Friday, 26 August 2016

Conrad

Joseph Conrad wrote the following in "The Secret Agent" over a hundred years ago.  It's still true today.

“The imbecile bourgeoise of this country make themselves the accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches.  And they have the political power still, if only they had the sense to use it for their preservation… the middle classes are stupid… they have no imagination.  They are blinded by idiotic vanity…”

“He saw capitalism doomed in its cradle, born with the poison of the principle of competition in it’s system.  The great capitalists devouring the little capitalists, concentrating the power and the tools of production in great masses, perfecting industrial processes and in the madness of self aggrandisement only preparing, organising, enriching, making ready the lawful inheritance of the suffering proletariat.”

“The future is as certain as the past, slavery, feudalism, individualism, collectivism…”

“Do you know how I would call the nature of the present economic conditions?  I would call it cannibalistic.  That’s what its is!  They are nourishing their greed on the quivering flesh and the warm blood of the people, nothing else.”

Monday, 15 August 2016

Fourth test. One step forward...

England were supposed to win the fourth test as a demoralised Pakistan team crumbled under pressure, except no one told Pakistan!  In the end England were well beaten, we didn't bat, bowl or field anywhere near the level we've become used to.  For Pakistan, key players re-found form, notably Younis Khan with a brilliant 218 and Yasir Shah with five wickets in the second innings.

It's been a really good series between two well matched teams and 2-2 is probably a fair result.  England would have expected to win this series but in truth, positions 2,4 and 5 have not contributed anywhere near enough runs.  Pakistan have been really impressive in both the cricket they've played and the way they've played it.  Misbah ul Haq is a really good captain and a tough competitor.  Recent Pakistan tours of England have finished with controversy and bad blood, not so this time.

For England its another case of one step forward and two back.  There was a chance of us going to No.1 in the world rankings but this would have been undeserved.  This side is nowhere near as good as the one led by Andrew Strauss a few years ago.  We have a team full of star players but we are lacking key components for a truly world class side.

I think everyone likes Alex Hales at the top of the order, he looks so good but just hasn't made enough runs to make that position his own.  Perhaps sir Geoffrey Boycott is right when he says he would be better off in the middle order?  But who will open??  Maybe Ballance is better suited to playing up front or should Someone like Sam Robson get another chance?  Since dropping Ian Bell England have tried Compton, Ballance, Vince and the unfortunate James Taylor in the middle order but none of whom have contributed to the team in the way Bell would have.  Will he be given another chance?

Pakistan's attack is as good as any in the world so for me, Moeen Ali has proved he is good enough to bat in the top five for England.  This frees up a place in the team for a PROPER SPINNER!!!  Adil Rashid or ???  English cricket is seriously lacking in this department at the moment.  When it comes to pace/seam bowling we seem to have players to spare.  Chris Woakes has had a great series and looks like he could be a star of the future, he has the third seamer's berth nailed down for now.  Waiting in the wings we have Finn and Wood to name but two.

This winter we have two tough tours against Bangladesh and India where the ball will turn and we don't seem to have the bowlers to exploit this.  Last time we played in India we won a hard series but had Swann and Panesar in top form and we beat the home side at their own game.  We don't have the spin bowlers to pose that kind of threat at the moment.

At the moment some players are guaranteed to make the winter tour, assuming they are fit enough;  Cook, Root, Stokes, Ali, Bairstow, Woakes, Broad and Anderson.  The selectors will meet at the end of the county season and another eight tour places will be up for grabs.  Who gets them is anyone's guess at the moment.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Third test, a classic!

Day one.  Pakistan won the toss and put England in...  A surprise that they'd pass up on the first use of the wicket and the opportunity to let Shah bowl on a fourth innings track...
England bat and seem to be making headway but wickets fall regularly.  Cook makes 45, Ballance a patient 70 and Moeen a fluent 63.  At the end of the day England are all out for 297, Sir Geoffery reckons it's a decent score... time will tell.

There are definite problems with the top order.  Hales looks to be going backwards against world class bowlers and Vince has to go, even second innings runs won't ease the doubts.  For Pakistan Sohail Khan takes 5 wickets.  A great day of test cricket!!

Day two.  Time for England's bowlers to turn the screw.  Four balls into the day and Jimmy strikes!!!  Here we go!!  Or not.  After that Pakistan's batsmen dig in and give us a batting lesson and it's painful listening for the England fan.  A great partnership between Azhar and Aslam with the former making a century and the latter unlucky to be run out in the eighties.  Woakes strikes on the last ball of the day but at 257-3, Pakistan are in control.

Day three.  Can Pakistan build a match winning lead?  England's bowlers retain control and chip away with wickets but the lead builds slowly.  When Misbah is out for a half century one end is open and wickets fall more regularly, still the lead is 103 and Michael Vaughan on TMS has researched the stats which say England only have a 3% chance of winning from here.  Also Jimmy has to be taken out of the attack for the innings for following through onto the wicket once too often.

The pressure is on England's openers but they start well and build their way to an unbeaten opening stand of 120 and the deficit is wiped out, both Cook and Hales have half centuries, the latter reaching the milestone from the last ball of the day.  At the end of the day the match is even, if anything England are slightly ahead.  This is turning into a great test match!

Day four.
Pakistan struck early removing both openers and it was game on again!  If wickets tumbled England would be in trouble but we managed to keep putting partnerships together with all of the top order contributing.  Work was busy which prevented me from following too closely or getting too nervous.  At 282-5 with a lead of just 179 the match was in the balance but a great partnership from Bairstow and Ali, battering a tiring attack swung the game.  Only one team could win from here.

Day five.
I was sitting by a windswept lake in rural Suffolk when play commenced for the fifth and final day.  First Moeen battered the Pakistan bowlers for a bit before the declaration then England picked up a wicket early with the hapless Hafeez playing another poor shot.  When I tidied up the fishing gear at lunch time Pakistan had cruised to lunch and a draw was on the cards.

I settled in front of the tele just after Ali had removed Azhar, does that give us a chance?  Jimmy bowled a great spell removing Younis, reversing the ball and creating pressure.  Finn and Woakes followed and between them took four wickets for one run, the win was on now!  England clinched it after tea, despite a last wicket partnership which threatened to embarrass for a while. The wickets were shared with each bowler picking up two apiece.  Moeen Ali took the final one and with two half centuries in the picked up the man of the match award.

From being a hundred runs adrift on first innings England have played brilliantly to fight back and win this match.  Every one of the eleven players has contributed to this win yet we STILL don't know what our best XI is!  Also, I wonder how the match would have progressed had Azhar Ali survived the final ball of day two?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Third test approaching...

In a couple of days the test series will resume at Edgbaston, a ground where England have a pretty good record in recent years.  So far this series has been a good one, I missed the first test which was competitive and won by Pakistan but England dominated the second to leave it 1-1 with two to play.  It seems the series is being played in an excellent spirit, which has not always been the case when these two sides meet.

England will be without Ben Stokes who is likely to be replaced by Finn or Ball, though I hope Rashid gets a game.

Pakistan have a very good bowling attack which will give England's top order just the test they need.  By the end of the series we'll know how good they are, or not.

I think England will go on to win from here but it won't be easy.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Mad dream

Last night in a dream I was back in the road I grew up in, I haven't lived here since 1983.  I was in trouble because the Yardies were after me, in fact one was shooting at me and I was a scared.  By this time the road had become a river so I dived under and swam away.  I emerged at the corner and after weighing up my options legged it to a friends front door.  His father opened it, welcomed me warmly and invited me in.  He looked different which isn't a surprise as the whole family's ethnicity had changed and they were now Afro-Caribbean.  My friend wasn't in which wasn't too much of a surprise as he would have left home about thirty years ago.  Instead there were about eight young kids who were getting ready to go to school.  Curtley Ambrose was there too and he wasn't afraid of the Yardies so offered to escort me to safety...

There must be a website somewhere that would interpret that lot for me but it would almost certainly be bollocks and I don't think I want to know anyway.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Love won't tear us apart... Latitude 2016

Mid July sees my favourite weekend of the year, the Latitude festival which the Purple Princess and I have been looking forward to for the last fifty one weeks.  I usually type some guff on here by way of a review but this year I will try to keep things brief.

We like to think we are pretty experienced festival goers and have learnt from previous mistakes however this year I arrived at the campsite totally knackered having pushed the barrow about a mile.  I expect to feel a bit of exertion but couldn't understand why I was so exhausted.  Am I even more unfit than I thought?  Had I not put enough fuel in the body before setting off?  Closer examination of the barrow revealed the tyre was as totally fucked as I was.  Next year I'll remember to check it first...

This year the festival started with warm, breezy, perfect weather on Thursday then got progressively hotter and more humid as the days passed.  This means you really have to look after yourself with food and drink intake but it is still less hassle than a rainy festival.  Festival food is generally shit if you look at in terms of value for money but essential to keep the energy levels up.  We always have at least one hot and too expensive meal from the vendors on site and most of the time it is edible, sometimes even enjoyable.  Everything we sampled this year was average at best.  To supplement this we always have tea making kit at the tent and take loads of high energy food that won't go off in the heat.  Digestive biscuits fit this bill perfectly, they fill you up and give you energy.  Drinking is also crucial and I have learnt from experience not to touch beer until the sun is well on the way down again.  I drink pints and pints of water during the day, especially when it is as hot as this year.

After chilling at the campsite we went for a wander around the now familiar arenas.  I probably say it every year but the Latitude festival is held in a beautiful setting and it really comes alive after dark.  Dinner was a Chicken Tikka masala which was ok,  We didn't check any performances out and decided to ease into the weekend with an earlyish night.

Friday ended up being a busy day.  There was nothing much on the line up that floated our boat so wandered around from stage to stage trying to find stuff we liked.  We started at the lake stage and saw a little bit of Cameron AG then a while later Odetta Hartman, neither of which really moved us in any way.  Also a bit of Rajastan Express at the Obelisk which was pretty good. The first full performance we saw was Honne in the big tent, these kept us moving for the full set but not really my cup of tea.

We rarely visit the Sunrise arena so though we'd cross the bridge for a change.  We got there just in time to see Weaves, a four piece band with a charismatic female singer playing what sounded to me like punked up B52's.  Weaves got a big thumbs up from us both.  Next it was back to the Obelisk stage where we chilled in the sun watching British Sea Power.  I saw these play a few years ago and left unimpressed so didn't expect much was was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed them this time around.  By the time they finished I was almost a convert.

After a rest in the tent and dinner consisting of a very average special noodles from Hot Wok we were back to the Obelisk to meet up with Mr & Mrs G & family to see Beruit, who were pleasant enough. We then had a quick march to the Lake stage to see Loyle Carner, a young British rapper who was excellent and looks to have a bright future.  He seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and the reaction he got.  Final act of the day was in the big tent, a mad, energetic dance set from Grimes which got us all on our toes.  Grimes is a Canadian songwriter/performer with a quirky attitude and loads of energy, this was a brilliant finish to the day's live music.

Friday began with no expectations but once again Latitude surprised us and we discovered some great live experiences.  We'd covered a lot of miles during the day and there wasn't much the DJ's played that hooked us in so had another earlyish night.

I must mention our neighbours, a group in their early twenties who seemed nice enough but didn't realise how loud their voices were so we know everything about Anabella, Grace, Darcy, Imogen, Sophie, Isobel, Louis, Theo and Toby, the worlds leading expert on absolutely fucking everything.  NB  These names are not typical for rural Suffolk.

Festival Saturday usually finds the first two days exertions catching up with us and this was the case again this time.  We trudged around with little energy and were heading towards the Obelisk stage to chill out when the horrible country wails of Sturgil Simpson put up an invisible barrier.  This didn't prevent me hearing a horrible cover of 'When the Levee breaks'  Nothing good could ever come from christening someone 'Sturgil' and he belongs in hell.  We dived into the big tent just in time to see Ratboy belt out a blinding set of short, sharp, singalong punk tunes.  The C&W had done us a favour, we would not have discovered Ratboy if we'd have followed the original plan.

After that we resumed the plan of chilling the day away at the main stage.  We saw a little bit of Nathaniel Rateliff who threatened to go country but managed to avoid it.  Next up was a band from our childhood who we had to see for nostalgic reasons.  Squeeze came on and played all the hits from the eighties but for some reason it just didn't work for me.  Squeeze sounded squashed.

After another break and an ok ish burger & chips for fuel we were back at the main stage to see Chvrches, a three piece synth pop/rock band that my daughter Maddie had introduced me too.  I enjoyed Chvrches who belted out a good foot stamping rhythm and got a great reception from the crowd.  I particularly liked 'Clearest Blue' and 'Recover'.  We then dragged ourselves up to the big tent where we just about summoned up the energy to dance along to an hour of Soulwax.  This was a treat, a great rhythm belted out from no less than three drum kits and loads of keyboard madness eked the last of our dancing energy out.  We were shattered afterwards but it was worth it, Soulwax were excellent.  "It's not you it's the E talking..."

It was noticeable this year that the fashion for beards seems now to be in decline but there were still very many on display ranging from begrudgingly cool to laughably ridiculous.  There were also a few twats with waxed 'taches.  Dungarees seem to be popular which is odd because denim is horrible in this kind of heat and they make the wearers look like minions.

We were back up with a bounce on Sunday but it was till early afternoon by the time we made it to the lake stage to rendezvous with not only Mr & Mrs G but also other dear friends AKA 'the chemical brothers' who had actually become triplets.  Most of the day was spent in this exalted company, starting off at the Lake arena where we barely listened to a couple of unknown bands whilst chatting and laughing.

First performance of the day was punk trio Skinny Girl Diet who performed a short, high energy set in the Alcove which was packed and a lot of fun.  We also caught a bit of Minor Victories in the big tent which was forgettable, apparently. Sunday was fucking hot so after that we chilled out in the shade woods beside the Sunrise arena and settled for the music coming out of the tent.  First was some almost country from Marlon Williams that actually turned to blues by the ended of the set.  After the dodgy start it wasn't that bad.  Next came Little Green cars who sounded OK but we left before the end.  Dinner today was a Macaroni cheese which was the best meal I had all weekend but it still has to be said, piss poor VFM.

By early evening the big tent was just about habitable and we were in position in time to see Roots Manuva play a cracking set of dub/dance/reggae/rap finishing with a blinding rendition of 'Witness ...'.  After that we all head over to the Obelisk for the final part of the day.  M83 performed and were pretty good overall and very good in a couple of places.  They did a decent job of warming the crowd up for the main event.

We had come together on this glorious sunny Sunday to see a band that none of us had seen before, New Order.  None of us were huge fans but all of us recognise that New Order have influenced a great many of the musicians we like more.  All main stage headliners have the benefit of a big stage and an impressive light show, New Order took full advantage of this.  They started slowly but played a good set, mixing a few new songs into the list of old favourites.  I love 'True Faith' and 'Temptation' sounded great.  It has to be said they don't half look old these days!  They saved 'Blue Monday' for the encore and finished with the crowd singing along to 'Love will tear us apart'.  We all enjoyed the show and I would rate it as a very good performance but not a great one.

After that some had to go home but a few of us were still full of the spirit so roamed the various sound systems in search of something to feed the feet.  Everything sounded good but we eventually found some house anthems being played in the Sunrise and this dragged us in and immersed us.  Unfortunately we got there late in the set and it finished too soon...  Nothing quite hit the mark after that but we managed to stay out almost till the arena close at 0300.

Monday was seriously fucking hot which prevented us laying in the tent for hours.  Instead we had to get up early and pack away.  I'd been dreading pushing the busted barrow all the way back to the car since Thursday but I managed to complete the task without killing myself.


Best performances:-     Soulwax, New Order, Grimes
Honourable mentions:-     Chvrches, Roots Manuva, Loyle Carner
Pleasant surprises:-    Loyle Carner, Ratboy, Weaves.
Blast straight to hell:-     Sturgil Simpson
Go away and Practice:-    Squeeze
Next year:-     Remember to check the fucking tyre.

A couple of moans:-   Toilets on the arenas weren't particularly well looked after and there were cases of Flushing roulette this year.
The first time we went to Latitude the food was very good but has got steadily worse each year since.  We didn't eat anything that wasn't overpriced and it was all pretty bland.

This years was a strange festival as I didn't see any performance that really blew me away yet the Purple Princess and I loved Latitude again and probably enjoyed it as much as any.  This year we rediscovered one of the joys of the festival; wandering around checking things out and finding surprises.  Latitude is a great festival in a beautiful setting with the most chilled out vibe you can imagine.  We'll definitely be back next year whatever.


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Someone pays for every bullet.

I'm just back from a few days at a festival, out of the world.  Before I left the Brexit leaders had all ran to the hills in embarrassment at the lies they had told and we have a new PM (Maggie May), that nobody voted for.  I thought the EU was supposed to be undemocratic?

I come back to find another terrorist atrocity in France, possibly one in Germany too and is that a coup attempt in Turkey?

To make us all feel safer from terrorists the commons has voted to spend £41 billion on upgrading our nuclear "deterrent" which our new unelected PM has said she has no problem pressing the button to use...  Wait a minute, press the button first and bring down the end of the world.  Press the button second and well whats the fucking point?  We're all fucked any way.

We could spend that £41 billion on the NHS or schools or public services but instead we are giving it to the real global terrorists, arms manufacturers/dealers who are far too rich and powerful already. Someone, somewhere profits from every single bullet that is fired in this world.

Also England lost what looks to have been a really good test match against Pakistan.  The rest of this test summer should be really interesting now!