Random Thoughts

21 Mar

Things you can’t do, according to Leviticus

Stephen : December 19, 2012 8:33 pm : Humour, Random

After President Jed Bartlet’s epic Biblical put-down of a thinly disguised Anne Coulter clone in the West Wing, I read a blog somewhere which had a long, long list of  things forbidden according to Leviticus.

Having done some (frankly, cursory) research, here are  my top twenty sins, followed by commentary.

Enjoy, sinners!


1. Eating fat (3:17) – that’s all of us heading for the Big Bad Fire then, Scotland and the USA leading the charge.

2. Carelessly making an oath (5:4) – ‘I swear I left my keys here’ Zap!!! You’re gone.

3. Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6) – Quite right too.

4. Tearing your clothes (10:6) – Not sure if it needs to be deliberate or not…..

5 Eating – or touching the carcass of – eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (11:13-19)  Not a lot of wiggle room left for those who like their birds of prey. No mention of the Bengal Eagle Owl though, and they’re massive, so plenty to eat if you can catch one of them – and it doesn’t eat you first. Did they have ospreys in Palestine?

6. Going to church within 66 days after giving birth to a girl (12:5) Seriously? You don’t want ‘em baptized?

7. Making idols or “metal gods” (19:4) One for us Judas Priest fans. We’re all damned to hell, apparently.

8. Holding back the wages of an employee overnight (19:13) – Proof that the lord is a union man.

9. Cursing the deaf or abusing the blind (19:14) – Yet it took us until 1985 to pass the Disability Discrimination Act?

10. Spreading slander (19:16) – Good to know that the tabloid press will roast eternally in the Lake of Fire

11. Seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18) – Oh come on, give us a chance here…

12. Cross-breeding animals (19:19) – Anyone in the pedigree dog business better get moving.

13. Eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it (19:23) – Eh? So why plant it then?

14. Trimming your beard (19:27) – Sexist. But I’m Ok, since I haven’t got a beard, ergo I can’t trim it.

15. Cutting your hair at the sides (19:27) – Only Bradley Wiggins escapes damnation.

16. Getting tattoos (19:28) – Shit. That’s me gone.

17. Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32) That’s only good manners, that is. I’ll be 50 next year, so show some respect.

18. Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born” (19:33-34) – Hah! That’s this country’s favourite hobby stopped in an instant.

19. Using dishonest weights and scales (19:35-36) – Presumably this includes lying about your weight?

20. Selling land permanently (25:23) – the Land Registry and Estate Agents of this country are doomed, I tell you, doomed!

Seriously, the next time you want to quote the Bible in opposition to women’s equality or same sex marriage – read Leviticus, ask yourself how many sins you’ve committed and then feel entirely at liberty to – how can I put this? – shut the fuck up.


‘The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for…’

Stephen : October 25, 2012 3:34 pm : Politics, Random

As Billy Bragg (pictured right) sang, we are always expected to pick up the tab for the mistakes made by the parasites who own but don’t produce, otherwise known as the ruling class.

billy bragg at nottinghamIt is common currency on the Left that the bosses are too busy waging the class war to talk about it but, occasionally, a rodent squeaks loudly enough to give the game away.

So it was today that deputy-director general of the CBI, Neil Bentley – I know, I’ve never heard of him either – told us what is needed in terms of new labour law.  Or, to get to basics, what further laws are required by the bosses to tighten their already significant stranglehold on independent trade unionism in the UK.

Mr Bentley, it seems, is in favour of ‘closer cooperation and engagement’ between employers and employees. So far, so good.

The TUC and most trade unions I know want this too and in the 28 years I’ve been a union representative I haven’t come across any single contentious dispute or disagreement at work which wouldn’t have benefitted from more cooperation or more engagement, or both.

So is Neil talking about putting elected union representatives on company boards?

Compulsory consultation between parties?

Independent mediation of disputes?

Letting those who produce have some say in how production is organised?

Tapping into the expertise of those who do the job?

Of course not. This is the CBI and British industrial relations.

Predictably, in another round of the perpetual and unnecessary confrontation and disrespect characterising UK workplaces, Neil Bentley wants the government to change the law to tell unions how to conduct their business.

I’ll leave the irony of an organisation always arguing that government should keep its nose out of their affairs now arguing that government should actively poke its nose into union affairs aside for the moment, and concentrate on what Neil and the CBI wants.

They want employers to be able to provoke pay disputes and then ignore unions in settling them. They want bosses’ propaganda included in union ballot papers. They want the bosses to decide which workers and which workplaces get balloted. They want recognition agreements ‘reviewed’ every three years.

And how does Mr Bentley sell this Victorian mill owner’s manifesto?

‘Like the changes of behaviour the new employment relationship requires of employers, this will put the ordinary member in charge.”

As if empowering ‘ordinary’ trade unionists is the CBI’s primary concern here…..

What Bentley and his class don’t understand is that as long as working people are marginalised, excluded, exploited, denied access to tribunals or the already severely restricted justice available through patchy, inadequate employment law, and viewed as human resources instead of people, there will be a disconnection between workers and employers which can never be bridged.

Nothing, other than a complete reshaping of the entire employment relationship, will change that.

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Friday’s foam-flecked fulmination: people who sing at gigs

Stephen : August 10, 2012 7:56 pm : Humour, Random

I was going to write a short blog about five pet hates today but realized I have more than 3 decades of unresolved bile stored on one issue, which I will now publicly unburden: people who sing too loudly at gigs.

I can hear the intakes of breath already, but bear with me, I don’t mean everybody.

In 1977 I was 14 years old and given special parental permission to go to the Glasgow Apollo to see Status Quo. At the time, Quo were easily the loudest live act on the circuit and Donald Campbell, Kenny Murray and I were camped four rows from the front, agog. For days after, I had a loud ringing in my ears and as I approach my 50th birthday with 35 years of going to gigs behind me my hearing is, shall we say, not what it was. Thankfully these days many bands have substituted clarity and balance for raw volume and made going to live gigs a more interesting and less health-threatening experience.

But….reductions in volume mean I can now hear dickheads who think they need to sing along to every word and note. And I do mean every word. If you’re one of those people – and if you are, I despise you – just tell me why having paid for a ticket, you are not listening to the artist you bought the ticket for?

For absolute clarity, I’m not for a single second saying ‘stop enjoying the gig’.

I love live music, I truly do, and have enjoyed many great evenings, inspiring times and moments of sheer joy. By all means dance, pogo, headbang, nod your head, cheer, yell, punch the air and sing along with the chorus or lines that inspire you, or when asked to by the artist – but other than that, kindly shut the fuck up.

I already know the lyrics, you’re not a good singer – really, you’re not – it doesn’t make you an uber-fan to sing every word and even if you are, I don’t care and I’d like to hear the music please.

I’d like to end by listing all the annoying dicks here, hoping for some sort of catharsis, but that list would be endless. I’ll just settle for telling you about one guy I was near at a Springsteen gig in Sunderland in June 2012.

Bruce and the E Street Band started up ‘Point Blank’, a quiet, poignant, broke- hearted love song and a guy near to me, hearing the sublime and wistful piano intro told his mate and girlfriend: ‘Point Blank’ – as if identifying a new species of turtle on the Galapagos islands.

He knew some but not all the words, got about one in four correct, and thought he was showing off to his peeps, but after the gig I wondered why he didn’t just do what everyone else around him were doing: listen to a rare and wonderful song?

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Friday: five things which grind my gears

Stephen : June 29, 2012 12:04 pm : Random

1. The incorrect use of the phrase ‘R and B’.

No, No and again, No! Sugababes, JLS, Craig David and an indistinguishable, interchangeable herd of pointless no-talent ‘artists’ producing the aural equivalent of candy floss are not ‘R&B’. And I don’t care how many Radio 1 DJs say they are, they’re just not. OK? They are 21st Century pop/pap, producing utterly forgettable musical mush which will last about as long as an Aga Shop in Castlemilk or a Greggs in Chipping Norton.

R&B is ‘rhythm and blues’. It’s Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, the Rolling Stones, BB King, the Yardbirds and, stretching a point, The Who. It isn’t 21st century pop moguls wrongly appropriating a genre and trying to give credence and weight where none exists. Stop it. Right now.

2. Bags on trains and bus seats.

Yes, I know you spent a lot of money on your fake Louis V or Abercrombie & Fitch and yes it does have some quirky wee badges on it, but I’m here now and have paid to sit down. Don’t look at me as if I’ve thrown up on your shoes, just move your bag without fuss or I may well throw both it and you off, regardless of whether the bus/train has actually stopped.

3. Food in cinemas.

Proof of Satan’s existence is evident in cinema food. In a public environment where quiet and concentration is necessary to hear words, sounds and music, what dastardly mind put the noisiest possible food in the middle of that? Seriously, crisps, sweets with wrappers, cavernous boxes of popcorn and ice with slurpy drinks? Why don’t Vue and CineWorld go the whole nine yards and make cymbals, bubble wrap and kazoos available? Well done Lucifer, blighting the lives of millions with your diabolical fiendish plots.

4. The misuse of the word ‘literally’.

Literally means, well, literally. As in actually. The sentence ‘I was literally beside myself’ is inaccurate unless a) the laws of physics are suspended or b) we’re in the middle of a ‘Red Dwarf’ episode. Ditto the use of the word in sports commentary, such as literally exploded, literally surrendered. Unless there is blood and guts everywhere or a white flag being waved, you are wrong. And stupid. Please stop or I will literally become very angry and bite someone’s face. Yours, probably.

5. Drivers who don’t say ‘thanks’.

I apologise to non-drivers, but those of you unlucky enough to drive on UK roads will get this: if not, you’re one of those drivers and I already hate you with a visceral passion. Like the Bible and the works of Marx, The Highway Code offers useful guidance yet is something few have actually read. For example, it says if two cars on a hill approach a similar situation, the car going uphill should get right of way.

The unwritten rules on British roads also include acknowledging other drivers as human beings, even if you’re thanking her/him for doing something they should do anyway; just a nod or a wave to say ‘thanks’. If someone stops and lets me past, I always do this, not just because my Mother brought me up to be polite, but because of karma: if I don’t, the other driver as well as thinking I’m a knob, may also think ‘I’m f*cked if I’ll do that again!”. If you don’t do this, please start. A polite society needs constant attention and care, no?

Tune in next week for foam-flecked ranting about ‘qualified infinitives’, people who sing too loudly at gigs, the word ‘coloured’ and songs that bands feel they have to play. And people who wait until they’re at the checkout, have bagged all their food and are ready to go before they even think about how they’ll pay for it….

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‘All it takes is the right girl, the right bar and the right friends’

Stephen : May 21, 2012 4:10 pm : Politics, Random

In 1990, the late, great Bill Hicks said “anybody can be a bum; all it takes is the right girl, the right bar and the right friends”.

Hicks always had a hard core of truth in his humour, recognising here that people can – and do – go from affluence and security to poverty, homelessness and insecurity faster than you can say ‘austerity budget’.

How are people left homeless? Relationships breaking up, substance addictions, serious illness, escaping abusive relationships, severe debt, leaving the Services or coming out of prison can all bring homelessness, as well as something we can all relate to: losing your job. No job, run up debt, you can’t meet the mortgage or rent. Bang! Of course, you may be lucky enough to have friends and family who’d look out for you – but many people don’t.

Ask yourself how long you would be able to make your rent or mortgage if your income stopped tomorrow? That’s how close you are to being classed as homeless.

So why in a society like ours is the issue of homeless people, like many of those men, women and children who sleep rough, invisible?

The last Labour government stated: “the vast majority of homeless people are actually families or single people who are not literally sleeping on the streets but living with relatives and friends or in temporary accommodation.’ This at least began to recognise the problem of people who don’t qualify for local authority housing assistance, sleep rough, or staying in hostels or in some other unsatisfactory or insecure accommodation.

These, then, are the hidden homeless: 87 per cent male, 72 per cent white, mostly 25 to 45, 41 per cent of whom have been in prison, 13 per cent in care, 6 per cent having served in the armed forces. And they are a growing number as this recession bites, not only as people lose work and therefore their homes, but as homeless people watch local authority and support services dwindle like a car park puddle in a heatwave.

And why should we care?

Just take a second and think about what being homeless could do to you. Remember the time when you couldn’t sleep or were kept up by a young child, noisy neighbours or worrying about something or someone? Think about the day after and then think about having that feeling every single day.

I see people avoiding Big Issue vendors like the plague, but the irony is that a homeless person is 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence than you are. They probably will have low self-esteem, feel lonely, be utterly marginal, may behave oddly, will be hugely less likely to be employed than you are, may well have taken to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, half of them haven’t even seen a doctor in the past year and they may be on the road to being institutionalised.

And as the London Olympics approaches we already hear anecdotal tales that homeless people, like council house dwellers in Westminster an the residents of Newham offered moves to Stoke on Trent, are being targeted not for support and intervention, but for pressure and coercion. So much for we’re all in this together.

Last Friday night I slept rough in the Old Vic tunnels with a few dozen like-minded souls to raise money for the Big Issue Foundation. I say ‘slept rough’ but unlike real life the tunnels were warm, relatively dry and safe. I’ve sponsored the Big Issue Foundation for about 8 years but it wasn’t until I met an ostensibly middle class and degree educated woman who had also been homeless after leaving care as a teenager, that I decided to up the ante and see if I could get a few more people to care.

Hopefully, this blog will at least have made you think twice, and hopefully you won’t ignore either the Big Issue vendor trying to make enough money for their rent or the sleeping bag and blanket huddled quietly in a doorway.


Five things that annoy you and won’t ever go back to the way they were. Ever.

Stephen : April 23, 2012 11:47 am : Humour, Random

Yes, it reads like archetypal grumpy old man musings, but here they are all the same. Inspired by having the misfortune to be sat behind 2 Oxford undergraduates in ‘Eat’ yesterday lunchtime, trying to have a conversation with the lovely Cherry and being distracted by the loud and vapid wittering going on in my vicinity. Meh.

How many strike a chord?

1.The use of ‘like’ in a totally inappropriate way.

‘Well, like, I, like, spoke to him, yeah, and he, like, was totally distant with me?’

Someday, somewhere, blood will be spilled if this goes on.

2.The pointless inflection at the end of sentence.

A legitimate linguistic approach if you speak Spanish, Italian or English and are American or Australian.  In all other circumstances, especially if you are posh and sat near me, it is strictly forbidden.

‘Like, I went to Subway? To get a sandwich? And, like, they didn’t have any hearty Italian bread? And, you know, no mayo either?’

Honestly, this would give an asprin a headache. Speak normally, or I may well do you harm and then explain to a sympathetic jury how your actions justified me twisting your head clean off and kicking it down the street shouting ‘I can’t take this any more!”. A jury of my peers would have me free and clear inside an hour.

3.The replacement of ‘have’ and the phrase ‘please have’, with the word ‘get’.

Symptomatic of linguistic dumbing down, a deterioration in politeness or a negative Americanisation. Take your pick.

‘Can I get a latte with milk?’ ‘Can I get a capuccino?’ Of course you can, you halfwit, you are in a coffee shop asking for coffee. And just because the person serving you earns £5 an hour, doesn’t mean they don’t merit ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

4. People on mobile phones trying to do two things and failing, badly.

It grinds my gears to watch oxygen-thieves who stand in line at a supermarket or board a bus and absolutely must carry on their oh-so-interesting conversation, without acknowledging or speaking to the assistant/driver/HUMAN BEING they are handing money to.

Unless your call is life or death – and in which case why are you stood in Sainsbury’s and not jumping quickly into a taxi? – put the frackin’ phone down. Or try these words: ‘I’ll call you back in two minutes’. Go on, give it a bash. How would you like it if you went to pay at a till and the shop assistant scanned your items, didn’t look at you, whilst yammering their pointless drivel into his/her phone?

5. People who talk too loudly on their mobile phone.

Dear halfwit, the phone you hold so close to your ear has this device called an amplifying microphone. That means it will pick up your voice IF YOU SPEAK IN A NORMAL TONE AND AT A NORMAL VOLUME. If you think your mate or your sister will hear you better if you shout, you are a moron, Yes, you. No, I’m serious.

I’m not the only person within a fifty yard radius with minimal interest in who is picking Darren and Kylie up from school, even less interest in whether you ‘got that email’, and I am deeply and profoundly unimpressed if you think your life so important that you need to share the pointless, mind-numbing tedium of your working day or social life with me. Speak quieter, text or just better still shut up and let me read my book.

I’m aware this sounds like futile railing against modern life, but I don’t care. The older I get, the less inclined I am to just put up with sh*t and the more inclined I am to accept the wisdom of Jean-Paul Sartre’s observation that ‘Hell is other people’.

It’s not that I’m turning into a sociopath, it’s just that my Mother taught me basic manners and mutual respect should always be my starting point. Just as you sow, so shall ye reap, it says in some book or other……





Stephen : April 11, 2012 3:11 pm : Politics, Random

Quotes can be tedious if misused but I ought to share half a dozen favourites I came across recently clearing out an old ‘My Documents’


‘We could manage to survive without money changers and stockbrokers.

We should find it harder to do without miners, steel workers and those who cultivate the land.’

Aneurin Bevan

‘You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.’

Dwight Eisenhower

‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober’.

George Bernard Shaw

‘What luck for rulers that men do not think.’

Adolf Hitler

‘To repeat what others have said requires education: to challenge it requires brains.’ 

Mary Pettibone Poole

“If we don’t stand for something, we may fall for anything.”

Malcolm X

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Stephen Smith: writer

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