Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tank Life!

Just a quickie tonight that probably won't interest most people, but a bit of blatant self-promotion never goes amiss in my book (or blog, or whatever.)

As those of you who read the blurb at the top of the blog will know, I am a keen amateur fishkeeper and it struck me that given the speed at which things change in the two (soon to be three) cycled tanks that I own, it would be nice to keep a record of those fish that I had, to remember those sold or given away, and track the progress of those growing at any time. The things that I see every day, the stories that develop in the most unlikely fashion, are as absorbing to me as any soap opera.

But I digress. I have a new blog: http://thatsmytank.blogspot.com. If you're interested at all in my hobby or just want to check out how things are going with my fish, from now on that will be the place to look.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Getting Somewhere: Dove & Boweevil

Four Thousand Words is delighted to take a break from it's usual defeatist Marxist polemic to advertise a pair of frankly superb musicians from the local area who deserve a wider audience.

The Norwich-based acoustic blues duo Dove and Boweevil are comprised of vocalist Lauren Dove and guitarist Mark 'Boweevil' Howes. They launched their first album, 'Getting Somewhere' at the Norwich Arts Centre last Wednesday and anyone who was fortunate enough to step inside the building during the gig could have been forgiven for thinking they had stepped inside a voodoo palace on the banks of the Swannee.

Dove's vocals slip seamlessly between smoky, sensual and surly, and are the perfect complement to Howes' twanging delta guitar. In the first minute of 'Lady Lavoo' you could close your eyes and see the smoke rising over the banks as the steamboats rolled out onto the Mississippi.

The band were initially labelled 'Religious' in error on iTunes but you wonder if there was an element of tongue-in-cheek decision-making on the part of the Apple staff member who classified them.

Watching them play live is an incredibly absorbing experience - Dove seeming to sing every word to you as intimately as if it was intended for you personally, while the Boweevil is seemingly oblivious to the presence of the crowd, a man who would be as happy strumming away to himself under an empty sky.

A Dove and Boweevil concert feels like a shared journey through a raw, untempered sound from the heart of the Deep South to a cultured freedom where the horizon drifts away forever and anything at all is possible.

Videos of two of the songs taken from the album can be found below:

Sun Goes Down

Vague Man

The album 'Getting Somewhere' can be downloaded from their page at CD Baby. I would recommend it particularly to anyone who loves acoustic music, but these guys are friendly, hard-working and highly-talented, and I can honestly say that their album really does have something for everyone.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Justice for Ian Tomlinson!

I have been waiting a long time to do a piece on the G20 summit protests of 2009 and as the enquiry has opened into the death of newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson, this seems to me to be the perfect time to raise the profile of the incident and call for everyone to carefully study the circumstances surrounding the case.

On 1 April 2009, Ian Tomlinson had been selling newspapers in London at the time of the G20 summit protests. At approximately 7.15pm, Tomlinson encountered a police line upon trying to take his usual route home and was turned away by officers. Those same officers would later accuse Tomlinson of obstructing the police line, which was the basis for the events that would follow.

As Tomlinson walked away from the police line with his back to officers and his hands in his pockets, PC Simon Harwood first struck the father-of-nine across the left thigh with his extendible baton. Immediately afterwards, the officer then thrust the full weight of his body into Tomlinson's back, throwing him to the floor.

The events were filmed by an American investment fund manager, who passed the footage to the Guardian the next day. He claimed that he had stopped filming immediately after the event because he was scared that the police might react violently to seeing him film. The footage was subsequently placed on YouTube and can be found by clicking here.

Tomlinson received no assistance from police as he lay in the street - those same officers who had been involved in the assault upon him later shamefully claimed that it was protesters who had prevented him from receiving medical assistance. Conflicting reports subsequently suggested and then denied a head injury that he suffered upon hitting the floor and how dazed he seemed as he walked away.

Tomlinson collapsed less than five minutes later and died.

When footage of the incident appeared in the press, The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) opened a criminal inquiry. Subsequent inconsistencies in post-mortem reports meant that a cause of death could not be agreed on. Tomlinson was known to be a heavy drinker and cirrhosis of the liver was cited as a potential cause, along with the possibility of a heart attack or internal bleeding following the impact when he was thrown to the floor.

PC Harwood came to court earlier this month with a promise that he would not face criminal proceedings as a result of any evidence that he gave at the enquiry. He responded by saying that he wished to do all that he could to try to help. It is small wonder that members of Tomlinson's family left the courtroom as Harwood admitted that Tomlinson was not a threat, and that he struck him for the 'almost defiant' nature of his stance. In complete contrast to the evidence that can be clearly viewed by anyone who watches the video, Harwood then scandalously claimed that Tomlinson 'invited confrontation'.

While the emotive language of death and murder is thrown around with abandon in the media, it cannot be said that Harwood was directly responsible for Tomlinson's death. However, the evidence clearly raises massive concerns about the role of officers in the incident and highlights Harwood's reckless aggression in dealing with Tomlinson. The forthcoming misconduct hearing with the Metropolitan Police may well see the end of Harwood's career, but delays on the part of the Crown Prosecution Service have prevented him from being charged with actual bodily harm in the manner that he so clearly deserves.

The inquiry will reopen debate about the traditional model of policing by consent in the UK, highlighting as it does the continued breakdown of relations between the public and the police forces, particularly when policing large-scale protests within London. If it wishes to regain public confidence, the Metropolitan Police should begin by throwing the book at PC Harwood for the cowardly thuggishness that he showed towards Ian Tomlinson on 1 April 2009.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

I'm going to be a dissenting voice today. It's okay to have a blog and give people my opinions, but realistically if I don't want this page to become a pro-Labourite Tory-bashing page, I have to present an alternative viewpoint where I see one.

Today, the point I will be considering is this: I frequently get upset by the half-truths and absolute garbage that is fed to the British people by such execrable rags as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail. However, it is reasonable to expect that the liberal press will take every opportunity to push forward their own agenda and it stands to reason that their tactics will be the same as those newspapers I mentioned before. By separating fact from conjecture on the anti-government side of the debate, we benefit from strengthening our arguments.

The story that prompted this thought process was written by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and can be found here. I won't discuss the story at length, except to say that it focuses on the many ways in which projected growth in the economy has failed to meet expectations. However, if I blindly accept this as the truth, I am no better than those Daily Mail readers who accept that immigration is the cause of all the problems in the UK.

How does one person measure the true story of fiscal strength in the UK? Commodity prices have certainly increased, based on the increased price of my weekly shop. But inflation will do that, and we have become so used to inflation at ridiculously- low levels in the UK that this could just be part of the normal rise-and-fall of the economic cycle. Yes, consumer confidence certainly appears to be low and spending on luxury items has decreased. But is this just good sense on the part of the informed consumer, who responds warily to the word 'recession' by paying off debts rather than seeking to incur more?

There are many different viewpoints on the above and based on my experience of those so-called experts that you see on the television and read in the news, they are no better informed than most of the rest of us. This may not even be such a bad thing. More power to your elbow if you take the time to learn about your own crisis, because you are better prepared to deal with it when you are working from a position of genuine knowledge and understanding.

When the government first proposed cuts to public sector jobs, I was the first person on my feet opposing the move. Now, you can argue that public sector cuts are necessary or not, but the pertinent fact for me is that I am a public sector worker and my first instinct is to defend my job. David Cameron then said that people who had lost their jobs in the public sector would be easily re-employed as a result of the thousands of jobs that would be created by the private sector. Rubbish, scores of voices boomed, my own among them. I'm working from a gut instinct that the private sector is suffering terribly from the cuts in the same way that the public sector is. But how do I know? I see no evidence to suggest the economic growth that would be necessary for such job creation to begin, but how can I be sure which way the wind will blow tomorrow? Who would I work for if I didn't work for the public? Tesco? Would that even be such a bad thing? I might have more responsibility, earn more, make them a better supermarket for my being there.

So, there are simply too many unknowns, and watching George Osborne with his hand on the tiller of the HMS Future Prosperity, I am hoping that his view is clearer than mine. Sadly, I suspect that that is not the case. Gambling with your own future is fine, especially when if everything goes wrong, you will have millions in a trust fund to fall back on. For those of us who do not have such a safety net, we may become ever more reliant upon our quick wits and fate dealing us a good hand.