Monday, 28 November 2011

not your tram experience?

Those of you who use Twitter may well have noticed that one of today's top trending hashtags is the mysterious-sounding #MyTramExperience.

This relates to the title of a pretty unpleasant YouTube clip, uploaded to the video sharing site just yesterday. In the clip, a (presumably inebriated?) young woman, who is holding a young child on her lap, unleashes a torrent of inarticulate rage directed at Britain's immigrants and ethnic minorities.




The clip is devoid of context. We don't see what caused this outburst. We just see a horrible scene on a tram. The angry young woman's face is contorted nastily as she confronts anyone who attempts to upbraid her for her behaviour. First she turns on a black woman who has rather politely asked her to tone down her language due to the presence of other children. Then she rows with a white British woman who becomes upset by the scene unfolding. Throughout, the fact that she has a toddler with her does not cause her to moderate her language or behaviour. Putting aside the content of her tirade, just by using a string of expletives in front of a child whose young brain is currently juggling the building blocks of speech, she is setting a terrible example. What should we assume about the kind of young man her son will become if this is what he hears from his mother?

A good number of people commenting on this clip via Twitter have expressed the view that it causes them to feel "ashamed" to be British. This seems hard to understand - a reaction that could only really be justifiable if public outbursts of this nature were extremely common; if this scene were truly representative of what it is to travel on public transport in the UK; if the sentiments expressed were the mainstream views of a majority of our fellow Britons. Most people, though, will surely agree that such opinions are only quite rarely expressed in such a public setting and that our journeys to and from work are only very rarely disrupted by enraged ranting of any sort, much less on this particular theme. Have you witnessed an incident like this recently? Ever? Probably not, right?

Quite apart from feeling shame, British people watching this clip can find things to feel proud of. The two people who do take this woman to task are to be commended. Also, as the shouting woman continues to express the idea that "Britain is nothing now" because of immigration, we see a small, quiet example of the colour blindness of common decency and good fellowship among our country's people - a young white woman calmly and quietly offers words of comfort and a brief hug to a young black man who has become upset by what is happening in front of him.

That said, not everyone on the busy tram speaks up. We see more than one traveller looking down into the lit screen of a mobile phone, preferring to dwell in some virtual world and avoid becoming involved in the real here and now. When watching this, do you disapprove of the woman at the centre of the action? If you do, ask yourself whether you would be one of the people speaking up or one of the people fiddling with a phone.

Either way, assuming you are among those who disapprove not only of the shouting woman's appalling behaviour but also of the muddled ideas to which she gives voice, you may be heartened to learn that decency can prevail here in England, and that the wheels of justice do not always grind with unbearable slowness. By 5.35 PM today, reports from the BBC were indicating that a 34-year old woman had been arrested in connection with the incident which, it seems, took place on the Croydon to Wimbledon Tramlink line.

The speed of this outcome says more about the fundamentally decent country in which we live than anything which comes out of the mouth of the woman now facing questions from the police.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

glare

ambassadors, you are really spoiling us

Here's the leading contender for advertising campaign of the year. Heat Holders. A brand of thermal socks. It has it all.

The campaign features Z-list 'ambassadors'. One is a retired professional skier who, according to his Wikipedia entry, "is most proud of... his 12th place in the infamous Hahnenkamm Race in Kitzbuhel, Austria." The second is an obscure TV weather presenter, who, we learn from her personal website, is "known for her trademark TV 'bye bye' sign off". This means, presumably, that she gained some degree of fame for ending her weather reports by saying 'bye bye'. This is, admittedly, a neat gimmick - bidding the viewers farewell with the words 'bye bye'. Bet you wish you'd thought of that.

Perhaps the most prominent of the Heat Holders Ambassadors is Craig Phillips, the 'TV DIY celebrity'. Readers may be forgiven for only dimly remembering Craig's emergence into the public consciousness. It was way back in 2001 when he was crowned as the first-ever UK Big Brother winner - back when the programme was a fairly interesting novelty rather than a dismal parade of preening bullies and dull-witted narcissists.



The campaign also features a pretty low-end digital presence. Right now, just 135 people love the socks enough to follow the brand on Twitter. Still, why would you follow socks on Twitter? What news could the socks possibly have? Have a look and you'll see that the answer is 'not much'. 

On Facebook, meanwhile, just 146 people are 'friends' of Heat Holders. Making friends with socks? Odd.

The brand's website is a treasure trove of bad writing. Consider the opening line of the 'Our Story' page. "Sock wearers from all walks of life have given a warm welcome to Heat Holders, The Ultimate Thermal Sock." A strange sentence given that almost everyone is a sock wearer. Granted, anyone might dispense with socks in sandal weather. Even then, though, as any fule kno, natives of this island have been known not to do so. Sock wearers from all walks of life? You might as well say food eaters from all walks of life when advertising a range of yoghurts, breakfast cereals or frozen ready meals. Or light needers when advertising light bulbs. Or washers when promoting a brand of soap. Washers from all walks of life have welcomed... 

Then we have the pages and pages of customer testimonials. There's some great stuff here, from unlikely-sounding situations ("I dropped several hints to my girlfriend about some of the Heat Holders Socks to be added to my Christmas list, but never received any on the day.") to lamentable apostrophe misuse ("can be worn on any occasion without the usual thermal clothing stigma's").

There are also examples of punters flagging up the shortcomings of the product. Mrs. J. Bradshaw (an equine dentist) tells us that the socks are "a little bulky for under riding boots". Mark Parry (a mountain rescue team member), meanwhile, informs us that "in wellies and walking boots they are the best, but in 4-season boots they may have been too good" as he found his feet "would get too hot". Perhaps it's commendable that the Heat Holders crew see fit to warn prospective customers of the limitations of the socks. But it's a long way from advertising orthodoxy.

(Brand) ambassadors, with this wealth of risible writing and lo-fi social media stuff, you are spoiling those of us who enjoy bad advertising and clunky marketing.

Friday, 25 November 2011

GOVE

"It would have been inconceivable for any member of [Gladstone's] Cabinet to have sought public approbation by letting the world know they had the critical tastes of a teenager, as Gordon Brown once did, when he confessed his fondness for the Arctic Monkeys."

Michael Gove, Cambridge University, 24th November 2012



The Education Secretary's K-reg blue Skoda Octavia, complete with roof rack and Camberley Town FC bumper sticker, was found burned out at Wormwood Scrubs. His wife Sarah Vine said in her Times column: "The car contained my husband's prized 28 CD collection of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (unabridged), the collected speeches of Ronald Reagan, Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, Wagner's Parsifal and a Best of The Smiths collection."


Evening Standard, 12th October 2012

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

enjoy responsibly

news from the wall

The latest news from the white rectangle of Camden:
  • The QR code pasted there a little while ago contains a message of congratulations for the winner of October's this is my england street art give-away competition: "Congratulations Gemma for winning the competition set by thisisengland.blogspot.com and thank you for being part of the Ex-White Rectangle."
  • The larger QR code, the decoding of which formed the basis of the above-named competition, has been removed by some unknown hand. Seems to be a case of someone liking that particular pasted piece and wanting to take it home. Doesn't seem like a clean-up job given that the CA$H FOR YOUR  WARHOL sticker and the smaller QR code remain.
  • The writer of both QR-coded messages and the architect of all the stickers-stencils-and-paste-ups work on that special chunk of wall, Mr. stu bags, has adorned the space with his self-portrait. He seems to be a funny-looking feller.

    Tuesday, 22 November 2011

    kreuzberg


    faces of berlin








    around ostkreuz

    flew into Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld,
    took the S-Bahn into the city,
    spotted interesting desolation around Ostkreuz station,
    and went for a little explore:





    Monday, 21 November 2011

    Connecting with the real Berlin

    A very good way to spend three hours in Germany's ever-mutating capital is to join the underground culture tours offered by Alternative Berlin. Alternately walking and moving between neighbourhoods on trams and trains, you will see highlights of the city's famously burgeoning street art scene and visit a number of artists' squats and collectives. Stop briefly to refuel on tasty Caribbean and African fare at YAAM, one of Berlin's beach bars. Even on a chilly and overcast day, this is enjoyable.  

    The tour is 'free', which means you pay the guide what you think the experience has been worth. It's unlikely that you won't want to hand over a decent fistful of Euros, because the tour is informative and absorbing - just enough detail to tell you something new, not so much detail as to risk boredom or brain-ache. The pace is just right and while you could feel a little footsore by the end of your journey, you will feel you've really connected with Berlin and the secrets of its varied alternative culture. Throughout, reference is made to the creeping gentrification of areas once favoured by artists and musicians at the cutting edge of the lively creative scenes for which the city has long been known. So perhaps this tour will look different if you join it in a year's time and more different still if you tag along two years from now. It'll still be worth it, though. These guys know the real Berlin and are on top of how it's continuing to evolve.




    the whole bloody lot

    For the umpteeth time, the multi-coloured proprietress of kinky-cultural site Bearded Eloise has been kind enough to get excited by a bit of this is my england poesy to stick it up at her place. This time she went for the recently hatched BOMB THE PAST, a short tale of t-shirts and memory decay. Cheers, my dear.


    Any road up, do take the time to have a gander at Emily's other wares. She's recently been encouraging her readers to send in tales of their various sexual peccadilloes. Whips, chains, the whole bloody lot, as someone once said. If that's your bag, you should have a look, I suppose.

    Friday, 18 November 2011

    NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST


    persistent

    so there's somebody who loves
    going back to the same wall
    again and again:
    it gets painted over - 
    so he writes another one, 
    waging war on global capital
    down an alleyway in Camden


    Wednesday, 16 November 2011

    PROPS FROM/TO WASAPIX

    WasaCom is a firm that aims to combine Swiss quality with Italian creativity and is active in multimedia content, web design and related fields. They operate a network of nice-looking blogs, including the picture-aggregation site WASAPIX.COM. This now recommends this is my england, describing it as "one of the best UK blogs around" and commending this site for its "positively colored urban visual emotion".


    this is my england is happy to return the compliment, suggesting that readers have a good look around the SITUATIONALLY SUBJECTIVELY SUGGESTED goodies there.

    I blame the parents

    Three kids. About twelve or thirteen years old. Wearing the immaculate uniforms of a good school. Walking up a hill, three abreast. The pavement is narrow and the road to their left is frantic with morning rush hour traffic. To their right is a tall and impenetrably thick hedge. When a man comes into view, heading downhill towards them on his way to the station, there is confusion. Briefly frozen, they don't know what to do. The man realises that these daughters of affluent families expect him either to take his chances in the traffic or to press his good overcoat into the wet leaves, sharp twigs and spider webs of the hedge. It has not occurred to them that one of their number should step aside. It's their pavement. It's their world.

    Tuesday, 15 November 2011

    your little world

    What is your world?

    According to British Gas, you live on a tiny planet that consists only of your house and its garden. Your home, it seems, is your world. The vast darkness of deep space separates you from the least distant of your fellow human beings, who live in their own entirely detached homes. There don't seem to be any worlds on which people have near neighbours - in terraced streets, in blocks of flats, or in big Victorian houses chopped into bedsits. Instead, having been freed long ago from the debilitating confines of public ownership, the dynamic and wildly successful utility company pays its handsome dividends entirely by serving a solar system of customers living prosperously in splendid isolation.



    How did you end up so far away from everybody else? How did interplanetary distances open up between the former components of defunct 'communities', 'neighbourhoods' and 'society'? Did you (or your parents) rise up in the glorious dawn of the property-owning, share-owning democracy? Did you get on your bike in the pursuit of betterment, peddling away from slackers who lack the moral fibre of aspiration

    Buy your own planetoid and stay there. Shrink the state. Treat adults like adults and stop nannying them with addictive, enfeebling public services. Volunteering and public-spiritedness will fill the vacuum when it comes to the genuinely needy and the genuinely vital tasks. After all, it works across the pond, doesn't it?

    Saturday, 12 November 2011

    Mr. Natural says

    BOMB THE PAST

    put some music on, she said,
    choose something, she said,
    but it was hard -
    a million albums
    a billion EPs
    a trillion twelve inches
    a zillion CDs,
    and my hand
    closed over her round brown breast, and
    my knuckle knocked
    the thick ring through the nipple,
    and I think
    I drew her smoke
    over my teeth,
    and I guess
    I passed her cocaine
    over my heart,
    and I know
    she was quietly bad-tempered
    in the cold, disconnected bedroom,
    but
    I'm not sure
    how much of this
    is made of words said later,
    like how much of it comes
    from telling the tale -
    the persistence of memory
    slides as my clock melts
    and the only thing left
    is the slogan
    on the t-shirt
    from under her bed
    that I still have
    even now:

    BOMB THE PAST

    a girl at university

    yearning in the motion of her hips
    dullness in the lightness of her words
    brightness in the quickness of her mouth
    madness in the mildness of her brow

    distance in the violet of her eyes
    purpose in the focus of her gaze
    money in the feeling of her touch
    diamonds on the soles of her shoes

    Wednesday, 9 November 2011

    shhhhhh

    Something's occurring at the Camden Town white rectangle

    You ain't see me.... right? Oh, and what's with the new QR code? 


    Any answers?



    no one looks good

    No sooner does this is my england construct a defence of the use social media than somebody mentioned in that article decides to draw attention to himself by messing around on Twitter in just about the most crass way possible.

    Enter QPR captain Joey Barton, a somewhat complex person able to veer wildly between acts of lunacy, acts of apparent stupidity and instances of presenting himself as an intelligent and quite interesting person. In recent interviews, the player has come across as articulate and with a well-rounded range of interests away from the game.

    But Barton's chequered past is, of course, well-known. There's the two convictions for acts of violence, and further aggressive and unsavoury incidents besides. Then there's the several notable confrontations with opponents on the football pitch, some of them violent. Down the years, the midfielder has attracted opprobrium for notable clashes with the likes of Dickson Etuhu, Xabi Alonso, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Gervinho. 

    When Barton joined QPR early this season, the tussle with Arsenal's Gervinho was just days behind him. Rangers manager Neil Warnock articulated the notion that on talent alone the former Manchester City and Newcastle player would have been a transfer target for higher profile clubs were it not for his "baggage". This seems pretty obviously true.

    It was with mixed feelings, then, that some QPR supporters waited for the serial controversialist to make his Loftus Road début.

    Thus far, on the pitch at least, Barton's performances have, for the most part, quieted the doubters. In some games, not least the recent appointment with his former employers from the blue half of Manchester, the Rangers skipper has looked excellent. That said, some QPR messageboard regulars have not been impressed with every one of Barton's outings in a hooped shirt. One common feeling seems to be that if a player identifies himself as the best English born midfielder currently playing he thereby sets for himself an impossibly high standard against which he will be judged every time he takes to the pitch. Excellence, then, becomes expected and scorn may be attracted when this expectation is not quite met. Hoisted by your own petard, Joey?

    As well as signing a highly talented player capable of drawing negative attention for on-the-pitch indiscretions, Warnock and the club owners will also have been aware that they were taking on someone whose constant use of Twitter was well-documented. During his somewhat acrimonious parting from his previous club, Barton seemed to be using that medium quite skilfully to try to maintain good relations with Newcastle fans during the split.

    Up to now, the player's tweeting activities while employed by QPR have seemed harmless enough - sometimes even quite amusing. Further, Twitter offers ardent football supporters the opportunity to feel closer to the players they pay money to watch. Via Twitter, we can see banter between team members that seems to provide evidence of good-humour and camaraderie. So we can feel reassured that all is well in the squad - that the new signings have bonded with the established players, that team spirit is good, that the lads are a decent bunch. So far, so good.

    But yesterday Barton chose to become involved in a tedious exchange of insults with members of the 'cast' of the bafflingly popular TV freak show The Only Way is Essex. For the (blissfully) unaware (non-UK readers, perhaps), this singularly dismal series follows the lives of vacuous, perma-tanned denizens of affluent suburban  areas to the east of London. Viewers do not see 'reality'. What is offered instead is apparently real people in 'modified situations' saying 'unscripted lines' but in a 'structured way'. Wrap your head around that concept for a moment, if you will. 

    These inarticulate and uninteresting people 'work' variously as nightclub promoters, models, beauticians and radio DJs. No real jobs then. No lawyers, surgeons or lecturers. No nurses, bus drivers or plumbers. Just people enabled, presumably, by their parents' wealth to do things of marginal value while apparently living quite ostentatiously. In short, these are people that exemplify a lot of what is unpleasant about today's Britain, notably that while millions of decent, hard-working people struggle to pay the gas bill and run the car, there exists an element living comfortably while contributing nothing of real worth to society or to the economy. It seems inconceivable that a healthier, happier, saner society would offer these people such an opportunity for self-promotion or further enrichment. 'TOWIE' seems emblematic, then, of a certain sickness among us.

    The TOWIE cast, then, seem like people that it would be best to ignore. What can be gained from increasing their supply of the oxygen of publicity? What good can come of engaging in an argument with such vain, preening airheads? As George Bernard Shaw memorably said, "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."

    Barton, then, is wrestling with pigs who clearly like the extra attention. But has he got dirty in the process? Yes. Most definitely. The fact that a QPR player has now been condemned by a spokesman of learning disabilities charity Mencap for his use of the term "retard" during this undignified spat does not really do the club any credit.

    Well, we knew that life with Joey Barton at the club would not be plain sailing. All that can be hoped for, perhaps, is that continued strong performances on the field of play do more than enough to compensate for this otherwise intelligent man's lamentable tendency to do his already tarnished reputation further damage. 

    Tuesday, 8 November 2011

    tumblin'

    this is my england is now mindlessly reblogging superficially attractive but meaningless images with the best of 'em. see. follow. like. reblog. repeat ad nauseum. then come up for air.

    your super soaraway sun

    nineteen years old and angry:
    clutching the kalashnikov, the holy qur'an
    the throats of black men,
    and the hope of change;

    leaning on the shovel:
    300 hunks of hated flesh
    worked into the hard, hot earth;

    he couldn't place scotland on a map,
    he has never heard of guildford, birmingham,
    or of brighton's grand hotel.

    THAT'S FOR LOCKERBIE
    And for Yvonne Fletcher
    And IRA Semtex Victims

    Twitter twits, political correctness and worse

    Since this is my england learned of the online racial abuse directed towards Anton Ferdinand by Paul Brennan and others, the QPR defender has been subjected to harassment of an apparently more serious nature.

    Poisoned pen, poisonous minds

    The newspapers tell us that last week a letter containing a death threat was delivered to the club, with reports alleging that the contents of the document were so graphic that Loftus Road officials decided not show it to the defender, who remains the focus of media interest since allegedly being subjected to a racial slur by England captain John Terry during QPR's recent defeat of Chelsea.

    It is to be hoped that a police investigation into this poisonous letter will lead to the swift identification of a culprit, followed by a successful prosecution for malicious communication.

    While it is absolutely fair enough to doubt the veracity of the claim made about Terry, those berating the QPR man should keep in mind that the complaint about the Chelsea player appears to have been raised in the first instance not by Ferdinand but by a member of the public. A careful reading of the subsequent coverage suggests that the Rangers centre-half has done nothing more than provide evidence when asked to do so by the authorities investigating the alleged incident on the pitch during the heated west London derby.

    That said, even if the investigation into Terry's conduct had been brought about purely as a result of a claim first raised by the apparent victim of his alleged racial abuse, it would remain the case that reactions such as a 'death threat' letter and Paul Brennan's moronic comments are wholly intolerable, whatever the perceived provocation.

    When this is my england elected to flag up Brennan's deplorable behaviour and to dig out some photographs he had inadvertently left available when hurriedly deleting his Twitter account in an attempt to cover his tracks, this attracted a mixed response. Some have agreed that it is quite right to discomfit Brennan in this way. He has committed what amounts to a criminal act in this country, some would argue, so it is entirely justified to draw attention to him. Others have suggested that what this is my england has done is an overreaction and that however ill-judged Brennan's comments were, he does not deserve what some might see as a witch-hunt, not least because this may damage his employment prospects. One can only assume that those articulating this latter view were not supportive of national newspapers printing photographs of rioters and looters in action in the aftermath of the disturbances that gripped London and other cities back in August. Photos displayed in order to draw the long arm of the law towards people alleged to have committed criminal offences. Same thing, right?

    Staying focused 

    Experience teaches us that those who issue cowardly threats or vile abuse via the internet or poisoned pen letters rarely go on to commit actual acts of violence. Their bark is almost always worse than their bite. So the letter sent to QPR last week almost certainly contains an empty threat, notwithstanding the fact Ferdinand was apparently been advised to review his home security arrangements just in case the threat is real.

    The strong likelihood of this threat not being a real one notwithstanding, though, Ferdinand is to be commended for remaining focused on his game. His form remains excellent and he was among those QPR players giving a very good account of themselves in Saturday's heroic but vain attempt to resist free-scoring Manchester City's awesome fire power. The writer of the sinister letter, it is to be assumed, far from planning a real act of murder, merely intends to unsettle the QPR defender. This deserves to fail - and it has failed. Ferdinand is surely playing well enough to merit consideration for the England team if his form continues in its current vein. Wouldn't that be fun? A John Terry-Anton Ferdinand core to England's back line...


    Previous offences

    The Rangers defender, of course, is not the first person to receive death threats following a famous Chelsea defeat. In May 2009, Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø was the subject of Facebook campaigns worded around threats of this kind. Officiating at a Champions League semi-final match between Chelsea and Barcelona, Øvrebø had turned down numerous penalty appeals by the London side.

    It doesn't seem to be the case that any Barcelona fans called for Øvrebø's death as a result of his unjustified sending off of defender Éric Abidal in the same match, though. Perhaps the fact the result went the Catalan team's way was enough for this to be overlooked. Or perhaps Barcelona's fan base just contains fewer poisonous nutters than Chelsea's?

    Someone who might be tempted to say yes to this last point is Donal MacIntyre. Back in 1999, the Irish investigative journalist famously exposed the darker activities of a group of hooligans claiming allegiance to Chelsea F.C. As recently as 2009, MacIntyre and his wife were assaulted in bar by people apparently seeking vengeance for the conviction of hooligan ringleader Jason Marriner for offences highlighted by the Irishman's investigation.

    Clearly, the glamour of winning silverware and signing top players in the Abramovich era is enough to blot all of this out. As new fans have jumped on the Stamford Bridge bandwagon in recent years, it is to be assumed that they have given little thought to these darker aspects of the club's image.

    Probably no football club is entirely without a violent and unpleasant contingent among its fans so it would be unfair to single out Chelsea as being somehow unique in this regard. After all, ageing berks 'supporting' our little QPR went on the rampage in the bar at Manningtree station a couple of years ago, getting arrested for their efforts. But whether our club will ever be associated with quite so many unpleasant characters as our neighbours in SW6 is to be doubted.

    Tweeting twits?

    QPR manager Neil Warnock is no fan of Twitter. His latest criticism of the pervasive microblogging service was directed at Ferdinand, whom Warnock feels is a "twit" for using it. The veteran manager has expressed concern about the downside of players engaging so directly with groups of fans.

    Warnock is unlikely to be able to insist on a Twitter ban for this players, though. It seems that team captain Joey Barton is already a highly influential member of the squard - and Barton is a famously prolific tweeter. More importantly, a significant component of a new era of openness at QPR is the willingness of charismatic club Chairman Tony Fernandes to engage with supporters via Twitter, of which he too is a very enthusiastic user. Vice-Chairman Amit Bhatia is also among the active Twitterati.

    It seems, then, that while Rangers fans will continues to enjoy these new opportunities to feel closer to previously distant players and boardroom bigwigs, we may have to continue living with the ever-present danger of Twitter and related media drawing the unwanted attention of trolls and worse.

    The view of this is my england is that, as Warnock said with regard to Twitter, the rough must be taken with the smooth. The feeling here is that upside of new media outweighs the disadvantages. Moreover, the fact that these media can be abused does not imply that the abuse needs to be meekly tolerated. If someone abuses you in the street, it's unlikely that many people would urge you to stop walking around outside. If some lone idiot abuses you at a football match, it's unlikely you would call for an end to football matches. Instead, you would be faced with two choices - live with the abuse, accepting it as an unpleasant fact of life; or tackle it head on, perhaps naming and shaming the abuser and getting the law involved. It seems instinctive to go for the former approach by default, switching to the latter when levels of abuse escalate to an intolerable or dangerous point.

    Political correctness gone mad

    A quite instructive discussion of online abuse was had in yesterday's Guardian. This covered the issue of the sexist abuse received by some female writers. Helen Lewis-Hasteley reported the experiences of women bloggers who have been "threatened with death or rape, often in very graphic, detailed terms."

    "Now, I believe in freedom of speech," she writes, "but – and several existing laws are clear on this – you absolutely don't have the right to threaten violence against people with whom you disagree."

    Her suggested response? "The first thing is to speak up. People might say that you're exaggerating, that you 'can't handle bad language', that 'everyone gets a bit of abuse on the internet', but the more evidence we collect, the harder that will be to maintain. If you receive a specific threat, report it to the police. If they don't take any notice, blog or tweet about it."

    In quoting feminist Guardian writers and in agreeing entirely with the sentiments expressed by Helen Lewis-Hasteley (as exemplified by last week's 'outing' of Paul Brennan), this is my england will perhaps attract scorn from some readers. Perhaps this blog is humourless? Over-sensitive? Part of the 'PC brigade'? 

    In respect of the latter accusation, this is my england pleads guilty. If you think 'political correctness' has 'gone mad', I would suggest you consider the highly articulate response to that charge by comedian Stewart Lee: 

    "I'm of an age that I can see what a difference political correctness has made. When I was four years old, my grandfather drove me around Birmingham, where the Tories had just fought an election campaign saying, 'if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour,' and he drove me around saying, 'this is where all the niggers and the coons and the jungle bunnies live.' And I remember being at school in the early 80s and my teacher, when he read the register, instead of saying the name of the one Asian boy in the class, he would say, 'is the black spot in,' right? And all these things have gradually been eroded by political correctness, which seems to me to be about an institutionalised politeness at its worst. And if there is some fallout from this, which means that someone in an office might get in trouble one day for saying something that someone was a bit unsure about because they couldn't decide whether it was sexist or homophobic or racist, it's a small price to pay for the massive benefits and improvements in the quality of life for millions of people that political correctness has made."

    Well said, Mr. Lee.

    So let's keep enjoying our football and enjoying the opportunity to connect with players and team owners in ways we never dreamed of even a few years ago. Let's keep enjoying TV coverage that brings the on-pitch activities of players right into our living rooms in glorious HD colour.

    Let's accept, too, that sometimes this open access will bring us into contact with words and actions that may cause offence. Let's not make a sport of being offended for the sake of being offended. But when the offence is real and grievous, let's kick back against it.

    Sunday, 6 November 2011

    we hope it's chips

    It's 1982. Britain has been in recession for two years and unemployment has climbed to three million for the first time since the 1930s. The Prime Minister tells her cabinet of vegetables that a quick war over some islands that no one has ever heard of should be enough to avoid defeat at the polls.

    A cul-de-sac on the edge of town. A newly built, boxy house with integral garage. The end of a working day and the teatime television is warmed up. A Transit van rattles away from a cul-de-sac on the edge of town where more boxy houses with integral garages are being readied for new shareholders in the nation of home ownership. In the front passenger seat, a weary brickie brightens at the prospect of his evening meal, speculating, to the tune of Que Sera, about the accompaniment to the meat. "Will it be chips or jacket spuds?" he wonders. The driver is barely able to conceal his hostility as his singing workmate raises the alternative prospect of salad or frozen peas. A cats' chorus in the back of the van introduces the possibility of mushrooms and a heavily-accented West Indian labourer pines briefly for impossibly exotic fried onion rings.

    As a whole hungry mob meld their voices to roar "you'll have to wait and see", the TV viewer's thoughts turn to the kitchen smells of his own dinner and he wonders why he recognises the Benny-hatted builder in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Quadrophenia, he thinks. Definitely Quadrophenia.

    A more patrician accent is now heard, cutting across the proletarian singsong. Calmly, we are told of the introduction of Birds Eye Steakhouse Grills. These are "pure ground beef that you cook like a steak and serve like a steak". To put it another way, they are hamburgers, misshapen and minus the bun. The speaker attempts to inject his voice with twinkly bonhomie as he appeals directly to the working class housewife. To hawk this cheap meat, the advertising agency have opted to use the assumptive close. Purchase is inevitable. Only the side dishes are a matter of question. "What will you give your old man with his Steakhouse Grill?"

    The lads, of course, hope fervently for chips.

    Friday, 4 November 2011

    chilby revealed

    A while ago, Londoners started to notice yet another set of mysterious stickers appearing on the city's street furniture. The black-and-white stickers were of a plain design, bearing the capitalised legend THE CHRONICLES OF CHILBY.


    Intrigued, this is my england found the associated Facebook group, where similarly baffled individuals speculated in vain about what the stickers might signify. No one guessed correctly.


    In the last few days, the answer has come to light. THE CHRONICLES OF CHILBY is a self-produced EP from rapper, singer, dancer and actor V.A.S.


    Here is a sample of his wares:



    this is my england is typed by a pair of hands attached to a brain too old and out of touch with the kids of today to be able to form a useful view of the merits of the multi-talented Londoner's music. The approach to promotion and entrepreneurship warrants comment, though. It says something about the shrinking of the industrial structures of music promotion and sales. It says something about how even unsigned artists such as V.A.S. buy into the notion of positioning themselves as a brand rather than simply a maker of music. Ahead of doing a deal with any record label, V.A.S. has created a logo for himself and has stepped into the world of advertising and product endorsement, albeit on a local and small-scale basis. “I’m at Shaketastic” he says in an advertisement made earlier this year, “because that’s what I do when I’m in West Hampstead, or Finchley, or Mill Hill or Brent Cross”.



    These days it’s striking, then, that there are those who aspire to achieve prominence as music stars or in some other highly visible field and whose approach speaks of their being highly marketing-savvy, branding-aware and digitally literate. When evaluating their chances of success, which will prove more important? This streetwise approach to packaging and promotion? Or levels of actual creative talent? this is my england could only speculate about that, but is mindful of a pervasive celebrity culture in which people famous only for being famous (or, at most, famous for doing something trivial a long time ago) can make a comfortable living. The transformation of loud-mouthed topless poppet Katie Price into a surgically-adjusted, pneumatically enhanced and ever-present irritation is emblematic of this. These kind of phenomena being taken to the horrible place of their logical extremes is further exemplified by Price hosting a TV “talent” show designed to uncover a successor in her role of annoying person who makes money from just being all over the fucking place all of the time for no apparent reason. The plan is for Price and protégé to make money together. Somehow. this is my england does not wish them luck. Anything which hastens the further coarsening of our popular culture is not to be applauded.


    Luck, though, is definitely wished to Mr. V.A.S. Seems like a nice chap making a good go of doing what he loves doing and finds interesting.

    Tuesday, 1 November 2011

    Do you know Paul Brennan?

    In this blog's most recent QPR-related ramble, I declined to comment about the allegations of Chelsea and England Captain John Terry racially abusing our centre-half Anton Ferdinand back on October 23rd, when the Rangers grabbed a win over their west London rivals.

    It is still not the business of this blog to speculate about the truth or otherwise of these allegations. It is the business of this blog, though, to respond with disgust to the (thankfully isolated) racial abuse to which Ferdinand has subsequently been subjected via Twitter.

    A person apparently named Paul Brennan, apparently based in London and using the account name @brennan6666 chose to say the following: "RT this you fucking BLACK CUNT", adding, with reference to the alleged offender John Terry, "1 England captain". It seems reasonable to suppose that Mr. Brennan is a Chelsea fan, and a big fan of Terry in particular given that his Twitter bio consisted of the words "Captain, Legend, Leader. JT". I say consisted of those words because Brennan, having first made a grovelling apology to Ferdinand this morning, has deleted his Twitter account, presumably fearing the consequences of his earlier remark. My understanding is that this form of abuse does constitute a criminal offence in this country and even if the police don't take an interest, perhaps Brennan's employer would take a dim view.

    While the Twitter account has gone, at time of writing, Brennan has left an electronic footprint at yfrog, the image hosting service which allows users to share their pictures and videos as links on Twitter:



    I know a lot of readers of this blog are based in the west London catchment area of both Chelsea and QPR. So perhaps someone who visits this site knows Paul Brennan. Perhaps you only know him by sight and are not 100% sure of his name? If so, maybe these pictures, (grabbed from yfrog in case they also get deleted soon) will jog your memory. Do you know this man?






    generosity knows no bounds

    The lucky winner of our Camden White Rectangle competition is Gemma from Barnet. Gemma cracked the QR code devised by street corner art bandit stu bags. 'THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE' was the plaintive message left by poor stu, the precarious nature of whose work was underlined when several months' worth of tinkering with his favoured chunk of wall was screeenwiped by some unknown hand.


    Gemma wins one of these CA$H FOR YOUR WARHOL stickers, picked up by this is my england on a recent visit to the the Moniker Art Fair.


    Gemma might send in a picture once she's decided where to stick it. Let's see.