The Long Good Riddance

Last month, shortly before the election for the FIFA presidency, the FBI declared to the world that FIFA are a corrupt organisation. Rotten to the core. A criminal racketeering organisation. Sheesh. Tell us something we didn’t already know. I can almost hear you say, “Ah, but now we’ve got the evidence!”. Sheesh, because awarding Qatar the rights to host a world cup wasn’t cast iron evidence? That the two most corrupt nations in the bidding process, Russia and Qatar, won the rights to both upcoming world cups? They are different types of evidence to that presented by the FBI, I know.

There’s a lot of optimism that the criminal investigations by US and Swiss authorities will prevail in bringing the criminal element within FIFA to justice, and force the organisation to reform into a transparent body, with integrity and fairness embedded within all processes.  Alas, I am not so optimistic. I wrote a post back in 2012 after the awarding of the next two world cups. I had this to say…

FIFA has long been known to be a corrupt little club of tin pot dictators. This morning they added further evidence of that. The organisation doesn’t simply need to be cleansed, but closed and replaced with a more open, transparent and representative body.

Here’s the problem as I see it. Within days of the arrests, 133 of 209 football associations from around the world ignored common sense and voted to re-elect Sepp Blatter as president. That’s 133 associations who chose to re-elect a man who has been running the organisation as a personal fiefdom for nearly two decades, sanctioning corrupt practices, actively protecting the guilty and lining the pockets of his supporters. I knew he was corrupt. They knew he was corrupt. The world knows he’s corrupt. Yet they voted for him. What future is there for a body with a membership with that is so openly accepting of such a president?

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Russia and Qatar bought their world cups. I feel confident enough to state that as fact. If the direct evidence doesn’t surface, it’s because it’s been destroyed, and destroyed well. Russia have already disclosed that every email ever sent regarding their bid has been destroyed. But it’s quite clear how one wins the rights to a world cup. So we have a situation. If either Russia or Qatar are allowed to host the 2018 and 2022 cups, then it is clear that continuing corruption is being tolerated. If there is any sort of evidence, there will almost certainly be law suits brought to the courts by the losing bidders. With the amount of money at stake, a loss in the court room could, should, bankrupt FIFA.

If evidence arises showing the tournaments were bought, and Russia and Qatar are stripped, then they will no doubt also fight their case through the courts, in a bid to have their status as hosts reinstated. Again, potential bankruptcy for FIFA beckons. And in either event, I predict a bitter and destructive civil war within FIFA. In my opinion, FIFA is done for. It’s position at the top of the football family is untenable. I still believe it needs to be shut down and replaced. Let Qatar and Russia pursue a defunct organisation through the courts for money that isn’t there and for the rights to host tournaments that don’t exist.

Replaced with what? Isn’t that the ten million dollar question. A new home is an obvious starter as Switzerland is a land too comfortable with keeping secrets. It should remain in Europe though. Whether in a sporting powerhouse such as England or Germany, or a more neutral nation, such as Belgium, Denmark or Switzerland. It doesn’t matter much. The rest is basic stuff. A charter that clearly defines its role with regulations that ensure transparency.

But still, a problem remains. The membership of the organisation probably won’t change much. And the membership, and its dubious voting habits, are as big a part of the problem as Sepp Blatter and his cronies are. The rest of the world doesn’t want European dominance. However, Europe (or most of it) doesn’t want to be part of the status quo. The danger, some might suggest, is a fracturing of the sport into numerous different bodies. I don’t think it is a danger. Because whether the rest of the world likes it or not, Europe does dominate football. European money, trophies and the domestic leagues are world football. Any body not including Europe is doomed from day one.

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Does any one come out of this with any credit whatsoever? I’m happy to say that the UK does, to a certain degree. The FA have been outspoken. But most importantly, the British press, tawdry as it can often be, has for many years exposed FIFA corruption and kept the pressure on. The USA too can claim the moral high ground. Sure, their own FIFA rep was one of the most corrupt of the bunch. But at least the authorities got their man, and took the rest out with him. But it’s hard to find much in the way of good guys beyond those two countries. Oh. Except for me. Because I told you so. Years ago. I know, I wasn’t the only one, but why would I pass up the opportunity to gloat?

Who comes out of this with egg on their faces, besides the Executive Committee? Michel Platini would like to position himself to take over the presidency, I’m sure. But he voted for Qatar. His reasons for doing so scarcely matter. He’s tainted. The whole world of football currently has egg on its face. And as for Blatter. Well, as I write this, he is still actually president, and is planning to remain in the role till nearly Christmas. I sincerely hope his plan to hang around for so long are interrupted. One of his allies was fired from FIFA today for telling a joke. “The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, the director of communications and the general secretary are all sitting in a car – who is driving? The police.” That’s a joke just waiting to happen.

The Long Goodbye

In my younger years, when I still lived in the nation’s capital, I’d often go to see Liverpool when they came to town. There’s quite a few London teams who are, or at least were, regulars in the English top flight. QPR, Watford, Crystal Palace, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Charlton, Millwall, West Ham, Clapham Rover and Wanderers. I can sense a few raised eyebrows from seasoned English football fans. Clapham Rovers and Wanderers? They are both now defunct. Have been for years. But both have FA Cup wins to their names, Wanderers with five of them. Indeed, Wanderers share the record with Blackburn Rovers for the most consecutive FA Cup wins (3) and another record shared with three others teams for winning consecutive cup finals on two occasions. Bet you didn’t know that, eh? Bet you don’t much care, either…

When I went to see games on a Saturday in the 80s and 90s, things were much different from today. You could turn up on the day and buy a cheap ticket for a few pounds and stand up to watch the match. The stadiums were all a bit worse for wear, the pitches often turned into a mud bath after the first heavy rain of the season and the burgers were a sure fire way to ruin your Sunday. If you needed a wee, you could go in the trough. Or just pee on the floor next to the trough. Or even pee in the corridor outside the toilets. It really was all much the same thing.

These days, you need to start your efforts to get a ticket weeks in advance, and your efforts will often fail to deliver. It’s tough to get a ticket, and if you’re successful, you’ll part with a sizeable chunk of your weekly salary. But the stadiums are all now world class, and peeing on the floor will almost certainly get you ejected from the stadium. Do it in the corridor, and you’ll probably end up on a sex offender register. Times have indeed changed. Apart from the availability and pricing, for the better.

Back in the day I watched some of the greatest players even to pull on the red jersey of Liverpool. Dalglish, Rush, Whelan, Hansen, Lawrensen, Barnes, Beardsley, Aldridge, Nicol, Grobbelaar to name a few. Then I left London, and I stopped going to matches. I became an armchair fan. That’s ok. I’ve always had a comfy armchair and a half decent telly. The view is always the best, too. But I miss the atmosphere. I miss seeing the game in the flesh. So now and again, I try to get a ticket. And fail.

Until this season. Back in December, Liverpool came to Bournemouth to play the local team in a cup tie on a bleak, dark and positively chilly Wednesday night. Bournemouth are a lower league team, so this was a big deal for the town. The tickets were all gone in a flash, of course. But Mrs P delivered. She has a friend who happens to be a season ticket holder at Bournemouth, and he kindly gave his ticket up for me. What a sacrifice. What a great guy! But karma can be a blessing, not just a bitch. Bournemouth were recently promoted to the Premier League for the first  time in their 100+ year history. He’ll get to see a ton of top games next season.

In the days leading up to the game, I thought back to the last time I went to a match. It was twenty years ago. Steven Gerrard was still a schoolboy last time I went. It’s since turned out that this is Gerrard’s final season at Liverpool after 17 years in the first team. He’s heading out to Los Angeles to wind down his career. He played that Wednesday night, so I can add his name to the list of Liverpool legends that I’ve seen play. I have a photo too, to prove it.

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Is Gerrard the greatest? There are many who say he is. But how do you define great? Luis Suarez is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most talented player to pull on the red jersey. But his stay was too short for him to be the greatest. For me, as with most people my age who grew up watching the all conquering teams of the late 70s and 80s, Kenny Dalglish will always be numero uno. But Steven Gerrard is most definitely a close number two.

Without him, the last couple of decades would have a been a miserable time for us Liverpool supporters. He’s raised some pretty mediocre Liverpool teams to greatness over the years. He’s scored some of the finest goals seen in the game, in some of the most memorable games, often right at the death. And whatever some of his detractors might say, he will always have that Wednesday night in Istanbul, 25th May 2005.

Liverpool will miss the guy. English football will miss him. I will miss seeing him take to the field. But I will always have that Wednesday night in Bournemouth, 12th December 2015.

Compton Acres Revisited

A few months back, I wrote about my efforts at digitising a few dozen of my grandfathers ancient photos using little more than a cardboard box, some sticky tape and my mobile phone. A lot of the photos taken on his holidays in Europe. Others were from his home in London and around the UK. One batch were from some unknown gardens.

It turns out that Unknown Gardens is also known by the name of Compton Acres. Which happens to be just a stroll away from my home here in Bournemouth. I’d never been, so I didn’t recognise it. Yes, of course I have now paid the place a visit. It would be silly not to. It was a great chance to do a ‘then and now’ comparison.

1cI must admit, I’m a little jealous of the greens in my grandfather’s shot. And also a little envious of the fact that he obviously knew the best time to visit. His photos were graced with a substantially more colourful array of flowers. But he, in turn, would have been rather jealous of my iPhone, I dare say he might have found even the very existence of such a device as likely as aliens landing.

1bAll good photos need a good model. Allow me to present, on the left, Mrs P senior, and on the right, Mrs P junior. Ironically, Mrs P junior is substantially older than senior. In the photos, anyway. Not so in real life.  Although you cannot see the spot I am standing on, it is, thanks to shrubbery and a single paving stone in the middle of a stream, the only spot to take this shot. That is the case today and it was the case 50 or so years ago when my grandfather took his photo. I will admit, it was a little strange taking this shot, knowing that he had stood on exactly the same stone nearly half a century earlier to create his photo.

1aCompton Acres is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon. You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr by clicking here. And who knows, maybe in another half century or so, Mexile Junior will be able to turn this photography theme into a trilogy.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

…then, wait for 15 to 20 years. Then, and only then, have another pop at it. You might at first think I’m referring to my efforts at blogging. It’s been ages since I have crafted some digital bits and bytes for this corner of the interweb. Since my last effort, there’s been a general election, Sepp Blatter has been re-elected and resigned. The 10 year anniversaries of Liverpool wining the Champions League, and my arrival in Mexico have been and gone. There’s been a new version of Lightroom released. And new versions of Flickr and Google Photos. I’ve had inspiration and potential content aplenty. I’ve not alas, had the time. And it’s not been decades since I last wrote, either. Although I suspect that May 2015 is the first full calendar month that I’ve failed to write a single thing for a decade.

But let’s get to the point. In 1995, I left London and moved about 100 miles south west, settling on a farm in the Middle of Nowhere, Dorset. The nearest bus stop was 2 miles away, but lacked any sort of regular bus service. The nearest real town was about 8 miles away. And all I had to get me from A to B was a twenty to thirty year old pedal bike*.And get me from A to B it did. Not very quickly, not always in a clean and dry state, and sometimes with stops for puncture repairs. But it got me to work. And for that, I thank it.

Needless to say though, I desired a more comfortable mode of transport that provided a greater degree of protection from the elements. So I got myself a provisional license, took a bunch of lessons, passed the driving theory test and then took the practical test. Which I failed. Three times. I won’t bore you with the deep injustice of those failures. Or the loathing I still have for the miserable examiner who sat in on all three tests. If karma exists, he was run over and….oh, let’s just say I don’t like him. I’m still a little bitter.

I abandoned the idea of driving a car and settled for the more easily attainable CBT, which allowed me to ride motorbikes up to 125cc. I got a bike, indeed I went through several over the years, and gained motorised mobility. If not weather protection. We can’t have it all. But my scooters had their advantages. I cut through traffic in rush hour like a knife through butter. And I was never the designated driver on a night out.

But times change. Mrs P was never sold on the idea of riding pillion. So I revisited the concept of four wheeled transport. A couple of months back I took my driving theory test. Again. I took a couple of driving lesson. Again. I took my practical driving test. Again. This time I passed. I’d have been disappointed had I not, to say the least. In the years since my last effort, I’ve had more than a decade worth of road experience on my bikes, and I drove a car in Mexico for years. In fact, quite frankly, I think that driving a car in Mexico City and surviving should automatically qualify a driver for a full license, no test needed.

With my new license in hand, we went car shopping. We knew pretty much what we wanted – an automatic Mazda 3, low mileage, no more than 8 years old. There’s not a huge range of them to choose from, so choosing was fairly easy. And below you can see the newest member of the family. She drives very nicely, returns about 38-40 mpg and is a comfortable ride. We’re very happy with her. With a little luck, she’ll take us on new adventures, to places beyond those easily served by public transport. And I’ll report it all here. Maybe…

The Long Exposure Learning Curve

I’ve wanted to experiment with long exposure photography for ages. And ages. It’s a pretty simple process in principle. Apply a filter to your lens, set to bulb mode and shoot. Hopefully at the end of it, you’ll get a photo with surreal qualities. Maybe one could even describe them as magical. It’s that filter bit that’s been the stumbling block though. I’d tried a £20 cheap variable Polaroid filter last year, which produced dismal results. A decent filter with the stopping power to produce a photo worth publishing to Flickr is not cheap. Starting point is about £100. Which I don’t have.

But it set me thinking. Isn’t there a cheap and cheerful way to do this? Surely someone has improvised and created an alternative to Lee’s Big Stopper filter? It turns out, the answer to those questions is ‘yes’. And it’s a really, really cheap alternative to a professional lens. So I bought the key ingredients and got to work. There’s my set up in the photo below. One piece of welding glass from Amazon for the bargain price of £1.33, And two strong elastic bands. Which cost nothing because they came in our shopping delivery, holding the asparagus together.

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My initial efforts at creating a worthy long exposure photograph did not go as well as hoped. I set up shop alongside a stream flowing through some nearby gardens. My camera will shoot up to a maximum of 30 seconds before you’re forced into bulb mode. And 30 seconds is not long enough. Nor can you really use bulb mode without a remote. Which I did not have. You can see the best result, below left.

But I was determined to make my welding glass contraption succeed, so I went home and ordered a generic corded remote from Amazon for £9 and change. With this essential addition to my kit, I went to one of the best locations for long exposure photography in the whole of Dorset, Old Harry Rocks. I perched my self four or four feet from the cliff top and had a second go. Alas, to say it was a windy day is something of an understatement. A few gusts caught me unaware and blew me  five or six feet along the cliff. I backed off from the cliff face a little. A sensible precaution.

I persevered, but it was no use. I couldn’t hold my tripod and camera steady in the wind and the vibrations ruined the shot, which is below right. It looks out of focus, but it is not. That was just the wind blowing the camera about. But this attempt was still more successful than my next expedition. I chose the less breezy Boscombe pier as the location. I rode my bike out there, set everything up, cursed myself for leaving my memory card in my computer, packed everything away and returned home.

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So. Fourth time lucky? This morning I got up nice and early, packed all my gear in my backpack, including the memory card, and walked down to Bournemouth Pier. The wind was light, the beach deserted and I had every I needed. I shot four or five exposures. I started with a 3 minutes exposure for the first photo, but settled on 5 minutes as the optimum exposure. The aperture of the lens was set to f5.6 and the ISO at 400. Finally I got a few decent results.

Straight out of the camera, there’s a very strong green cast to the photo. See below. That’s to be expected from a piece of welding glass that costs little more than a pound. It is possible to remove the cast in Photoshop (see the snap of Old Harry Rocks above) but you get a mixed bag of results. It works better with some photos than others. I knew before I even purchased the glass that these shots were going to look their best in black or white or with some creative post processing filters applied.

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So anyway. I got back home, imported the photos into the latest shiny iteration of Adobe Lightroom (v6.0 was released just a few days ago) and got to work. Even if I say so myself, I’m pretty pleased with the results. It’s been quite a bit of work to finally get some decent long exposure snaps, but the work has paid off. A bit of cropping here, a bit of straightening there. I played with the shadow, highlights and contrast. I played around with a few filters. And I made this….

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And this…
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And a few more variations of these two photos, which you can see on Flickr if you click here. These photos will win me no prizes, but I’ve had a lot of fun making them. And having conquered the learning curve, I’ll be able to produce some more long exposure photos in the future with a bit less fuss. Perhaps I’ll try Old Harry Rocks again on a slightly calmer day.

St George’s Day

It’s that least memorable of special dates in the English calendar once again. When we celebrate, or forget to celebrate, our patron saint. The Scots have Burns Day and the Irish have St Patrick, and they get celebrated with gusto. St George? Meh. What’s to get excited about? With the noticeable lack of dragons roaming the countryside lately, there doesn’t seem to be a need for the chap. St George was a foreigner anyway. Not even an Englander. Immigrants aren’t the flavour of the month here. Ironic then that the rather right wing UKIP party, who want to bring us out of the EU and send the immigrants back, are pretty much the only people trying to promote St George. I’m sure the irony is lost on them.

I’ve decided to celebrate St George’s Day this year in the most appropriate way. I’ve booked a ticket to Istanbul, to go see St George’s roots. He was Turkish, after all. I’ve always wanted to go. It’s exotic, but just a four hour flight away. It’s rich in history and culture but cheap as chips to get to. And, of course, I’ll get to see what it was that convinced St George to abandon the UK after all his dragon slaughtering exploits to return home to Turkey. But I think I might know the answer already…Turkish Delight. Of sorts…

Most Conspicuous Bravery

On the 12th March, one hundred years ago, a young fellow from Bournemouth, Cecil Noble, rushed head first into German machine gun fire to cut through a mass of wire that was holding up his battalion. Noble by name, noble by nature. He succeeded, and so did his battalion when they eventually got to Jerry’s trenches. Cecil was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour in the face of the enemy. Like most recipients of the highest military award that this country has to offer, he didn’t get to see his medal. His comrade that day, who accompanied him to the wire and was also awarded the VC, was more fortunate and lived to tell the tale. The photo below is of Cecil. And a Victoria Cross.

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Bournemouth provided the British Army of World War 1 with two men of sufficient calibre to earn themselves a Victoria Cross. These aren’t medals that are handed out willy nilly. To date, 1358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to 1355 men. The numbers don’t add up, obviously. Three men share the distinction of receiving the award twice. One can only assume that their balls must have been bigger and brassier than the ones shot at them by enemy cannon.

There won’t be too many further recipients in the future. One would hope that we’ll fight fewer wars in the years to come, thereby naturally limiting the opportunities to ‘win’ one. But regardless, the metal used to make the medals is running out. The bronze that is used to make the medals comes from the cascabels (no, I didn’t really know what a cascabel is either) of a pair of Russian cannon captured during the Crimean war. Although upon closer inspection, like so many things, they turned out to be made in China.

Whatever the origin of the cannon, there’s just about enough metal left for another 80 to 85 Victoria Crosses. What next? If I were a betting man, my money would be on a brand new medal, the Elizabeth Cross. Or perhaps, just to wind up the Illuminati conspiracy theorists, the Elizabeth ‘All Seeing Eye’ Triangle. It’s just a thought…

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But let’s get back to the point of this post. As part of the centenary commemorations of World War 1, a scheme was launched to mark the bravery of each and every Victoria Cross winner from the war. A commemorative paving slab will be laid in the birthplace of each man, exactly one hundred years from the date of their act of bravery. For most, like Mr Noble, it will also mark a century since their untimely deaths. Cecil was but 23 years of age. That’s his paving slab above.

The slab was laid in the ground next to the Bournemouth War Memorial, an impressive white structure in Bournemouth’s Gardens. Next to the small river Bourne that gives the town it’s name. I couldn’t find it at first. I rather expected it to be laid inside the memorial. It turned out to have been discreetly placed outside, in the corner to left of the steps. Just in case you should ever want to pop along to take a look.

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The stretch of lawn leading from the town centre up to the memorial has plenty of other slabs to take note of too. On one side are memorials of a happier nature, such as one to mark the birth of Price Andrew. Each has a tree planted with it to. On the other side are memorials of a more sombre kind. There’s a recent addition, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I took a few more snaps of the memorial and surroundings which can be seen on Flickr by clicking here. You might wonder where lies the paving slab commemorating the second Bournemouth soldier to have received the VC? It doesn’t. Yet. His act of valour occurred in 1918, so we will have to wait 3 more years before his slab is set in the ground.

Old Harry Rocks

The world famous Jurassic Coast stretches along a 95 mile length of Dorset and Devon coastline and makes a mighty fine day trip from Bournemouth. It’s not even a long day, if you’re pushed for time. Old Harry Rocks marks the eastern most point of the Jurassic Coach and is only a few miles from Bournemouth as the crow flies. Indeed, if the weather is fine, or at least not too bad, you can clearly see the rocks from Bournemouth’s beaches. Getting there is a 45 minute drive or bus ride – the Purbeck Breezer leaves Bournemouth hourly.

The trip itself is quite pleasant, winding through the millionaires playground of Sandbanks, across Poole Harbour on the chain ferry and onwards through the Purbeck countryside until you reach the little town of Studland. From there, your journey makes use of your legs rather than the internal combustion engine. The rocks are a 3/4 mile stroll up and down rough tracks and across grasslands to the top of the cliffs.

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Why  the name Old Harry Rocks? No one knows for sure. One theory is that the devil, referred to locally as Old Harry, took a nap here once upon a time. It seems an unlikely tale to me. Another story holds that a local pirate, Harry Paye, used to keep his loot in the area. This strikes me a being a little more plausible. Whatever the case, the Rocks have been attracting visitors for a long time, although these days you’re more likely to find that they are happy day trippers, coming to admire the view.

Or else, rather unfortunately, unhappy souls who plan on making this view their last. It’s a long drop to the rocks on the bottom. It’s a popular spot for that sort of thing. Even more unfortunately, it is not unknown for visitors to slip and fall accidentally. The vase of flowers are there for a young woman who took an unplanned tumble the week before my visit. Suffice it to say, one should mind one’s step and tread carefully. And if you’re walking the dog, make sure you throw the stick in the right direction.

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The walk and fresh sea air will make you hungry. There are three dining options available to you. The Pig is a rather posh hotel serving fine cuisine with a price tag to match. Mains will set you back from £16 to £20 per head. Or there is the Bankes Arms, a pub that dates back to 1549, or so they say. Alternatively, if the weather is nice, bring your own grub. There’s plenty of space on the cliff tops for a picnic.

We chose to splash out and have something fancy at the Pig. We’d checked the menu out on our way there and I simply needed to choose between the liver and bacon or the veal. It’s a very cosy little place. Warm and a little worn, which just adds to the character. Alas, lunch service ends at 2.30 pm and we  didn’t have time to wait for dinner service. We headed back down the road to the Bankes Arms. Which is very worn, to the point that one wouldn’t feel out of place spitting on the splintered floorboards. But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure that is frowned upon.DSCF5944

Pubs in the UK are pretty hit and miss. With the chains, such as Wetherspoons, the food is cheap but consistent. You know what you’ll get. Otherwise, you could end up with either a feast or a plate of gristle and fat. And a bill which will sometimes make you wonder if you couldn’t have lasted a little longer till you get to Claridge’s. I always play it safe in these sorts of establishments. Most of them will do a reasonable fish and chips. A cheese ploughmans is also hard to screw up. On this occasion I was a little more daring and plumped for the faggots. The chalkboard told me that they are locally made. One hopes that anything locally made will be reasonably edible. And faggots aren’t hard to cook. As it turned out they were very good. A little overdone, but perfectly satisfying and pretty tasty.

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I took more than these three photos. To see the full set of my snaps from our trip to Old Harry Rocks, click here and you will soon find yourself at the right place for the photo tour.

The Castle of Bad Decisions

The Castle was as traditional a London pub as you could wish to find. Late Victorian, the exterior had a green and white facade, colourful blooms flowing over the edges of a half dozen hanging baskets and an interior boasting many original interior features. Including the characters that kept the pub in business. There’s Martin the Telly. He dealt in stolen televisions when he wasn’t not pulling pints. Everyone knows him as Martin the Telly. Including the local constabulary. Not a good thing. His annual vacations went on longer than most.

Irish Paul played Sax. His dad, Murphy the landlord, played accordion. Picking a fight with either of them was a bad decision that would ruin your Friday night. They weren’t to be messed with. They’d both play a good bit of marimba on your ribs with the leg of a bar stool if the occasion called for it. As a general rule of thumb, never antagonise anyone called Murphy in London. Mary would patrol the bar, fag in mouth, coaxing coins from punters in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Whether or not any of the guide dogs ever saw the cash remains unknown.

Then there was Dick the Brick. In a pub full of life’s bad decisions, Dick pulled rank when it came to making a poor choice. But he was an amiable sort. A raconteur. Every pub has a Dick. You’ll find him, all hours, propping up one end of the bar. Red cheeked, often the worse for wear by evenings end. But always good for a funny tale. Dick had served in the navy when he was younger and had plenty of fishy sounding tales to tell. His sole piece of action came against Icelandic fisherman in the infamous Cod War. So his tales are fishier than most. But the navy didn’t suit him. He bored easily. So off he went to the merchant navy. Which soon bored him too. He decided the life of a land lubber was for him and did a course in brick laying.

By all accounts, he did a decent job when he put his mind to it. Which wasn’t often. His mind was, he decided, better off pickled with the local draught in the Castle. He spent more time propping up the bar than he did supporting his wife. Bad decision. She left him. Still, Dick dreamed big. One day, upon hearing that an old best friend had passed on, Dick packed up and went to Glasgow. The only decent thing to do would be to step into his old friend’s shoes and take on his wife and child as his own. It would be a turning point in his life. A new beginning.

His grand plan did not, alas, go down well with the recently widowed lady. She sensibly declined his generous offer and sent him packing back to London. It was a nice gesture by Dick, but one made through an alcoholic delusion of grandeur. There was no new beginning for Dick. He went back to the Castle and drowned his sorrows. He made another life changing decision. The bell for last orders came and went, he drained the last drops from the bottom of his glass and Dick stumbled back home. He opened the door at the third attempt and stepped over the piles of clutter than lay about over his floor. He picked up his old tool bag, and slumped down in his saggy old armchair.

He unzipped the bag. The interior of his tool bag was undoubtedly the cleanest thing in the flat. But then, it hadn’t seen the light of day in a while. Inside the bag he found what he was looking for. He clicked it open, placed the blade to his throat, just under his left ear. With one swift, determined, forceful movement, he pulled the knife across his throat. He gasped as the shock of the incision registered. He gasped again for air as blood flowed down his windpipe. Did he gasp a third time, as he wondered to himself… had he made yet another bad decision? We’ll never know. Dick’s life no doubt flashed briefly through his mind as his life quickly spilled away onto the fabric of his well worn chair. Briefly, because his life was brief. Dick was but 50 years old.

Dick was quickly missed. Takings at the pub take a hit when someone like Dick goes awol. Two days later, the police and a few regulars bust into his flat and found his blood soaked corpse. There was no note. None needed. Everyone knew Dick’s story, and it’s the sort of story that has a predictably sad ending. His funeral was attended by his pals from the Castle. He was missed. Later, a group of them bought him a bench. To remember him by.

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The story is fifty per cent true. Maybe sixty per cent. I never met Dick the Brick. But I sat on his bench for a while to rest at the weekend. I wondered how many Dick the Bricks could there be? I Googled him.With success. And let my imagination fill in the gaps. I like the little memorials on benches. There’s a story behind every one of them. Sadly, the plaque is just a tease and the story is hidden from view. Usually. Not so for Dick the Brick.

It gave me an idea. Why don’t these plaques contain a scannable Q code that leads to a memorial web page? After all, most people these days will park their backsides on a bench and spend a few minutes staring at their screen. Perhaps I should pitch this on the Dragons Den.

The Sky Garden

I don’t entirely like heights. But I like lofty views of my surroundings. It’s a conflict of emotions I’ve had to endure for…well, ever since an incident at Cheddar Gorge when my age was measured in single digits. Fortunately, my desire to enjoy the latter is more powerful than my fear of the former. I’ve clambered atop, or at least on, many high spots in my life, including a few structures that have once claimed the title of the tallest in the world. The pyramids at Giza (I was told off and ordered down), the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, The Willis Tower (nee Sears) all spring to mind.

In London, I’ve been up to the highest gantry above the dome of St Pauls and to the top of the nearby Monument. A couple of years ago I visited the viewing gallery at the top of the Shard. They all have unique views of varying quality. But I have a new favourite. High enough to provide a grand vista. Not so high as to turn the city into a tilt shift style toy town. It’s a building you may have heard of, but for different reasons. It can magically melt expensive cars that dare park in the wrong place.

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Know colloquially as the Walkie Talkie Tower, but more formally as 20 Fenchurch Street, this is one of London’s latest breed of skyscraper, soaring nearly 40 storeys into the capital’s skyline. It blossoms outwards as it goes, cleverly increasing its square footage of office space as it goes. Its magical car smelting properties have been tamed with webbed netting on the south face of the building. One hopes that they will eventually implement a more aesthetic, permanent solution.

Like most modern buildings in ancient surroundings, the tower has its detractors. I am not one of them. I like the blend of old and new. Or more properly put, new, old, older and oldest. This building is in the newest category, and it has a most modern feature which is the reason for this post. It has a sky garden. Frankly, this is a little bit of an exaggeration. It is a large open space at the very top of the tower, with a choice of posh dining and drinking options and two strips or terraced bushes at either side.

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Green fingered citizens of London might be disappointed by what they find up there, butI didn’t come for it’s horticultural delights. I came for the views. And what views they are. It’s not just that you’re at the perfect height. Location, location location! The Walkie Talkie has the location. On one side, you overlook Tower Bridge (old), the Tower of London (older) and the Roman Wall (oldest).

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On the other side you have a view along the River Thames, with Parliament and the London Eye clearly visible. And right across the river to your front, the towering Shard. There are a few things to note about these views though. Trying to photograph them at night through rain spattered windows is not conducive to satisfying results. There is an outdoor terrace, but it closes at 6pm, which is a shame. Perhaps it will remain open later in the summer. And finally, whilst entry to the Sky Garden is free, you have to book your tickets. And they get booked up quite far in advance.

I have more photos of our jaunt up to the Sky Garden, naturally. Click here and you will be whisked over to see them on Flickr, as per usual.

The Year of Mexico

This year will be different things to different people. And different organisations, nations and other entities. According to the UN, 2015 is the Year of Light. The Chinese are convinced that this is the year of the sheep. Or goats. One or the other. What sort of offspring do you get from a papa sheep and a mama goat? The Chinese should have picked that, whatever it is. The Russians and the North Koreans have decided that it is the year of friendship between Russia and North Korea. Hey, don’t mock. Everyone needs at least one friend.

So what about the UK? We have the best ‘Year Of’ of them all. Here in Blighty, 2015 is the Year of Mexico. Which makes me happy. In Mexico, they are having the Year of the United Kingdom. Which also makes me happy. There are events galore, and I’m pleased to say that Mrs P and I will be participating. We have our tickets booked for the Lucha Libre at the Royal Albert Hall and for the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. Both events are in July, and we’re looking forward to both. Myself, more the former than the latter. If you’re there, give us a shout. I will be Mistico and she will be Blue Demon.

I have, for many years, publicised the many links between the UK and Mexico. Some of them are best left alone. Ok, so we may have syphoned off a bit of oil in the early parts of the last century. Possibly quite a lot of oil. We may also have enforced borders between Belize and Mexico that was more in our favour than Mexico’s. But still. We gave you football and pastes. And that counts for a lot, right? Although the best common bond between these great nations? Well that would be myself and Mrs P, of course. and this blog. Alas, the video below gives none of us a mention. Pft.

Four Years

There are dates that stick in the memory. Birthdays. Deathdays*. Terrorist attacks. Anniversaries. February 16th is a date that sticks in my memory. In 2011, on that date, I got on a plane and flew back to the UK. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. Have I made myself clear? I hope so.

Life in Mexico was fun. Every day was an adventure. Every single day. Without exception. In the UK, every day is either a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Preferably one of the latter two, which might turn out to have an adventure of sorts in store. Sometimes. True, there are benefits to living in the UK. There are no doubts about that. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to turn on a tap and not really be certain whether any water would come out. But certain that if it did, you shouldn’t really drink it. Although I did drink it on more than one occasion without any noticeable side effect. Tis all but part of the adventure.

Since returning to the UK, I’ve droned on about Mexico City to anyone who will listen. I’ve also droned on to anyone who won’t listen. That’s one of the benefits of droning on. It doesn’t really matter if anyone listens or not. It’s a pitiful form of self therapy, but it relieves the withdrawal pangs.

It doesn’t, I fear, give anyone a real idea about why Mexico is such a fabulous little patch of planet Earth. I’ve shared videos over the years on this blog, and I watch some of them sometimes. I sometimes think that opening YouTube and entering Mexico City in the search box is the equivalent of a smoker having a sneaky cigarette when he’s trying to quit. Naughty but nice.

Sadly, most videos show only one facet of the city. It either dwells on the poverty or crime, or on the history and developed parts of the city. If ever there has been one video that almost, almost, captures the Mexico City I lived in, it’s the one I’ve embedded below. Perhaps you’ve seen it before. But it’s so well done, it’s nice to see again, isn’t it. It’s a government sponsored creation. Who’d have thunk that a political/tourist motivated bit of work would best capture the Mexico City that I lived in? No, it misses out a lot of the warts. But truth be told, I did my best to miss out on the warts too, when I lived there.

  • Deathdays. Why does no one use this word? It’s such a logical choice. I claim copyright.

Next Level Photography

I’m pretty happy with the photo gear I’ve got. I have no complaints. The Fuji XM-1 is a great camera, I have fantastic lenses and two other good one. A decent camera bag, a Joby Gorillapod tripod and a decent sized bag to carry all of it, or most of it, around with me. But I am but human. A male human at that. I’m pretty sure that this is an inbuilt feature of the Y chromosome. No sooner have I got the latest shiny new thing than I see other shiny new things. And I start making lists. List making is an X chromosome thing. But it’s the Y chromosome that makes me put unaffordable technological items on it.

But there’s an awful lot of cool gear out there that supplements what I have, rather than being unnecessary replacements for perfectly good gear. I have an Amazon wishlist which regularly gets added to. Most of the stuff I add to a wish list is never bought. I guess that’s why they call it a wish-list rather than a gonna-get-it-soon list. The former is also easier to say. But anyway, I thought I’d share my wishlist. Why not. I have little else to share at the moment.

Cokin Filters

I would love to do some long exposure photography. I’ve created a small gallery of some samples, to demonstrate the point. I live in the perfect place for some decent long exposure snaps, with the Jurassic Coast quite literally a ten minute walk away. At least than £50, including an adaptor for my camera, it’s not entirely out of reach price wise.

Olloclip lens

The best camera is the one you have with you. Which means, for me, that is usually my iPhone 6. How to breath new life into my iPhone camera? Well, four new lenses can but help, surely? A fisheye, wideangle and pair of macro lenses all available from a single clip on unit for less than £60. Bargain. Someone remind Santa that I’ve been very, very, very good this year. So far…

Memory card

I’ve started shooting RAW+Jpg with my Fuji. It is an improvement on solely shooting in Jpg in every way but one. My 8gb memory card filled up quicker than my subjects could say ‘cheese’. For the first time in a decade, I found myself out in the field sifting through my days shots, deleting the poor ones to make room for new ones. Pft. That is a process best left when sat on my laptop. I’ve already gotten a new one. A Transcend 64gb with a decent read/write rating. Why Transcend? I wasn’t too fussy on brand. So long as it works. My last card was a Transcend and did just fine. My in-camera deleting days are over for at least another decade, I hope.

Magnification Tube

There is one small problem with my Fuji XF 60mm macro lens. That being, it isn’t really a macro lens. The magnification is but 0.5x, not the 1.0x (or better) you’d normally associate with a macro lens. What to do? Well, one option is Fuji’s own extension tube, which will ramp up the magnification to 0.75x. A significant improvement. The cost? Pence under £70.

Venus Lens

The other option is to sell the Fuji lens and buy one of the newfangled Chinese made lenses. It’s not far off half the price at £250-ish and offers 4x the magnification. Tempting, tempting….

Selfie Stick

I remember the first time I saw someone holding a selfie stick. I near jumped over a wall I was so sure he was a terrorist. Ok, maybe I didn’t, be he did look odd, up to no good and quite frankly, a bit of a k*&b. I’ve been mocking selfie stick toting photographers ever since. Until I wondered what sort of photos might I be able to get with one of these. And now I find I want one. They are only £12, after all. What have I got to lose? Yes, I know…my dignity. But apart from that…

Photo Frames

I keep meaning to buy some. They aren’t expensive. £5 and upwards. Prints from a local shop are just a few pounds for a dozen 7×5″ snaps. They’d look nice hanging on walls around the house. One day I’ll get round to it.

Remote shutter release

Some would say this is an essential piece of kit for long exposure photography. I say, how can a cable and button cost £31?! What is the profit margin on this bit of plastic? Must be enormous. It’s almost as expensive as the Cokin filters. I’ll probably just be real careful and use the timer function on the camera instead.

Fuji XT1

What’s the point of having a wishlist if there isn’t at least one fanciful, completely financially inappropriate item on it? There’s no point, I tell you. None at all. I give to you the king of the Fuji X cameras, the XT-1. The graphite version, which is the more expensive choice. But hey, seeing as I am years away from one of these babies, I might as well dream the best dream…

The Mexile Academy Awards

It’s time for the Oscars again, and as I’ve watched most of the nominations I feel almost compelled to hand out my own highly prized set of gongs for the best, and worst, that the film industry has to offer. What right do I have, a Brit, in intruding on the United States of America’s glitziest, glammest night out on the tiles? Well, first of all, we talk properly. In fact, most US movies should probably be moved into the Best Foreign Film category. Secondly, we’re on our way over to win all of those Oscars. Again. So there.

The Award For The Most Important Haircuts…

Boyhood. A near three hour epic absolutely packed full of nothing. Seriously, no spoiler alert is required for this film. Have you got your eyes closed in case I give away a key moment and ruin it all? Relax. Nothing happens. At all. At times, it has the feel of Stand by Me, (awesome novella in a set of four, by the by) the tale of four young boys on a sunny day trip. Except in Boyhood, there’s no dead body to be found. There was a moment in an abandoned house where you thought there might be a nasty accident. I almost hoped for a fatality, just to liven things up. But alas, nowt came of it. About an hour and a half into the film, you realise that actually, really, nothing is going to happen. And what you are really paying attention to are the change in hairstyles which signify a shift in time. This flick was, after all, filmed over a 12 year period. Without the radically morphing bonnets, then quite frankly you’d be completely lost. Was it a bad movie? No, not really. It was fairly watchable. Enjoyable, even. It’s a nice film. But it won’t see a re-run in my home. Once was more than enough.

The Best Christmas Movie Award

On 25th December I had a limited choice of viewing. On what is traditionally the best day for TV in the UK, I found myself short changed. Listen to the Queen drivel on for ten minutes, or East Bloody Enders. Or, that new Sony movie of North Korean fame. On account that my downloading and watching this film would greatly irritate the Dear One Junior, I chose the latter option. It is toilet humour, and will be forgotten as quickly as anything else you’ve ever flushed. But it had its moments, some of them quite funny. And it saved my Christmas afternoon from regal festivity or slum land depression

The Vieux Boulogne Award…

Hollywood knows how to produce a bit of cheese. Heck, there’s a bit of curdled dairy in most films. Sometimes it even helps. But there is cheese and then there is Vieux Boulogne. Which movie this year managed to leave the audience with the most acrid, pungent aroma of stinky French fromage stuck to the inner walls of their nostrils? That would be Fury. In a similar fashion to the cheese that gives the award its name, Brad Pitt and co put their names and reputations to an epic World War II monstrosity that smells like the contents of the unwashed behind of a farmyard cow. The initial plot, plausible. Just. The battle, unlikely to the extreme. The outcome, simply ridiculous. Brad Pitt’s career? Surely on the skids. I can sense every other great WW2 movie turning in its cassette each time this is played. The greatest shame, for me personally, is that the two main tank stars, the Sherman and Tiger, were both borrowed from a tank museum not far from my home. Brad, you let that museum down. Or maybe not. Perhaps visitor numbers are up. I’ve a sudden urge to pay it a visit. Stay tuned.

The Goebells Award…

And the winner is? American Sniper. What. A. Missed. Opportunity. I grew up watching war films. Battle of Midway. The Battle of Britain. A Bridge Too Far. Bridge over the River Kwai. Later on, I enjoyed Apocolypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, as the Vietnam films gained popularity. Perhaps I shouldn’t like them, but I’m afraid I do. I guess we all like a hero, and war does provide the theatre for heroics. And it’s far better to watch a reproduction of the event than to be a participant. Perhaps, if we are going to be honest, most of us don’t want to be a hero so bad that we’d wander into a war zone. Better to be a living, breathing cow than a dead general, as the saying goes.

There haven’t been many decent Gulf War II films of note outside the Hurt Locker. There may be a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, the war is still something an embarrassment. Have they found those weapons of mass destruction yet? No? Really?? Secondly, there were so many journalists and film crews embedded in the front line, we watched it live. It almost became a sports event. How many people watch reruns of the Super Bowl? Exactly. But here was a story, Chris Kyle’s story, that could be made into a movie. It doesn’t matter if he was a hero or not. That’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves. But he did have a story.

Alas, Clint Eastwood seems to have lost the plot. There’s not really that much of a fine line between artistic license and complete bullshit. If you’ll pardon my French. The former is a matter of padding out the story. Selective focus. The latter is just screwing the real story up and inserting complete fiction. Clint has jumped the substantial gap between artistic license into bullshit territory with aplomb. I hoped the Eastwood of Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima and Million Dollar Baby would turn up. Instead the right wing, politicised Clint Eastward of Talking to an Empty Chair fame took centre stage. And ruined the chance of American Sniper being the film it could have, should have, been. From a technical point of view, there was so much right about this movie. But in the end, it wasn’t actually the story of Chris Kyle at all. The movie deserves whole theatres full of empty chairs. Shame on you, Clint.

Thumping Church Organ Soundtrack Award

There can be only one candidate. Interstellar. When did church organs become acceptable for use in film scores again? I thought they must have been banned for overuse in vampire movies some time ago. It took me half the film to decide whether I liked it or not. In the end, I just turned the volume right on up and let those godly beats outta them pipes and into my my living room. Hallelujah! They do work. They provide atmosphere. The film itself. It’s ok. I like a good sci-fi film. Ok, the science is stretched, just a tad. I’m pretty sure a guy in a space suit probably can’t take a stroll on the surface of a black hole. But you have to let these things go once in a while. It’s good to be dumb sometimes, and to just enjoy.

Award For The Most Surreal, Even A Little Bizarre, Movie…

Hmmmm. Birdman or Grand Budapest Hotel? Birdman or Budapest? Eeeny, meeny, miny moe. No, there can only be one, and that has to be the Grand Budapest Hotel. Birdman was ok, but it was also a little pointless. Without Edward Norton, it would have been a total flop. The Grand Budapest Hotel though. What is not to like? The colours. The cast. Their performances. Ralph Fiennes at his fiennest. The setting. The surreal storyline. It’s so far fetched, it’s wonderful. It’s a couple of hours in a fantasy world that has just a sufficient amount of tangible reality to it to make it somehow believable. Almost. I liked this film. A lot. It’s not an all time great. But it is a worthy candidate for film of the year.

The Mexile Best Motion Picture of 2015, Even Though We Are But Five Weeks Into The Year Award…

I suspect myself and Mr Oscar will disagree, and they’ll give their gong to someone else. But hooey to him. The best film this year was The Imitation Game. It’s a true story, told well. But that doesn’t make it a winner. Foxcatcher was also a true story told well. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly were both excellent. I barely noticed Keira’s underbite at all. Well done her. But the cast of Foxcatcher was also excellent. This story had set-work one step above the competition. If you’re going to tell a WW2 story, make it feel like WW2.

The difference is the scale of this story. How important it was to be told. The difference that this story made to tens of millions of lives around the world. The tragedy of this story was a tragedy for countless others of a non heterosexual persuasion in that era and afterwards. Never in the history of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to that one chap over yonder in that there wooden shed. As Churchill might have said in one of his radio broadcasts about Alan Turing. Had Turing himself not been shrouded in total secrecy. There will always be those who pick at details in the film. But the Imitation Game stays on the right side of the artistic license/bullshit divide.

Crazy Walking Guy Award…

A couple more awards, just for the hell of it. Wildcards, if you like. And not for movies. This one goes to Walking The Nile. Levison Wood redefines travelling. Simply put, if you don’t have at least one companion die from heatstroke, get chased by a crocodie, stroll through a Muslim Botherhood village, visit a terrorist infested mosque, spend the night in a warzone, trek through a mine field and keep going for more than 4,000 miles…..well, you’re just not really travelling man. You’re just on holiday. Pft. Ya feeble tourist.

Crazy Guy Award…

O.M.G. There are some people who should not be allowed to play with the internet. This guy has popped up a few times on Facebook and elsewhere. I’ve watched a couple of them. And my first question is…how does this guy have an audience? How brain dead must a person be to swallow this sort of nonsense? The one I’ve posted below is a fine example. His rebuttal of the US as having a gun problem. They are, after all, not even in the top one hundred of murders per capita in the world, despite having by far the highest gun ownership rates. Well, that’s settled then.

Except, a couple of questions. Firstly, if you’re going to list gun ownership rates, why not then list firearm death rates instead of overall homicide rates? That places the US somewhere between number 17 and number 28.  Secondly, did one not think of other issues that might account for higher murder rates in some countries. I mean, is it not fair to say that social and economic development might not play a part? Is it not fair to say, perhaps, that Mexico might not be so high up the list if the US didn’t give it so many guns and then demand a ton of drugs sneaked back across the border in return? Just perhaps?

And finally. That list of countries above the US on the list. Who on earth are you comparing the US to?? The argument he is making is akin to Jeffrey Dahmer standing up in court and pleading not guilty on the basis that there have been at least a hundred worse serial killers than him. Do none of his viewers analyse his data and logic a little more carefully? Or even pause for thought? Jebus, me thinks not. Some people have too much goo glooping about in their skulls. There’s a sensible debate on gun control to be had. You won’t have it with Bill.

General Election 2015

Once upon a time, the British general election was a matter of global importance. The results would potentially have an effect on hundreds of millions of people across the planet. From the landing of British ships on Newfoundland in 1497 to the handover of Hong Kong exactly five hundred years later in 1997, an empire was administered from London. Covering an area greater than one fifth of the land surface area of the planet, it peaked with a population of nearly 460 million people. No empire has ‘bettered’ those figures. Although as a percentage of the world’s population, the British Empire doesn’t even make it into the top dozen. Did ya know that? The First Persian Empire tops the list, consuming nearly 45% of the people of the planet alive at that time.

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But anyway, it’s been a few decades since a UK general election really, really mattered to the world at large. Sure, the country is still a major player in international affairs, but no longer a governor. So you are forgiven if you really have no interest in the upcoming election or who wins. Truth be told, new governments do not often attempt to change much. Elections anywhere really only have a great impact outside domestic borders when radicals take the reigns of key nations, particularly in times of economic turmoil. Germany in 1933 for example. Or Greece, potentially, in 2015. Sorry chaps, but Obama is not a radical in any way, shape of form.

This year, though, the UK election could have a wider impact. Certainly on the European stage. The rumble of feet heading towards the EU exit is growing louder. It might be a foolhardy direction to tread, but it has momentum. One fringe party in particular have lead the way, but it is the the current incumbents who are offering to open the door. The Conservative party have promised an ‘In / Out’ referendum in the next parliament. And frankly, a scarily large proportion of the country are stupid enough to vote based on wot they been readin’ in their tabloid poison of choice. It would be a close run affair, and even the bookies are not offering much difference between the two options.

I don’t read tabloids. I will browse through the online offerings of the Guardian and occasionally buy a copy of the Times. But even then, I take what I read with a pinch of salt. Or at least balance off one version of the ‘truth’ with the other. This election I will probably take more time than I’ve done before to read into the manifestos and promises of each of the main political players. I think you know which way I will likely cast my vote. But nothing is set in stone. That’s an important principal for me. Picking your colour and sticking to it through thick and thin is what you do when choosing a football team to support. The country changes, as does its priorities, its needs, its place in the world. Parties change, both in personnel and philosophy. And my vote changes accordingly. What matters to me are the policies and promises offered for the next four years, and by whom. Can they be trusted? Inevitably, no, they can’t. But which of the evils on the shelf is the least bitter to swallow?

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The first party to have stuffed literature through my letterbox are UKIP. The early bird catches the worm. Except, in this instance, UKIP is the worm. Having earlier stated that I have an open mind with my vote, that only stretches so far. Sure, I’ll read their document once I’ve fished it out of the scanner. But I wouldn’t even use this insidious document as toilet paper. Though it may well share the same eventual fate, flushed into oblivion. In a single A5 sheet, UKIP demonstrates what is wrong with many politicians, but something they particularly specialise in. Half truths that paint only half the picture. Insert ‘rich, old white’ between policies and people and the message is clearer.

And I strongly suspect that those raised hands belong to people who have the wrong skin colour or nationality, being herded on to transport trains headed for the other side of the channel tunnel, at the end of a shotgun toted by one of the aforementioned rich, old white people. Or maybe I’m letting my imagination run away with itself. Whatever, they’re a nasty lot. One would have to be Sherlock to see through all the half truths, false promises and rosy pictures that the political combatants are soon to bombard us with. Join me over the next few months as I try to do my best. The game is afoot.