Monthly Archives: November 2012

The End Of The Ordeal?

`You said heroes are needed, so heroes get made

Somebody made a debt, somebody paid`

Bruce Springsteen, Devil’s Arcade

On Wednesday 28th November (a date that may yet prove very important to this blogger for other reasons) it was announced that Richard O’Dwyer has struck a deal with US prosecutors to avoid extradition. Under this agreement Richard will travel voluntarily to America to pay an unspecified sum in compensation and sign an undertaking not to violate copyright again. After this has been done Richard (together with his Mum Julia who has devoted so much to save him) should be able to put this behind them and resume their lives.

Being on the fringes of the campaign I must confess to hearing the champagne corks pop, a sound that worries me. I’ll be honest; I still fear for Richard in America. I worry that the goalposts may be moved as they have already been several times. I for one won’t relax until Richard is safely back on UK soil.

For the past six months I’ve posted a link to the campaign twibbon on my facebook page and will keep on doing so until this is finally over. I’m sure that some of my facebook friends are sick to death of it (although not as sick as Richard and Julia must have been – with worry) but to me it was important to keep this in the public eye. The British media is a fickle mistress after all and certain cases will catch the public eye more than others; a particular murder may make front page headlines while an indentical case is relegated to snippets). Richard O’Dwyer’s story – which involved a night in Wandsworth prison – never made it to the front pages. The thought of a young man who could be anybodys son, brother or boyfriendbeing carted off to an uncertain future in a foreign country never captured the imagination of the public.

The wider issue – the law is the law. In several different debates it’s been pointed out to me that if you stay within the law, you stay safe. Richard O’Dwyer was never a criminal but possibly sailed a little closer to the wind than he should have done. I’m sure he’s regretted it on many an occasion. It was the heavy handed reaction from a foreign country (sledgehammer to a nut, butterfly on a wheel – take your pick) that made him a victim. The media chooses its heroes. A former SAS man who mistakenly kept a pistol given as a gift became a marytr on the front pages; Richard O’Dwyer seen as harshly treated in the home news, Alex Haigh dismissed as a criminal in dispatches. When the law is constrained from applying common sense or is used to make a political point it is then – as the phrase goes – an ass.

A few more weeks and I should hopefully never have to tweet to Julia O’Dwyer again. Here’s hoping.


appeal for news

Regarding Alex Haigh, the lad jailed for squatting, does anybody know if Alex is out of prison yet and/ or how he’s doing? I asked the question on Shelter’s twitter page which strangely got deleted (maybe they didn’t want to be associated with anything illegal).

I am aware that Alex and his family may wish to put this unpleasant incident behind them and move on. I don’t want to prolong their ordeal with blogger nosiness. However if anybody has any news I would be grateful.


11/11/2012 STRANGERS IN PARADISE at the Northern Monkey

15/11/2012 FOUR 45s at the Alexandra

18/11/2012 HOPE & SOCIAL at the Blues Bar

Gigs, like too many other things that cause this particularly metaphor to become a cliche, are like buses. You wait ages for one then three come along at once, or in quick succession at any rate. That’s why I decided to wait until all three had happened and then write a joint review. There was another reason for this; namely that there are some interesting similarities between these three bands – who don’t sound an awful lot alike. All thrive on a complex mix of personalities and all could be said (in one way or another) to have risen from the ashes of a previous outfit.

Strangers In Paradise and the Four 45s were discussed in a previous blog so there’s no need to repeat all that there. Suffice to say that SiP continue to grow in confidence and, liberated from the occasional limitations of D’Nile, the Mosby brothers dazzle with their musical dexterity. The instrumental jams may partly serve to cover up the fact that they don’t have many actual songs yet but you’re having such a good time you rarely notice. And the canon is growing; expect a new EP in January.

The Four 45s latest gig needs to be seen in the context that this blogger was visiting his local pub for the first time since refurbishment (the place needed a lick of paint but it will take me a while to get used to the toilets being all posh). It’s testament to Joe, Rufus and the two Nicks that, despite not having any songs available to download and only having played a handful of gigs, they have risen rapidly to become Harrogate’s number one band. When they do get round to releasing their debut album (come on guys, get it sorted) I hope there’s a lyric book with it as every Four 45 song is a riot of lyrical activity – much of which you miss while you’re trying to groove as much as a full pint of Carling will allow (yes, Carling – the Alex has had Fosters on draught for as long as I can remember – something else that’s going to take some getting used to).

Which takes us on to Hope & Social. This band began life as Four Day Hombre, a rather earnest indie outfit (think early Elbow – a band I admire immensely but can’t bring myself to like) who coasted on the edge of the big time before rebranding themselves as Hope & Social and concentrating on what they love doing – writing and playing music. It would be wrong to think of Four Day Hombre and Hope & Social as the same band; line up changes have meant that only the core trio of Simon Wainwright, Rich Huxley and Ed Waring remain.

For an amateur band Hope & Social are pretty prolific; since 2009 they’ve released four full length albums and two EPs. Impressive as their recorded output is, to be fully appreciated they HAVE to be seen live. An average Hope & Social concert will consist of songs constantly segueing into random cover versions and many false starts driven by banter between the band; it’s worth going for that alone sometimes.

Frustratingly they always pack out the Blues Bar which makes it a rather less than ideal venue; don’t get me wrong, it’s a great venue but you get three people in and its crowded. Ironically this allows Hope & Social to demonstrate their strength; this afternoon I found myself pressing my limbs together as much as possible to allow more space for others and (towards the end) looking longingly at the toilet door which was hidden behind a mass of bodies. However by the time the band finally left the stage I was on an almost spiritual high and didn’t want it to end. This is how I feel after a really good stadium gig and it’s how I felt at the Blues Bar this afternoon.

The role of second guitarist and vocalist of Rich Huxley sums up why this band is so good. A true student of rock, a unique and fascinating character and with an impish sense of humour to boot this guy could easily front his own band and outclass the competition. However in Hope & Social he’s a supporting player. Not only does Simon Wainwright have real presence (his put down of hecklers is legendary) but his voice is the band’s most powerful instrument. He’s technically proficient – his vocals hit the intended notes but when he lets rip, you feel that nothing else really matters. Shivers down the spine is a cliche but it will do for a tired blogger who wants to finish this review before bed. Ability to sing has never been a requirement for rock stardom, of course, and I’m currently trying to think of one of the greats who can outsing Simon Wainwright – Springsteen possibly but even he is a roaring one key wonder. That’s why Hope & Social need to be treasured.

And finally; the main reason I’ve lumped these three bands in together. All have great songs, all have image, all have their own sound. So does any half decent band. However these three bands go one step further in creating their own unique experience; and ultimately that’s the reason you go to a gig – the experience.

It doesn’t stop there.

What else do the Strangers In Paradise, Four 45s and Hope & Social experiences have in common? They’re fun. Simple as. I care about music; I’ll spread the word. If you care about music, you should do the same.

So after goodness knows how many words of AMZ waffle, maybe I should let the music do the talking. Here’s a link.

Words will never hurt me?

In the last few weeks this blogger has managed to get himself banned from the Christian Institute’s facebook page. To be fair there were better things I could have been doing with my time than trolling their page but the temptation was too much to resist. The offending post was when I responded to a comment about how wrong it was for Stonewall to refer to Christians as bigots by pointing out that gay men are routinely called much worse (queer, pouf and faggot were the words I suggested which – to be fair – the Christian Institute might not want used on their page in any context).

The Christian Institute – clearly blind to the teachings of Archbishop Tutu (not only one of the worlds most prominent Anglican clerics but a Nobel laureate and a man who stood up to a genuine evil) but who had to do some quick footwork to distance themselves from Nick Griffin. Ironically enough the whole point of Christianity is that the people of Israel were expecting a Messiah to lead them to a Godly victory but instead they got a carpenter’s son who told them to care for the sick and the poor. But I digress and there is much to discuss; however I will return to this later.

On another forum used by this blogger the site owners have recently had a clear out of users who were disrupting the forum by causing constant conflict. The message was clear; our site, our rules – you don’t play by them, you get deleted. Simple as. Again we will return to this later.

Which takes us on to the point of this blog. This year has seen an interesting scandal in public life, almost a scandal that dare not speak its name; the reason being that it’s not only hard to feel much sympathy for the `victims` but also quite dangerous to do so.

Firstly (and the most high profile example) there was Liam Stacey, the student who posted a grossly insensitive tweet about the collapse of the football Fabrice Muamba and followed it up with a series of racist insults. It later turned out that the tweets were sent from his phone while he was in a bar inebriated. His punishment was swift and decisive; he was convicted of sending a malicious communication and jailed for fifty six days. He lost his university place as well as his membership of a local rugby club. This was the very public collapse of a lad’s life. The fact that he had many friends in court supporting him were testament to his previous good character and it must be said that had he chosen to break someones nose in the bar he would have received a more lenient sentence. Breaking a butterfly on a wheel?

Next up; a seventeen year old tweeter who caused offence by saying Tom Daley had let his late father down by not winning a medal in the Olympics – to be fair it was actually a threat to drown Daley in his own swimming pool that probably led the police to his door.

Last month eighteen year old Matthew Woods was jailed for twelve weeks for posting an offensive joke about murdered five year old April Jones on facebook. Of interest here is that Woods was initially arrested for his own safety as a fifty strong mob marched on his house. The Judge in the case passed the maximum sentence possibile due to the public interest in the case, many in the public gallery cheered and (according to differing reports) Woods either smirked or choked back tears. Interestingly another man later escaped jail for an identical offence (a `joke` about the same subject), probably because the public interest wasn’t as strong. Mob justice anyone?

This week an eighteen year old man (a white man – I specify this for a reason) spent a night in the cells for posting an image of a burning poppy on Remembrance Sunday. He is currently on police bail. Here it could be argued he was making a political point: albeit one that was ill timed and misguided.

You’ll notice a trend here; young males posting stupid things on social networking sites (with either little or no malice aforethought) and finding themselves in police custody and – in some cases – prison.

One name that hasn’t come up yet is Nick Griffin (him again). In the middle of all this Mr Griffin used his twitter page to publish the address of the gay couple who had successfully sued a Christian B&B owning couple for discrimination and asking his followers to take the protest to them. Now Griffin is no fool; he stopped short of calling for violence or any other illegal activity. If any protest got out of hand he could condemn it without contradicting himself. However the implications of his action are clear to anybody with a modicum of common sense – however unlike the foolish youths above he has escaped the arm of the law.

So where is the line between a malicious communication and a controversial opinion and at what point do we cross it? This blog has condemned Andrew Jones MP as a spineless pen pusher; a comment Mr Jones (a nice man) might be offended at (or maybe not – he would be obliged to form an opinion, something he has proved himself quite incapable of doing). I consider David Cameron the most incompetant Prime Minister of the modern era – is this a malicious communication? When the time comes for Margaret Thatcher to give account to God what comments will be written about this woman who brought hardship and misery to far too many and how many people will be jailed for it?

And finally, where are Facebook and Twitter at? These are websites, not empty buildings. Do they not have moderators? If an inappropriate comment is made, delete it and warn the user. For extreme or repeated violations; delete their account and block their IP. This is what other sites have done; it’s what the Christian Institute did to me – it’s not rocket science.

This blog has limited sympathy with any of the posters/ tweeters mentioned above. However with the police and courts so blatantly misusing the Malicious Communications Act they have ceased to be pillocks and become freedom of speech marytrs. Had Nick Griffin fallen foul of the law he would surely have milked this. This law needs changing badly – but to do so would oblige us to defend racists, bigots, the uninformed and the ignorant – and that is something most people would hesitate to do.