Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Making sense of the shit storm.

In the past few days I expect there have been roughly 400,000 blog posts and think pieces about what the fuck is going on in the country soon to be known as the United Kingdom of England, Wales and the Isle of Wight. I'm not sure what adding to the pile will do for the discourse but it was the only thing I could think of doing to give me a break from reading them.

I am obsessive about news and have been since I pretended to have whooping cough so I could watch coverage of the 1992 general election. I am the sort of man who, just the other day, gave himself the morning off to go to the parliament website and watch Sir Philip Green in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee. The thing is, and I realise this may sound clinically mental, that was fun. The last time I think I spoke to you about my news addiction was when all the phone hacking shit was kicking off. That was my Glastonbury. It was FUN.

These last few days, I have not found fun. I was not prepared for the result of the referendum and, more significantly, I was not prepared for the way it would make me feel. When my liberal metropolitan elite echo bubble of a facebook page kicked off about the general election results I thought it was stupid. Sorry lads (this refers to all genders), I did.  We lost, ah well, get over it. What do you want? A one party state? Life goes on.

But the 'out' vote gave me the despair that so many others seemed to feel last year. It was as if the news grabbed me by the throat and yelled 'Did you think this was all just for your own entertainment? We're not fucking Gogglesprogs!'

Here, for what it's worth, is my prediction of what's to come. Apologies if it reads like the Book of Revelations. I have not, by the way, read the Book of Revelations. Is it by Dan Brown? My understanding is that is a series of predictions about everything turning to shit.

1. We will either not leave the EU at all or the deal that we get will see no significant changes to our contributions to the EU or immigration - because, you know, when people say that immigrants make a net contribution to the economy - they are not fucking joking.

2. If we do leave the number one objective will be to keep the finance industry in London. And how do you make them stay? Free from the shackles of the nasty EU and their fetish for red tape - deregulation and low low taxes. London will turn into Switzerland with beefeaters. This is Daniel Hannan's dream.

3. Meanwhile, the rest of the country - the bit that voted leave  - will be wondering where the new hospitals are, where all their delicious sovereignty is and why there are still foreigners in their town. You thought there was anger and disenfranchisement now? Wait till 2020 mate. With the Labour Party having turned into the first personality cult in history in which the leader has zero personality, in which the leader is simply a blank canvas for the left to project its hopes onto, those who do not share articles from The Canary will ignore it entirely. So who will step in? Who will speak for those who feel cheated? I'll give you a clue - his first name is Nigel. There is no rule that says that Middlesbrough will vote Labour from now until the end of time and there is certainly no rule that all they've been waiting for is a leader who promises to renationalise the rail service. UKIP will win over a 100 seats. With the left arguing over what to put on their next Socialist Worker banner, the mainstream of British politics will become a battle between a populist right and if we're really really lucky a One Nation Tory party - in other words it will be America with less guns and more Sports Direct mugs.

4. Here's just a few things that might interrupt proceedings - climate change, ISIS, a Trump presidency, the loss of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Virtual Reality games getting good and the World Cup in Russia.

Sorry about this, by the way. I read somewhere that writing is the action of thinking and that's all I'm doing - trying to make sense of things. So what do we do? Personally I'm not a big fan of petitioning for another referendum soon. 52% of the population feel that they haven't been listened to for years - how's that going to help? Yes, maybe, with the markets in free fall, remain could get a narrow win but you'd only enhance the anger of literally half the population. A good outcome might be, in a couple of years, having a referendum on a deal so transparently shit that remain wins by a 30% margin. Possible. Could put this whole shit storm to bed. Wishful thinking?

My hope, my dream, is that the left finds a genuinely charismatic leader out of nowhere. Imagine what a British Obama could do to Michael Gove. If there is one, they're currently in hiding. She ain't no Obama but I like Yvette Cooper. It's a shame that having met Tony Blair seems to mean you're the devil these days.

I feel like it might be the time for folk like me to get active and I don't mean start swimming - although a reduction in my waist line might give me the self esteem to get through the forthcoming armageddon. Step one might be joining a political party. I'm hovering between Labour and the Lib Dems. Lets see how the next week or so goes. In addition - and here comes the virtue signalling - I want to find a way to show support for those for whom the last few days have made them feel unwelcome in Britain. This barrage of overt, brought to you by the letters B, N and P racism, has made it feel as if when Trump got off the plane on Friday, he took with him all of the hatred he's stirred up at home this year. How I will go about this show of support I do not know. Smiling, I think. And being nice. I'm going to try really hard to be nice.

And this brings me on to one final suggestion. Perhaps the only scrap of clarity I have on this sorry mountain of 'fuuuuuuuuck!'... if those of us who voted remain are going get anything resembling the Britain we want, we're going to have to do some persuasion and we're not going to succeed in that if we call those who voted leave cunts. Unless of course they're sending around cards saying No More Polish Vermin - in that case, feel free.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

You won't BELIEVE this blog post about Oslo!

A couple of months ago, I told you about a trip I made to Cape Town to film a Swiss insurance commercial. A week or two ago, I had the pleasure of going to Oslo, tasked with selling insurance (for a different company) to Norwegians. About ten years ago I went to Rotterdam to make a Dutch insurance commercial. So these days, when I lie awake in bed at night one question rattles around my skull, tormenting me into the early hours - 'What is it about my face that makes mainland Western Europeans want to buy insurance?'.

Is it my bloated cheeks that makes them think of their own inevitable deaths and the need to ensure their families are protected? Is it my greasy nose that puts them in mind of the small time criminal who will burgle their house? Is it my enormous forehead that reminds them of the twin towers and that an unthinkable tragedy can strike at any time? Whatever it is, I am happy to exploit my features in exchange for disappointingly low fees and short trips to cities I am yet to visit.  

Oslo! What is the one thing people say to you before travelling to Norway? Do they mention the beauty of the landscape? The Fjords? The utopian Scandi-socialist society? No. They tell you that it costs £8 for a pint. This is the one piece of information all Brits have to hand about virtually every country in the world. Open your window now and shout at the first passerby you see - 'How much does a pint cost in Prague?' and watch them confidently shout back 'somewhere between 90p and £1.20'. Now ask them to name one Czech President, past or present. They've gone haven't they?

£8 though. £8! My technique was to imagine that each time I bought a drink, I was buying a round for me and a tight mate who never returned the favour. Still. £8! For £8.99 you can buy the complete works of Norway's greatest writer Henrik Ibsen. For £8 you can buy a pint  (actually, thanks to the metric system just under a pint) of pilsner and then half an hour later watch that £8 leave your body in the form of piss. I appreciate that if you're not blessed with the right kind of genitals (penis, balls) this is more difficult but it is my understanding that it is possible.

I expect you're hoping for an insight into Oslo that goes beyond alcohol pricing. Filming the commercial took three full days (Norwegians are nothing if not thorough in their insurance advertising) so I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to explore. I can tell you that Oslo is a pretty city that hints at a far greater beauty once you leave it and head into the rest of Norway. It was like winning a competition to meet a One Direction member and getting Niall. Sure, he's attractive, but he's no Zayn.

Oslo has an impressive opera house, a viking museum, some nice parks and for a city of it's size what seems like a surplus of TGI Fridays. Overlooking the city is a giant ski jump. This is what I chose to visit on my day off. It seemed like something one should do in Scandinavia. Holmenkollbakken (and yes, I did open another tab to check the smelling) can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city and has a capacity of 70,000 spectators. This suggests that sometimes over 10% of the population of Oslo are inclined to go and watch people put themselves at the mercy of gravity in the name of sport. And why not?

It being summer, there was no snow and henceforth no ski jumping. There were plenty of visitors though. Many, like me, chose to have a look around the ski museum there. I wonder if, when looking at glass cabinets stacked with skis from 1871, 1895, 1910, 1922, 1927 and 'oh, look! 1931!', any of them had my overwhelming thought - 'I do not give a fuck about any of this'. What I wanted to do was get in the lift and head straight to the top of the ski jump and after an hour of queueing, that's exactly what I did. I'm pleased to report the view did not disappoint. I did the only thing I could think of to do when looking down over a city I would most likely never visit again - stand there for roughly 2 and a half minutes, take a picture and then get back in the lift downwards. 

So, unfortunately the length of my stay means I'm only able to offer you a snapshot of Oslo. Although if you're depending on this blog for all your information on the world's capitols I'd think about looking into some other sources. I've always been curious about what it is about Scandinavian countries that makes them top all the happiness, health and education rankings but I didn't have the time nor intelligence to work it out. The simple answer we're told is democratic socialism but there has to be more to it than that. Surely? Because if that's true then the rest of the world is missing a trick. I have to say the houses looked lovely and the people looked healthy. There has to be something darker beneath the surface. There just has to be. Look at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's face of late. There's a man who's seen some horror in his life. And I mean, seriously, £8 a pint!