Past Future Present


2018

All in all for me personally it’s been a pretty bum year, a two out of ten year, an Annus Horribilis which roughly translated means an arse of a year. New Year’s Eve provides us with a chance to reflect, look back in anger and dismay and put two fingers up to it. Ok so in mother nature and space time continuum etc it’s just another day. The world keeps turning, day follows night, the sun rises the sun sets. Scientists have predicted the world is not set to end just yet. Psychologically New Years Eve gives us that opportunity to hopefully turn the last page on Chapter 2018 and start a new chapter called 2019.

So here dear reader should you be interested is my Highlights and Lowlights of 2018 and my thoughts on the forthcoming 2019 from my perspective here in jolly old England.

Brexit

Back on 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union following the then Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to his right wing Conservative allies that he’d call an EU Referendum if they would similarly help him retain power as Conservative Leader and Prime Minister. Not bargaining on the UK voting to leave, despite his promise that he would continue as Prime Minister whatever the result he promptly resigned. In steps Theresa May as new PM expected to go into a room in Brussels and strike a bargain with 27 Europeans on the exact terms of the divorce settlement who have quite categorically stated that the UK will not be allowed to “cherry pick” the best bits of the European Union. Since that fateful day in 2016 the country has been thrown into political chaos and it shows no sign of getting any better. The truth of the matter is that absolutely nobody, not even our own Government knows exactly what will happen on the day we do leave the EU sometime in 2019 and the weeks to follow. It’s an absolute mess shrouded in mystery wrapped up in newspaper at the bottom of a dustbin.

Donald Trump

You kinda wake up each morning wondering what the next bit of bile is going to spew forth from Trump’s mealy mouth. The lunatic really has taken over the asylum ! Intelligent nice Americans are left wondering how their country arrived at such a sorry state while the rest of the world looks on in utter bewildered bemusement. When good thinking people are concerned with dismantling walls this shit on a stick wants to build one.

America’s wake up call, that there were parts of the world that didn’t like its rampant capitalism, was the evil and horrendous Lockerbie Bombing 30 years ago one December night in 1988. As usual in any conflict it’s the innocent who pay the price. The problem was that this nightmare happened in a far off land, a place no doubt where a lot of Americans could not pinpoint on a map. So it took 9/11 and America continues with the resulting identity crisis and insecurities. Along comes the self absorbed Trump to capitalise on an America at war with itself and its neighbours. Trump’s defence is always attack but it won’t last, it can’t last. Even now he’s struggling to get people to work for him. It’s a sorry state of affairs for a great nation but 2019 looks to be more of the same.

Sport – The World Cup

It was a hot summer here. Not since 1976 have we enjoyed such prolonged spells of hot weather. The reservoirs started to dry up. The World Cup and Gareth Southgate took England as far as the Semi Final. They gave as good as they could but they weren’t quite good enough. Too many goals scored from set pieces for my liking. Nevertheless some pride in our National Team was restored. Just on thing though ! It’s not coming home until the final whistle of the Final and England have won ! ….ya morons ! The next World Cup won’t be so easy as teams like Germany, Argentina, Brasil and Italy won’t be prepared to make the same mistakes again. England will have to be better.

Music

I quite like Cher, she seems a fun lady and she’s not a bad singer but hell she butchered Abba songs. It was embarrassing. A real turn the radio off I can’t stand it any longer moment.

Best Single

Ok so it was published in 2017 but I didn’t discover this until this year. Mercury Prize Winners

Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete the Kisses –

Best Drama

Killing Eve and an absolutely sublime performance from Jodie Comer

Happy New Year Everyone


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The pain of buying a car

hyundai-i10
hyundai-i10 Can ya slow down a bit love !

You’d think buying a car either brand spanking new or nearly new from a Dealership would be relatively straightforward wouldn’t you ? Oh no ! not a bit of it. As long as I can drive one, in fact longer than that because I used to go with my Dad, there’s been this car buying sales ritual that I’ve never quite understood. I’ve never witnessed it in any other buying environment so I don’t understand why it still persists in the world of cars and car showrooms.

When I got home I commented about my experience on Twitter. I’m new to Twitter so I didn’t quite expect Bristol Street Motors to respond apologising and requesting I give them details for them to investigate. Here’s a copy of my email for your delight:

Dear Vertu  

Following my comments on Twitter about Bristol Street Motors and your request to provide further details I think it best to elaborate further: 

My wife is currently in the market for a new car. We are interested in the Hyundai i10 so over the past few weeks she has been looking at models and availability on the Internet. She found your website in which there is listed several Hyundai i10 models of various ages and prices but information like location is sadly lacking. How does this work then she wonders ? We could have gone on Live chat but frankly we both prefer a face to face so we get in the car and go down to your local Branch to talk to someone who we hope will give us straight answers. We arrive at your Branch and are met by a friendly welcoming young lady who politely passes us on to a Sales Rep. We are then subjected to what I can only describe as a carefully orchestrated ( and psychological) pantomime. The male Sales Rep welcomes us, shakes us by the hand and then sits us down in the middle of the showroom amongst all the shiny new Peugeot cars. My wife explains to him several times she’s seen these Hyundai’s on the Website and wonders how it works ? Despite my wife asking the questions he turns to address me and as I suspected he would subtly tries to start steering us onto Peugeot cars which this is a dealership for, “have you thought about the Peugeot 106 by any chance?”  She’s prepared a list of about six cars on your site that she’s seen and has it to hand. Surely if we are interested in a particular car on the Website it can be arranged for us to consider it. We are informed however that despite each car having a reference number it’s “like looking for a needle in a haystack” but the Rep takes the list from her and tells us he is going to see his Manager to discuss further. This is when I start to get irritated because I’ve been subjected to this “ I need to  speak to my manager “ before and I’m not falling for it. It pisses me off big time. He nips off for five minutes around the corner leaving us sat there like puddings. I saw his Manager at the same time and they weren’t talking.  Furthermore one of the cars on the list is a little more pricey at £8495 than the others. Lo and behold he comes back five minutes later and tells us they can’t get the others but they can get the one at £8495. Despite my wife explaining yet again that it was only an enquiry he then insisted on taking our details on the computer, name, address, contact no etc and then left us again to go see his manager to see if his manager had finished his enquiries. Again his manager and he when I looked were not together and not talking to each other. In fact when he came back my wife reckoned she could smell fags on him but …..well ? After an irritating time sat down I asked my wife to stand up and look like we were about to leave. My Sales Rep returned to us with his manager and explained they couldn’t / wouldn’t be interested in getting us any of the cheaper Hyundai models because they wouldn’t make any money on them. “ Don’t you want us to order this one at £8495 the Manager asked us ? “ No” my wife replied we only came in to make an enquiry. 

It begs the question,  if these cars are listed on the Internet with unknown locations then what’s the point if Customers at the other side of the country can’t access them ? You either want to sell us a car or you don’t.  We left your Dealership and went down the road to one of your competitors who I have to say treated us much more respectfully than you did.  

My visit to your dealership left me completely bemused. My wife and I were made to feel like we’d just dropped off a Christmas Tree. I’m surprised that you still carry out these sales practices that I first witnessed about thirty years ago. Do you send your Reps on training courses to do this ?  I won’t be returning to you in the near future and I won’t be recommending BSM to my friends or on my Blog.

Yours sincerely

Andy Greaves

Footnote: At time of going to press Vertu have not responded and we’ve been and purchased a car from one of their competitors. We pretty much went through the same ritual but somehow we felt a bit more in control.

Keyboard Warrior

Keyboard Warrior

I had one of those ridiculous discussions\ debates on Facebook the other day. As usual it quickly descended into mud slinging and personal insults. Not from me I hasten to add though I’m not entirely blameless, my initial post was a little inflammatory. Still you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs. I don’t know why I got involved other than it was on a subject I care about and people being led a merry dance pisses me off. A bloke (it’s usually a bloke ) was bemoaning the fact that his body of photographic work had failed to meet the criteria for success which would have granted him some letters after his name. He’d travelled hundreds of miles and spent considerable amount of money in his attempt to reach this particular state of photographic nirvana only to be knocked back yet again by so called experts who one assumes had the necessary letters after their name ( these particular distinctions) and therefore were qualified to dispense advice and support etc etc. I waded in. Why was he even bothering with this charade ? Did the likes of Cartier-Bresson, Arbus, Frank, Winogrand, Brassai, Ray-Jones et al put their work in front of panels to get some distinction or other ? Is this what photography is or should be about in this Instagram age ? Having your work judged by middle aged in blazers who don’t know their arse from their elbows was probably a little bit harsh of me but you get my point dear readers ? Hope so ? One or two took offense as you can image and as I say it quickly descended. Me and my big mouth eh ? I fought my corner but was labelled as ill informed, thick and a co-conspirator with a bloke who tended to agree with me. I’ve left the Group now, I’ve left them to it. I do hope the argument is still raging though. I don’t know why I joined the Group in the first place since their photography approach and mine are I think at different ends of the spectrum. That’s fine though, not a problem. Photography is a broad church and for what anyone wants to get out of it. Distinctions and Panel Judging is not for me. What really tickled me though was not for the first time I was referred to as a keyboard warrior ? Someone agrees with you on Social Media and they press Like and that’s ok but you don’t agree with them and you become a ‘keyboard warrior’ like it’s an insult. Some people love to put their opinions on Social Media but can’t take it when someone challenges their opinion.

During the course of this debate I pointed my audience in the direction of this post by celebrated photographer Paul Graham which I think is well worth reading – Photography is Easy Photography is Hard 

Conusme Less !

The Environment – Consume Less 

I think we can safely say (if you’ll pardon the term) that the world is dying and eventually as scientists and other clever people have predicted we will become extinct, be sucked into a black hole or by hit by a meteorite that nobody saw coming. Hopefully it won’t be anytime soon, certainly not before next Tuesday but what do I know. What seems to be happening right now despite what idiot boy Trump says ( frankly he’ll say anything ) is climate change ! The ice caps are melting, there’s global warming and all sorts of weird and not so wonderful things are happening in the animal kingdom. As we’re pretty much at the top of the food chain then we’re looking down on all this and us ordinary folk seem powerless to do owt about it on a daily basis. What can we do ? Simple ! We can all CONSUME LESS ! Do we really need to throw out that item of clothing in favour of the latest fashion ? Do we need that bottle of perfume ? If I put on an extra sweater can I them turn the heating down ? Do I really need to have that light on ?  Do we need to waste money on Christmas crap that will get thrown out on boxing day ? etc etc. What do I really need in my life ? There’s a huge difference between need and want is there not ?
We can protest to Manufacturers to stop this and stop that but all they’ll say is that they’re just responding to demand and it is us who create that demand by our never ending consumption. The answer therefore is that each and every one of us can make a difference by consuming less. Let’s be honest it’s a brave and intrepid person who can live ‘off grid’ in a wood in an eco friendly style but for the rest of us we’re hopelessly hooked into this capitalist consumption merry go round which we can’t get off. Whether we like it or not we are part of the system and a massive part of the problem. Each and everyone of us can make a difference by simply consuming less and reducing the demand. It’s the only way that manufactures and governments will react because they react to demand and only when there’s a demand which will threaten their own fragile status’. Consume Less 

No Such Thing as Society

When I was a kid growing up in the Seventies my home town of Chesterfield had industry and jobs. There’s job now but they’re not the same. Chesterfield is on the edge of the North East Derbyshire coalfield so there were jobs in the pits. There were heavy engineering jobs; Tube Investments, Bryan Donkin, and Markham Works which made the borers for the Channel Tunnel. There was Trebor the sweet factory and Robinsons a packaging company. There was the Post Office Finance Dept ( known as the AGD ) where I started my working life. There were people who worked on the factory lines some of  whom through no fault of their own were semi literate, illiterate and could just manage a mundane repetitive job on a production line. There were men in the pits who could just about manage a shovel. For those that struggled further and had mental and physical difficulties there was Remploy. Nevertheless these people had jobs and as such a wage that they could call their own and a sense of purpose in working for it. A place to go and a reason for getting out of bed in a morning. Just as important than that, they had friends around them and work colleagues. Everybody would look out for everyone else. There was a sense of community. There was a Society ! Where do those kinds of people go now ? What is there for them ? What do they do all day ? A few months ago I was talking to a bloke on the park who was walking his dog. We got onto the subject of work, “there’s plenty of jobs about mate if you’re prepared to wipe somebody’s arse all day !”

 

You ! Pack it in !

I had a lovely time last Friday evening at the Anti Trump demonstration in Sheffield and briefly met some lovely people. There was a turn out of about, it was estimated 2,000 people and a very small counter demonstration of about 7. A counter demonstration always adds a bit of frisson to these things. I remember one time years ago a mate and I came across a pro Shah of Iran demonstration in London accompanied by a sizeable and vociferous counter demonstration. That was interesting !

The bloke in the Trump mask wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get a decent image which was a shame. In the interests of impartiality I felt it was important to document this aspect. It’s important to document these things.

Let’s be honest though no amount of demonstrating would make much difference to Donald. He thrives on it. He’s immune to it. I’m beginning to find him quite funny in a surreal way rather than a Stan and Ollie way. He swaggers into town in his boring blue suit, squinting his eyes into the daylight and pouting his lips, rattles a few diplomatic cages and swaggers out again leaving someone to shovel up his shit like someone walking behind a horse with a bucket and spade. Nobody knows what he’s going to say from one moment to the next and frankly neither does he. It’s all a lot bizarre and somewhat parallel universe. It’s like some character has stepped out of a weird Hollywood b-movie and is now running America. As I write this he’s upset Senior Republicans and the FBI. Surely not ? Very often we get what we deserve.

We have a similar character here in England. His name’s Boris Johnson who rumour has it is vying to be the next Prime Minister. Very often we get what we deserve but the English don’t like extremists of any creed be it political or religious. Many intellectuals believe and have documented that the English are “conservative with a small c “. It’s probably true, unfortunately.

My search for the perfect Pork Pie

There’s an excellent photo exhibition on at Quad in Derby ( UK ) at the moment. Mark Neville’s Battle Against Stigma is a project which aims to challenge ( don’t they all ? ) the stigma of mental health problems in the military and to encourage attitude change. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that kind of thing. My mate Clive was in the army and we were talking about this one day. He reckoned that what the Army needed to do was provide somewhere where when they came home from a Tour of Duty or came out the Army they could go to and come back down to earth all together. Some place where they could get pissed, relax and just be together and talk about their respective experiences to each other. Instead they find themselves back in civilian life trying to come to terms with experiences that the rest of the population neither know, could possibly understand or particularly care about.

The problem with Quad in Derby is that it doesn’t seem to be able to make it’s mind up with what it wants to be. Is it an Independent Cinema, a Gallery space, an Arts Centre with Educational provision or a watered down all three. It’s partly the design of the building which is the problem. The Gallery space isn’t big enough, the Café and Bar area  is neither one thing or the other and the shop is just a token gesture to such a thing. It tries to compete with the other big Art Spaces in the country but so far has failed precisely because it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It pays only lip service to local artists and creatives who desperately need somewhere like this to unleash themselves.  It wants getting hold of by the scruff of the neck and shaking about but alas !

I was working ( yes I have to work ) in Sheffield yesterday at a Steel Melting plant. It was a visually  interesting space and I’d love to go back with my camera and document, particularly on a day when they melt. I’d like to meet the Melting Manager too. Just up the road was Beres Pork shop where for lunch I got the best pork pie I’ve had in bloody ages. The egg custard wasn’t bad either. Beres came here from Budapest back in them days, the time when all those Brexit voting idiots want their country back. Ya see if it wasn’t for Immigration I wouldn’t have had that absolutely superb pork pie yesterday. I can’t imagine Russian  billionaire Roman Abramovitch doing much work in this country anyway ? Not like clocking on and clocking off kind of work like what the rest of us do. This idea of him losing his work Visa ? I smell Government bullshit ! Can you smell bullshit ? Take my Poll today, it’s just for fun.