Monday, December 01, 2008

Vatican Forgives John Lennon's 'Bigger Than Jesus' Speech

It has to be one of the most famous misquotes of the 20th Century, yet this week, the Catholic church have "pardoned" Beatle front man, John Lennon as it is 40 years since Lennon was reported to have said that the Beatles were bigger that Christianity.

The formal pardon was given, many would argue 40 years too late, but would the late, great John Lennon be pleased, or would he be bothered? To be honest, he probably would have thought nothing of it. It would be the state of the world and all it's conflicts he would have been more worried about.

The misquote came from an interview which he gave when The Beatles were at their height of fame and world domination. He was reported to have said that he thought the band were bigger that Jesus and Christianity all over the world. What he actually said was that he believed that music/rock and roll, and even the band itself probably meant more to the young generation of fans all over the world, than religion, which, if you think back to those days of "Beatlemania" is probably not far off the truth.

The comments were reported back to the magazine which was going to publish the interview were mis-read for what ever reason, be them innocently or not, in 1966. No matter, the words angered religious leaders across the globe. The British icon was shot dead in New York, outside his apartment in December 1980.

He supposedly said to a journalist,

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I do not know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity... We're more popular than Jesus now."

In a press conference later, John Lennon told the waiting newspapers that he had actually meant that he thought the band was more popular at that time. Sadly, even all these decades later, there is still some degree of skepticism over what he meant when the remarks were made.

However, yesterday published in the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, John Lennon was officially pardoned, stating that Lennon had meant that he was "blaming the group's immense rise to fame for his comments..."

In the meantime, the editors wrote...

"After so many years, it sounds merely like the boasting of an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success."

This month in the UK, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles, White Album, and it appears that the Vatican has praised the album also saying that "only "snobs" would dismiss the Beatles' songs...."

I guess there has been an issue of iPods around the smallest state recently...

Based on an article from

Sound Suite Cocoon article written by MDuffy 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Propaganda Puppet Mickey Mouse Turns 80 And He's Still the Political Nazi Figure

Mickey Mouse is 80 this week - there are very few entertainment figures in front of him - Fats Domino springs to mind, yet those early days of Mr Mouse where dark. He was banned from Germany in WW2 and the Italians didn't think he was fascist enough.

It was a bleak day on December 15, 1937, weather wise, but more of the life expectancy of a certain Mr Mickey Mouse - the new, hot-off-the-drawing-board cartoon character who literally took the world by storm and almost caused quite a storm whilst doing it.

Thousands of miles away across the sea in the UK, while American artists were congratulating themselves on creating a masterpiece of animal/cartoon history, politicians in the House of Commons were asking themselves some pretty interesting and serious questions.

First was the story of the published comic strip, "Mickey Mouse" in Belgrade. The accusations were so severe that it spelled the end of one British journalist's career.

"Mr Mander (Wolverhampton East, Labour), asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he would state what action he proposed to take with reference to the expulsion of Reuter's correspondent, Mr H. D. Harrison, from Yugoslavia on the ground that he transmitted to foreign countries a statement that a "Mickey Mouse" comic strip in a Belgrade newspaper had been banned because it bore on national politics."

The press ran the story almost ten days before...

Mickey Mouse as a "revolutionary"

"According to reports from Belgrade the Yugoslav censor for art, literature, and drama has recognized in Mickey Mouse a dangerous agitator and ordered the Politika to surrender to him for destruction the latest strip or two (drawings and text) portraying Mickey Mouse's adventures, which have been appearing in serial form exclusively in that paper. There is happily no ground to fear that Yugoslavia is in any danger of losing touch for long with the personality or the activities of Mickey Mouse. But Mickey's activities in the guise of a "Prince" acquainting himself with the alleged corruption existing in high places in his country are regarded by the censor as containing revolutionary doctrines which must not be allowed to penetrate to the unsophisticated citizen...."

The infamous MP Anthony Eden (Foreign Secretary during World War II, briefly serving as Prime Minister (1955-1957) said in reply to Mr Mander,

"I was informed by the Yugoslav Government on December 7 that, in spite of repeated warnings, they had on many occasions had cause to complain of Mr Harrison's presentation of news to the British public. The Yugoslav Government further stated that they had been obliged on the occasion of Mr Harrison's last dispatch, dealing with an act of the censorship, to intimate to him that his continued presence in Belgrade would be undesirable. His Majesty's Minister at Belgrade took the matter up with the Yugoslav authorities, but they informed him that they were unable to alter their decision. It will be realized that the grant or withdrawal of permission to reside in any country is entirely a matter for the Government of that country to decide..."

Yet the story didn't stop there and the 'disgraced' journalist was not going home without a fight. All sounds a tad too far - after all, this is only a cartoon character, so surely this extremist event should not have resulted in a journalist being given the boot out of another country, and just when you would have thought that someone on the bench would have been on his side. Mr Eden said:

"It is not a question of whether it is right. We have always claimed for ourselves the right of acting as we think fit in relation to foreigners living in this country and as we attach importance to that, clearly I cannot take action which contradicts it...."

Not a good start for one of the world's most famous characters, yet it was in 1930, only a few years before where Mr Mouse had found himself banned from Germany - the "latent anti-German feeling" he apparently raised in the air, in a statement at the time, the German Board of Film Censors said,

"...the "artist evidently aimed at a comic representation of an action in the War. While the victorious mouse is distinguished by the French kepi, his enemies the cats are clearly recognizable as the German Army by their German steel helmets".

So before we begin to believe that Mickey Mouse started the war, in 1938, the Italians decided to jump in on the act, they banned the cartoon mouse for not being fascist enough, yes, you read that right. Yet he was eventually welcomed by the Nazi's in 1940 when Mickey met propaganda and put him in a film 'Naughty Naughty' to show how the Nazi movement saw America...

We have forgiven him since then....

MD 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Reason Why I Call Myself Planet Janet...

Or rather not these days...

Thirty-ish, pen pushing, council worker living south of London. People have asked me why I call myself Planet Janet - it is not only my name here but also...

It is the name of, a strip club in south west Minnisota, a pub in Cheadle, near Manchester which only opens on Mondays between 2 and 4pm, a funky clothes shop for short sighted ladies under the age of 20 on the Kings Road in London, a famous female painter from Eastern Romania who can only paint with her feet, a sixties hippy and radical journalist who used to hang out with Vivienne Westwood and Rodd Hull, a former Bunny Girl and mistress of Hugh Hefner who was given the nickname of Thud, because of her over active thyroid, a writer of poetry who's main subject is pigs and pig farming, a Swedish nanny who was famous for inventing the self cleaning nappy, a Russian Guiness World Record holder for downing the most cabbage based vodka's over the age of 82, and oh yes, I almost forgot, the name behind the most famous of all Monty Python sketches, the one where Terry Jones does NOT dress as a woman and each second word in the whole scene is "bottom."

That last one may not be true...

Monday, September 15, 2008

By The Way, Which One's Pink...?

In the midst of the psychedelic sixties, a band emerged from the haze of the darkest London suburbs called The Abdabs. In 1965, three ordinary guys named Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright were the basis of this new band and it was only when they requested the poetic genius of Syd Barrett that they thought that the name Pink Floyd had more going for it. At least it meant some would take their music seriously…

It was Barrett who supplied the gentle, drifting vocals and guitar. He was also responsible for the bizarre, ‘out of this world’ lyrics. He became the leader, guiding his newfound flock into depths of creation and shrouded, unspoken imagination. Richard Wright graced our ears and took us to distant plains of the mind with his keyboards. Nick Mason was the man behind the beautifully timed drums and percussion and Roger Waters was responsible for bass, more percussion and vocals.

It wasn’t long before they were a resident musical interlude at certain discerning clubs. Already with the ‘Ally Pally’ under their belts, they had there, headed one of the most presstiduous psychedelic events in music history. It was a gruelling 14 hours titled the ‘Technicolor Dream’- a perfect fuzz filled name for a gathering of musicians, travellers, hippies and other walks of life. It was one of those ‘you had to be there’ type events, but for Pink Floyd, it was enough to grace the ‘amateur hall of fame.’

Their first single release was the ordinarily titled ‘Arnold Layne’ in March 1967. (About a thieving washing line transvestite.) The Position of number 20 was a modest claim for a new diverse band, for when a time when everything ‘swung’ and the chart was a ‘free for all’, it was a chance for Pink Floyd to strike a timely chord with the alternative listeners. ‘See Emily Play’ immediately followed this single and it reached an impressive number 6. It was surprising that due to these fairly well ranking singles, the band didn’t release anything until December 1979; 12 years had gone by with only a handful of albums to go on before we heard the unique ‘Another Brick In The Wall Part Two.’ It was obvious from the start that Pink Floyd were not a band to bash out one single after another, in fact, this band were playing to a more selective audience of intellectual listeners who sat cross legged and analysed music intensely rather than bopped to it.

In the hysteria of the late Sixties, it was clear that Barrett’s lyrics were being fuelled by a strong drug addiction. Unfortunately for geniuses of that era they either swam with the drug fuelled tide and rode on the waves of creative writing or they sank like a stone whose voice, no one could understand. It was the latter that crowned Barrett. Because of the failed man finding LSD more favourable than writing studio work or turning up to gigs, a talented young man stepped in by the name of David Gilmour whilst Barrett fell out. The shadow left shortly afterwards under a strained cloud. The band then could have been in trouble creatively, no unlike the legendary Peter Green on leaving Fleetwood Mac. The backbone had been Barrett and the rest practically picked short straws as to who was going to write.

From 1967 to 1975 they released 10 albums, all doing well in regard to position and staying power. The release of ‘Atom Heart Mother’ hit the number one slot straight off and ‘Obscured By Clouds’- a soundtrack released in June 1972 managed an almost permanent residence completing 82 weeks in the album chart.

‘Wish You Were Here’ was their second number one album. Released in September 1975, an album indirectly dedicated to Syd Barrett who strangely turned up one-day whilst the band were recording the six-month album. His presence certainly their in the control room and yet also on the album. Even though it had been several years since Barrett left, Pink Floyd still hadn’t got the ghost out of their systems. ‘Shine On’ was a specific tribute to Barrett and even seen as a letter to him from the member of the band. Perhaps the title of the album itself may denote certain smugness towards Barrett at the success he had decided to leave behind. Already with ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ behind them, perhaps their greatest album to date, they could afford to poke a little fun at the defenceless Syd Barrett, although, Waters was reported to have said in recent years that when recording this album, they had all wished they were somewhere else….

With only five tracks but yet all of some considerable length, it was chosen to be digitally remastered in 1994 and this is the album that can be purchased today. Written predominately by Waters, it wasn’t seen as their greatest album but to a newcomer of Pink Floyd, it offers a good starting point without commitment…

Known for their adverse ‘Salvador Dhali’ style album covers, these sleeves represent the depth of the creation within. Pink Floyd represented themselves, a ‘no holes barred’ approach to experimental rock. Mixing futuristic machine themes and strangled keyboards with mellow guitar riffs, they wrote a line that undoubtedly appealed to all.

The opening our album is the piece titled ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part One)’ I shall call them pieces as any Pink Floyd album is quite like listening to a instrumental tale, (Peter Gabriel’s Genesis minus the lambs and foxes) rather than just an album with one track following another. Pink Floyd presents us with themes rather than songs and they flow gently together like one long artistic project, so this is how I will try to respect that….

It is Wright that has the upper hand as this first piece opens gently, soothing us for what is to come. Gilmour idly teases the strings for a short time that is rather like a backdrop for soaring over the Scottish Highlands. A harsh four noted riff sounds like satanistic bells and then we are finally taken into the extended introduction to the piece. Gilmour flutters effortlessly around the strings to a mellow and sleepy blues theme. The whole theme to this piece is bluesy jazz whilst the member takes us through the instruments at their fingertips. Wright works his way through the repertoire of the keyboard just as Gilmour, who sounds instantly woken from heavy sleep? The listener get this feeling that they are just masters at instruments and is pleasantly surprised when their voices blend beautifully, however, like with all Pink Floyd albums, it is the quality of music that is the fundamental basis for the success of this band, not the lyrical content although it has always seen as an added bonus What does ironically make the album work is the primary subject, Syd Barrett and in this piece they are truly talking about his life, his highs and falls. ‘Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze…’

What we do experience with this first piece is fusion of both instruments and musicians. They naturally inject each piece with euphonious conclusions of mind and spirit. This first piece breathes life and that life is consistent from beginning to end.

With souls cleansed and mind free of all dark, intrusive thoughts, we are awoken to the second piece from this album entitled ‘Welcome To The Machine.’ It is the second leg of our journey. As with all albums by wide ranging artists, and it even can be said for commercialism, production line Brit pop to an extent, that an album is a piece of history in the long range event of that artist/bands life. Here, we are exposed to the joys and more than not, sorrows that were the epitome of Pink Floyd.
A man presses a buzzer to open a steel door inside a giant machine orientated factory, presses another buzzer and the pulse of the machine from behind the door thunders louder as we hear another door open. It is questioned where the direction was pointing when Roger Waters wrote this futuristic, harsh piece. Through the lyrics we can hear perhaps another tribute to the downfall of Barrett, but we must remember that by the time this album was recorded, the flattened, worn out, crushed spirited Pink Floyd were yet another super group to become disillusioned with touring and screaming to crammed stadium audiences who wailed so much that they couldn’t have possibly heard the band above the din. Like The Beatles had retreated to the studio for something for them, Pink Floyd had become distant to the world and Waters couldn’t bear the stadium thought again. Ironically what they had created with this album was another run up the ladder nearer to another packed out stadium.
The door closes on this synthesized, unmelodic piece. It is a cold piece and holds none of the warmth from the previous piece. The machine is unwelcoming and after a listen once or twice, we may start to feel uncomfortable with the musical content laden with lyrics that show no emotion. To describe a machine using lyrics and sounds, then it’s perfect.

Waters then presents us with another solitary written piece entitled ‘Have A Cigar.’ A heavy blues theme runs the length of this piece and the lyrics are little tongue in cheek. We experience some beautifully gliding pieces of Gilmour’s guitar work. To turn the tables, the listener becomes the listened. This piece ends with the actually the track being played on a radio. Our listener get fed up and tries to find another suitable station, he flicks around for a short while when his ears stumble across a slide guitar being picked away at in solo mode. The listener picks up a guitar and picks out an accompanying riff to the radio. Gently, our other members join to open the fourth leg of our tour around the minds of Pink Floyd, entitled ‘Wish You Were Here.’

This piece was collaboration between Waters and Dave Gilmour. We wonder actually if they are perhaps reciting the lyrics to each other. To say that this might be yet another piece directed at the lost presence of Syd Barrett could be open for argument. I feel that in this stage of the album, they could well be having a dig at each other. We must remember that despite the title of this piece and the album, this was not a time of exciting highs for the band. They were practically worn out form working and the untrained ear through their voices can hear it. The lyrics, ‘So, so you think you can tell heaven from hell, blue skies from pain…’ may be seen as the idea that Pink Floyd were running thin creatively still from the departure of the very visionary who lead the members through the eyes and mind of himself. With the theme on the same vein as the blue than blues piece, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, we find that perhaps this is the album where we hear the band playing collectively, not unlike The Beatles, all so individual at the time, coming together to produce the very together ‘White Album.’ The piece is soothing to our ears and we hops soothing to the players, despite the digging lyrics. The wind blows and dies and the listener shudders as perhaps another ‘Machine’ piece, but what we are hearing is apart from a double note from the bass of Waters, is the second and concluding part of the story which is titled ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part Two).’

Predominately instrumental, it is a part two, but yet not sounding the same. The members ramble around their instruments like a quick practise session in the studio of nothing at all before recording. Perhaps this is how part one actually started off in the fist place? Gilmour shows us exactly what he can do with a guitar, he leaves nothing to the imagination of sliding great lengths up and down to the plundering blues drums of Mason, then suddenly the tempo changes and we hear the unmistakeable twang of guitar that can only be ‘Part One’, with a quick burst of recognisable lyrics of Part one to please the listener, its time to linger back into a meandering guitar riff, a tap of soothing drums and percussion and the band are back to pleasing themselves again. Once again Gilmour and Wright play at a double act together and we wonder if we are being intrusive to there private jamming session.

There is a certain isolation that comes across from Pink Floyd. It is almost as if they have taken on the gloomy persona of Barrett to complete a highly acclaimed album. The mood is somewhat dark and pessimistic throughout and we asked ourselves what this album had been designed for. What we do understand is that it is there to illuminate how a strong influence of one man can have such an effect on the lives around him, even when he is far from the person he really is. We can feel a harmonious pull together from the members although it is perhaps tinged with an element of pain and even anger at the long departed Barrett. I do feel that the fundamental bottom line of this album and what it actually meant flew far above most heads at the time. It is only when the lyrics are read as words then we get an idea of what was hidden within.

Musically, it was as ever inventive, dream inspired and insightful as the next Pink Floyd album, but one ends up seeing through that and finding the whole experience a little disturbing. The album, I have to be honest leaves me feeling uncomfortable, but I am the type to take notice of lyrics! It is an album worth having on a musical term. It portrays Pink Floyd at their second best, behind ‘Dark Side Of The Moon.’ But it feels strained, as said before, they had wished they were somewhere else…

Pink Floyd today look more like our dads rather than accomplished gods of rock, and very wealthy ones at that too. They will continue to be worshipped as long as there is a shop to sell their records. Incidentally David Gilmour is on tour (again?!) packing out venues no doubt. He is covering a range of European dates including three at the Royal Albert Hall this year (May 29-31) These tickets will go very quickly.

As regard to another electrifying reunion since Live 8, that’s debatable…

I bought ‘Wish You Were Here’ about five years ago for around fifteen pounds. Unfortunately in the high street shops, because Floyd CD’s go by the bucket load, they will always hold a high price.

PJ MD 2006/08

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Women Live Longer And Are Happier Than Men

It is well reported that women do live longer than men, yet does this mean we live happier lives, and should we blame this on the bonds we have from carrying children? Researchers in the UK seem to think so.
The study at the University College in London took a close look at the lives of around 9,800 people, who are of retirement age or slightly younger, and found that those over the age of 50 and female, were more likely to have a positive outlook on life and were found to be enjoying their golden years far better than their male counterparts.

Yet the fact that you need to be female to be happy and have a longer existence weren't the only qualities which needed to be present - wealth was a strong factor in the way we live out the rest of our lives - those who were in the poorer communities could only expect to live a shorter time after 50 than those who either came from affluent areas or indeed had better jobs with equal retirement packages.

The main factor for a brighter future for the female over 50 appeared to be that they could relax and enjoy their twilight years simply because they needed not to look after their families any longer and take advantage of doing things for themselves instead for others. As many of us will have children in their adult years by the time we reach 50, we can slow down and do all the things we said we would want to do one day. Men, on the other hand work all their lives (well, most of them) and this continues well past the age of 50, thus disallowing time to spend on past time pursuits.

According to the co author of the study, Dr Elizabeth Breeze, the fact that women spend much of their adult lives caring for others who actually look forward to retirement rather than dread it, played an interesting part in their longevity.

She said,

"There is a difference between the way men and women view their quality of life and they are influenced by slightly different things. Women are affected negatively by caring for someone else or if they are not in employment but if they see their children and family more they are positively affected."

Those in the entertainment business seem to have their best years at work after the age of which many of us think about giving up work. Those looking fabulous and still loving life are Meryl Streep, 59, Helen Mirren, 62, and Judi Dench, 72. All of which have played their best characters in their more recent years than when, they were younger.

English actress, Helen Mirren said of the subject and who it related to the movie game,

"A weird thing happens to male actors, especially movie stars, in my experience. They become grumpy old men. A young male actor feels that all the girls want him - he's a star. As actors get older that sense of not being in control of their destiny grates on them and they get grumpy."

The study found fundamentally that out of all studied who were born before 1952, out of the poorest, they had double the chance of not seeing 2008, than those who were wealthy.

Perhaps what came as a surprise from the results of the study is that you are more likely to live longer if you are married. I wonder how many of us would agree with that statement - perhaps Elizabeth Taylor would have a thing to say on that issue.

Another fact that I must point out along with that statement is that you need also to have either a degree or have a professional career - my question is does this depend on either you or your partner? I guess it would make a difference...

For the original article,

mduffy 2008

picture from

Monday, June 30, 2008

Have Your Teacake And Eat It: How The Price Of A Cake Takes The Biscuit...

It just goes to show how much the cost of simple Value Added Tax can be to the humble taxpayer. Today, the UK Treasury is having to cough up a massive £3.5m bill, because the wrong VAT was added to a supermarket teacake
The European Court of Justice has ordered the bill to be forwarded to the UK Treasury as the wrong VAT was added to a Marks and Spencer's teacake. The foul up has cost the Treasury the whopping sum of £3.5m meaning that somewhere down the chain, it will come out of public pockets, rather than the government.

In the UK, VAT is not imposed on to food - it is one of the very few categories which actually gets away with not being stamped, yet the mistake on the humble teacake has been going on for around twenty years at Marks and Spencer, so the cost has been going up and up without anyone noticing. At the present time, most traditional bakery consumer items such as bread, cakes, flapjacks and Jaffa Cakes are exempt from being given VAT on top of their regular price, however, according to UK tax laws, it is still payable on cereal bars, shortbread and partly-coated or wholly-coated biscuits. A fine line, now clearly visible.

Since the UK tax officials in 1994 had officially understood that the teacake had been wrongly titled as part of the biscuit family, the food and clothing chain had to fight a far way to get the VAT back which had been wrongly paid.

The problem has been whether to class the item as a biscuit or a cake - no one has actually never been really sure, yet the rather sickly item covered in chocolate, light marshmallow and biscuit underneath has always trodden that fine line between cake or dunking biscuit with the British cup of tea.

It has been an argument which has now come with a hefty bill (we think of very little else in the UK Treasury,) and customers have been wrongly paying the VAT for two decades, so surely, we should be compensated? How many teacakes have been noshed by the Great British public in that time is beyond comprehension. Come to think about it, there is a pretty gallon or two of tea which has washed this expensive item down also.

The retail chain Marks and Spenser have too been treading a tight rope over the last few years as they have become notoriously out of touch with fashion and growing trends, so this little announcement was hardly going to be pressed against their valued customers - losing anymore of the middle class clientele would be disastrous for the iconic chain.

So, coming to the rescue, the European Court of Justice has decided that to give the money to M&S would be only "unjustly enrich" them so it was decided that despite the fact that the VAT has to be repaid in full, the final say so has to come from the British Courts - hopefully the House of Lords will also tow the line in agreement over the final decision.

In the meantime the Lords and the boys at HM Revenue and Customs will decide what is to be down and who should actually pay, naturally the taxpayer will but through what channels is yet to be shown. SO far, the doors have been tightly closed over any negotiations.

In a statement from Revenue and Customers, it said,

"This is a very complex judgment on which it would be premature to make any comment until the House of Lords has handed down its judgment."

Probably quietly sweating somewhere, M&S will find out the outcome as soon as humanly possible. So far a spokeswoman for the chain told BBC News,

"We are pleased with the outcome which endorses our position. We're optimistic that the House of Lords will now find in our favour and hope that this will conclude the matter and draw a line under this protracted litigation."

Yet the situation is not as easy as it sounds and it were down to just a case of someone paying back a fee then it wouldn't be so bad, but there are complications. Companies, until three years ago in the UK, came under one of two categories - repayment or payment traders. Marks came under the payment heading whose sole responsibility was to pay VAT to the government every financial quarter, sounds simple enough? No.

M&S wanted to state in the courts that although they paid the VAT, other supermarkets who trade generally as food markets (as opposed to M&S who sell food on the side, if you like) these shops were treated "differently on the issue of chocolate teacakes." Sounds more like sour grapes rather than teacakes...

In other terms, M&S say that they were not handed back the VAT as other main supermarkets were. Perhaps it seems that this may be a short sharp nudge in the ribs for Marks and Spencer to decide whether they are a clothing chain or a food chain.

HM Customs officials had added a fly in the ointment for M&S saying that the chain would not have been that better off if they had received the VAT back, yet this surely isn't about money, it's the principle am I right? A chain as giant as M&S aren't going to quibble about money are they? (We'd be surprised!)

So, as a result, the trade tribunal's opinion, there is likely to a payment of no more than 10% (£350,000) - anything more than that would be, in their words, an "unjust enrichment of the company."

On the other hand, European Court of Justice say that a separation of each heading should be paramount - to differentiate between payment and repayment traders should be not so vague so to avoid such a fisticuffs in the future.

As usual, the House of Lords will have the last say.

After all, it is the House of Lords who run the country....

mduffy 2008

picture from

Friday, June 27, 2008

Confessions Of A Giant Panda Finally FIlmed

If there has ever been an animal on this Earth who has had to endure a very public sex life, it has to be the Giant Panda. Despite the fact that this animal seems to rarely "get it on," the reasons why have now been revealed.
Okay, so they have now made yet another documentary of what actually separates mankind from animal, or at least, in this case - what is actually incredibly similar. The BBC have come up with yet another painful programme which highlights the pros and cons of being a humble, common or garden, Giant Panda, and in this case - the chaps at the Beeb have literally left no stone unturned.

The whole thing has been filmed. In human terms it would be the equivalent of first meet to no phone call, to being seen drunk out with his mates, to first date six months later, to first snog, then a quick romp which involves pants around the ankles and upright in a parent's wardrobe, (or so I have been told) yet in Panda terms, it means a "no holes barred" sequence of whats has been described as a "boisterous beginning to a noisy ending," the sex life of the Giant Panda is not caught on camera and uncomfortable viewing, it can only be.

The the good old, Beeb, the Natural History team have created for BBC Two, the two part documentary called "Wild China" and have beautifully captured these "magic moments" somewhere which was previously rather secluded but now, laid bare in the bamboo forests of China's Qinling mountains. Like in human terms, a guy trying to get a date with a honey is not always easy and why should it be any different if you're a 25 stone Giant Panda? Even in the heart of the lush forests, the guy still has to fight off a couple of lads from the block to get his girl.

It has been regarded by the BBC team as being the type of behaviour you would not find in an ordinary zoo, and not surprising, this is normally the part when the pair of fruity Pandas retreat into their sudo-mock plastic/concrete honeymoon suite and then are dutifully hollered at by every other species in the zoo in the hope to put the male off - this, as we all know, usually works.

Yet we see a different side to the perils of the horny male Giant Panda - he even finds comfort from the other male hopefuls by hiding half way up a rather tall tree. He even tries to impress the female with certain tricks and talents he has considered may be well suited for the art of chatting up - we are told that the Giant Panda goes about making loud noises which sound uncannily like a Wookie from Star Wars. (You see girls, they will even try it in the animal world - how deluded the male race are!)

Told perfectly by Gavin Maxwell, the producer of the series, Wild China,

I liken it to Chewbaccas in a pub brawl. Most of the time, pandas live by themselves. It's only in the mating season that they come together; and that's when they start these extraordinary vocalisations. The sounds are so unlikely and just the last thing you would expect a panda to make. When you get two or three males together with a female there's an awful lot of barking and shouting going on.

Naturally the two-part film took months to record, including talking very sweetly to the Chinese authorities for actually letting the film crew get into certain areas of the mountainous range which has never been done before.

The range is a peculiar place and very much like nothing elsewhere on Earth. Sound travels incredibly quickly across the forest. Even bamboo grows so thick that it is hard to see daylight through it, let alone a frustrated Panda. The creatures may be enormous but they are likened to a rabbit caught in the headlights if you get too close. In fact, the BBC team came up with the idea of the animals being rather like mini quad bikes.

Mr Maxwell explains,

They're like mini-quad bikes and once they go, they're off and they're very hard to keep up with...

Of course, as we have said, it 's not the first time we have seen a couple of heavyweight Panda's getting it on in the middle of a forest. As Mr Maxwell went on,

"Occasionally, you will be sitting there quietly trying to keep in the background and the males will suddenly come charging out of the bamboo towards you. They're really fired up, they're breathing hard and panting, and you can see the steam coming out of their mouths. They seem like different creatures altogether."

If kind of makes you wonder if Darwin was right about the Apes bit at all....

First seen on Digital Journal.
m.duffy 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Art Of Block Voting On Eurovish Or How The Cold War Is Alive And Singing

So another year has passed and the event of the centenary from which was born the phrase, “Euro-trash” has come and gone, yet the result of the pop-lacking, spine-curling Eurovision Song Contest (or for those of us slightly older, Song For Europe) which was standard laughter and ridicule has since been swept away with what is not political egg on 56 million faces sitting like lame ducks in the UK. It is of course, Eurovision and from what was a word which made us smile, is now nothing but a sick joke.

Russia won this year, and to be perfectly honest with you, I actually could have told you that – not that I have access to any secret inside information, only a map of Europe and a rough run down of whose won it in the passed.

For a start, we should pose the question – What is Russia doing in it in the first place, and since when have they been a part of Europe? Surely the answer to this is that they are only a part of Europe when it suits them, and that it, in present times, one night in May each year. On viewing the rather interesting map featured in The Sunday Mail today, you will be able to spot the pattern referred to like a referee in a football match who has decided to turn up for the start of play wearing a pink tutu.

All countries guilty of adorning Russia with 12 points are nestled cutely along side the side of the mighty Russia almost simulating the Iron Curtain. (Perhaps that should be Irony Curtain) All these countries, namely, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Lithuania and the Ukraine, form a comfortable line from north to south which of course, were all former sections of the great Soviet Union.

The further away from the East one travels along the path of Eurovish, the cold the points became – a line can also be formed, almost straight in fact, from West to East (from the UK, Germany and finally in Poland) all group together are the losers, all scoring a measly 14 points each taking joint 25th place. Desperately holding on to our finger tips we were determined to stick together – the three countries disliked the most, as a German newspaper noted as a front page headline the following day “Why Doesn’t Anyone Like Us?” Doesn’t this all sound rather like an aftermath of the Second World War?

No, we can’t possibly keep blaming our failing efforts on the War, by jolly, that was 60 years ago, not even when we are along side bringing up the rear with Germany, and what on Earth is Poland doing with us? If anyone should be feeling blue after the cringing events of Saturday night, it should be Poland, and we certainly won’t blame our magic man Mr Andy Abraham, did the East have a problem with former dustbin men? Is it because the song sounded too much like soul and for therefore too American? Rubbish, if my ears did not deceive me, that girl from Greece was from the New York Bronx, and by jeepers, didn’t the song remind you of Ms Britney Spears?

We could spend the rest of this dreary, damp Bank Holiday Monday wallowing in out own self pity at another failed attempt at Eurovish, and in the north winds which engulf our proud land today, it would certainly be the best setting, but lets face facts here, “Even If” was a damn good song and could never be collectively bagging and thrown into a corner with painfully bad Skooch of 2007 and our of tune Gemini from 2006 – it is political and whether we like it of not, we have to follow our own sturdy leader here, Sir Wogan and take out 40% and just go home.

We don’t need to be in Eurovish and even if we just have a good sulk and tell those weirdoes in the East to rearrange their voting ideas and then we just might consider coming back – until then, they are on their own – learn the hard way Eastern Block, just the same as we did.....

Out of the 9 million of us Brits who tuned in on Saturday night to watch the hanging, drawing and quartering of Mr Abraham, we knew deep down in our hearts, we were in for the stake. Yet we still subject ourselves and in a previous report from my good self, even if we had won, we would not have celebrated but would have had to go and take a lie down – we can’t win – we don’t know how to react.

The weather still would have been the same today, whether we had won or not and would our mood have been any different – I guess not – we are a fickle country and if we can find fault in either ourselves or other countries, we will. We are Brits and proud of being so, so on that note, we will do what we always do, fold our arms tightly, say “We told you so,” and join in next year for the more of the same....

After all, we don’t like change, do we....?

©mduffy 2008-05-26

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Few Of My Favourite Things - A Profile....

Taking Views Beyond The Fridge


Okay during the daytime

Local Favorites:
The eldery chap who lives at number 2 and the two Border Collies who live at the end of my road

I Belong To:
My cat - she owns me.

When I'm Not on Topix:
I am writing for nothing somewhere else

Read My Forum Posts Because:
I'd read them if it was me

I'm Listening To:
The voices inside my head

Read This Book:
Tricks Of The Mind by Derren Brown

Favorite Things:
Theatre, books, Richard E Grant's legs and 1970's music

On My Mind:
Being a great writer and a profound thinker and why you cannot buy Fruit Salads anymore

Blog / Website / Homepage:

I Believe In:
Anything that educates, inspires and generally puts your faith back in humanity, oh yes, and eternal youth - it's a long shot....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tragedy Of A Much Loved And Irreplacable Children's Entertainer

Mark Speight, who has been missing for six days, has been found dead at a London train station, presumed hanged. It is the end of a tragic story of two people of incredible talent, and lives destroyed by drink and drugs...

Today in the UK, we mourn the loss of someone who could even be described as 'iconic.' He was a much loved children's TV presenter who had entertained both children and parents for over a decade with his wacky and wild approach to educational and artistic TV.

On screen, he was an enigmatic, presence whom children across the UK and thanks to Sky TV, across many areas of the world, was one of laughter and fun, yet in real life, he had been suffering. After the tragic death of his fiancee in January, his world had taken a dive and the loss had left him in a downward spiral, he had felt, there was no escape from.

Early yesterday morning, Transport police officers found his body in a remote part of one of London's most busiest railway stations, Paddington. There are today, unconfirmed reports that he was found hanging, almost definitely suicide. A post mortem test will show today what and how exactly he died. The death, police say is "unexplained," yet the rest of us know that he had a broken heart since loosing his love, Natasha Collins.

The 42 year old and 31 year model had been presenting a TV show for children when they first got together, but her career in broadcasting failed to take off at such a rate as Speight's did. He had a clearer presence on TV than her, so she moved into modelling and became a familiar face in magazines. The two had shared a flat together in North London, but soon found that their careers led them into a world of drink and drugs. Both figures of priceless talent, ended due to too much "partying."

Three months ago, Mark Speight awoke to find Natasha lying in a bath, full of boiling hot water, dead from an overdose of drink as well as 60% burns across her body. The pair had been quietly "partying" the night before at their home and had both taken a concoction of sleeping pills, drink and cocaine. During the middle of the night, Natasha got up to run herself a bath, but died as a result of an unknown heart defect and scolds to her body. Shortly after Speight was arrested for murder, but released very quickly afterwards, yet he had never recovered. When he had woken after that fateful night, he discovered the horrendous body of his fiancee in the bathroom and since then, had never been able to set foot in the home they shared again.

Over the last three months, Mark had spent every minute at her mother's house, close to Natasha's family, they became a tower of strength for him, but he proved to be not strong enough himself to cope with the loss of his Natasha. This week, the family, including his father and brother mourn the loss of two much loved people.

Where mark had worked on TV, the BBC said in a statement,

[quote]"This is very sad news and our thoughts and sympathies are with Mark's family and friends.
Mark was a hugely talented and very popular presenter for many years." [/quote]

At the officers of [url= t=_blank]Mark's agent, Billy Marsh Associates[/url], Jan Kennedy told BBC News of how much the shock of his death has saddened the company. She said,

[quote]"Caring and compassionate in everything he did, Mark was truly gifted in life and we are proud to have represented him as a friend and client for almost 20 years. He was blessed with a remarkable personality, great artistic talents and the wonderful warm ability to communicate those skills with people, especially children of all ages. With his sensitivity of spirit, coupled with his dynamic presence and natural enthusiasm, he was loved and respected by his adoring family, friends and colleagues everywhere in the media."[/quote]

Our thoughts go to both families. A special tribute video has come from [url= t=_blank]YouTube.[/url]

mduffy 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dear Mo - Let It Rest. Is The Title Of Murder What You Really Really Want...?

The verdict on the inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and her companion, Dodi al Fayed has resulted in "gross negligence" at the hands of Henri Paul and the paparazzi, yet Mr al Fayed is disappointed. Would he have preferred murder?
The six month slog at the Old Bailey in London for the grief-stricken father Mohamed al Fayed is now over. After campaigning for jury a of six ordinary women and five ordinary men as well as a complete public hearing into the deaths of his son and Princess Diana, the result has left Mr al Fayed lost for words. After stepping quietly out of court this afternoon, he did not stay to address the awaiting press, but went home to be with his family. The result - not what he had wished for, yet in his statement read by his team outside today, he expressed his bitterness and disappointment in the case, yet thanked the jury for doing their job.

The judge and jury decided on a verdict of "unlawful killing" at the hands of Henri Paul, their driver that night, and members of the paparazzi. They also found that the two passengers in the rear of the black Mercedes, Dodi and Diana, were not wearing their seat belts. Henri Paul was found to be over three times the legal drink driving limit. A collaboration of these events are said to have led to the deaths.

Bitter and defeated, Mohamed al Fayed has refused to accept the verdict, yet knows in his heart of hearts that he has no choice but to. Thoughts of the court and those involved have gone to Mr al Fayed and his loss. Included in the list of these people was former Met Police chief Lord Stevens, who expressed his wish for Mr al Fayed to accept the outcome and bring closure to the ten year battle.

According to the BBC News website, "The jury returned joint verdicts of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving - or gross negligence manslaughter."

It is thought to be the most expensive investigation into a human death in criminal history. British taxpayers have obviously been hit with the "bill" to the tune of around £10m. Yet as Mr al Fayed approaches the 11th anniversary of the car crash which killed his son, Henri Paul his driver and Princess Diana, he will be thinking again about the events which surrounded their deaths in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on the 31st of August, 1997.

As the former police chief, Lord Stevens said outside court today,

"I do hope everybody will take this verdict as being closure to this particular tragic incident and the people who've died will be allowed to rest in peace.."

Yet in Mr al Fayed's statement which was read out today for his millions of supporters around the world, he said,

"For 10 years I have endured two police investigations. The French and the Scotland Yard inquiries were wrong. These inquests prove it. They said it was an accident and their findings are now dismissed."

Yet it has far from brought closure on the subject for those of us around the world as since the verdict was announced today in court, dozens of radio stations and news channels have discussed it, analysed it and focused on it and will continue to do so for a very long time to come, and why? Because we are human and in a case where we think there has been an element of deceit, sensationalism, deception and passion, we will be there, talking about it.

Mr al fayed had said,

"The most important thing is it is murder."

So is that what we really would have wanted to hear? Would that have allowed us and Mr al Fayed peace and understanding? Would we have then been able to put closure on the matter and laid the Princess and her companion to rest? Probably not, we would not have stopped there and neither would have Mr al fayed.

So it actually might not end here. There is a possibility of this case coming back to court again. Would Mr al fayed be ready for a new challenge, or would he simply be seen as a man who cannot let something go? Such a challenge would consist of a High Court judicial review, and that would mean more press coverage and a possible country fed up with hearing Mr al Fayed gone one again. He has had a lot of support from the UK, but surely enough is a enough? The press agent, Michael Cole said,

"That is a very difficult route but we are keeping all our options open."

Yet there might be a stick in the clause for Mr al Fayed. A scrap of small print suggests that it is "not possible for the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute foreign nationals for deaths abroad, even if the victim is British. All of the paparazzi involved were foreign," according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Even now thought, we can imagine Mr al Fayed sitting at home mumbling the words "murder plot" over his evening meal. Yet there are events of the case itself which leave a bad taste in the mouth - the fact that the butler, Paul Burrell refused to appear in court again after he was cross questioned over certain details, the mother, Mrs Shand Kydd who described her daughter, Princess Diana as nothing more that "a whore." The plot will continue to thicken and make head line news for ever.

Yet even the Princess's own family have kept quiet over the case. On leaving court, neither the Earl of Spencer, her brother or her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale said anything. Only her long time friend and occasional holiday companion, Rosa Monckton, spoke after the result, she said,

"The inquest had been incredibly intrusive. I think there's a lot of her life that has come into the public eye that should never have been there. That's been a very unfortunate side-effect of this inquest. One must never forget that he (Mohamed al Fayed) lost a son. I just hope now that he will find some sort of peace."

We do, as a nation and a world united, have to agree...

PJ Digital Journal 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pink Hair, Bad Taste And Good All Round Sauce - Show Us Your Fuzzbox

Somewhere back in the early to mid Eighties, (no one exactly knows when) four dizzy school girls got together and decided to do something with their lives in Birmingham rather than be destined to grace the checkouts in their local Tesco’s. Sisters Jo and Maggie Dunne (four years older) were eagerly learning to play lead guitar and bass respectively whilst Vickie Perks only had eyes for being a front lady with microphone in hand and petite, blonde Tina O’Neill, already had drumsticks in her tiny grip ready for her first lesson. Not really coming up with any great ideas for a band name, one of them came up with the idea of playing around with one of the instruments they were now rehearsing with. A ‘Fuzzbox,’ to describe it in his entirety, is a guitar pedal used to create a distorted sound. It was first used by Jimi Hendrix and was an essential item to create a surround sound of blurred or ’fuzzy’ noises in rock music predominately. It also was and still is, a certain piece of equipment used by many punk groups around at the time to give the very essence to a punk rock sound. Thus ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It’ was born…

Although with their brightly coloured rags and market off cuts image that was more Barbie than pure punk, they were appealing, but albeit out of date. Gracing the Indie charts was about as good as they could get in their early days. Too clean and well made up for anything along side The Slits, they took their place next to fellow extreme make up appliers, Strawberry Switchblade in the quest for pouts, powder, ribbons and vacant expressions. Now well equipped and fully all lessoned up on their respective instruments, they were ready to release their first single.

Signing up for Vindaloo records (they were the first and the only label around willing to take a chance on the colour blind quartet) they released the AA sided record ‘XX Sex/Rules And Regulations’ in April 1986. It was Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ all over again. It was racy, ever so girlie and pumped up to the hilt with far too much bass, and certainly not enough glam to tame the record buying public. Their video promo was an embarrassing arrangement of flitty scenes of a derelict street and all the gravitating stunning shots of a kid brother on too much Tizer. The single itself, flopped at number 41 and failed to rise any higher, but it did take the number 1 spot in the Indie chart. With it’s squeaky chant ‘There must be more to life…’ it seemed that Fuzzbox were going to have to pull something better out of the hat if they really wanted to keep away from the food isles. It is however, one of those tracks that since their readily acquired fame a couple of years later, that we sit back now and analysis for any deeper hidden meanings. ‘XX Sex,’ will just go down as a crap song. Their over usage of hollering and whooping screams certainly weren’t going to put them down firmly in the punk hall of fame, but it seemed that for a brief moment, they managed to achieve something of a albeit, teddy boy retro feel with ‘Rockin’ With Rita.’ Teaming up with mediocre ‘where are they now,’ fellow nerds from the same label, it’s heavy Duane Eddy feel should certainly pull in the Seventies Teddy Boy ravers, even if they were all out of work Dads by now. Again, the timing was poor and yet again, it’s a track that we look back on fondly and remember the days of fancying the bloke working the Dodgems at Blackpool…

‘Love Is The Slug,’ was actually their second charting single and took all the chic out of girlies in white stilettos dancing around handbags reluctantly at some cheap disco on a Saturday night (probably in Kidderminster) It was pure Siouxie Sioux with its dull, draining vocals and lacked any real imagination. Yet it was typical of the time. It sounded dreary and almost to the point that the band were being held hostage whilst recording it. It wasn’t until the bubble gum ’What’s The Point,’ that we felt a definite change in the way their were reflecting the music scene around them. Released in February 1987, it was time that punk image of on the way out and they made a point of starting to dull down their look without it being too much of a shock to the last remaining punk buyers. Strangely but this time, they were creating an alternative to the ever popular ‘The Bangles‘, who were happily having a jolly good time in the middle of the road pop charts. Meanwhile, Fuzzbox were climbing the ranks through the Inidie scene. Not an accomplishment by any all female set up until now. Surprisingly, this up beat, rockabilly track failed to do anything higher than number 51. Although they were Indie Queens , it was actually the commercial pop charts they were after…

They knew by this time that it wasn’t just their alternative, working class, struggling lyrics that would have to change. They couldn’t sing about snogging at the disco, having a pint with the boys and doing the washing up anymore. The green netting had to go as well as the leggings and pink and blue hair.

After coming to blows with the Vindaloo label, they switched to the U.K section of WEA for their next single, and ’International Rescue’ was chart bound in February 1989 after a rather silent two year break.
It was yet more apparent in this track that Fuzzbox had a definite humorous side. We had all be aware of their antics as their video performances up until now had always been a touch risqué and tongue in cheek. With this particular track, we see two of them dressed up as Thunderbirds along with villain played by Adrian Edmundson. All an incredible piss take but we wonder which is more the stronger, the pee out of Thunderbirds or themselves. Either way, the trick had worked, they had reached number 11 and were now ell on their way to creating another angle to Eighties pop music. Already regulars on certain programmes such at The Tube on CH4 and (who could forget?) The Old Grey Whistle Test! They were certainly about to have their most explosive 15 minutes of fame.

Still just as noisy, yet now all wearing the same colour, they appeared to be tamed somewhat, and only admitting to writhing about on the floor during video sessions and gigs. They were now even bigger, more glamorous and profession, miles away from their amateurish, badly styled yet energetic theme. The music was more rock now than Indie. It had edge, sex on legs and was beautifully aggressive. The Spice Girls were a bunch of cabbage patch kids in still in baby grows compared to Fuzzbox. These girls were certainly all for girl power. Instead of a cosy night in and perhaps a snog goodnight; Fuzzbox would have worn you out then chucked you out after ordering you to serve them breakfast in bed.

‘Pink Sunshine,’ followed and sat rather ecstatically at number 14 in May 1989. One thing that could be said for this band who were songwriters, producers and masters at their own mixing, they knew exactly how to control their market. Not throwing too many singles in all at once in a desperate attempt to win the crowd over, they would instead, sit back and observe carefully, delegating as to what to release first. This particular track, ‘Pink Sunshine,’ was, by their own personal standards a track that should be released during the summer. A track full of jollity and a real summer theme of bright sunshine and fun, they felt that it would have been a better hit if it hade been released a month or two later. They were probably right, but we would never know.

Perhaps their biggest track was their last noted single release although a couple more did follow. A swift, and also unaccredited solo by the legendary Brian May from Queen, ‘Self,’ was definitely Fuzzbox going out just as the album from whence this track came suggests, with a, ‘Big Bang.’ Angrily hogging number 24 in August 1989 it was the summer when all girls learned how to sneer successfully. It was meaningful as well as mean. We hated everything that moved whilst listening to this track. Men cowered in fear at a thousand young teenagers growling with the strength of a hundred PMT’s. It was an awakening for both listeners and Fuzzbox themselves, but bitter resentments and disagreements between the label and the band members, meant that any further work was going to be limited.

Notably the most poignantly titled, ‘Walking On Thin Ice,‘ which was originally by Yoko Ono, was released somewhere around 1990 whilst the band went off on an epic tour of the far East. It was a desperate track not just in it’s theme but it flopped dramatically and the bitterness became too much. The band decided to cut their losses and continue with the tour, despite an awareness that Vickie was hankering after a break to peruse a solo career. Something, even today, she is still trying to find.

They returned home, recharged and fairly flat in their sense of the band’s now iffy direction. Work on a new album was meant to take place, but reconciliations between the band and the label proved to be not worth it. From the unfinished ’Out Of This World,’ album, a final single was released just at the point hat the band decided to split up. The significantly titled, ’Your Loss, My Gain,’ heralded the second line of ’..and you know things will never be the same again…’ seemed to be the band’s swansong. It was time to jack the whole thing in and follow more personal plans. The enigma of Fuzzbox had come to a sad ending and quite literally, all four went their separate ways. Tina is now an Art teacher whilst sisters Mags and Jo have gone on to write for other artists as well as DJ ing on the underground scene. (Must be ever so tight manoeuvring turntables around on those escalators…)


Looking back on this band, we wonder if it could have been possible for this band to have kept going. Leaving the scene on such a creative high, it always seems such a shame that band’s depart company when to appears that they could have had so much more to say. We had watched Fuzzbox grow and we grew with them, from their messy, embarrassing and over coloured take on punk (almost an insult to true punk rockers) they were, only briefly mind, to punk what the Cheeky Girls were to pop music; petty much an insult, but they broke away, rather glamorously from all that and became the most sort after girly group in the late Eighties, if only for a couple of years - hence the idea that they had literally, 15 minutes of fame.

With no real tuneful notes in their heads, they certainly had learnt to play their instruments well considering they couldn’t play a note at first. They were so bad, it was genius. They looked awful, they couldn’t sing and their arrangements were about as professional as the Mini Pops yet they still stick in our heads and the world of Indie pop is a very dull and uninteresting place without them even today. It has been 16 years since they had us reaching for either the remote for the volume button to go up or reaching for the kettle in the kitchen. An attempt to make a come back did appear once somewhere in 1998, but quickly fizzled out the same year.

It was time to put the sequins and hairspray away and go back to listening to some dire ‘Best Of 2006,’ album instead. Somehow it doesn’t have the same feel….

Fuzzbox were and will always remain so as;

Vickie Perks - vocals
Tina O’Neill - drums
Jo Dunne - lead guitar
Maggie Dunne - bass guitar

Albums to run out and elbow old ladies for;

‘Big Bang,’ 1989

‘BBC Sessions,’ 2002

‘Look At The Hits On That!’ 2004

Vindaloo/WEA record labels
©mduffy 2006

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

There's A Worm In My Head And A Fish In The Bed

Nestled quietly South West from Birmingham off the infamous M5, sits Stourbridge. Unassuming and fairly shadowed by the great Midlands city, it presented to the British indie pop scene a misshapen motley crew of four young men in 1986 who called themselves The Wonder Stuff. It was the brain child of it’s front man Miles Hunt; a mop haired, opinionated student type whose tongue in cheek humour was to become very essence of this unique band.

After a minor collection of flopped singles, the band caused an unusual stir with their highly acclaimed debut album ‘Eight Legged Groove Machine’ in August 1988, which ignited attention within the masses of public school types eager to adapt their intellectual tendencies towards a surrealistic way of appreciating modern music, not unlike the generation of the late Sixties breathing a sigh of relief at the Monty Python boom. Hard nosed and a furious dip into the growing craze of indie music, they led the way of future bands, some of which, are still around today. The Wonder Stuff’s adaptation to jumpy, enthusiastic, good feeling music still echoes through many striving bands even now.

This presentation of silly, comical lyrics fused with a folky approach sounded, as in their 1989 album, ‘Hup,’ not unlike a cross between The Goon Show and The Waterboys. Edging away drastically from the depressing, wrist slashing effects of traditional folk music, the band sold their concept through these incredible catchy lyrics that made their presence felt in any drunken hour before last orders. I can recall, as an impressionable grungy teenager, religiously playing and replaying this album, scribbling down every word so that I could sing along with utter gusto with my even more impressionable college friends.

It was a wise idea to take on two added guests for a fuller impact namely organist, James Taylor (not THE Taylor) and banjo wizz kid, Martin Bell (not that one either!) who created the complete folk sound that was a strong drive throughout the album. Released in October 1989, it became one of those albums that completed the helter skelter tour of the Eighties decade in music. The adoring public, delighted in such an optimistic album that it reached number 5 in the album chart, thus dressing the ears with all the hope and anticipation that the final months of a closing decade could only bring.

With it’s strong, dark colours of black, gold and electric blue, the album cover by ’Daylight Robbery,’ was rather like being shouted at from point blank range. Short and perfectly named, it was the ideal title for a ‘sit up and take note’ kind of album. It’s 12 tracks entwine themselves not just around the listeners ears but takes a hard dig into the imagination. Colourful and intricate, it’s lyrics draw up scene’s in the listener’s mind. Pictures form through thrashy sounds and shouted vocals, making it still exciting to indulge in even after it’s release almost 17 years ago.

Opening with the intriguingly titled, ‘Thirty Years In The Bathroom,’ the track takes us through a Pink Floyd style introduction in ‘Wish You Were Here,’ with it’s frantic flick through the frequencies of radio stations before throwing us head first into a hard hitting indie theme laced with surrounding bass lines and harmonious lyrics. The voices gel like melting chocolate, something that fails to reflect in many indie bands. With it’s opening line, of ‘my lavatory has been my sanctuary,’ we have a pretty definite idea as to what the rest of the album has in store. It mixes unusual styles and instruments, rarely heard in indie music including bongos and banshee wails. Hardly an uplifting piece, it still has a pleasant style to it and will not fail to please the most hardened on indie fans.

Through ‘Radio Ass Kiss,’ we are prepared to be enlightened with the surpassing talent of this lively band. Taking the mood up a notch, we are opened now to sound distortions and tambourine based backings not unlike those we had been delighted by in the band, Pop Will Eat Itself, who, at the same time, gave us the diverse approach to listening to extraordinary sounds.

Like a dive into the extremisms of strangling folk music, ‘Golden Green,’ is subtle enough to even please your grandmother. I fondly remember my father asking me to turn the album down, then promptly telling me to turn it up when hearing the gentle rhythms of that tinkling banjo break in this track. With it’s unique lyrics, we danced around with pretend tambourine and fake fiddle whilst chanting ‘..she’s taken all my vitamins, used up my lighter fuel…’ It has a totally undated feel and will still defiantly urge foot tapping and finger clicking for years to come. The first of the only two single releases, for me, it captured a certain spirit of what was felt within the young generations of the day. For a free thinking student, it was a time of sitting around in a large group of the fields with a out of tune guitar and not a care in the world. Launched onto the single charts only a month after the album release, it failed to capture anyone else’s imagination, sadly. It managed only number 33.

The silliness of ‘Lets Be Other People,’ fills the veins of this album with the same amount of unimportance yet fits beautifully in this album that not fail to impress even on first hearing the album today. As with the dreamy ‘Piece Of Sky,’ reflects a mood of lying around in tall grass on a sunny Summer afternoon. ‘So take a jump and steal a piece of sky..’ speaks of a devil -may -care attitude that I can still remember fondly that was very much of the day. Perhaps that is where the album dates itself, but however it may feel to the listener, it captures a uniqueness not unlike rock and roll first touched upon in the early Fifties.

The manic ‘Can’t Shape Up’ if fast paced and gives hunt the stage for which he can project his ability to chant wildly into a violently moving microphone. Thundery and tinged with the smoothness of wistful backing ‘oo’s and arh’s’, the guitars are taken on a quick blast around the studio and the band members are expected to keep up with it. Like ‘Windmills Of Your Mind’ on speed, this racy track takes on a slightly psychotic feel and the band show us a side of this albums soul searching personality. Like an human being, the unsettlement of the lyrics shows a vulnerability which is found in all of us. It is the strength of the sound in this powerfully charged rock themed song that holds the whole thing together. This track was, as I gather, recorded for the album at The Mayflower in New York on the 9th of May 1989.

The next and last single release of the album is the sturdy ‘Don’t Let Me Down, Gently.’ Emotionally charged in it’s lyrics, it is on a par, in my mind, with The Beatles, ‘Help,’ in the sense that it portrays a vulnerable state. However, in this case we listen to the story of a love drawing to a close and how that can effect the way we deal with things on a begging scale. Still punched out in a rock themed, glittering manner, we fall short of actually hearing the words, rather more the want of shouting them out to any passing being, whether they have personally let us down or not! With the words, ‘..I don’t think of you, do you think of me, is that often or not at all, and if you have to let me down my friend, then kick me to the floor…’ we can be excused when we jump hysterically around the floor, far from being kicked but more elated at such a ‘feel good’ record. Drum filled and exhaustingly accurate, indie style, this hit should have done better than it did. Failing to hit the top ten, it trailed at number 19 for a couple of weeks, it had been a ‘smash’ of a record, but only to the few that could appreciate it’s alluring quality. If anything, Hunt’s sneering, critical lyrics should have been enough to quash the thirst of anyone under the age of twenty five at the time, yet, sadly, the genius of it’s repetitive, skipped drum beat went unnoticed to most.

It would appear on the outset that ‘Cartoon Boyfriend,’ that this track could have been pinched from folk obsessed rockers The Waterboys. Yet, this track set in a minor key shows a darker side to the humorous Wonder Stuff. It tells of a stereotypical existence set to a backdrop of a weeping fiddle and a slower beated theme. Still of the perfectionist quality, it still, even in it’s depressing subject has a catchy, foot tapping anthem. Perhaps it is this that makes us enjoy the shockwave filled ’Good Night Though’ even more. Subtly absorbed in a sea of random guitar riffs and short lived drum beats, it lacks any tuneful quality we have now got used to from this album. It does, however, display the talents of someone with a harmonica. Voice distortion, very much in the same theme as Transvision Vamp were known to use from time to time, it holds all the harmonious charm of depressive pop/punk band, Public Image Limited. Perhaps it all albums are allowed a ’bum’ track, then this is it for ’Hup.’

Separated to the extreme from the last track, ’Unfaithful’ stands alone in it’s very simple dreamy, Irish folk sounding theme. Roaming across the counties of Ireland is probably suited if one wants to imagine the perfect setting. Fiddles are romantic and the beats are as gentle as a summer breeze, and it is it’s refreshing appearance that is the ultimate idyllic interlude for this rock stretched album. So, it is not a surprise when we are presented with that familiar charm of Hunt’s sneering vocals and the sound of a indie band performing tightly together in ’Them, Big Oak Trees.’ Suddenly, lyrics are meaningless and music is silly, yet pleasing. Which ever mode this band ever performed, it was inoffensive and charming and this track is unmistakeably The Wonder Stuff at there jumpy, happy best.

For the final track of this epitomised album, ‘Room 410,’ climbs the same musical ladder as the beginning of the album. It would seem that we have been taken on a complete tour of the many faces of this band and here we are back where we started. What does seems apparent is somehow PWEI were a discerning influence or perhaps the other way around. PWEI took indie by the neck and made it danceable by using bass backing tracks and a mixture of samples pinched from just about everywhere and anywhere. Here, we find TWS doing just that. One could sit and try to pick out every sample used, yet even though it was PWEI’s old trick, it is still stamped across with the hallmark of The Wonder Stuff by the long drawn out angelic notes by the lead vocals and backing. Musically, it somehow has became, in my mind, an epitome of it’s very own. This track can be heard in a multitude of other singles released by the same number of bands since 1989 and with this in mind, it surely puts this album on the same classic pedestal as all the other great albums in British music history.

After the sudden death of Rob ‘The Bass Thing’ Jones in 1993, their bass man, the idealism of The Wonder Stuff appeared to fall into the darkness. Sometimes, in music history, a band loose direction after the passing of a band member, yet others, have found inspiration and light. After finding the drive to carry on and only two top five albums after, they performed their farewell gig at the Phoenix Festival in 1994.

Several flopped projects have since come and gone and only the statutory compilation releases her and there remain. Forever in their debt, we have learnt great lessons from this band; to enjoy music with an indie flavour, with jollity and humour.

Perhaps if got the world to enjoy life in the same way, the world would be a nice place to visit again….

Martin Gilks - drums - who sadly died in a motorcycle accident in 2006.
Malcolm Treece - vocals/guitar
Miles Hunt - vocals/guitar

And special guests;
Martin Bell - fiddle/banjo
James Taylor - Hammond organ

Written by The Wonder Stuff
Polydor 1989

©mduffy 2006

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Man In The Red Suit Or How The British Still Love Lurve...

In Concert - Alexander O'Neal
The Alex Loves Tour
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Saturday 15th March 7.30pm

Born in November 1953, Alexander O Neal was pretty much destined to become the king of retro- soul. Big shouldered and probably the only man on earth who can swim the butterfly successfully, he strutts around, throwing arm gestures at the drummers when he wants them to round up a song. Prancing up and down on stage from the early 1980’s, he was firstly known for his wild antics on stage using a bed and inviting poor unsuspecting females from the audience to come up on stage and cavort around while he sang them into bed. Perhaps, and it wasn’t until I saw him in concert, that it dawned on me where UK home grown star, Lenny Henry found his inspiration for his love machine character, Theophilus P Wildebeest. It takes a long time for me to get these things sometimes...

So the original lurrve machine is knocking on now and don’t be fooled, he may have had noticeably had surgery recently and perhaps doesn’t jump up and down on a bed, so much as perch a buttock on a bar stool these days, yet his voice has never once failed him – like Elvis, in a concert only six weeks before he died, we will, inevitably be saying the same thing about Mr O’Neal.

So he doesn’t sell out at Wembley Arena anymore and he is a long way from Vegas, but he is happy in Tunbridge Wells on a miserable night next to the cop shop and we are happy to have him there – okay, so “Are you ready for some lurve, Tunbridge?” Doesn’t have the same romantic, Manhattan ring to it, especially when the crowd yell back “Wells! It’s Wells!” after him – yet we amazed by this American presence who loves his UK audience, so much that for the last few years, he doesn’t seem to have set a foot outside Croydon. Yet that suit can still deliver as well as twenty odd years ago, he was the god of soul and just about any middle class, middle aged woman would have still rather thrown her kickers on stage at Mr O'Neal than Tom Jones and yes, even at 55, he still gets that - except on this occasion, it was the bra that came off, then was promptly and rather unattractively stuffed back on her top heavy chest in front of the man himself - he averted his eyes - as only a "all true man" would...

He strolled on stage, surgery allowing, at the Assembly Halls on his last night for “a while.” He toll of touring takes it’s heavy toll in the visual presence of either weight loss or sets of wrinkles across the forehead, visible only from the third row back. Yet when he decided to turn the show into a “party” instead, we all got a good look at what life on the road really means.

The band were uniform, black musicians, very talented and at the beck and call from the master in the fire engine red suit. His backing singers, bountiful and dressed like Mica Paris also were to the heel of the big man, each sang professionally, which seems an odd thing to say, but in this day and age when we are presented with the sloppiest of bands on the Brits, it’s mildly comforting to see a band not only dress well, work together but managed to hit the same key. The big guy wouldn’t have it any other way of course, his vocal uplifts and represents a fading era of soul artists – real ones, who sing about love, romance, always getting the girl and never in a minor key – that helps - as a rule, I can’t stand ballads and only Whitesnake would be an exception here, yet when it comes to Mr O’Neal you not only will forgive him anything but you’ll be there saying to yourself, “Gee, I know how that feels!”

He was solidly on stage for an hour – another feat of endurance that is rarely seen these days. I remember donning a grassy hillock to see Level 42 last year in the shadows of a castle on a chilly August eve, and wondering why on earth I had paid an extortionate amount of money to see my teenage heroes only on for 40 minutes – a disgrace I thought, so to see a grown man, sweating in a way that only Lee Evens would be proud of, I was gingerly impressed.

Since gathering up a normal level of hearing again, I have managed to dig out the old LP’s, have a jive to a few classic dance numbers as well as blow the dust off my sudo – Miami Vice jacket and dream of a long gone day of roller discos and first snogs – I even went out and bough his new album – something a very rarely do on the strength of a concert, yet it has to be said, the man may be aging and the limp getting more visible, but I beg you to find another artist who sold out at Wembley Arena twenty years ago, six nights in a row, who even now, jumps into the audience and dances with them, sings with them and shakes them warmly by the hand as he smiles and dances by – it was a party and not a gig which I witness, but an invitation to share an evening and a dance floor with one of the greatest entertainers and nicest guys in the world – love still lives and as long as Mr O’Neal is on stage – the world is a better place.....

©mduffy 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dragged Away At 45rpm

Not accusing myself too much of actually liking anything recorded by anyone in the last 15 years, I practically fell over Travis in the street. Whilst out on a dreary day hunting down vinyl like a 45rpm seeking missile, I came across a beaten up, super scratched copy of ‘The Invisible Band.’ As I peered at the cover wondering if I should have picked up my glasses on the way out that morning, I found myself struggling to find the band in amongst the heavily wooded picture. Hence the name of the album, I guess. I flipped over the case in search of a track that I might have once heard of. I found one or two and promptly realised that this little fact was enough for me to make a purchase….

Scottish/English rooted Travis went through great up heaved changes around their humble beginnings in 1991. As a female and two brothers were replaced, what we were left with was then the line up that still appears today, although since their collective album ‘Singles,’ in 2004, they have seemed to have died a quiet death due to gigs here and there, their studio life has taken a back seat. Gaining approval as being winner of Best Album twice at the Brit Awards, they have taken a firm place in the archives of Brit Pop as being one of the great innovative leading bands in modern indie music. Lacing together a simplistic career with wistful tunes and dreamy chords, Travis would appear to have had their day and what remains is the quality that they uniquely produced with such albums as this one, released in 2001.

Falling fowl to the category of ‘crap name, no future,’ they regarded their first band name Glass Onions to be the kiss of death, they wisely changed it to Travis and suddenly it was ‘hip’ to have heard of them. Giving warmth and light to their work, they somehow became a land mark in Nineties pop culture. This quartet of young lads fresh faced and clean cut, fashioned by Man at C&A, were far from rebellious rockers. There attempt at making good records came naturally to them and this album is an example of their gliding capability to quite accidentally, fall over perfectly entwining songs.

On the surface, this album, to the untrained eye, will cream out the word ‘depressing’ to you and perhaps it bought in an average mood, then it is an album best to avoid until a poor mood passes, but if one can get passed their sullen tone that appears throughout the album, then a certain lightness comes through. These four accomplished musicians have created here a gentle succession of tunes that will sooth the soul and warm your spirits. Therefore, it really isn’t any wonder why this album didn’t do anything else other than climb proudly to number one in June 2001.

Melodic and sung on occasions most angelically, it is a question that drifts through the mind as to how Fran Healy on vocals can ever hit such high notes and remain there foe a considerable length of time. The zombie ‘Afterglow,’ is the epitome of Travis at their hallucinating best. The notes swim gracefully off Healy’s vocal chords to an accompliment of sweet guitar riffs that are barely being played at all. It may be a track that one either adores or can’t wait to skip over, but what should be noted here is their ability to embrace a feeling; a mood and hold it there, somewhere in mid air and entrance the crowd with it for as long as they wish.

The depth of thoughtfulness of this considerably young band can be felt through their clever string arrangements in ‘Indefinitely,’ The title is repeated over and over like a hypnotic style whilst the backing drifts out of ear shot not even giving the listener any time to realise it. It is quite obviously striking to the listener how a young band or the most ordinary fellas could attempt to write with such depth and emotion that can surely only come through age.

The mood is strong from beginning to end and one will feel that after al while, you are not listening to an album but to someone’s musical funeral. There are hidden tributes in every song, it’s up to you to figure out if they are personal to you or them. The sullen approach worked well ten years ago, the Nineties were leaving bitter tastes in our mouths and the future seemed hazy and nothing seemed definite. House prices were going up, so was inflation, taxes and few pay rises were being handed out. I find that Travis were probably to the best band to have around to reflect the social impact, and this album last came around three years too late.

On hearing the final dying sounds of the album, you will not doubt beginning to realise that the ‘jolliest’ track on the album was ‘Sing,’ a hit for them in May 2001 which reached number 3, a perfectly well timed release just in time for the dreamy thoughts of an approaching Summer. However, compared to the rest of this album, this track is about as happy as a New Years Eve drunken crowd jumping up and down to a Status Quo record. It is the Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep of it’s time in regard to the career of Travis who have only given us reflective moods, sobering tones and mind altering vocals.

Nothing can be knocked here as their ability to bring a tear to the eye is unmatched, yet many will find this album will bring on too many miserable memories. However, if the listener can get over the depressiveness of this work, and experience the talented composition beneath, then it is an album to treasure.

Featuring another fairly decent hit for the band, this album presents us with ‘Side,’ which was released as the A side of a live version of Travis’ take on Mott The Hoople’s ‘All The Young Dudes,’ which, I personally, would have preferred to hear as a single itself. Only sitting at number 14 in September of 2001, it is a song that represents the end of Summer. Again, perfectly timed to reflect a mood of another year coming to an end. The lyrics, ‘..the grass is always greener on the other side,’ may be poignant to the time of year and should, perhaps have achieved greater success. In the same vein, the uplifting ‘Flowers In The Window,’ should have done better, for those of you who may remember and for others that will be shocked to hear, this track only got to number 18 in March 2002. It is frilly, and ever so female with it’s title containing the word, flowers. It is a sweet piece but it seems more to me too wistful and takes me back to a Ben Elton line of that ‘wistful time of the month…’ Should this be an album to quench all PMT woes? I wonder, I shall try it next time…

You can have too much lace, pink bows and dreamy twitches of surrealism. Travis didn’t have the punch that drives me to appreciate a band or even worship them. I guess coming from the generation that brought us Spandex, glitter, platforms and Dave Hill from Slade, it is no wonder that Travis passed me by…..

I found them though, eventually….

In 2002, drummer Neil Primrose broke his neck from a diving accident nearly ending Travis for good, thankfully, he made a good recovery and the band hope to release another album in 2007.

Tracks include;

Dear Diary
Pipe Dreams
Flowers In The Window
The Cage
Follow The Light
Last Train
The Humpty Dumpty Love Song (did he ever get it on with Hamble?)

Travis are;
Fran Healy - vocals/guitar
Dougie Payne - bass
Andy Dunlop - guitar
Neil Primrose - drums

ISOM 099750305027
HMV £7.99
Virgin £9.99
©mduffy 2006

Friday, February 29, 2008

Puffed Up Or Dragged Out - The Pros And Cons Of The UK Smoking Ban

On July 1st in the UK, it will be a day like no other day - the smoking ban will hit with a vengeance, but who will benefit? You would think all of us, but you would be wrong

In the UK, we will take our final puffs of 'fresh air' as many smokers call it and stub out the very last of the ciggies in ashtrays around the country confined within four walls of any public area. For that day, smoking will be banned in all indoor public areas. The ban will eventually take us to the comfort of our own homes for a drag with very little else where to go.

Surely the results should be good, and as an ex-smoker myself (it still feels odd to say that, personally) I kicked the weed a year ago after twenty years of the addiction. I know, I can feel the slaps on my back and the warm hand shakes from here thank you, but we have to ask ourselves is getting people to pack up really the answer?

It will effect us all, man, woman and child, smoker and non smoker and anyone who thinks different should take a second look. It is an addiction we fell in love with during the War years, when the silver screen was glamorous and lovers lit up to a back drop of air raid sirens and flashes of doodle bugs hitting the streets. We read books on the subject and our pitted love affair with the cigarette lingers like the very last drag still wafting through the eternal air. Yet are we know living in a dictatorial society, where a futuristic vision will be of secret smoking and search lights after dark hunting out smokers like smoke seeking missiles and loud hailers ready to shout something similar to, "come out with your hands up!" It is certainly not as extreme as I had already thought.

Yet we are fascinated with the small stick which is becoming increasingly untouchable, like Eve and the Forbidden fruit, there are still many of us who will crave that pleasurable inhaled cocktail of chemicals - sad, but alas, true.

Yet the UK government has decided to call time on our rendezvous with rat poison and bring the final nicotine stained curtain down once and fall all. The men in black suits are the people who govern our lives and tell us what is right and what is wrong. After all, most of the time, we just take their word for it. We understand what the ban means for us as a nation and how much it will save on taxes, the NHS and medical science, but what will it mean for us as individuals. As one BBC reporter put it, "nothing in life is exempt."

How about thinking about it in a different way. If you have been or are a smoker, how did you start? The law, as it stands in the UK will force smokers out onto the streets, in the face of the passing public. Suddenly - smoke and the cigarette is now on show.

Picture this; you are with your friends at the bar, they step outside for a fag which leaves you alone with your drink. Do you go out and join them to save yourself from looking like a nerd all alone? Many would, and this is how most of us started in the first place, because our mates were doing it.

One man, Andy Hughes from the already smoke banned Scotland, had this to say,

[quote]"If the smoking ban in Scotland had not been introduced I would still be a non-smoker. I started because I was being left in pubs and clubs alone for long periods of time, while the rest of my group were outside chatting and having a smoke. I put up with it for a few weeks but in the end I decided to join them. Being an asthmatic, I had always been against smoking. I never used to let anyone smoke in my car or house. When someone smoked in my company in a pub, I couldn't wait until they had finished their cigarette. It was still something I had a real dislike of and a habit I considered to be disgusting. Now I'll regularly smoke up to 20 cigarettes on a night out. I still don't smoke when not out having a drink and I hope it stays that way. There's no doubt a lot of good has come from the smoking ban, it's a lot more pleasurable having a drink in a smoke-free atmosphere and I'm sure healthier for bar staff and non-smokers, but for myself it has come at a price." [/quote]

It is certainly worth thinking about. I guess most of us would not want to believe that man's story and yes, there will be the very few who will probably be the same as him. Very few, I say again, but all the same, an added number.

We go back to the previous idea of the vision of the future of people being reduced to smoking at home. Instead of waiting until the baby sitter has arrived, they will light up at home, where many of them have children. The dangers of passive smoking then irrupts from within the home instead of the confines of the local boozer. What do you make of this theory? True? Surely if we are to protect anyone with this ban, it has got to be the future generations, never mind ourselves. We are all adults with our own minds. If someone wants to go to an early grave, then let them. Just don't take the children first.

What will the ban do to Global Warming? There seems to be now where to run to in conversation without someone bringing up the GW words. We can't turn on the TV without something like the polar caps melting or increasing hot summer weather to deal with to make us all feel bad. As if we have enough to deal with on a daily basis anyway, so again, we look at the effect of the future generations - picture this again; everyone is at the same pub. You have either joined your friends inside or out, it doesn't matter right now, so the entire pub is outside smoking away and puffing up into the atmosphere a cloud big enough to send vast communities for miles around into a sea of panic. Need I go on?

Would we really think that it would have any effect on jobs and employment other than a few thousand Benson and Hedges workers finally throwing in the towel and walking out. Chefs, yes chefs are cashing in on the ban. According to one UK employment agency,, the demand for chefs has increased around the pub circuit since the ban was announced last Christmas.

Pubs are feeling the need to keep the drinkers. Smoking and drinker are old friends and such friends will never part, or will very reluctantly, so pubs can't get enough chefs to make dishes wonderful enough to entice the drinker back in to the bar. Many heavy smokers will give up on the pubs all together and reach for the local 'off licence' instead for their booze.

And finally, the worst of all cannibal predators - the paparazzi.

Many celebrities smoke, either to keep their weight down, look cool (still, it works for some) and generally cope with the pressure of the press, and it is the latter who will be waiting for them when they step outside their favourite haunt for a few puffs. Click, click, flash, flash. There's another scoop for the front page, and no doubt, it will keep the likes of us employed for a few more years before these wondrous stars kick the habit and step instead to join the rest of the world who have long since given up on the weed....

Happy writing everyone...

PJ 2008