Your Optimistic Eyes Seem Like Paradise, To Someone Like Me

Let me talk to you about Twitter.

If I had to say which single thing is the most corrosive to my mental health, it would have to be Twitter. It dictates my mood, it influences my thoughts, it gives oxygen to the flames of my frustration, scorching and scarring my brain as it goes. It opens wide the gates of hell, and we can peer in at the liars, the truthtwisters, the opportunists, the click-baiters, the conspiracy theorist, and the bots. In between that is the friends you make, the ability for someone of limited social scope to get his/her message out there. Without Twitter there would not have been How Did We Lose In Adelaide, and not Being Outside Cricket either.

The last week has been brutal. I am an avid watcher of elections, and certainly of the US elections. I absolutely despise Donald Trump. I didn’t despise George W, nor many of his Republican predecessors. I remember having a passionate argument with a good friend of mine about Mitt Romney in 2012, saying he was a moderate compared to what could come after him (and he can tell me I was right next time I see him). I understand that there are differences in political opinion. That’s what makes democracy. I despise Trump for matters beyond politics. I was brought up by parents who could forgive anything but lying. If I lied to my parents, and got caught, I would, as they would say be in ten times more trouble than if I confessed the truth. It’s a mantra many would recognise. I was also taught to be polite to people, whether you liked them or not, and yes if you felt passionately about something speak about it.

Twitter is a deranged pit of vipers when it comes to Trump. He stirs the pot and the evil comes out to play. Watching a man destroy norms as he has done this past week is shattering to my pysche. I can’t compute how this behaviour can be rewarded. How a man so craven, so steeped in the depth of his own lies, can be tolerated. When you are gaslit as part of some fun game to own the libs. I wouldn’t dance on the supporters of Trump’s tears if he lost, because I know how “my side” losing feels. I can still be friends with people I disagree with. But I see behavioural codes that should NEVER be entertained almost celebrated because people like me get upset, and yes, depressed that despite the talent and aptitude I bring to the job I do, I’ll never get this sort of fire-proofing.

Twitter is where it happens, and yet I can’t leave. Like a moth to a flame. Like a drug addict needing his fix. I leave and come back. What are people saying? Why are they saying it? Why isn’t the cultural norm of a President being President Elect soon after being observed. This isn’t Florida with 500 votes difference – it’s tens of thousands in multiple states. Why? WHY!

People on his side will laugh at me – that’s ok, I’m a fat 50+ year old who gets laughed at in the street, called a “very fat man” by a neighbour’s kid, and a “fat C***” by someone in a car when I was doing one of my waddle-jogs. It’s why when I heard Dave Chappelle mock Chris Christie for his size and health when catching the coronavirus, I felt sad. I have no time for Christie, but destroy his politics, not his personal appearance. But back to the original point, the laughing at political opponents is something that I just don’t see. I didn’t laugh at the Conservatives when they lost in 1997, 2001 and 2005. I just didn’t. It’s painful to be rejected.

I’ll give an example – the Dominic Cummings Durham thing. I was livid about this for a number of reasons. Brexit had absolutely fuck all to do with it. Some of us knew of Cummings from a while back. Well before Brexit. We knew of his character. This was completely in persona. Then, when he just basically said to us “what the hell are you going to do about it” in that press conference, many lost their shit. I was incandescent. Locked up in lockdown, and this man just brazened it out, with his political chums citing “family comes first” as if us fuckwits abiding by the rules were somehow putting them second. Then, on Facebook, someone put a meme about how Cummings had owned the Remoaners, the lefties etc. I couldn’t hold back. The following is a precis of the exchange.

“Why are you laughing at me?” I asked

“I’m not”

“Well I voted Remain, and I am left of centre, so you are. You are saying I’m upset at him because he’s a Brexit hero”

“We all have our political views, and these are mine”

“I accept we voted to Leave. Don’t agree with it, but accept it. He was wrong, and now it’s a weapon to make us feel worse”

“You can’t tell me what to think”

I point to that exchange (it’s not verbatim, I’m not digging it up, and it might capture feelings rather than words actually spoken) as a key marker in my descent to a serious mental wobble. It shouldn’t have, and it was Facebook rather than Twitter, but you get the drift. I don’t get exposed to the politics, except when one or another of people who are my friends retweet/share the latest piece of batshit conspiracy shit.

It works. Just as I know, some leftist media works on me. It’s insidious. It is corrosive, and I can’t handle it. The urge is to call these people idiots, but it serves no purpose. I once argued a constitutional point with some bot or other on Twitter, who always asked me to justify MY position, while never justifying theirs other than “you aren’t an expert” – which I was never holding myself up to be. It was, at the time, an amusing 45 minutes or so. I thought while I was occupying this bot/troublemaker, they couldn’t bother someone else. Then, as I do, I analysed it. I stewed on it. I felt lacking. I felt emptiness. I felt sadness. This isn’t debate, it’s destruction. There is one honest broker, and a liar. A person keen to discuss a point, another there to “win”. Victory is causing the opponent to despair, not to agree.

Twitter is that. It is that. Despair not agree. It is toxic. And yet I can’t take my eyes off it. Watch the film on Netflix, The Social Dilemma. Go into it with an open mind. I was sceptical when I went in – when I came out, I thought differently.

Today, due to an extraneous event, I had another wobble. I described it today to my wife as if someone had extracted my brain from the cranium, punched it hard, and put it back in. I felt emotionally bruised. The event itself happened before, 10 days ago, and I thought I handled it well – calmly. Today I felt like someone had tied a noose around my neck and was tightening it slowly. Breathing became tougher. I couldn’t fight. Work is really busy, and yes, I feel a little exposed and working long hours. That’s a baseline issue that is, I’m afraid, the reality of my job at the moment. There is a reward at the end of the tunnel, and that drives me. But inexorably, there all the time is the “disputed” election, akin to me disputing my weight when the scales say I am whatever, and I’m knocking 30lbs off it. I could probably find a set of scales to support my argument, but they’d be faulty, everyone would suspect I was cheating, and in any case, I’m still that weight. That it is so egregiously wrong just makes my blood boil. Yet I know people are convinced that it is.

What to do? I have no idea. Keep off Twitter is a noble concept. I know I can’t do it. In a time of social lockdown, I need to seek out my friends on there. I can follow the Dolphins and Millwall fans on there. I get some good music information from it. But there, in between the cracks, are the lies. The insidious lies. And I can’t always take them.

Lord knows why I wrote this. Maybe it’ll cause more angst. But I wish we could all just get along, and I know that’s some stupid nonsense, but I wish we could. Like most of you, I want a quiet life, easy to get through, taking the knocks with friends and family by your side. But these days, that’s not enough. You need to cause someone else pain to get your kicks. It is a sadistic society, turning person against person. Sometimes, you need to take the brain punch, recover, and move on. If you can.

Love all.

Peter

Update – So what do I do? I go on a Twitter spree. For heaven’s sake.

I can’t help myself. I just can’t. It’s despairing in many ways.

An example of what ails me:

Please Repair My Broken Wing

Thanks for the nice reaction I’ve received to Monday’s blog post. They say a week is a long time in politics, but 48 hours is a long time in life, and if I had to write the post today, it might be a little bit different. The weather has been poor, and I missed the Teddy walk which always gets me a little downhearted. I missed it in part due to the weather, and in part due to having a headache and feeling rough – no alcohol involved before anyone thinks like that – and in part because I have a lot on my plate at work, and it would have been the sensible decision to call out sick, rather than work at 30% efficiency. But you know the stigma behind sick leave. Reap what they sow and all that.

I wrote the above part on Wednesday and then left it. I’m back now on Friday and I can see, again with another 48 hours perspective, just how difficult I am finding some of this. I am over 50, I am overweight, and I have a medical condition. I’ve said this before on here, and I’ll say it again, you have no idea how wearing it is on your psyche to say, in the middle of a pandemic, that if you get it, and you get seriously ill, then you sort of deserve it. It’s the implication, not outright (ok, some utter bastards speak the quiet part), but I see it, I hear the dog whistle. So yes, when I hear the demands to stay in, not travel, not socialise, take the proper precautions, I take them seriously. I abide, as much as I can, by the rules. In the park, when I walk Teddy, I steer away from people, even trying to keep a proper distance from my brother when we meet. When I see people who may carry the virus (I don’t know) who are, on the face of it, fit and well, ignore the guidance, am I to blame if they give it to me? Is that how you want me to think? Am I collateral damage to you?

I had a bit of a downer at the end of work today. I had a tough week, but felt a real sense of achievement at what I had got done. Then ANOTHER demand hit late in the week, and it set me off. The one thing when you’ve had some challenges on your confidence and thought processes is that you never quite get back what assuredness you had before. There’s that little drip, drip, drip of self doubt in your mind. It is always my fault, in my mind, if I haven’t achieved something. I never think of what others could have done to make things better if I had even the most microscopic cause for the failure. I liken it to the mad driver who goes 100mph and knows where the speed camera is and slows down, while when we hit the speed camera, I speed up to get out of the way of the clown and get flashed, despite obeying the rules. I have always some fault, so if it goes wrong, blame myself. I had a good conversation tonight with a very longstanding and very great friend of mine, who always sorts me out. Sometimes not in a good way, but its interesting to hear his take. If I could pin down what I miss most about work, and going into the office, is that. In person, honest to goodness, back and forth. Teams, Zoom, whatever can take some of that, but not the in-person stuff. If I tried to explain it, I’d fail. You just need to be there. I put a whatsapp to my work colleagues, our group of friends, telling them how much I missed them and that it is dawning on me we won’t meet up this year, and it does make me genuinely sad. I think our group isn’t comfortable with such soppy nonsense, but I felt I needed to say it. As I said on this blog on Monday, just say Hello. I don’t want people to think I am where I was in mid-June. I am not. This is a different kind of mood, not as damaging, not as visceral. I’m emotional, always have been, always will be. I care about stuff. I see a world where people like me are seen as weak, seen as somehow soft. I see a world where dishonesty and being an utter arsehole is rewarded, and in many cases, admired. I just can’t do that. When I see people who follow me on certain social media fora actually use that nastiness to laugh at people who don’t agree, I get even more sad. It is one of the reasons I had such a hiatus from here. Why I stopped blogging. The clocks go back on Sunday. Winter is approaching. Life looks grim with no end to this covid nightmare in sight. The undercurrent of fear and trepidation is pervasive. In the midst of this, the demands made on me are huge, and not from my wife and dog, but from others. I miss my friends. I just do. There is a lot to be said for going bloody wild when this is over, but when is over? Devon seems more than 2 weeks away. Rainy Days get me down. I went for a walk when I felt crap today. Did me a lot of good. Even jogged some of it. Nearly 3 miles in 45 minutes. Happy with that for a big lad. A few weeks ago I got into the car and a young child across the road called me “a very fat man”. Her father told her to shush, but she said it again. He never apologised for his child’s rudeness, and it actually hurt immensely. I bring it on myself, I suppose.
Then the final piece of context. Today is 23rd of October. I am in a much better place today than I was on 23rd October 2018. That was the day we had to put Jake to sleep. Just writing this makes me well up. If you want to put yourself through hell, read the post I wrote soon after that event. Just looking at his pictures today, putting up the commemoration on Facebook, has me in tears. Why put yourself through it? Because it matters to me. DO you want me to forget him? Erase him from my mind? No. I want to remember how special he was to me, as I do my mum, my dad, Dennis, Neil, my family who have left us. Jake can never be replaced, he can only be added to, and Teddy is doing such an amazing job of that I cannot describe (just hugged him and told him what an amazing job he is doing). Jake will always be one of my broken wings, never to be repaired, always there to remind me of his presence in my life. I miss you buddy.

I’ve Been Forcing Myself Not To Forget, Just To Feel Worse

Back in the day I was writing nearly every day for one of my blogs or another. I would tell myself that this was a good thing. It was cathartic. It was to help me explain myself to others, what I thought, what I hoped for, what I wanted, what i really didn’t like. It felt, on many occasions, good. But when lockdown started, and I practically forced myself to write articles on here to make people believe that things, while being utterly abnormal, needed to seem “normal”, whatever that is, I came to realise it wasn’t doing me any good at all. Far from it. It was part of the jigsaw that resulted in a pretty horrible mental “crash” in June. Work and matters around it that I still can’t discuss played the main role. But lockdown and not seeing my friends, those I have known for nigh on 30 years in a number of cases, longer in others, and needing to be at home in some sort of paternal instinct for my wife and Teddy, wore me down. On Wednesday 24th June, the dam broke.

Teddy at Bude – Great Times After Some Rough Ones

So hear I am, nearly four months on, and while I am still terrified of the ‘rona, I’ve made some changes, some big, some not so, and I’ve got myself in a place where I can handle some of the stuff that life was throwing at me in June. I’m not in a perfect space, but no-one else is either, but the feelings as I tackle each day are, by my standards, quite positive. An example – yesterday our fridge freezer appeared to be on the blink. In June I would have reacted by becoming exceptionally down, probably crying, thinking that the worst would happen, that another few hundred quid went down the sink, and what would I do? Yesterday, I took Teddy for a long walk over Avery Hill to forget about it for an hour, looked at matters logically, sought, but did not totally rely on well-meaning advice, implemented the best choice I saw, and things seemed to work. I never lost my cool, pardon the pun, and I didn’t get consumed in all the bad things that could happen. I saw yesterday as a bit of a triumph, if truth be told. Hell, three weeks ago my faithful old Samsung laptop, the construct through which HDWLIA and others were made, died. I shrugged my shoulders. What can you do?

All those things I was going to do in lockdown, like watch the old NBA play-off games, read more books, listen to more music, have gone for a burton, as they would say. Instead some interesting and different things have crossed my path. First of all, I have a new car. It’s three years old, and while I actually got very emotional giving up my old 2003 Astra, it was a good thing to do. That 2003 Astra will always have a place in my heart. It took me from singlehood to marriage, from John O’Groats to Lands End, and was a link to my late parents who were still alive when I bought it. The back seat was, for 10 years, Jake’s domain. It is, after all, only a load of metal, with rubber tyres, but it held an emotional pull. I cried. I did a lot of that in June and July.

Wrest Park

The new car opened up England again, even if England may well be closing down again soon. Also given my occupation, it allowed me to go to English Heritage sites where I and my wife can get free entry, and we can start to populate Teddy’s 2021 calendar. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we took it to North Devon for nine days and a genuinely magnificent, lovely break. I can’t describe how much good that did me mentally. There will be photos.

I think, though, the main thing that the crash, or “wobble” as I call it, did for me was to make me get off my backside and do some exercise. I am now 5 stone lighter than my peak weight back in 2014, and while most of that came off in the preceding four years slowly but surely, I recognised from my walks with Teddy that physically I was utterly hopeless. So the Sunday after the wobble, I put on my trainers (sneakers for my American readers) and did Route #1. It was up the hill to my road, take a right, walk to the end of the road, then turn around, walk the mile to the other end of that road, and then walk back home. The map says it is 1.9 miles. The first time I did it, I didn’t put any socks on and got a nasty blood blister on the bottom of my heel. I adjusted and set out to do a walk a day. I looked to better the time I did before, set different routes, including one that involved walking to my old school 2 and a half miles away, and yes, at some points, even jogging some of it. While it didn’t move the dial on the weight that much, it certainly made me a little bit trimmer, and I was quite proud of myself. The main issue though, as the nights drew in, is that I wasn’t keen to walk at night. So what could replace this? After all, I’m going to be working for daylight hours.

Dunwich with the Doggie

I decided to try an evening walk tonight and liked it. I think I’ll try to do this a few more times. A major change I made to my work patterns is that for 12 noon to 1:15 pm my diary is fully blocked out to walk Teddy. The aim on that walk is to do 6000 steps, which includes some silly exercises which aren’t that silly, because my legs and knees feel a lot better for them. It’s also a chance to meet my brother, who has a border collie of his own.

Another major change is taking the desk out of the bedroom and now into the living room. While it makes for a slightly different living space, it has worked. I don’t feel as cramped, I can walk around the space while thinking and so on, I can have the door open, I have a better light, and it just works. My thanks to the beloved for suggesting it and making me do it.

I have had the chance to meet some, not all, of my friends in this time, and they were good nights, but now I feel like the curtain is closing again for a while, and life is about to get tougher. I would like to think I am better equipped than before, but I just don’t know. I think the walking gave me a feel good vibe, and certainly walking up Hookney Tor on Dartmoor a couple of weeks ago made me really happy – to do so with Teddy and the beloved even more so – so I think it is crucial that I start the paced walks again, even in the cold and the dark. I was averaging 20k steps a day in August, now it’s down to 12k. At the beginning of lockdown, I would be lucky to do 6k.

No way I walked up this….

Not really sure why I am writing this, but take from it what you wish. I gave up writing because it wasn’t making life easier. I pretty much retired from the cricket blog that got the adrenaline going for so long. I feel bursting with things to say, but don’t want to devote the time to doing so. Maybe the bug will bite, maybe things might change. But with the nights drawing in, work getting tougher, but rewardingly so, and there only being so many hours in the day, I’m not so sure I have the time. To all my friends, I miss you all. I really do. Say hello when you can, because it does make my day. To my family in the US, I hope to visit as soon as is safely possible, I’ve got a clothes cabinet to replenish, and I reckon I can get into more of what is in the shops now! Stay safe all of you.

If you guess where the lyric is from in the title, well done.

29 Days Later – Raging

When the Vatican City gift shop is no better than your local jumble sale. Bought this in 2017, and finally got around to opening it.

This one was tough. But TWO pieces missing? Really?

Yes. I have looked. Everywhere.

20200623_215748-01.jpeg

One obvious one, the other is in the top left – two pieces in.

It was bloody hard too. But I’ve said that. Eye strain a plenty.

28 Days Later

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Teddy on Sunday – We went on a three and a quarter mile walk, taking in Elmstead Wood, and to the left is the cemetery where my parents are buried. It’s a poignant time of year coming up. Teddy is really responding well to training and commands. He’s a really good boy, and still improving. Proud of him.

I decided back on 26 May to take a break from Social Media. It wasn’t a total break, it wasn’t even a banning of myself. It was something I felt I needed to do.

In those four weeks, I have limited myself to extremely limited interaction on Facebook. A few happy birthdays, liking my wife’s garden pictures. No Teddy. No thoughts on life. Just insipid drivel. Not missed it.

Twitter – a harder habit to break, full of the self-righteous, the point scorers, the virtue signallers, the smartest people in the room, the agree with me or else merchants that seem to populate the world. In the 28 days since I said I was not going to participate, I have sent four Tweets. One about Viv Richards’ bat, one sympathising with a colleague that he had to leave, one on the return of televised football, and one laughing at Simon Hughes’ podcast name. There might have been a fifth.

I stopped blogging here, other than for a Lance Armstrong documentary film I hadn’t seen before. Attempts to review music floundered on another site. The heart isn’t in it. I keep thinking I want to write on the cricket blog, but no. It goes.

None of my issues can be solved through social media. None. I don’t propose going back to normal any time soon, but then, every time I tried to quit smoking I probably said the same thing until I got the absolute scare of my life and packed in cold turkey (17 and a quarter years ago last Saturday). Too much is analysed. Too much is taken to heart. I do it, I know others do.

I am in a state of sheer bewilderment. I describe my own state of mind during working hours as “broken”. Thankfully I have a great wife and a spectacular border collie, who are giving me purpose. Because without them, there is no outlet. I could not imagine doing this alone. My fear is that those that matter in the working world think that it’s just me being me and he’ll get over it – you don’t listen to the one who makes the points most of the time. I hate uncertainty. I despise a lack of leadership. I let a lack of clarity erode my brain. I don’t think this is something I can acutely share with my colleagues and friends. My head hurts. My concept of how we need to proceed is lost in a morass of indecision, fog and diffidence.

So live your life to the best you can. This is not the time to feel your best, and those that take the risk to, I can almost forgive you now. It changed for me the day that man went to Durham. I’d have loved to get away from the London rat race, even for 6 hours. But I couldn’t. I was obeying orders. Since that day, and since seeing people fall for that absolute fucking claptrap of an explanation, a piece of my soul died. It turned a collective action into a prison sentence, and only the privileged could avoid it. I tried to convince myself not to care, but as I sit here now, it only grates on me more.

Coincidentally, it was this week last year that I had a similar build-up of rage and despair. I felt so low that I couldn’t pick myself up. This is similar but different. I can’t go into it, because I can’t, but I keep hearing about wellbeing, and the factors that prevent you from getting into that state are thwarted at every turn. Life is difficult enough, but when wounds are self-inflicted, or you don’t have any cure, then it becomes impossible. So I doubt this will be a place I will be attending regularly. Let’s see how it goes.

I leave you with this. How can the Vatican City sell me a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing? That winds me up. No end. And sums up life just now.

Hope you are all safe and well. Be good.

Watching “The Armstrong Lie”

Armstrong Lie

According to the blurb, this film was released in 2013. This was just after Lance Armstrong’s confession to taking performance enhancing drugs. I must have missed it, being a voracious consumer of pretty much all things “Lance is the Devil”, so when I saw it on the TV guide a couple of weeks ago, I put it on record. Last night I watched it in one sitting. Madly, that sitting started at 11pm. Sleep patterns be damned.

So let’s set my little backstory as a cycling fan. I started watching in the 1980s. The first Tour de France I really remember was Stephen Roche’s win. The first Tour I got emotionally involved in was 1989. I became a LeMond fan for life. He is easily in my top 10 sporting heroes. His World Championship later that year reaffirmed my fandom. Then Indurain took over, the hints being there at Luz Ardiden in 1990 when he rode LeMond off his wheel at the end of the clinching stage. Indurain never resonated with me. Not until he cracked that Saturday afternoon on La Plagne (I think) in 1996. In the interim, Lance Armstrong had briefly resonated with a marvellous World Championship of his own as he sneaked away and held on to win in Oslo, I think. I could check all these things out, but let’s do this in one take.

In the interim, I quite liked Jan Ullrich. He threatened Riis in 1996, and when he won in 1997, it seemed the natural order of things. At this time you sort of ignored any news or views on drug taking in the sport. Well I did. But then 1998 changed all that and suddenly the world of cycling took on a different hue. What is often forgotten in that race is Ullrich collapsed in a heap on one mountain stage, losing something like 8 minutes to Pantani, and yet the next day rode away from all but Pantani on the stage to Morzine. I was living a denial, because, frankly, I liked Ullrich – because he obviously spent off seasons eating like I did.

I remember where I was when I heard that Lance Armstrong had won the prologue in the 1999 Tour. Playing cricket at South Bank Uni. At that point I thought, that’s a nice story, him having had cancer and all that. When he rode away from everyone at Sestriere, I thought “leave off, you’ve got to be having a laugh”. This was the Tour when every past winner who could have ridden didn’t. Maybe the field was weaker that year was the thought. But even so, he had to be on something.

Then the Cancer Jesus was born, and the rest, as they say, is history. He won seven on the bounce. Minor blips, like the one where he lost two minutes to Ullrich on the Joux Plane, were just that. He dominated the field, dominated the sport, and dominated all coverage. He doped and denied. Doped and denied. He had plenty of people denying it for him. I won’t forget in a hurry, and presumably a lot of others won’t either, the fawning love of Liggett and Sherwin on the commentary. They knew the score, they had to. Liggett’s very short appearance in the film seemed to say that he did. My memories of the time Armstrong was about to get busted, was he wasn’t saying that then. Armstrong ruled the sport with an iron fist. He shamed fellow cyclists who spoke out (you might recall a review of the Bassons book on this site), he ostracised journalists, he made his team dope (and they didn’t seem to be unwilling) and snapped up those who might have threatened him (Roberto Heras joining US Postal was a bit odd). When he retired, with that if you can’t believe cobblers, I just wanted him gone. There was no joy in watching him win. I would argue that the big sign for me was the focus on just one event – the Tour – and that could not make him a candidate for greatest ever (as much as I hate that).

So I watched the documentary by Alex Gibney last night, and you see how he captivates people. An air of menace. An air of sincerity. An air of repressed anger. An air of devotion to his sport. Did he really think he could win again in 2009? Did he really ride that year’s Tour clean? Did he think that Contador stabbed him in the back? Was all the film’s build up to that year’s Tour just to cleanwash Armstrong. To make us believe he got to the 3rd place. He was a couple of months short of his 38th birthday. He had no right to be up there. The film appeared to be spinning this as an heroic performance. A cleansing of a legacy that had not yet been tarnished.

There was one thought that sat with me through the film, and through the 20 years since Armstrong took one of my favourite sporting events by the scruff of the neck. It is really quite simple. Lance Armstrong doped. Big time. Got the best dopers to do it. Best doctor. Trained with that in mind. This was available to everyone else. There were big money teams like Festina before, Deutsche Telekom, et al around at the time, and they were doping too. They all were at it if you read Bassons’ book. All of them. Yet Armstrong DOMINATED. Utterly dominated, like no man before or since. He could climb with the best of them, was a massively skillful time triallist, and he was a great strategist. It fills me with horror to even contemplate it. The sheer rage his cheating brings to me, the sheer anger of his treatment of people, the loathing of the man makes me rage like few other sportsmen have ever done. Yet, in an era when the peletion was jet fuelled, he was the best. He doped better might be the easy answer, but is it the only answer.

It should never be allowed to cover his legacy to the sport. Armstrong used his power, and that was an interesting part of the film, to cover the lie, but he had to know it would come out. There seemed no way the UCI weren’t in on it, especially over the TUE given to Armstrong after the event in 1999. Armstrong alludes to this when he said he got warnings if he was getting too close.

In the end he pissed off Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour with a Lazarus-like comeback that defied any sane analysis. Landis had been made a pariah, and yet he raged wondering why he was suffering mass indignity when Armstrong did what he did seven times, and was wandering around being feted by Presidents and so forth. He got mad, then tried to get even. They got him, in 2012, and Armstrong was banned for life.

I know Armstrong is still floating around the scene, casting acerbic glances on the current state of cycling. Despite everything, watching as I did last night, I came away with a feeling I’m disgusted with myself for even contemplating. Maybe Armstrong has been wronged a little? Only a little? He was allowed to get away with his monstrous lie in the earliest days (1999) and yet the sporting world craved a new hero for a sport that was crucifying itself on the altar of doping. They got one. A cancer survivor with a great marketing instinct. The authorities, the media, the fans, the TV, the award givers, the sports marketers, everyone enabled it. Armstrong rode it. They even let him ride off into the sunset. Then he came back.

The film was slightly remade after the doping allegations were confirmed by Armstrong on the Oprah show. It papers over the cracks. It still captivated me for 2 hours, though. Armstrong has that presence. He just has. The ultimate baddie. The man who destroyed all belief in a sport. The man who made hundreds of millions of dollars on a lie. How could he make good people’s lives miseries? Because that is what he needed to do to sustain himself.

I just finished a book on Stephen A Cohen, a hedge fund operator, and how he used insider information to make himself billions upon billions. He got others to take the hit, and finally he got his firm found guilty. He’s still running around buying up paintings, getting himself labelled as a philanthropist on his Wikipedia entry, and hardly noticing the scratch that the insider trading scandal inflicted on him. Why bring this up here? Cohen cheated. Flat out cheated. But so could everyone else cheat, and he was just better at it than anyone else. When he got caught, there was no real opprobrium, no Oprah interviews, no seeking redemption. He sat out his ban, and set up another fund. Others took prison sentences, while, in the words of Public Enemy, the real thief “cooled in the pool”. Stephen Cohen has real power, the power of money. There is no edifice going to bring him and his ilk down. Armstrong had transient power. Once he was no longer useful for the sport, it disowned him. When he came back in 2009, no-one in the sport’s hierarchy wanted him. Cohen had banks falling over themselves to invest right away in his new venture. When you’ve just read about someone like that, you get a little pang of sympathy for Armstrong.

Because, whether I like it or not, doped cycling was the game in town, and for three weeks every July, he was the best at it, by far. That’s an inconvenient truth, and speaks volumes of how modern life, in particular, is damn awful.


No. I’m not back to full-time blogging. Only on subjects I give a crap about and when the mood takes me. I have had three pretty interesting experiences since I last wrote. The Armstrong Lie was one. Reading the book Black Edge about SAC Capital and Stephen Cohen was another (the book made me seriously angry) and the other was the excellent 5th season of The Shield. I might review that later.

Black Edge

I have been seriously pissed off by social media. I hate both sides of politics right now. I can’t stand the form of debate that is going on, with everyone seeking affirmation and confirmation, and if not getting it, resorting to rage. There is the other problem of straight out being lied to. Armstrong is a great case of how people can be fooled to forgive even the most heinous of sins, and yet, if genuine, can never be given forgiveness. That’s not the modern way. That’s why I have stopped contributing on Twitter, and why the few Facebook appearances will be to say Happy Birthday or to like some of my wife’s excellent nature photos from up on the allotment. It’s more peaceful that way.

Take care everyone. I do genuinely miss most of you. Stay safe.

So What Now?

UPDATE FROM LAST NIGHT

As I said, the last of the Covid Diaries was yesterday and I won’t be doing that again. I have a couple of observations as a result of last night and the preceding couple of days which I thought I should share, before taking my leave.

If you think this is a left v right issue, you should listen to someone as close to me as can be, who is not of my political persuasion, and they are more livid than I am – by a distance. I am at hurricane force, they are at warp speed angry.

When did we put up with this? If that Barnard Castle excuse was given to you as a parent, you’d punish your son/daughter. You’d be even madder for the sheer untruth behind it instead of confessing. Here? As long as it made the left mad, and you can laugh at that, great? As long as you tolerate basic gaslighting from the government, fine. We’re done.

Look, I’m not going into it any more on here. All those people who shared the frustrations of Parklife, who then say “he was only doing his best for his family” need to look at themselves. I can’t write any more about it at this stage. The sheer arrogance of what that man did, and how he is protected, is beyond my comprehension.

I am now going to confine myself to photographs of my dog on The Teddy Times. There are some new pictures up from my walk with him over Avery Hill, where I ventured 3.7 miles away from my house – the furthest I’ve been since March 16th. I will also look to update the Paddington blog. Yes, this does mean, for the time being, I will also not be writing for Being Outside Cricket. That has been on my mind a while. But I’ll decide the future with the guys on there in due course.

I will also take a step back on Facebook and on Twitter. Both apps have been removed from my mobile media, and while I will check up to see notifications (if there are any), on the laptop, living on those platforms corrodes the mind. I’ve wasted a weekend on them and I am so mad at myself for doing so.

I miss my friends terribly. But sometimes things need to be cut out. For a while it will be those two platforms. This means friendships are paused, I will have to live with it.

As for here on this blog? I really don’t know. The love of writing will overcome a lot, and I will probably be back on here at some point. But not at this time. Anything I want to write about makes me livid. That’s not a great place to be.

I’m still on WhatsApp so feel free to catch me there. I’ve deleted Instagram on the devices, but I never used that much anyway. Say hello if you feel like it. I just don’t feel up to doing this. It’s not depression, it’s not anxiety, but this is the sort of stuff that erodes mental health. That’s why you stop.

Be good. Be safe. Love to friends and family. See you around (on The Teddy Times). You only came on here to see him, I know that! Who can blame you?

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The ultimate raiser of spirits! Taken today at Chinbrook Meadows.

https://theteddytimes.home.blog/

Bye for now.

Peter

The End of the Covid-19 Tales

At the start of all this I thought I would put down my thoughts on how the lockdown period was going, and what I thought of some of the stuff going on. I have to say the last 48 hours have not surprised me in the slightest, and has left me disheartened, disgusted and dismayed. No Teddy picture. No music. Nothing else. Just a sign-off.

Life isn’t meant to be torture. It isn’t meant to be easy either. Blogging is meant to be fun, and I say writing is catharsis, but not even that can begin to work right now. I have sat and watched and followed the events surrounding Dominic Cummings. For reasons I cannot go into, and which only a few know, and putting cards on the table, there is a personal angle here. I don’t know Cummings personally. I haven’t met him. But there is an angle here for me. At this point, if you listen to anyone in power, I am the enemy, and should be ignored.

That’s how it is played these days, folks. If you aren’t with us, you are against us. So let me take you back to this from earlier in the lockdown on this blog:

Look, I don’t want to get into a Tory v Labour thing here. I have no intention of going there. They are my government at this time. Their success is keeping me, and millions of us alive. Being brutal, if Boris didn’t make it, it is next man or woman up, and the support continues to get them through this crisis. You can still disagree, but those in seemingly blind devotion to him see even the slightest gripe as a personal attack. I suggest they grow up. We literally, are all in this together, or we are in anarchy.

Written on 7 April.

I’m not commenting on the UK response either, because at this time you have to lend them your trust, because if they eff up, they should be made to pay. But there is a massive amount of personal responsibility to follow the advice. I’m a know-it-all nearly at the best of times, but these are the people we need to follow, right now, because not to do so will lead to anarchy and that, my friends, is a million times worse.

Written on 5 April

Looking back on my last post and I’m struck by my state of confusion and despair. And don’t get me wrong, there is still no lack of both of those emotions, but today I feel somewhat different. As if a corner has been turned, not that there is any end of the horror in sight, but that something has changed. That things have to happen, and to happen, the people, most of them, need to be trusted. You can search all you want for clear guidance, absolute clarity, the government to tell you what you can and can’t do in every nuance in your life, but it isn’t going to happen. This whole situation requires YOU to think. To make the correct decisions based on the advice you are given. YOU are to blame for what happens now if you take a chance. Don’t look to blame someone else.

Written on 24 March

For once, I’m not judging Boris. I loathe him, but he is who we have and I am not going to lose my rag with him at a time when he has the devil’s own job and quite patently, isn’t enjoying it. Yep, he made his bed, but I bet he didn’t think it came with quite these sharp nails.

Also written on 24 March

I hope reading this you might see that I have tried to be understanding and that I fully recognise there is a tough predicament. That understanding went yesterday and then today. I could write a thousand words and I wouldn’t do it justice. Open your eyes, and your minds, to what you are being told. The media are bad, but that doesn’t mean that the politicians are saints. You’ve not been for a 30 mile drive to the coast in March and April because you were told not to. Those were the rules. You can’t just brush that question off. But they did. If you sit here and think that the media was harsh asking it, well the problem is you, not the media. What would you rather have?

I am done. I will write when I can be bothered, which will happen. But I am done. Get through this, pray there isn’t a second wave, hope for the best, cross your fingers, and pray that the virus will just die out. Stick your ten favourite albums to pull you through on Facebook or on here, and pretend it is for community spirit. We’ll be back being evil, divisive arseholes before you know it. This is their world, we just occupy a disposable space in it.

Look after yourselves. See you around.

One footnote. I have friends of all political persuasion. I want the best for all of us. I feel no joy when the other side loses, and only despair when someone I fear wins. I have feared three people winning elections. Thatcher (87). Trump. Johnson. I feel no reason to gloat. These are people’s lives. I suggest anyone who thinks taking the piss out of me, this post, or whatever because my side “lost” so deal with it, stop following me. I think friends don’t do that.

A couple of further footnotes. My apologies. I didn’t thank those of you who have followed me on this diary. I hope you enjoyed some of it. Because if you enjoyed all of it, you are odd, or me. You may never know the final four songs in the playlist, or the last three albums (not sure if I knew them) or the 30 day song challenge.

Also, I may carry on with the Teddy pics on The Teddy Times. I’ll link on Facebook and Twitter (if I stay).

There are people who told me how much they agreed with the Parklife stuff, how outrageous it is, and then have sat, and listened today to a bloke who, on Easter Sunday, when we all stayed in, went to a tourist hotspot and sat on a bench, and they feel sorry for him. I’ve even had my walks with Teddy thrown at me as being similar. I think the only thing for it is to stay in all the time. You can’t be accusing if you’ve been abusing, even if you haven’t been.

You wonder how mental health suffers. This is how.

The Covid-19 Tales – Episode 22

Dateline – 18th May 2020

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Somewhere down the line I changed “Episode” in the title to “Part”. It’s back to “Episode”. These things matter.

So, I last wrote on Thursday. The weekend was largely uneventful, except for the excitement of a full-on weekly-big-shop to Morrison’s in Sidcup. This event should not really be exciting, but it was. The anticipation of finding a car park space? What would the queue to get in be like? How long would I have to wait? How was social distancing enforced? What about queuing to pay? What would the stocks be like – last time I went on 20 March, it was horrendous? How about the traffic? Answers in order:

  • No problem. Plenty of space
  • Twenty in front of me. Small shopping (baskets) given priority.
  • About 10-15 minutes. Weather was nice.
  • Wasn’t. At all.
  • Longer than the queue to get in, but about a 5 minute wait in total. Made a mistake not putting the queue down the beer or crisp line to offer temptation. Instead you were queued down the kitchen appliance and utensil rack. Hmmm, I do need a new toaster!
  • Pretty good. No honey nut cornflakes, pasta a bit low, some gaps, but nothing horrific. Had my Sapporo beer. Lovely. Not on sale like last time. Boo.
  • Not as heavy as a normal Sunday, nowhere near, but certainly a lot more than I’ve been used to under lockdown.

OK, so after the thrill of going wild in the supermarket, stocking up on alcohol I’m not drinking, buying crap I shouldn’t eat, and all parts in between, I chilled out in the evening and did virtually nothing. Which sort of sums up the weekend, really. So before I hit the serious stuff at the end, let’s do all the social side that I know some of you like, and some of you don’t.

The Ipod 24

On the Ipod 24, we are now onto Track 20 of the top playlist, and it is a cheery, light little ditty, one to while away those hot summer days, and chill out to. It even mentions cultural icons Elvis Presley and John Wayne!

Fight the Power. 1989. A number, another summer…. This came out just after I’d really got into Public Enemy with It’s A Nation Of Millions, and this track is just immense. This is the full video version – skip to three minutes for the song to start. From the movie “Do The Right Thing” and feature on the as good as Millions album “Fear of a Black Planet”, there’s no doubt it shouldn’t be in my top 24. Lord, I’ve felt my own need to fight back on more than one occasion, and yes, I know my struggles are minuscule compared to those referred to on here. But it’s an inspirational and brilliantly angry song. Chuck D at his uninhibited best. I wonder where this kind of rap went to?

Top 20 Albums

On to the album next, and I am starting to struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff. I am limiting myself to an album per artist (except compilation mixes when the tune selection does the talking) and am not allowing Greatest Hits albums. So I started searching my brain for an album I played many many times and still rate, and perhaps some added meaning. I have decided upon this one, because, well I’ll explain in my permitted sentence below:

Way_Out_West_-_Intensify

This is, again, the second album released by this duo – Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff – and is still my favourite collection from them. None of the five studio albums released by the pair are below very good. This, however, has the greatest collection of really good songs. That’s more than one sentence. Sue me.

30 Day Challenge – Days 22 and 23

So the 30 day challenge wants me to issue a Song The Moves Me Forward. I will try to avoid any of my top 24 then, as they are the inspiring songs that seem to give me a purpose. I would quite possibly have used the Jamie Matrix track from a few weeks ago. So for no other reason that I dug it out this weekend, that I think every time I listen to it I feel like there’s an energy to it that needs to come out, and that the sheer brilliance of the layered composition, I am going for Xpander by Sasha.

The full 11 minute version.

This appears on Global Underground 13, one of my top 10 albums, and I love how, after the intro, the track is pared down to its basic element, and built on sound by sound. Also, from that EP above, don’t sleep on Belfunk or Baja, which are also really good examples of the late 90s progressive / trance scene.

Sometimes, though, I think that the music I’m being asked for is under such a generic label, it is getting harder to match. However, my cricket blogging colleague has gone all in and is doing a 30 for 30 approach to all this. Have a look here. I’m struggling with one, most days.

So as it has been a weekend, let us add to the merriment by choosing the song for Day 23. A song you think everyone should listen to. I am going to take this as by an artist you don’t think gets the recognition you think they deserve, you won’t know it, people might like it if they are pointed towards it and so on. There’s a hell of an amount of ego in this one. I’ve always felt musical tastes are your own, so why should they be imposed on anyone else. Also, how do I narrow this down?

I love the band Trafik, and if I had to volunteer a track of their’s that I really like and not mentioned yet it is probably this one. But I’ve done Trafik to death. Try also Paid Up In Full, Echoes, Surrender, Smoke, Dark Times or Perfume Suite. A much under-rated and ignored band. Still waiting for that next album John and Andrew.

I’m looking at one track that is relatively new, and perhaps an oldie but underappreciated goodie in my eyes. For the new, I think the artist that recently impressed me the most is Finnish producer Yotto. I love North, also really like Fire Walk, but I think the best he has done is Wondering (featuring Caps).

The song from the past is a B-side to a very famous A-side, released in 1987. I think it is in the Pet Shop Boys’ top five songs, and yet it was a B-side. Amazing. Put it this way, this didn’t make the cut for Actually, which increasingly is defined by the songs they had at the time that weren’t included on the album (Always on My Mind being another).

So that is my musical obligations discharged for the evening.

More Musical Merriment – Albums Listened To

In the interim, I am trying to listen to some of the albums I don’t really have on any sort of loop, may not have listened to in full ever, or just feel like putting them on. Again, partly inspired by Danny’s musical blogging, because there’s opportunity here, I like working with music on, and also it gives me something to write.

Three albums to review this weekend, then…

Exile - Hurts

Exile by Hurts – I had not heard of this duo until I listened to Sasha’s Radio 6 mix a few years ago, where he played a very decent remix of Miracles. I thought this sounded a half decent song, but never felt the need to purchase their album. In the last few years I sort of resisted purchasing the risky album that I was so keen to do in my younger days. After all, that’s how I ended up buying that Way Out West album above. A few years ago though I went on a raid of all the Poundlands I could get to in my lunch break to pick up their used CDs for a quid, and in one of them, this was there. So I snapped it up. It’s downloaded onto my MP3 players, Itunes and such. But I’d never listened to it. I knew Miracle was a good song. The reviews of the album weren’t crash hot. Some think they are playing at being Muse, and I can see that, but I see more of the Japan / ABC / Heaven 17 type approach of theatrical and almost serious pop. But stuff pigeonholing music. It comes down to whether you like it. I was rather ambivalent. It all seemed a bit overwrought, a bit over-thought to me. This isn’t awful, not by any manner of means. Far from it. It’s just there, really. However, and this is why doing this sort of thing is good, I came across a song on the album I really liked that I hadn’t heard before.

It’s the penultimate track on the album, and yes, is probably the one that sounds most like Miracle. But I liked it if only for the cheesy oooooh a wooooh a ooooooh backing vocal in the chorus. There’s worse things in life than liking a song for that reason!

Dirty Vegas One

One – Dirty Vegas

No-one stands behind me in my loving of Dirty Vegas. I think they have done so much decent stuff that even the album I struggled to get into sounds good today. I was cogniscent that I hadn’t listened to One, their second album, for quite some time. So in my singalong with the lyrics evening on Saturday, I put it on. The album has some personal significance for me as it coincided with the end of something important (at the time), and for some reason it reminds me of the queue through Rotherhithe Tunnel! Not even Blackwall. Overall, though, I can’t say I missed not playing it on the further listen. There are good songs on there, such as Human Love, Given You Everything and especially Walk Into The Sun, which is still a fantastic song, but if I were doing a “Best of Dirty Vegas” album, the others would struggle to figure.

Photograph, their last album (two of the three original band members) is really good, and I think I might play that soon.

Artwork-600_grande

Scene Delete – Sasha

Now, you know I like Sasha, mainly as a compiler of iconic dance mixes and innovative albums like Involver and his two massive Global Underground Mixes. He also released a really quite good album back in the early noughties called Airdrawndagger. This album was released as part of the Late Night Tales series, and Sasha himself said he was inspired by the John Hopkins iteration of the series. This was released in 2016, and I have to say I was really looking forward to it. The ambient music scene can be hypnotic and entrancing, but it can also, if done wrongly or not to your taste, phenomenally dull and self-indulgent. I think you can guess that I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by this album because in my eyes, and coming to it this weekend, I think I listened to it before and was underwhelmed. I have listened to it with work today and, while my initial view might have been harsh, it does go through some really dull moments. However, there are some good bits. I do like “Bring on the Night-time” which, maybe not uncoincidentally, is probably the most upbeat track so far:

I’m listening to this as I am writing it, so keep with me and I’ll come back to this at the end.

I forgot this album has the absolutely amazing “Rooms”. The vocalist is John Graham. I love that guy too (his solo album Cold Sun is worth a listen).

Wow. I forgot just how damn good a track that is/was. He stuck it at Track 19 out of 21 for heaven’s sake! Vapour Trails is a lovely ending to it.

I am loathe to ever criticise Sasha, and while I don’t think this quite worked, there are those glimpses in the album that make you just melt. Like Rooms. I would suggest if you like your music chilled, then this is an album you might like to try. It isn’t bad – Sasha doesn’t generally just chuck out any old thing – but it didn’t float my boat. The middle is extremely dull. I have the unmixed version, with the mix as the final track. Rooms has just been put on my playlist for May/June!

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It is now nine full weeks working from home. Life has changed in so many ways, but I sense the desire to get us back to some sort of normalcy is gaining pace. No-one over the park seems as bothered than a few weeks ago, and while no-one is going up to a stranger and talking to them, there are more people sunbathing, more people on the exercise equipment, more people running and playing sport. Even the gym equipment, which has been unused since those cretins above in the banner were on it, had people on it today. There seems to be more on the roads, more people about, and is it purely down to the lovely weather. I feel the nine weeks being isolated heavily, not only emotionally, but physically. I find the legs to do the walking aren’t there every day – today certainly not – and while my breathing is undoubtedly better with the lack of crap air, that’s not being compensated for in my physical wellbeing. I know that’s down to me. I know.

I sense covid-fatigue. I sense people slipping. I don’t believe that if the figures significantly upturn, we’ll be told. In that case, the leaders won’t lead and take the blame. The people will. Individual decisions. I walked around a non-socially distanced supermarket yesterday and I reckon I was the one in 15 who had a mask on, and the 1 in 30 who wore gloves. Am I doing the right thing? I really have no way of knowing, but let’s do what seems best. Still, on the bright side, that blue/green Innocent juice containing lord heaven knows what didn’t taste too bad, so that was a plus point.

Football came back in Germany at the weekend. This is cynically to fulfill the TV contract, packaged to say “it’s better than nothing”. Ask yourself this as a sports fan. How good would, say, Jessica Ennis winning the Heptathlon have been at the Olympics without a crowd? How would the comeback in Istanbul, the miracle of Barcelona, the penalty shoot out in Munich have been in front of no-one? Better than nothing, maybe. But it isn’t sport. I’ll have more to say on this pretend nonsense.

But better to save the rest for later. We have a whole week ahead of us. I still have The Last Dance to watch – the final two episodes – and a comment or two on the completion of two series on Netflix – Sunderland ’til I Die and All or Nothing (Dallas Cowboys). I’m sure the politics and the virus will make a visit as well. But for now, there is relative tranquility. I then took my temperature. 37.0. Is that high?

Stay safe. Love lots. Be good. Enjoy what you can.

Peter

The Covid-19 Tales – Part 21

Dateline – 14 May 2020

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OK – a ramble as always, a thought dump, a maelstrom in my brain that finds no way of calming. What am I to think? Why? Then after that, music, sport and parklife – including blogging elsewhere.

The Covid Stuff

So the next thing is, the next question that is going to be posed is clear. It is coming, as sure as anything. The drums are beating in the background, getting closer and closer. The question is simple. Am I a coward for not wanting to come out of this “hibernation” until I can be reasonably assured that I won’t contract this virus? It is going to be the teachers who are going to get this thrown at them first. You can see the arguments being marshalled – health service workers have risked their lives, so why shouldn’t teachers. The argument should be thrown right back to the people asking the question. Are you working from home? Are you socially distancing all the time? What does your employer tell you to do?

You don’t have to be a genius, if you’ve read this diary, to recognise my core belief throughout this. You can recover from an economic slump, you can’t recover from being dead. I don’t buy the patriotic bullshit that is marshalled when anyone harks back to some marvelous yesteryear, or some exceptionalism that is actually the square root of eff all down to me. You don’t have to be a genius to work out my views on Brexit. I can disagree fundamentally with your point of view, and I try to stick to economics and the better to get along than go alone theory, but when I, and people like me, are just dubbed as traitors etc., then you can see why someone like me might be a teeny bit wary of these Tinpot Churchills, and when the flag or the country is invoked. I want my country’s teams to do well in sport, but when that is based on some need to have our past “brilliance” validated, no thanks. So if you invoke some greater good which appears to me to be it is patriotic and your duty to put yourself at risk so some richer people can make more money and avoid tax (yeah, I know, lots of small businessmen and women are not rich, but you don’t think the Barclay Brothers or Murdoch give the first shit about them, do you?), I’m sorry, people, but I’ll look after mine first. Then second, then third. By mine I mean my family, my friends, my health, their health.

Look, I am lucky. I can do 90% of my job at home. My employer is content for me to stay here for as long as needed. I think I am well regarded by my bosses, who know I will deliver. We have worked longer hours. I speak to my boss as much as I did when I was in the office. But as I’ve said, I really miss the freedom to see them in person. Human interaction can be masked if you can’t talk in person. You can’t see the face changes, the body language on Teams, especially if you don’t use the video function. It’s horrible to know I haven’t seen my best mates. I am limited in seeing my brother. Do you think people like me WANT this. Because that’s the inference. That this is somehow better than returning to the office when you are told that IF you do things right, you won’t catch the disease.

There are forces at play here. Some random bullet points:

  • A good point was made that to get the country to adhere, in the main, to lockdown, they had to scare people to death. To do it too early would mean that people would get sick of tired of it, and jeopardise the NHS with a second wave. They believed it would not hold for any more than 2 months. Those people have been proved right. Or have they? 75% of people still believe we should be lockdowned, but that isn’t reflected in 75% of the media who give their content away free on the internet, but can’t get people to buy newspapers, for instance.
  • Also made a point that in scaring people to extremes in the early stages (and let us be frank, it wasn’t hard. 600, 700, 800, 900 deaths per day is scary without much added doom) would mean that to get them out again you would have to “un-scare” them. Make them feel safe. Well. That’s not going to work while there are 600+ deaths a day still being reported. We are where we were around late March, coming up to the peak in early April. How did YOU feel in mid-March. Were you ready to come out to play?
  • Here’s where the art of political deception, or as it should be known, lying, isn’t a victimless act. When a politician lies, and the more egregious the better, and you accept it as “they all do it” and “it is par for the course”, you have given up in the pursuit of honesty. What happens next is that you are arguing about degrees, and that can be exploited. Let me take Trump, for instance. On his first day in office he egregiously lied about the size of the audience. Anyone with their own eyes could tell you it wasn’t up to Obama 2009. But you were told it was more. When the lie was pointed out, supporters of the Trump ticket called the press liars. Anyone agreeing with them were also lying, because they hated Trump. Every media arm, every person should have been worried there and then. But supporters who even acknowledged that this was Trump’s sales technique and did it really matter were the dangerous ones. You’d accepted that that lie was acceptable. Everything else that followed is just a matter of degree, and each side digs in more and more. In the UK, this is what happened with Brexit, in my view. The point here is not to excoriate the liars, it’s to say that once they get away with brazen lies (a) you will probably convince yourself, if you are a supporter, that any lies subsequently picked up on are ONLY political hack jobs and (b) when you need them to tell you the truth, and when they do, if you oppose them you will NEVER believe them. Oh, and somewhere someone is making a lot of money out of this.
  • That was a long thought, and the usual people will say I am spouting anti-Trump stuff. But the point remains that we have accepted lying as par for the course, and when we need the truth, it is that Manic Street Preachers album title. This is my truth, tell me yours. Except no. I am comfortable with my truth, and if yours is not the same, well you are just a Trump/Clinton Hater/Lover Johnson/Corbyn fanboy/cultist. We aren’t developing political discourse. We are destroying it. I blame Twitter!
  • I would say, from my perspective, that the attempts to reassure in the UK are floundering with me because people are coming on to social media and telling me I am an idiot, or politically motivated, to say I don’t understand them. Here’s what I don’t understand. Are we going for herd immunity or not? Is the only motivation here not to overwhelm the NHS, or to minimise in totality, the number of people who contract the virus? Tell me, in late March / early April, when death toll and infections were around this level, were you scared to go out? Why can I visit my brother now at a socially distant level in the park, but not last week? If you have read my blog throughout this, you will know I initially supported the government’s actions because it looked designed to save our lives. My attitude changed somewhat, when I came back on Twitter after Easter. I am influenced. Just admit you are too, eh? Don’t sit there, all high and mighty, and say to me “it’s common sense, and you are just picking holes in it” because, rightly or wrongly, I think my life, and that of my friends and family, depend on it. A lot of people have gone down in my estimation over this. That is also terribly, terribly sad.
  • The media is not your friend. The papers want a return for selfish reasons. If this disease only affected journos, and lockdown was the only answer, you wouldn’t see their arses for dust. In the US, Fox News is very anti-lockdown, but extended their stay at home working provision until 15 June. Don’t do as I do, eh? Piers Morgan isn’t your friend either. I wouldn’t go on his show if I was a Tory, not because I’d be hammered in a Q&A, is because unlike the great political interviewers, the tough ones, the interview was about getting information from the subject, and questioning them on it, not how loud can I scream at you to claim the spotlight and show ME ME ME. That’s all that man has ever been about. I’m not buying his Damascene conversion.

OK. Enough of that. I did a large social piece yesterday on music and stuff. I’ll keep some of that going today.

The Music Stuff

First up, the top 24 on the Ipod. This one is more eclectic, and comes from James Holden’s Balance CD. Disc 1 is one of the better ones I’ve heard, and contains this track which has a funky little groove running through it like a stick of rock.

This is the unmixed version, whereas the one on the top 24 is weaved into the first cd mix. It’s one of my favourite jaunty little tracks.

On the song challenge, I am up to Day 21, and it is a song with a person’s name in it. I mentioned two I excluded, so now need to think of a tune I like with someone’s name in it. Ah yes. This will do:

Yep. I really like this one, Jesus is certainly eligible as a name.

The Top 20 album also needs consideration. Again, I am not doing more than one by any artist unless it is a dance mix (so Sasha gets two, but can’t see anyone else coming close). I’m now going down the list of artists that I could say influenced my music tastes and then selecting their best album. So, for that, it is this one:

Don't Disturb

A little more context. I think Pleasure Seekers and Rhythm and Romance are better albums, but this one really got me into them, and has two OUTSTANDING tracks at the start of each side of the LP/cassette.

20200512_123349-01-01.jpeg

Not a lot to report today. Teddy wasn’t massively well behaved, and we saw just the one knobhead who thought he was cool on the vertical bars, so we steered well clear of him, so no. It’s interesting that as the sun goes in, and the wind blows a little more, that the fitness freaks who don’t believe in social distancing stay indoors. How utterly peculiar.

This one has currently reached the 1800 word mark. I am spending a lot of my free time at the moment monitoring the competition others are running on our twitter feed for Being Outside Cricket, for the biggest knob in international cricket. Currently going through predictable lines. For those who don’t know, I am the founder of Being Outside Cricket (the blog) but less of a factor on the Twitter site. I’m also less active on the cricket blog even before this shutdown of international sport. There’s a story to be told about how I caught the mood of an angry cricket public in 2014, kept it going through the ending of the original blog, and the start-up of Being Outside Cricket in February 2015, when I was joined by Chris soon after, then two other editors, Sean and Danny. While we aren’t quite at the heights we were back in the angry days, we are still the “bad news blog” when England cricket doesn’t go quite as it should. Some of my best writing was in the early days. Today, I feel like a relic. Others have moved in, taken what place I had, and my voice doesn’t impact as it should there. I feel quite sad about it sometimes, but also relieved. You have a shelf life, recognise it. Don’t ever think you will make money out of it. Prepare to be attacked by some really strange individuals. Open your eyes, don’t keep them shut. You can’t let down your guard. It is emotionally knackering. But I loved it. I think.

Many times I have considered saying to the others, it is yours now. I want no part of it. Not because I don’t like them, of course not. They are great writers, and I’m proud we have a platform. I’m just knackered. Maybe I’ll be less knackered later. I’m enjoying writing this, but I choose my timings to write, not, as it used to be, I had to get something out.

Before I go, I wanted to touch on someone who was an important part of my life. I never met him, am never likely to meet him, never saw him in person, only on TV. I followed a whole sport because of him, and it has not been the same since, and never will be. He is a superstar, but his image has been tarnished for some post his career because he wasn’t the nice guy his image portrayed (and I never believed that). But to me he is my favourite ever sportsman and it isn’t even close for second place.

There is a documentary series out on Netflix called The Last Dance. Even if you are not a basketball fan, and don’t want to get into the story too deeply, watch Episode 7. It’s about how my man retires, plays another sport to say, in football terms, lower professional league standard (say League Two), then the end of it contains two minutes of his attitude to sport, how he is perceived, was perceived, and why, and I teared up with admiration. Michael Jordan, if it was possible, has stretched that lead over second place. The clip is in the tweet below. The series is incredible, but I am a fan. This man was a leader of men. They won six titles with him. He was the reason I took days off work to watch him play on ropey satellite feeds. He was the reason I spent money to acquire videos of his games that weren’t on our TV. He is the man. Still.

See you soon, maybe even tomorrow. All the best, stay safe, be good.

Peter