Saturday, 31 December 2005

Review Of The Year

So another year is almost over (I’m writing this at 8.13pm GMT on the 31st December 2005, even though my blog will indicate otherwise). Time to reflect on what has gone before.

A lot has happened in the life of Thomas William Greeves. I assisted on a book, a real book that got published and everything. I made some new friends and one of them, Marco, ensured that I finally started to make some proper progress with my weightlifting. I re-established contact with Keith, Robert and James H. I eked out an existence as a freelance researcher and writer, and wrote the first draft of a film script. And I started a blog that has brought me a huge amount of pleasure, and hopefully some of you as well. I also signed on for Once More.

Mark and Margaret sadly died, and are much missed.

I lost a lot of weight, and hope to be on a road to finally getting that right. That is SO preferable to starting again on 1st January, when the best laid plans often begin, but are proven to have been built on unstable ground.

And the germ of an idea that will be actioned next year has developed. If it goes well, it could be the key to everything else. Watch this space, and please keep reading in the New Year, which I hope will be a happy and prosperous one for all y’all.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Quite Something

I hope Christmas was jolly. I have something rather splendid to report.

I went to see someone the other day about diet, as I am resolved to lose weight. I have a fairly ruthless plan to cut out all unhealthy food and limit portion sizes for six months, and made the decision to start immediately - and not make an exception for Christmas.

That I got through the whole shooting match without any recourse to sweets, crisps, cheese, chips, fizzy pop or mince pies and whilst not gorging on anything else, is a source of considerable pride to me. I already feel a lot better, and there are going to be a few changes this year.

This is happening.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

A Christmas Gift

You know you’re a liberal (not in the Australian sense) if:

You assert with utter abandon that Americans are stupid, and get in a terrible state if anyone has the temerity to tell a joke about the Welsh.

You wax lyrical about the benefits of living in Cuba, and think that China should be boycotted for no other reason than that some Chinese skin cats and dogs.

You would never vote Tory because of financial sleaze scandals involving a handful of MPs, and you believe that the United Nations is the epitome of moral authority.

You think that anyone who wants to restrict abortion is a Nazi, and that the hunting of vermin should be illegal.

You violently object to selection in schools, and move to a village some forty miles from where you work so that your child (who is probably called Hugo or Jemima) can attend the local comprehensive.

You worry about the prospect of global warming, and don’t know the name of your next door neighbour.

You consider “Merry Christmas” to be an offensive phrase, and insist that everyone at your workplace celebrates Diwali. (You are, needless to say, White.)

You demand that every political party adopts positive discrimination (sic) in favour of women, and think it should be illegal for the Church of England to exclusively appoint Christians to Bishoprics.

You spastically support the Fair Trade (sic) movement, and assert that everyone should buy their food as locally as possible.

You believe that George Bush “didn’t win” the 2000 election and refuse to recognise the legitimacy of his Presidency, and continue to be outraged that Saddam Hussein was forcibly removed from power. (After all, they’d probably have voted the old charmer out at the next free and fair election.)


Merry F-king Christmas and a Happy New Year (not a foreign one) to all my liberal friends.

More "Twins"

This guy also looks like me. Thank God he’s a Liberal – i.e. a conservative. Charles Allen looks like me too.

Monday, 19 December 2005

John Spencer

I was very sorry indeed to read that John Spencer has died. He starred in some films that I thoroughly enjoyed, but really made his mark for me in LA Law, playing Tommy Mullaney. Later, of course, he famously became Leo McGarry in The West Wing.

I had the privilege of meeting John once. He came to a party at Channel Four studios. Marvellously, they had invited politicos such as me to an advance screening of The West Wing, and he was the star guest. He made a very engaging and witty speech, and afterwards he patiently signed autographs and met people. I found him delightful, and although he ‘fessed up to being a liberal, he was most generous about the fact that my friends and I were conservatives, and said that he had been impressed by President Bush’s decency when he met him. Not for him the cheap shot or the superior tone.

John was amused when one of my friends told him how much I fancy Emily Procter (Ainsley Hayes in The West Wing). Perhaps the biggest tribute I can pay John Spencer is that given a choice it was him I would have liked to meet most. (No offence Emily, but hey – answer my emails.)

Like LA Law before it, The West Wing is a spectacularly good show, and of course that owes much to its fine cast. It matters not a jot to my Conservative or Republican friends that the heroes in the show are liberals – they have to be one or the other if the thing is to be realistic, and that realism necessitates that they are seen to bitch about the GOP. The show will go on, I hope, but it won’t be quite the same.

I’ve read the odd article about John Spencer. Here was a guy who rejoiced in wondered awe at having the opportunity to act – it is clear he genuinely was that humble. He was a massive talent and a very good guy, and I’ll always be glad I had the very serendipitous chance to meet him.

A Comprehensive Tw-t

So John Prescott has piped up on education reform. It’s rather like Walter the Softy offering an opinion on whether kicking, punching or grappling is most useful in a street fight, but Prescott is Deputy Prime Minister, so what he says matters.

His intervention shows that despite the best (actually quite poor) efforts of the Prime Minister, class war is alive and well within New Labour; indeed Prescott has said so very frankly. But while his candour is welcome, his attitude stinks to High Heaven. It appals me to think that this man is already thought of as a National Treasure, an honour usually bestowed on left wing bigots only after they have departed from the Front Bench. (I suppose Ken Livingstone is similarly viewed in some quarters, although the scales are falling off a few eyes.)

Prescott is an oaf. He has no concept of beauty, which is why he wants to concrete over England. He is genuinely, straightforwardly and hopelessly thick, and the fact that he remains so after several years of higher education goes to show that it is a total waste of time to send so many people to university. His political ancestors condemned people like me – who went to a comprehensive school – to a fourth-rate education, and now he and his cronies on the Labour benches want to deny future generations the chance to thrive.

Don’t get me wrong. I was by no means the most academically able student at any of my schools, and I made very many good friends at each of them (one of whom I have just made contact with again – big shout out to James H). I also had some very good teachers. But comprehensivisation enshrines mediocrity, sneers at talent and effort, and goes none of the way towards reflecting the FACT that each human being is infinitely complex.

That Prescott is so brazen about his motives – stating quite explicitly and unapologetically that this is a matter of class war - shows him to be a complete thug, as well as a halfwit. If Tony Blair had any balls he would fire him. Of course that would make Prescott a martyr and expose the massed ranks of communists in the Parliamentary Labour Party. But it would make me laugh like a drain to see that hideous fraud bounced out of his grace and favour home.

Sorry David; I guess I’m in a Punch and Judy mood today.

Fiona Pinto

Please have a look at the blog of the courageous Fiona Pinto, www.fionapinto.blogspot.com. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the weekend, and she operates an excellent and important website.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Inspiration

Oh my.

"Thomas" means "The Twin". Well, I think I've found my doppelganger.

What the Hell sort of drugs is he taking? Whatever they are, they ain’t working.

I Love Pool ...

... but I'm not very good at it.

I've got a lot better since I started getting lower down to the table, and I've been playing more in the last few weeks. I sometimes make really good pots, but I am struggling to get the hang of putting side on the ball (although I understand the basic principles), and I think I'm going to have to put up with missing a lot of shots while I think more about position. I am dreadfully inconsistent too.

Do any sharks out there want to send me some tips? I am getting into nine-ball, and I also play a lot of English pool. I guess practice is key - I've read that the pros play an ENORMOUS amount. Oh, to one day have room for a full size American table of my own.

I'd appreciate any good advice. tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk.

I am also fed up at not being strong enough. But at least I know how to powerlift.

Kate Rusby

If you have any affection for good music, check out Kate Rusby. She's at http://katerusby.com.

Kate is a terrific singer, composer and interpreter of traditional folk songs. I've always liked folk and country inspired popular music, whilst not being keen on the hardcore stuff. As such I must infuriate the purists. But I think trads and pops (HEY - I've invented a new music divide like the Mods and Rockers!) alike will seriously dig Kate. Her latest album - The Girl Who Couldn't Fly, is particularly special.

I wish some of you (other than people I already know, whose comments are still welcome as ever) would email me. I don't have a comments section as it's too much hassle and I don't want to share the limelight, but I am nonetheless eager to hear from my readership. tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Reds Under The Bed, On The Bed, Making The Bed

Proof, if proof was needed, that the BBC is in the grip of communists.

It IS Interesting

How I love Steve Davis:

“I went to John Parris and we discussed what I wanted. Now the right tool for the job in nineball is obviously a nineball cue with an American tapered shaft, which goes from thick to thin to thick to house the larger ferrul and to help with the looped bridge. It also helps to generate power and gives it a lot more whip and life. Now you don't really want much whip and life on a snooker table so the snooker taper just goes from thick to thin, but playing with an open bridge meant that I didn't have to change to a pool taper. So I said to John Parris that it would probably be better if I stayed with an English taper as I didn't want to go with too big a ferrul so we went with a compromise ferrul. I think we ended up with something like an 11mm ferrul, which is thin by nineball standards but I think that Oliver Ortman plays with something of a similar size. I've also got a fibre ferrul instead of a white plastic ferrul. I don't think you can play with a brass ferrul at pool, but I also don't thnk you can use a plastic ferrule for snooker. It's strange how the games differ like that, so I have a compromise cue because I don't play nineball all the time.”

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Carroll Campbell Jr. RIP

I was sad to read of the passing of Carroll Campbell, the former Governor of South Carolina. When I spent three months in SC last year I was left in no doubt that he was quite a guy. Read more here.

Gun For Hire

It's time to advertise myself again. I am a highly experienced researcher and writer, with several years of working for senior members of Parliament behind me. If you need a speech, article or brief written, or want to develop a bigger project, do get in touch.

I'm at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Once More

Monday, 5 December 2005

David Cameron ...

... will be thrilled to read that he won my vote the other day. I imagine he's unstoppable now.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Guest Post on (Compulsory) Voting

Herewith another post on voting. It’s from an old Conservative Central Office colleague, now back home in his native Australia.

Why I vote – and why everyone else should too.

Tom’s mate Nate Rusby is a self-confessed lazy man. And I'm sure we've all been spectacularly lazy at one time or another. Let's go through Nate's check list. Excessive bed rest? Check. Don't study? I did spectacularly little at university myself.

So, I’m confident I qualify as a fellow lazy man, Nate. And as a fellow lazy man, I'm here to show why lazy people and compulsory voting are not incompatible. In addition, I think there are good reasons to support compulsory voting that even lazy people can embrace!


I applaud Nate's attention to his health, and his determination to stick to his bed at the sight of the slightest sign of either a cold, or motivation. I can quite understand why no one would want to go outside in British weather when it wasn't necessary too. But that doesn't explain why people shouldn't vote. I'd like to introduce you to the concept of postal voting. Postal voting allows you to vote from the comfort of your own bed or couch, right now. It's cosy, it's comfortable, and it's voting! So remember, voting loves lazy people too.

What does worry me though, is Nate's argument that his view isn't an important part of his civic responsibility, or that his vote isn't worth chasing. In fact, it’s tackling this (sadly common) view of the worthlessness of voting that forms the kernel of why I support compulsory voting. In a country with compulsory voting, he wouldn't feel the way he does. Let me explain.

I am an Australian actively involved with the political process. In Australia we have had compulsory voting since 1924. And what we learn is that every single vote is precious, and that every single vote makes a difference, particularly in a country with compulsory voting, because it gives us the government we not only deserve, but want. It means our governments have been formed on the basis of a more complete assessment of the political mood, which every vote (such as Nate's) help to shape. So, speaking from experience Nate, your vote in a democracy with compulsory voting is appreciated by all - not just by politicos like myself chasing it, but everyone, but because you are helping to determine a government which is more reflective of society as a whole.

This is all very well for lazy people, but what about the rest of the community? Why should they feel relaxed about compulsory voting as well?

Compulsory voting can make for better-informed debate during an election campaign. During an election campaign, there is less focus on issues in countries where voting is not compulsory, as attention and resources are diverted to turnout. Parties have to devote a great many resources to ‘getting out the vote’ - estimated in the USA to be up to a quarter of the total Republican and Democratic campaign budgets. In addition, the highest possible turnout of voters helps ensure that at least once every few years the silent majority must think about elections. More resources for debate on the issues, and more people thinking about them, make for more constructive and worthwhile political debate.

Compulsory voting removes some bias against less-privileged citizens. It provides a stimulus for voters to apprise themselves of the issues, something far better than voluntary voting, under which the better educated and the better off are more likely to vote - which is more elitist and anti-democratic. A more equitable polity is more likely to be a stable polity.

Compulsory voting gives everyone an enhanced sense of ownership of their polity. In my view, this is probably the most attractive argument for compulsory voting. What amazed me as an Australian living in Britain was the comparative lack of a sense of ownership that Britons have of their constitutional arrangements, parliament, and responsibilities of citizenship. By comparison, Australians know their vote in a referendum can change their constitution, and that our constitutional arrangements are in place because we prefer them, not because of inertia.

Regardless of how lazy we are, we all already undertake certain roles which help maintain the architecture of civic society. We pay taxes. If we are parents, we send our children to school. If summonsed, we serve on juries. Voting is just like one of these activities - except we can do it from our bed via postal voting, which is convenient for us lazy people.

Moreover, in an age with large scale immigration, and the initial social alienation and dislocation that this potentially brings, compulsory voting can play a part in the socialisation of immigrants, once they have become naturalised and gained the vote. It becomes a major civic activity, and being able to participate is a way for migrants to know that they belong to their new home country. For a country like Britain with a major immigration intake, this could be an invaluable, practical step, to give some punch to what a fancy citizenship ceremony represents.

So, punters – lazy or otherwise – voting in a democracy is a valuable act in itself for the social cohesion, and electoral accuracy of a country, regardless of who you vote for. It’s for this reason - rather than an interest in what the politicians themselves might say - that I vote, and why everyone else should too.


Great stuff, great mate. You've got me wavering!

Oh yes - a response to James Davenport IS on the way, I promise!
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