Wednesday, 29 June 2016

What the Hell Will Happen Now?

There's nothing like an impending economic disaster to rekindle an old friendship, so I wasn't surprised the morning after Brexit when I got an email from a pal I haven't really seen since I was in sixth-form college:

Hi Finn, congratulations on your nuptials. What the hell will happen now, so ashamed of our country! Can't believe the result! Just too awful. X

That got me thinking, what the hell will happen now? 

Short Term

Political chaos: David Cameron's going, but someone has to pull the trigger on the economy by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. The Blairite knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn who is hated by most of the parliamentary Labour party, but luckily has the mandate to lead from the party members. 172 MPs have declared they have no confidence in him. 200,000 party members have signed a petition backing him - 10,000 turned up in person. 

What We Can Do

Consider joining a political party and having a say in who is going to be leading the country and who is going to be the leader of the opposition. I couldn't give a fuck who runs the Conservative Party, but if a Blair-lite warmonger like Hilary Benn or his backstabbing cronies take back control of the Labour Party from its members, then the scope of debate will be seriously narrowed.   

For this reason, I joined the Labour Party today. This was a big step for me. The last club I joined was the He-man and the Masters of the Universe Club when I was six. I got a membership card and a secret identity, but the quarterly magazine was basically a catalogue of toy adverts and my colouring skills were insufficient to win any of the competitions. It put me off joining clubs, so I await my Labour membership card (and secret identity) with trepidation.

Medium Term

Economic chaos has only really been on graphs so far. Billions of pounds wiped off the FTSE etc (where does it go? And when the opposite happens, why don't the headlines say: "Billions of pounds appeared from nowhere!"). In the medium term, this will translate into job losses. Factories and businesses may well relocate to inside the EU. Even if you don't work directly for one of these the effect of a rise in unemployment will be felt everywhere. 

Prices for imported goods will rise: initially because of the weak pound and a bit later because of the shitty trade deals we will get with other nations that daren't give us a break lest their own populations demand a referendum. 

Areas that previously received funding from the EU but voted out anyway (looking at you Cornwall and Wales) will miss that investment. No spaceport for Newquay anymore, back to selling Jaegar Bombs to stag dos.

What We Can Do

Support our friends and family whose livelihoods are affected. Use their businesses to prevent them failing. Employ our jobless mates where you can. Include the bartender when we buy a round of drinks. Host a party to cheer everyone up.

Shop locally. Keep what money is floating around in the economy in the local area for as long as possible.  

Ironically, the weak pound is actually good for exports. There is even talk of there being a rescue for Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant. Lobby the political party that you joined after reading the last section to invest in manufacture, securing jobs.

Long Term

God knows: revolution? 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Keep the a-spike-distra flying

Regular readers of this blog will know that my cactus, Spike, is a committed Europhile. Obviously, he doesn't get a vote in the upcoming referendum and to judge by his colour, he is pretty pissed off with the whole thing.

Spike and I have been housemates for over a decade. In that time, we have had nine addresses in Norwich. You will see why he is worried about the chaos that may ensue following the UK's departure from the EU. I think he just craves some stability!

For the last few months, both sides of the EU debate have been making their claims about sovereignty, immigration and the economy. I paid attention in the beginning - I laid out my thoughts at the time here - but soon switched off when the mudslinging and lying and campaign buses started to dominate the news agenda to the point of tedium.

It is tempting to see the referendum as a non-debate, whichever side we pick, in or out, the winners are going to be the corporations and financial institutions who are the real enemy. From this point of view - we are just squabbling over which faction of the Tory party gets to sell our nation. The elites will never give us a referendum on signing up to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Spike insisted on being moved to the kitchen
for this shot because the light was
better and he didn't want the recycling bin
 in the background.
More recently, I have come round to the opinion that the faction of the Tory party who want to sell off our nation whilst being part of the EU will find their job marginally more difficult than the ones that want to sell off our nation after leaving the EU. To fight the billionaires and the corporate interests that threaten democracy, we need every weapon in the democratic arsenal and that includes the (unwieldy but theoretically reformable) European Union.

For certain complicated (but I assure you not fraudulent) reasons that I won't bore you with, I get two votes in this referendum and I shall be giving them both to the 'remain' camp on Thursday.

If you haven't yet made up your mind how to vote, think about the disenfranchised and ask yourself: What would Spike do?

Friday, 17 June 2016

Angel Days

An Angel Day is a day when you are supposed to spend your time selling your labour power to profit someone else, but instead you spend your time creatively, thus profiting yourself. If you call in sick to work and spend the day watching telly - that's a sickie. If you call in sick to work and spend the day writing, painting or playing music - that's an Angel Day.

The phrase was coined by my old pal and former bandmate Giles back when he was working a soulless IT job. He left the job and the county of Dorset sometime just after the Millennium. Thanks to a reconnection via Facebook, I see he is now the vocalist for a psy-dub reggae band called dubblecross. Check them out!

At the end of the 1990s, Giles and I were in a band called Land. (We were originally called Bond, but then a string quartet stole our name and went on to sell 4 million albums - don't bother to check them out.) The other members of the band were Jonnyboy on drums, Chloe on vocals and Bob the Bassist. This line-up played precisely one gig of four songs at the Brewer's Arms in the Spring of 1999. It was the leaving party for the pub's landlord and landlady who were moving back to Ireland. I helped them move, but hadn't planned on how to get home so wound up working in a pottery factory in Ireland for six months.

Me in Ireland, summer of 1999 - I still have that Guinness T-shirt.
I have no idea what happened to the tweed jacket.
Upon my return, I discovered that Land had called in my mate Alex to play guitar in my place. In fairness, this was a good call. Alex can actually play the guitar properly. He knows scales and can figure out how to play a song by listening to it! I jammed with them a couple of times, but ultimately felt my place was better suited to propping up the bar at their gigs (or roadying as I liked to call it). And so my career as a rock and roll star came to an end. I don't play music as often as I used to, which is what makes Angel Days all the more important.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Piccolo Problem

The piccolo problem is not, as you might expect, a problem for piccolo players. It is a problem for players of large instruments such as the cello, the double bass and the sousaphone. When they are lugging their instruments up stairs, say, or on and off public transport, complete strangers will stop them and say: "I bet you wish you played the piccolo." Douglas Adams was the first to point out that nobody works out that this is exactly what everybody else says. So the encumbered musician will hear this every working day for the rest of his or her life.

There is a related problem for recently married bartenders. Upon meeting me for the first time post-nuptials, every regular says the same thing: "So, how's married life treating you?" 

I know that it's a friendly way of asking how I am and showing that they have remembered a small fact about my personal life. Two essentials to British smalltalk covered in a single simple interrogative. Problem is that I serve hundreds of pints a week and once worked out that I know about two hundred regulars and what they usually drink. I can be answering this question a dozen times a day. If I don't answer it with sufficient enthusiasm, people look askance and think something terrible must have happened on the honeymoon.

Another problem is that half the people expect you to answer that married life is not very different from life prior to marriage and the other half expect to you to say that married life is totally different. I have to guess which group the person falls into so I can give them the answer that they are expecting. If I guess wrong I have to change my answer to the exact opposite to save their embarrassment. This whole process is so confusing, I have even considered just answering their question truthfully!

Just to clarify, married life is treating me very well as you can see from the amount of weight I have gained and productivity I have lost. The honeymoon was amazing (see selfie below) and married life is both very different and very similar to unmarried life - it depends who's asking. I play the mandolin (badly), so the piccolo problem has never really been a problem for me. I hope that covers everything.      

Practising selfies by the walls of the Old Town in Tallinn