Friday, 14 November 2008

No smoke without fire...

I read a shocking statistic today. EIGHT pubs are closing EVERY DAY in the U.K., as opposed to six per week prior to July 2007. There are the usual rants amongst our supposed superiors that the credit crunch has made people think twice about going out and spending their hard earned, but coincidentally, July 2007 saw the introduction of the much criticized smoking ban.

As a smoker, I was open minded. Like most, I thought a blanket ban was unnecessary, and that landlords should be given the choice. When Wetherspoons, a major chain of pubs decided to pre-empt the ban, trade fell sharply.
Now however, the very notion of a "British pub" is under threat. Few seem to be doing well, with pubs unable to offer any outside space seemingly hardest hit. In my village, on the outside of Leeds, there were five pubs pre-ban. Now, there are three.

In the last recession, the one place people sought salvation was in their local pub. Now? What incentive is there, when standing outside in the freezing cold without the social interaction that always made pubs what they were has now all but disappeared outside of the summer months.
The smokers that did go have not been replaced by the hordes of non-smokers that the government promised.

But do I sympathise with the publicans? Not really, as it happens. The one pub that I do frequent is thriving - they'd had enough, so now allow anyone to smoke as they wish.
It has clearly worked.

If more actually stood up to our useless government and the sham that is the smoking ban (anyone remember "passive smoking"?! It's been conveniently forgotten since being discredited), they'd at least stand a fighting chance.
If they still want to believe the ridiculous arguments that supermarkets are cheaper (they always were) and that it's the recession that's killed trade (it never did in the past), then go to the wall.

After ploughing everything you have into The Plough, I really don't think lying down and just accepting fate is going to help this time.
Enough simply is enough.

Anyway, I'm off for a drink, if I can actually find some room amongst my fellow smokers. The secret's out, and it seems more are following...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Forgive me Cowell for I have sinned

I've often wondered about reality tv and the cult of celebrity.

I was watching x factor tonight, and pondering Simon Cowell's self appointed role as God for these people. The thought of choosing to have the destiny of your life in one man's hands frightens me - why on earth would they do it?! There's a guy on there called Daniel Evans, who can barely hold a note, and is subjected to the most vile abuse week after week. This is on top of losing his wife in childbirth, which the cynical among us might assume this could only have helped his cause, but to have to grieve so publicly AND make a fool of yourself ever Saturday is nothing short of insan(ia).

It feels like I'm watching the cycle of a breakdown. To derive any form of pleasure from watching this unfold is nothing short of sadistic, but he keeps being voted in! I wonder who on earth picks up the phone to spend a pound of their hard earned in the hope that they'll be able to witness such a masterclass the following week?
...I mean, there are few people left in his life, so I'm assuming it can only be the good people of Bridgend with little left to live for.

It brings me to another contestant, Rachel Hylton. A sickening example of why Britain needs more prisons, with 5 kids at the age of 14 and an attitude that'd make that vile CJ bloke from Eggheads seem reasonable. Seemingly tone deaf, yet still in there, I fear for my windows each time she warbles. As recompense, I'd grudgingly be prepared to accept her milk tokens towards the damage - the cost of all that Elizabeth Duke jewellery must be quite a burden.

Friday, 7 November 2008

New world order

So, overnight it seems the world has changed. In a way, I have a sense of jealousy for the hope which Americans currently feel - the speech which I watched from my apartment in Northern England at 5am on Tuesday was nothing short of mesmerising, and will stay with me.

It had been a long night, from which I awoke at around midday. I suddenly felt an inexplicable sense of loss. I think it dawned that the world is passing me by, and alone in my room, the previous night's inspiration had turned to tangible disappointment. Not at Obama's election, which I have no doubt will be one of the greatest (if inevitably shortlived) periods in America's history. I had a feeling of foreboding. Living in the UK, where politicians have no discernible thoughts of their own and the lack of transparency is frankly transparent, to see someone stand in front of hundreds of thousands of people and to know that every single word he spoke came from the heart was an absolute revelation. George W Bush was quite obviously quoting someone else's words every time he spoke, but I believe Barack Obama.

I fear however, like many, that this period of hope will soon come to an end. Not because of any errors he makes, but because I believe something will happen, and when that time comes, there'll be regression. People will be scared to make the tough decisions Barack wanted to make, and the world will be a much worse place. The divides in race relations that have been seemingly bridged will crumble, and when in likelihood, he is replaced by a white man, the ghettos will rise.

Barack Obama is truly unique, and irreplacable. The inevitability of his assassination casts a great shadow over this monumentous event for me. It feels like I'm watching a dead man walking, and as much as I wish it weren't true, I would guarantee there are people, probably somewhere in the south with far right tendencies plotting this very event as I write.

The election of a black man as president could perhaps be compared to the election of an Islamic prime minister in the UK. There would be very, very strong feelings against it, particularly in the mill towns of the North where there are serious racial tensions. However, without the "right to bear arms", quiet protest in the Nation's homes would probably be as far as it'd go, probably for fear of being dubbed an "Islamophobe" or something equally ridiculous. There is little free speech anymore, but the discontent would be tangible as I'm sure it is in Texas. The main difference is that a succession of failed labour governments has sapped any strength and resolve the British people have to make their voices heard.

Americans, however, have a new found sense of hope. I think there may be someone fancying themselves as a martyr in the bible belt who will do something about it. For 47% of the population to even consider an extension to the disaster that was Bush's premiership, of which a fair few I'm sure were voting against Mr Obama on racial grounds rather than for the quite noble John McCain, I'd suggest there may be at least one or two bad apples amongst them, and that they'll prevail.

Then it really will be a new world order. I pray it doesn't happen, but fear the time if/when it does. The beginning of the end, perhaps?
All of the hopes and all of the dreams will be gone. Fear will reign.

I hope this doesn't become the worst decision Americans have ever made. It seems right at the moment, but I have an awful feeling...