Tag Archives: Billy Bragg

Jubilee’ve in all this Jubilee stuff? Jubilee’ve this Jubilee weather?! Jubilee’ve It Could Be Magic?……….

……….Well let’s start with the last question. If you think the answer is yes, It Could Be Magic, then you must be Barry Manilow! And if you are, go away!

Everywhere you look at the moment it’s a bit wall to wall Jubilee here in the UK. Pretty much every town or village you go through is festooned with bunting – I’ve seen signs in our local shops that they are sold out of bunting! It’s all over the TV stations, especially the good old BBC (though by all accounts it was the ‘not so good and actually pretty shambolic BBC’ yesterday!) Even in the blog world I’ve read several posts about the Jubilee where ordinarily I’d be reading about books or authors or publishing houses etc!

There’s no doubt for me that the Royal Family certainly generate different opinions, but overall it seems to me that most people are in favour of the Jubilee at least, though I think the reasons vary. Personally, I’m not that interested in them as people nor, in their lives, but if they can do good things like promote charities or spark some feelings of joy and pride in other people then I’ve no problem with that. I’ve read and heard some talk, and write of them, in the most glowing terms – words like “inspiring love and devotion”. Again personally, I really don’t get that. They don’t inspire any sense of love nor devotion in me but hey, whatever flicks your switch as they say! I’ve seen others say it means nothing more to them than a four-day break! I certainly understand that view more readily than all the love and devotion stuff, but even there I tend to think it’s a bit of an insular view. As I look around it seems to me that many, many, people are really enjoying this Jubilee for more than just an extra day or two off work, it seems to bring sections of communities together and people do seem to bond over it. That’s a good thing in my view.

Anyway, in the midst of all the bunting and, at least for those of us in the South, bloody awful weather, there have been several Jubilee things to amuse me or that just made me ponder (I love that word “ponder”!). So, here we go, two, three, four…..

First up the stolen bunting story!

I drive through the village on Ongar often on my way to the school run. It’s a kind of quite posh on the surface, but not that posh underneath, sort of place! We lived there for a short time years ago – what we in Scotland call a bit -fur-coat-but-no-knickers as a village! However, it’s got an old-fashioned high street, which has some beautiful individual buildings and at the moment it, and the nearby Ongar historical railway, are both absolutely festooned with bunting. In addition there’s a seriously big, posh house at one end which is littered in the tackiest way with Union Jack flags – they look a bit like those “Free with every copy of The Daily Star!” things you see advertised on these occasions. However the story that caught my eye was that someone nicked the bunting first time round just after it was put up! They’d put it up in the afternoon and by next morning it was all gone! The news story however had one gem – the police had narrowed down the time of the crime to ‘somewhere between 5pm and 9am’ the next morning!!!! (Nothing much gets past the sharp-eyed Essex Officers Of The Law!).  I love the fact that they hadn’t discounted the possibility it was stolen in broad daylight while the place was filled with traffic and residents! I suppose it’ll give Essex Police a break from collecting money from their six thousand million speed cameras (I always think the Essex Tourism slogan should be “Visit Essex And Have Your Photo Taken By Essex Police – Everyone Else Does!). I like the idea that they are doing their house to house enquiries at the moment asking, “And when you left the post office madam, did you see anyone with a forty foot ladder and around thirty metres of Union Jack bunting rolled up under one arm?!”

Second up are some of the tacky souvenirs. Take a look at this junk. Who buys this garbage?!

Third in my list were two brilliant tweets from Danny Baker yesterday about the boat, pageant thingy! For the first one, he tweeted this picture with the caption “Not now, Michael………..”

Then he followed it with this picture and the caption “Could you hold the start up a minute? Eric Pickles boat’s just hit a snag!”

Hilarious! I think Danny Baker is just a really clever funny bloke – the whole world should follow him on Twitter!

Fourth is the best joke about the jubilee I’ve heard – “My brother is too scared to attend the Jubilee celebrations. He’s a coronation chicken!”

And lastly some words of wisdom about the Jubilee and the weather. (I read this on Twitter @SimonNRicketts by the way “The Met Office, trying to soften the blow about the weekend weather, are to re-brand “rain” as “jubilee water”!!!) But the words of wisdom are from Billy Bragg, the Bard of Barking, who commented ” I guess whatever we were doing today, we learned that it’s not the monarchy that unites us as a nation, it’s the weather!”

I’ll leave it there! For those of you in the North, I hope your street parties and outdoor celebrations goes well! For those of you in the South, I hope the removal of your street parties indoors to someone’s house or garage goes well too!

The Good, The Fads and The Ugley – (The Essex Version)……………….

……….. Although Scotland will always be “home” to me, I’ve lived in Essex now for longer than I ever actually lived in Scotland, and so I think of it very much as my adopted home – and a place I love. For a few years my family lived in the Wirral while I lived here because of work and commuted up and down the M1 and the M6 every weekend – I’d say the Wirral has a much better reputation than Essex and we loved it, but we don’t love Essex any less now that we’re back!

I know it’s a got reputation for being a bit of a laughing-stock from things like “Essex girl” jokes and then the current TV series “The Only Way Is Essex” but there’s much more to it than wannabes, fake tan, hair extensions and the sharpest accent this side of the Black Hills of Dakota! (And anyway I like the Essex accent!). It’s a beautiful county, it’s got some great places to visit and the people who live here are (mostly!), warm and generous and often very witty! But sometimes I know it doesn’t help itself either and it kind of plays up to that image.

The Good

As this is a blog mainly about books and music I’ll start there. Glossing smoothly over Olly Murs (my daugher likes him and went to see him in concert – I despair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Essex has given the world of music Damon Albarn of Blur, Depeche Mode, and the wonderful, magnificent Bard of Barking himself, Billy Bragg (below is a very early and very young video of billy Bragg on The Old Grey Whistle Test doing the Milkman of Human Kindness, which is one of my favourite Billy Bragg songs). As well as Ruth Rendell having been born here (and I always liked Inspector Wexford books) – there are also a couple of books I love that are set here. Dickens “Barnaby Rudge” was a book I read before I ever came to Essex (maybe even before I’d ever heard of Essex!) and is one of my favourite Dickens novels, and the whole story sets off with a tale told round the fire at an inn in Chigwell in Essex. But a book I really loved and which is set in Essex is Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose. The story is a real tear-jerker – it’s meant to be – but that didn’t diminish it in my eyes. It’s a lovely but desperately sad tale of the friendship between an artist and a young girl nursing an injured snow goose back to health as the rumble of the Second World War looms ever louder and ever closer on the horizon. It’s set on the Essex marshlands and though it’s a rather bleak, wild setting, it suits the story perfectly.  I still have to this day my old battered and oft-read copy with Jenny Agutter on the cover! (If I’m honest I think I bought this second-hand in around 1973 and Jenny Agutter on the cover certainly influenced my purchase!). So it’s one of what I call my “Old Campaigners”, books I’ve had with me virtually all my life and it’s link to Essex means it’s a bit of an extra-special Old Campaigner!

The Fads!

On Wednesday night I watched “The Apprentice” with my family, who love the programme. The task for both groups was essentially to buy rubbish from a warehouse, sell it on at a profit and then re-invest the takings in more rubbish! When both teams were required to find a location to sell this stuff they chose Essex! One team bowled up in Romford and the other split their selling between Ilford and Pitsea, which is part of Basildon. (and was where Essex Council housed me when I first came to live and be a teacher in Essex –  and I know the perceptions and reputations and all the jokes about Basildon, but I kind of liked it – note “kind of” though!). Anyway as if Essex didn’t have enough of a reputation for all things “fake” (hair, nails, eyelashes and more!), what did they find was their best seller – cheap fake tan! The lot selling in Romford had sold out by mid-morning and people were queueing and waiting for them to re-stock! And what other delights were they palming off onto the good people of Ilford, Romford and Basildon?! Mainly, a little toy cockroach thing that scurried about, some mops, and hair clippers which didn’t go that well when marketed as beard trimmers so they changed their marketing to trimmers to keep bikini lines neat or something! It was funny but kind of sad at the same time.

However that was topped off as a statement on all-things-Essex, when I drove back round the M25 yesterday morning from the school run. Now my fellow school run participants in Essex seem to favour the 4×4 – there are hundreds of them here – and it seems to me that the Range Rover, particularly in black, is the car of choice of the more well-off school runners! Most of these have personalised registration plates – which I’m not knocking, because I can’t, because we do too! But this morning, between the A12 and the M11 junctions,  I was passed by a Black Range Rover with the best registration in Essex – “ESS 3X”.  I laughed out loud and I sort of admired whoever it is. After all my ideal reg is “C 54 COT” which might not make that much sense till you realise it can be re-cast as “CS A Scot!” Anyway a quick trawl of t’Internet tells me that this reg was actually bought for over £6500 by someone in Chelmsford in 2010. And what’s more the story goes that the buyer was prepared to go as high as £20 000 to secure this “heart on the sleeve (bumper”) statement about their love for their home county. Mind you it’s easy to do it with a car reg plate if your home county is Essex – not so easy if your home county was say Clackmannanshire!

So fake tans and the ultimate Essex number plate take care of the fads!

The Ugley.

Ugley is a village near here – we drive through it on the way to Saffron Walden. It’s just one of those place names that inevitably stick in your head – like “Crawfordjohn” in the Borders which I pass on the M74 on my way home to Glasgow, or Crianlarich which seems to be in every conceivable direction around Loch Lomond – it kind of feels like all roads lead to Crianlarich and so you expect something pretty spectacular when you get there (prepare for slight disappointment!). Anyway Ugley ought not to fit somehow with the “beautiful people” image of Essex in one sense but I think it does – it says that it’s a place where anybody can fit in – even Glaswegians! and says much about the rich history of Essex as Ugley was apparently first recorded as Uggele in 1041 and as Ugghelea in the Domesday Book. It’s got a beautiful church, where the vicar blogs as The Ugley Vicar . Now admit it, that’s confident and witty, which is something I think the people of Essex and Glasgow have got in common – everybody else might laugh a bit at our expense but we hold the upper hand because we know how to laugh at ourselves! That’s my theory anyway and I’m sticking to it!