Xavier Dwyer: On Television and Politics

I can still recall a golden spring evening in 1987 when as a six year old I had been playing on the freshly mowed lawn on North Hull Estate. Outside in the sweet air with the rich green of fresh grass stains on my knees my father called me in as it was to time to bath and settle down in front of the television as it was the evening of the 1987 General Election and there was an Election special of Carrott Confidential; a one satirical look at the General Election. It featured Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis just before their rise to fame on ‘The Mary Whitehouse Experience’. Even though I was only six I found the show amusing which said more about the show than it did me and my political awareness at that young age. I can still remember my father sending me off to bed just as the first results were beginning to come in and as he did he said something along the lines of ‘When you wake up tomorrow the world might be a better place’. Of course that didn’t happen. Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party lost the election having returned only 229 MP’s to Westminster.

By the time the 1992 General Election arrived I was nearly eleven and was now enjoying staying up late on Thursday evenings to watch Question Time in the run up to the Election. This was the Peter Sissons era and for me it was the golden age of the show. I remember Neil Kinnock’s rousing ‘It’s time for a change, it’s time for Labour’ speech and again a genuine feeling that life could be all so different when I awoke the morning after the election.

As a child born into a household in which politics was discussed a great deal I am very fortunate. I could enjoy the satire and to a degree the more in depth and ‘dryer’ television coverage such as Question Time or Newsnight. But then I was fortunate.

For many people the language of politics is something completely alien to them and it because of this that voter turn has fallen from a little over 75% in the 1987 General Election to 65.1% in 2010. Many pundits say that the reason for voter turnout falling so rapidly in recent years is due to a wide spread dis-trust of politicians caused mainly by the expenses scandal which was widely publicised in 2009. And there may be some truth in this theory. I have lost count of the times when asking ‘How are you voting in the next election?’ I get the response- ‘Nobody, they’re all the same’. More worryingly in Britain people turn to protest voting. People are of course entitles to do so and exercising your right to vote with a protest vote is better than no forfeiting your right to vote entirely. However, in England that is not necessarily the case as in England we seem to have stumbled upon a culture of negative protest voting. The rise of the UKIP, the BNP and the EDL I feel can be blamed on the despondency that people have for the major parties. In Scotland and Wales this manifests itself by a greater share of the vote for the SNP or Plaid Cymru. Why can’t the English use their protest vote to gain more seats for the Green Party for example? Given more seats in Westminster the Green Party could have a real voice on issues such as climate change for instance. The protest vote could actually be put to some use.

The reason for this is very simple, politics is not televised properly. That is to say that television doesn’t cater in any way for the political novice. Take a look at the politically orientated shows that are currently being aired. They fall into two categories; the high-brow and the satirical. The political novice isn’t going to choose to watch either. When will a major television network make a television show about politics that caters for people with very little political knowledge? Because political knowledge equates to political interest and I feel that currently many people are being excluded from political discourse because no one is willing to make a politically orientated television show that explains the issues to them in layman’s terms. You see there is nothing wrong with making a statement such as ‘I don’t know anything about politics’ and as a society I feel that we are duty bound to inform the uninformed. On the contrary making a statement such as ‘I don’t want to know about politics’ is nothing short of ignorance and these people are probably out of reach.

With the commissioning of a weekly informative television programme that explains the weekly goings on in Westminster in clear and understandable terms I feel that a huge chunk of voters could be brought in to inclusion. A show that doesn’t assume that everyone understands what a Green Paper or even a Cabinet Meeting is could bring people to the ballot box that otherwise would have stayed at home.

I should mention before ending that for a truly insightful view of British Politics switch off your televisions and listen to Radio 4’s Any Questions on Saturday afternoons and Today at Westminster every week night from 11 pm.

Xavier DwyerXavier Dwyer is 31 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1

Crush Addiction And How You Can Help by Allen Miles

crush

We live in an age where addiction is a problem that many of us will witness close-hand; it is possible that you have a friend or loved one who has fallen prey to alcohol or substance abuse, maybe even you yourself have, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it can ruin lives. So many times, the sparkle in a young pair of eyes has been killed by a friend or acquaintance pressuring an innocent soul by saying “try a bit of this,” or “don’t worry you can handle it, have a taste.” I care deeply about these problems in society, and I am writing tonight on behalf of my colleagues and I to warn and hopefully prevent you and your loved ones being consumed by the latest plague to stalk the land. It is called Candy Crush Saga, or “Crush,” to give it it’s street name.

Crush is a digitally administered drug, consumed through the eyes. It is fiercely addictive, widely available, and the most terrifying thing about it is, it’s completely free. It can cause loss of concentration, slurred speech, obliviousness to one’s surroundings, headaches and lethargy. As with most drugs, Crush dealers prey on the weak and vulnerable in our communities, in this case mainly women in their thirties and forties who are bored with interacting with their partners and/or hate their jobs. In common with many drug epidemics, the desperate state of the current social and economic climate has exacerbated many people’s need for Crush.

I myself have spent the last year watching my wife spiral into a heart-breaking decline in the vice-like grip of Crush addiction, and I hope and pray that I can pull her out of it before she is lost to me completely. It is now a common occurrence for me to ask her a question or attempt to start a conversation only to be greeted by silence of up to one or two minutes until she looks up at me, glassy-eyed and slack-jawed and murmurs “What?”

A close friend of mine recently reported that his partner had claimed to be very tired and went upstairs to bed much earlier she normally would have done. Tragically he found her sat up in bed hours later, in the middle of yet another Crush binge. This is the behaviour that is wrecking lives. Just the other day I came home from work to find my wife doing Crush in the corner of our front room, while my 22 month-old daughter had stripped to her nappy, adorned herself with some sort of tribal warpaint and spent the last few hours “hunting the cat” with a plastic Fisher Price tentpole. I still don’t know how she managed to start a camp fire in the kitchen.

I have even seen Crush addiction in the workplace on a massive scale. Most days, I can walk into the coffee room in my department during any given lunch hour to find any number of my colleagues sat round with their hand-held devices out, like a communal heroin shooting-gallery. I have tried to talk to them, to help them face what they have become, but I receive nonsensical and bizarre responses. I will give examples but I can’t use the addicts’ full names, obviously.

Ali P: “Does your missus play Crush cos I need lives.”

Debbie M: “I’m not addicted I only… every… what?”

Heather B: “Ey?”

These people are medical professionals. This sickness has to be cured before it ruins our country. I can’t pretend I have an intimate knowledge of the drug itself, but in the interest of helping people who maybe worried that someone close to them is becoming dependant on Crush, here’s what to look out for:

1) There are different methods of intake, which seemingly run parallel with the methods of taking heroin, where you have smoking, snorting and injecting. In the case of Crush, the “i-Phone” and “Android” methods are relatively controllable, whereas the “i-Pad” method is the equivalent of intravenous heroin use, and by far the most dangerous.

2) There are what users refer to as “levels,” which seems to be the severity of each individual’s addiction. For example if a user is at level 3 or 4, there may still be hope that they can be saved. If a user is at level 70 or 80, then only supervised rehabilitation can have any affect. In many cases they will announce which “level” they are at on social networking sites, where Crush communities seem to be flourishing.

3) There seems to be some sort of slang involved, which the lay community hasn’t quite worked out yet. For example, it may flash up on your facebook feed from time to time that one user “gave life” to another. Should anyone reading find out what this means, please use the contact below with any information you have. You could, in a very real sense, save lives.

4) Check your plug sockets. If there is a charger plugged in and switched on with nothing attached to it, you may have an addict in your house.

5) There seems to be a similar drug on the market called “Bubble Witch.” Again, research and intelligence is in an embryonic stage, but should you hear of anything they you think maybe of help to our project please use the contact below.

6) There are signs. Watch out for the constant rubbing of the wrists. Check bank statements for very small transactions as there are apparently things you can do to enhance the Crush experience for a few pence. We’re not quite sure what but we have our best men on it. Above all, as with all mind-numbing narcotics, watch out for a distracted, paranoid manner, incomprehensible speech and a lethargic attitude.

Please help conquer this vile epidemic, it is breaking up marriages, ruining careers and destroying lives. I hope the information I have given will alert you to this problem.

If you can help, please contact this website at the first possible opportunity. the email is

sittingontheswings@gmail.com

Thanks. We’ll do what we can.

Al.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 23 month-old daughter who is into The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Me and My O.C.D’s…. by Martyn Taylor

An obsessive compulsive disorder (or O.C.D) is an anxiety disorder, characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear and worries among suffers. Subsequently, suffers are compelled to carry out repetitive behavioural patterns aimed at reducing stress.

The most common, and therefore, the most known to society are excessive washing of the hands and obsessive cleaning. I myself don’t suffer with either of these symptoms. I have a wife to do my cleaning for me, and I think my hands are clean enough (most of the time).
My O.C.D’s are a little more…. shall we say petty, but equally distressing to me. If I do not carry out these odd ‘tweaks’ my mind could not be at ease.

The last time I checked, I have 6 compulsions which effect me. You may of seen me doing some of these, but I keep some to myself, they keep me sane. If I was caught carrying them out in public, I may well be carted off in a strait jacket!

I know that the world is not going to end if I do not play these mind games, and I know that the ‘Twin Towers’ were not destroyed because I didn’t slap myself in the face (I’ll explain that one later) on Sept 10th 2001.

So here are my O.C.D’s, starting with the least weird and intrusive.

1: Leg shaking and teeth grinding.

This is my most obvious O.C.D, and the one that gets on my parents tits the most. It also causes my wife to strike me several times a week.
I don’t know how either starts, they can come together, or one at a time. The leg shaking starts when I am relaxed (usually watching T.V or reading). I myself never realise that it has started, but when I see it or it is brought to my attention, I cant stop it! It started for a reason so who am I to stop it. Who knows, it could be regulating my heart or something. Besides, it annoys my wife, so there Vicky!
The tooth grinding is a little more voluntary, but once it starts, I dare not stop. It usually happens when I am concentrating on something or do a repetitive job. I will grind my teeth to the rhythm of the task I am carrying out (and yes, I am doing it now as I type). I know that I am causing irreparable damage to my gnashers, but fuck it, I ain’t stopping, something bad might happen!

2: Food chewing

This is a simple one this. I have to chew my food an equal amount of time on either side of my mouth or…. well, I don’t know what, but I do it all the same. This may come a s a surprise to my wife, because she says I eat like an animal. Well Vicky, I’m sure even some animals can count, and this animal counts how many times he chews his food!

3: Tooth counting

I count my teeth with my tongue. I don’t mean once a week, I’m talking 50 times a day! Purely to make sure they are all there. 1,2,3,4….30,31,32 yes all there. Sorry just checking now folks. Because of this act, I know my teeth intimately . I know every chip, gap, filling or cavity, and if a new imperfection appears I will lick it until my tongue is sore.
Bloody teeth! I might have them all pulled to save me the hassle. I suppose if I did have them extracted I’d start counting my wife’s every time we kissed…. now there’s a thought!

4: Finger counting

I’m a joiner, and I work with power tools all day. Quite a lot of the guys I work with have digits missing. When I first started my apprentiship in 1998, I got given the nickname ‘new 10 fingers’ after about a week. Apparently the old ’10 fingers’ didn’t need it any more.
Every time I use a cutting power tool, I need to count my fingers (to make sure I didn’t slip). Its not as easy as 1 to 5 on both hands. I have to count both hands 3 times. Firstly, I count thumb once, index twice, middle 3 times, wedding twice and little once. That’s the first count. Then I do, index twice, middle 3 times and wedding twice. That’s the second count. finally, I just count the middle 3 times. Remember that’s both hands people, but I can do them both hands at the same time. Its crazy, I know.

5: Crucifix

Nobody will have ever seen me doing this, but all day long a draw the shape of a crucifix on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. I can’t do it in lines, I have to do it like a dot-to-dot diagram. I ain’t even religious, but if it gets me into heaven, bonus. If not I’ll just be worm food.

6: Face slapping

My final and most obvious impulse. I slap myself in the face, not hard. More like a little wake up slap. I will do it involuntary while waiting for something to happen. Maybe I’ll be waiting for a microwave to ‘bing’ or a computer game to load and sure enough, there it is. 4 slaps, both hands on my eyes. I don’t even know I’m doing it until its done.
Its gotten to the point where the only way I know I’ve done it is because my wife will be laughing at my 3 kids copying me whenever I do it!

That’s the all folks. So don’t worry, I’m not crazy. Just a little weird. See how many of my ‘tweaks’ you can spot next time we meet.

Lets play OCD Bingo!!!

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 31 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

The Day Nostalgia Ate My Neighbourhood by David Gouldson

After catching Primal Scream’s new evergreen/phoenix from the ashes/you’re never too old to tackle garage-rock type song at various times over the past few weeks on the old (brand spanking new and digital) radio it leaves me safe in the knowledge that nostalgia can be a curse on the majority.

Most of us are victims of this curse yet we go about our daily activities like the rest of the world. The only problem is that painful crank in our necks from constantly looking over our shoulder at where we once stood while asking our friends do you remember the theme tune to Tetris and can you remember that episode of quantum leap where he leaps into the body of a space bound chimp… oh boy! Just me then… Yes a painful neck indeed and is it all worth it?

Most bands that come out of retirement never truly sound right do they? Or bands that just hang around well passed their sell by date regurgitating the same sound on their ‘new’ songs when somebody should put them out of their/our misery shouldn’t they? I’m pointing at you Bobby Gillespie. I ask these questions as the nostalgia-frenzied ‘Record Store Day’ is here again, an annual event on everyone’s calendar I’m sure. As a previous 7inch record vinyl collector (sold them on ebay) I admit with a heavy heart and possibly a shock to some people that I am against this day. But before you encase me in a giant wickerman and burn me for my sin I ask you to look upon a greater evil.

Record Store day is a day of high profit for the retailer and supplier and low gain for the chap who looks just like Morrissey and moves just like Morrissey but on closer inspection he is not Morrissey, he just got dressed up for the big day to stand at the back of the long queue at a record shop which was empty the day before but never held that previously unattainable new song by Blur until today! Yes that song, you know the one? The so called ‘new one’, the one that they never released as a single or contemplated placing on an album, not even the back end of an album as a secret song. Surely then at least it must have been a re-mastered B-side classic…No.

This day is nothing more than a way to drag out the never ending but very weak survival of a dying technology, one that we swear sounds better than cd’s and mp3’s as it just has ‘that sound to it’. I don’t hate vinyl or record shops, far from it as I have enjoyed both for years ever since working in a record shop as a teenager. It’s a satisfying experience to rummage around a record shop and locate the treasure you set out to find whilst stumbling upon some other music with glorious artwork that you didn’t know existed.

The trouble is this day is around to keep business in business for one day a year and while most of us are pro supporters of the little man and his little shop it is not a day for him. It is for the music giants out there to scrape those last pennies from the bottom of the pocket of your ripped and multiple hole filled jeans. Where they charge you an obscene amount of money for a special edition of something that the artist wouldn’t choose to endorse on any other day.

Let’s not be silly to go as far as to say that nostalgia itself should be illegal, only operating in the darkest corners of society were the black market is the only place you can pick up a copy of CaddyShack, William Shatner‘s debut album or at a stretch The Garbage Pail Kids movie (look it up, but never watch it). So I say no to banning nostalgia as it would be to ban looking back on who we have become, the very thing that has shaped us to be the person we are (whether we like that person or not) but I do believe that record store day would have as much point as having a day off every year to mark the recent passing of a certain beloved Prime Minister (sore point to most) but I digress.

All I mean to say is this day does keep small record shops heads above water for now but the number of shopscontinue to sink each year whilst allowing the music industry to charge astronomic amounts for music that was never planned to see the light of day. Of course there are new bands involved I’m sure but it is clearly not the best way to promote your debut album or latest single on an out of date technology in around 220 independent stores nationwide and this number may be less by the time you read this. One day a year is not a solid business plan in anyone’s eyes and people have voted with their feet and cash for the other 364 days available to them so it’s only delaying the inevitable isn’t it?

I am not against promoting music, everybody should share who they like and what they know of it. I just believe that one day a year will not help the situation of a dying high street and music’s place on it. The current model clearly doesn’t fit in anymore and we all know how much the internet has changed society so we should either let sleeping dogs lie or teach the old dogs some new tricks.

I love music and I admit I am a nostalgist, I like my past and I like the past of others but I can agree on only one thing with Primal Scream and that’s their new song title: ‘Its Alright, Its Ok’. Yes it is alright and yes it is ok but it’s just not ‘Rocks’ and it’s a little pointless isn’t it Mr Gillespie? I am sure I’ll see you all at the local record store buying your copy.

Dave GDavid Gouldson is 28 years old and lives in Hull. He is an argumentative sod and he supports Manchester United. He knows a lot about Bob Dylan and is a skilled gambler. He used to be in a band who did a decent cover of Secret Agent Man by Blues Traveller. He and Mr Miles have been known to argue bitterly for hours on the issue of England’s greatest ever left-back.

Senseless, Endless by Paul Featherstone

On Monday 15th April 2013, myself and my fiancée made our way to Yorkshire for a holiday. Enjoying the peace and quiet of a small village town, we shook off the pressures of work, drank well deserved pints and spoke of the future. A future that would involve our wedding, small dreams were becoming reality in our minds and despite the usual stresses of modern life, things were good.

As we sat talking on the sofa, an evil was delivered into the day via our television. An evil that meant at least 3 people would no longer be able to speak of their futures anymore. A further 140 people have their lives on hold too, countless other friends and family members also have their daily existence shattered.

The easy thing would be to pick up the remote, have no empathy, and forget the world as we enjoy our time away. However, we watched as an all too familiar scene played out on the TV.

I wonder how many lives I’ve watched perish on my tv screen? At least thousands, maybe tens of thousands. I wish I could say I don’t know what a dead child or a man with his lower limbs blown away look like, but I do…I’m certainly not de-sensitised to it either.

The youngest victim is, was, around the same age as my Niece. I’m at the stage in life now, where things like that burn. She’s a fully fledged person at that age with wit, opinions, intelligence and dreams of her own. So would he have been. No life should we wiped out so violently, but certainly not one with the boundless potential of a child of that age.

The images on the screen reminded me of a speech given by Ken Livingston. He delivered it as London mayor, days after the July bombings (I refuse to cheapen them by branding them 7/7). Addressing the perpetrators, he stated that if they expected the people of the city to turn on each other “like animals in a cage”, they had “failed, utterly and totally”.

The people of Boston did not flee from their fellow man, nor trample on each other to get to a safe distance. They ran towards those in need and doubtless saved lives in doing so. The sheer courage of the human spirit, is a much harder thing to break than that.

Yet what happened on that day in Boston was repeated around the globe- in Iraq and Syria to name a couple. I’m not here to comment on why those deaths are further down the news agenda, but those deaths will burn and destroy futures just as much as those in Massachusetts.

I’m not here to offer my opinion on how to resolve this world either- that’s for far better men and women than me. However, everyday those great men and women cannot in someway abate the sheer volume of deaths we see played out in such a violent manner, is a black mark against humanity.

I guess I’m just saying- I’m tired. Aren’t you? Tired of men, women and children snuffed out in milliseconds. Tired of a supposed peacetime being littered with daily deaths, that seemingly have no end. Tired, on a selfish level, of not being able to escape the evil creeping back into the idyll of a week away. Tired of cowardly men remotely taking and destroying lives with crude bombs, for equally cowardly men to respond by remotely taking and destroying lives with a drone when guilt is ascertained.

It’s a horrific, vicious circle and we can only hope that the human spirit and courage we saw in Boston, in every place these horrors occur, rises above it and triumphs.

Right now, I don’t feel that way. That’s a pretty dark place to end the piece on, I know, but that’s the grim reality.

I’m tired of that reality. Aren’t you? Shouldn’t every human being be?

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

The Depressingly Predictable Rise of UKIP by Nigel Syrett

It seems the terminally paranoid, curtain-twitchers of middle England have at last found a messiah to lead them to the promised land. A land of morris dancing, afternoon tea, cricket on the village green, and where corner shops are all run by white people. I am of course referring to Nigel Farrage – the Lazarus of right wing politics. Not since Robert Kilroy Silk’s Veritas has there been such excited anticipation in the safe, leafy suburbs of conservative England. Anticipation, in that case, which quickly evaporated after it became patently clear to the electorate that Silk had the credibility and political acumen of a diseased chimp. Although Veritas shared UKIP’s preoccupation with Europe and Immigration, Kilroy just didn’t possess the drive, ambition, and pure charisma that only a man named Nigel can exude. Or perhaps it’s more to do with the fact that Farrage benefits from the distinct advantage of not having the image of him covered in horse manure seared into the collective public conscious – such was the fate that befell Kilroy at the hands of a man who didn’t exactly share his political views. To quote Paul Merton – A case of the shit hitting the tan.

So I have recently found myself imagining the metaphorical bucket of shit that might await Farrge when the country returns to normality, and steps back from the edge of economic meltdown. Because if there’s one thing above all that UKIP has benefited from, then it’s the biggest recession in nearly a hundred years. The historic relationship between economic decline and the rise of right wing politics is nothing new and is well documented through the 20th century – all the way back to the the great depression and the rise of fascism in Europe. Immigrants have always proved to be very convenient scapegoats, and so continues to be the case today. Poles were all very well when they paid their taxes and people praised their work ethic, but when people start losing their jobs, things turn nasty. Generalisations about ‘hard workers’ quickly changed into ‘lazy benefit scroungers” intent on milking the system. People can be so fickle.
On one level, it’s only natural for people to find someone to blame – to point the finger at. Im just not sure everyone is looking at (or being directed to) the right place. Its not as though recent events in the news haven’t given us subtle clues either – the expense fiddling politicians; the self-serving bankers; the corrupt tabloids tapping the phones of murdered children; the tax avoiding multinationals etc. On reflection, I just don’t find myself worrying too much about Eastern Europeans scrabbling over minimum wage cleaning and manual labour jobs.

As anyone who has been affected by recent pension reforms will tell you, the UK is changing – or as Principal Skinner from the Simpsons would say, “the times they are a-becoming quite different”. The effects of the post war baby boom have at last caught up with us, and a now aging population means that there are more people going into retirement then there are going into work to pay for them. It would seem that the UK is in a position to be grateful for all the people of working age it can get . But no, none of this seems to matter to old Nige, and the dangers of Johnny Foreigner (whether it be Immigrants, or those pesky Europeans wanting greater union) continues to be the number one issue for UKIP, and an increasing number of the Great British public. Perhaps its the isolated incidents and anecdotal evidence that are carefully selected and presented as the norm in ‘newspapers’ like The Daily Mail that are to blame. Or perhaps some people are just unable to understand and differentiate between asylum seekers and immigrants, or between a person’s nationality and their ethnicity.

This isn’t, of course, a phenomenon isolated to the UK. One only needs to look at the current political landscape in Greece, the cradle of democracy and enlightened thought, for evidence of that. Golden Dawn is a Greek political party that adopts an emblem that has more then a passing resemblance to the Swastika, and policies that make Nick Griffin look like John Inman. In one now infamous incident, one of the Party’s members adopted the unconventional debating method of punching a female panelist whilst appearing on the Greek version of Question Time. In the 1996 Greek General election the party registered approximately 0.1 percent of the vote. A figure that remained stable all the way through to the 2009 election showing of 0.3 percent. But when the shit really hit the fan in 2012 their share leapt to 7%.
Fortunately, the BNP have never been able to get a foothold in British politics. Their image of being populated by racist neanderthals has never really sat well with the voters of middle England. Long gone are the days of the kind of open racism that saw the “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” signs outside B&B’s. Thankfully we have moved forward. But however abhorrent those views were, there is something strangely reassuring about knowing exactly what someone thinks and where their prejudices lay. Of knowing exactly what you are up against Today people are more happy to surreptitiously hide behind safe euphemisms and cliches like “multiculturalism isn’t working”, or even try a bit of reverse psychology – “you can’t even mention immigration without being called a racist”

But don’t be fooled. The difference between a UKIP and BNP voters could perhaps best be equated to two men slowly getting pissed – one drinking bottles of Chateau Lafite, and the other Diamond White. The mentalities may differ, but the results are pretty much the same.

 

nige and mrsI confess that I don’t know how old Nigel is. I think he’s about thirty-two. He has a baby daughter and lives in Beverley, although I actually think he’s from somewhere in the North-West originally. He is the only other person I’ve ever met who has Yo La Tengo on his i-Pod.

Sympathy For The Devil by Paul Featherstone

Justin Bieber. The name alone stirs feelings in most people.

If you’re a teenage girl its probably a verging-on-the-unhealthy positive reaction, to put it mildly. If you’re everyone else? Well…..

It was intriguing to say the least when Bieber visited the UK last month. It was like a social experiment on whether one of the world’s biggest stars could cope with the daily spotlight normally afforded to the likes of Amy Childs or Jodie Marsh.

Bieber of course didn’t cope too well. Lord only knows how he would have reacted if someone had got an up-skirt shot of him? Watching a burly cockney call him a “fucking little prick” was a guilty joy for me. We may have lost all the psycho’s at football grounds, but our paps were still flying the flag of picking fights with people who had the gall to be born anywhere but our tiny island.

It topped off a tour where he was seen out wearing two watches so he wouldn’t be late. A system devised if you break it down, on the basis that a glance at the wrong wrist, would lead him to believe the laws of time had failed to exist anymore.

These laws did fail to exist at the O2 arena, where he was late by nearly two hours. As his fans haven’t been to a Guns N Roses gig before, it didn’t go down well and teary eyed teenage girls were led home to catch the last bus. Presumably with their finger nails deeply driven into the chairs they were dragged out of.

Those army of fans, and it is an army, call themselves “Beliebers”. A cult for our modern times, they even took to Twitter posting photos of themselves self harming to stop him smoking weed. Rolling Stones fans they are not. Bordering on the dangerous they may be, however. Threatening anyone who opposes Bieber with devastating consequences, a career in Pyongyang, North Korea awaits everyone of them.

Most people can’t even name a Bieber song here too. He has never had a Number One single, with most failing to trouble the top twenty. His fans may be loyal, but they sure don’t care about stealing his music.

So why is he such big news, ingrained on the collective consciousness? The answer seems to be that he inspires such vitriol and nothing keeps you in the headlines like people wanting your head on a spike. Fuck me, half the celebrities on reality shows fill their fridge on the principle.

And yet, and yet……I kind of like having him around, and for one reason only. He’s clearly going down the bonkers pop star route. We haven’t had one since Jackson “Night Nursed” himself to death, despite the tiresome efforts of Lady Gaga.

People are so disenfranchised with the charts because the mainstay of them, Pop, has become boring. No oxygen tanks, no Elephant Man bones, nothing. Many think Bieber is a car crash waiting to happen, much like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. Maybe he is, but I hope it’s just a sign of things to come.

I welcome the madness. I would have flourished in Vietnam. The last two stories I heard about Bieber are a) that he got stopped with a pet monkey at a German airport, so he just left it there. Just left it. Like sandshoes he didn’t have baggage allowance for. Then b) he illegally tattooed his friend.

The biggest rock bands in the world sure as shit aren’t doing any of this, or if they are, they have really great PR people keeping it quiet. Like the bassist for a really famous band, with really good lawyers, who I saw doing Coke with his own specially made glass straw in the toilets of the NME awards.

So for the time being I’m pinning my hopes on Bieber being the next Bobby Brown or Michael Jackson. It’s a slim hope, but maybe Pop needs him more than it likes to admit. If he can rip open the sterile shrink wrap around it, maybe he may just become interesting enough for people to like him.

I may even follow him on Twitter. If you hear about me planning a Sarin gas attack on a Japanese subway in his name, you know this is where I joined the cult.

 

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

“This Film Will Change Your Life?” by Martyn Taylor

I fucking love films! I love comedies! I love horror! I love action! I love thrillers! I love ….. you get the idea, right? If you think a film is good, it’s good. If you think a film is bad, it’s bad. After all it’s all about opinion, and if people didn’t have opinions, it would be a boring world. Everyone has different opinions and tastes, one mans ‘Citizen Kane’ is another mans ‘Police Academy 5’

Film critics are a breed apart, total film snobs! so when I see a billboard or see an advert for the latest ‘BLOCKBUSTER’ release, and I read the one quote that makes no sense at all.

‘This movie will change your life’

How the fuck do they figure that out then? Am I going to visit my local cinema, all sad depressed, buy my overpriced Pepsi, take my seats in an over crowded theatre, sit for 2 hours watching this ‘life changer’ with some knob throwing popcorn at me, walk out and think ‘WOW! that’s changed my life that has, I’m a better person now’ I doubt it!

The facts are if you watch a comedy you come out smiling. A horror, scared. An action flick, pumped, or a thriller jumpy. So in reality, what the quote should say is in fact…..

‘This film could change your mood…. for a wee bit’

MartynMartyn Taylor is a 31 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Andi Ware: On Refusing to ‘Tweet’

It was with great regret and a heavy heart that I learned of the death of Baroness Thatcher this week.  This was because I learned about this momentous occasion via the medium of Facebook. Yes, I first heard about the death of the last great truly despised figure of the Western word because someone I met during an evening class ten years ago made an ‘amusing’ comment on Facebook. Busy writing Lesson Plans and Schemes of Work I decided to take a break from my computer screen and skip over to the office kitchen to make a coffee. Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I slipped my phone out of my pocket and browsed Facebook to find that a virtual friend had decided to share his wit with the rest of the world and in doing so ruin a sense of occasion that I was entitled to. The death of Margaret Thatcher is something that one should learn about on Radio 4 or in the pages of the Guardian. It is an occasion that deserves the commentary of a true professional skilled in the art of news delivery. Needless to say the individual who ruined my occasion is now dead to me. I immediately de-friended him and he now floats around in the deep, rich black void that is not being able to count me as one of his Facebook friends.

To prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again I urge all readers to think before you post. Due to the immediacy of the internet when you make a comment about something as huge as the death of Margaret Thatcher on Facebook or Twitter you could be relaying the news to someone for the very first time. That individual will never get that moment back. For example in twenty five years whenever I am asked where I was when I heard that Margaret Thatcher had died I will have to grimace and say that I was reading some comments on Facebook whilst waiting for a kettle to boil. Other people may have been on the toilet. If you are moved to comment on something like the death of Maggie then at least have the integrity to write it as thoroughly and eloquently as my fellow poster Paul Featherstone. I only wish that it was by reading a piece of writing such as this that I had learned of the death of Thatcher.

The trouble is that through Twitter and Facebook the idiot is almost validated. When their flippant and juvenile comments appear in printed text on our screens they become that much more concrete. This is augmented by the fact that we live in a culture that takes its Facebook and Twitter very seriously and with the invention of the Blackberry and tablet age Facebook and Twitter are very much part of us. Our hand sets are an extension of ourselves constantly in the palms of our hands. There are people for whom the world is the grey coloured border around the screen of their smart phones. There was once a simple and glorious time when there was a clear definition between our virtual activity and our cyber activity. However, due to our excessive use of the internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, the lines have been blurred.

Twitter is especially vulgar as it has created a world in which people comment on issues as varied as the crisis in Syria to the happenings on Geordie Shore all with a limit of 140 characters. To Tweet about an issue is to be value it and I would go as far as to say that Twitter is nothing more than a self-indulgent arena for the moron. That is, of course, not to say that all who Tweet are morons.

I am currently enjoying the new David Bowie album ‘The Next Day’. It is a truly unique record simply because its creator was not Tweeting about every bar of tambourine that was recorded. It was released without any prior announcement and this makes the music sound that little bit sweeter. Yes, Twitter has taken the mystery and magic out of popular culture (especially music). As an eighteen year old I can remember being obsessed with Radiohead. I would scour the pages of ‘Q’ magazine for any hints as to whether or not the band were in the studio, writing new material or planning further live dates. I stalked the band (not in the literal sense) like a hunter and it was absolutely exhilarating whenever a new album was released, a tour was announced or even when the tiniest nugget of information was discovered. But as I write this I know that I could log on to Twitter now and find out what Thom Yorke has eaten for breakfast. Twitter has taken the fun out of music for me through sheer over exposure.

So I shall not be Tweeting whenever I post something new on here. For those of you who are interested you will just have to exert the energy and find my posts on the site organically.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 32 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1

Weddings: All They’re Cracked Up To Be? by Vic Watson

In a word: no. As an unmarried woman in a relationship, it’s expected by most people that I’ll be completely obsessed with the whole shebang. I’m not. After being involved in many weddings – as bridesmaid and guest – I’ve become quite jaded with the whole process.

 

In this day and age of celebrity magazines and tabloids, people are putting themselves massively in debt to afford weddings way beyond their budgets. Twenty years ago, would you ever have heard of a shop assistant marrying a mechanic in a stately home? No. How about a castle being rented out for the nuptials of a call handler and a travel agent? Err, no. But now, if you don’t spend thousands, you’re somehow a failure. Let’s walk through the day itself and see how things should be…..

 

Preparation.

Guests are often given a dress code and a gift list when the invitations are issued. With many couples living together before getting married, the typical toaster and iron have now been usurped in favour of money. A wedding I recently attended had the couple asking for money to put in their baby fund. Previous couples have asked for money to put towards lavish honeymoons which, without the generosity of their guests they couldn’t have afforded.  

 

Dress codes are a nightmare for women – you are at the behest of not only what is trendy that season but at what the bride (inevitably it’s the bride who makes such demands) deigns suitable for her big day. We have to find something to wear and then we also have to find matching accessories (shoes, a bag, possibly a hat or a fascinator), as well as paying extortionate sums for beautifying processes like waxing, hair cut and/or colour, spray tan and nail painting. Prior to her godson’s wedding last year, my mother bought – and returned thirteen dresses before settling on one to wear. She was still accessorising less than twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And before you say it, we do need all that stuff. It’s ok for guys; the worst thing they have to do is get a new suit and maybe a haircut.

 

As a bride, you have the organisation of the full day to worry about. If you’re lucky, you have a supportive husband-to-be who loves you enough to take his share of the load. If not, you may have a supportive bridesmaid, mother or mother-in-law-to-be (by supportive, I mean nosy). From the moment a woman gets engaged, she has a million things on her mind – assimilating ideas from the various weddings she has seen in magazines, television shows and films. So there’s the venue, the menu, the dress, the guests, the budget and the cake but to mention a few.

 

Let’s not forget, there’s the hen and stag do’s to attend too. If you’re lucky, it’s a pub crawl in your local town or city but, more often than not these days, hen do’s are an expensive affair that not only require your attendance for one night but often a weekend or even a week abroad plus the spondoolies for a ‘gift bag’ usually containing a t-shirt, a sash, inappropriate playing cards, dares and badges or stickers. Stag do’s often include trips to party resorts, strip clubs, off-roading and paint-balling activity centres and sometimes even prostitutes. A fine start to the marriage, I think you’ll agree.

 

On the Big Day.

For an 11.30am wedding, as a guest I was up at 8am. Previous to the day itself, I’d had my hair done, my nails done and my spray tan applied. All I had to do on the day was have a shower, paint my toenails, apply my make up and get dressed. Oh, and get to the venue. I didn’t have time to have breakfast. What time does a bride have to get up?

 

Arriving at the venue, guests mingle and greet each other as if they’re actually pleased to see each other when, in truth, a lot of people who meet up at these dos have spent the last few days psyching themselves up for seeing people they can’t stand for various reasons. They pose for photos, worrying about their hair and make-up and if they’ve got VPL. Depending on who is paying for the wedding depends on who is invited to the daytime do. If a bride’s parents are paying, they often expect their social circle to be included in the big day. So it could be people who don’t even really know the couple sitting beside you.

 

The guests then assemble in the church (or wherever the ceremony is being held), being told where to sit based on the importance of their relationship to the couple. A service, either civil or religious, is carried out while everyone wonders how long until they can get their first alcoholic drink. The couple make vows to each other, some written by themselves, and everyone in the congregation passes each other looks because they know what’s been said in the heat of the moment during arguments and disagreements.

 

Bucks fizz is handed out after the ceremony or on arrival at the venue for the reception where yet more photos are taken, inevitably irritating the groom and any other men asked to be in the photos. The female guests eye each other up, discussing outfits and plus-ones.

 

Sitting down for the meal and the speeches is a heart-stopping moment as guests check the seating plan, hoping they’re sat beside someone tolerable for the next three hours. The meals vary in quality, as do the speeches. It’s obvious that no-one wants to do a speech but because it’s tradition, most people put themselves and their guests through it anyway. Yet more affirmations of ever-lasting love and fidelity follow from the groom. Whether it’s meant or not is another matter. Out of five weddings I went to one year, three of them are now over.

 

The evening do is a part for also-rans. People who aren’t valued enough to attend the daytime do are invited to the party on the evening. The trend now is to invite also-rans to the church ceremony and then the evening do, only leaving them out of the meal and speeches, some people would say this is preferable. The party tends to go one of two ways: everyone gets slaughtered and gets up to dance or everyone remains reticent and migrates towards their own cliques, spending the night chatting – only moving to go to the bar, loo or buffet. At the last wedding I attended, one man asked a woman to dance. Nothing wrong with that, you may say, apart from this man didn’t know said woman and when said woman’s hubby came back from the bar, he grabbed her arm and literally dragged his intoxicated wife from the dance floor while giving her dance partner the V’s. It was the highlight of the wedding for me but probably not for the people involved or her parents who sat and watched the whole thing unfold looking pretty dismayed.

 

The aftermath.

If there haven’t been any massive scandals like a drunken row or someone making a complete tit of themselves by revealing underwear or chucking up on the dance floor, some of the women who were in attendance will meet at some point or another and discuss who was wearing what, who went home with whom, who cheated on their partner and so on. Some weddings are so infamous for the trouble they cause, they are talked about for years after – long after the marriage has ended.

 

What’s the solution?

Why are people so bothered what other people think of their day? Why do people waste all of that money on one day? Why do couples feel the need to parade their love around in front of an audience?

 

I know for a fact one of the brides I was bridesmaid for was not a woman with a large circle of friends, nor did she like being centre of attention but she had a wedding that cost just short of £15,000. She is a shop assistant. Her husband was a manual labourer (yes, I’ve put “was” in there for a reason). They had almost 100 people at their daytime wedding. The bride did not seem to enjoy one moment of her wedding so what was the point in wasting all of that money? In this financial climate, £15k would go a long way to a deposit on a house.

 

Personally, I’d rather have a quiet wedding, with just me and my beloved. In this time of WAGs and people who are famous despite no discernible talent, people seem to think making grand proclamations on your wedding day is enough to sustain a marriage in spite of all the bumps in the road. Saying “I love you” seems to have usurped the need to show it.

 

I, personally, would be more concerned about the marriage than the wedding. Who needs a disco and a buffet anyway?

 

For more posts like this, visit http://elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com/