Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who says culture is dead?

Last year I was given two books by Felix Dennis, a modern poet with a quite wicked sense of humour. One is called 'A Glass Half Full' and is a collection of verse written by Mister Dennis in a style somewhere near that of Waugh with a touch of Lear to give it that unexpected quality. It makes me smile.

The other is called 'When Jack Sued Jill (Nursery Rhymes for Modern Times)' and it is basically old favourite Nursery Rhymes where Mister Dennis has changed the words to bring them into the present day. Inside each book there's a CD of Felix Dennis reading his own poems or groups of children doing so, either singing or performing in one way or another. An excellent idea in my opinion.

Okay, that's the reviews over.

Last weekend, the 7th and 8th February 2009, during the course of a fairly slow time, I was listening to the Jack and Jill CD and silently sniggering to myself in all the appropriate places when in walked one of my fellow social outcasts. I won't name him - his mother thinks he is working on an oil rig.

So, in he came, this hairy-arsed gangster and sat on my bed to have a fag. He saw that I was actually busy doing not very much so he listened to the children singing on my stereo.

After a minute or two he asked, "What's this crap you've got on?"

"Ah," said I. "It's not for you, too sophisticated. You wouldn't like it a bit. You can hear the words for a start, and there is no boom-boom beat to turn your grey matter into gruel."

He regarded me for a second or two. "Are you taking the piss?"

"As if I would do such an anti-social thing!" I grinned.

He mumbled, "You are always taking the piss."

"Stop giving me the opportunity then," I told him.

So he sort of listened to the stereo and we heard 'White Van Man' to the tune of 'Old King Cole'.

"Them's not the proper words!" pointed out Einstein, sitting on my bed blowing clouds of smoke into the air and polluting the planet. "I know that one and them's not the words."

"You clever little bank robber," said I. "Keep up that sort of observation and you'll soon be able to tie your own shoes."

"Stop taking the piss!"

"Stop spoiling the poetry then," I countered.

He was quiet for a while and then sniggered at something he heard.

"Here! That's funny."

"From the mouths of babes, sucklings, bandits and morons, the truth falls like stars from the firmament."

"What you rabbitting about now?" he asked but didn't want the answer. He carried on, "Is this all like this?" indicating the stereo.

"Oh yes," I told him. "Not only that but I even have a book that goes with the CD so that you can follow the words and, should you feel the need, learn them too!"

"Gies a look!"

Ten minutes later he wandered off, his hot, clammy little hands clutching my two Felix Dennis books and the CDs.

That was last Sunday, a week ago.

I heard him wandering along the landing on Monday singing 'Polly Put The Kettle On,' to himself and I don't think he even knew he was doing it.

I asked him where my books and CDs were on Wednesday (I think), and he said his mate had them but he was taking good care. He had told his mate that if there was any damage, etc.etc.

So here we are, Sunday morning again. The snow has gone outside and it seems quite pleasant weather-wise, but I still haven't got my books and CDs back. Apparently they are now doing the rounds.

Given the above, I'm presuming that from now on I can expect to see and hear bushels of thugs, muggers, buggers, killers, robbers, arsonists and downright nasty customers listening to modern-style nursery rhymes and, who knows, learning the words!

Who says culture is dead?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The hosts of error

There isn't a lot to say about the last week beyond the fact that there has been a little bit of snow which brought the country to a standstill and improved family relationships because parents got to stay off work and build snowmen with the children. As far as the case is concerned, there is no news beyond the fact that my solicitor informs me that I will be represented at the parole hearing on March 12th by Chris Williams, Barrister at Law of Tooks Chambers.

Having nothing to report gets me to thinking about the past week and the fact that here in Whitemoor we seem to have spent a good deal of the time in idleness because of the snow. Well, it seems that on some days only half of the staff could find their way to work - it can't he easy navigating the flatlands around this place.

One day during the week, (Thursday 5th I think) I was sitting here in my comfy little kennel doing not very much when one of the fellows arrived to have a chat. (They do it quite a bit and I put up with it because they often need a bit of advice and advice costs nothing.) So, this fellow arrived, a youngster in his twenties with the modern outlook of "I love me, who do you love?" They all seem to be extraordinarily self-centered for some reason. They go to the gym and spend most of their time just posing in front of the mirrors and kissing themselves. Surely I wasn't that silly when I was that age! But I probably was.

Anyway, this fellow came in and, after the usual sort of greetings about this and that, he got himself settled down to ask the question that had really brought him to the oracle in the first place, ­ the question I get asked several times each week by youngsters: "Will my sentence go quick?"

I would love to be able to wave a magic wand for them but the fact is that Gandalf, Merlin and Harry Potter are all fictional - there are no magic wands. So, I gave him the usual platitudes that I trot out most of the time and off he went to kiss himself in the mirror in the gymnasium - and I was left to do a bit of thinking and soul-searching, as usual.

I have to say that for the early part of my sentence, eight or nine years or so in fact, I fought the system tooth and nail, because I didn't have the sense God gave a duck. I thought I was fighting my case, but there is a world of difference hetween fighting a case and fighting the system. It took me a long time to realise that, (not to mention years of study and the application of rational thought rather than the 'Mad-Bull-In-A-China-Shop' approach).

Sitting thinking about it caused me to become quite sanguine about it all and I found myself wondering and asking myself just how DID I do it? And am still doing it in fact, although these days I have my priorities in order and know where the fight has to be aimed - and it's not at prison staff who have nothing to do with the case.

I asked myself, "How come I am so determined to obtain the justice that is mine by right of Magna Carta, Law and Human Rights Legislation? How have I done it?" Then I remembered
the American politician William Jennings Bryan, who died in 1925 - but not before he had said:
The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armour of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the Hosts of Error.
Ah! That's how.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The credit crunch

For months now we have been hearing about 'The Credit Crunch', 'The Slump', 'The Economic Slow-down' - and, recently, 'Depression'. Listening to some of the so-called experts is enough to give anyone depression, but never mind. Businesses are being closed all over the place and, where they are not actually closing down, they are going on short-time working and making lay-offs.

Just take a look at the sort of places which are closing down. These are more than businesses, they are institutions! Take Woolworths, for instance. Who didn't go into Woolworths as a child to spend a few shillings here and there? It's gone!

The government has coughed up billions to, so we are reliably informed, 'Bail out the banks'. Thousands of people have suffered, lost jobs and money, and find themselves struggling to make ends meet.

I know all of the above - I read about it and see it every time I turn on the telly, the news is full of it. BUT! (Oh yes, I love a good BUT.) But! Something about all of this strikes me as most definitely odd and that is the fact that nobody seems to be to blame for any of it. The captains of industry wax fat and the senior executives and speculators still rake in massive bonuses.

This has all got me to thinking about the man and woman in the street, the ones who are doing the actual belt-tightening and the financial suffering - Mr Everyman, Mrs Average, Master Ordinary and Miss Normal.

So, I offer the following;

An Ordinary Man

I'm an ordinary man,
Nothing special, nothing grand,
I've had to work for everything I own.
I never asked for a lot,
I was happy with what I got -
Enough to keep my family and my home.

Now they say that 'Times are Hard',
So they're handing me my cards.
They say, 'There's not the work to go around.'
When the whistle blows,
The gates will finally close.
Tonight, they're going to close this factory down.

I never missed a day
Or went on strike for better pay.
For twenty years I served the best I could,
But, with a handshake and a cheque,
It's so easy to forget
I served them through the bad times and the good.

The boss says that he's sad
To see that things have got so bad,
But the Captains of Industry won't let HIM lose.
He still drives his car
AND smokes a big cigar,
Then takes his pampered family on a cruise.

So condemned I stand,
Just an Ordinary Man,
Like thousands beside me in the queue.
I watch my struggling wife
Trying to make the best of life.
God knows what the kids are going to do.

Every day I've tried
To salvage something of my pride,
To find some work so that I might pay my way.
But everywhere I go,
The answer is always, "No!
No work for anyone here today."

For as long as I live,
I never will forgive
How they stripped me of my dignity and pride.

As must be clearly obvious to all by now, there is no news this week about the case or anything else. It's been one of those weeks really. In fact, I've hardly had any mail at all.

The Voice In The Wilderness