Stormy weather and hypocrisy

1 February, 2016 (23:17) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

I WILL tell you why I like storms. Whether you like it or not.

I lay in bed the other night, up in my room at the top of the house, with a soft blue glow from the moon flashing on and off as clouds did their scudding in another south-westerly. The blue was enough to light the treetops swaying, almost enough to read by. But I listened to the wind instead, and the intermittent slaps of rain on the thin roof above me. And that is why I like storms: they give me time to think.

Here I am in the daytime with the weather quiet for once. I have two computers on the go to do two jobs; my mobile is at my elbow. One of the laptops is spitting out – the only appropriate phrase – Wilko Johnson, the Crab bless him; on another I am writing this. Shortly I shall write a piece about careers in the care industry and then I shall send out some invoices from last month. If I am very, very lucky I will have a moment to attack the project upon which Brother Bigfoot and I have embarked, tales of the Prince and the Witchfinder. If you upload material to the web, or to social media sites, you do it to the times when people check their connections to the world – after school run, late evening.

It’s insanity, this connectedness. Philip Marsden’s The Levelling Sea is the book I am reading at the moment, a chronicle of British sea power told through the port and people of Falmouth, and he captures thrillingly that epoch of exploration and discovery. That romance is dead to us now, though so are scurvy and the lash. Then, you were lucky if you got news of cousin Flo once a year; now, Flo is in touch five times a day and double that at weekends. Are we better for the noise? I do not know. I do know I like noisy storms for the silence they bring: they keep me in touch with the past because just as a Victorian seafarer would have been helpless in a force ten so, too, sometimes, are we. It’s good to be helpless, just sometimes.

WHILE we’re on music, stand by for a torrent of abuse as a bunch of leftie musicians and comedians tour in support of Jeremy Corbyn. They include Billy Bragg, who is perhaps the most loathed leftie in the land now George Galloway’s a joke and Ken Livingstone’s trying to behave himself.

People seem to hate Billy’s ‘preaching’, though how singing about his principles and talking about his convictions is any different to anybody else doing so defeats me – unless it’s that old chestnut, the ‘how dare he lecture us about politics and come over all socialist when he’s got a big house and a rock star income, the hypocrite?’

God, the times I’ve heard that down the years. ‘How can you tell us to be socialist when you own your house? Have holidays? Travel? Eat? Drive a new car? Drive an old car? We shouldn’t have to listen to you unless you’re wearing a hair shirt and crawling in the gutter, you hypocrite.’

I’ve always wondered who it is that decides, and how it is decided, how much money disqualifies you from having political convictions.

How much is too much to be a socialist? Should I be homeless? Or just a bit homeless – kipping on a friend’s sofa twice a week, maybe? As long as the sofa’s not comfy, obviously. Should I be hungry? Or just peckish? If I ate out once this week does that make me a hypocrite, or can I have two meals out a week? Should I not have a starter then? If I drink, how much am I permitted to spend on a bottle of red wine? Should I work? And if so, how much am I allowed to earn before arguing in favour of social justice becomes embarrassing? £5k? £20k? £100k?

Somebody must know: this country has a powerful politics police, after all – it controls the newspapers and has successfully convinced the dullard population that socialism means poverty and misery. If you’re too thick to see beyond that tired old tat at least you must be able to count, surely? You may have accepted the rewriting of history to tell you that denying opportunity, privatising public service and widening inequality are good things, so yes, you are demonstrating that at least as far as history and economics go, you’re got the brain power and morality of a Premier League footballer – but do me the courtesy of telling me the rules, eh?

God, the arguments I’ve heard used down the years.

These days I just cast my eyes to the sky, mainly, because I’ve learned that you can’t get through to some people: they prefer to listen to the cliché and be proud of their great wisdom in doing so.

I simply say: ‘People ripped the piss out of me when I supported the fight against apartheid and told me I was a hypocrite because I was well off and white and I don’t fucking care because I was on the right side of the argument. People ripped the piss out of me when I refused to taunt gay people and told me I was a hypocrite to support them because I wasn’t gay and I don’t fucking care because I was on the right side of the fight. We could go on for a very long time. Human history, about which the politics police know the square root of fuck all, is full of hypocrites who stood up for what was right even when they weren’t slaves, or weren’t jews, or weren’t shoved up chimneys, or weren’t cotton mill workers, or weren’t child prostitutes.

‘Hypocrite’. It’s an old English word meaning ‘I’m scared of your arguments and I feel guilty about what I permit so I’m going to pretend your ideas come from your wallet not your brain and therefore are not worth listening to.’

Ask these people for a list of the qualifications a person needs before being granted permission to state a public view, and generally they stare at you with their empty cow eyes or fling another insult or, in cases I’ve known, a few punches.

Anyway. I’d sooner have a hundred million preaching Billy Braggs lining the streets with his songs of protest than a single filthy Iain Duncan Smith telling me I’m a hypocrite while he tears apart the hearts of the sick and disabled for want of a few quid, living in his rich father-in-law’s gratis mansion, or one solitary George Osborne crippling the poor with his bedroom tax while squirreling away his rental income. They’re going to spend our money now, taking the sick, the poor and the disabled to court to make them pay the bedroom tax. I may be a hypocrite, but at least I’m not a cowardly piece of shit like that, wallowing in my money and kicking the weakest where they lie.

I’ve got a few things in common with Billy Bragg, then. One: I’m a hypocrite. Two: That cheap coward’s insult isn’t going to shut me up, ever.

WHILE we’re on music: I don’t impress too easily, really, but last week I met a man who was friends with Tim Buckley and played with him, and that bloody well impressed me – Buckley, the doomed troubadour with the once-in-history voice, except he passed the voice and the curse to his son Jeff. They recorded some of the greatest songs ever, so good there are times I can’t listen to music like Dolphins or Jeff’s cover of the great and godlike one’s Hallelujah because it means too much. And there, shaking my hand, was Jim Fielder, who played bass for Buffalo Springfield and Al Kooper and Frank Zappa and headlined at Woodstock with the band he helped form, Blood Sweat and Tears. Authentic. The real thing. Playing in a Cornish pub with his old pal Brother Fiddle and loving it. ‘You don’t know what you’ve got’, said Jim, of Brother Fiddle. It’s true, Jim, of both of you, but some of us do and it was a privilege to meet you.

I CAN understand why some of mean spirit would have disliked Terry Wogan: he was the establishment: gentle wit, jumpers, golf clubs, suburban lifestyle, Rolls Royce, Radio 2 easy listening-lite, Children in Need for charriddy. But that’s the point: he showed that the establishment could be kind and tolerant and helpful and good. I met him the once, for an interview, and found him the nicest of men. And when you compare his witty, inclusive style to the noise-fests with which so-called DJs – rather than broadcasters, which is what Wogan was – assault us today, I think we all can agree we’re the poorer for the loss.


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