Not too long ago the news came out that the BBC had apologised to Sir Bob Geldof.
Why, you may ask! Was it for not giving airtime to the Boomtown Rats
re-release of ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ in the mid nineties? Or for not
forcing him to visit the hair and makeup department before appearing on
Parkinson a several years ago?
No! This recent apology was for alleging that a good proportion of money
raised through his various Live Aide projects had not reached the intended
victims of famine. In fact they claimed that some of the funds had been
used to buy weapons.
The original piece, given by BBC World Service Africa editor Martin Plaut,
was first broadcast back in March and then followed up with a discussion on
Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning programme.
I am sad to hear the news of these editorial failings for a number of
reasons, not least because the BBC directly benefited from the Boomtown
Rat’s efforts by having hours and hours of live music footage that all but
guaranteed them huge audience figures.
Who can forget Status Quo’s opening rendition of their hit ‘Rocking All
Over The World’ or Freddie Mercury’s Queen getting the crowds to respond
with ‘We Will Rock You’. Or even Sir Bob passionately shouting ‘Give us yer
All these years later perhaps my greatest disquiet is the fact that such
allegations only feed the growing feeling of disconnection felt by the
British public and our long history of generosity.
I often hear people declare that they didn’t give to a particular cause
because they were unsure whether the funds would reach their intended
target. Giving then becomes secondary exercise and we all too easily find
an excuse for our lack of generosity.
For sure charities need to act responsibly but scare story headlines like
the one offered by the BBC are hard to argue against for all but the
largest charities meaning that there remains in the public consciousness a
nagging doubt about the validity of any future requests for help.
The regular phrase trotted out by people wishing to avoid helping those in
greater need is ‘charity begins at home’ and one cant help feel that in the
present credit crunch crisis we are going to hear it a lot more.
If you take it to it’s logically conclusion it would mean that families
would just end up giving money to themselves; which is not charity. When
our four daughters were teenagers you could be forgiven for thinking that
they saw my bank account as a form of charity but I hardly think that
There are thousands of good causes in this country and they represent
something of the DNA of this great nation. The money raised Sir Bob, Midge,
and the Live Aid team changed real lives in foreign places and, in an
almost unseen way, changed real hearts in this land. At a time where market
forces were being seen as the great driver of everything, ordinary people
made a small stand for something bigger than their own personal gain.
If I could meet Sir Geldof I would want to thank him for two things;
firstly that I can accompany my morning blues with few lines from ‘I don’t
like Mondays’ and thus realise I am not alone. Secondly, for waking us up
to the need in far off countries and to our collective ability to make a
Not too long ago the news came out that the BBC had apologised to Sir Bob Geldof.
I entered this year with the good intention of talking regular exercise has been somewhat thwarted by some knee pain that I have been labelling as a sports injury. Mrs M seems intent on ridiculing this description by telling everyone that it happened in the local pub.
In this she is correct but I still maintain that sport was directly involved in bringing on the pain I now feel.
I was playing crib with two friends and my ninety-year old father in law whilst keeping one eye on the TV that was showing the other drinking regulars the selected game of football.
Being a dutiful son-in-law I was determined to ensure my wife’s dad had a peaceful night, given he is a mere ten years off reaching his century, by making all the trips for ale on his behalf.
As I rose from the table attempting one such trip I intended heading left towards the bar when the rest of our party made the ‘someone has nearly scored’ noise that football fans make in unison. Because the TV was on the opposite side of the room I instinctively tried to turn right to view the spectacle but had already put most of my weight in the other direction; thus twisting my knee and causing the said sports injury.
Who knew a game of crib could be so dangerous?
Not long after this incident I visited my father who is recovering well from a hip operation. I, of course, told him the full tale without pausing to allow Mrs M to express her opinion on such matters.
My dad nodded his understanding with a smile and we walked toward lounge to continue our conversation about leg related pain. At this point my bride and my mother started to chuckle in the way that wives do when they have noticed some deficiency in their husbands world.
‘You are both limping in the same way’ my mother exclaimed continuing to laugh at us in our hour of need.
‘You could borrow your dad’s walking stick’ added Mrs M as if we weren’t already in enough pain.
On our return to the Aire Valley I determined that this injury was not going to make me look like an old man before my time; well not in public at least.
With this in my mind yesterday I agreed to walk the two miles to the office and determined not make any of the whining noises that had become part of my custom.
What I didn’t account for when I made this decision was the fact that we live in one of the hilliest parts of the country. And it seems that when you have a sports related knee injury walking down hill is far harder than walking up hill.
As we turned the last corner before arriving at our destination Mrs M tripped ever so slightly.
‘Oops’ she said steadying herself by holding my arm ‘I don’t want to have a sports injury’
‘You couldn’t use that term for it anyway’ I replied laying claim to the title.
‘Fell walking is more of a sport than cribbage’ she replied, once again believing she had won the argument.
I limped off in a sportsman like manner without saying a word,
Mrs M and I have been under the weather over the last seven days. I am tempted to call it flu but I have used the word too often to make it stick now. The fact that my bride shares the same symptoms allows me to let her make this call; after all she is the nurse in the family.
In between regular doses of paracetamol, one of the spin-offs from being ill is that you have the pleasure, if I may use such a word, of watching daytime telly; much of which is rather banal.
Perhaps that’s what you need when you can’t concentrate on anything more significant; TV that doesn’t stimulate too much.
I had often heard it said that we Brits have an obsession with the weather but now I have had it confirmed by the fact that all of the news programmes have covered the snowfall from every conceivable angle.
They usually start with a reporter stood near snowdrifts. I presume they feel this helps us viewers to realise how truly cold it is. We are then shown footage of abandoned cars and pensioners being helped from isolated buildings.
Following information about how many roads are affected we are shown video clips of the many schools that have been closed across the region.
They always seem to close the report with scenes of kids sledging so that we are not left feeling too depressed by our countries inability to deal with adverse weather conditions.
Drivers of 4 x 4 vehicles have come out well in most of the reports. It appears that not only do they have cars that don’t struggle with snow but they are also extremely neighbourly.
Mrs M and I have also received good support from friends and family during this winter illness; they have been more than willing to come to our aid by providing much needed food and supplies.
I have managed to get the shop myself during moments when I have felt slightly better but have faced a significant challenge when it comes coping with being ill: in most shops I am only allowed to buy two packets of pain killers.
Here is the main problem. We have two sick adults in the house who are fully committed to using painkillers in order to get through and yet I am forced to visit several shops in order to buy in a sufficient supply for our needs.
When your main goal is to keep your temperature down it really matters that you have drugs available on demand. In fact we have an electronic thermometer and therefore can accurately monitor the effects of our malaise at regular intervals.
Because of this I can confidently announce that for the first time in our thirty years together I am officially hotter than my wife.
In order to deal with our painkiller shortages I have had to recruit several friends to visit local shops to in order to provide a regular supply. I am not sure that turning such good people into potential drug dealers is what they intended when they decided to limit how many packets each person could buy.
Mrs M is keen that I receive my supply of pills so that she can remove me from my position as the hot one in our relationship.
If asked my family will tell you I am a decent cook. In truth I have learnt to make a few meals well enough to fool everyone in to believing that I know what I am doing. Mrs M gave me the ultimate compliment a few days ago when she said that she generally prefers to eat my food than what we have when we eat out. I need to point out, however, that she only said this in response to the pressure I was giving her to make a decision about what she wanted from the menu at a local Indian restaurant. It seems that it is the quality of my food that has made it almost impossible for her to make a speedy decision.
When it comes to choosing a curry my wife and I have different approaches. Mrs M goes for the relative safety of a fairly mild option, whereas I like a dish that will put up something of a fight. When the food arrives we do the husband and wife thing of trying each other’s dishes only to return to our own version of the perfect curry.
I do tend to avoid the infamous Vindaloo these days normally stating the apocryphal story that it is not authentically Asian and was only made to placate the often drunk British punter, who wanted a hotter dish than was normally available, to feed his larger fuelled hunger. Whether or not Vindaloo means ‘the one with the potato’, said to have been used to distinguish it from other dishes, I no longer choose to eat it.
In truth it is too hot for me these days and tends to bring on both an attack of perspiration and the threat of tears. Don’t think, however, that I have stopped liking spicy food altogether.
At home I will occasionally make a chilli that contains fire and usually the family appreciate it in silence. It is one of those dishes that stops you worrying about the general pressures of life by firmly locating you in the moment.
If it were not for the possibility of indigestion it would be perfect to get rid of one’s thoughts just before you go to sleep. Or perhaps it would work as breakfast in order to remove any potential worries for the day.
It would certainly be better than the rabbit food that Mrs M usually makes me eat. I recently tried to protest about this produce by suggesting that now I am over fifty some of its contents are a little too hard for my teeth.
Unfortunately my bride bought me some porridge as an alternative but this is even worse than the rabbit food. Firstly, it takes more effort than I am willing to expend on a breakfast that doesn’t contain bacon. Secondly, it is only a healthy option if you refrain from adding sugar or honey, or indeed anything else that would make it taste of anything palatable.
On reflection the porridge does have something in common with my hot chilli; both them have the ability to distract you from the worries of the day. One by filling your mouth with fire; the other by filling your life with boredom and your mouth with wallpaper paste.
Perhaps I am growing cynical in my middle age but somehow I cannot watch the television news without wondering to myself whether we are being presented with the whole story.
They seem to take a subject then present the most ludicrous extremes of the argument as if there are no other alternatives.
Thank goodness we have hit Christmas time so that we can have the balance of the nativity story to keep our feet on the ground.
Having said this it occurs to me that the same thought often came to mind when I used to watch our daughters performing as angels in the school version of the tale; this is not the whole story.
If you were to remove from the tableau the various bits of tradition that have been added over the years and the copious amounts of tinsel, silver paper, runny noses, and tea towels, what would we be left with.
Perhaps it would be a tale of enemy occupation, corrupt government, ethnic cleansing, and asylum seekers. All too familiar stories that seem to be often repeated on our news screens.
I understand that primary school teachers would be hounded out of their classrooms if they were to invest time in such subjects at what has become the season to party and enjoy the excesses we have become used to.
I feel sure, however, that we miss some of the subtlety of the scene. The promise that we are not left alone in our helplessness. The hope that one a day a child would be born who would bring about a different way of seeing the world. The reality that those in power don’t like such grass roots ideas. Even perhaps the possibility that there is some purpose in this corner of the universe!
One thing is for certain in the tale that we have come to know as the nativity; it is not the whole story. The main characters all seem to be the wrong type of people for such a seemingly important event. They had ancestors who were murderers and prostitutes. They were from the wrong part of the country. Without any connections that would make them seem powerful. Perhaps there is hope for us all.
One wonders how such a story would be covered by today’s television media. Would they interview the wise men about possible delays in travelling across borders during the holiday season? Or perhaps run a documentary series on the corruption in corridors of local government.
They would probably try to find a quirky angle from which to view the whole thing. Perhaps it would be the various uses of camel dung or the problems of finding hotel accommodation at the time of a census.
One thing is for sure; it would not be the whole story.
Thank goodness we have discovered the true meaning of Christmas today. Nigella Lawson’s recipe for goose-fat roast potatoes. The infamous cola advert. The office party. The vast amounts of money spent on presents.
And enough alcohol to cover up any thoughts of ethnic cleansing or a supposed visit from a deity in the form of a baby. Perhaps the newscasters have understood us well; after all we don’t really like the whole story.