All a matter of opinion!

Photo by Sathesh D on

Quite recently I posted an opinion on a thread on another site. A tv series had finished and I had found it dull, and unimaginative and found that the cast lacked chemistry. Of the 300 plus postings, only mine and a few others, were less than whole-heartedly complimentary towards the series.

I was giving my opinion.

But the backlash was incredible.

“Don’t watch it then,” screamed one. “There’s an off button!” yelled another. I got told that I was ‘sad’ and ‘pathetic’ and that why was I watching it if I hated it so much?

I pointed out a number of things in response. I said that I had once really enjoyed the series and had been hopeful of a return to its former glories. I asked how I could give an opinion without watching it? Surely I had to watch it to be able to comment on it?

At no point did I deride others for enjoying it. At no point did I laugh at them and tell them they must be daft or sad or pathetic for enjoying it so much. They enjoyed it and I didn’t…and that was the problem they had.

Aren’t I allowed an opinion? I asked. Not when it’s dumb, I was told. Not when its obvious bait. But that was missing the point of my inquiry.

Life is about opinions. We have them on films, books, politics, religion,- you name it, we have an opinion on it, so being told that just because mine was contrary to theirs was very frustrating. Being told my opinion was wrong was frustrating, especially when it was MY opinion and nobody else’s. The keyboard warriors were out in full force, attacking me and berating me for daring to have an alternative viewpoint.

And that made me sad. I never poked fun at them for liking it. Never said they shouldn’t like it. Never tried to impose MY opinion on them. I felt censored, I felt that I was being told to conform, that no opinion other than an agreed-upon positive spin would be tolerated. And that made me mad.

Life is about opinions. Opinions allow us to have a discourse about any number of matters. Yes, it can be about persuading someone that your view is correct but its also about celebrating difference and appreciating that we aren’t all sheep, just baaa-ing along with the same theme.

I get it that people don’t like contrary viewpoints but either accept them, politely disagree or move on. Don’t bully people and gang up on them. If their opinion doesn’t harm you or any group that is subject to harassment and discrimination, then just get on with your lives, don’t start a fight just because you like A and I don’t.

It’s all a matter of opinion, so why can’t I have mine?

Why Germany have to change if they want to succeed again

Photo by Ingo Joseph on

Germany deserved to miss out. Germany deserved to go home.

I’ve always loved German football and supported Germany because my favourite players have been German and since most people in England loathed them and were jealous of their success, I decided to support the underdog.

And these days they are very much the underdog.

Ignore the fact that Werner and Wirtz and Reus were injured or that Draxler and Goosens were deemed surplus to requirements and concentrate on what we know about what happened.

Neuer, the often hailed keeper, is a poor shadow of what he once was. Yes, he can make some astonishing saves but they fall in between increasing errors (Costa Rica’s first) and a general lack of commitment. Some of the goals he concedes are embarrassing.

Defensively, Germany are terrible. Rudiger is still a class act but he shares defensive duties with Sule, the lumbering 6’6″ sometime right back or centreback who is average in both roles. Then there is David Raum, an immobile left back and Schlotterbeck, another lumbering centre-half who just isn’t very good. Or else there’s Ginter (who is okay) and Tah (also okay but not selected). There’s a real lack of presence there and Rudiger apart, I wouldn’t have any other of those named defenders in my squad.

In midfield we have Gundogan. Great for Manchester City but far too cautious and slow when in German colours. Then there is KImmich, who also fills in at right back, as ineffective player as I have ever seen. Raved about, apparently world-class, but totally anonymous and unable to stamp his authority on anything. I do like Goretzka because he’s box to box and looks committed but why Julian Brandt, a dynamic young player never got a look in is quite beyond me.

Up front, Flick got it horribly wrong. Havertz was anonymous against Japan but is a talent. Muller, on the other hand, has been a great servant but is past it and well past it. He missed a huge chance against Costa Rica and that was all he did of note. Fullkrug scored goals but did he get a start? Of course not. There was barely any room for Moussoko bar a few minutes vs Japan and Adeyimi, another fleet-footed attacker, never kicked a ball in anger. Why they bothered to travel is beyond me.

The one shining light was Musiala. In all three matches he showed skill, composure, work ethic and desire sorely lacking in several of his team mates. He really looked the part.

I don’t rate Hofmann or Klostermann that highly and it is clear that Germany is now suffering from a dearth of talent beyond a small pool of players who will take Germany on. They still have Gnabry and Sane, Werner, Havertz, Moussoko, Adeyimi, Nmecha, Musiala, Wirtz and Fullkrug, at least for the next couple of years but they need to find a midfield and defence to complement their attacking options. They need the next Neuer, the next Lahm, the next Mertesacker and the next Kroos.

I can’t see them. I can’t see them in their under 21s or under 20s. Players who I have watched and liked in the past seem to have vanished, their races run, their abilities found wanting.

I am sure Germany will rise again and in their place we will look to a golden age of English talent to dominate the next 4-6 years. But watch this space, Germany can’t get much worse and one day, just when we think it’s all over, they’ll be back.

Let’s talk about the music

In my last blog I talked briefly about some of the music I listen to as I write and it struck me how my musical tastes have changed over the years.

Long gone are the days in which I listened to the charts or the radio to find new acts to listen to, now it seems that YouTube offers me a greater opportunity to discover music as whenever I log in I seem to have a video by someone I’ve not heard of, on my recommended list.

And YT is excellent at paying attention to what I listen to and suggesting artists of a similar ilk. Thus Mono Inc led me to Lords of the Lost and Arch Enemy led me to Parkway Drive.

That’s not to say that everything I hear is good. I probably turn off more than 50% if there isn’t a melody to catch me and draw me in or I feel that the artist is no better than anything else in their genre. I have a limited capacity for musical types and therefore discard a lot of what I hear as just not being interesting enough.

Some of what I enjoy, bizarrely to some, is stuff I’d not envisaged enjoying five years ago. Screaming vocals where you can’t distinguish the words were never my bag, but now I’ve come to appreciate what they can do when surrounded by the right backing.

I still rely on bands I’ve liked for many years to come up with the goods but now they, like me, are ageing and in some cases are no longer active and I realise that they, like me, must fade away. Yet I always want them to be young again and to produce new music for me to love. It breaks my heart to know I’ll never hear a new Rush album.

And so I find myself a new set of artists to listen to. Kiss, Rush, Dio etc are gone but now Volbeat, Mono Inc, Lords of the Lost etc, will take their place. There will always be room for the oldies, the classics, but time waits for no man. And the music will play on long after I’m here to listen to it.

The Written Word

Photo by Pixabay on

I have decided to try and read more. Yes, I had said it before and failed miserably but I am determined to try again.

I find it hard to discover something that is compelling to read, especially these days when life seems so manic or my brain finds it so manic and I have this streak of impatience that makes reading more effort than it once was. I find that I read one word in three or four or that I skip pages because nothing is happening to keep me interested.

I yearn for the days of my youth. I long for the days of a new Michael Moorcock, a new David Eddings or a new Dean Koontz; authors whose work I devoured and loved. These days I can’t say the same and have to be honest and say that I can’t recall the last series of books that piqued my interest.

I see new titles in the bookshop and read the blurb on the back but the stories sound the same and perhaps I have had my fill of dragons and magic and books that will only remind me of ‘Game of Thrones’. I read thrillers but don’t feel thrilled by them and crime novels seem two a penny.

This is not to knock hard-working authors who deserve all the success they achieve, but just to say that what they write is not to my taste. I am sure some of it is wonderful and some of it very good but if I’m not feeling it then I’m not feeling it and when I part with my hard-earned cash then I want it to be for something I am going to value and enjoy. If I can do that without my brain playing silly buggers.

So I have invested in two books. “Persians: The Age of the Great Kings” by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones and “Tutankhamun’s Trumpet: The Story of Ancient Egypt in 100 Objects” by Toby Wilkinson. Two weighty tomes that I hope will reignite the reading fire in my belly. Two books covering topics, Iranian history and Ancient Egypt, that are very interesting to me.

I hope I can read them. I want to read them. I want to recapture the simple enjoyment of reading.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

When entertainment fails to entertain

Are you like me? Do you have a thousand television channels but struggle to find anything worth watching on any of them?

Or you find that what you do want to watch is on another subscription channel and you don’t want to pay for another service that you may only use once or twice.

I spend fruitless evenings struggling to find something that captures my imagination or that I can rely on to keep me occupied and not wandering to my iPad every few minutes. I record programmes and start watching them only to find that the presenter annoys me or the programme was actually filmed in the 1960s and is out of date with a grainy picture and truncated image in these days of 4K technology.

I struggle valiantly with ‘Silent Witness’, a programme that is now so far fetched it might almost be a comedy rather than a police/forensic procedural, full of ridiculous coincidences and people doing what they want when they want regardless of the consequences. I struggle because there are no alternatives, at least not to my tastebuds which are not going to find relationship/family dramas palatable.

And don’t get me started on the standard of comedies these days. So-called sitcoms that are based on insults, coarse humour and generally insulting one section of the population or another rather than being generally funny with things called jokes in them. How I miss the golden age of comedy.

I pay for thousands of channels that I don’t need but have to purchase them because there are some channels I want and you have to have a package rather than paying for individual channels. So to get the Sport I have to have this or that package which is expensive and annoying and even within the sport channels there are various channels I have zero interest in so even that is a rip-off. It’s a very dispiriting state of affairs especially when you can expect price increases of roughly 8% this year…if you are lucky.

Perhaps I am jaded. Perhaps I was spoilt by the good drama and clever comedy of my youth. That’s not to say there aren’t good programmes out there but they are the kind I stumble across by accident rather than have actively planned to watch. I would never have seen ‘Alice in Borderland’, ‘Kingdom’ or ‘Squid Game’ if I hadn’t stumbled on them by accident. Nor ‘Raised by Wolves’, ‘Bordertown’ or ‘The Chesnut Murders’.

And then there’s ‘The Wheel of Time’. That is a series I did look forward to only to be less than impressed by the shoddy dialogue and less than inspiring acting by a cast who looked as though they would rather be elsewhere and who had no clue about the story. I can only hope that both ‘House of the Dragon’ and ‘The Rings of Power’ do not disappoint. But I won’t hold my breath.

So tonight I will try once more to find something to watch. Try and probably fail. I would love to be entertained and perhaps you are? I hope so but for me the search will go on. Wish me luck.

Johnny and Amber

When Johnny wins his case, as I am 99.9% certain he will, Amber will be vilified and subjected to a level of abuse that’s rarely seen. It’s already happening with the keyboard warriors who foam at the mouth every time she opens hers and have become experts in reading body language and how to tell if someone is telling lies.

I have read a huge amount of posts which have bordered on the truly vile and shocking. Posts from rational people, I’m sure, who cannot bear to believe that Darling Johnny ever did anything wrong. They leap to his defence and use every word they can think of to tell Amber exactly what they think of her. And then they add a few more just in case she doesn’t get the message.

I’m not saying she hasn’t lied. I’m not saying she hasn’t embellished or imagined or created incidents. But I think their therapist had it right when very early on he said that it was a ‘mutually abusive’ relationship. Amber has a temper. Johnny drinks too much and takes drugs. She takes drugs. It’s a volatile mixture and a relationship in which both sides could and should have behaved better.

Johnny is far more popular. That’s why he will win. He is better known. That’s why he will win. This isn’t a case where truth will because I suggest the truth is hidden beneath layers of lies, false memories and the damage that drugs and alcohol do to a person in altering their reality. Does Johnny honestly recall what he did in every drink or drug fuelled binge?. I very much doubt it.

And for all Ambers lies and embellishments, what about Johnny and his ‘act’ in the witness box?. The nods, the winks, the smirks; the look at me, I’m famous and you love me; all what I would expect from an actor and in the same way I find Ambers tears cloying and false I get the impression that they are both acting and that parts of their evidence are very carefully ‘stage managed’ .

Only they know the truth of their relationship. That’s if they can actually remember it through the layers of substance abuse that both seem to have dabbled in.

I don’t side with either. I’d rather they went on with their lives and were happy together or apart without the necessity to air very dirty laundry in public.

But that’s just me. All I would say is that when Johnny wins, just remember that nothing good will come out of this. A rich person will get richer and a reputation will be damaged, perhaps irreparably. If the jury have any sense then whoever wins should just get a single cent but it’s America so that won’t happen.

I wish it hadn’t happened at all.

My favourite tv of 2020

An unusual blog post for me but hey, it might catch on (It won’t)

So, what have been the best things I’ve watched this year?. Well, mainly Netflix have landed me some gems but there are a couple of old favourites in this list as well…so, in no particular order..

1 Raised by Wolves.

Ridley Scott’s Sci-fi drama about children being raised by Android parents. With an amazing turn by Amanda Collin as ‘Mother’ and a fine supporting cast including Travis Fimmel of ‘Viking’s’ fame, it’s a stunningly shot series worth watching.

2 Alice in Borderland

This Netflix series is, I believe, Japanese in origin and follows three men thrust into a world where you have to play increasingly sinister games in order to survive. Violent, surprising, intriguing and only 8 episodes long, you won’t be bored with it.

3 Still Home

Another Netflix series, this (at times) gruesome series is Korean and follows a group of survivors in a block of apartments, trapped when the outside population, and some inside, turn into monsters. There are some genuinely emotional hits as well as characters you’ve come to like succumb to this condition.

4 Kingdom

Yes it’s Netflix again and it’s Korean again. A gruesome zombie series set in the 17th century?. That’s a guess. Full of action and left wide open for a third series. Here’s hoping.

5 Bosch

Amazon Primes fantastic police drama featuring Titus Welliver as the eponymous ‘hero’. Based on the books by Michael Connolly, it’s a well constructed tale of a driven cop, willing to bend the rules to get what he wants. Fine acting from Welliver, Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick amongst others.

6 The Repair Shop

Probably doesn’t need much introduction this but BBCs show which promotes the amazing talents of some of the country’s finest restorers is just marvellous television. Emotional, full of genuine amazement and gob smacking repairs, it’s worth an hour of anyone’s time. And yes it’s genuinely moved me to tears at times.

7 Scandinavian ‘police’ shows

Lumping a few together here. Bordertown, Cardinal, Wallander, Young Wallander to name but a few. Stunning photography, breathtaking landscapes, gritty tales full of intrigue and acting of the highest standard. It’s hard to think of a genre that I find more compelling and I’m not a fan of ‘cop’ shows. I never saw Wallander originally but Kenneth Branagh is superb in the title role.

8 The goes wrong show

Utterly brilliant and inspired. These ‘plays’ where everything goes wrong are an absolute joy. Deliciously clever, genuinely laugh out loud, the series was an undoubted highlight during a grim year.

And one flop…

Friday Night Dinner!

Oh I so wanted a comedy on this list but the dearth of decent sit comes rumbles on. FND was my favourite of recent times and I have laughed out loud at several episodes but Series 6 was utterly dreadful. Gone were the familiar catchphrases and the quirky characters and situations to be replaced by formulaic writing and uninspired, going through the motions episodes. Such a let down after such highs!.

And there it is. I’m sure I’ve missed one or two and I’m not even sure I saw a couple of these this year but hey, it’s been a strange one.

What’s in a picture: Number 8

Highly strung?

This is one of my pride and joys.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t play..I can strum a few chords and that’s about it, knock out the main riff to ‘Smoke on the Water’ or the fingery bit at the start of ‘Thunderstruck’ but can’t play ‘seriously’ to save my life.

It’s just another example of something I wanted to be good at but either dud t have the patience for or wasn’t very good at…probably a combination of both. I’ve always been pretty useless at anything creative and guitar requires coordination…of which I have none.

But I won’t part with her. Still at 54 I get these moments when I see myself strutting my stuff on stage and if you don’t have dreams then why bother living eh?.

Let’s ban the Cult of Celebrity in 2019!

Let’s start the New Year as we mean to go on.

Let’s stop the pointless hero worship and fawning over “celebrities”. Whoever they are. Almost anyone it would seem. Tho’ not me.

Twitter, on which I have vented my spleen about celebrity in the last, stills see fit to recommend I follow the accounts of such people!. If it’s not Ant and Dec, or one of them, then it’s Holly Willoughby infesting my timeline. Holly Willoughby! No doubt she is a perfectly pleasant individual but what, pray, has she done ?

Yes she’s appeared on “Falling on Ice in a terribly embarrassing manner” in a white dress which amply demonstrated her, err, ample assets but..well..what does she do?!?!

She, and she is not alone, are treated like some sort of hero.

Each tweet or social media comment is retweeted with no actual consideration of what is actually said. They get told they are wonderful, “talented” (insert fit of coughing here!) and that they are role models! How ?. Why ?.

They have money. They get nice clothes because people want to see their designs on tv so flatter the “celeb” in order that their clothes get promoted. They fine dine for free because of their reputation!.

Are they surgeons? Firefighters? Policemen and women ? Doctors ? Nurses ?.


They are not brave. They are not conscientious. They are not working in filthy conditions, for long hours, for low pay.

Yet their every move; every comment, is held up as an example of how we should live our lives.

And it should not be.

Most are in the right place at the right time. A lucky break for a pretty face.

And if I sound jealous then, sorry to disappoint, but I am not. I just cannot understand how normally sensible people go all light headed when Holly, Phil, Dec, the one who crashes into cars when he’s had too much to drink or any others from Chelsea, Essex, somewhere up North or an other “reality” star opens their gob or steps out their front door.

In @ world where, it seems, almost anyone can be a “celeb” I’d ask you to start thinking in 2019. Ask yourself what these people bring to your lives. Ask yourself why you admire them and why they deserve the adulation you heap upon them.

Then draw back and look at the unsung heroes. Aspire to better. Be better.

Let’s can this cult.

Let’s stop celebrity in its tracks.

Music through my life.

Age 8 ? – My sister, who was 14, was an avid listener to the Top 40 on the radio. Through her I was introduced to a wide variety of artistes which, when I think of them today, evoke a whiff of nostalgia. I recall the likes of Roxy Music, Kate Bush in her “Wuthering Heights” prime, Boney M and, before child abuse and paedophilic behaviour was exposed, Gary Glitter and his Glitter Band (who had some catchy songs in their own right).

Age 11 – The Shadows. I have no idea how I came to get “into” The Shadows but my mother was a huge Cliff Richard fan so it may have been that which first introduced me to them. I was a fan for many years and now and again I dig out their “20 Golden Greats” to recapture days of yore.

Age 16 plus – Heavy Metal. It’s strange that a genre that has become my favourite type of music (and it’s a very large and diverse genre) was discovered by accident. Nobody introduced me to it and I think, though the passage of time blurs memories, that it was having a radio in my bedroom at home that started it all.

I recall flicking through the channels and coming across Tommy Vances ” Friday Rock Show” which aired after my bedtime (I was living with my parents who had strict views on such things) so I listened to it under my bedcovers.

The music was unlike any I had heard before. My father had a particular loathing of “loud” music and anything involving guitars so music that tested those boundaries was quickly switched off.

The music was raucous and loud, it was fast, aggressive and heavy yet, beneath the raging torrent there was enormous skill and ear catching melody and I recall scribbling notes of bands and songs I enjoyed so I could look out for them in HMV.

Age 20 – First concert. Michael Schenker at the Bristol Colston Hall.

October 1986. A cold and dreary evening outside but a loud (I didn’t know concerts were that loud) and amazing spectacle inside in the company of the blond haired, leather jacketed, trademark black and white Gibson Flying V playing German sensation with his panache for melody.

Age 29 – Perhaps it was maturity or perhaps it was the fact I was signed off work for 6 months through ill health that started me in my next musical adventure.

I was living in Bournemouth at the time and one day, casually flicking through the CDs at HMV, I came across a very cheap recording of Beethovens “Emperor” Piano Concerto. I wasn’t into classical music by any means but I did recall this piece of music from a childhood vinyl owned by my parents and so I purchased it and took it home.

I was instantly transported by the richness of the music. The lush melodies, the huge sound and the consummate skill of the soloist. I suppose I fell in love with the piano there and then and over the next 6 months I amassed quite the collection of piano concertos.

Of course piano concertos are but a small part of the genre so I expanded my audio repertoire. Violin concertos, instrumental music, great symphonic works, Gregorian chant etc all became part of my collection.

And now – Hang on you’re thinking. We’ve just jumped over 20 years and yes, you’re right. I’m now 51 and, in general I’d say my tastes are broadly metal and classical music. They aren’t quite the strange bedfellows you might think as many heavy musicians derive inspiration from the great classical masters.

I do listen to other music but, in general, I’ve found it totally banal and contrived. It’s all so artificial and real musical skill seems to have been abandoned in favour of computer assisted wizardry and repetitive, meaningless lyrics.

I’ve a particular loathing of Rap which sets itself up as being cool and clever yet just comes across as misogynistic speed talking (to me) and hip hop, R’n’B and whatever name is invented next sounds just like the same person to my ears. Modern “pop” music seems to have lost its way with so few distinct artists. But if you like it then that’s entirely your choice. Music should be a deeply personal choice.

But the music I loved has changed.

I came through an era of heavy metal that will not be repeated. New bands, extraordinary musicianship, a huge spectrum of new music. That’s gone now. There aren’t the great radio rock shows, there’s been an acute loss of melody in favour of speed and screaming, guitar solos aren’t as popular as they once were and artists I loved have died out or retired.

Even classical music has changed. Gone are the wonderful compositions of old with their ringing melodies and glorious tunes. They’ve been replaced by harsher sounds, atonality and they no longer sound welcoming or tuneful. Music moves with its times they say and perhaps it truly does reflect a less welcoming society.

I still listen to music and occasionally YouTube will throw me a gem through its “if you liked that then listen to this” suggestions. Where else would I have caught Breaking Benjamin’s “Ashes of Eden” or Skillets “Invincible” ?.

But Music now is tinged with sadness. As I grow older the soundtrack of my youth is now all but gone. Artists die, music moves on, tastes change. My CD collection barely grows and even they, once cutting edge, have been long surpassed by digital downloads. There’s still something great about a CD though, the lyric book, the jewel case, they still excite me.

As artists move on I am left with memories. Memories of great gigs in crowded halls. Of standing out in the freezing fog of a late December in Newport waiting for the doors to open. Of singers falling off stages, bands being so loud the music was lost in a sea of distortion and you went so deaf it took you 48 hours to recover.

Those were the days.

Music will never die. It is timeless although our tastes change. It is enduring although what we deem to be music may well change as we evolve.

But there will always be a soundtrack to our lives.

So now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to listen to some ABBA, Mozart, Rush, Hildegard of Bingen and Jean Michel Jarre…not necessarily in that order..

Rock on!