Halloween Scary or Fun?


It’s that time of year again and no matter how scary real life can be we love scaring ourselves with spooky stories, movies and music. All hallows eve may be synonymous with lost souls, ghouls and all manner of gruesome creatures. But it also allows us to dress up and party and who doesn’t love a good party?

Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, the Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. They also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead.  Over the centuries it has transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to be more about costumes, trick or treating and merriment.

Does Halloween scare you and fill you with a sense of dread and doom or does it fill you full of fun?

If you’re having a Halloween party make it a spooktacular event with my Halloween party mix 4 hours of non stop atmospheric music that will keep your Halloween party in the mood. I hope you enjoy it.

The music is interspersed with spooky music, narrative, sound effects and bits from movies – see if you can spot them.

Enjoy yourselves

You can listen to the Halloween party mix here

Have a spook y Halloween

Have a spooky fun filled Halloween

 

 

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It’s sometimes good to be the odd one out – embrace it


This came home to me this week when I seem to be the only person I know who is not crowing over the movie Anchorman Two. Even the best bits in the TV promo’s are not funny to me I never saw Anchorman and I don’t want to see Anchorman Two.

People look at me with that expression “What, you don’t think Anchorman Two is the funniest move ever” As though I have two heads or am from another planet. I find it hard to believe intelligent people find it funny. But hey ho the world would be a dull place if we all liked or disliked the same thing.

The same is true of Januarys dryathalon in the UK something I DO NOT support. Before I get a plethora of abuse let me say this. My Mother, her sister and my grandmother all died of cancer.

My Mum’s sister was a teetotaller her mother drank once in a blue moon and my mum was a very light drinker. I support cancer charities and our local hospice and have taken part in many events to support them and will continue to do so in the future.

Good luck to all those who are carrying out the dryathalon I hope you succeed. However 20 pubs a day are closing in the UK and many of these are the hubs of communities and refuge of the lonely. They provide a place for people to exchange ideas and support each other, they also provide employment and the businesses and their employees pay tax.

I personally think in a recession a charity should not be trying to raise money for one group of people whilst putting the livelihood, housing, relationships and health of another group at risk. That is why I will not be joining the dryathalon or sponsoring anyone taking part.

So this week I have been made to feel like a pariah but I am happy with my choices and glad to not be part of the crowd. Have you been in a similar situation and how did it make you feel.  More importantly how did you deal with it?

What does Community mean to you?


This week is a good time to pose this question as in many areas Christmas lights are being switched on and many community events are being run to coincide with them.  As Christmas approaches parcels are collected to be sent to those less fortunate than ourselves. Video messages are collected to be sent out to troops who won’t be home for Christmas.

Hospices, schools and community organisations run Christmas fairs to raise awareness and much needed funds. We are asked to buy an extra toy or food for hampers and donate them for a good cause. Charitable, voluntary and community organisations also need volunteers to deliver it all and provide services. We are also asked to look in our elderly or sick neighbours to ensure they are alright.

Many of us will step up and do these things and we will have a sense of civic pride. We feel good that we have been community spirited and fortunate to be in a position to do so gaining a wonderful sense of well being.

The number of people doing “something” community spirited at this time of the year increases tenfold. If your one of those people why not try doing “something” no matter how small all year round? And have that wonderful sense of wellbeing all year round.

Santa Wave

Santa says have fun and look after one another

Happy Christmas to one and all and let’s make 2014 a year of laughter, joy and community spirit.

Here’s a little Christmas cheer for your ears with different versions of Christmas songs that should have you singing and dancing around your lounge or even with your community. Ho Ho Ho!

Just how honest and moral are you?


This is a subject that seems to be on everyone’s mind at the moment and it is a big question as we all think we are as honest as the day is long. That we have a well developed moral compass and our integrity and ethics shine through. We are that person most people strive to be or are we?

I started thinking about the issue several weeks ago when I joined a Chartered Management Institute discussion on LinkedIn. It came to the forefront of my mind again when I watched the BBC programme Nick & Margaret “We all pay your benefits”.

We are all individuals and what each of us classes as moral or ethical differs. There are many factors that have a bearing on this including, upbringing, education, location, culture, religion, job or career and our peer group. That’s not an exhaustive list by the way.

Sat in the comfort of your living room you might think it disgusting and reprehensible that a man would eat a cat. That man may live in a country where poverty can mean death and the only way he and his family will see tomorrow is to eat the cat. You’re the one making the moral judgement he’s just eating to survive.

That’s an easy example and we all make value judgements about others on a daily basis. There are the usual “bankers have no morals” and “all estate agents are liars” to “all builders are cowboys”. Each of these has a grain of truth but they are generally just that, generalisations.  You could pick any job or group of people and find a generalised statement that “fits” if you want to.

The Nick & Margaret programme is a good example of this as four benefits claimants are paired up with four people who are working. The workers perceptions before meeting the claimants was that they might be lazy have given up or just want to live on benefits. By the end of the first programme most of their preconceptions had changed.

The British Government does not condone bribery and those found guilty can end up in prison.  But in some countries what we call bribery is oiling the wheels of industry and gaining introductions to business contacts.  So is the official who takes the payment (bribe) corrupt, has he lost his moral compass or integrity or is he simply a product of the system and culture he lives in?

Professor Nick Chater of Warwick University and BBC Radio Four’s The Human Zoo contends that “having a good character is not a permanent state and we are all in a constant battle against deceitful behaviour

Just to add to that argument last week my wife and I went to our favourite Indian restaurant Mahabharat and as usual the food, service and atmosphere was excellent.  When the bill came we realised that we had not been charged for a bottle of wine and duly called the waiter and paid for it.

On the way out my wife posed the question that had we been in a restaurant which we had not been in before or where the food or service had been average what would we have done?

We class ourselves as people who are honest, moral and have integrity but neither of us could give an honest answer to that question. So I hope we are never in that position.

I’ll leave the final comment to professor Chater “We all live in glass houses and shouldn’t be so quick to condemn those caught up in scandal

Me & Mrs T 1979-1990


Introduction

It’s been a funny week that has inspired me to put pen to paper for this recollection. Of course Mrs T died and I was thinking of her impact on me and my life over her period as PM. Then I attended several events at the Words Together literary festival starting with Ben Mellor who was incredibly creative and inspiring followed by Monkey Poet  Matt Panesh who was mind blowing and finally I sat with my good friend Jason Winstanley as we watched his first play “The Travesty” performed. It was intriguing, funny and thought provoking.

The funny bits were my neighbour telling me I am Adam Brown. He had downloaded the Tunein radio app so he could listen to my radio show and it still comes up with the previous presenter’s information. I’m not complaining as Adam is younger better looking and has a better radio voice than I do. The Words festival linked to an interview I had done with Jason Winstanley and the picture was of me instead of Jason so people now think I am him also and that I am a playwright. Finally when we got to the theatre to watch Jason’s play the lady on the desk didn’t know who he was and he asked if he needed to pay to enter. That really made me laugh, life is funny and absurd in equal measure enjoy it whilst you can.

Me and Mrs T a personal journey 1979-1990

The year nineteen hundred and seventy nine what a year that was as Dickens said “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Of course whether it was the best or the worst of times for you personally depended very much on your class, where you lived and your job if you had one.

It was the year Margaret Hilda Thatcher became prime minister of a not so Great Britain. We had suffered 5 years of turbulent times with the oil crisis, the three day week, no electricity, lots of strikes and industrial unrest, IRA bombings and the potential threat of world war three.

I was aware of all this but it mostly passed me by as I was a teenager and I was having the best of times. I wasn’t rich or famous and I wasn’t powerful but with that youthful exuberance I felt the world was my oyster

In 1979 I was 21; I bought a house, got married and started my HNC (Higher National Certificate) in electrical engineering. I had an old banger it was a Humber Sceptre and me and my mate Ian stripped it down and rebuilt the engine and hand painted it two shades of blue in his dad’s garage.

We went to pop festivals and watched great bands in local pubs; we built our own hi-fi systems and DJ equipment. We listened to adaptations of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Lord of The Rings on the radio and went on battle re-enactment weekends.

We were working class but aspirational as would be said now we didn’t know that at the time we were just curious about life, love, science the universe and everything. We had a thirst for knowledge and doing things, experiencing life and life was good for us. Our parents worked and we were lucky and had jobs, yes jobs not careers we didn’t know what one of those was.

The year started with everyone doing the Y.M.C.A and we all wanted to be one of the Village People and as with George Michael to come in the Eighties none of us knew they were gay. If you were having a gay time in 1979 you were having fun, oh how innocent we were back then.

On the 4th May 1979 Margaret Hilda Thatcher became the first woman prime minister of our wonderful country. It was a time of celebration and a new beginning it was apt that Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes was number one as Mrs T’s eyes shone out from posters, papers and on our three TV channels.

The Eighties were around the corner, technology was moving on and things could only get better right? I felt sorry for the candle makers they had all become rich in the seventies what would they do if the power stations kept running and the lights stayed on? The seventies ended with Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (PTII) was it a dark side reminder of things to come?

I had a Fonzie moment in the Eighties as I failed the maths module of my HNC twice and unfortunately in those days you had to go back and do the ENTIRE course again the next year, so I had 3 years of the second year of my HNC. My tutor at the time Henry Cadman christened me brainless because my middle name was Brian. He was happy many years later when I worked for the council and he was a councillor and I told him I had gained an MBA. Of course it was down to him that I achieved it or so he said. I had a daughter and sadly got divorced, sold the house and lived in a crumbly student type flat.

I became a new romantic and then heard a show on Radio Caroline in 1982, where the host Tony Prince played records that were mixed together – wow. After going to Ibiza in 1984 and listening to the DJ’s in the West End clubs mixing nonstop for six hours I just had to learn to mix.

So whilst DJ’ing and studying for the HNC I also became a shop steward at work. At the time no one wanted to do it so we took turns and now it was mine. I took up the mantle and joined my brothers for the regular Friday meeting of the EEPTU (Electrical, Electronic, Plumbing & Telecommunications Union). I also joined a class that ran the first microprocessor course at my local college on the Intel 4040 chip.

All this was against a backdrop of TV programme Boys From The Blackstuff, The Jam’s A Town Called Malice and Punk Rockers. We were a nation divided and the divide was getting wider the rich got very very rich; those of us in work weren’t doing too badly but those without a job were feeling more than a pinch.

We celebrated in true brit style and got drunk a lot we had won a great victory in the Falklands, Mrs T negotiated a rebate from the EU and Charles and Diana got married. They came to Wigan as did the Queen our mines may have been closing but the road to Wigan Pier was open and paved with a little gold. Like many northern towns Wigan had its fair share of mines as did the North West and I knew a lot of miners.  For many, mining was a family tradition. It was an emotional time to see many proud men after a lifetime of hard toil in the dole queues.

I joined the picket lines and collected food parcels for the striking miners who were not entitled to the dole until they had finally been made redundant. Whilst I felt huge empathy and sympathy for individual miners and their communities I have to confess I saw little difference between Mrs T and some of the miner’s leaders.  I felt in many ways they were political pawns who in some instances were being used as cannon fodder by their leaders and the opposition were happy to blow them up.

I suppose I was all right jack I was still having a whale of a time whilst this and famine in Africa and strife in the USSR was going on and of course the French, well they were being French just as you would expect. They were sick of Britain, our language, beer, behaviour, Mrs T and they wanted our fish, oh and our football team were rubbish as well. Maybe it was because I was a shop steward or was it because I was growing up but all this political and financial stuff was now firmly in my head.

Then there he was Mr “Greed is Good” Gordon Gekko its 1987 and Wall Street is making a killing at the box office. The Bee Gees are in the charts with “You win again” and Mrs T had but for many Boy George’s “Everything I own “ was a poignant reminder that when someone wins you just might lose your job, home and life. Of course if you could afford it you could now buy your council house and Mrs T now had her eye on local government which of course was causing all the country’s problems. Well according to her anyway as they just wouldn’t do as they were told anyone would think they were French.

It was just before the EEPTU were expelled from the TUC (Trades Union Congress) in 1988 as they wouldn’t do what the TUC wanted and kept providing scabs during the printers strike at Wapping that I attended a conference at the unions London headquarters. It was attended by Frank Chapple and Eric Hammond and a young Derek Simpson who for the year 2010-11 was paid £510,659 that made him the highest paid union boss in the country. Nice work if you can get it brother.

I digress but I noticed how my union brothers treated the staff at HQ basically they treated them like s**t, on speaking to several staff they confirmed this to be the case. I wasn’t impressed the brothers seemed to be acting like the very people they allegedly despised. On my return to Wigan I was going to relinquish the shop stewards role but stayed on as the government was introducing CCT (compulsory competitive tendering) into local government contracts.

I found this interesting as in the first round I was negotiating from the employee’s perspective and in the second round from the employers. Lots of people in local government didn’t like the idea at the time including myself. Human nature kicked in I was being asked to do more for the same amount of money. But CCT did bring down lots of barriers and red tape and for the first time local government direct labour organisations had to compete for work against the private sector. We found to our surprise that the harder we worked the more money we could make.

Tax as ever always on the minds of government was about to cause a riot with the introduction of the poll tax and as Jason Donovan sang Too Many Broken Hearts Mrs T’s popularity slid down the tubes.

I had remarried and bought a detached house at the beginning of 1990 and as we moved in with a huge mortgage my wife found out she was expecting. It was an exciting and anxious time I worked hard and earned more at the time than friends who were in professional jobs. Learning to mix had paid off and I was in demand as a DJ and had a spell writing for music magazines, nothing was impossible.

It was a great year the world was in motion England didn’t win the world cup but Gazza was spectacular and so was the weather and my son was born. Interest rates were 15% at the time we were entering another recession and for many it was the worst of times. Including Mrs T who in a scene reminiscent of the long knives was finally ejected by her friends for being a little to hitler’esque.

I was born in a labour ward, of a labour town, of a labour constituency and I didn’t agree with many of Mrs T’s policies, some I did. My parents had a work ethic and my father was a great believer in education increasing your life opportunities. My employer for many years was Wigan Council and Mrs T even at the height of her labour bashing praised the organisation for its financial management and held it as a beacon for other councils to follow.

These things have helped to shape me and whilst others suffered greatly in the Thatcher years there but for the grace of god go I (Richard Dawkins please insert your own line here). I had a job, I worked hard I studied hard and I played hard. For me they were great years for the country they were years of upheaval and struggle, pride and prejudice.

Mrs T will be remembered, revered and hated in equal measure long after the eunuchs who govern and aspire to govern us have been forgotten. She was the last British leader who was a real person and actually cared and believed in what she did and right or wrong was either your cup of tea or not. I much prefer that to the choreographed sound bite of the career politicians who are just looking for their next job. Would Teresa May or Yvette Cooper have more cojones than their male counterparts?

This has been my personal journey though Mrs T’s time in office and it’s brought back some fond memories and various emotions and I hope it’s stirred yours and may 2013 be the best of times for you all.

Weighty Confusion


It’s January 2nd and already inconsistency and confusion reigns, why I hear you ask as one. Well the Independent has a report on obesity the headline is “Recipe for a long life: overweight people have LOWER death risk. Carrying a few extra pounds ‘could protect the heart’.

I also watched the programme “50 shocking facts about your food” on channel 5 on New Year’s Day. This quite clearly gave the opposite view and one of its facts was about the starvation diet in which you reduce the amount of daily calories taken in to less than 1000 per day.

Is it any wonder that more of us brits are becoming obese when almost daily we are given opposing information? If we are confused by the plethora of inconsistent information on the second day of the year how many more of us will be obese come the end of 2013?

Is losing weight one of your New Year Resolutions?

Fifty Shades of what?


Note I wrote and published this piece in July 2012 as the film is now out I thought it useful to revisit it. I have added a couple of current links at the end.

This is currently a best seller bought mainly by women it is in fact the best seller on Amazon as a significant number of ladies cannot bring themselves to walk into a book store and buy it.

If you have not heard of Christian Grey then you must have been living under a rock for the past couple of months. The reason ladies are ordering the book which is part of a trilogy online is the fact that it’s rather naughty from beginning to end.  In fact a significant number of pages contain graphic descriptions of sex including explicit descriptions of domination and bondage. So is it fantasy and escapism or is it Porn?

Several commentators both male and female have asked the question what is the difference between this and male porn? When men are reading porn they are vilified as dirty and grubby yet women are not. We are told that porn for women is erotic escapism from the humdrum of life and it is not dirty or threatening to society but male porn is.

I agree male porn can be dirty and threatening to society but only because it’s been around longer and seems to be more accepted. Female porn is in its infancy by comparison which makes a comparison unbalanced.

Female porn is however becoming mainstream. Mills and Boon now have erotic books and there are a significant number of titles for women that cover virtually every fantasy a woman could have. Just as there are for men, but many women complain about top shelf magazines and the likes of Nuts magazine. But just look at the covers of many of the magazines aimed at women and count how many don’t have an explosive sexual headline. I was waiting in the till queue at the supermarket  the other day and one magazines headline had a teenager saying she was so bored she had sex with her dad.

These magazines and erotic novels are often left lying around for children to read whilst most men still hide their copy of Hustler and Playboy and delete their browsing history. Neither of these scenarios can be good for our children or society as a whole.

We are becoming a more sexualised society and what people do with other consenting adults behind closed doors is their business. Sex sells and porn is two clicks away on most electronic devices, whilst music videos are often mini virtual porn movies and many are not really suitable to be shown before the watershed.

So is Fifty Shades a little bit of escapist harmless fun or is it a seminal moment in the further sexualisation of society? And is female erotic literature starting to head into the (allegedly) grubby territory traditionally held by male porn?

The film has surpassed all expectations but the same question remains.

Other Interesting Articles

The Telegraph – Most Successful 18 Rated film ever

The Independent – How ’50 Shades’ is reshaping the world

The Huffington Post – 50 Shades of Grey: Why Women Are Reading it in Their Horny Droves

Escape into Life – 50 Shades of Grey – Book Review

The Guardian – Suzanne Moore – Fifty Shades of Grey peddles the tired old fantasy of romance that keeps women in their place

The Independent – Up close and personal: Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James reveals real-life secrets to her readers