Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thats Fab but where are the Zooms?

To the distinguished company of lums, good evening,

Leaving the office the other night and navigating my way around and through the thousand or so bikes that are tied up and shackled together on the pavements I spotted a Raleigh Arena. A bit tired and shabby but it must have been about 25 years old so no shame in that. Still, it was a real blast from my 80s past.

These were popular wheels in my early teens, before the advent of mountain bikes and the BMX, the racing bike was the way to go and a bit of a marker on the road to adulthood, like your first fluffy moustache or choosing your own clothes to buy in Chelsea Boy.

When I finally matured onto a racer, it wasn't a Raleigh Arena that I plumped for, not surprising I'm sure to those familiar with my contrary streak, but something called a Carlton Commander. With a name like that it sounds like you would most likely find it leaning up against the railings of the Admiralty, it did have full size mud guards, which didn't really do much for my street cred but for those that really knew about racing bikes, well, this was like , er, an Opel Monza in a street of Mantas.

It must have been 20 years since I had seen an Arena and it got me thinking of the other bikes that were popular around my early teens. My first decent bike was something called a Laser. It wasn't from Raleigh, but from some Chinese mob I think, I know one thing , they couldn't weld, and if it had been a private jet I would have been killed in a disastrous structural failure.

My pal had a Chopper, in that orangey colour, with the dangerous castrating gear lever just ready to do away with your freshly dropped marbles the first time your chain came off. The little brother to the Chopper was the Tomahawk, there was a couple of these about the scheme too, I quite liked these, they were stable for a start with sensible wheels.

Lessons having been learned from my Laser, my next ride was Raleigh engineering at its best, the Grifter. And what engineering, twist grip gear changes, big knobbly tyres, stubby little mud guards that allowed dirty water to spray right up your back and a big solid frame that meant it weighed about a quarter ton. Foam seats that you picked away over the years and a big foam rubber safety bar on your handlebars, for no apparent use whatsoever, though it might have been for the safety of any pedestrians you ran over.

The Grifter was the highpoint of useless bikes for teens development, after that they became better and more like what we have now. Raleigh brought out something called a Burner, that was an early BMX type thing, in garish blue with yellow foam padding on the bits you might bang your head, knees or nuts on and it had totally rad man, sorry, 5 spoke plastic wheels.

I remember one of the boys in the street getting a Raleigh Bomber, which on reflection may have been a bit of a pre-cursor to the mountain bike, it certainly wasn't a racer, it was bigger and more substantial, not sure about the name though. It had pictures of Lancaster Bombers caught in searchlights on the frame, I'm not sure how that would have gone down with the German export market, maybe it was called the Raleigh Blitzkrieg over there.

I'm a sucker for new sweets, I have to try them when I see them. I do wonder why they take so long to come up with them though, especially when its a brand extension like these new Milky Bars with biscuit and raisins. Milky Bars have been around for like ever, without much change, they made a chunky one, and buttons but never adding anything else in, its like its grown up, I'm not sure if I like that, it is tasty though. When are we getting Spangles back and Texan bars and can anyone remember a Nutty? Actually, health and safety regulations probably done for Spangles, given that if you bit one it took on all the characteristics of a thick and weighty broken medicine bottle and tore your tongue to shreds. Its nice to see FABS still in the ice lolly compartments but where are the Zooms?

Sitting in a little traffic jam in Kilsyth at the weekend, I noticed in the window of the house opposite a big bird cage with a budgie in it. Now, I'm not at all sure about caging birds of any kind, but to then sit it in front of the window,watching all the other birds flit about in the wide open world just seems like a little extra torment on top for the poor thing. Its like building a prison, with excellent uninterrupted views of Copacabana beach for the inmates.

One more thing tonight, on the news a few days ago there was a report from Afghanistan, about the efforts to improve the infrastructure in Kabul, building roads and laying pipes and other things that will ultimately turn out to be a waste of time and effort, and I noticed the Afghan workmen all wearing Hi-Viz vests, and I thought, even in Kabul, with all those other things that may have an influence on when you turn your toes up, Health and Safety still have you in Hi-Viz vests, how dangerous a place does it need to be before they say, forget it mate, it doesn't matter.

Sorry, one more, one more thing. I'm no Blair fan, but I think Tony Blair giving his book advance and royalties to charity is the absolutely right thing to do, and in fact no public servant of that statute should profit in that way really, but its mean, I think, to accuse him of doing it unwillingly, or as a sign of guilt or conscience at the deaths and injuries from the war. I expect he does have a heavy conscience in many ways, but he couldn't win in this instance, he really was damned if he did and damned if he didn't so we should take it for what it is, a charitable donation to a very worthy cause and remember that Blair is damned anyway.

Lang may yer lum reek.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And there will be no BEVVEYING

My lum is fair reeking,

I enjoy writing this little blog, it is of course not going to win any Pulitzer prizes but I have a bit of fun doing it and to be honest, it gives me something to think about. But any kicks I get from it are multiplied ten fold when someone leaves a little comment, so thanks to Mr Michael R and any one else that has over the past few months. At the very least it lets me know someone reads it from time to time, but to think it motivates a person to think and then do something with that thought is really quite thrilling.

Its been three months or so with my anti-apple HTC Desire Android phone, so I think a user update will be of public service, and you never know, if someone from HTC or Google reads it, they might leave a comment too, though in this particular instance, free stuff would be better. Lets get one thing out the way first, I love it. Even in the face of that i-phone 4 and its "this changes everything, again" advertising slogan. Well, they got that right, it has changed everything, now we know Apple can make an arse of things too, and perhaps they are not all cloned geniuses.
Anyway, back to the HTC. I love the Apps, though a little too many of those useless novelty apps beginning to sneak into the store, Google apps are generally brilliant and well thought out and easy to use. I'm loving Latitude, though I've only got one pal listed on it, still it will tell me when we're close by, and we can wave across the road at each other and text hello. Speaking of texting, the only little gripe I have is about predictive text. On numerous occasions i have sent away a message, placing perfect trust in the predictive numskulls inside my handset, only to look at it later and think, It must be like receiving a message from the policeman in Allo, Allo. The other little negative stoking my lum is the battery life, it lasts a day, but not with bluetooth, or Wi-Fi on. But all in all, I like it and would recommend it to anyone.

Jimmy Reid passed away today. Most I expect wont really have noticed, or even know who I'm talking about but he was perhaps one of the most admirable Scotsmen of the last 50 years.
Back in the early 70s, when the nationalised shipbuilding yards of the upper Clyde were threatened with closure he led a very unusual, and very successful industrial action that had Scottish socialism and Scottish pragmatism stamped all over it.
Instead of organising a strike, or a sit in, or a go slow, or a work to rule, all those ultimately destructive and confrontational actions that went so far later in the decade to crippling the UK's manufacturing capacity, he led a work in.
He knew that if he led the workers out the yard, they would lock the gates and that would be that, what Jimmy Reid argued was that the yards were viable, and they were mistaken in wanting to close them and he set out to show them that the Scottish working man could do just that in an inspiring and disciplined way.
As shop steward he addressed the thousands of at risk shipbuilders, it was televised and went on to be broadcast around the world. I was too young to remember it at the time, but even years later I was still aware of it, and I think its this more than any other thing that has left a slight socialist mark on me, one that I'm pleased with, even proud of in this day and age. So, he stands up in front of these hard arsed welders and grafters to tell them what the union was going to do.

"We are not going on strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism and there will be no bevveying, because the world is watching us"

And it worked, the government relented, changed their plans and some say the only reason there are still ships built in Govan and Scotstoun today is because of what Jimmy Reid inspired and the positive action he led the people to take.
In some ways he filled a very Scottish brief, working class, from humble beginnings, rooted in the poverty of pre-war industrial Glasgow, but a man who learns, expresses himself intellectually for the common good of the put upon, going on to become one of our finest journalists, broadcasters and even philosphers, yet never forgetting why.
I've nicked a piece from the BBC website tonight, in an unprecedented step for the Reeking Lum, I'll paste it below, hopefully because I've paid my TV licence I'm entitled too, it paints a little colour of what went on in Govan in 1971. Apologies for the multitude of fonts.
RIP Jimmy Reid, lang may yer lum reek.
Jimmy Reid brought the British Government's attention to the Scottish shipbuilding industry by organising a work-in of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971.

The communist shop-steward helped to reverse the decision of the British Government to close the ship yards. Edward Heath took a U-turn and announced a £35 million injection of cash into the yards at Govan, Scotstoun and Linthouse.
Within three years, shipbuilding on the Upper Clyde had received around £101 million of public grants and credits, with £20 million going to the UCS.
In a revealing interview to the BBC programme UK Confidential, Reid explains how he gained support for his cause from celebrities such as John Lennon and how he went about organising the campaign.
Why did you go for the work-in in 1971?

Workers at the Clyde ship yard
8,500 jobs in the yard were at stake with the closure of UCS
Because it was the only logical effective form of opposition to closure. Strike action was unthinkable, we would have left the factory, the yards and that would have delighted the government because they would have put padlocks on the gates. So that was out.
We did consider a second strike but I reckon it was far too negative that, and we had an enormous order book, plenty of work and the logical thing was, why don't we work-in, refuse to accept redundancy and work.

It seems to me talking to former government ministers from that time, you really surprised the government with what you did. Did you really expect to surprise them as much as you did?
Yes I've no doubt that the form of the struggle that we had adopted took everything, everyone aback, and not only that but the way we elucidated, we explained our case. For example when asked; "what if the police came in, what are you going to do?" We won't resist, we are not violent, they will need to come and drag us out. We would only resist in that respect.
You're talking about eight thousand workers, overwhelmingly family men with kids.
This was an image that I think the chief constables told the government that they couldn't guarantee that their members, that is the policemen, would carry that out, because it would alienate the whole community.

Why did you not buy the government's argument that - and I'm just putting their argument, they said, this is not commercially viable?
Their case was untrue. The facts didn't tally.
We had agreements we had reached about the interchangeability of certain work grades and all the rest of it that were quite significantly ahead of anything else in British shipbuilding, and so we had these things going.
Now the truth of the matter is, as the Ridley report clearly shows, this was Nicholas Ridley in the opposition. He had produced this report, secret, confidential, and it suggested a number in the shadow Cabinet including Heath and Margaret Thatcher who was a minister at the time, saying, we should butcher the Upper Clyde and sell its assets cheaply to those in the Lower Clyde.
The significant difference was that the Upper Clyde was publicly owned, and the Lower Clyde was privately owned.
And Ridley as we all now know, and everyone knows but we knew it at the time, was a Thatcherite before the term was coined. And that's why when you look back to these times, we had been sacrificed at the altar of a political ideology. It was a political ideology of Thatcherism before Margaret Thatcher embraced it.
Now you received support from across the world and I believe that one of the people you received support from was somebody you thought was a revolutionary. Can you tell me that story?
Yes we had a press conference. So you get this crowded press room and they're answering the questions and some of the stewards that were guarding the gate as it were, I don't mean guarding in any sense except making sure what was going on and what was going out was acceptable.

John Lennon supported the workers
John Lennon supported the workers
So they come in and they said: "Hey Jimmy you've got a big wagon wheel out there of roses for you". I'd never received flowers from anybody, not the done thing in Clydeside for a man to get flowers and so I said: "Who's it from?" He says: "I don't know but there's a cheque here," and he looked and all he could see was Lennon, L-e-n-n-o-n. He said: "Lennon, some guy called Lennon".
One of the old communist shop stewards from Dumbarton, he says, "it cannae be Lenin, he's dead".

That's amazing, having pop stars supporting your campaign.
Well not only pop stars. It was people in the entertainment industry in general.
I think Jack Bruce came out of retirement to give a concert for us in London and Eric Clapton.
So stars together, put on a show for us in Glasgow, it was like a royal command performance, all coming and queuing.
But that's less important than the weekly contributions and children having little jumble sales at street corners and churches.
Believe it or not we actually got regular contributions from a Conservative party constituency association that thought we were right and the government was wrong and the money poured in, and then from abroad, all over Europe.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Twats, Toy Story and Mojitos

Lums of the World, listen up.

The City of London. A living, breathing monument to Great Britain. When you see that enormous Union flag flying above the Palace of Westminster, you cant help but be impressed and even proud to be a part of this nation. In the City, and in Canary Wharf, the towering glass and steel monoliths to capitalist endeavour are also stand testament to our "greatness".
The shadows they cast probably have more rental value than anything I can even imagine.
In these lofty halls, deals are made, mountains of money are willed into existence just by the power of a compelling presentation and a colourful chart or graph, and the fate of everyone of us is held under the enter button of a leveraged hedge fund managers laptop.

Its a shame then that those glinting gables and heaven brushing ivory spires are populated by such a singular collection of twats and nobs. I can perhaps understand why they have to be wankers at work, after all, if they spend all day stealing pensions or making 50,000 people jobless, it must be hard to come over as a right decent bloke, but for the general betterment of mankind, and especially the mankind that is me, leave it in the office.

I had the dubious fortune to be placed on a table next to a knot of these toads earlier today.
I thought I would spend the early afternoon in the very agreeable Greenwich. I bought a book, ironically, its called How They Blew It its about the CEOs and entrepreneurs behind the worlds most catastrophic business failures.

I found a nice little beer garden, The Gypsy Moth, right beside the sooty, charred remains of The Cutty Sark, where I could enjoy a couple of pints of the black stuff and leisurely flick through the pages, chortling at the comedy that I would derive from former multi-billionaires losing all their money.

A busy little place on a sunny summer afternoon, I had no choice but to be placed next to a table of guffawing hoorays that were, at 2pm, already plastered and playing drinking games. Two of them looked like boss types, in that they were much fatter and louder than the rest and one of them kept mentioning that he was "the head of UK". Theses two had the stock weekend uniform on, jeans slung low under their hogshead sized belly's and the Ralph Lauren shirt on, tucked in, and sleeves rolled up. That's important, because it gives the rest of us a chance to admire their wrist watches.

I take a special interest in these things, some might say a consuming obsession fuelled by galloping jealousy, and of the eight crowing cider quaffing tools I noticed, one Rolex Daytona, a Bell & Ross, an Audemars Piguet and a U-Boat and what could have been a Rolex Submariner, or Omega Seamaster. That's about twenty-five grand there.

I shouldn't be jealous and bitter, I expect they have all worked hard for their shiny baubles, and I would certainly rather they wore a watch than went about with their nuts hanging out which is what they would have to do if we all were part of the Dibate tribe of Western Ethiopia. The rest of the party was made up by hangers on and ambitious younger types, in rugger shirts and laughing at all the bosses jokes, already condemned to a life of relentless corporate toadying and the politics of the brown nose.

On reflection perhaps I could have avoided sitting next to them. I could have picked up a chair and smashed it over the head of UKs head, then recovered the splintered legs and drove them into the breasts of the rest of them, aiming for their heart of course, but realise hitting something so tiny and flinty would probably be optimistic.

Mind you I was back in Glasgow last week. Arriving at Central station I always get a little thrill from knowing your entering a city that isn't pretentious, it is what it is, take it or leave it, love it or loathe it. The shiny buildings put up on Broomielaw do remind me of the new dental veneers that a toothy old tramp might buy with his lottery winnings, but behind that the buildings and streets stand testament to the wealth and ingenuity that made it the second richest city in the world at one time. It was probably full of steam age twats back then too.

Right, now that's my rant out of the way I can get on with telling you about the rest of my week.

Where I live, its very multi cultural. As lots of Britain is now, there are lots of Africans just arrived and lots of them haven't gotten into the way of dressing like the rest of us, in drab blues and greys. The women often look fantastic in rainbow coloured robes with gold braiding and impossible hats, but the men, that's another story. There was a man in the High Street the other day wearing a suit that looked like it was made from discarded sweety wrappers from a tin of Quality Street. Toffee pennies, chocolate toffee fingers and orange cremes to be particular. Gold and orange hoops, not only the jacket, the trousers too, fantastic. Sundays are especially noteworthy, as the numerous African churches around the place like to empty out into the street then go on a chanting, drum bashing, dancing parade through the town centre. It was like Rorke's Drift down there today.

I was desperate to see Toy Story 3, but down here I am in the premature predicament of not having any kids that I can legitimately take to the pictures as cover. Going alone seemed the slightly less awkward option, the other involved, duck tape, an unattended child and an abduction and there was noway I'd get duck tape in Canary Wharf. Toy Story 3 is perfection laid down on celluloid. It is quite simply the most entertaining, emotional and dazzling piece of cinema I have ever, ever seen.
Over the three films we as an audience have grown to love these characters, but not as much you feel as the people making the movie. The quality of the writing is another thing that sets it apart. Pixar in general have this down to a tee. They write to get a laugh or whatever, but know that the audience will be kids and grown-ups, but the jokes they give us are written in a way that we all get them and find them funny together.
You look at the other animated films that are meant to appeal to both kids and adults. They will be stuffed full of child friendly characters that the kids will love, but telling jokes that only adults will really get, they have segregated the audience. Shark Tale is the best example with all the Goodfellas and Godfather references. How is an eight year old meant to make sense of that.

I saw Wolfman this week too. The new one with Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Torro. I liked it, it was an old fashioned werewolf movie like Hammer House of Horror used to make, not like these new ones full of anaemic looking teenagers all getting their shirts off in the woods and trying to look menacing with their moody glares.

Other events this week include meeting up with an old colleague and taking full advantage of Mojito happy hour in some bar. I cant of course say, type or even think Mojito without thinking of Brian in Family Guy....Mojiiiiitoooo!

Next night, off too a comedy club in Leicester Sq with workmates. Another good night out, though its strange how you can never remember the jokes. I do remember the compere being funny and two out of three comics being quite good, and a heckler who thought he was humour embodied in man, he even stood up and did a little bow when he delivered a couple of "killer" ripostes. Oh dear, another planet sized tool. I suppose that's the thing with living in a capital city the size of this, you are never more than a few feet from a trumpeting total twat, with a capital T.

Lang may yer lum reek.