Up, Up, Up

This week was a special week. Thankfully it had nothing to do with trampling over my fellow man to grab a 60inch TV for a bargain.

This week was my daughter’s 2nd Birthday.
Chiara was born 27th November 2012 and she was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome (DS) This will come as no surprise to regular readers.

The progress she has made in the last few weeks has been remarkable. Everybody learns and develops at their own pace and in their own way but with DS, learning is delayed. Watching both my daughters learn and grow is remarkable in itself. Hearing my three year old reply with “Yes, in just one minute” when asked to sit up at the table is both joyous and a little infuriating…We refer to her as a Threenager.
My wife and I spend hours, days and weeks talking and signing to Chiara in a hope that she’ll pick something up. Sometimes it feels like we’re climbing an impossible cliff face with a summit that is unreachable…. But to hear her say her first word stopped us both in our tracks.

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She said ‘Bye’… Not only that, she does it with an enthusiastic wave. More importantly she uses ‘bye’ in the correct context.
She is also making every attempt to stand on her own, which she does with a determination that I’m sure she gets from her mother. It always ends with a bum smack on the floor finished by a large round of applause.
If that wasn’t enough she is now in the habit of throwing objects, any object, across the room and proclaiming “uh oh”… she may also give herself a round of applause. Sometimes we join in but it really depends on what the object is. She gives hugs if we ask her nicely and she crawls and cruises around the flat, exploring every nook and cranny.

We’ve always known that the journey to the summit would be up the path less traveled. But every new word, every new expression, every new action and every decision that she makes is an ice pick into the mountain, drawing us closer to a summit….. which now looks attainable.

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And we’re back!

So after what seems like an age I finally have my laptop back. It’s been away getting a new lease of life. I can’t remember the last blog I wrote and it feels like a lifetime ago since I put fingers to keys.

I’m sat writing this in a very trendy bar in Rochester just a few hours before a gig. Hopefully I can finish what I want to say before the hoards of Saturday night revelers file in, stinking of lynx and hair gel and looking for a good time.

What do I want to say? The truth is there are so many topics I want to cover but I can’t untangle the mess and matter of my brain and get them out in a concise and articulate way.

I feel a huge weight on my heart. I feel that we as a people are pulling so hard in opposite directions that we’ll never get to rise to the capacity that we are so capable of attaining. There is one topic in particular that I must get off my chest.

I had a recent debate with a friend on the subject of abortion. Abortion is one of those subjects that both sides of the argument are equally valid and both sides require listening to. I’m of the opinion that abortion is a decision that should be made by the parties involved. I’m pro choice as our trans Atlantic cousins choose to pigeon hole. But it’s a grey area as I do not think abortion should be used as a form of contraception. A decision of this magnitude must not be taken lightly or idly. My friend, to protect is identity we’ll call him David, is pro life and a devout Catholic. After a few back and forths stating our positions I put a classic hypothetical to him:

If a child of 13 or 14 fell pregnant after non-consensual intercourse with her father and she wanted to abort the baby would that be ok?

His answer. No.

His reason. God, the father, is a creator. By aborting the baby you are stifling his creations.  He also said that it was his will that this child should fall pregnant.

After picking my jaw up off the floor I asked; should a child have to go through not only the pain and agony of child birth (Remembering that her body is not yet fully developed and would more than likely damage her internally) but being raped by her father? Would a god that loved us let a child go through all that suffering?

He said “Sometimes suffering is good for the soul”

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In my 33 years of floating through space on this green and blue rock I have never ever heard anyone say anything as wicked and evil and further more actually believe that what he was saying was justifiable. His attitude towards the rape, torture and suffering of children was justified because it’s God’s will.

This kind of attitude towards child suffering should be reserved only for the psychotic and the insane. Not the educated, honest and rational thinking members of society. And it certainly shouldn’t be coming from the mouths of people who claim to have a moral superior high ground, something that is apparently denied to me.

I had this debate about 2 months ago and it’s still burning up inside me. I still cannot believe that anyone would put the welfare of a child second to the will of a God that may or may not exist. I can only assume that the message of Jesus has somewhat been lost on David and he’s now more concerned with the teachings of the church, two teachings which I believe massively contradict each other.

I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I don’t think God exists and I don’t think Jesus did either, at least not in the form that Christians do. Religion seems to give people the excuse to behave poorly. Who, but the religious would picket the funerals of dead soldiers? Who, but the religious would mutilate the genitals of new born baby? Who, but the religious would fly planes into buildings and who, but the religious would promote the idea amongst Africans that condoms increase the risk contracting aids?

Now I would never assert that all religious people support any of the ideas that I have just stated. My point is that people will commit the most atrocious acts if they believe they have God on their side. The physicist Steven Weinberg summed it up better than me in just a few words, if not a little crude.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion

 

Sally Morgan would have seen this coming

As my laptop is STILL in hospital I’m rebloging Mr Adam Pain….again.
I can’t help it, the man seems to jump on all my topics and get there before me.

…………………

You are reading this on the morning of Sunday October 12th, my little sister’s birthday. A very happy birthday I hope it is too. I can say happy birthday to her. Unfortunately, as regular readers of the blog will already know, my elder sister, Katy, no longer can. This is a complete bummer, both because it is the one birthday present I’d dearly love for her to receive, and because it has put a monumental downer on this opening paragraph.

This will come as no surprise to chirpy TV psychic, Sally Morgan, who I imagine read this blog post yesterday, before I’d even thought about writing it. Maybe Katy was sat next to her in gas form as she did so, occasionally whispering little secrets to her to exploit for profit, next time she’s passing through this neck of the woods.

I take great comfort in the fact that our deceased loved ones chose to share tittle-tattle with enigmatic pensioners from working class backgrounds. It must be a relief for a family, when their beloved Nana chooses to commune through a stranger stood on a provincial theatre stage, in front of an intimate crowd of a thousand. A huge weight off, when they learn that she doesn’t blame them for the fall down the stairs – it was those bloody slippers she’d insisted on buying from Lidl.

Nana still loves you, but I’ve got to go now – Gandhi’s about to start calling the bingo numbers out, and I’m due a bit of a lucky streak.

I’m joking, of course. It’s a fucking offensive trick played by charlatans purely for money. Sally already knows this, with or without precognition. I’m going with without.

But I’m not going to spend another five hundred words putting the boot into stage psychics, as much as I’d gleefully do so. Besides, the problem would be stopping my metaphorical leg from swinging. But it would certainly provide no hope.

I was out of hope last week, as you may remember. But as the saying goes, hope springs eternal.

I don’t really believe in the idea of eternity from a personal perspective. I do believe in Eternal, and hope one day they’ll put their differences to one side and do one last tour with Louise Redknapp. Get BeBe Winans out of his box for the big finale too – that would be epic. But I do believe in providing hope, even when all hope seems lost. So, I’ve decided to let you in on an idea that brings me comfort almost every day I continue to bumble around on this space rock we call home. An idea rooted in the physical that tickles the belly of the numinous.

Here goes.

Every decision, every turn, every mistake, every triumph, every laugh, every salty tear tasted, informs us. Every one of those things is likely to have been informed in turn by somebody you love. Therefore, our lives are truly intertwined in a way only the most well resourced hermit orphan could refute. And not just humans – as anyone who has felt a profound connection with a pet will tell you. That moment you connected with a tiger, as it peered at you through bullet proof glass in the zoo, informed you too. (It annoyed him, of course. Imagine constantly seeing a tasty looking sandwich appearing in front of your eyes, trapped in a plexiglass bubble.)

Every bit of life is input data – like a tiny little satnav update. It might take a while for your system to register it properly, but if handled correctly it can make your own little map of the world more useful and precious. It will help guide you home, no matter how lost you may feel. The only downside is you must constantly remind yourself where home actually is. This is why spending time with the people and places you call home is so vital. You’re filling up your tank with homing information.

When the people we love die, I believe their map dies with them. They don’t need it anymore. But by which point, their data is shared around thousands of other people, places and animals. Their input can be seen in every tree they once climbed, every garden they sowed, every path they trod, every mouth they reared. For good or for bad, they left their gigantic fingerprints all over the chip shop, for all the world to see.

So when I miss my sister, as I so often do, or long for my mum’s kind eyes to twinkle at me when I’m feeling lost, I can always find something that will bring them home. It really isn’t hard to find. They live behind me eyes, and in my fingertips. They hang on my walls, they grow in my garden and they spring up in my children’s most colourful memories. They are bloody everywhere, those impish scamps.

All of life boils down to a simple choice – do you actively spread good data or bad data? Like all systems, bad data tends to end up getting rejected, whilst good data sticks around for as long as it is useful – so the smart money long term is on good data. But it must be conceded that bad data sometimes offers a good return in the short term.

I like to think of my mum as being someone who provided an overwhelming amount of good data to a vast number of people. Their own little maps have been made better as a result, making their own journey through life a tiny bit less bumpy. Perhaps they’ll pass that good data on. Who knows when it will stop, or if it ever will.

The bad guys spend their lives propagating bad data. They steer many good people off-road, making them lose sight of home. Scared and lost people without a sense of home are prone to driving like complete twats. Some may even start to view their off-road existence as their real home, and blame the original road for letting them down. It doesn’t occur to them that it might all just boil down to them accepting bad data in the first place. By the time the bad guys have pulled them off the map and washed, wiped and waxed their memories clean, they won’t remember where home ever really was. This is how you end up clutching a machine gun in a desert, convinced a massacre can lead to martyrdom.

Every cult, terrorist cell and shady member’s club trades on bad data – it keeps the funds coming in. It’s why so many ‘modern’ churches have such expensive AV equipment, why modern terrorists aren’t armed with blunt sticks and why you’ll still occasionally receive a funny handshake and a shifty bit of eye contact at swanky cocktail parties. The profits of bad data are as gaudy as they are superficially impressive.

The problem is that bad data is so easily jumbled up with good data. It’s a minefield we all wander through constantly. A quick flick through any newspaper with a critical eye will show this to be true. Even ‘The Sun’ has some good data – it’s just buried, out of context, amidst a cloud of pernicious bad data designed to knock you off course.

The aim is to get good at spotting bad data and prioritising the good bits. This is much harder than it may appear, so you must be comfortable knowing that you will often confuse the two – and stop beating yourself up if you do. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, more than once. I saw both Joel Schumacher ‘Batman’ movies, for instance.

The home button will hopefully get you back on the right path. That’s the hope, anyway. Sure, there will be bright lights and distractions along the way, and some of them will be worth the detour. Others really won’t.

The next time you see a poster for a stage psychic, be it Sally Morgan, Derek Acorah, or any other fraud in a Peacock’s jacket, let a little alarm go off in your mind. A blinking, red light, furiously burning into your consciousness. Warning, warning – bad data.

Then go home.

 

For more information on why I take such exception to stage psychics, click here to read The Independent article that inspired the post –  or watch Derren Brown’s brilliant ‘Infamous’, available on 4OD.

Laptop ER

As my laptop is in the hospital I’ve decided to reblog a post from fellow musical blogger, Adam Pain.
You can find him at

http://www.aworldofpain.co.uk

When I was a child, I was full of hope. Soda-Stream American ginger ale, crisps and hope. I foresaw a world where starvation, disease, nuclear weapons, global wars, religious bigotry, bad boy-bands and movie tie-in videogames were a thing of the past.

I dreamt of enormous screens that would fill our vision like the night sky, where the best bands and artists from around the world would play music so full of passion, truth and tasteful virtuosity, the world would unite in communion. In D Major.

I dreamt of the day where we partied on the streets, as AIDS was pronounced officially eliminated. Where every child on Earth was given a fighting chance of a long life at birth through immunisation, sophisticated irrigation, space age food production and International goodwill. The world felt like it was getting small enough for it to be the garden we could all call home.

I dreamt of a time when a new spiritual awareness would sweep over the world like an electric blanket, hugging us into peaceful submission. Where we could stare awe struck into the galaxy and know that we are tiny, fragile and insignificant, whilst simultaneously being part of something huge, powerful and uniquely privileged. Where the tribal differences of the desert were finally laid to rest, in the hope we could look to the universe for the next step forward. To boldly go wherever Sir Patrick Stewart went in a maroon body-stocking.

I foresaw a world where the threat of global nuclear conflict seemed like a hangover from the past, buried deep with the rest of the cold war rubble that Rocky IV had saved us from. Apollo Creed had not died in vain.

I believed Robocop 2 & 3 would only ever make the franchise better.

I believed that the soulless saccharine of ‘New Kids on the Block’ would die.

I believed I could fly and that R. Kelly was one hell of guy.

And what did we get?

We’ve got a nation obsessed with peering into tiny little oblongs of space age super glass, watching home videos of family pets falling off coffee tables.

We’ve got a super-bug sweeping through Africa, eating everything in its wake, adding a horrific new edge to the already apocalyptic cocktail of AIDS, malaria and hepatitis C.

We’ve got tens of thousands of disenfranchised, angry jihadists in a depressingly familiar desert, about to be bombed into a thousand tiny ideological hate groups by an even angrier set of fighter jets with superior weapons and a never ending budget.

Yet we’ve got foodbanks in the UK, desperate for donations. We’ve got £1.3 trillion of national debt. We’ve got a system that penalises people for having a spare bedroom. We’ve got children in Primary Schools being reported as suffering from acute malnutrition.

We’ve got a boyband with 8 members on the telly-box, like the Manchester United of three part harmony. We’ve got Tulisa doing her very best Jodie Marsh going to a Michael Jackson themed fancy dress party, being taken seriously as a voice of cultural taste and decency. We’ve still got Louis Walsh, doing whatever it is Louis Walsh does.

We got the big screens. We brought back SodaStreams. Robocop got rebooted.

Be careful what you wish for

Integrating consumerism

This week’s blog comes in two parts.

There were two stories that cropped up this week that grabbed my attention. Not wanting to sacrifice either one I’ve decided to give you both barrels..So to speak.

Part 1.
A friend posted an old video of Tommy Robinson, former EDL founder and current prick, on a ride along in Luton and getting into a scuffle with a local resident. Who I can only assume was a practiser of the muslim faith. The comments section played host to the intelligent and articulate along with their ugly step sisters…There was one comment that hooked my eye and it’s a comment I’ve heard and read before. I’ll summarise.

“The trouble with muslims is they come to a christian country and don’t integrate into our society and it causes tensions”

My retorts are twofold..

Anyone who moves to another country will automatically integrate in that country’s society. They’ll use the currency, pay tax, most likely send their children to public schools, learn the language/dialect, live in that time zone etc… If they happen to move to a free country like the UK they may also choose to practice a religion. That’s what integration means. What it doesn’t mean is changing your world view or opinion based on geographical location. My daughter who has Down’s syndrome will, at some stage, require some level of integration. We’re not sure how much but we know there will be some. Whether it’s schools/colleges, living independently or gaining employment.
The reason it causes tensions has nothing to do with integration and everything to do with your inability to co exist on a planet with someone who has different coloured skin.
On a side note, the people who usually bleat on about integration can usually be found on the costa del sol for two weeks of the year eating egg and chips, drinking stella whilst wearing an England football shirt….You know, integrating. Ok that’s probably not fair of me. But who gives a shit?

 

Part 2.

On September 19th Apple will release their latest product… The iPhone 6. Not to be one to get overly excited with the release of new toys, gadgets or gizmos. Although I did get very excited for the release of Modern Warfare 2. I can never understand the fuss. I still haven’t got an Xbox one, choosing to stick with my trusty 360. But it seems other people don’t share my blasé attitude towards high tech gadgets. This Wednesday a friend photographed someone on Regent St. Camping. Outside the Apple store. 9 days before the release date. I believe he was actually camping out so he could pre order the phone which he could do on Thursday or Friday. I don’t know if he’s still there and frankly I don’t care. I don’t know what pisses me off more. The notion that owning the latest toys before anyone else will somehow improve your life, an idea that Regent St. consumer clearly has. Or that people are free to camp outside a shop, on the streets for days on end and remain un molested by the authorities. However if you were to stand outside the same shop protesting at their tax avoidance you can be sure that you would be moved on in a matter of hours, let alone days.

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To me this is what is really wrong with our society. People can live on the streets to be first in line to spend, spend, spend. You’ll receive a pat on the head for being a good little consumer.  But to raise a voice against it? Well, be prepared to get shut down by men wearing big black boots.

“Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches…”

– Aldous Huxley Brave new world

F.E.A.R

I woke up on a lovely, late summer’s Monday morning to a social media frenzy. Like hungry sharks in a tank they circled wanting to take a chunk of flesh out of my day.

There was apparently a warning from either the MET police or MI5 that the threat level for a terrorist attack and been raised from MODERATE to SEVERE and that every MET officer was called in to work at 4.00am AND that an attack was likely to happen on the tubes in London’s west end. So like a good citizen I locked the doors, closed the curtains (which happen to be bomb proof) turned off the lights and informed EVERYONE I know of the imminent danger. I also urged people not to travel into London unless it was essential. It’s better to be safe than sorry…right?

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Better to be safe than sorry! There is something about that phrase that makes my teeth ache. It’s like a reset button for rationality and reason. It’s the ace up one’s sleeve. Because, of course, it IS better to safe than sorry. AND THAT’S HOW THEY GET YA!

So I did a modicum of investigating. The MI5 website DID have a heightened alert for the UK. But here’s where it gets interesting. England and Northern Ireland are set separately. The threat level for N.I was raised to severe while G.B stayed at Moderate. Thus raising the threat level from international terrorism to U.K to severe…at least that’s how I understood it. When I read that information I was still on my first morning cuppa so if I have misread, misinterpreted or just plain not understood please forgive me and please enlighten me.

When the internet gorillas got hold of this nugget of information they of course had to add a little chilli powder and cajun spice. And i’m sure Chinese whispers played a huge part in this overblown Facebook charade. You are more likely to suffer at the hands of the Metropolitan police than to be a victim of terrorism…so if the streets were full of extra police, some with guns (which someone on Facebook alerted me to) then statistically the streets of London have just become more dangerous.

Raising the threat level of a terrorist attack is as pointless as it is stupid. It’s like telling people to top up their car with petrol. Remember that? Queues at petrol stations for no reason a few years back. There was no need yet people hopped into their cars and topped up the tank. People are fucking dumb and will practically do anything their told. So telling them the threat of terrorist attack is likely is like covering your genitals in honey and kicking a bear in the bollocks. Because bears love honey.

There’s no way of knowing when or if an attack is coming. Just like you don’t know when or where someone will be hit by bus. I’m fairly certain that international terrorists don’t leave their pocket diaries lying around in casinos for 007 to sneak a look.

But FEAR keeps us in line. It keeps us from deviating too far from the garden path, it keeps our larders stocked and our petrol tanks full. It’ll keep the curtains twitching and our heads turning. Living on earth is like living on a knife’s edge and it can be taken away as easy as it was dished out. Yes there are things to be scared of and we should be vigilant against all acts that wish harm us and our brothers and sisters. But don’t stay home scared of what might happen because the chances are they won’t.

Stay safe, be cool and don’t be a fear monger.

The Down’s Delusion

As I read Richard Dawkins apology for his remarks regarding Down’s syndrome/Abortion I could hear a sharp intake of breath through gritted teeth from the Down’s Syndrome community. I could then feel the eyes…. waiting for my (re)action.

I have been a great admirer of Prof. Dawkins for a few years now and It was with great sadness that I read his apology letter.

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My wife and I have a two year old daughter, Chiara, with Down’s. During the pregnancy we didn’t know anything of her condition but my wife and I always said that if we found out that either of our children had Down’s (Or any other condition) we wouldn’t opt for an abortion. I could tell you that having a child with Down’s is no different or how much joy she brings to us. I could go on for hours about how much we love her and the wonderful  dynamic she has added to our family. While all of the above are true and self evident I feel they miss the point slightly.

Prof. Dawkins remarked that “if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare”

While I can understand Prof. Dawkins views I certainly do not agree with them.

Is it immoral to purposely give birth to a child with Down’s citing the child’s welfare as your reason? I would have to say no. You could go one further and ask…

Is it immoral to give birth to a child citing the child’s welfare as your reason? After all any child could grow up and be diagnosed with a range of conditions later in life. Autism, Multiple sclerosis, asthma, etc. Of course the answer is no. Having children is a risk, you don’t know what the future will bring.

With the advancement of medical science foetus’ can be diagnosed with a variety of conditions as well as being put in a high risk category for other conditions. Would someone opt for abortion for the latter? Sadly I feel some would. Termination before diagnosis. Execution before trial. Sounds very totalitarian doesn’t it? Something I know Prof. Dawkins is fervidly against.

Since having Chiara I can say that we are happy, as is she, and there is very little in the way of suffering. Except when she’s hungry and she turns into a right little moo cow. Yes I will have to care for her until the day I die… But the same applies to her sister and any future little Loves that may pop along for the ride. Parenting is job that’s 365 days a year, very few breaks, long hours and it lasts until the day you die… and the pay is shit! The parameters have shifted only slightly with extra Doctors appointments, physiotherapy and numerous classes. As for what happens to her after we’re gone… I guess we’ll have to just wait and see what life throws at her. But she will grow up in a stable, happy and loving environment and she will be given every opportunity to live an independent life.

And finally Prof. Dawkins I consider you a champion of the secular movement. Helping society to shed the cloak of religious dogma and bring the truly wonderful world of science and nature to the people. Bringing a shining light to the darkness. I truly hope that one day I can do the same for you… You’re welcome for tea anytime.