of thought well why not, deep down I probably am an angry person, angered daily by all the nonsense that life throws our way and annoyed to the extreme by some of the idiots that cross my path on a seemingly daily basis. Don’t get me wrong I’m actually a pretty happy go lucky kind of a person, I like nothing more than a good belly laugh and find humour in most of things that I do. I’d like to think that each day I go to work, soak up most of the crap that’s thrown my way, do my best to do my best ( if you see what I mean) and try and do it all with a smile on my face. But time after time despite being this giant ball of fun and laughter, this inner radiant glow of happiness and delight that I have been blessed with is disturbed by some tree dwelling moon unit who manages to bollocks the whole thing up by failing to make his or her IQ raise higher than the average daytime temperature of Norway during December. For example even just a simple trip to the supermarket, a car journey of less than 2minutes, resulted in me “meeting” Sevenoaks’s worst driver who managed to not only pull out on me as I was halfway round a roundabout but then actually overtake another car ON the next roundabout before indicating left and then turning right at the next junction. As if this wasn’t bad enough he then went on to park at a “jaunty” angle in a space designed for 2 cars before getting out of his car and walking into the shop as though nothing untoward had happened. I’ve had enough of these tosspots. So much so that I have decided to abandon my usual attitude correction technique of getting out of the car and threatening them with a short but intense burst of industrial strength language, to photographing their car and putting it on facebook or on here. So here to start things off is the car that belongs to a man that I’ve since nicknamed ” The bearded twatface of Otford”. If you see him in and around the area, call him some names from me.
The band Zico chain got on my nerves this week too. A couple of months ago I bought some tickets to see them play at a venue close to home which was meant to be the 3rd time I’ve seen them this year. I wouldn’t say I’m in love with them but their most recent album is pretty good and when I saw them support British Lion and Iron Maiden this year they were pretty good too. So at £12 a throw it seemed to be a cheap night out. I had also scheduled a game of golf with Pappa T for Friday so knew in advance that I’d be pretty knackered leading up to the gig, but with the lack of travel involved and a small venue to see them in I thought it wouldn’t be an issue. But it was only while me and MrsT2b were enjoying a few pre gig drinkies that we discovered that the band were not due on until 10pm which I won’t lie, proper hacked me off. I like this band and after finding out a bit about them I’ve discovered that despite having been around for 11 years they have only really enjoyed a small degree of success. But dare I say it, in my humble opinion this small amount of success could have been much greater if they had of put perhaps just a little bit more effort into it? I mean 3 albums and 2 EP’s in 11 years?they have opened the main stage at download and toured with velvet revolver but don’t seem to have pushed on at all. Even on this tour, following the amazing opportunities presented this year they don’t seem to have pushed on at all and are playing in front of a couple of hundred people in Tunbridge Wells as opposed to somewhere bigger and I can’t help but think that this is down to the lack of effort they seem to put in. This is THEIR headline tour, yet they have chosen to take out 2 support bands meaning they not only have to share the income but also the limelight and they don’t get to the stage until 10! Sort it out guys, you’re better than this. I realise that it’s not very metal to not go to a gig due to the timing of their show but I feel like its just too much of an effort for them to put some effort in. Having said that, buy their album “the devil in your heart” as it’s very good and if you not bothered about a late night, go see them on tour as you will have a good nights entertainment. Also Paul frost (guitars) was kind enough not to tell me to piss off when I drunkenly asked him for a photo outside the O2 back in August.
There has been some good news this week though in so far as it appears that the recession has come to an end. Well maybe not to an end as such but I suspect that the coalition has decided that if they tell us this news often enough then we might just come to believe it, and therefore in an attempt to push the message home they have begun electioneering already during the party conference season. One of the big new ideas to get votes was announced this week and it seemed that buying primary school children school dinners is the answer. So from next year free school dinners are back on the menu and parents all over the country rejoiced,Right? Well,wrong it seems. Now if I was the parent of a small child I would be delighted to send them off to school every day in the knowledge that they would be getting something hot and nutritious during the day to aid and assist their journey into intellectual superstardom. But it seems that some little darlings are too precious for these state paid for meals. Going back 35 years I can say with a degree of certainty that my school meals were devoid of any taste or nutrition and were served up by a group of women who would make the inmates of cell block H look feminine. In fact there was more warmth in the meals than there was in these women serving them and thats saying something. But when a friend of mine shared the link from the BBC news website on Facebook this week a friend of hers immediately replied ” well unless they are freshly prepared on the premises each day, my Olivia isn’t having them” excuse me? I’ve seen nothing but doom and gloom from parents of school age children recently complaining of benefit cuts and raises in child care fee’s and yet here is a policy where something is being given back and yet their still not happy and seem to be saying that unless their kids are fed personally by Jamie Oliver that its not good enough. Even when something good happens it seems that the moaning majority can’t and won’t be happy.
I suppose thinking about it I’m not an angry man I’m just an easily irritated man. My blood pressure instantly raises when one of these buffoons pulls out or tailgates me or says something moronic on Facebook. It absolutely does my nut in when someone overtakes me irresponsibly and then puts on their brakes causing me to slow down and it seems that 50% of all drivers over the age of 70 have bought cars that haven’t been equipped with functioning indicators and why is it that groups of cyclists feel that it is perfectly acceptable to meander along side by side causing tailbacks for miles behind them simply because they want to cycle in formation while chatting about why motorists are so impatient.Things are just as bad on foot too. Surely I’m not the only one to experience formation pram pushing by groups of mums who walk three or four abreast along pavements or in shopping centres scything down anyone or anything that gets in their way while travelling at the speed of drying paint and preventing anyone getting past them. Worse still and the ones who make my teeth itch with fury are those who people who one minute are walking along with purpose and from out of nowhere suddenly stop dead in their tracks causing a pile up behind them. Years ago we had a friend called John Hardcastle who had his own unique way of dealing with rogue pedestrians like those I’ve just mentioned. He would decide that the path he was taking was the right one and he would not alter his path for anyone ever meaning that on several occasions people who saw him coming but decided that they were more important would simply end up bouncing off him or finding themselves on the floor after tripping on one of his outstretched legs. I like this tactic and have decided to adopt it from now one should my mood allow.
Maybe being grumpy,angry and irritable is simply just a right of passage as I slip serenely into middle age and beyond. I hope that in years to come I don’t find myself being a pensioner who gets on a bus and moans about not getting seated or whinges about the actions of school children or even spends all day moaning about why things were better during the good old days. Although having said that, it seems that sadly I already have.
I’ve not been blogging for a few weeks now. The overriding reason for this is that I’ve been so busy at work recently that I’ve had to give 100% of my time to work and this focus has really been the only thing that I’ve really been able to concentrate on. It’s much to the credit of Cally that she has been understanding of this and has managed to not get too annoyed at my 10 hour days and 6 day weeks and by being so understanding its actually made my life so much easier. After a punishing day at work the last thing anyone needs is to get aggro for putting in a long shift and trying to earn a decent living and I’ve been very lucky to get the understanding and patience that I’ve needed to in order to get my numbers done and targets hit. So with these long days leaving me knackered I’ve been away from this page for a lot longer than I would have wanted to be and although I’ve written three or four half posts I’ve not really had the inclination to finish them off. Having said that the stats are going well. When I post a blog I like to keep track of the readership stats to see how it’s being received and even during the last four weeks of inactivity I’m delighted to see that I’m still getting plenty of daily hits on my web page. Almost certainly by the time you have read this I will have surpassed the 10,000 hits mark which is many more than I expected to get by this stage so before I go any further, this week marks the first anniversary of me starting this and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read it and share it, it really does mean a lot.
Over the last few weeks there has been many topics that I have wanted to find the time to write about,ranging from the situation in Syria and why President Putin has played a masterstroke and out politicked Cameron and Obama and I’ve wanted to write about the determination of a chum of mine to get his face punched in all in the name of charity. I’ve wanted to write about my birthday and the brilliant place that Cally found to spend the evening in and I’ve wanted to write about why I believe that the naming of men being accused of sex crimes should be legislated against so that they can remain anonymous until proven guilty. I’ve wanted to blog about my utter loathing of the professional protesters against fracking who have pitched up in their dozens and danced bizarrely to the tune of whale song to demonstrate their love of Mother Earth. But despite getting half way through some of these posts I’ve not finished them off but may well do so over the next few weeks or so assuming that they are relatively topical. Next week I’m off to see a band I first became aware off about 6 months ago and another band I first got into over 20 years ago so I’m sure there will be a review of those. As well as that we have booked a couple of city breaks that we plan to take in October and December so my 4 week absence from your Sunday morning email/social media is well and truly over. Whether you like it or not!
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about the late and exceedingly great Freddie Mercury which prompted me to dig out my live aid DVD and watch their 20 minute slot. If you don’t remember it then you should stop reading this and watch it immediately and feel a degree of shame for not having done so before because this is simply a staggeringly awesome moment of musical magnificence that you should watch over and over. Legend has it that it was during Queens performance that Bob Geldof was walking along a gantry inside Wembley on his way to give the BBC an update on the progress of the fund raising when he stopped to watch the performance going on below. It seems that prior to the queen performance the word was that donations weren’t going too well and when he saw Freddie getting the 70,000 adoring fans to eat out of the palm of his hand, he became instantly incensed at the lack of cash, which in turn led him to enter the studio and live on tv issue his now legendary “give us your fucking money” tirade to the millions watching. This instantly led to the now over used strategy we have in place to raise money which is basically represented by the following equation celebrity+publicity x swearing =cash. I mention this because I have a good pal of mine who is trying to raise some money for Charity and I’d like to give his cause some well deserved publicity and ask you to donate a few quid. Each week this blog is now read over 500 times, so the way I see it is that if you each gave just one £/€/$/¥ or groat, then a good cause has received some much needed cash and you can all feel jolly smug and happy about it.
My pal Andy is an ex serviceman who after leaving the British army decided that he would avoid falling on hard times by foolishly taking up a career in the car sales game and although the chances of getting shot at are significantly lower, driving a fiat 500 as a company car was no direct replacement for the thrill of driving a 50 tonne tank across the desert while lobbing depleted uranium at some of the planets most unpleasant despots. And as if being a trained killer wasn’t enough for our Andy, he then decided that being a cage fighter and an exponent of mixed martial arts would be a good way of getting rid of some of the energy he so clearly has. This also means that he comes in really handy if it all kicks off outside the goose and ferret in Lewisham high street on a Saturday night. Like many of his kind he is not only a pretty modest guy but he also wants to avoid the limelight. I contacted him about writing this post a number of weeks ago and wanted to do a whole kind of journalistic piece about his background and military history and what drives him etc etc but he simply said no. He doesn’t want any of that, he simply wants to raise a few quid for his chosen charity.
What he is trying to do is to raise some money for the charity help for heroes, a cause that he and lots of others believe passionately in and one that stirred him greatly after a fellow serviceman was hacked to death in Woolwich a few months ago. What help for heroes does is to offer support for men and women who have fought in the name of our country to keep us safe and help protect folk in other countries far from home. Many of these soldiers leave limbs on the battlefield and discover that when they are finally home safe and sound it turns out that it’s the charities that are expected to help meet the cost of rehabilitating them as opposed to state. As it happens we both think that this isn’t particularly fair or reasonable. In this country we seem happy to give money hand over fist to things like children in need simply because a member of the wanted or one direction sits in a bath of baked beans for a few hours and we allow ourselves to be bombarded by disturbing images on charity adverts on tv where we are guilted into donating £2 a week etc etc. I donated to a well known children’s charity a number of years back and in the space of a year they wrote to me 6 times asking if I would like to increase my donation so after doing so 5 times I eventually cancelled my direct debit as I almost felt under pressure to pay more rather than making a choice about it. I guarantee that you can make a one off payment to Andy’s just giving site without being asked for more.
By the time you read this he will have had his fight and taken part in an MMA bout which is intended to raise money for his charity. He has been in training for weeks to do this and is very focused on his task. He has managed his diet, taken on sparring partners and sought the assistance of experienced coaches and not simply sat in beans or taken on a sponsored silence so he deserves your donations. On the right hand side of my page in the “blogroll” section is a link entitled “sponsor my mate to get punched in the face” and on behalf of Andy please give whatever you can, anything from a pound upwards will do.
We have had a new arrival this week in the shape of Harry Kevin Nicholas Sims. Mrs T2b’s brother and his girlfriend welcomed their new baby son into the world a few days ago weighing in at an impressive 10lbs 2. Early reports are that mother and baby are doing well as the three of them embark on their journey of sleepless nights, endless dribbling and a house that smells of poo. A bit like our house did last Sunday morning after our visit to the Indian restaurant in Westerham the night before. It’s times like this when no matter what the world throws at you and no matter what day to day hurdles, obstacles and bullshit gets in the way, the arrival of a brand new, box fresh baby can fill even the most hardcore pessimist with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. I’m yet to meet the little fella myself but judging by the pictures that I have seen he already looks like a contented little guy and I know he’s going to have parents, grandparents aunts and uncles who are going to dote on him and probably spoil him just a little bit. And why not. What’s the world coming to if you can’t spoil a little baby.
We had a new arrival ourselves this week too in the shape of Basil the spider who announced his arrival by sprinting out from behind the DVD unit in the corner and making a break for cover for the underside of the small sofa a few feet away. It’s true to say that I’m not overly keen on any kind of spider but given that Cally hates them, I had to assume the role of chief hunter/protector and get rid of the little blighter. Armed with a large glass to put over the top of him, I set about the task of moving the sofa and in an attempt to quickly pull the sofa forward to reveal his whereabouts I managed to dislodge 3 fingernails instead as I yanked it forward. Not only was Basil nowhere to be seen but I was now beginning to drip blood on the cream sofa. Round 1 to Basil. Round 2 went equally badly for me after our new house guest was spotted scampering to safety under the tv stand and hid perfectly under it, right at the back where I couldn’t get to him. No amount of coaxing could get him to to come out so I decided that hitting him with a stick would encourage him to come out which he did, only to run, Usain Bolt style,across the lounge and behind the bin. I won’t lie I was starting to get cross at this point. The Mrs was behind the door shouting encouraging comments at me like ” have you stopped bleeding yet” and ” don’t make too much mess” while Boris proved more illusive than a tame unicorn. A quick lift of the bin only caused him to dart across the room and under the big cupboard where he appears to have stayed ever since. So for most of the last week neither of us have wanted to walk around the house in bare feet incase he re appears and there is a strange uneasiness while we wait for his reappearance. Not only that, I’m sure he’s pinched one of my beers from the fridge. If your wondering why I’ve called him Basil then there a simple explanation for this in so far that I learned a few years ago to name scary things with silly names to help take the fear away. For example we had a spider that moved into the bathroom a year ago and we named him Keith. He was only little and given that he was less scary than a pillow fight with the krankies we let him stay and missed him once he left. I used the same coping strategy with Adolf, my ex mother-in-law.
Also this week I had promised to deliver a customers new car to their house as they were unable to get to us to pick it up. I don’t mind doing these kind of deliveries as its a chance to get out of the showroom for an hour or two but on this occasion there was no part exchange to come back in so I had to take a driver with me so step forward Martin Pyman whom we all know and admire as the worlds most reluctant driver. This is the man who on a trip to the Bluewater shopping centre managed to go the wrong way round the roundabout leading to the car park and who regards any journey of more than 15 miles to be one which should be accompanied by a packed lunch, thermos flask and an updated will. So with his Swedish pornstar moustache quivering in the gentle breeze off we set, in convoy, on our way to Surrey, but what I’d forgotten was that as well as struggling with medium distances and roundabouts he also doesn’t agree with speeding. Any kind of speeding. In fact he regards a speed road sign as a bit of an optimistic challenge rather than a damned inconvenience, so even through the 50mph average speed bit of the m25 we were overtaken by climate change, continental drift and Wednesday. We do actually have 1thing in common though which is our like of heavy metal. I should point out that for Martin, metal begins with Iron Butterfly and ends with Led Zeppelin So we had to have a play through of the opus that is ‘ Stairway to heaven’ which despite being recorded in about 1873 is still a sublime piece of music. There was a slightly bemused look on his face when I played him a bit of a new album that’s being released by a british metal band called ‘ The more I see’ which by all accounts is going to be a belter. Given that he didn’t care for that too much I was probably not going to get too much of a positive response from playing a succession of dragonforce and devil driver at him but we did in the end settle for a brief play through of some thunder and acdc which lets be honest unless your either mental or tone deaf you’re bound to like.
A couple of news stories grabbed my attention this week too. The first one was about a university professor who has come up with a plan to stop sending burglars to prison on the basis that the prisons are full and that depriving them of their liberty is too harsh on the poor little lambs. Instead of prison the professor said that they should instead be made to do community service and in order to back up his view,an ex con was then brought in to whole heartedly agree with him. No way, really? An ex con saying that prison is a bad idea? He went on to say that none of his spells in prison (?) had rehabilitated him and that community service would be more rewarding and not turn petty criminals into more hardened ones. Well here’s my view of this utter garbage. Firstly, we’re forgetting the victims here. If someone breaks into my home and steals the things I have worked hard for I want them to go to prison. Or an electric chair. I was brought up to believe that thieving is wrong and doing so would mean I would go to prison and it wouldn’t be too pleasant. Therefore I never stole things! Simple really. Also why should the a******e that has burgled my house be afforded the same freedoms as I have got? Any thief who goes to jail and then claims that they learned more crimes as a result is a complete tool for one reason and one reason alone. And that reason is that the fellow cons they are learning from are also in prison. Therefore they got caught. And therefore they’re cleary not very good at it are they! Also the other story is the one where middle lane hoggers are to be subjected to fines and points on their licences. This is a great idea and one I fully endorse and support assuming that it remains illegal to have a harpoon fitted to the front of your car so that you can fire it at them and then drag them to the hard shoulder and verbally assault them until your throat hurts. Other roadside crimes and my suggested penalties that I would introduce include the following.
1) Overtaking a queuing line of traffic and nipping in at the end: death by firing squad
2) Overtaking and then braking once in front: public flogging
3) Parking so close in a car park that you can’t actually open your door wide enough to get in your car: 12 points and a disqualification
4) Parking so badly that the space to the side is rendered unusable: roadside tasering
5) ‘Amusing’ rear window signs where one cartoon football fan is shown weeing on a rival fan: the car should be towed away and crushed. Followed by a tasering
I should point out that I am of course joking. The public flogging should be televised as well.
I want to ask you a question. How much would you pay for a second hand T-shirt? Nothing? £5? Well I’m not sure if I’d buy one at all but at the end of this post I’ll tell you the street value of an Iron maiden event shirt that’s been soaked in beer and sweat for about 5 hours and I’m pretty confident that the answer may surprise you.
When I set out to write my weekly blogs about 11 months ago, I did so wanting to write about the things that I know about but at the same time not wanting it to just be filled with posts regarding my passion for Iron Maiden. Since the start I have written a review of Steve Harris’s first solo album and a review of the show I saw in June and left it at that because I didn’t and still don’t want it just to become a fan blog and I have a determination to write about other stuff that goes on in my life outside of maiden. My post ‘One night in Paris’ is the review of the show that we saw over in France in the beginning of June and given that the shows at download and the O2 in London were the same, I don’t want to simply re do a gig review.So today’s post is not simply about the show or indeed my views of it which, let’s face it, are hardly ever going to ever be unbiased. What I do want to try to write about this week is the passion,determination and loyalty that surrounds this band from the perspective of their fans of which I am of course one. A couple of examples of this I witnessed first hand in Paris on 5th June this year. We flew out of Luton on the very first flight of the day at 6am but even though we arrived at the airport at about 4.15 am there were already a number of fans already in the bar in the departure lounge and many more joined us for the flight out and most of us all seemed to be sat together on the aircraft.I later discovered that there were 4 other flights leaving London that morning for Paris that were taking maiden fans over for the show. Before flying out I had noticed that the fan club members were planning a meet up at the trocadero for a group photo so we decided to pop along to see if we could gatecrash it and get in some pictures. At the designated time there must have been getting on for 50 fans that had travelled in from the UK as well as fans from Canada, South America and other European locations too. Other meets were organised for the Eiffel tower as well as other parts of Paris. One of the guys we got talking to was telling us that he had been there since the previous day and the night before had been drinking in a bar with both Nicko (drums) and Janick (guitar) and when I asked if they had got photos he simply said no, they wern’t doing photos and if anyone tried to get silly they would protect the band from them. So here you have a situation where your heroes and yourself can just chill out with some beers with the upmost of mutual respect. The band give their fans a sense of being real and accessible and in return the fans protect them from the press and unwanted intrusion. He also went on to tell us about his global travels watching the band play in Australia, India and Japan and how he arranges his work and social life around the tours.
And then there are the shows. As a fellow fan pointed out to me the other day, there’s almost no point in trying to explain to the uninitiated just exactly what going to an Iron maiden concert is like because unless you have actually been to one, you’ll never really be able to understand what it’s like. When I try to tell someone about the energy from the band, the lights show or the huge wall of flames that erupt regularly from all parts of the stage set, I get people smiling at me in an attempt to pretend that they are either interested or impressed when deep down you know they don’t care one bit. It’s in many ways a bit like trying to convince someone that you have seen a ghost but you know they don’t believe you or a bit like telling a friend that your in love but that the words you use don’t really convey enough of the emotion that you feel. I’ve seen 19 Iron maiden shows over the years and each one has been just that… A show, an event almost. Heavy metal is the kind a music that makes me want to run around like a lunatic,to head bang to or jump up and down to. It makes me drive faster, makes my heart beat quicker and makes me feel alive. It gets me out of my sensible everyday professional hang ups where I have to be grown up and mature and it it allows me to escape reality. It also doesn’t judge me, it doesn’t tell me what I should wear or sneer at me should I not have the right label on.
Maiden have also managed to write many of the most iconic metal songs since the genre burst on to the scene all those years ago. They led from the front when the new wave of British heavy metal burst out of punk out in the late 70’s along with Def Leppard and Diamond Head. In order to get noticed in those days you had to graft hard and build up a following over many months and years of touring simply to get noticed. Having a nice haircut or a deal with a clothing company would not sell you a million albums as it does now, so back then you had to graft and keep grafting in the hope that it would bring the success you craved for. You also needed to keep writing quality songs in order to keep your growing fan base happy and so it was that in 1980 after having been formed in one way or another since the mid 70’s and having built up a reputation for brilliant shows,maidens first single actually made it into the charts and when they were asked to do top of the tops,they agreed to do it only on the basis that they could perform it live. Only Queen had ever done that before. Their determination to do things their way and on their terms matched the mindset of their fans and of metal fans in general who usually stand on the fringes of polite society getting looked at oddly due to their long hair and tattoos, but who themselves are determined to maintain a look that matches those of the bands that they follow. So with Maiden what you have is a marriage of convenience between band and fans, both of whom share the same determination to stick to their roots and beliefs but who are also very loyal to each other. This loyalty comes in many forms but for me it stands out when you consider that they have never ‘sold out’ or become corporate and never chased a deal with a jeans company just to make a few quid. But more importantly musically they have never significantly changed their sound and they continue to tour the world doing what they do, keeping the old fan base happy while picking up new younger fans along the way.
On this tour I saw for myself just what being an Iron Maiden fan means to the fans and the lengths they go to in order to see the band perform. The best example of this that I have is a guy called Adam who answered an advert I posted on the maiden fan forum on their website. I had bought 4 tickets for the show in London on Sunday but due to holidays clashing and babies being due most of our chums were unable to make it, so I put an advert on the site to see if anyone wanted to buy it. Adam saw my ad and asked if it was still available to which I said yes and then he tells me that subject to flights he would like it. Flights? I asked. “Yes” he said “I’m from Stockholm so need to check out flights and accommodation”. An hour later and on nothing more than my say so he messages me on Facebook and says “right I’m there, 3500 kr lighter in the wallet but definitely coming”. Then when we finally met up at the arena he happily helped two of our party get the two remaining first to the barrier wristbands that we were missing so that we could get right to the front.Adam went on to tell me that he had been to 14 of the 32 European dates that the band had done on this leg of the tour as well as having travelled to North America last year for many of the those shows too. And he wasn’t alone either as many of the people who were around us on Sunday were on first name terms with each other and while addressing the audience from the stage, Bruce (vocals) announced that he could see “several familiar faces”.Also impromptu Facebook pages sprung up since the announcement of the London shows where total strangers arranged to meet for beers and group photos on show day to make new friends and share tour stories.
When you wear your maiden t-shirt you belong to something much bigger than simply an audience. You could be anywhere in the world and if a fellow fan see’s that your a fan too you will almost certainly soon find yourself in a bar sharing a beer and discussing your favourite songs with them. This doesn’t happen with any another band that that I’ve ever been to see. From a marketing point of view it’s probably true to say that Metallica are the biggest grossing metal band at the moment and have been for some time but Metallica are always on the coat tails of maiden when it come to the devotion of the fans, quality of the shows and in my humble opinion the music too. One of the best things about watching legends like Iron Maiden is that they are living legends, still selling out arenas, stadiums and festivals around the world. When people talk about the pioneers/creators of the genre they quickly talk about the style and the influence that Maiden have had in their field since starting to get noticed way back in the late 70’s early 80’s. When you look at those pioneers now, most of them have gone only to be referred to as legends and although people of a certain age will always talk of Zeppelin or sabbath with a kind of nostalgic sense of superiority, its worth pointing out that maiden are still going, still touring the world and still appealing to new audiences all over the world. And still getting bigger. You can actually still see these legends in action.
I’d love to finish this off by telling you or begging you to go and witness them for yourself but I’d rather you didn’t. I’d rather curiosity didn’t get the better of you and I’d rather you didn’t turn up at the show just to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve worn the colours for nearly 30 years, I’ve been on the end of the butt of many jokes about liking metal and there are a whole bunch of people I could name right here right now who have judged me because of it but I won’t. I’m a better person than that. So despite the fact that I KNOW you would have the experience of your life at a maiden show I’d like you keep away. I’d like it to remain the case that like Paris, Download and London this year as well as all the other shows since the first at Hammersmith odeon on 4th November 1986 it’s just me and the hundreds of thousands of my blood brothers going to see them. It’s our secret.
I posed a question at the start about a t-shirt and here’s the reason why. When were leaving the O2 on Sunday my friend Mike was approached by a couple who went on to explain to him that they had finished their honeymoon in London that day and that going to see maiden was the icing on their marital cake but like many of the other concert goers that night, the merchandise stalls had sold out of the event shirt. Now you should know that the event shirts are unique to the show and cannot be bought afterwards, they are like badges of honour that can only be obtained at the show. What makes them unique is that the back of the shirt has the date of the show on it and although they can be bought through official stores on maidens website they cannot be bought with the tour date on the back which makes the event shirt a desirable piece of kit. The honeymooners wanted the shirt as a souvenir of the “pinnacle of their honeymoon” and had picked out Mike as he was the same build as the husband. Bear in mind this shirt was covered in much beer and sweat and for reasons that I won’t go into, it had also been very firmly pressed into the floor of the arena by over officious security despite the fact that Mike was still in it at the time.
He got £60 for it. And I think he got the rough end of the deal too.
A great hoohaa erupted last week when the new chief of the bank of England decided to use one of his first days on the job to announce that due largely to the lobbying of certain feminist individuals a new banknote is soon to be issued that features a woman on the back of it as opposed to a man. Apparently there has been an enormous miscarriage of justice over the last quadrillion years that has resulted in few women having had their pictures on the back of a bank note despite the fact that one of the most famous women in history has had her face on the front of all of them for the last 60 years. So after a long consultation process -I don’t remember being asked- it was decided that Jane Austen was to be the face on the new back of the new £10 note. Speak to the vast majority of the UK population and I’m sure that most of them don’t recognise the woman on the front of the notes yet alone the identity of the person on the back, for example without looking it up on google, can you tell me who is the person on the back of a £20 note? No, didn’t think so. Most of us will at some point have returned home from Europe over the last few weeks and cared not one single bit about which anonymous person, man or woman, adorns the front or back of any of the euro bank notes they have been using and so long as they get a good rate of exchange will probably never do so. That said, the readers of ‘The Times’ will have probably learned who is on our bank notes so that they can remember it in case it comes up in a radio 2 quiz, readers of the ‘Daily Mail’ won’t care either so long as its Princess Diana, and readers of ‘ The Sun’ don’t care so long as she has big boobs. Therefore my most hardy congratulations this week have to go to feminist champion Caroline Criado-Perez who it would appear has changed the mind of the bank of England and succeeded in changing something that on the whole no one give a toss about.
And then I turn the tv on on Monday. It seems that the co op supermarket has recently carried out an exit poll on their customers, asking them if they felt offended by the images shown on the front of various ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts or Zoo being displayed in their stores and It turns out that the great majority of respondents to this question answered yes. So many in fact that the co op have threatened the publishers of these magazines with the promise to stop stocking them unless they are either toned down,made less offensive or covered up.Since as long as I can remember these magazines along with those at the more specialist end of the market, have always been displayed on the top shelf in order to make sure that they are kept out of the gaze of impressionable youngsters. Everybody knows this, so why is it then that people then look up towards the top shelf, tut disapprovingly and then complain that they have been offended. If your that easily offended then don’t look up there in the first place! There is a branch of the co op less than a mile from my front door and with the possible exception of the ‘one stop’ shop a bit further up the street, this is by far and away the worst convenience store I have ever seen or had the misfortune to be in. The only reason I go in there in the first place is to buy beer so I can then get some cash back in order to spend at the Chinese takeaway next door who still refuse to accept card payments. It’s my opinion that the co op has more fundamental problems to deal with rather than bothering too much with censoring boobs. When you go into this store the first thing that greets you is the bread section which also contains some dubious looking “fresh” buns and pastries and a left turn takes you to the back of the store and a display of over priced goods on the shelf. I say shelf, for the most part these goods are displayed in roll cages because the overworked staff haven’t got time to get them out of these cages and onto the shelves in the first place so you end up having to guess how much they cost. Assuming you have made it through the aisles to the counter, you are then funnelled into a queue which is the same length as the one at Heathrow’s immigration counter and then get served by a staff member who does his best but is clearly trying to do too much on his own. After leaving the store I’d love to be met by one of these guys with a clipboard and have him ask me what I think of the store and if this was to ever happen I hope he has got a lot of time and plenty of paper to write on. But what actually happens is that upon exiting this hell hole of a store, someone appears from out of nowhere with a clipboard in hand and asks you if you were put off by the images of boobs.
It’s an interesting set of morals these stores have. In the interests of research I decided to pop into my local store and look at the magazine range for myself to see what all the fuss is about. As I walked into to my local co-op there was the newspaper stand which featured the daily sport, which for those not in the know is a publication featuring stories connected with nothing but sex,sex and more sex. On the front cover of this paper was a photo of a woman bending over so that you could see her underwear. I don’t remember seeing anyone from the co op getting hot under the collar by this. Then I turn to my right and saw the magazine display, and this displayed what I understand to be the main cause of the problem. Boobs. There in the middle of this display at the top was nuts magazine, which on its front cover featured full length shot of a woman in a bikini with some other smaller pictures of other women also in their underwear. Below that was the latest issue of Men’s health magazine featuring a half naked man with a six pack striking a pose while managing to look rugged and manly. Then there was the row of women’s magazine. Having never read any of these wastes of ink I can’t claim to have that familiar with them but the seem to have headlines on them that in my opinion are more offensive than the lads mags. The first one was ” set on fire by the beast who raped me” and the second one was ” horror hauntings killed our baby”. The front of the Take a break magazine has the heading of “killed because I went for a McDonald’s” and the front of Love it ran the front page of “corpses in the ice cream”. Now in the general scheme of things and assuming for one minute I was an impressionable child, do you think I would be more scared by the thought of being haunted or even raped to death, or would I be more corrupted by the sight of a pair of bikini clad boobs? I know which one I would be most worried about.But it seems that the feminists and the store operators would have us believe that an impressionable child viewing a pair of boobs by accident is by far and away a bigger threat to the moral fabric of our society than the prospect of the same impressionable child seeing a corpse in the freezer or being killed for asking for a happy meal. In my opinion these are the things we should be more concerned with.
The main argument against these lads mags seems to be that women should not be depicted as merely objects and that the women who are featured in them are in some way being exploited. Then just today tesco announced that it had reached an agreement with the magazines publishers that they would be toned down or even displayed in plain covers to protect their customers. The reason they give is that they have taken the advice of the feminist group “lose the lads mags” who claim that it is a “national scandal” that these stores stock and sell the mags in the first place. National scandal my arse. Its a scandal that children in this country are not properly protected against abuse. Its a scandal that in a so called developed country such as this that hard working families have to rely on food banks to get by. Its not a scandal that some women and men want to earn a living by taking advantage of their own good looks.They go on to say that these magazines “underpin violence towards women” and ” send a deeply deeply harmful message that treating women like sex objects is normal and acceptable”. Well not only do they not, I think that no right thinking man or woman wants to see any woman exploited or taken advantage of whether see gets her boobs out for a living or is the CEO of a multinational company. Just as a woman can rise the corporate ladder why can’t she also chose to be a model, whether it’s a glamour model or a catwalk model. Surely it is the final irony of feminism particularly over the last 30 years that young women have been brought up to believe in themselves and to believe that the world is their oyster and they can do whatever they want but when they decide that they can make a good living being a topless model the women’s groups are the first to complain. It goes without saying that no woman, or man for that matter, should be exploited but I’m very confident that none of the contributors to nuts or loaded are doing so against their will. Also I’m confident that none of these women are doing so because they have little other option. It seems to me that this is a fairly short lived career and many of them decide to pursue this as a job while they can before going on to do other things. The women representing so called feminist causes would impress me more if they were to look more closely at more important issues regarding feminism such as young British Asian women being married off against their will but I guess that while it is still easier and less dangerous to complain about banknotes and boobs, they will take the easier option.