Support The Campaign To Recognise Sir Henry Newbolt.

I was reading last week about a retired English teachers campaign for Sir Henry Newbolt to be recognised more prominently by the town of Bilston, this is something I completely agree with and support 100%. It seems a shame that a man who had a great impact on English language and literature in the 1920s thanks to a government report that he wrote about the teaching of the language, should not be recognised properly in the town of his birth. There is, of course, a civic society plaque to him on the back wall of Barclays bank overlooking the cenotaph, but (and I never realised this until I read the article) it contains the date of death of 1932 when he actually died in 1938 (a common error it seems – my uncles surname is miss-spelt on the WW2 memorial in Bilston but that is a rant for another day).

He wrote novels, ballads and poetry and is famed for his epic poem Vitai Lampada (which means Torch of life). He was an Oxford graduate and hob-nobbed with such people as Churchill, HG Wells and Yeats. And yet his life and his journey to greatness all started at St Mary’s vicarage on Oxford Street when he was born on June 6th 1862. It seems a shame that a statue hasn’t been built in his honour near that spot in Bilston, although the towns Wetherspoons pub is named in his honour, a more fitting tribute should really be paid to Sir Henry.

Below I present to you his poem, Vitai Lampada:

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night—

Ten to make and the match to win—

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play and the last man in.

And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,

Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,

But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote

“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—

Red with the wreck of a square that broke;—

The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,

And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

The river of death has brimmed his banks,

And England‘s far, and Honour a name,

But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:

“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

This is the word that year by year,

While in her place the school is set,

Every one of her sons must hear,

And none that hears it dare forget.

This they all with a joyful mind

Bear through life like a torch in flame,

And falling fling to the host behind—

“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

I cannot say it any better than in the words of retired teacher Peter Higginson who, in his article in the Black Country Bugle on the 20th June 2013, says, “A lot of people will smirk at this now. But as an English lecturer I think these lines are among the best we have for describing English valour – the kind you see in the film ‘Waterloo.’ It can be parodied but that is only an indication of its greatness. To think this man came from Bilston fills me with pride.”

It fills me with pride too. He must be remembered so future generations can remember one of Bilston great sons.

Peace.

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Book Plans To Go On Hold Indefinitely

At the last league game of the season of 2012-13 I visited Bilston town FC to chat to the chairman of the club about my idea to write a book about the history of the club. He was a very nice, helpful man who introduced me to a few people who I chatted to. I have contacted local newspapers, archives and the National Football Museum and all have tried to help but sadly didn’t turn up any useable information that would help me write a book about the history of Bilston Town. But as a result of the research I’ve done I have managed to update the list of honours on the clubs wikipedia page so that it’s more complete and shows the full extent of the clubs success.

I had been full of hope that this would be a project that I could get underway with a little more success but so far I only have a couple of pages of an opening chapter written and no where to go with it.

I’m hopeful that at some point in the future via the club and its annual gatherings of ex-players I can rekindle this project but for now I’m putting it on hold. Maybe one day I’ll have more time to sit and work on it properly but at the moment, with the lack of proper research time, I’m going to have to put the project on hold.

Peace.

America and Taliban peace talks.

It seems to me that the idea of peace talks is a very, very good one! Certainly reconciliation of all of the factions in Afghanistan is the only way to truly bring some peace and stability to a country that has seen nothing but war since…er… well decades. The only stumbling block it seems is the current government of Afghanistan which wants to scupper talks because it was left out of initial contacts between America and the Taliban via the new Taliban political office in Qatar.

What a bunch of cry babies the Afghan government really are. Despite all of their corrupt and barely democratic ways of governing the sovereignty of Afghanistan, something that they wouldn’t be able to claim if it wasn’t for NATO forces, they still feel that it is OK to whinge like little bitches that they were not the centre focus for peace talks. Fuck off! Hamid Karzai is nothing more than a corrupt criminal himself. What has he really done for the country over the last decade whilst he has had his hands on power? Not a lot really. Do the people have electricity and enough food and jobs and does anyone outside of Kabul give two fucks about what he says? No they don’t. They don’t because despite ten years of being president he has not brought together the country, he has not ended the war that has gone on in its current state since 9-11. He has failed and he still cries that he isn’t being included on a totally exclusive level by America. Boo Hoo, squirt me some hot salty tears Mr Karzai!

America wants a nice clean exit from the region; we all know that, as does Britain and all NATO forces. This is a war that has gone on for far too long, considering it was seemingly won in months after 9-11 but was won only because the Taliban retreated and regrouped to fight the ongoing guerrilla war that we see going on still today.

Reality is – the real world exists right now – and looking forward, the past is the past and the methods that all sides are using are not changing the stalemate that is costing lives on both sides and costing innocent lives too. We have to accept that continuing to spend blood and young soldiers’ lives in fighting a war that seems to have no end is more futile than talking. Us Brits know about that with the terrorism and unrest of Northern Ireland. It was only when we sat down with our enemies, the IRA, that we could broker a peace deal. It’s no different in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai wants to see these peace talks take place on Afghan soil but that is simply not possible. Afghan soil is still a war zone. The Taliban have made the efforts to set up an office in Qatar (with help and funding from Pakistan I assume) and that has to be recognised and the talks have to take place initially there. Otherwise where else are they going to take place?

The ultimate success for peace in Afghanistan, based on peace talks, will revolve around three simple aims that are all face saving for people involved. NATO (mainly America) wants a dignified exit. Far too often America has left a war untriumphant (RE: Iraq, Vietnam). The current Afghan government lead by Hamid Karzai wants to achieve peace and President Karzai wants to be seen as “The Peacemaker” for his country. He wants that historical accolade, good luck to him (corrupt twat)! And the Taliban wants to exist and wants to have a say in the future governance of the country. So essentially the Western powers need to fuck off without looking like they are just fucking off. Karzai wants to be a hero and the Taliban wants to become a political power. That is the only way peace will happen and all sides will be happy.

It’ll be hard for the Taliban to become a political party as such as they oppose many of the things that go with freedom such as women’s rights and technological advancements and simple things like freedom of expression. But they have to otherwise, they will be easily excluded and marginalised. They have to find a political position to exist in a democracy. But the Taliban can change as they have done over the last decade. Before the war they opposed all media TV, radio, even cassettes and CDs but now they happily embrace videos, the internet and TV to spread their message, so maybe that is a sign that the ideals they once held are negotiable.

The Afghan government can only become acceptable when it’s removed and replaced. The entire system is corrupt and needs to be started afresh, what better time than during peace and reconciliation talks to unite your country. Mr Karzai, stand down… he won’t, without a fight.

The West, I feel has done plenty to help the country back onto its feet, but the facilitation of the peace talks is the most important thing to do. So much blood has been spilled in the name of America, Britain and all of the NATO allies in this war that to walk away without some kind of resolution would be an indignity to all who’ve died.

After over a decade of fighting and bitterness and tit-for-tat and loss of innocent life over selfish ideologies it’s only right that it’s time that the gun was replaced with the negotiating table and peace was talked about in terms of actually happening rather than men shooting each other in the name of…. What are we fighting there for again? To avenge the dead on 9-11, oh yeah. The best way to honour the dead of 9-11 would be to end terrorism and its safe havens and bring peace to a part of the world that has been denied it for far longer than the last twelve years.

I always say it, and I’ll say it again,

Peace!

People. And starting conversations on twitter.

“So twitter is a public forum!!!!”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“And you said something on it!!!”

“Yes, yes I did.”

“And I replied to it!!!”

“Yes, yes you did.”

“So now justify yourself to me and my retort!!!!”

“Why?”

“Because I need validation and troll twitter for any arguments so I can take the polar opposite side of said argument and make the most basic black and white arguments about nothing and everything you say!!!”

BLOCKED.

Jesus Christ. Is there anybody out there? Anybody?

Peace.

Living in the past: Computers and Gaming.

Since I was a kid I have always loved gaming, computer games, messing about on computers and all of that carry on. I even used to be really big into computer programming (using basic of course, I’m no genius as regulars here already know). When I was a young man many hours were spent sat at my Atari 800XL typing page after page of code, “Data 234, 543, 543, 56787,” etc from some obscure Atari magazine that was sold in the monumental quantity of 1, to me, by a newsagents in Bradley, so that I could end up with a free computer game or two. Yes I was one of those kids. My parents encouraged me though, buying the Atari second hand and giving me the cash to buy the magazine every fortnight, the only part of the deal was I had to walk the couple of miles to the shop to get the magazine. Despite only being about 11 years old the trade off was OK, it was a safer time (a better time) and they were really bribing me to leave the house and get some fresh air and exercise.

I miss that computer. I know that by today’s standards it would be a piece of crap and the very idea of waiting twenty minutes for a cassette to load now seems crazy and would certainly be alien to a lot of kids, but it was great fun. Will the tape load, won’t it? Maybe it’ll load fine until about 90% of the way through and then crash for no reason, maybe the wire between the cassette and the computer has a kink in it and you need to bend it in the right way to make it connect at all. Oh how I loved those great days.

You know what has made me start to look back so fondly on these old, more innocent and sweet times? It is the news of the launch of the Xbox One. OK so it has 8gb of Ram and is a blu-ray player, has a 500gb on board hard drive and native 64 bit architecture but you also have to be constantly connected to the internet as your games will now be stored on the hard drive and uploaded to the cloud. Why? My current gaming machine of choice, the Xbox 360, has never been online once. I don’t need it to be online. I don’t want to be social when I’m playing games. If I want to play with my friends I’ll ask them round to play, but largely for me the experience of playing games has always been and probably always will be a very anti-social one. I don’t need Web 2.0 as part of my gaming experience. I don’t want to share my scores or my gaming achievements with people on twitter or Facebook and frankly I’d be amazed if anyone who follows me on those sites would give a crap what I was playing and how well I was doing. It’s not important!

No one ever gave that much of a crap how fast I could complete Zorro on my Atari 800XL because it was my gaming experience, mine, not theirs!!! I’ve never needed validation from anyone when it came to what I’m currently playing, I don’t need to feel like top dog. Why the competition? Are online achievements really achievements? No they’re not. Being a parent or getting a promotion at work or falling in love and getting married or buying a car you’ve saved up for and always wanted – they are achievements. Gaming is just fun! Frivolous expenditure of time that no one else is interested in, except us the gamer. I could probably list all of the games I’ve played and completed in my life if you want, but what would it achieve? Nowt. To me it was just a pleasant experience and if I clocked a game it meant I thought it was a good game and if I didn’t I thought it was shit.

Also this new Xbox One will see the death of the old trading of games and the sharing of games with friends. At the moment I can simply give an Xbox game to a friend and they can play it and vice versa. It doesn’t cost me any more than the cost of the game and then I can enjoy it and spread the enjoyment through sharing. Now you have to be friends for so long on Xbox live, and you can only share with a limited number of people. New games will be available through traditional outlets on CD as current games are but they will only be playable for 24 hours offline and then you MUST connect to the internet to upload your game to your Xbox and your cloud. Then you have to log in to your cloud at least once every 24 hours to be able to carry on playing the game. Why? Why do they need you logging in all of the time and being online? What if your connection goes down for what ever reason – that means you can’t play? That never happened in the olden days. The only upside of this is you can access your games from any Xbox One using your log in and password which is OK, again it is just taking gaming online, trying to force people to be social. Eventually more and more games will only be playable in groups and the very idea of a game that you can just play on your own will no longer be available. This in my opinion sucks balls! Oh yeah – you no longer buy and own your games, you simply license them. Maybe that has something to do with the daily log in. I really dunno how this is going to work, maybe I’m getting too old to keep up with technology but I’m pretty sure that I won’t be upgrading my console any time soon. I might hang on to my Xbox 360 until it is retro and cool again. That’ll happen with time, you can count on that.

In fact I actually feel that it is time to get back to my gaming roots. My love of modern gaming is fading fast. Anyone got a NES or an Atari or an Amiga they wanna sell me? I might just be in the market to buy them.

Peace.

Finding the Path Again.

I have been somewhat erratic blogger generally over the last two years but in 2013 I’ve been worse than usual. I used to really enjoy blogging and getting an idea or an opinion and scribbling it down to share with all of you lovely people who read this blog. But I’ve somehow allowed that process to get stale and I’ve neglected to read and comment and like the many blogs that I follow and as a result I’ve allowed my online blogging relationships to slip. I’ve concentrated too much interest and focus on two or three bloggers who I really enjoy and even considered friends. I’ve allowed myself to get angry when I post and they don’t comment or like or reply at all and that is downright silly.

This last week has been good for me. I’ve used it to clean up my various online accounts such as wordpress and twitter and get rid of what I’d call the dead wood. The people who no longer blog or tweet  and simply have vanished from the radar. I’m going to use this as a fresh start and I’m going to get back to writing what I want to write about because it interests me and not because I’m trying to get a reaction or a response from any of you.

I’m going to do my best to read as many of you as I can (as I used to do) and leave as much feedback as is possible in the time I have online daily to read and comment. I can’t read all of you all of the time, that would simply be too much to fit around life but hopefully I can be a better blogger again and a happier one and more involved.

I’ve been lost in the woods, running from the bogey man or the slender man or what ever metaphor you prefer, (Bigfoot maybe?) and I think I’ve found the path again.

Right Jay, get your thinking cap on your opinionated head and try to be interesting and a little funny for a change.

Setting down the heavy bag of vitriol and hate that I’ve created all by myself here should help too; hopefully it’ll slow down the Slender man if he finds the path I’m now on.

Peace & Love!