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Something Like Breathing

You're looking at the blog page for Consider it in beta form while I test stuff.

I've dropped in and out of blogging for twenty-odd years. Been away for a while (since the social channels intruded) but just lately I've found myself wanting to say a little more. Blogging has always been more attractive to me than Facebook's temporary closed loop or Twitter's transmit-only. Here, there's room to breathe.


Thus far it’s been mostly about my obsession with songs and songwriting, but I might stray into thinking about the state of the world from time to time. We’ll see how it goes: please leave a comment if you can work out how to do it (still beta, like I said)...

I’m self-employed. Freelance and proud of it. I know that when an organisation employs me to do a job, they will expect me to adhere to the values and intentions of that organisation for as long as my contract (verbal or written) lasts.

I respect that, and I’m consequently careful who I choose to work with. But being employed - in a full-time or freelance capacity - does not prohibit me from having a private opinion, and expressing that opinion in an appropriate channel.

This is an appropriate channel. I can write what I damn well like in a blog of my own creation. Facebook is also an appropriate channel for opinion. And so is Twitter.

If I were to be banned from expressing private opinion by an organisation to which I was contracted, I would consider it a kind of enslavement.

So here’s Gary Lineker, expressing a private opinion in words that were carefully chosen. In his Twitter post, he suggested that the language used by our current government in respect of the migrant boats was ‘not dissimilar’ to that used in Germany in the 1930s.

Please note: he was comparing the language used, not the government of the day.

Please note: similar is not ‘the same as’. ‘Not dissimilar’ is even less specific.

Language matters, Lineker was tuned into it, and he was merely expressing a private opinion using a private channel. You could argue that Twitter is not private, but neither is it governed by the BBC. Or the Government.

Gary Lineker did what millions of us do every day: he reacted angrily, as a humanitarian, to a Government policy he considered immeasurably cruel.

If you disagree with that, you can use Twitter too. It’s called freedom of speech. It has nothing to do with his employed output on the BBC.

Gary Lineker is not a BBC slave. Nor are Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Alex Scott, and even Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson. Unless they’re locked into cast-iron contracts that force them to adhere to an employer’s published values and objectives, they are free to say what they like.

Just like me, in this blogpost. You can disagree with me, but you’re going to have to back that up with reasoned argument. And you’re going to have to be as careful with your language as Gary Lineker.

That’s unlike the language used by our Home Secretary and her underlings, who use a privileged position in the House of Commons to throw out red meat like ‘invasion’ and ‘100 million displaced people coming here’ on a regular basis, simply because it’s their latest move in the Great Game of Politics.

They want your votes. They’re that selfish. And they don’t give a damn where all this is leading.

Photo Jack Taylor/Getty

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This morning I tried to write a reasoned response to Braverman and Sunak's latest round of votegrubbing.

I failed. This is not going to be coherent. I’m too angry.

The rats in the sack have stopped snarling at each other and turned instead to the one thing they can agree on: beating Labour in the Great Game of Politics.

They don’t care about asylum seekers. They don’t care about migrants. They don’t care about the UK. They care only to claw back votes, and continue feeling important.

That importance puts them in a privileged position. They get the reports. They’re able to study the statistics. They talk to experts. They ought to understand the threats. If they had a modicum of intelligence (we’ll leave Gullis out of this) they would know the immigrants in the Channel are potentially the tip of the iceberg.

Let your blood run cold this bitter morning. The whole world will soon be on the move. Climate change will see to that. Migrations to the North, South, East, and West. How many people? You tell me. This is unprecedented in human history.

The billionaires are probably betting on Mars. For the rest of the human race, there are only two options: find a way to absorb migration, or run and hide (one day the migrants will be armed).

We’re not there yet, thank God. Attenborough-like, some of us can still see a tiny light blinking at the end of the tunnel. We might, through international cooperation, achieve the near-impossible and get climate change under control.

We might create national and international mechanisms that enable migration to be both controlled and empowering.

We might offer hope rather than denial. The right to work, rather than detention. The right to contribute rather than go underground.

We might learn from each other.

We might, but Braverman’s little experiment in legalese yesterday suggests the opposite. Negative, negative, negative. Step by quagmired step, we’re creating a country ruled by fear. Fear of an undefined future. Fear of difference. Fear of other human beings, because there are so many now, and they’re coming our way, and there’s so little space left on this tiny island.

Or so we are told. Not just by the racists (yes, I mean that word) but by the people who represent them in government. The important people. The players in the Great Game of Politics, who can get away with saying anything because they know how to shroud it in sloganeering and ceremony; and whose pathway leads at worst to a comfy seat in the House of Lords.

That’s their calculation. They don’t care, I’m still angry, and it’s snowing in March. A fitting metaphor for the hearts of the English.

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It’s early morning. A man is stealing out of the house, leaving a woman sleeping.

He’s dressed in railroad boots and a leather jacket. That’s all he needs.

Feeling his way in the dark, he passes some broken wind chimes.

Outside, he takes a scarf off the clothes line.

He curses the rain. The goddamn rain.

That’s it. That’s Ruby’s Arms.

Half a dozen details that break your heart. The woman’s heart is already broken.

It’s Tom Waits’ song, but it’s sung here by Patti Griffin. Beautifully. I know: this is always subjective, but it’s my favourite version. Not least because Patti utterly swerves the convention that a story told from a male point of view should be sung by a man.

It doesn’t matter a good goddamn. I dunno why. I’m not even going to offer a theory. I don’t want to break the spell. If anyone in the hive mind can explain, please leave a comment.

I do think I know where and how and why this song breaks hearts. Put it down to the details, but there's also that vocal leap again, cursing the goddamn rain.

That’s the whole story. Right there.

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