Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Faux-Paso? I'm just a Faux-Dancer

It was mother's birthday yesterday (48) and during our lengthy discussions she probed me on an event she wants me to take part in, which in a nutshell is supervising an old time dance session in the local church. While not against my participation, i had to explain dancing isn't as easy as it looks. Her cries of "how hard can it be to teach them 1,2,3 - 1,2,3?" fell on deaf ears as i tried to explain how much of a lay-dancer i am.

When i dance a routine or "pattern" as some of our members call it, i never think of the choreography involved, nor am i particularly mindful of what direction i'm going in. Rather, i have learnt a sequence, and memorised the sequence. The sequence involved however isnt: Lock-Step, Chassis, Spin-Turn, its a series of "moves" as i call them, under the names i have chosen for them. For example, i name a move after the action it represents such as a "wehay!!" or a "cha-cha real smooth".

Further, i cannot count the dance, that is pick up the rythem and follow it, dancing on time. This is where my partner becomes useful, as she can lead me into the timing (she can actually count the dance). My brain is not particularly arty, and hence i cannot easily pick up a beat. Given the necessity to dance on time, i'm not entirely sure how mum expects me to teach this. Further, while waltz for example employs a simple 1,23-1,2,3 sequence, the Quickstep has slow-slow-quick-quick-slow. Again, as a lay-dance it is incredibly hard to count in something that isn't a sequence of numbers.

Aside from these concerns i do mostly enjoy dancing. Its something very different, although for years i wanted to give it a try. My past has been all about contact sports, aggressive acts of passion and fury that culminated in me being something of a warrior on the field. Ballroom on the other hand has little place for this kind of attributes (excluding perhaps the Paso-Doble, a dance that represents bull-fighting). Having said this however, i do manage to transfer some of personality's intensity onto the dance floor, people have observed my "smoulder" as i dance some of the Latin routines. This isn't a deliberate choice of facial expression however, instead usually my unhappiness at my partner forgetting the routine...again.

Indeed, while dancing was meant to be some light relief, giving myself a chance to compete at something without putting myself in any serious danger - i find it very difficult to compete in contact sports having split one of my vertebrae at the age of 16. While i can compete in contact sports, i always suffer from a mental road block if you will - in my comeback on the Rugby scene i never wanted to throw myself around too much.

Dancing offers a relatively pain free experience, competition does exist and is a great way to satisfy some of my alpha-male urges in trying to win competition. I would recommend dancing to anyone if they get the chance, give it a few tries and you'll start to pick it up. If not for the sporting aspect of it, join so you can observe some of the skimpiest outfits you're ever likely to see during the Latin section of the competitions.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Blink and you'll miss it...

This is a sequel to my last blog, which is effectively a documentation of my memories since 2008. However, as some TV series tend to do, they give you a cliff hanger with so many unanswered questions, which don't get answered for a good few episodes. So, in answer to "what happened on August 19th?" you'll just have to wait a little longer. This is going to be a chronicle of the things i'll miss, now i'm all grown up.

I'll be honest, the two years of sixth form flew by. Even now, i remember the Sixth Form induction week, in fact i remember having an argument with Phil about who was dressed the smartest, him or me. Given i was in Shirt and Tie, and him in Jeans and shirt, i can only assume he was trolling or something, because plainly i was the smartest. In fact, i remember one day dressing in a pretty little purple number, love Cotton Rich shirt from next (which was later ruined in a freak painting accident) and silk tie. Unfortunately my fashion-savvy choice was lost on my classmates, they drew comparisons with it to "blueberry's" and "Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate factory".

So here we go, what i'll miss:

  • Having a locker - I miss my locker, i really enjoyed having it. Like a home from home to store by bits and pieces. Some lockers were better than others of course, thankfully i always had one near the top of the stack, god forbid if i was unlucky enough to have a floor situated locker. Indeed, the Lockers were more than just storage units. They were places to socialise and rendez-vous "meet you by the lockers?" Actually....I think i still have my locker key, so really this post is kind of redundant. Since i never gave my key back, i guess my Locker in Sixth Form is still mine!
  • School Lunches - They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Indeed, i look back fondly at my year 7 school dinners, i maintain Turkey Twizzlers had a certain va-va-voom, je ne c'est quoi about them. Lunches were a bit shit from Year 8 onwards thanks to Jamie Oliver's petition, offering a pretty bland selection. Until Upper sixth that is with the arrival of Cucina as our cafeteria's maitre'd. Who could forget "Taco Thursdays"? The thing i loved most was they're flogging of unsold food. Naturally in the free periods in the afternoon you'd head up and grab a bargain. I'll never forget my Sticky Ribs in a bun for 50p :')
  • Reading in English - Yes, perhaps the most underrated aspect of School life. Hilarity was on the menu when the English Teacher would divvy up the roles in a particular play (or "Character Book" as i once referred plays as). Of course if it was a foreign play, someone (me) would have bought a different translation to everyone else which would result in some seriously disjointed reading. And of course, every now and then we were given a character to play who had an accent. Laughter. Was. Not. Contained.
  • Being the biggest and hence the best - When you arrived at sixth form, there was an unspoken rule that we ruled the roost. Whether it was free-passage down the Staff corridor, jumping the Lunch queue or being able to wear what you like, there was a telepathic agreement of something along the lines of "Shut the fuck up, child." Indeed, perhaps the best thing about being a Sixth Former was the occasional abduction of a lower school child. Yes every now and then a child would be taken from the playground and kept in the maths blook for an indeterminate amount of time.
  • Generally being a knob and getting away with it - I say this with reference again to lower school pupils. Examples: A Child walks into a classroom and asks "Do you have any spare chairs?" to which the class pipes up with "No", "Sorry We dont" and "get out". The Child promptly leaves presumably to sit cross leg'd at the front. Another Example: Everyone now and then a child would be sent to a sixth form class as punishment having been sent out, at which point we would pipe up again "You fool, what were you thinking?", "Ah mate, bet you feel like a right twat now...?" and "You fucking dickhead". At one point at Verulam School, two of us were challenged by a boy to a fight after school. Needless to say we chicken'd out.
Just a few examples of things i'll miss. Life seems less full of mischief nowadays. I have fun, but it isn't quite the same as the old days of "school mischief."

Moral of the story, enjoy it why you can.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Sex in Heathrow Terminal 5

Tomorrow i have to rise at the exceptionally early (for a lazy fella like me) time of 5:45 in order to compete at a Dance Competition in Leeds. Naturally, before any big occasion i cannot sleep, so i thought i would write a blog. Now, in light of recent events in my life, namely a break-up, i have become self reflective, so i think to myself, surely if i bore my readers with the tales about my life so far, i might be able to bore myself to sleep while writing.

I choose the starting point of my life's chronicle at Summer 2008. Why? Well at the moment i'm reading "Brown at 10" by Seldon and Lodge, and i am up to the period of Summer 2008, and while reading i took a moment to remember what i was doing at that time. Brown had just got cosy with Madleson again, having had a summer of rebellion within the Cabinet, namely David Milliband sewing the seeds to run for Leadership...

Anyway, i find myself then locked in a rather curious online-relationship. The virtues of the online-relationship have many bounds and flaws, which frankly i may have been too blind to see at the time, however, at the time i was literally head over heels in love/lust with someone i had met twice. The girl in question lived far far away, however was returning to my hometown in September, and having spent every day of the last year talking on the old MSN chat system, i could not be happier. During this time, i had developed quite an infatuation for her, I had gotten to know her very well indeed in terms of what she liked and disliked, which seemed pretty on par with me. She had returned at easter, where we spent two hours making out, to then hear in the SUmmer of 2008 she would be returning "home" i began to phrase things like "Spielburg couldn't have written it better" and "she's the one". So much was i into this person we had agreed that when we met at Heathrow, we would tear each others clothes of like animals and take each other there and then (hence the title of the blog). Needless to say, we didn't have sex at Heathrow.

By October 2008 i had realised she wasn't the one (for now) and sought pastures new. Perhaps this was a grave mistake, perhaps a bit of selfishness. Frankly, having spent most of my childhood in a quiet manner, i was riding a crest of success (or so i felt), and thought my life would be best served as an independent (I.E i wanted as much tea and cake as i could possibly stomach). During this period, relationships bloomed and withered with such frequency it became almost a habit to have a weekly falling out with someone, before making up just in time for Monday morning.

Having "done my own thing" for near enough a year, i was back on Speilbergs doorstep, and back together with my online love. This time it went a lot better, and despite the constant strain of Sixth-Form work, we kept very close and enjoyed 9 months of near enough happiness. This time it was different, rather than referring to each other as "the one" i began to say things like "we're old enough and ugly enough to make it work". First time round, our relationship was riddled with jealousy on both sides, as well as the unavoidable elephant in the room that was the idea we'd go this distance. This time round, i think we both realised that it wasn't that simple.

Now, there were periods where i believed that we would stay together through the University stage of our lives. When applying via UCAS for our course, we weren't talking and i'd go as far as to say we hated each other. Spielberg was working his magic again, and low and behold we had made the same University choices (Her second choice was my first choice). When we got back together, i got a bit weird again and thought along the lines of "If she fucks up, and i do well, despite everything we've been through we end up at the same UNI, we're meant to be".

Well, she passed with flying colours and i fucked up big time. So much so, it seemed a great possibility i wasn't going to get to Uni. I was 1 point (on the International Baccalaureate system) from getting no Sixth-Form qualifications. So much was the scale of my fuck up, it wasn't really feasible for me to re-sit, because it would take a monster effort to get anywhere near where i wanted to be. Me and a friend had loosely arranged to go and do some farm work in New Zealand (for people helped move there only that summer) before coming back and becoming furniture movers.

This prospect, unfortunately led me down a bad road. Needless to say there were tears most nights as i became very depressed. During this period, my relationship hit a snag, and we called it off, because our futures were going in different directions.

I had had an enjoyable sixth form experience. During this time i had been to Prague, Corfu and Bologna. I'd been to the FA Cup final to watch Chelsea, my team, beat Everton 2-1. Thanks to some sweet coroporate hospitality digs i got to touch the trophy and meet childhood hero Gus Poyet. I'd gotten back into rugby after a year off contact sport. But, mid-august i am truly in a rut, no idea how to get out.

Then, August-19th came along.....

Thursday, 16 February 2012

What to do with the House of Lords?

The United Kingdom's unique system of Government finds itself located in the center of London, in a little place called Westminster. So famous is our system of government, is now referred to as the "Westminster Model" when used by other countries. Dickens writes in Our Mutual Friend that "We Englishmen...are very proud of our constitution...it was bestowed upon us by providence. No other country is as lucky as us". While intended to be satirical in nature, on the contrary are now true in what they echo, i propose.

The epicenter of political activity occurs in the House of Parliament, which is perhaps the most famous legislative arena in the world (i say Legislative because the most famous Political Arena would be the White House, but i find that more administrative than a law creator that is Parliament.) It provides the make up of our bicameral legislature, that is we live our lives as a result of the decisions made in two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The House of Commons is an elected body, and is where the Prime Minister will be held accountable by the 648 MPs that sit in the Commons(The PM and Speaker of course excluded from the 650 seats in the Commons). Indeed, the Commons is favored as a political body because how it is elected, and hence in touch with the electorate when they hold MPs to account every 5 years at General Election. Decisions are constructed/made on the basis of a Party Manifesto which they were voted into government with, or as a reactionary measure. It is the epicenter of Party Politics, which as a result is the arena in which are Governed.

The House of Lords on the other hand, while just as important in the make up of our system, plays a supporting role. The Lords cannot create law. Parliament makes law, and very rarely the Commons on its own will make law, but this is very rare and tends only to relate to Bills which effect the Lords itself (hence it is not considered by the Lords).

The House of Lords is made up of 92 hereditary peers and just under 700 life peers (as well as 26 Lords Spiritual). They are all appointed to their posts, by means of either party nomination, independent Appointments Commission, or by virtue of Birth (Hereditary). Life Peers which make up the majority of the Lords Composition are said to be experts, hence their admission to the Lords.

The House of Lords however lives in a curious state of flux. All party's seem to agree that it should be replaced by a system of elected members, much like the United State's upper House, the US Senate. This is a bad idea, and here's why.

In order to best discuss my beliefs on the Lords, i'm going to break it down now into areas which need to be addressed.

  • Legitimacy - One of the most frequent of all criticisms of the Lords is its "legitimacy." I'd recommend taking a moment and considering what this means. In terms of what people think/want it to mean, it would be better referred to as being "democratically legitimate". As an unelected body the decisions it makes arguably should bear no importance because it is an unelected legislative chamber. As aforementioned, it does not "make law", instead uses its expertise (since the introduction of life peers) to amend, comment and debate on the Bills which originate from the Commons. The Lords may introduce a Bill, but it cannot "make law" on its own, it must go through the Commons in order to gain Royal Ascent, which in theory would give democratic legitimacy to any Bill that was introduced by the Lords. By extension, the Civil Service plays a key role in policy development, but they are unelected/anonymous in their role, does that make the Civil Service illegitimate?
  • Its Function - This follows on nicely from the last point. While not democratically legitimate, it IS legitimate in its output. Some, including myself, argue that its output legitimacy is justification for keeping the Lords as it is. Because the Lords have no constituency duties, this allows for much more time to get things done. As a result, debates can last longer and cover more ground. Further, because Lords have more time, they can sit on the relevant Select Committee (according to their area of expertise). The work of Lords Select Committees is indispensable in the process of Law making. In the last full length session to have data published (2008-2009 [2009-2010 shortened by general election]) the Lords tabled over three thousand amendments to Bills as a result of their Select Committees. The Scrutiny of Bills is a vital part of our democracy, and the Lords' role in it is wholly important.
  • Composition - Again, moving nicely on to its composition. As of the House of Lords Act 1999, the Lords now sits with only 92 hereditary peers. Formally, the Lords only sat by virtue of a birth right. Now, the vast majority are Life Peers, given their status as a Lord for Life on the basis of their achievement. Lord Rees for example, sits on the Science and Technology Select Committee by virtue of his expertise in the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics, having won prizes in his field and taught at Oxbridge. The idea is that if anyone has a justification to comment on Bills and suggest amendments, its the experts in the Lords rather than the Party Politicians in the Commons. Given the Lords is now made up of many Cross-Benchers, there is no longer an overall majority in the Upper House. This means that Governmnets passage through Parliament now has a hurdle in the way, called the Lords. In other words, in order for a Bill to get through the Lords, it must appeal to more than just its minority members to get through. (It is also important to note, that on issues of manifesto policy [the manifesto being the basis of which a Government is eleced] the Lords do not reject the bill. This is called the Sailsbury convention).
  • Weak Powers - realistically, the Lords cannot do much in terms of Governing. Ats biggest job is scrutiny, rather than initiation of Bills. They cannot reject manifesto Bills, hence their power really only lies in the rejection of any reactionary Bills it considers or in their delaying of a Bill. Bills (most of the time) will be struck down if they are not passed by the end of the session, hence if they delay a bill it might not pass. This is really their best hand in competing with the Commons.
In reforming/replacing the Lords, the is speculation that some form of Elected Senate is the best idea if we are to have continued use of a bicameral system. However, principle questions such as "what role would it play?", "would it rival the commons?" and "On what basis to people stand for election?". The "rivalry" question is the most important, where would it fit within our constitutional framework? If it continues to the be the "upper house" and gains democratically legitimate status, surely its powers (already weak) would have to be lowered even more considerably in order to confirm its status as a subordinate. Otherwise, Bills would bounce back and forth, with potential for a Power Struggle within Westminster?

I propose therefore that we keep the Lords as it is. We continue to allow the Lords to play the supporting role it has, and continues its vital scrutiny work. In a recent Seminar (with Lord Norton) we asked the question would you retain/reform/replace/remove the House of Lords. The same question was asked across three different 12 person groups. All but 1 voted for retain.

I welcome comments/questions on the matter, and again i ask the question: Retain, Reform, Replace or Remove?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Religion is a curious subject for me, typically i find myself lost in a world of differing opinions, where in this particular case i seem to stand alone in my beliefs. This blog has been put together in response to Baroness Warsi's claims about Religion today in the Daily Telegraph. You can read it here. I'd just add this probably will not come out at all as a coherent or persuasive argument, it is more comments about my point of view with regard to Warsi's comments.

I disagree with referring to how Religion seems to be viewed as "totalitarian" (surely choice to reject the notion of religion is the opposite of totalitarian) , I do agree that religion and a religious voice(s) should have a seat at the policy table.

Warsi's comments came in light of a the High Court ruling prayers are not lawful practice within Local Council meetings. I have no problem with prayers before a meeting of minds providing they are not forced upon people to partake in them. Providing freedom of expression and freedom of faith is maintained within this country, the practice of praying in a public meeting should perhaps be now: "arrive at the meeting five minutes early should you want to pray, before we begin at 9am." Parliament, the arena in which the UK is governed, begins each day with prayer, it is not forced upon MPs. The practice begins with the doors being open to those who wish to take part in joint prayers within the chamber. The doors are then closed as prayers take place. Once finished, the doors are opened again and the Parliamentary day proper begins.

The comments also come in light of a recent story that public sector workers are banned from wearing a Cross at work. I'd perhaps echo comments made by my former head of Sixth Form and suggest that while what you were is your choice, it should be chosen so not to offend others around you. While we can make comparisons such as "what is the difference between wearing a cross on a chain and a swastika on a chain?" I make the case that, while inevitably some will find a cross or a star of David just as offensive as a swastika, the choice of symbol you wear is yours and yours alone, and while free to wear it you should respect the environment you are in so as to protect the dignity of the wearer and those around you. However, if we live in a society where one is wholly offended by a religious symbol as to ban it, then i simply would not know what to say, put it that way.

Now, i have read many opinion and comment recently that religion and the state should not mix. However, what does this mean? Does this mean religion should hold no position in the designing of public policy? Surely the leader of a Political party and his election manifesto team should thus be atheist in order to truly separate religion and the state? Or do we go further and say that any sort of religious mind clearly bastardises polity in all dimensions, hence we ban the religious from voting altogether? (of course not i hear you cry). Given in the 2001 census over 71% of people claimed to have a religion perhaps there is the need to give religion a seat at the very least on the Kids table.

When debunking the role of religion, i get wholly uncomfortable because i ask, what are the alternatives? Take the teachings found in religion, morality, how to behave and all of this. Put simply in one camp you have people like myself who respect things that can be learnt from religious texts. In the other camp you have people who will argue that you do not have to be religious to be moral or a good citizen (by good i mean you do not break the law). Presumably in the latter camp, rather than learning it from the Bible for example, you learnt it from the development of etiquette conventions or the common law?

I would propose that the two camps (learn from religion/learn from society) have ties, namely one takes is teachings from a divine individual(s) and the other takes it teachings from divine individual(s). For the purpose of this argument, i'd suggest that doing "right" is to abide by the law of a country. In the UK (fundamentally) the law comes from statute or the common law. Statute has been developed over hundreds of years in Parliament by well to do individuals (not divine but near enough as) and by the judges (who are again are not divine at all, but hold a position in society which makes them near enough as). I hope you see what i am trying to get at, that whether society is based on religious text, or public policy and the common law, it comes regardless from a sources very distant to the common man, in either spiritual sense or socio-economic sense.

The point here is that while debunking religion seems to be the order of the day these days, i consider it grossly unfair to sideline it altogether. I've spent a long time on this blog, and i've lost my way a little bit, so i'm going to leave it here and open it up for comment and then if needs be i'll write a sequel.

(As is my policy, i like to have a picture for my blogs, and rather than choosing a symbol of religion or Baroness Warsi as my picture i went for something close to my heart, Cans of Red Bull <3 )