BBC, baby!

As Thabo Mbeki finally pays heed to everyone’s pleas to bring in the army in order to try and quell the xenophobic violence which has flared up across South Africa, the BBC News website quotes 6000 miles… amongst others in its 21st May article, SA Bloggers want end to violence.

Fame at last.

I am also available for bar mitzvahs, opening of local fêtes and judging this year’s Idols competition.
My rates are very competitive.

These xenophobic acts are undoubtedly a political issue. Our politicians obviously need better advice from better educated people. You could make a difference to South Africa’s future by visiting jonnyharvard.com and sending one of those political advisors to Harvard. Do it. Please.

Problems in Zim, Problems in Sheffield

Just when the poor people stuck just over the border (though admittedly a border a long, long way from me here) thought that bent elections, crooked politicians, ridiculous inflation, food shortages, violence and intimidation were the only minor issues they had to face upon getting up this morning, comes this.

Yes, according to the BBC News website, African leaders have now taken their lead from Thabo Mbeki and Mad Bob and are further conspiring against the Zimbabwean people – and not just any Zimbabwean people – some the most vulnerable: Amputees.


BBC News spells it out clearly. No arms for Zim.

I am appalled.  How are these unfortunate people supposed to find gainful employment when their prosthetic limbs are denied entry to the country over some inconsequential political spat?

Meanwhile back in Sheffield, copper theft from electricity substations is out of control, apparently.
No – wait – surely I mean Cape Town?
Hmm – this is the perfect home from home, it seems.

How did I miss Richard Hawley?

One of the most difficult things about emigrating is keeping up with things back home. Sure, you want to embrace the new lifestyle and the culture of your new home, but that doesn’t mean that you should completely lose touch with the land of your birth.

And thus, when I find myself watching Sky News and finding out about a musician I’ve never heard of – the surprise nominee for the Best Solo Male at the upcoming BRIT Awards – and he’s from Sheffield, I know I’m letting it slip a bit.

Richard Hawley is 41 years old* and has been working in music for years as a session musician for the likes of REM, Gwen Stafani, Nancy Sinatra, All Saints and Arctic Monkeys.
His first solo album came out in 2000 – long before I left the UK, but he’s achieved little commercial success. His albums to date have all had a Sheffield reference to them, including his 2007 offering Lady’s Bridge, promoted by the release of special edition Henderson’s Relish bottles. Too cool.

But it was his comments on Sheffield’s steel industry that made me laugh. He, like me, gets a little depressed and nostalgic when he goes to Kelham Island Museum. As he points out:

Working in Sheffield’s steel industry was a job that had dignity.
Can you see there being Call Centre Museums in 30 years time?

“Look, that’s where your dad plugged ‘is phone in”
“I can remember, me laptop used t’ sit rate ‘ere”

No, because those jobs don’t have dignity. No-one wants to remember them.  

As for the music – Roy Orbison meets Jarvis Cocker, Morrissey and Nick Cave. Perhaps a little Country/Folky/Pub Crooner for some, but it’s worth a listen anyway. Plenty to watch and listen to on YouTube.

I won’t mention his taste in football clubs. He has none.

* so getting on a bit… (P.S. Hi Ant! *grin*)

Whose rights – who’s right?

Did you enjoy your Valentines day?

Stupid looking pink sparkly thing on your blog? Soppy card? Chocolates? Flowers?
WAIT! You bought flowers?!?

If you’re in the USA (and a fair number of accidental tourists to 6000 miles… are) then your lovely bunch of roses probably came from Columbia or Ecuador and were grown and cut for the love of your life by exploited workers. Still, it’s better than other Columbian crops imported into the USA, I guess. Fairness in Flowers is an organisation campaigning for better rights for cut flower workers. Their page is worth a read.

Human rights organisations and campaigners do a great (if highly subjective) job of alerting us to these issues. However, I can’t help but think that their position is undermined by the odd stupid campaign thrown in, seemingly because some organisations have nothing better to do.

This week was pretty quiet, so Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, dived in to the row over the Mosquito device, dramatically calling it:

a sonic weapon directed against children and young people

and arguing that its use constitutes:

a disproportionate interference with an individual’s right to a private life

Quite a soundbite over a device whose effect is compared to “the level of irritation of going downstairs without turning off your alarm clock – you can ignore it for a couple of minutes but after five minutes it starts to get annoying.”
Woo. That’s infringing my right to watch Vuyo Mbuli in peace right there.  

Evidently, the week in which Garry Newlove was kicked to death in front of his family by a gang of teenagers after confronting them when they vandalised his car, was a little busier for Shami, despite the fact that the anti-social mob had long been causing a “disproportionate interference” with his and his family’s right to a private life.

Shami also missed the death of Mi Gao Huang Chen, beaten to death by a group of teenagers who regularly gathered outside and vandalised his takeaway shop.

I’m well aware that these incidents are rare and far more serious than the usual issue of chavs outside the local chippy, but they are the product of an escalation of that problem – one that can be prevented by using the Mosquito. For example, a South Wales shopkeeper says:

The problem we have is large gangs of youths that congregate in the entrance way – hanging around, drinking, and I know other narcotics can be involved.
It ranges from them being annoying to intimidating customers and staff to outright physical assault.
One customer has been mugged for their alcohol, and in the time I have been here there have been three occasions where someone has tried to stab me.
The problem comes and goes. When it gets bad it generally lasts for three of four weeks.
At certain times before we counted over 40 people outside the shop.

The Mosquito has reduced the problem massively. It still happens, but nowhere near the same amount. It has had a positive effect. Customers have praised us for it.

or how about this:

Gurmes Chatta, 54, runs a general dealers on Chiswick Road, Hylton Castle, an area where teenagers regularly congregate.
In recent years he has seen damage done to his shop by yobs kicking footballs and has suffered verbal abuse. But now Mr Chatta says the problems have virtually been wiped out by his Mosquito device.

I’m also well aware that more needs to be done to sort out the problem of anti-social teenage behaviour than just moving them on from trouble hotspots. But hey, it’s not a bad start.
I think Shami has missed the point. Jumping on the trendy bandwagon of criticising the Mosquito while conveniently ignoring the rights of the thousands of people whose lives are made a misery by anti-social teenage gangs is blinkered. That sort of thing puts me right off listening to anything else her lefty group has to say.
And her doing it in an irritating high pitched whine which annoys people of all ages is somewhat hypocritical.

No. Don’t ban the Mosquito. Use it wisely as part of a bigger scheme to get teenagers off the streets.

And send me one so I can enjoy the footy in peace over the weekend.
Do you perhaps have one that will deter wives from wandering in front of the screen just as a goal goes in?
That would also help.