This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Saturday
Jul092011

My Two-Penneth

Contrary to much popular right wing opinion, I’m not skipping around in full smug mode saying ‘I knew it!’ about the demise of the wretched News of the World.

It’s true that all the people involved, the wretched Coulson bloke, the vile Brooks woman are Tory supporters, mates of Dave and trusted by him. It’s true he looks like a right wazzock at the moment but that will pass.

We are all now becoming aware that this underlying attitude among the ruling elite is very bad for the country and reinforces our cynicism and dull rage against ‘them’ who ever they are.

I did know the Tabloids were owned, run and administered by the most bitter, envious right wing bigots this country produces. I knew they lied, cheated and stole at every opportunity, and they will continue to do so until finally they can do so no more. I knew they were at it, at least I suspected it but I couldn’t prove anything.

The fact that so much more than any of us dared imagine has finally burst out in a spew of unspeakable revelation has been so unpleasant that my smugness is in hiding.

A few years ago a mate of mine, you may have heard of him, Craig Charles, was arrested in the middle of the night on a very serious sexual assault charge.

For those of you only familiar with the initial press rage against him, those who missed the long and exhausting high court case, Craig was found not guilty of all charges by a jury comprising mainly of women. I just want to clarify that now.

However, Craig was arrested at around half past midnight on a Saturday night, he was taken into a police station and questioned.

The following morning the News of the World had the story on the front page. Yes, the following morning, Sunday morning it was in the paper.

Let’s just go over that time line once again. Saturday night, 12:30, Craig was arrested. Sunday morning, from about 6 in the morning when the papers are dropped off at the newsagents by the delivery trucks, it was all there in gory shock horror detail.

Now, you don’t need to know much about newspapers to work out that for the front page story to have taken place literally a few hours before the paper is ‘put to bed’ i.e. the typesetting and layout are complete, the presses start whirring up and the whole wretched ugly process starts takes a bit of time. It’s not like updating a blog. But hats off to them, they did it.

On a side note, the text layout on the front page story was very clever.

“Red Dwarf star Craig Charles rapes woman, turn to page 2 for full story.’ So you turned to page two and then it said ‘….it was alleged today.’

So, what myself and many people who knew Craig surmised was that the only way the press could have known about the arrest was if the police had informed them. What I didn’t suspect in my naivety was that the police got paid for telling them which of course is now so blindingly obvious I feel like a supine wet liberal apologist for not thinking it.

It literally must have been an officer involved in the arrest ringing the NOTW as Craig was cuffed and led off into the night. It’s even possible they had informed the press before the arrest had taken place.

What we do know for certain is the story was all over the papers BEFORE Craig had been charged with an offence. He wasn’t charged until mid morning on the Sunday. This fact was brought up in the court case and the judge presiding clearly smelled a number of rather unpleasant rats.

This was years ago, long before any phone hacking scandals, long before any of the present motley crew of lying Tory supporting scumbag running dog lackeys of Murdoch imperialism were on the scene.

It’s how the tabloids operate, they are a malign influence on our culture, they corrupt and defile by their very existence, they are not worthy of the name newspaper.

I admit right here and now I am middle class, privileged, vaguely intelligent, widely travelled, lucky, sensitive, aware and possibly occasionally caring person. I try not to be judgmental, I try not to look down on people less fortunate than myself.

I am going to continue to strive not to be judgmental except in one very specific area. If you read tabloid newspapers, if you support bullying and powerful corporations like Murdoch’s News International by buying their wretched old rags and reading them, you are a nothing short of a moron. 

Thursday
Apr282011

Lovely Royals

I was standing with a group of primary school kids a few years ago in a lovely Cotswold garden (not mine).

I felt two hands rest on my shoulders and heard a well-educated male voice say ‘Just keeping you steady sir.’

I smiled, turned and saw an immaculately dressed police officer, a very high ranking one no doubt, standing behind me and smiling.

Now this move may seem a bit odd but it wasn’t in the least alarming. I had noticed a few moments before this that a smartly dressed man had spoken to an equally smartly dressed woman a discreet manner while looking at me. She approached me and asked if I was from the press. I admit I laughed and told her I was a local inhabitant, not from the press. She said she recognised me, I said I was off the telly. She immediately lost interest.

A moment or two later Prince Charles walked into the garden, I was slightly downwind of him and I can honestly report he smelled gorgeous.

All manner of local dignitaries were standing around waiting to meet the old Prince, he ignored them all and walked straight up to the small group of excited children. He spoke with them for at least 10 minutes and was then engulfed by fawning, shuffling old chaps in bad suits and ladies in alarming dresses.

I like to think that the Prince gave me a second look from my position behind the kids, maybe he watched Scrapheap Challenge with his boys. Lads and dads telly. Or maybe he was scoping the police officer who continued to gently hold my shoulders, maybe the officer had given him a wink as if to say ‘don’t be alarmed sir, I have the local anarchist under control.’

I admit, I’ve never been a rabid Royalist, but I’ve never been a fully convinced republican either, sitting on the wretched fence as usual.

I think I may have inherited this from my mother. She was obsessive about the Royals, she had books about them, knew their history and dragged me around more stately homes and castles than I will ever remember. We went to see the Trooping of the Colour, I saw the queen sitting sideways on a horse when I was about 7 years old. We stared through the bars of Buck House and wondered if the Queen was inside. My mum was the same age as her Maj although she didn’t last quite as long.

However, just as much as she was an admirer of the history and pomp of the Royals, my mother was also a proto republican. She was a fierce critic of the inherited wealth and status, she hated the snobbism and elitism they represented. It’s the great British psychosis, someone a big chunk of the public would find annoying is Cameron and his uber-privileged background, his posh boy antics at Oxford, his total ignorance of how most people live.

Yet those self same people don’t seem to apply this critique to the Royals, “they do a marvellous job representing our country overseas, the Queen is a national treasure, she is loved and recognised around the world.”

Unless the particular Royal is a boorish, racist bully like a few Princes and Dukes, allegedly.

It’s hard not to admire the Queen, it’s very easy not to admire large swathes of her hangers on, the minor Dukes and Princes who are only in the position they are ‘cos of their parents. They didn’t do anything, they didn’t have to, they just are. We all allow them that and we pay for them to continue. Bizarre and headache creating.

There is still, in 2011, a class system in Britain, the pivotal key to this system is the Royal Family. It’s the wretched middle classes who get snotty and critical of the Royal family and what they represent. The other posho’s, the land owners, the Tory party, the people with titles, they love the Royal family, as do the working class, the poor and the powerless.

It’s only the uppity middle class, the well educated, well read, know all, sneering, re-cycling professionals who can’t stand them, and interestingly this is the fastest growing social group in the country.

The amount of people who are on holiday at the moment, overseas, out of the whole Royal Wedding madness is extraordinary. I have had more ‘out of office’ e-mail replies this week than I have ever had previously. No one’s here, except posho’s and people in poor areas of our cities having street parties with bunting.

Oh yes, and me. I’ll be planting my beans.

So good luck to that Middleton girl, she is marrying into a fairly traumatised family, they’ve all got issues but as the years have passed I’ve realised that is one thing that I do have in common with them. Families with issues. I know my parental family had them and my present family has its fair share.

The charming police officer had no need to hold my shoulders just in case. I wish no harm on them, I just don’t want to pay for them and I don’t want to know what they think or do. In this country at the moment, that is a forlorn wish.

Happy Royal wedding day.

 

Saturday
Mar262011

A Fool to Myself

I remember my Grandma saying to me when I was a little lad, ‘Robbie, you’re a fool to yourself.’

I never knew what she meant, I’m sort of learning now. There are times on the twitters when my hackles get the better of me. I’ll open the little laptop (a middle class liberal MacBook Air) and check the tweet stream. I’ll read a load of lovely comments, wonderful links and just a handful of essentially right wing nonsense and instead of doing what any sensible person would do, ignore it, I respond.

‘You were right Grandma, I’m a fool to myself.’

This doesn’t happen very often, tonight my Mrs is in Paris, my daughter is staying with her pal up the lane and my son is waiting for his friends to land here. I’m a bit tense about that, I don’t know how many are coming, they are all really big and I’m supposed to supply pizza and cauliflower cheese. Don’t ask.

Anyway, in the little gap, I started tweeting and I got upset. The whole Fortnum and Mason thing is so unpleasant, I don’t in any way condone the violence and damage caused, but I understand the anger, dismay and corrosive cynicism that comes from the endless list of greedy, short sighted bullies who own and run this country and yet cruelly refuse to support our economy. The tax dodging owners who hide behind convenient walls of ‘charitable giving’ and spend a bomb on PR spin to prove it.

For every £1 some crusty hooded scrounging anarcho-syndicalist graffiti spraying wazzock screws out of the welfare state, there is £100,000 of discreetly re-distributed wealth managed fiddling going on behind well painted Mayfair doors.

We should be disgusted at the massive gap that has appeared between the richest and poorest in this country, it’s staggering and getting bigger all the time. It's so not a party political thing, most of this increase in the wealth gap happened under the bloody Labour wazzocks.

I don’t resent people earning good money for their hard work, I don’t want to take it away from them in some Soviet style communist revolution, but the swaggering arrogance of the hyper rich is sending such a brutal ‘fuck you’ message to the rest of the population, I am not in the least surprised some people are screaming ‘fuck you back, bitch!’

I’m sad about Fortnum’s, sad for the people who work there who’ll have to clear up the mess, I used to have tea with my mum there when I lived in London and she came to visit. She’d go to the Royal Academy exhibition and then we’d meet up for tea and a bun. She loved it, she’s no longer with us, but clearly I don’t have some rabid hatred of Fortnum’s.

I am just reminding myself, when someone utterly misinterprets what I have said in 140 characters, rise above it and carry on. 

When they twist facts to suit their own extreme right wing agenda of supporting tax dodging corporations, believing, as they do, that all government is bad government so all tax goes directly to lefty scroungers and dirty immigrants who get given houses and free food forever by limp wristed liberals like me, I must ignore their goading tweets. 

Not because of some fear of expressing myself and exposing myself to more criticism, it’s not a curtailment of my free speech, it’s for my own selfish wellbeing. I don’t want or need to get that upset about some trivial little prod from some angry white man, because the goading tweets always come from angry white men who feel hard done by. 

White men, in the UK, oppressed? Hello, this is the rest of the human race calling, just a quick history lesson. No, I'm starting again. 

I’ll still say what I think on Twitter, after all that’s what it’s there for, but I am reminding myself that I don’t need to be, as my Grandma so rightly said, ‘a fool to myself.’

Sunday
Mar202011

Deliver Us From Delingpole

There’s a fellow called James Delingpole who writes for the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. He’s not well known or even very widely read, I’m not interested in what he has to say but I have taken notes on how he says it.

I have used him as a regulating valve, a crosscheck mechanism and for that he’s very useful.

In the past there have been occassions when my dissatisfaction with the generally perceived reality of our world has been so intense that I’ve been angry about it. There’s nothing wrong with that intrinsically, as the comic Dom Joly said recently, ‘of course I’m angry, anger equals energy.’

He’s got a point, but how that anger emanates is, I believe, very important. Knowing the true source of your anger is vital, anger is a very base emotion, someone does something to upset you and you get angry, how angry depends on everything but the actual event. It very often depends of what has gone before, right back to your babyhood and early experiences.

It’s annoying, I don’t enjoy accepting that some things my mother did or didn’t do to me can affect my current, late middle-aged behaviour but experience has taught me that this truly is the case.

A minor accident with a rather foul-mouthed lady in London’s Regent Street last week was a classic example. She walked into me; as in I was walking in one direction and she walked into my left hand side. I immediately said sorry, she was considerably older and physically much smaller than me, I was naturally concerned for her welfare and reached out to steady her.

She had that special hair that women of a certain age create, it looks more like a helmet than actual human hair, however the hair is irrelevant, she was also immediately very angry.

She said something along the lines of ‘watch where you’re going you dozy cunt.’

I was, as you might be able to imagine, somewhat taken aback by this comment. She stood looking at me with what can only be described as violent dislike. It was a stand off, she was so angry with me she didn’t walk away, she stood her ground, challenging me to respond.

This moment gave me time to gather my thoughts. I’d been thinking about anger, irrational responses and James Delingpole as I’d been walking. I was primed and ready and for once in my life, I had the time to make up my response; which was close to this.

'It was only 50% my fault Madam. Please deal with your inadequacies privately you foul mouthed harridan.'

As expected, this only elicited a further torrent of expletives from the lady who stormed off past the Apple store and disappeared into the crowd.

I felt very chuffed with myself, I didn’t get angry, I didn’t shout or swear, I even tweeted about it I was so puffed up.

Obviously since then I felt hugely guilty not only for what I said but also that I felt the need to share my mini triumph with the tiwtterarti. The first part of my response was spot on, sure, it’s psycho-babble but containing an element of truth and perception. If I could have stopped at the word ‘privately’ I would have had a 100% score, it was the admittedly very mild and slightly obscure use of the word harridan that let me down.

(harridan comes from the French word haridelle, an old horse or nag, a vicious and scolding older woman.)

But back to the Delingpole man. He is angry, furious, bitter and instantly resentful, he feels bullied and set upon, he’s sulking, moody and reactionary. He is, in essence, a man child.

His anger leaks into his writing, he feels convinced that the whole world is made of stupid people who fall for the lies and spin of the neo-liberal elite, or the neo liberal elite themselves. Anyone who ever voices an alternative opinion to his narrow worldview is a bully or a thug.

He rants against ‘green energy’ and ‘renewable fuels’ and ‘the lies of the anthropomorphic climate change lobbyists.’ Every word he writes screams in your ear, he is furious, frustrated that we can’t see we’re all being conned, tricked, duped by the elite who are laughing at us.

I find this distressing because I could easily, and have easily fallen into the same pointless ditch of frustrated fury.

The same ditch but with very different targets.

Where as he blames people in government in the developed world, celebrities, do-gooders, sandal wearing ‘eco fascists’ and obviously my mate Dale Vince who sends him into frothing spasms of fury, I blame international merchant bankers.

Oh yes, and hedge fund managers, bankers, the Federal Reserve for being the bankers patsies, the very notion of banking and anything to do with banks, credit and all the hideous, vile criminals who work in the international banking sector but don’t look or sound like criminals because they went to private school and wear suits.

See, I’ve done it there, a little bit of anger leaked out. I don’t just have legitimate criticisms of these institutions, criticisms that a healthy majority of educated people might agree with.

I bloody hate bankers. I blame them for everything that’s ever gone wrong with the world in my life time.

I hate them so much I want to build a steel wall around the City of London, cut off the electricity, water and all communications and issue them with a demand from the British people.

“Give us all our money back or starve to death you sub human, short sighted greedy blood sucking stain on our history.”

I might have support for saying this, I might get some people to say ‘Yay, right on Bobby, let’s stick it to them,’ and that would be momentarily uplifting. But most people who are not seething in their own pre-existing anger juice are going to respectfully step to one side and move on. They might make reference later to ‘that mad bloke screaming about bankers’ but that would be it.

So Delingpole is nothing more than a man shouting at a tree in a park. A loon, someone who needs help and sympathy, time and understanding from trained professionals with back up support.

I am trying to stop shouting at trees in the park. I know that’s what Delingpole is doing because I’ve done it. I’m grateful to him for showing me the error of my ways.

I want to learn how to take my legitimate anger at the cruelty and greed so manifest in our world today and channel it into a positive and effective driver for change. Here, above all else, age and experience is the best weapon in my diminutive arsenal.

Tuesday
Mar152011

Further Nuclear Knicker Twisting.....

I sometimes notice myself being blinkered. I think I’ve seen a solution to one of the worlds many big problems and I disregard everything else, creating bigger and better arguments to support my opinions.

Luckily, I have an inner ear that sometimes listens to me waffling on about some new solution and I stop and question myself brutally.

For example, electric cars. I went through a period where I was utterly convinced they were the solution to, to just about everything. I have gently re-calibrated my arguments, they certainly are a solution to many of the problems facing us, but they are still cars, they still use up resources, they will still create traffic jams, albeit quiet, non smelly ones.

So while I am still a keen advocate of the battery electric automotive solution, I try and keep it in context.

I have never been sure about nuclear power, I’m not sure now and I wasn’t sure before the terrible disaster at Fukushima.


However I am hearing from people all the time, and if you read the comments to my previous post about this you will see that there are plenty of people who have created bigger and better arguments which support the use of nuclear fission as a way of generating power. 

In some cases they go further, it’s ‘the only way’ of generating power. There is no alternative, this is it, accept it, ‘don’t fall for the scaremongering’ they demand. They admonish me for even suggesting that non fuel burning, sustainable, renewable methods of generating the amount of power we currently use is ‘utterly ridiculous’ and ‘a pipe dream’ at best, and an evil conspiracy for governments to fleece the put upon populace in their endless quest for power and control at worst.

Apart from the safety aspect which I fully accept is mainly based on ignorance, and apart from my argument that IF a nuclear power plant goes wibbly wobbly things get a bit shitty rather quickly, apart from that, they still do burn stuff.

That, above all other emotional arguments about nuclear winters, billions dying of cancer etc, that argument is the one I can’t get around.

We may have enough fissile material to run a million nuclear power stations for a hundred years, but that doesn’t answer the question. In truth of course we don’t have very much Uranium and that could become a problem.

However, the stuff still has to be dug out of the ground and shipped around the world, processed, stored, shipped, burnt, and the resulting waste has to be dealt with.

I am aware that there are new technologies that make the fuel last longer, for example 1 kilogram of Uranium-235 can theoretically produce the same amount of electricity as 3,000 tons of coal so it’s a no comparison advantage as far as coal goes.

I know there are new technologies being developed that allow us to re-process it, allow us to re-use it but we still end up with a waste product that is to put it mildly, a bit of a headache.

One of my carpool guests, Paul Lavelle, a big proponent of electric cars and nuclear power, made the observation that in their lifetime, a human being living in a nuclear powered world will consume electricity which will result in a golf ball sized lump of nuclear waste. That is very impressive, compare that to coal slag, the ash and carbon crap we scrape out of a coal fired power plant. It’s nothing, it’s diddly squit. 

But there are 60 million of us in the UK. 60 million golf balls is a lot of golf balls. Where are we going to put them? There are many billions of us on earth, will we end up with billions of slowly decaying radioactive golf balls. Yes, we can bury them in ‘safe’ places, but it’s a bit of a crappy solution.

While it is true that in the history of nuclear power generation, very few people have died directly as a result of accidents, the collapse of a hydro electric damn was cited as proof of how ‘safe’ nuclear power is.

But what is happening an Japan right now is a disaster for nuclear power, it will be incredibly difficult for governments to convince their populations that this technology is safe. The longer the disaster goes on, the more massive, non nuclear explosions there are, the worse it gets.

The radiation levels, we are told again and again, are ‘within safe limits.’ Not quite safe enough for an American aircraft carrier to stay near the coast, they’ve had to move well away. 

Accidents happen, human beings make mistakes, especially when they are under enormous pressure like the few brave souls trying to deal with the Fukushima disaster. What a hideous job it must be dealing with that nightmare.

The other argument often used for nuclear and against renewables is cost, and this one is without doubt the result of very blinkered thinking.

We pay for nuclear power not through our electricity bill, but through our taxes. The nuclear industry is subsidized to a level that takes your breath away. Building one nuclear power station within the regulations which make them safe, and by God do we love those particular regulations, costs many, many billions. 

If the UK spent £100 billion creating a renewable, sustainable electricity generating and smart grid infrastructure, we would never again need to buy shit we burn from places far away. That, I still believe, is something worth striving for.

In the meantime, I’m in support of building new nuclear power stations now, I’m grumpy about it, I may sit in the corner with my arms folded, sulking and refusing to join in. But if it means we don’t burn any more coal, oil or natural gas, it’s a step in the nearly right direction.

Oh yeah, and all the nonsense Clarksonian arguments about CO2 outputs of electric cars would have to be quietly dropped too.