Monday, 20 May 2013
The UK's participation in this "contest" is embarrassing. It's embarrassing because even the Azerbaijanis speak better English than we do. It's also embarrassing because for some reason we (the UK) insist on entering singers well into their dotage, singing songs that even Ken Dodd would have turned down.
It's embarrassing again because the bloody commentators on the Beeb are Irish. Terry Wogan is a lovely man as is what's his name who did it this year, but they're not even British. Isn't there anyone in the myriad of British compares, DJs or jokers who's up to comparing our TV transmission. Or maybe they value their reputations.
I swear there's something in the Treaty of Europe that forces us to be in Eurovision every year and to be humiliated. I bet if people knew that by leaving the EU we'd also not have to compete in that "song contest" the British people would vote overwhelmingly to say a fond Adieu to La Grande Experiment Europeane.
You've got to hand it to the French. They're not having any of that language across la Manche. They sang in French and gave their points in the language of the Gauls. Even the Swiss tried that, but realised half way through that they didn't want to lose all those English unnumbered Swiss Bank accounts so reverted to English.
What is it about the French that makes them so insufferably "superiore". They've nothing to be superior about. What do they have - Johnny Hallyday and Sacha Distel - ha! We had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, not to mention the Troggs. OK so they have Daft Punk, but they're an aberration, in what is an otherwise moribund music scene. The last French musician with any sense of style and rhythm was Berlioz with his Grand Masse des Morts. With something like that the Frenchies might have a chance and it wouldn't matter if no knew what was being sung.
Anyway, where are The Allisons when you want them (are you sure you want them?), and Pearl and Teddy, their singing set new standards in .. well they made Pearl and Dean look interesting.
In the grand old days when we had a proper Cold War and not as now a Cold War sung by proxy, we had a chance of getting somewhere near the top of the leader board. Who can forget Ronnie Carroll coming 4th in 1963 with "Say Wonderful Things", or Kenneth McKellor's "A Man Without Love", reaching a manly 9th place in 1966. It's a shock to the system to realise that as he was singing that trash, the Beatles were singing "Eleanor Rigby" and Dylan went electric "Like A Rolling Stone".
I have nothing against Bonnie Tyler, our representative this year - I thought "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was magic - but that was almost 30 years ago. It is a silent testament to the power of botox that her face remains unchanged over that period whilst her corset maker has had to re-open the last steel mill in the Valleys to produce suitable stays to contain her.
Well she didn't come last did she. That honour went to the Irish. Next year maybe they'll get Sinead O'Connor to represent the Emerald Isle. That should be a barrel load of laughs!
Sunday, 12 May 2013
I also inspected the fruit trees: by the right, number! I am very optimistic I reckon there'll be boxes of apples and punnets of cherries this year. I have an orchard of borage - self seeded and multiplying like an oversexed colony of tribbles. My 150 + broad bean plants are slowly maturing - I do love broad beans. My sequentially planted garden peas are growing in sequence. The Strawbs are far out man, and along with their bed fellows the gooseberry bushes are making like a fool on a hill.
That just leaves the wild strawberries seeds to kick in and the sweet corn to reach eight miles high, with the winter squash making crazy patterns in the sky. Basil is here, there and everywhere- it is such a bummer in the city - but the medler tree is promising a whiter shade of pale and the kink in the vine will surely straighten out on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I think I must have a word with my neighbouring allotment holder. He's mixing some strange brew and I'm wondering about all that strange fruit he has under cover.
Yeah, but I'm feelin' good....
Saturday, 4 May 2013
London is another country. It is rapidly becoming detached from the rest of England. It's always been cosmopolitan and has profited by the influx of overseas seekers of freedom, wealth and a temperate climate. This creative pressure cooker has on occasion gone critical but generally races from the four corners of the Earth rub together without generating too much heat.
In London there is great wealth and frightening poverty; you can make a mint in an hour or work for a pittance and no one notices or cares. £130 million for a house in Kensington and Chelsea, yet in the North East of England you could buy a street for the price of Victorian terraced house in Brixton. People need to be housed and in London there is huge demand and limited supply.
We live in Walthamstow, North East London. We're north of Hackney, not far from Islington, 20 minutes from Oxford Circus and a 20 minutes drive from Epping Forest. We have a small, pretty village surrounding a 800 year old church, alms houses and masses of Victorian terraced properties.
What was scoffed at - 2 or 3 bed terraced homes with a small back garden - are now flying off the shelves. The reason is extremely simple, yet it took time for that to become apparent. For a young growing family, these homes are ideal and although only a couple of miles further out are £200-£300k cheaper than something similar in Hackney. For the price of a two bedroom flat in Islington you can have a house with 4 bedrooms and a garden. It's a no brainer. Especially when you discover that the schools are not bad, and frankly,if you're not happy with the local state ones the money you save on moving here would allow you to get your kids educated privately.
Westfield, Stratford is a 10 minute train ride away. If you work in the City or Whitehall or the West End you're no more than 30 minutes on the train - albeit an extremely packed one any time of day or night. Also, a borough which at one time didn't appear to think much of itself is now very much taking note. There are more small creative businesses here than in any other part of East London. While pubs used to close, now new ones are opening. Farmers markets, artisan bakers and brewers litter the place.
So now a house will be on the market for a day and you'll have 40 offers. Estate agents have waiting lists of clients who will descend on any home that comes on the market. It's young, growing families, driving Audis, Volvos and Minis moving outwards from Hackney and Islington as well as foreign professionals that are driving the prices to silly heights.
Today, a house in our road, a 2 up 2 down with an extension has an "open day": the asking price is £375 -£400k. A neighbour trying to buy after renting recently went to such a house viewing and mingled with 120 others.
It's great for the area - the middle classes moving in. More money, boutique shops, tidier streets. Except this influx is only happening in a very limited area. Cross the main road and houses on that side are £50k cheaper. Cross another main road and you'll pay £100k less.
London's always had the rich and poor living cheek by jowl. In the centre now, the poor are driven out - they just can't afford to live there. So much of the centre is a millionaire/billionaire's "slum". Walthamstow used to be uniformly poor, now it's becoming like the centre used to be. The well off with jobs, a mortgage and a college education on one side of the tracks the unemployed, poorly paid, poorly educated and in poor rented accommodation on the other.
We can only hope that, against the trend, the new wealth that is coming here, sticks and creates new opportunities for businesses and employment.