A night out in New Cross

There could well have been a picture of some woman’s arse on here this morning. Lyn, Paul and I were out in New Cross last night, at the New Cross Inn. We had an incredible time: they had a rock night, with three heavy rock bands playing. Although I didn’t recognise any of the songs played (they were all original, and the music was too loud for me to hear any of the lyrics) it was right up my street. I still love all the headbanging, metal stuff, and I really got into it. L and I sat quite near the stage, and had a very good view of proceedings. Frankly I just had fun looking at some of the hair styles of the rockers in there; there was even one guy who looked like a viking, with bright, red bushy hair and a beard to match.

At one point, though, a woman came and stood right in front of Lyn so that she couldn’t see. The quick-witted Lyn asked on her ipad whether she should take a photo of the woman’s butt, as it was right in front of her Ipad’s camera. Fortunately someone behind us at that point saw Lyn’s question and asked the woman to move, but I think L should have taken the photo – it would have made a good blog entry.

All in all it was a great evening: it feels like ages since we last went out properly like that, but I’m now dying to go again. We got home at about half twelve, tired but both completely sober. Awesome nights like that is what this city is great at, and that’s why I still love it.

Uncle David

I received another bit of sad news this morning: my Uncle David has passed away after a long, valiant fight with cancer. I was quite fond of my uncle, and warmly remember exploring his farm in Brazil on horseback ten years ago. My thoughts go out to my Aunt Toula, cousins Christina and Alexander, and their families. I love you guys – stay strong.

The evening news

Lyn and I got in from quite a pleasant afternoon out and about to news of yet another shooting at a school in America. I just feel bemused. I genuinely don’t understand how the Americans can continue to let these shootings happen. There have been several school shootings in America already this year, and yet they do nothing to stop them. It’s sickening, chilling news, but perhaps the most peverse thing was how the evening news bulletins glossed over this bloodshed to make room for a story about two rich, irrelevant people getting married.

Powerchair football and unihock

I just got back from a really cool early evening. As well as the Saturday afternoon sessions, there is also a powerchair football practice session at four on Thursdays. I went along today with Matt. I want more footage for my powerchair football film, as I’m not really happy with my first attempt. It turned out to be a great, great session: we actually played a game today rather than judst practicing skills, which I suspect wielded some great footage. My skill at the game is also coming on il leaps and bounds, and I can now hit the large inflated ball with some accuracy.

Part of the way through the session, though, my mind flipped back to the last time I hit things around sports halls. Back at school I used to love playing unihock with my class. Whacking a small orange puck around the wooden floor of the school hall was how the eight of us let off steam. We got quite skilled at it. What I didn’t realise at the time was it was probably also a way for my classmates to let off steam. Over in Woolwich earlier, I was struck by an idea: could I now use those old unihock sessions for the basis of some kind of story, either as prose or on screen? Eight or nine severely disabled adolescents letting their frustrations with the world out on a hockey puck could well be a story worth telling.

Support for trump is starting to take on aspects of a cult

I am just going to flag up two very, very scary videos today which, combined, I think paint a picture of just how fucked up things are getting in the states. The first is this one by The Young Turks. In it, Cenk Uygur describes how Donald Trump has got the Republican party to, as he puts it, loose it’s mind: it is now blatantly ignoring any evidence, no matter how tangible or irrefutable, which contradicts their views on trump. They believe trump over any other source of information, no matter how inarguable, to the extent that, to Uygur, support for trump is starting to take on aspects of a religious cult or even fascism. As he says, trump is turning those who support him away from law enforcement bodies like the FBI, so that they now regard Trump as an authority above all others. Support for him has started to take on elements of fascism.

Similarly, this Big Think video describes how fundamentalists back Trump, and how Christianity has been usurped and distorted by all these nutjob evangelicals into an ultra-capitalist, intolerant cult. They use something called ”the Prosperity Gospel” to claim that christianity supports their greed-driven, intolerant views, and regard trump as something akin to a messiah.

I know I can be a bit extreme on here sometimes,, and that I can be too liberal when it comes to accusations of fascism, but here part of me wants to believe that these videos go too far in the picture they paint. Surely they are being hand-wringing liberals, overreacting to a republican president; a case of Godwin’s Law. Yet their arguments are well made and hard to deny, to the extent that one suspects that there is a large element of truth in them. If that is so, though, and what is happening culturally in America is indeed taking on strong fascistic elements, then we should all be very, very worried.

An afternoon in Stratford

Lyn and I just got in after a lovely afternoon up in Stratford. Believe it or not, I hadn’t been up there for a few months, and I was surprised by how much it had changed. The place seems to be thriving, with multi-story buildings going up all over the place. Queen Elisabeth Olympic Park has really blossomed into a great place to go, and the short walk by the River Lea we took reminded me of when Bill used to push me along the canals near Alsager.

Above all, though, visiting that park never fails to remind me of what took place there six years ago. Walking towards the stadium, following Lyn, it felt like many decades had passed since the night she and the Paraorchestra played for the world in there. So much has happened since then, both good and bad. But you never forget events like that: Occasions so enormous and wonderful that they stay riveted permanently into your memory; and whenever you need to remind yourself of just how truly spectacular life can get, you have only to think about them. Before 2005 there was nothing in that area apart from a couple of ramshackle tower blocks, but seven years later we hosted a truly great olympics there, putting on a performance which blew everyone away, leaving behind one of the coolest parts of the metropolis. Going there thus not only reminds me of great memories, but what we can do and are capable of.

The world has changed a great deal since 2012, and not for the better. That year was an incredible one for me, and things got even better two years later. Since 2016, though, things seem to have gone down hill for the whole world, which is probably why my memories of 2012 now seem so distant. Yet despite the stupidity currently enveloping both the UK and America, there is still room for awesomeness: I only need to take the short tube ride up to Stratford, preferably with Lyn, to remember that.

My old Lady

It has been far, far too long since I last visited Paris.

There was a bit of an unexpected treat on tv last night: the late film on bbc2 was My Old Lady, a comic drama with Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith set in the french capital. It was quite a lovely little text about an American Guy and a doddering old Englishwoman, but the principal effect it had on me was that it made mewant to go. It was set in the centre of the city, so there were some great, rather adoring shots of the quaint french streets. There was a certain romanticism for Paris to the film, and it reminded me of the stories of British and American ex-pats living there in the Twenties. London is awesome, but I still think there is a beauty to Paris which I don’t think any other city has.

Dance Me To My Song

had something very interesting waiting for me when I got to my computer this morning. Lyn had sent me a link to a film on Youtube. She had found it over night and sent me a link, mentioning that she had done so when she came to bed. The film L sent me was dubbed in Italian, but a quick bit of googling later produced the original Australian version of Dance Me To My Song.

I just finished watching it. As Lyn had told me, it was about a woman with Cerebral Palsy, but I must say I did not find it unproblematic: it is a very dark film indeed, essentially depicting the abuse of someone with severe CP. On the other hand, the way the woman, Julia, becomes more and more independent as the film goes on is uplifting; and it was good to see the bitch doing the abuse get her comeuppance in the end.

Having watched it, I find myself in two minds. To be honest, Julia reminds me a lot of Lyn; and it was good to see a character with severe CP being played by someone with severe CP, Heather Rose, who also wrote the film. On the other hand, I found the film sometimes nevertheless lapses into stereotype, and I found myself wondering whether the characters would really act in the way they did. Above all, though, I found watching someone with a severe disability getting abused like that – both physically and getting taken advantage of – very disturbing indeed. Thus, while I’m glad lyn flagged this film up for me, I must say I found it rather frightening. Mind you, that is not to say that I don’t think it warrants a second viewing.

Go Set A Watchman

Last night I finished reading Go Set A Watchman. When I started it the first time, I abandoned it halfway through, so it had been lying by the sofa in our conservatory unfinished for about a year. I had given up on it because of the way I felt it spoiled To Kill a Mockingbird: it took a character who had been aa hero of mine, Atticus Finch, and re-presented him as a racist. However, after finishing Fire and Fury last week, I thought I had better polish off Harper Lee’s effort before starting anything else.

I decided to make an effort and get it read quickly. Once I started it a second time (I thought it best to start from the first chapter again) I found I could hardly put it down. It was still a difficult text, but this time I found it intriguing. It is an exploration of the American South and the Southern way of life. It does not forgive or excuse bigotry, yet it explains it. Scout, returning to her old home town after so many years in New York, finds herself at odds with the racist values she returns to. Even her father, whom she had always looked up to, seems to now share these values.

Yet the invaluable lesson this novel teaches us is one of acceptance. Nobody has the right to force their values onto anyone else, and whether we like it or not that includes bigotry. True tolerance must include tolerance of those whose views we find abominable. That is what Lee is saying through atticus.

It’s a very difficult lesson to learn, but one we could all do well to heed. Scout finds herself utterly at odds with the maycomb she returns to just as we remainers find ourselves increasingly at odds with Brexit Britain. But rather than rail against the system and try to impose her views on her old town, Atticus shows his daughter that true tolerance lies in acceptance: true bigotry, by definition, is refusing to tolerate other people’s views. Thus, at least as Lee frames it, if scout tried to impose her more liberal values on the citizens of Maycomb, she would effectively be as intolerant as the white supremacists she rails against. Atticus is thus not a bigot but a liberal in the truest sense.

Now I have finished it I see Go Set A Watchman for what it is: an absolute masterpiece. I was once upset at how Atticus’ portrayal in this book seemed a betrayal of how he was portrayed in To Kill A Mockingbird, yet Lee shows how they are in fact one and the same character. That is where the beauty of this novel lies.