Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thoughts On Syria

2 years ago I wrote to my MP to question why we hadn’t intervened in Syria, like we did in Libya, when Assad started to slaughter and torture his own people.

We did nothing, mostly because of Russia and China who are afraid of similarly authoritarian regimes being challenged and overthrown.  Yet this man is vile and evil.

So as a humanitarian, I had my answer as to how many people it is ok to kill – over 100,000.  Include over 1 million refugees, the minor use of chemical weapons and countless injured and that apparently until this weekend just gone was perfectly acceptable.

This is not the only human tragedy of recent times that has gone unanswered by those able to assist – Darfur, North Korea and Rwanda are particular stains on the human conscience as far as I am concerned.

There are occasions when we have taken action and stopped atrocities, such as Libya, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and done significant good to countries.  However foremost at many people’s mind will be the bloodshed in Iraq where we inadvertently initiated a civil war, along with those deaths our previous government and leaders should take responsibility for.

The time to act was 2 years ago.  Now it is a total mess with several simultaneous wars – Sunni vs Shia, Iran and Hezbollah on one side, secularists on the other, Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Russia’s little arms business – not to mention their Mediterranean port which they are very fond of.

As far as I am concerned, the question is – is it ok for Assad to continue to barbarically kill his own people?  And are we happy for other potentially murderous regimes to believe they have a green light to butcher their citizens?

There are definitely risks in acting - amongst those that come to mind are Islamists taking over Syria, revenge attacks on Israel or other western targets, further and widespread use of chemical weapons and that particularly cold saying “collateral damage”.

I am still for action - as a humanitarian I believe in saving lives.  Though due to the added complications, I believe in only limited action – that of destroying missile systems, destroying military planes and helicopters – any potential delivery systems for chemical weapons.  If we can seize said chemicals then that would be ideal.

No all-out war, no regime change, no fighting the Syrian infantry, tank brigades, etc.

I would also love to see a protected humanitarian corridor, where refugees can flee safely, without the fair of further violence.  Added to that, further assistance in the way of aid, particularly to countries with large amounts of refugees such as Jordan.

I still believe there is the potential for a negotiated solution, and perhaps Assad may come to the table if and when he feels under threat.  We should not publicly reject the possibility of regime change as Assad needs to believe that his days could be numbered.  At the moment he believes in his invincibility and has the criminal state of Russia backing him covertly, along with other aforementioned actors.

My solution is that the country splits into 4.  The west becomes an Alawite state, headed by Assad.  The Kurdish areas have their own independent state, along with a separate state for secularists and yes, Islamists.

Can you suggest any other solution except continued slaughter?

Secretsundaze Go Bang Review

A night out in London used to be amazing, guaranteed.  I have had about 6 nights out in London this year, none of them have been amazing, all have been slightly or significantly spoiled by crowds, and sometimes even disappointing music.

So I took affirmative action and booked a ticket for the daytime Secretsundaze party the day I found out about it, taking no notice of which DJs were playing – I had only been to one Secretsundaze party before and the crowd there seemed really nice.  Decisive.

I arrived early on, it was very quiet to start – but aren’t all parties in the first couple of hours.  It gave me chance to talk to lots of randoms – it was a ridiculously friendly crowd - and have a few strawberry ciders.  The music was good – first DJ was resident and creator, Giles Smith, who warmed it up nicely.

Quite a few people seemed to recognise me, apparently I now look like the son of Camilla Parker Bowles.  

Someone must have been on drugs to say that.

Also I look like some guy from the recent series of Big Brother (I definitely don’t look like him!), oh and that guy with the blog, and who comments on Resident Advisor.  I'll take that.  There was an excellent Seth Troxler lookalike near me too – even had the accent perfected.

I liked the venue – Studio 338, fairly easy to find not too far away from Tony Blair's Dome.  Simple enough inside, with a large terrace where the DJs and the vast majority of the crowd were.  Unusually there were plenty of toilets – though they also doubled up as a sauna.  The roof of the terrace created a sun-trap (good practice for my upcoming Ibiza trip) and was frustratingly hot underneath.  Just like my office.  Shame it wasn’t raining.  Praise also to the venue for supplying plenty of bar staff.  Security were also friendly and relaxed.

Next up was Floating Points, the first 20-30 minutes of their set was slow and predictable disco and funk – I don’t think the crowd quite got it, but once they upped the bpm to something more usual, the dancefloor filled, mixing deep house with disco and a very commendable set.  They could have done to smile a little more!

I don’t remember much about the live set from Portable, I do remember the changeovers not being massively smooth.  I enjoyed it as I was dancing, but I cannot tell you much about it as I maybe not have been at my height of sobriety.

The final DJ I saw was Omar S – he was outstanding.  One of the best sets I have heard all year – starting off dark and quite sinister, but never afraid to mix up the tech-edged sounds with something more house-oriented, some of his own productions and some definite classic party tunes too.  Really have to see him again.

Tune of the night was this little surprise party gem - I might have to play this when I DJ on Saturday.

I lost everyone and decided it was best to mission back to Reading around 9/10pm, thankfully avoiding the Russian Mafia who I had become convinced were after me and safely navigating the melting escalators of the station upon arrival.  Not to mention the festival twats smashing bottles at Reading station.  Delightful.

In conclusion – the best night out in London this year, superb music, lovely crowd – I cannot wait for next year.

Only downside was not meeting Tonka.  Or maybe I did?!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

London Part 1 - Egg Chasing

So for the first part of an un-missable double-headed weekend in London.

Saturday was the 7th or 8th time my rugby league team, Hull FC, had got to the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.  For those not familiar with rugby league, which I guess is all my friends and readers not from oop north, this is the rugby league equivalent of the FA Cup.  Except it is arguably the most important trophy in rugby league because if you win the league (sorry, Super League) then you haven’t actually won the league – all you have done is finished top.  The top 8 teams (of 14) then have a play-off to decide who is the grand champion.  How English.

We have never won at Wembley.  We did win when it was in Cardiff, and we won a replay at some random ground up north once.  For my Dad in particular, it was of the utmost importance.

We were not favourites - for comparison Hull FC vs Wigan is like Hull City AFC vs Manchester United.

We started brightly, for the first 2 minutes.  Then Wigan who have won the trophy approximately 598 times, came back strongly, but couldn’t break our defence until later in the first half, with a try and a conversion to go 6-0 up.  Yes, we have tries in rugby league.  Tries and tackles – none of that kicking it down the other end constantly shite in the gay whisky-drinking land owners version of rugby down south.

6-0 at half time was commendable and we were still very much in the game.  A quick pint to replenish our thirst which unlike the hooligan game of football, one can drink in one’s seat as nobody at rugby fights, except the players.

However the second half was one of constant frustration.  Again, a bit of explanation for my southern friends, you get a set of 6 tackles in rugby league – once the team has been tackled and held to ground 6 times consecutively, without making an error such as dropping the ball forward (a knock-on), the ball is handed to the opposition for their set of 6 tackles.  Normally after the 5th tackle the ball will be kicked down the field to gain extra territory.

Hull decided to drop the ball consistently on the 2nd or 3rd tackle during the second half, which meant that Wigan were kindly given the ball far too often.  They struggled to take advantage but did get two penalties to make it 10-0.

Defeat was inevitable as we were crap.  Wigan scored a very late try to seal it – but not before roughly 15-20 of our fans a few rows back decided to have a decent scrap to liven things up.  No stewards and no police (rugby fans don’t fight so not required), it was eventually sorted out by other fans.  Apparently someone spilled someone’s beer.

Other typical Hull traits was every single person in front of me at the bar questioning the cost of people and fellow Hull fans all dripping with sweat on the Bakerloo line.

It was still a really enjoyable day out despite defeat, plenty of beers were sunk and some nice pubs around Baker Street discovered.

A surprising discovery was that Strawberry & Lime cider has gone from a poof's drink to a man's drink in just one year.

For those with some interest in rugby league, the World Cup is in this country at the end of 2013 and England have qualified along with Australia and a load of countries nobody has heard of such as New Zealand and Wales.  You can still buy tickets for all of the games I believe, and there are two semi-finals on the same day at Wembley with tickets from the bargain price of £20 for both games.  I have tickets for the final in Manchester – cannot wait to say I have been to a World Cup Final (as I will never have £10million to afford a football World Cup Final!).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wasting My Money

I checked my bank balance earlier this week.  I am shockingly overdrawn.  For my standards anyway.  If I were a country, the IMF would be called in.  Actually, no...the trade unions would go on strike, crippling the economy further just for their own individual selfish means.

So perfect time to waste further money unnecessarily, as getting into further debt when you are indebted apparently helps you get out of debt according to the Labour Party…and because it is Friday, please go along with me as if I am playing Bullseye:

Iiiiiiiinnnn 1 – Why take the key out of the inside of the door, when you can leave it inside, make your morning more interesting, interrupt your work, embarrass yourself to your landlord and let the locksmith laugh all the way to the bank for the most simple of call outs for just £78.00.
Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnn 2 – Most people opt to buy a train ticket from Bracknell for £5.70, but you can get lucky like a robot by not bothering to get one until you get to Reading Train Station where you can receive this superb prize of a Penalty Fine, yours for the meagre sum of £20.00, served by the most wonferfully Bob Crowe-alike Nazis in their finest neon regalia.
Iiiinnnnnn 3 – Salad.  Waste of time that was.
Iiiiiiiiiiiiin 4.  OK I may be running out here so just make up some of your own.

And Bully’s Special Prize – Yours for just £75.00 – A weapon of mass danger, engineered to terrify those annoying pedestrians and with the license to go through red lights on those rare occasions that you need to use the road.  You may not have used one since the early days of John Major’s premiership, where he stewarded the UK economy to the next level of greatness, only for New Labour to come in 5 years later, claim the spoils and fuck it up like socialists always do when they run out of other people’s money to spend.  No, not a caravan – but a second hand bike.  As if you will ever use it.

(Random photo - I was going to put a photo of the Nazi symbol to represent the First Great Wester staff but thought that probably wouldn't help my future employment prospects.  If I had Photoshop at work then I would have downloaded the Nazi logo and put it on a picture of First Great Western staff.  Albeit that would probably not help my current job prospects.  I hope the above picture is sufficient).

Monday, August 19, 2013

One Wedding, Elvis & A Hangover

My Dad said before my weekend away – “The local pub are doing 2 steaks and a bottle of wine for £20, are you up for it?”.  Hell yes was my obvious response.

He then proceeded to advise me of the Elvis tribute act.  Thankfully there was a second room to this pub where I could escape to thrash my sister at pool for the 4th consecutive time.

Even my Dad said he was the worst Elvis tribute act he had ever seen.  It was my first.  And hopefully last.

Ahh entertainment in Hull (actually Cottingham to be exact).  Apparently Hull now has a museum of club culture.  Could be interesting – yet another reason to go to Hull on holiday.  That and the world’s only submarium, an excellent bridge that Jose Mourinho approves of and the smallest window in the country.

My reason for going to Hull wasn’t just the steak, which by the way was very average at best – oh and how did I nearly forget – it came with fucking peas on the plate.  I asked what it came with and they advised mushrooms, chips and salad.  I assume they mixed up the chips for peas as they were no chips.

Do you see any salad on there?  Or chips for that matter?

It was to attend my cousin’s wedding.  It was a lot of fun.  My cousin’s are very loud, confident and funny people – a Winfield wedding is never too quiet.  I don’t remember leaving, apparently I fell asleep.  I can only guess at the amount of wine consumed.  I think I told my staunch trade unionist uncle that I went to Thatcher’s funeral.  I couldn’t help myself aafter hearing loads of shite about ‘Tory cuts’!  Oops.  I wore a horse’s head mask at some point.

Oh and my phone reckons I spent several hours on the other side of the river.  Thought I would have remembered the mile-long bridge crossing.

The wedded couple were also blessed by a fair proportion of the Hull City team who clearly popped by just to give their approval to the marriage.  Who said footballers have no heart?

I would advise what I did on Sunday but it is a state secret.  However I can advise that Sunday roasts of a large size actually have sufficient meat unlike the tight sods that run pubs down here.  And extra gravy is no problem at all – real gravy too!  None of that poncy shit.