Pictures At Eleven

THE great philosopher, Derek Edward Trotter, summed it up perfectly. ‘E ‘oo dares…wins.’

Courage remains a point of difference. As always.

Me? I’ve been scared all my life, a life primarily spent writing. I’m pretty average, still marvel at the skills of my erstwhile journalistic colleagues, but knew my talents fell into the way I thought about stories rather than wrote them.

As a stay at home dad in his fifth decade, my energies are mostly directed on an endless hamster wheel of tidying, ensuring offspring are happy, fed, watered and clean, then more tidying, exhaustion and repeat.

I might snatch a few minutes a day to indulge myself in the written word, but not enough to put anything worthwhile down.

So my ‘escape’ is oil painting. Sometimes 20 minutes a day, sometimes none. Sometimes a whole hour. Sometimes simply squeezing out a bit of oil onto my palette before my two year old daughter decides she wants to play with me rather than her brothers. I personally think she picks her moments.

I have always enjoyed the physical process of moving lumps of oil-laden pigments around a canvas. It’s relaxing. I also love to understand the ‘rules’ of painting and study as many works of art as I can. I’ve dozens of books at home, have borrowed ten times more from the local library and even joined Truro Arts Society.

I’ve dabbled in oils for almost 40 years; mostly awful attempts at art. The beauty has been in the act, rather than result.

But recently I’ve been inspired from an unusual (perhaps, or ‘new’ for me?) direction. Social media.

Twitter pal Jon Pountney has been posting examples of his brushwork and I’ve been impressed with his style, his directness and use of colour. Now I don’t know, because we haven’t had a good conversation about painting, but he seems to have the courage I’ve been lacking.4

Courtesy of Jon Pountney

Whereas I agonise over detail and waste time over what I’m trying to achieve, Jon is focusing on shapes, colour and composition in the best tradition of art.

He is a photographer first and foremost, and I firmly believe photography is an art form. At least, when considered. Check out his work at http://www.jonpountney.co.uk/

On Twitter, he is @JonPountney1

Photographers, good photographers, tend to see things differently. They often have a clarity of view.

I like Jon’s eye for shadows, the way light falls on even the most humdrum subject. Shadows of road signs on the ground, for example. I like the way he frames people, too. Thoughtful.

He is one of several photographers I follow for the sheer passion that they put into their chosen subject. Check out Jim Mortram – @JAMortram on Twitter – for his body of work examining how government austerity has hurt people and communities. His Small Town Inertia project is wonderfully shot, black and white, shadows to the fore, a document of a Britain you don’t get in the pages of Hello! or the Daily Mail. It’s not pretty, but important work,

A taster here https://smalltowninertia.co.uk/ and a chance to support Jim by buying his book here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-Town-Inertia-J-Mortram/dp/1908457376

Likewise, Dean O’Brien – @DeanoBeano1 on Twitter – spends much of his time going around the former Soviet republic, showing courage under fire in war zones and snapping relics of the Cold War past and people of today.

I believe I get more of a feel for what is happening in the former Warsaw Pact countries through Dean than any ‘national’ newspaper or TV programme.

These guys offer a window onto a different world, a different landscape in much the same way as Manet, Lowry, Constable and Van Gogh did, recording their worlds for posterity.

And back to painting. Jon said he was happy with the two paintings showcased here, particularly the brushwork in his friend Cornelia’s blouse.DSC_35331

Courtesy of Jon Pountney

For me, it’s the shadows, the strong shapes, the bold use of colour that I like about this. The freedom of expression I’ve been struggling with.

It is inspirational. It’s emboldening.

It had me grabbing an old canvas, a failed attempt at a painting, and simply start brushing in new colours, new shapes…

I’ve a project of efforts based on the environment around me in this corner of Cornwall. The river, the old buildings dating back centuries, the unusual…

One of our bookcases is a storage and drying area for finished, unfinished and barely started pictures.

IMG_20190810_104150.jpg

But it is the lines, the shadows and the colours of Truro railway station that has channelled my paints and brushes in a different direction.

None of it’s any good, won’t make exhibition pieces or be sold in galleries, but I’ve really enjoyed the freedom, the ‘so what’ approach I’ve adopted. I’ve happily broken artistic convention on one – never have the horizon in the middle – because I felt it would accentuate the lines and mood more. For a subject all about connection I wanted to capture a disconnect.smart

Another below, I simply felt a title ‘Railway Lines’ would apply.

smart

While the latest, work in progress, continues the theme.

smart

For the first time I’m focusing on shapes and lines for their sake. I’m not worried about the whole picture, other than hoping to keep some sort of colour harmony. It’s imperfect, it’s ignorant of reality, my ‘punk painting’ and as a result, I’m enjoying the process more than ever.

I believe it’s helping my other efforts of oil on canvas.

I almost feel like a ‘proper artist’.

And it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Jon’s tweets of his latest works, some of them even on railway stations.

In an age of increasing hate spread by social media platforms, of threats and argument, I’m indebted to Jon and people like him for fuelling inspiration, for using internet platforms for good and sharing their ideas and approach.

 

Union City Blue

I SUPPOSE it says something about my schooling that I learned of the Pan Hellenistic theory at a young age.

One of the great military minds of the ancient Greek states, Phillip of Macedon, talked about ‘divide and rule’, and his Pan Hellenistic ideal was to unite the states under one banner.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Fast forward to Britain in 2019 and I can’t think we have ever been so fractured. The Tories can’t agree, Labour can’t agree. Brexiteers can’t agree. Remainers can’t agree.

Even football fans can’t agree about their team’s performances or about the attributes of the players.

Division is everywhere. The seeds of discontent well and truly sown. I found it so very hard to see any rallying cry to unite any of us.

It’s the politics of hate. A success story given we have Boris Johnson in residence at Number 10 and Donald Trump Jr at the White House. The two great democracies of the western world headed by narcissists.

The idea of uniting under a common cause is a very difficult challenge under either man. Johnson talks a good game, but has consistently changed course, ditched ideas and policies in search of popularity. Political expediency in some eyes, I’m sure.

Trump seems hell bent on playing the victim, crowing about achievements that often have no root in truth and targeting his perceived enemies with hate.

If anything, we have the ‘divided’ aspect of ancient and modern politics exactly right.

How utterly shameful. The demonisation of the poor, the disabled, the immigrants – those readily distinguised by virtue of skin colour, clothing or language. That’s before even considering religious beliefs. Not that many seem to these days.

The Churches play their part, particularly the evil American evangelists. As an agnostic Christian, the Christ I was taught about would surely be welcoming of everyone, irrespective of race, faith, creed, sexual orientation, political leaning…

The same pastors who denounce the adulterers, the liars, those who bear false witness, pray for Trump without any sign of irony.

Trump’s outrageous attacks on four female lawmakers – interesting he attacked female congresswomen who are coloured, rather than any of their white male colleagues – have yet again exposed the dark underbelly of American society. A nation built strong on racism, still apparent today in the way Afro-Americans are treated, especially when they take a stand against such institutional racism.

While Trump espouses the virtues of a general who rebelled against Washington, who wanted slavery to remain and white supremacy forever, he forgets the ideals that are supposed to have forged today’s United States. Or maybe he is showing that the Land of the Free is anything but united.

He surrounds himself with acolytes, just as Johnson has done with his own version of the Night of the Long Knives in establishing a cabinet that will accede to his every demand and wish, whether it drags Britain into a terminal recession or no.

And we have the hollow chants of loyalty, of patriotism, of supporting ideals that eat away at the very fabric of unity, an erosion of a path forward to bolster the hopes and dreams of everyman, woman and child.

Trump and Johnson will put the needs of their rich cronies and themselves above the call of country or the population even Johnson admits he is supposed to serve.

In the age of the narcissicist, both men will find unity challenging, hoist by their own petard, victim of the very qualities that got them where they are.

We’re all likely to suffer.

Divided and ruled.

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Remember

CALL it what you like – dumbing down, spin, downright lies, being economical with the truth – but history is being rewritten on an almost daily basis.

Winston Smith would be proud of his legacy.

Regional journalists and press officers seem happy to write facts as they see it, rather than dig deep, understand the issues and history behind much of what they want to say. Facts get lost, issues get forgotten and stories lose their importance.

Regrettable, but a sign of the times in the demise of local journalism, as the big publishers continue to cut costs in the name of profit.

But the national media – in print, online, on the airwaves or through the television and computer screen – is a willing participant in changing the facts, of not challenging the spin, the false beliefs, the lies.

On BBC News today, we hear about Boris Johnson’s successful terms as London Mayor ahead of his being announced as PM. Strip back the rhetoric and he wasn’t. Simple facts.

He was a disaster as a Foreign Secretary and has proved, time and time again, he’s not a team player, helping dislodge two of his party’s leaders in record time.

When John Profumo lied to Parliament about his affair with a call girl also involved with a known Russian intelligence officer, he eventually had to do the right thing and fall on his sword.

Johnson, whose understanding of loyalty is rather more skewed than most, follows a series of Tory ministers who have had affairs being restored to the ranks and doing rather well out of scandal. Or rather, his lack of moral fibre has been erased from debate.

When people should be asking ‘can we trust this man’ to do his best for us, that aspect of his particular skill set is ignored. This is a man who excudes a confident charm, but I wouldn’t trust him to babysit my children or take £20 to the shops to buy bread and milk.

He’s a media chameleon, changing course to suit popularity rather than politics. This is the man who did most among his Tory colleagues to persuade people to vote out of Europe. Remember the bus that promised so many millions from Europe to our NHS?

A lie.

And what did he do when the Leave vote won? Resigned, ran away so as not to be held accountable for the farce. Nigel Farage, too, the UKIP leader who stirred up so much trouble, did the same thing. He’s survived and back, taking the filthy lucre of the very organisation he is so against – the European Union.

I admire Jeremy Corbyn in many ways. I think his honesty to his principles is admirable, his refusal to bow to media hype and pressure equally so. But I don’t think he’s the man to scrap it out in the modern world of politics, either domestically or internationally.

Jo Swinson, newly elected leader of the Lib Dems, started her new role off with a bang. And a lie or two. Corbyn hadn’t been on holiday during the Brexit referendum, for example.

She promised change, but helped the Tories deliver some of the policies her party were supposedly opposed to before their coalition.

Moral fibre issues?

Johnson talks up his achievements, but this is the age of hype. Being Mayor of London for two terms doesn’t mean he was any good. Unless you believe the hype.

Because it is clearly working. A successful policy, thanks to the Winston Smith’s aiding and abetting the likes of the Johnsons and Swinsons. Except in Corbyn’s case, much of the hype is opposition, still aiding the likes of the Johnsons and Swinsons.

Let me be clear. I don’t think Corbyn would make a good prime minister. Equally, I don’t think Johnson will, or that Swinson would given half a chance. There’s the shame of it.

But we’re all culpable. People have been so turned off politics that we get what we want. In a country of 60 million, 92,000 decided we would have Johnson as our new PM.

It can only get worse.

Remember what Orwell wrote: Ignorance is strength.

‘The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.’

‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

 

 

 

The Mayor Of Simpleton

THERE’S something terribly wrong with our practice of democracy when self-serving, largely unpleasant people take office.

Donald Trump has proven himself to be an awful human being, robbing the American presidency of class, decency, humanity and any clue what is going on in the country or elsewhere.

In Britain, Boris Johnson is widely being tipped as the new prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

How terribly sad.

Politics today is broken. I’m horrified by the attitudes of Republicans, allowing Trump to trample all over the values they are supposed to embrace. Common sense and common decency are being derailed for a party’s grasp on power.

But then what are the Democrats doing? To me, a Brit with only a small understanding of US politics, they’ve showed weakness when ‘the Land of the Free’ needed strength.

Politics in our ‘democracies’ has long been a card trick, giving ‘we, the people’ little choice in our voting options. Republican or Democrat? Conservative or Labour?

Trump or Hilary Clinton? Johnson or Jeremy Hunt?

I’d guess that if an employer found himself whittling down a list of would be employees down to such choices, they’d readvertise the job.

In the world of politics it seems we are victims of a ‘heads you lose, tails we win’ con. Behind the scenes there are the puppet masters, like Rupert Murdoch, who has long been a kingmaker in British politics and whose last minute support for Trump is widely acknowledging as shoehorning the orange one into the White House.

We’re at a period in our world’s political history where it appears to come down to the lesser of two evils. Why not the better of two goods?

Despite Nick Clegg’s bravado since being dumped out of Westminster in the last general election, he sacrificed much of what the Lib Dems claimed to stand for when he grasped a slice of power in the controversial pact which allowed David Cameron to lead the country into austerity, begin the wheels to quit Europe and further troubles ahead.

Likewise, most MPs tend to forget their constituents or some of their finer attributes, when the party whip comes calling ahead of crucial votes.

Trump and Johnson share many similarities, a selfish nature, disastrous moral compass, a willingness to lie and manipulate, and little care for the people they are meant to serve.

People will fall for their bluff and bluster, forgive them their failings and give them the power they crave.

While the average man, woman and child become more powerless. British politics today has returned to the days of the Rotten Boroughs.

Worse still, there does not seem to be an anecdote to the ills that prevail in Westminster. We sold off our utilities to the highest bidder and now have among the highest bills in Europe. We privatised our railways and now pay the highest fares in Europe. Is our NHS next? We’ve already had a creeping privatisation that is costing more and achieving less. Still, it’s keeping Sir Richard Branson rich.

Fed up of the status quo, instead of common sense rearing its head, we have the far left and far right popping up, using social media to spread lies to advance their course. That they are gaining traction is evidence, for me at least, that politics has long failed the people.

It’s the politics of hate. The blame the immigrants patter stoked up by Murdoch, an immigrant himself, the anti-European agenda in line with his own, the puppeteer playing god with the politicians but affecting all our lives. A political heavyweight no-one voted for.

Whose front page of The Sun robbed Neil Kinnock of victory when the Welsh wizard appeared with a lightbulb for a head. Who helped engineer Blair’s landslide victory when John Major refused to bow to his demands. Who helped usher Gordon Brown out of Number 10 when he, too, would not play ball.

So we are in the era of the talentless blowhards in charge, while hitherto decent people, elected to office, stand by and do nothing. The gravy train of politics, the grasp of power, too heady to fight.

Nigel Farage, who happily made rich from Europe, biting the hand that fed him for doing pretty much nothing for the people that put him their. Doing sod all to advance the needs of the people in the European constituency he represented the handful of times he could be bothered to turn up for work.

Still pushing for a Brexit that, as it stands, will be an unmitigated catastrophe for Britan. I’ve written before that I understand why people voted for and against Brexit, that a proper plan to invest in Britain could be a good move for the country.

Not jumping further into bed with America and China, ridding Britain of safeguards Europe provided in terms of wages, work conditions and many other key standards of our lives.

Food hygiene, for one.

One thing I’ve been impressed with about the USA has been the decent, common sense news approach to Trump. News anchors like CNN’s Chris Cuomo is a force for good, while Jon Stewart, the comedian and former talk show host, has proved a strong voice for honesty, decency and the heroes of 9/11.

If the choice facing the American people for the White House in 2020 came down to these two men, what a difference the US’s future would be.

And what about, in the UK. Forgetting Russell Brand and his political incursions, what chance for our future if the choice was between Stephen Fry and Professor Brian Cox?

Thinkers, not the thoughtless.

We need change. At the moment, we’ve got the politics nous of Jay from the Inbetweeners in what are supposedly the two great democracies of the world.

We’re in a dark tunnel and I can’t see the light.

 

 

 

 

Three Minute Hero

ENGLAND take on Australia, their most famous cricketing foe, in the World Cup semi-finals tomorrow in Birmingham.

Edgbaston has been the scene of some famous Ashes wins down the years, like 1981 when a certain I T Botham recorded extraordinary match-winning figures of 14 overs, nine maidens, five wickets for 11 runs.

And watching a rerun on YouTube the other day had me mourning the loss of the characters of the past. Don’t get me wrong, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Root 66, Jos Buttler et al are a fearsome batting attack. And England boast a bowling arsenal capable of ripping sides apart.

But they ain’t no Botham.

After his heroics with the bat at Headingly in the previous test, he’d been a quiet performer and Australia were well on their way to victory when he produced that devastating spell.

 

You can hear the effect Beefy had in lifting the crowd, as well as his teammates. There were echoes of it in Andrew Flintoff, especially 24 years later at the Warwickshire ground when he played such a part in the first step of wrenching the old urn back from an all-star Aussie team.

Inspirational figures.

It may be rose-tinted nostalgia, but I think there were more characters in my childhood, more true sporting heroes. The ancient Brian Close, sans helmet, arm guard or seemingly any form of protection other than gloves, pads and box, who was pummelled by the ferocious West Indies attack in 1976. Bespectacled David Steele keeping the Aussies at bay a year earlier and showing huge courage against that Windies attack that long hot summer.

The bludgeoning brilliance of Botham, with bat likened to a railway sleeper by the legendary Len Hutton. The laconic, relaxed, James Bond cool of David Gower, genuis of strokeplay

But my cricketing hero remains an odd choice for some.

Derek Randall was the lightning quick fielder and batter extraodinaire, who played with such infectious enthusiasm and humour it was impossible not to like him.

Felled avoiding a bouncer from Aussie quick Dennis Lillee in the bicentenary series of 1977, he rolled back to his feet and donned his cap with an impish grin. His cartwheel of delight on running out a batter from square leg was an image I shall never forget, even though I’ve not been able to find any footage of it on the world wide web.

He made cricket, and sport, fun.

As a kid who grew up following Coventry City, I had many heroes. Colin Stein, Willie Carr, David Cross, Mick Ferguson and Tommy Hutchinson. Barry Powell was perhaps my favourite from that era. A player that you wanted to be.

Dare I say it, but the Liverpool sides of the 1970s played some great football that had this young lad kitted in Sky Blue replica shirt, shorts and socks pretending to be Keegan, Smith, Heighway, Case and Hughes at times. Then came along Forest, playing entertaining football that we all wanted to emulate at break-time.

Leaving aside that famous game in 1987, when Steve Ogrizovic went on a heart-stopping dribble outside his penalty area, I’ve always followed the Sky Blues. But when they and England failed to throw up characters, or wins – sad, but true, I always had memories of that Brazillian side of the 1982 World Cup.

Deft touches, vision, a desire to shoot for goal from anywhere and creation of space like I can’t remember, before or since. It was as if the Harlem Globetrotters had taken up football. Zico, Socrates, Junior… we couldn’t match their skills with a tennis ball on the playing fields of Blue Coat, but we tried our best.

Pele, Best, Moore and others were all names to be conjured with as a young boy, but I didn’t see that much of them. They were already past their peak, living legends still playing the game, but for me, all these years on, I’ll never forget the magic those Brazillians dished up in that World Cup campaign.

Or the fact that the entertainers par excellence fell at the second hurdle, losing out to eventual winners Italy in a bruising encounter.

Sometimes it’s better to win ugly was the lesson learned.

Which brings me to rugby.

After a brand of attacking rugby that won them plaudits but no triumph in the old Five Nations, England resorted to forward dominance in 1991, the first of their back to back Grand Slams.

While the backs, including Rory Underwood, Will Carling and Jerry Guscott could score with ease, it was the forwards who provided the platform again and again. I doubt England have had such a formidable pack compared to their opposition since. Two Grand Slams and a World Cup Final, which we lost because English tactics changed.

Like my cricketing hero, my rugby playing hero is perhaps an unusual choice. But Mike Teague performed like Horatius on the bridge, holding back tides of blue, red and green in the old Five Nations. His work for the British Lions against Australia two years earlier had earned him the nickname of Iron Mike and he was named player of the series.

I wanted to be Mike Teague when I started playing rugby again. Unlikely, given he was six foot something and 16 odd stone, while I was 5ft 8in tall and struggled to keep the weight on in those days. I did manage the odd game as a six for two or three clubs, but mostly was kept out of the way at 10 or 15.

Which brings me to a homegrown hero of the rugby field. When I was a young boy in Coundon, the students of the game that lived all around, would whisper the name Duckham in reverent tones. His father taught at Coundon Junior School, a fearsome, ancient man in the other class to mine.

A highlights reel of David Duckham in full flow is never wasted time. Yet it was a contemporary of his that inspired me more. Peter Rossborough was a captain of Coventry, a great servant of the blue and whites, who I saw play several times as a schoolboy.

Back then, a trip to Coundon Road was like a day at school for us kids, with older fans keen to point out who we should watch and what they had achieved. Rossborough was talked about in the same hushed way as Duckham had been.

After all, he has achieved more in rugby than most. He was part of the England team that beat the All Blacks in their own backyard, part of the England team that took the very first international sevens title and was a key part of the Coventry squad that won the knockout cup back to back in 1973 and 1974.

I was at a game at Coundon Road in the 1990s when Jez Harris broke Rossborough’s scoring record for the season and I felt sad. It had held for so many years.

By then Rossborough had coached Coventry’s first team and, memory might not serve me so well, but was chairman. A key role in what was a very difficult time for the club, yet never less committed to Coventry’s cause.

And it’s often forgotten that he helped engineer England’s Sevens World Cup triumph in 1993 as part of the management team. In that team were two men who would go on to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy a decade later – Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson.

When I was a reporter at the Coventry Evening Telegraph I’d often speak to Mr Rossborough on the phone when he was headteacher of Ashlawn School in Rugby. I shied away from talking rugby with him, which is a regret but at the same, he was busy, I was busy etc etc.

We said hello, face to face, for the first time at a Coventry game at Butts Park Arena last season. My wife was one of his former charges at Ashlawn and wanted my son to meet a true Coventry legend.

It must be a family thing.

 

 

Hate Zone

I WONDER what old Tim Berners-Lee makes of it?

When I started this random blog several years ago, I talked about the internet being a place for pictures of moggies and people’s meals.

Truth is, it’s a place for hate to fester and spread,  a social disease of the worst kind.

Trolls, death threats, a vehicle for hate speech, a weapon to divide communities and society.

Welcome to the world wide web.

I’m sure this wasn’t the vision of Sir Tim when he came up with his idea of hypertext, a method of sharing research.

I’m a small ‘c’ conservative, a small ‘s’ socialist. I like to think I’m rational, as an ex-journalist keen and able to see the truth in arguments more than many of my friends. It’s the ability to cut through the bullshit, the spin, the misleading information that spews out of pretty much everywhere these days.

Take ‘Tommy Robinson’, or rather Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. His supporters are touting his latest brush with the law as a conspiracy of the deep state, a sad reflection on the powers that be.

But it’s rubbish. I’ve said many times before there is no such thing as free speech because it comes with responsibilities. As a journo, I had to know the law inside out to know what I could and couldn’t write. You cannot just say what you think. Right or wrong, it’s the law.

Yaxley-Lennon had been given snippets of information about a Muslim gang grooming and sexually abusing young girls. He felt the trial wasn’t being given wide enough publicity and so decided to do it himself for all his acolytes on social media.

To be clear, I’ve no problem in naming and shaming anyone, Muslims or not, who are behind such heinous crimes.

But the reporting restrictions in place were because of a threat to ongoing prosecutions. The old innocent until proven guilty line should be there for all. Yaxley-Lennon’s reckless approach, just to stir up a bit more hatred, could have allowed men who could have, should have been found guilty. to walk away scot free.

If I had broken the rules as a journalist, I’d have probably have been fired and then not touched with a bargepole. Not to mention charged, fined or even jailed for what is a serious criminal offence.

Court orders are in place usually to protect people or cases for very good reasons.

Cheap nasty shots ignoring the law should have no place in ‘reporting’ of cases. This was not an attempt at ‘free speech’ or tell any truth that newspapers weren’t able to do.

Enter the internet, where more people are guilty than innocent.

Where the far right is conjuring up large swathes of support based on rhetoric appealing to people’s sense of injustice. Orwell said that governments need an enemy, a way of frightening people to ensure their obeisance. Another way of dividing and conquering to keep the masses down.

To be fair, the far left is equally vocal on the internet.

Common sense appears to be in short measure.

Hate, not love, is the order of the day.

The constant spewing out of misinformation, misleading spin, and downright lies means the ‘haters’ are enjoying their time in the sun.

Governments, councils, police forces and other arms of public administration are helping to fuel this. The old trust between trained and honest journalists and the organisations like police, councils and hospitals has largely gone.

It’s all about the spin. And generally positive spin about a bloody awful situation.

I don’t care what the politicians and bosses are bickering about, but it’s clear to me that our National Health Service is underfunded, understaffed and broken.

Our schools are underfunded, understaffed and broken.

Shall I talk about councils? Police and other emergency services? Because, it’s the same story.

We live in an age very different from my childhood.

And yes, in the 1970s we had strikes, power cuts, walk outs, riots, the rise of the National Front and governments that were weak and useless. It wasn’t the greatest of times.

But we didn’t have the problem with housing, drugs, crime, anti-social behaviour, homelessness, the lack of decent jobs and I, for one, would put up with that life again. Sandwiches when the gas went off, candlelight dinners when the electricity was out.

I’ve long argued that our government is broken and needs a huge overhaul to give it back to the people. The MPs and civil servants should be working for us, but they have failed us, we the people, for so long.

We can look to other groups to be targets of hate – ‘the immigrants’ are the current favourite. But we need to look hard at ourselves, stop hating, stop looking for someone else to blame and start working for a better future.

At a time when professional news outlets have been pared to the bone staff and resources wise, fewer people are reading fair and balanced reporting and picking up what is little more than gossip from the world wide web.

And more than ever, they are rigidly choosing what to believe and what to read.

People voted for Brexit with no real information to vote on other than an idea the NHS might get more money, quickly reneged upon by the winning Leave campaign, and an idea that Great Britain would be ‘free of the Poles, blacks and Muslims’, if speaking to some in Coventry and Cornwall was representative of the vote.

‘Great Britain’ has been slowly dismantled down the years by government, privatising public utililites and selling them to the highest bidders, often foreign governments. And our bills have soared.

Jobs have gone, because we’ve spent so much money outsourcing jobs to China. The internet has all but killed the town and city centres, because small, local firms struggled to compete. Small, local firms that had to pay huge sums in business rates, then decent wages, with decent working conditions and then paid their taxes. Losing out to behemoth online companies who are paying a fraction of what they ought into government coffers.

Companies now have to turn large profits because they’re in hock to the banks, the banks that brought about a collapse in our economy.

Or owned by foreign shell companies and hedge funds that care little for communities and all about the dollar, yuan, ruble and euro.

Staff are first in the firing line. People suffer. Families suffer. Communities suffer. For many there is desperation, a lack of hope, a daily struggle to feed themselves and in that environment, hate is growing. And the big mouths courting social media have told us that it was all Europe’s fault, all the fault of the immigrants.

A false hate. We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen the damage it does before. But hate is easy and serves a purpose.

Just not probably what Sir Tim ever dreamed of.