Monthly Archives: November 2017

Trump Retweeted the Fascists

The last post of National Blog Posting month from me comes at a time when the world’s most powerful man backs the views of a fascist and racist organisation, and when challenged over his online support for them by the UK Prime Minister, he defended his actions. 

There was no ‘mea culpa’ by Donald Trump, no undoing of the retweets, just a defence of his actions. As a result, Britain First got its largest slice of publicity to date, with all of the major TV networks queing up to talk to them and undoubtedly pushing their twitter following a boost and web traffic a massive spike. That’s not to say that there is a secret band of supporters waiting to join them, instead those who follow the lead of a President will look at Britain First as a reputable organisation that he supports, and not a gang of horrible people determined to divide communities and stir up hatred.

If there is any fortunate guidance to take from this action, it’s that few people really do take what Trump says seriously. He’s become a subject of satire in less than a year in the White House, has seen multiple changes in his administration and is stirring up a war of words with another world leader in Kim Jong-Un. Is the man fit to be in politics? Of course not, he’s a business man used to making decisions and having them happen, and in politics things move slower and much more democratically.

However, in this case, Trump did tweet from his personal account, rather than from the official Presidential account which does suggest that this even if this is not the view of the government, with ultimate power it is the view of its most senior person. Of course you could have asked if Obama or even Hillary Clinton would have supported a far right party, and the answer would certainly be no. However in his actions Trump has legitimised their raison d’etre and policies, and until he realises the gravity of such a simple action of the retweet button, this world seems to be a worse place day by day.

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My First non-UK Gig

After 27 years of going to live gigs, during which time I reckon I’ve been to at least one every year, last night I achieved quite a remarkable aim – my first gig outside of the UK. My first gig outside of England was a Christmas present when the wife got us tickets to see Manic Street Preachers in Swansea back on 2016, but this was the first outside of the UK and was the main point of visiting Berlin this week.

A small venue on Karl Marx Strasse hosted Billy Bragg, an artist I’ve seen numerous times but not in a capacity where the audience are not in a singing-along mood. Billy did point out that it was a Tuesday night, I think it was more of an “we want to stand and watch and enjoy” attitude to the performance. The venue was the Heimathafen which is kind of a cross between the Bush Hall and Islington Assembly Hall.

I’m not going to make an effort to review the gig, but Billy did turn out a large number of his early hits interspersed with some of the country-influenced material from recent years. His album of American railroad classics barely got an airing despite him bringing second guitarist and steel guitar player CJ along with him.

No, what I want to focus on is the environment. Like Islington Assembly Hall, the social area and “dancefloor” are in same room, meaning that through the support act all you could hear was the mumble of conversation. Regardless of the language, this is distracting for the rest of the audience and I don’t like to think about the affect it has upon the artist.

To be honest, there was not a whole lot different between a UK and German gig experience. In both cases the security checks were the same, the merchandise prices are set by the artist, the beer does contain some pretty terrible lager (although the Schneider Weisse was one of the best gig beers I’ve ever had, and came in at 💶 3.50) and the performance was as great as expected. The trick would be to see a non English speaking performer outside of the UK, and see what the experience is like in that instance.

For me, I’m glad I finally got round to achieving this aim and my next step will be to see someone on a totally different continent.

Visit to the Wannsee Conference House

Today I visited the house where the Wannsee conference took place back in 1942. For those who don’t know, this conference determined to find an answer to the Jewish question, and decisions were made on the extermination processes that continued over the remaining three of the Nazi regime.

It was as absorbing as it was shocking: whenever you feel you’ve learned all you can about the atrocities of the Holocaust, something new appears. I’ve visited Auschwitz and jewish memorials and museums in London, Italy, Germany and the USA, but to be at the point where so many decisions were made brought a lot of reality to me.

While the museum – which only opened in the 1990s – focused mainly on the history of anti-Semitism in Europe, the conference only took up two of the 14 exhibition rooms. What became clear was how hard the founder worked hard to achieve the opening and recognition of what had occurred back in 1942, and to remember the millions of victims of the 90 minute meeting. 

The other striking point was that those who attended were mostly deputies – and Heydrich and Eichmann aside – much lesser known members of the party. It doesn’t take the biggest names and egos to achieve something, in fact it turned out that the only disagreements were regarding how to define those of mixed Jewish blood.

As with all of the Jewish memorials I’ve visited, this was humbling and I’m glad I was able to see this place which whilst it only served as a notable place for such a short time, its impact affected generations. It’s important that this is recognised, remembered and never forgotten.

Princess Meghan and the ex soldier

The Queen’s grandson’s future mother in law is an African American social worker with braided hair. The (possible) future Queen (admittedly with 5 in line ahead of him) is a mixed race divorcée from America. All of this is fantastic, and I couldn’t be happier for them and for the rest of the world who don’t care what your history is, your race or whoever you love, it’s a case of love the one you’re with.

There’s been a long delay in announcement of the engagement and it’s positive to see a wedding taking place in the next six months. There was a long wait (I can guess at 25+ years) between the state weddings of Andrew and Fergie, and William and Kate, and I doubt there will be the furore for Harry and Meghan. In fact I doubt there will even be a state wedding and us Brits can probably not count on a free day off as we did a few years ago.

There is still Andrew and Fergie’s kids to be hitched and apart from the princesses, Harry is the most senior royal to be a batchelor. Yes he’s had a few negative headlines, but I don’t blame him for distrusting the press after all his family had gone through, and he experienced all of that first hand.

As for actress Meghan, she faces the future as a member of an exclusive set, and I’m sure they will not phase her at all.

Where Does the Customer Come First?

Today in our trip around Germany, we started the day in Dusseldorf before embarking upon a great trip across the country towards Berlin. 

More on the capital later this week! The thing that irked me today was the mix of how decent Dusseldorf station was compared to what we have in the UK. Yes there are some excellent stations, and St Pancras is a prime example, but in Dusseldorf station there is everything you need, it’s easy to find and of course you have the simplicity of the European train timetable where the emphasis is upon the time rather than the destination.

You may think that sounds confusing, but once you have familiarised yourself with the format, and you have the added benefit of the timetable telling you the platform, you can see the benefit.

Maybe I’m seeing things through slightly glazed beery glasses, but things seem more efficient here. Ok that is a national stereotype and that was contradicted by the service in two coffee stands, but ask yourself when you’ve felt like a valued customer in a British retailer?

The overall transport experience in Germany is one to be envied and having the options available for food, drink, information in a clean and open station. 

The Christmas Markets Holiday 2017

The last few blogs of this November effort find me on my last holiday of the year, drinking and discovering the Christmas markets of North West Germany. 

Last night we arrived in Dusseldorf and today, Saturday 25th, we have spent time in Wuppertal, Hagen, Bochum, Essen.

Wuppertal’s main feature is it’s transport network of the suspended railway system named the Schwebebahn (spelling to be clarified later) which really is an engineering marvel of steam punk levels. Whilst the trains are not particularly large, they are frequent and combine both old and new designs of ‘trains’. The header photo is of a scale model I saw in a brewpub.

Hagen was sadly nothing to do with the ice brand, but did contain one of the best German Christmas markets I have had the pleasure of visiting.

As for Bochum and Essen, both were larger cities offering a great experience in the cold. Bochum saw us arrive in the dark and sampling an excellent local spirit. Essen offered a larger market in the city centre.

The concept of the Christmas market has arrived in the UK over the past few decades, and now there are a number of efforts in the UK at a Christmas market, but it’s worth the effort to see how it’s done in a number of small towns. 

The End of Black Friday

Add Black Friday to May Day riots and Christmas Jumper Day, it’s another day that was embraced for a while and swiftly forgotten.

The video (https://twitter.com/Frankie_Mack/status/933957328122122241) from Curry’s PC World on London’s Oxford Street showed 2 people waiting to go in at the opening. The days of fights for a cut price flatscreen and long lines for a bargain seem to have lasted only a matter of a few years, with the majority of offers now online for the savvy shopper.

The concept of Black Friday goes back to the 1950s in the USA but here in Europe, it’s more of a new concept. Therefore, if the evidence does suggest that what was a short boom for retailers and it is now over. I don’t think this is a surprise though, the concept of black Friday was it was equivalent to the British Boxing Day, after the celebration comes the shopping and the retailers are all too keen to cash in.

So is it because of a lack of acknowledgement for Thanksgiving in the UK that Black Friday has apparently ceased to be? Perhaps yes, but also shopping is mostly done online these days for reasons of availability, convenience and because some people just prefer not to go through the process of shopping in person.

So RIP Black Friday, a lot of us will not miss you.

2:1 Graduate to sue Oxford University

I saw this news on the BBC last night, that an Oxford University graduate, who got a degree with a 2:1 grade, is to take legal action over the grading.

As someone who came out of education with grades much lower than I should have achieved but with a pretty decent career so far, I wonder what precedent this could set. For example, in the unlikely event that this even sees a court room, if the plaintiff is successful then what example will this set for others who were unsatisfied? Will be taking legal action be the new way to get a qualification reviewed?

To date, I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a degree grade reviewed and what are your chances of getting a reviewed? I went through a process of getting an A-level grade reviewed and was given a completely unsatisfactory response by the company responsible, in particular that they named the wrong book in relation to what I had studied for A-level English.

For me, the marking and grading process is far too hidden, and even though it has been over 20 years since I did those exams, I regret not kicking off more of a storm regarding that lousy review which would have set more of a precedent for those suffering the same problems.

As for this person taking legal action against Oxford University, this may be for the press attention, but even if it shows the shadiness of marking and grading which has such an effect upon a person’s life, then it will be a success.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-42070712

RIP and Remember Jana Novotna

There is a case in news of the overshadowed death. It’s not a pleasant thing to report, as often someone who has lived a great and prosperous life dies on the same day as someone who the news focuses on.

The current case is that of 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, who stole hearts in 1993 after shedding tears after losing to Steffi Graf, who died yesterday on the same day as serial killer and sometime musician Charles Manson. As it turned out, the news deemed the death of Manson to be more newsworthy and a larger reporting issue than that of Novotna.

There’s been others through history: take Groucho Marx and Elvis Presley, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, or even Mother Theresa and Princess Diana (who died a few days apart) and of course Dodi Fayed. In those cases one person’s death was practically overshadowed by the other. Is it nice to have to pick one? No of course not, but ultimately it’s choice of the editor to pick the one that will draw the bigger headlines or audience.

In cases of Manson and Novotna, many people may not have thought about either for years, and one person had a great sporting career winning a pinnacle tennis tournament, the other made some bad music and murdered a group of people, including a pregnant woman.

Of course its a tough decision, but ultimately the news editor has to make the choice on which to focus on and the results will not always be popular.

30 Years since the King’s Cross Fire

This weekend saw the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the King’s Cross fire. I was 11 when this happened and living a long way from London, but my dad had been in London regularly and it’s amazing to hear that there was a time when you could smoke on the trains and commuting areas, and the conditions were so filthy that a stray lit match caused this disaster.

I now travel through Kings Cross every morning and whilst I don’t alight here every day, I have seen the various memorials in the station and the reality of what happened never passes me by.

While many lives were lost and others changed forever, this was another example of how the emergency services are so crucial to the transport system. The enusing investigation led to changes that are now enabling a safe and secure London underground.

This also gave the country a fair understanding of the effects of PTSD which was suffered by those firefighters caught up in the disaster.

There was a lengthy documentary made by Channel 5 which interviewed several survivors. If you are able to see this it’s not an easy watch, but it shines a light on one of the great disasters of the 1980s in London.