I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
Sting is agin it – and in my heart, so am I too. He says they are Karaoke performers, aping Celine Don, Whitney Houston and Take that. Actually he is right. It is a pantomime. it is a programme to boo and hiss at. It’s is not about music – it is about pop. Real talent wouldn’t be seen dead on it.
One problem with XFactor, is that we get to know the contestants too well. I just switched iTunes on and there is a promo photo of Leona Lewis, glammed up to the nines, pretending to be a Diva. Well, we know better, She is a charming young woman with a heck of a voice, which is not being wasted on the pap she is made to sing.
She always looks so uncomfortable, bumping and grinding away on her videos – it just isn’t her. She will probably come into her own when she is about thirty, her voice will be at it’s peak and she will be in a position to find herself proper artistic support. That is – unless she is just a very good karaoke singer.
Real, enduring popstars, are made on the road, driving from gig to gig, honing their performance and their style, building their following.
But of course, that’s not possible anymore – health and safety has banned live music – there’s nowhere left to play and learn the trade.
We all need a little encouragement, but time and time the internet has let me down. Often I get a good idea and put some work into it, then the rules change half way through making the job not worth the candle.
I love looking at my website statistics. I get all sorts of information from it, I’ve learned to not believe a word anyone says about their website statistics. They can be read, interpreted and presented in many ways.
But I kind of thought that when I post a video on YouTube, the number of view would mean just that. It seems not. Many people’s videos stop around 300, as a couple of mine have. This is apparently so Youtube can check you are not fiddling the stats by sitting at home and reloading the video once every few seconds.
I’m probably very sad, but those views encourage me to post more – as I’m sure they do to most other YouTubers. The view numbers are our validation. We all need a little encouragement, but if YouTube tell us no one is watching our videos, then what’s the point of doing them?
The British Army has a long an honourable history. We are very lucky to have them. They do what they are told without question, undertaking tasks the rest of us would rather not know about.
The Army has a long memory. How they must have groaned when they were asked to go to Afghanistan. The mighty Russian Army were humiliated there at the end of the 20th century as were the British Army before them, scurrying away with their tails between their legs in the horrific, bloody retreat of 1842. The damage to national pride in those days was palpable. Was this going to be a similar campaign? The Army knew full well what it was up against, but it still followed orders dutifully. The Army has always had a great regard for Afghan fighters. They knew what they were up against.
The problem with Afghanistan is that we have no idea what we are doing there, other than backing up our pals, the Americans. Our reasons for being there change with the seasons. In the summer, the Army were said to be helping create democracy, making free elections possible. The result? Electoral fraud and an unelected President for Afghanistan! All those lives wasted.
We will never win in Afghanistan. The only question is how long we are prepared to continue sending our sons to their deaths.
Foreign armies, politicians and non executive organisations have so distorted the administration in Afghanistan, a stable executive will never be created until all the foreign groups have pulled out. All the executive jobs are done by foreigners. Educated locals have no chance of learning the skills required to run their own country, they are too busy driving taxis to stay alive. By being there we make the place more unstable.
The latest mission statement claims that our soldiers are apparently over there to protect us here – this is self evident nonsense. If we have a problem here, we need to solve it here, not by taking it out on another country, but by having honest dialogue at home – by creating a new identity that we all can belong to – by listening to grievances and making the appropriate accommodations
My father was a British Army Officer. I remember watching him, packing a colt 45 on his hip, as he went off on manoeuvres in Germany during the Cold War. He tried to allay my fears. “Soldiers are there to keep the peace,” he told me. “When they shoot, the politicians have failed.”
This is the same Government that brought peace to Northern Ireland through talk, understanding and the movement of entrenched positions. When any conflict ends accommodations are made through the changing of opinions and the acceptance of other ways of life. Afghanistan will only ever be sorted out by talk, and that is one thing the Afghanis are brilliant at. They have their own system of democracy already – it is called the Jirga – Tribal talking shops. It doesn’t look like our system, but it works if we go away and let them get on with it.
We will never impose a system on them. The Afghanis won’t be told – it is their nature. But by letting them run their own country and continuing to talk to them, we may come to some arrangement of peace for all, and our boys can stop dying needlessly.
If we were true friends of America, we would tell them that this is a stupid war. As their true friend, we should be the voice of their conscience, not their brown-nosing lieutenants, validating bad decisions.
This is our second Afghanistan and America’s second Vietnam. The only way America can win in Afghanistan is to blow the place off the map and every Afghani along with it – unless they follow the example of Vietnam. America is now good friends with Vietnam – not because of their military exploits, but because Veterans, ashamed of their involvement there, have gone back and talked – made new links and offered friendship and help.
Armies are there to show that you are serious and mean to back up your word. War is a bloody waste of time, effort and wealth. It is the employment of words that win the peace.
I had a great time this morning with year five at Whitchurch Primary School near Ross on Wye. I’ll be working with them over the next few weeks.
I’ve decided to make Dark Claw available under the creative commons. We are going to do some extended work writing, illustrating and possibly animating stories based on the characters and scenarios from the Dark Claw stories, which are now out of print.
You can read the stories online here. I’ve made the books available as flick the page ebooks for free. It’s also an experiment to see what can be done with a different publishing model. Times are changing and authors are going to have to find new ways of exploiting their work. Like musicians we may have to rely more on tshirt sales that the books themselves!
At eleven o’clock the school made a huge circle and held hands in the playground. I had a year six girl on one hand and a year one girl on the other. I realised how much I work on my own. When I do meet people it is only for the day, and then I move on. It was good to feel part of a larger community on this day.
I’m looking forward to getting to know year five a lot better too. There are some interesting characters! Not being a teacher, I probably approach the job in hand differently. We made some interesting observations which I’ll think about a blog about later.
I’ve got some lovely pictures of drawings we did today. We are just checking that everyone is okay about me posting the,. As soon as I know I’ll put them up here.
I went to visit the lower school at Tettenhall College near Wolverhampton, yesterday. I gave myself a lot of time to get there but, as there was the first fog of the year, the roads were terrible. I came to a standstill on the M5 following and earlier crash. It was slow on the way home too for the same reason.
I had a great time telling stories and many children seemed to like my drawings. I’ve stopped using flipchart pens – they are so unsubtle. Now I use a graphite stick. I think they respond to the pencil drawings much better. Shading with the side of the stick fills in areas very quickly.
I was very taken by the dining hall, the roof of which looked as though it were part of the Eifel Tower or had been built under a bridge. One would normally expect wooden beams in the roof. presumably the closeness to Ironbridge explains why the beams are made of cast iron.
Thanks for a great day and those are lovely trees you are surrounded by too!
I feel I had to share this picture with you.
It’s actually my brother’s recipe, at least that’s where we got it from. The poor chicken is stuck on a beer can and cooked standing up. The can has some holes pierced around the top and a bout 2/3rds of the beer left in the can.
The chicken is covered in Paprika. It gets a lovely crisp skin and the beer makes a wonderful gravy, all of which is less in fat than the usual way of cooking.
The poor thing does look a bit alarmed when you bring it out of the oven, though.
On Friday, I was asked to cut the ribbon at the River Children’s Centre in Lydney, just down the road. I’m not quite sure how writing and drawing in a shed all day long qualifies me to do the job, but it was great fun. I started with a bit of painting and storytelling for the children, who were mostly 3,4 and 5. Then we went outside to cut the ribbon, flanked by loads of balloons.
Afterwards we retired to the kitchen for nibbles, where I cheekily asked when the ageing primary school might get rebuilt. I was treated to a in depth view of the national and local politics involved in the making of such a decision. Demographics alter all the time, which means that obvious solutions one year may not be so obvious the next.
Much more simple to understand was the fabulous cake made in the shape of the River Centre. Good luck to you all and thanks for having me!
I can’t believe my lovely daughter is 19 but she is, and my wife made her chocolate and strawberry cheesecake cupcakes for her birthday. These come from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which my daughter bought for her mum in the hope that she would get some made for her. I suppose you could say her birthday wish came true!