Friday, 12 December 2008

Guest Post From Richard Bailey

Does this have to hurt......?

I am irritated. I am in fact sufficiently irritated to resume blogging after nearly two years.

The source of my irritation is my beloved political party. A decent bunch of genuinely motivated, interesting and intelligent people have finally emerged from the Ashes of 1997 and despite finding themselves facing an old and tired government, they seemingly lack the killer instinct, and worst of all, the best opportunity to demolish the current political ideology is fast slipping away.

I have the clear and unmistakable onset of toothache at the moment, and it struck me as I read my Times this morning that this was the perfect analogy through which to find the best narrative to describe the right Conservative response to the financial crisis we face.

Why they can’t do it for themselves is beyond me.

After all, the one fatal mistake Thatcher made was to forget to put in place the political “nursing staff” to provide the aftercare to her (very necessary) open-heart “surgery” of the mid 80’s. You’d have thought we’d learn, eh?

Anyway, Tony Blair obligingly accepted the role of pampering matron and the rest is history, so to speak. We sit here today, all of us, knowing that the ache in our mouth was a long time coming. We know that we have been lazy and inattentive; we have partied too much, come home late and just not bothered to clean our teeth.

We have eased the occasional twinge with paracetamol and, temporarily free from pain, carried on as before. After all, there really is no point going to the dentist yet. I mean nobody goes through the pain of the dentist until they have reached the point at which the pain of staying at home is much greater.

And so it is with our finances. We have had a spectacular decade or more of spending and borrowing, easy credit, and liberal repayment schemes. Every now and then we hit the buffers, we knew we were on borrowed time but the solution was there – if I just borrow a bit more, I can get back on track.

But here I am this morning with a very distinct signs that the worst pain is just around the corner. My tooth is sensitive to hot and cold extremes, I can’t chew on it without little twangs, and I have a dull ache that, while not overly painful yet, isn’t going away. I am in that agonising moment. I know what’s coming. I know I deserve it. I know that trip to the dentist is going to be emotional. But even now, I still need the pain to be so much greater before it drives me to do what needs to be done. You see it is not the pain I want – it is the relief from pain. I want a short sharp shock, but I want to know that I will be cared for afterwards and helped to recover.

And so it is with the economy. The parties are now clearly divided. Labour advocates pain relief. They say we don’t have to visit the dentist, they say we can control the pain with evermore borrowing and that nobody has to face the horrors of pulling the tooth out. But we know deep down that soon enough, neighbouring teeth, already damaged by plaque, will start to ache too and then we will be left with a worse problem than now. More than that, we know that the solution will have to be considerably more drastic.

The Conservatives however, say let’s get it over with quickly. Let’s go to the dentist and let’s get that tooth out no matter what the pain. It will be a shocking pain, but it will be short lived. People will lose their jobs, and their homes. But everyone will recover quicker and with more confidence.

The Conservatives position is admirable and more significantly, right. So here’s the thing. Why won’t they tell us more about the recovery? If we have to play the part of the hated dentist, why can’t we describe the aftercare – the soft, warm duvet, the smiling nurses, the new chances, the sun shining down on our faces?

Cameron spent years culturing the caring, compassionate image and just when we need it most, he chucks it out. Brown has seized the chance to paint him as a traditional hardnosed, dispassionate Tory and raise the spectre of Thatcher and the early 80’s.

Mr Cameron, everything you have worked for these past three years has been building for this moment. Don’t bottle it now.

Be the dentist. It is the right thing to do, but line your shadow ministers up with policies galore for the recovery, like beautiful nurses with soothing tonics and fluffy pillows.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sky News

I'm on Sky News tonight, at 7pm.

Update: Here's a link.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

London Society 5

I have just heard the news that Roy Keane has parted company with Sunderland United.

Doubtless he will feel that he has failed, but surely it is those halfwitted Geordies who have failed him. It might be too much to expect them to caress the ball with their feet just like he did at Manchester Celtic, but they could at least put in some bloody effort. (That's if they insist on playing the stupid game at all. I'm afraid that Roy has never managed to convince me of its fundamental merits; albeit that I recognise genius when I see it.)

I suppose Roy will be on the lookout for another club, and I bet they shall come calling soon. But I must say I rather hope that he does something else. As you know, he has a gorgeous singing voice, and he could put that to good use.

He also has a delightful speaking voice, and I must confess that I snuck into his room to take a peak at some of his poetry the other day. I very much hope that he can be persuaded to read some of it in public. Compared to the complex emotions expressed so incredibly well by Roy, even the Bard's sonnets are so much doggerel.

Norms Lamont and Julian Clary say that they are going to cheer Roy up by baking him a big cake in the shape of a football. I'm sorry, but football is the very thing he needs to clear his mind of at the moment. I have made a subtle suggestion by sending Roy a few volumes of my own verse, and hope he takes the hint.

We're all meeting up to watch some wrestling in a pub tonight, so that should be fun. I gather it's quite a rough place, but I'm sure it'll be fine.

Men normally grow a beard when they are in the middle of a crisis. I wonder if Roy is conversely tempted to shave his off. I actually hope not. I feared that it wouldn't be a success when it started to sprout, but it really does work. It brings out the soulful quality of his eyes.

Trust Roy to get an aesthetic judgement spot on. Verily, he is a beautiful person in every way.

Once again, just to assure you that very little of the above is true.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Shodding Greeves

I have purchased TWO pairs of footwear today, which is quite something for me.

At Fitrite (48 High Street, Oxford) I bought a pair of Doc Martens in the Chelsea boot style, and at Up & Running in Headington I bought some Asics trainers.

I am very pleased with all four shoes.

More retail news to come, no doubt.

And The Band Stayed On

I had quite an extraordinary start to my gig last night. Immediately preceding the stand-up portion of the evening was a brass band. I was backstage waiting for the floor to clear when suddenly I was announced on.
I therefore had to do a slalom around those who had already come off in order to get to the stage, by which time the applause had (understandably) died down. But even more offputting was the fact that THE BAND CARRIED ON CLEARING THE STAGE AS I DID MY SET.
Thank God I'm reasonably experienced now. Nonetheless, it could easily have ruined the gig, because it completely changed the momentum. Fortunately I managed to cope.
On a more trivial note, we raised lots of money for charity.
I am picky about what charities I will support, and I insisted on doing some background research on Amnesty before agreeing to be involved. I was relieved and impressed by what I read. They do great work, and here is their UK site.
One's rarely going to agree with everything a charity does. It's about deciding whether on balance it is a good thing. I think that Amnesty is.
I hadn't known that UNICEF were also going to be a part of the evening. I don't like the UN in many ways, and I worry that corruption runs right through it, but UNICEF obviously does good work too.
And no slur on the organisers is intended in my remarks about the band being on stage. It was one of those things, and quite funny as it turned out.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Soldier Tries To Explain Radio Silence To Base

but can't.

Monday, 1 December 2008

An Unexpected Post About Comedy

Hi there,

It’s been too long, hasn’t it? I have been blogging, but over on ConservativeHome. I write for and edit the Parliament page, and am a contributor to CentreRight, which has opinion pieces from a variety of writers.

But you want to hear from me HERE too, don’t you? Now my life is settling down into a more manageable routine, I plan to be more proactive again.

I thought I’d start by writing about comedy. “WHAT?!” I hear you cry. “You do that all the time!”. Ah yes, but it’s almost always about my stuff, isn’t it? I thought it might be interesting to tell you about other comedy that I enjoy, and why.

What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up in what I don’t like. I just don’t think that’s particularly healthy, and ultimately it’s not that interesting. Suffice to say that surrealism just isn’t to my taste, and with the odd notable exception (see below) I don’t dig sketch shows.

In order to be objective, I’m not going to write about comedians whom I’m friends with either. But that’s not because loads of them aren’t talented; they are.

Here then with some stuff that I’ve enjoyed over the years and recently.

A Bit of Fry and Laurie. The sketch show par excellence. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were the ideal double act in that they really did have different and complementary skills. Fry imbued in me a love for the funny use of language, and the merit in being unashamed to tackle highbrow issues. He did this to a much greater extent than any stand-up has. Hugh Laurie is an outstanding actor, and a superb comedy musician.

My problem with sketch shows is that they are filled with half-formed ideas. It didn’t matter with these guys because they did it so well, and they also had ongoing storylines with well-developed characters.

I’ll gladly watch anything else either of them is in, including QI, the only panel show I consistently like.

Ricky Gervais. Perhaps we have already arrived at the day when it’s unfashionable to praise this fellow. But he is, simply and straightforwardly, funny. He’s a jolly good stand-up, and The Office is my favourite sitcom ever. It’s perfect.

Mitchell and Webb. I have huge goodwill for David and Robert. They’re brilliant in Peep Show, and I enjoy their own stuff too. And yes, I’d love to work with them.

Glenn Wool. My favourite stand-up comedian. When I did my second ever gig, which was my first disappointing one, he headlined. I wanted to quit, because he was awesome.

He is extremely skilful in talking about politics without being preachy or unoriginal, has a wicked sense of humour, and just radiates funniness. It doesn’t matter if a set is shambolic and ill-formed. In fact I like that.

Outnumbered. I’ve only seen three episodes of the second series, but it’s blown me away. The child actors are hilarious, and it is a beautifully crafted combination of writing and improvisation.

The American Office, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Frasier. I don’t much care for lots of American comedy, and I have friends who will puke blood to see me praise Friends and How I Met Your Mother. But there’s nothing wrong with a comforting, family friendly sitcom. And there’s also merit in a more adult-oriented one, like the other two. The writing in all of the above shows is first-class.

Stewart Lee.
I should hate him. He might well hate me if we got to know each other. But he’s very clever, without ever forgetting or failing to be very funny.

The Farrelly Brothers. I love a goofball comedy film as long as it is based around a well-developed plot. These fellows have managed it on several occasions, my favourite being Me, Myself & Irene. Jim Carrey polarises people – I’m on his side.

Funny books. P.G. Wodehouse is exceedingly funny, as is the book Diary of a Nobody. Don Novello as Laszlo Toth is side-splitting.

Withnail & I. it’s not often that student hyperbole is matched by reality. But this film is every bit as good as the most enthusiastic fresher ever claimed. For God’s sake watch it if you haven’t already.

And what do you like?

UPDATE: I should have mentioned comedy poet Tim Key, who leaves me helpless with laughter. In fact he may just be the funniest of the lot.
Web Site Counter
Best Buy