Home » Agony Auntie » Please don’t sell me another saxophone!

Please don’t sell me another saxophone!

“…this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit”

‘I’ve got a little list’ (G&S, The Mikado)

The ghastly Amber Rudd, whose business past makes her look like Trump’s twisted sister, says she doesn’t want to be thought of as ‘racist’ for apparently proposing – she’s the new Home Secretary, by the way – that firms should be forced to provide the Home Office with details of all ‘foreign’, i.e. non-British workers.

She only wants to make sure native British nationals are getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting jobs.

Darling, the word is not racist, it’s fascist.

You can safely leave the way the lists are used to the racists. Maybe obliging the  interlopers with their unacceptable foreign accents to wear yellow armbands outdoors, having G4S paint their front doors red, might help?

Because lists can be harmful to health.

Coming on top of the startling news that half a billion Yahoo! email subscribers’ accounts were probably hacked by Russians five years ago, is the news that, in 2015, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, caved in to pressure from the National Security Administration and secretly had tracking software planted so the spooks could read everyone’s messages, scanning them for keywords, forever.

What, words like ‘go’, ‘fuck’, and ‘yourselves’?

Even Mayer’s internal security people weren’t in the loop, only discovering the ruse when they thought there had been another hack – which there had been, only it was their own CEO and the State security people quietly doing the hacking. The head security guy quit, proving there is still some honour among thieves.

And I’m unsubscribing from Yahoo!, not because I support terrorism, drug-running and organized crime, I don’t, but because I don’t like being lied to and implicitly accused by some acned baboon in a bunker of crimes I haven’t committed and don’t intend to commit. I signed for a Yahoo! account in the delusional belief that my privacy was protected, at least to some extent.

Maybe I didn’t read the bit in the contract labelled ‘Privacy’ closely enough, and just assumed there was some?

Let me try to explain where uhm cumin’ frum.

It was my birthday yesterday. I have to buy my own presents these days, so on a whim I’d bought myself a saxophone, a cute little curved soprano sax, which I’ve privately pledged to learn to play well enough to get up on stage by the time of my next jazz week in France. A strange idea, nonetheless at my age you need something to keep dragging you forwards.

I spent a few days trawling the wires for a nice one at a just-affordable price. I found one. Then I bought it. Yes, I really did! And look, it’s here; and I’m a bit puzzled, because it’s got more little keys than I’ve got fingers, but I’ll persevere.

Anyway, now, whenever I go on websites, there are pop-up ads from stores trying to sell me more saxophones….

How many saxophones do those marketing cretins with their stupid bots think anyone might want to buy in an average month?

Don’t you think this invasive inquisition into our purchasing habits has gone far enough? I spent 15 years in advertising as a writer and creative director, I get the principle of ‘relationship marketing’, I just want to be able to choose my relations. As well as dead celebrities, 2016 seems to have become the year of stupid.

Learning to play the little saxophone was my little secret, something private, a bonkers idea that I wanted to keep to myself. Now some speccy little drone in Langley, Va. knows I’m a complete dweeb and I will never be allowed to access any information without some lunatic popping-up, trying to sell me another saxophone.

Thanks, Amazon.

More seriously, about eight years ago my son, who is a military specialist now doing a high-powered MA, made me buy him a book for his birthday – he was 15 and didn’t have an Amazon account.

‘The Sniper’s Manual’ is not really the kind of reading I go in for, to be honest. I’m more a Saturday Guardian man. But for months and years afterwards it stayed on my Recently Viewed list, along with a whole bunch of suggestions for the Anarchist Cookbook and suchlike.

What is that going to look like when someone starts ferreting around because they don’t like me calling the Home Secretary a fascist? And under my bed in plastic boxes is stored two-thirds of the boy’s college research and private reading around military history and guerrilla warfare for the past ten years….

Should I just turn myself in, plead guilty and get it over with? Do they let you have saxophones piling up in a gaol cell?


Putting anyone on a database nowadays makes them vulnerable to abuse and persecution. Facebook, Yahoo!, Cloud accounts, nowhere is secure. As society increasingly coagulates into small, increasingly hostile, sometimes threatening special interest groups, ‘foreigners’ are high on the list of people it’s okay to beat up in the street.

Indeed, if you live in Pakistan, or Bangladesh, and you think you have the space to discuss ideas about the sharia State, well, sorry – we’re going to send a mob round to hack you and your family to pieces. Don’t worry, there’s a better life on the Other Side, where you’ll have all Eternity to repent your apostasy.

Do we seriously imagine our fellow nationals are so polite, so civilized, there aren’t thousands of us perfectly willing under the right circumstances, given permission, to become informers, militiamen, torturers – hangmen?

And where is the evidence that British people who deserve them can’t get jobs in industry because foreigners are taking them all? While it may be true at the lower end of the skills range, where we find Polish graduates doing manual labour or slinging lattes in Costa, no British graduate would take a labouring job – although the Irish used to, and we called them Paddy and ‘thick’, but they made their money and built their bungalows.

I’ve bogld endlessly about this, that immigration of workers is totally subject to the normal law of supply and demand. If there aren’t the jobs, they won’t come. Now, however, although there are the jobs, who’d come, if they knew they were being exposed to the more rancid side of the native British character?

And, look. The pound is trading today at $1.18, its lowest since the 1960s. It’s forecast to drop to $1.10 by the end of the year; and to parity with the Euro. So your average European can’t make anything extra here, converting the £s s/he earns doing a crap job back into €s for the folks back home. Again, there’s no incentive to migrate.

So this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit, licensing thugs and racists to decide our industrial and social policy – keeping the scumbag editors of Wapping in gloating headlines. While at the same time, the economics are already sorting out the problem, if there is a problem, which I do not believe there is.

There’s no security in databases, and Rudd needs to know that. Even without breaches of data security – will there be addresses, too? Other personal data? – lists lead to quotas; quotas lead to the Othering of the innocent; Othering leads to breaking down doors, confiscation of property; camps, gas, dogs, bullets in the back of the head.

Please don’t tell me this is Britain and that’s absurd. We interned foreigners in 1939, we can do it again. There are plenty of people who would. Look at the Black & Tans in Ireland in the 1920s. I never heard a bad word about Syria, and how hospitable its people are, until the flayed corpses of students started turning up on rubbish dumps with their eyes gouged out.

As for students, thanks to Ruddism it’s going to be much harder for them to study here in future. So they won’t come, the universities will have to charge the natives more, and a whole generation of talent will be lost to us. I have always wondered why, having conferred degrees upon these bright young people, we don’t make every effort to keep them in Britain. It seems a total waste to send them packing as soon as we’ve relieved them of their £18,000 a year, plus accommodation costs, just to avoid cretinous headlines in the Daily Mail.

And what if Rudd decides a company has too many foreign workers? Do we employ G4S goons to round them up and send them home? Do we dragoon unsuitable candidates, the long-term unemployables, from the nearest JobCentrePlus to go in and take over their desks?

What’s that going to do to the businesses, that’ve spent time and money putting these people in place, employing them only because they’re better qualified or more willing to work than teenage British baboons with hopeless degrees in nail-science through the medium of feminist slavery?

No, Amber, you’re not racist. Not at all.

You’re just deeply worrying.


Home and Away

Coming immediately on top of the hoo-ha over the Home Office proposal to list all the foreign workers in the UK (Amber Rudd’s own brother has expressed concern), the Foreign Office is now frantically backtracking over reports that it has banned the London School of Economics from employing any of its non-British academics to work on research or consultancy programmes relating to the Brexit negotiations, on grounds of ‘national security’.

There is not a lot of difference, as far as I can see, between this and the banning of Jewish academics from working in German universities in the 1930s. But maybe as Amber has said, and Boris’ civil servants are saying, ‘we didn’t mean it like that!’


Has Donald finally Trumped himself?

There’s not a lot you can say, is there, to the latest revelations about Trump’s breathtakingly insouciant attitude towards women, power and sex.

His simple idea that if you feel like having sex with a woman, any woman, and you are powerful enough, all you have to do is ‘grab her pussy’ and she will put out for you, has not gone down well with senior Republicans who, up to now, have been quite happy to ignore a vast wealth of Donald’s peccadilloes, missayings and dumb-fuck observations on life. Nevertheless, several still seem prepared to overlook that, among other things:

…he treats money from his  businesses and tax-exempt charity foundation as being for his own use while paying no tax on his actual income; insults and mocks women and disabled people and Vietnam vets and grieving parents; has openly racist views of Mexicans and Muslims – whom he has pledged to ethnically cleanse – has alienated vast swaths of the electorate, and has consistently hyperinflated his tawdry record of success and capabilities as a business manager.

Equally idiotic is his defence of his admitted, and almost certainly actionable sexual misconduct, his thinly veiled attack on Bill Clinton, which basically goes: ‘I’m no worse than the other guy you wouldn’t have voted into the White House if you’d known how bad he was.’


Yes, he really is as dumb as he pretends to be!

So what does that make the otherwise apparently rational, intellectual Americans, some of them women with PhDs, who would still rather vote for Trump than Hillary?


The pitfalls of life in the outside world

At least inside the EU we didn’t have to worry about insulting anybody’s president, or their stupid religion.

Now we’re trading with the rest of the world instead (I thought we always were. Isn’t that why the EU put up with us all those years? Ed.), we’ll have to mind our ps and qs.

A Dutch man has been gaoled in Burma, sorry Myanmar, for three months with hard labour and fined £80 for ‘insulting Buddhism’.

The hapless tourist was being kept awake in the middle of the night by a very loud noise blaring out of the local temple. Unaware, he says, that a service was in progress, he went round and pulled the plug out of the loudspeaker; thereby offering a massive insult to Prince Gautama, the Enlightened One, who has been dead for two and a half thousand years.

Some enlightenment.

As far as I was aware, Buddhism isn’t even a religion. It’s technically just a philosophy, the relative equivalent of homoeopathy to actual medicine; but apparently the Myanmarese are very pious people, who also accused the miscreant of failing to remove his shoes. You have been warned.

And in some Arab countries, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do in the street, where you might frighten the camels; while, of course, there are plenty of places in the world where it’s a criminal offence to mildly scoff at the King, the President, the Army, and even the food – Kazakhstan has a particularly suggestive national sausage made from donkey-meat, the lampooning of which on Facebook got one Scottish engineer expelled from the country.

British businessmen might find it was a lot safer and easier trading under the umbrella of the totally secular and satire-proof EU.


In my Prime

There are probably 99 more interesting numbers between 1 and 100, than 67. Sixty-seven is an inbetween age, neither 66 nor 68. But it seems somehow Autumnal; a transitional number from Summer to Winter; the redline between middle-age and impending curtains.

Sixty-eight is OLD!

Sixty-seven is not a propitious number, but it’s an odd one and, being indivisible by any number other than itself and 1, it’s a Prime number. Which is about all you can say for it.

My mother remembered my birthday, but I’d left my phone somewhere and we didn’t connect until the following evening. My ex-wife rang, two days late, to say she always gets confused over the date.

Our kiddiewinks ignored it, although I didn’t ignore theirs. (So, I’ve found a ‘belated’ Amazon gift voucher in my disused Yahoo! inbox. Sorry, luv. It was only a day late… a record for this family.)

I generally comment on the Number of my birthday here in muh bogl, every year. I’m not really a numerologist, but there can be something a little propitious about numbers and dates an’ stuff. There’s often a tale hanging by it, but not this year, when nothing whatever interesting occurred.

Anyway, here I am, 67 at last. My Prime.

And not a lot’s changed, frankly. (Except I’ve taken up the saxophone!)


A Good Night Out

So, in addition to saxophony, I treated myself last night to a little Saturday Night outing to a concert – ‘gig’ sounds too unrehearsed – by a well-polished ’70s soul music tribute act; Soul Legends.

And here I must confess that, while I present to the world as some sort of modern-jazz fiend practically from birth, and even make strenuous efforts occasionally in the area of performance, the sad fact is that my first real grownup musical love-affair was with the black American soul music we played a lot of at my first Top-40 radio station, where I worked as the news jock for three years. (Indeed, for the first ten minutes of the set I kept having to wipe away small tears of joyous memory of those twelve-hour days I put in for twenty quid a week.)

When the local arts centre advertises an eight o’clock start time, that’s generally when the audience turns up. So my initial impression of a house looking more like the ones our choir generally gets, occupied seats being as thin as the hairs on the audience’s head, proved premature.

Although not rammed, it was a pretty decent turnout for the end of the road to nowhere. What struck me then was the demographic. Apart from muh gudfriend, li’l Emma, spotted in the stalls, there were almost no people under the age of 45, and I should say those of my own era, mid-to-late 60s, were in the majority – almost all of them women. That didn’t stop them from whooping and flopping about enthusiastically on the tiny floorspace in front of the apron stage; while Mike, the somewhat world-weary MC and lead singer, enjoined us: ‘If you’ve had enough clapping, audience, just wave your arms…’.

I noticed only two actually black faces in the audience out of about 500, which caused me to wonder a little if black people in general aren’t perhaps embarrassed by this particular manifestation of their musical heritage, that has so fascinated white – especially female – audiences for almost fifty years? There’s a little racial stereotyping, isn’t there, in the white suits and mirror-polished shoes, the afro wigs and porkpie hats, the high-stepping dance routines, that’s both endearing and a bit toe-curling at the same time.

The band consisted of six talented young black singers, taking turns with rapid costume changes at being, variously, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson (a tremendous impression, although I never took to him) and Tina Turner. There was a brief tribute to the late Rod Temperton, the fish-gutter from Cleethorpes known as The Invisible Man, who, rather surprisingly, wrote Jackson’s zillion-selling Thriller album and many other massive US soul hits.

While the backing was provided by three phlegmatic, middle-aged, white British session musicians and the obligatory geeky-looking keyboard player sporting Rick Wakeman tribute waist-length hair (no member of the Tufty Club, he), who astonishingly appeared to be sight-reading the entire repertoire.

I’d guess the odd mix had something to do with the Musicians’ Union ‘Amber Rudd tribute’ quota rules. It could have done with a couple of horn players, though. Soul isn’t soul without the additional punch delivered by at least a trumpet ‘n’ sax duo. Maybe it was just lack of stage-space, or the economics of touring.

But the audience were a friendly bunch, and in the intermission two mildly inebriated ladies from a coach party sitting in my row insisted on buying me a drink, the first time in my life that has ever happened, being bought a small red wine in a plastic mug by total strangers with no ulterior motive (they’d be wasting their time if there had been. ‘Nothing works’, as Catweazle so memorably put it).

I couldn’t get near them in the crush afterwards to thank them, they were heading on to a cocktail bar, so if you’re reading this, ladies (fat chance!), bottoms up!

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