The UK Can’t Go On Like This

Why is Michael Gove still anywhere near the government of this country? It has been proven in court that he broke the law; surely any respectable, responsible MP would resign. Only Gove, like most of his Tory colleagues, is neither respectable or responsible. He is a man of clearly very limited intelligence and ability who has somehow been promoted to a position of authority he has no right to be in. He and his Tory mates seem to think that political power is their birthright, and the rest of us should defer to them and humbly just let them get on with it. Yet the mess these idiots have made of the country is becoming clearer day by day, both over Brexit, the pandemic and a range of other issues: the tories keep up the pretence that everything is fine, but they know the UK is heading for a massive economic slump and the return of conflict in Northern Ireland. Now that they are actively breaking the law but carrying on as if it doesn’t apply to them, isn’t it time we stood up to these inept, arrogant morons and got a proper government?

Would Tolkien have Approved of this?

Just to illustrate what I was saying a couple of days ago about Tolkien and the web, one of the first things I came across on facebook this morning was this rap battle, supposedly between Tolkien and George R R Martin. While it’s obviously quite amusing and very well made, it’s hard to see Tolkien – famously quite a conservative person – approving of his image being used in things like this. I suppose it’s just one of the consequences of his work having been opened up to mass media and online culture. While the people who make videos like this clearly know what they are talking about, and you might even call it a form of commentary or analysis, to see Tolkien being played around and made fun of like this sort of makes me frown.

File on Four, The Cost of Care

A couple of weeks or so ago, my colleagues at the Greenwich Association of Disabled People were contacted by someone from BBC Radio Four’s File On Four about the impact of benefit cuts. The radio show apparently wanted to interview disabled people about how badly the government’s changes to social care charging had impacted them. I didn’t feel I could help much, so chose not to contribute, but you can listen to the show this evening at eight, here.

The new Perspective we Cannot Loose

I think the best thing I can do here today is flag this Guardian article up. In it, Frances Ryan writes about the impact lockdown has had for disabled people, both good and bad: “[J]ust as it took the non-disabled public to experience a dose of what disabled people have for years before access was improved, the fear is that any gains made during the pandemic will be discarded now that the wider public no longer need them themselves.” The pandemic forced nondisabled people to adjust to things like social distancing, Ryan writes, giving everyone a taste of the type of isolation we crips have had to put up with all our lives. She fears that the adaptations made during the pandemic such as holding meetings online will be reversed once the emergency is over. I certainly agree. It will be all too easy for everyone to just go back to normal, which is why we must make sure people don’t forget about the last eighteen months and the isolation and restriction they felt. At last everyone got a taste of what some of us endure every day: we cannot let them loose that perspective.

Tolkien and Online Culture

I think I’ve mentioned on here before, a while ago, that my Dad read Tolkien to me when I was eight or nine. I grew up loving the books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and they were possibly the biggest reasons why I wanted to become a writer. When it was announced, in 1997 or so, that the books were going to be adapted into films, I remember being over the moon with excitement: I just couldn’t wait to see my favourite characters brought to life on the cinema screen. At that point, it remained to be seen whether Peter Jackson’s adaptations would be any good, but I really looked forward to seeing stories which had been such a big part of my childhood finally becoming mainstream. At last my classmates would get to see what I had been going on about for all those years.

In the end, of course, the films proved a great success; I don’t think anyone could have done a better job of adapting them than Peter Jackson. I think he was as faithful to the books as he could possibly be. The Fellowship Of The Ring premiered in 2001, the year I left school, so the irony is I never got to ask my old friends what they thought of the story. The bigger problem I have now, however, is that it has perhaps become too mainstream: a narrative and characters which was once something private and personal – something I shared with my father – is now a massive part of popular culture. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are now everywhere, not only in film form but as computer games, Youtube videos and facebook memes, and I can’t help thinking it has gone too far. I fear this narrative has now become too divorced from Tolkien’s original books, which were, after all, about language and text. They have become the plaything of thousands of internet fans with no regard for what Tolkien was trying to originally achieve.

To a certain extent this is a natural result of the success of the film, and some of the things I have seen online, such as videos which explore Tolkien’s mythos in detail, clearly have a great deal of love and respect for his writing. Yet alongside that comes a lot of childish, lighthearted rubbish which thinks it’s being clever by trying to poke fun of a narrative most people are now familiar with. Perhaps it’s my perception, but I’m seeing more and more of it these days, and it’s becoming cruder and cruder. To see something which was such a huge part of my childhood being played around with and turned into something so lightweight and adolescent, by people who obviously have no knowledge of or respect for Tolkien’s work, really is disheartening. More to the point though, I can’t help wondering what Tolkien himself would have said if he saw his life’s work being turned into this tripe. Would he have approved of his stories being used like this? I doubt it, which in a way makes me think that perhaps these stories should have been allowed to remain as books, in their original form.

Two TV programs I’m looking Forward To

Today I just want to note a couple of television programs which have caught my eye and which I’m looking forward to. The first is Time, on BBC One tomorrow evening. I don’t ordinarily go in for prison dramas, but I’ve been a fan of Sean Bean since Sharpe, and will be interested to see his return to tv after such an absence playing roles like Boromir, Alec Trevellyn and Ned Stark. The second thing I’m looking forward to watching is a PBS documentary series about Earnest Hemingway. I have been interested in Hemingway since watching Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure in 1999. I saw an ad for the new series on BBC Four a couple of days ago (I think), and it looks like it will explore how he became the gritty, adventurous character he is famous for being. I haven’t yet found out when it will air, but no doubt I will really get into it (and probably blog about it) when it does.

Nasa announces two new missions to Venus

Apart from the splendid weather of course, this is possibly the most interesting news of the week. NASA has announced plans to send two probes to Venus. They will be launched between 2028 and 2030, with the intention of investigating why Venus’s atmosphere differs so drastically from Earth’s. I think that’s very promising indeed. Venus can, in a way, be seen as a sister planet to the Earth, so exploring why Venus is a barren ball of molten rock while life flourished here might give us clues about how to better care for our own planet.

Platinum jubilee ideas

I heard earlier that the plans have been announced for the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations next year. Can you guess what my first thought was? I wonder whether James Bond will be involved again. Sad git that I am, I can’t help thinking it would be cool if they did something similar to the stunt they performed for the London Olympic Opening Ceremony. That was,  after all, the Queen’s golden jubilee year. Could they keep up the tradition? Or, better still, could they use the occasion to announce the next actor to play 007? (Forget the queen, I’m more interested in James Bond.)

The Mark of a Civilised Society

If anyone could be in any doubt over whether or not the NHS is one of the greatest aspects of the UK, they just need to read this. An experimental gene replacement therapy, which would have cost millions to pay for privately, has been used to save a young boy’s life. Stories like this make me very relieved indeed that we have the National Health Service. Under a private healthcare system like America’s, this treatment would have been prohibitively expensive to all but the richest of parents, so this child would have been left to die. But due to the NHS, we as a society collectively funded the millions of pounds this treatment cost, so together we gave him a chance to live. A baby’s right to life – or anyone else’s – should not depend on how rich anyone is; anyone should be given the best treatment possible, if they need it. Surely only a community which recognises that, which cares for all it’s members equally, has any right to claim to be civilised.

Reflections Upon a Crowded Park

It’s a lovely spring day, and I just got in from a fairly long walk. I went through Greenwich Park (twice) and I have to say it was the busiest it has been for a long time: I go through the park quite often, and it hasn’t been that crowded in ages. I had to swerve my chair to avoid people every few metres. Of course, this being a bank holiday, maybe that is to be expected, but I can’t help worrying that we might now be returning to ‘normal’ too quickly. Everyone seems to have suddenly assumed that the pandemic is over, and that they can act as they did before it. Every pub, restaurant and cafe I passed today seemed packed. To  a certain extent I can’t really criticise, as I’d be in there with them under other circumstances; yet I can’t help worrying that if we take things too fast and snap too eagerly back to normal, this nasty little virus could return with a vengeance.