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The Bitch and (if you’ll pardon the terminology) the Blow Jobs!

Article by Michael Knell

Well Darlings,

It’s been a week of blows, hasn’t it?

Probably the one most likely to immediately spring to mind will be the massive storm that hit the UK on Thursday. That was a real big blow, wasn’t it? We found it particularly severe in Blackpool where the winds on the front touched 100 mph at times, causing havoc and much destruction. Blackpool is no newcomer to strong winds, but nobody I’ve met recently can recall it being quite that bad before.

At one point even yours truly was hurtled several yards, right into and across the road, with my legs frantically running, my bags of shopping horizontal in the wind, and my feet pushing forward desperately trying to gain some purchase in a vain attempt to stop my progress as the gusts made me weightless and threw me ever onward, further and further forward, until a wall finally halted the involuntary passage.

I can remember thinking at the time: What other way would be apt for the Bitch to go? It’s a bit of an in-joke, and I think quite a funny one: I’m well known by many of the local gay hoteliers, those belonging to BAGs (Blackpool Accommodation for Gays – visit their website at http://www.blackpool-gay-hotels.com), for mincing past their establishments laden with my bags of shopping around lunchtime every day. It seemed so fitting at the time. The bag with her bags – gone! But thankfully someone up there must like me – at least enough to ensure that at the time I was completely blown across the road junction it was totally devoid of traffic. Those bags of shopping have lived on to see another day!

Friday morning revealed some massive destruction, roofs gone, slates everywhere, walls toppled, and trees uprooted, with much of the town still cordoned off. But within hours it was business as usual. As if nothing had happened, Blackpool was open again and happily playing host to the countless thousands of people beginning to fill the resort for the annual Pigeon Show at the Winter Gardens. They’re a tough lot these northerners. When the Irish Sea invades the Promenade, as it can do at this time of the year, they just suck it up and spit it back over the sea-wall! Get back, Salty! Grrrr! They may be doing it down there again today – more severe weather is forecast for us here, and a short trip outside the Royal Mews a few moments ago proved it’s already becoming a bit draughty around the gills.

The annual Pigeon Show is a curious event. Bigger, butcher, more burlier blokes than some of the bird owners you have never seen, and yet their giant hands, thick plates of meat with sausage fingers, can handle and caress their silvery-grey feathered friends – some would say: vermin! – lovingly, and without any harm at all to the animals which have grown to trust them. They proudly show off their birds, win awards, and they buy and sell the creatures – with some of them changing hands for thousands of pounds a time, and yet I swear you couldn’t make a decent sandwich out of any of them! There’s nowt as strange as folk, is there?

Another blow for us here recently was the local press wrongly reporting the launch of Blackpool Pride, when in fact they had only attended a courtesy photo-shoot. No! No, please don’t! Please don’t mock the afflicted! I’m sure they do their best! When they were informed of their error, I’m told they immediately promised to rectify matters by publishing another article, and everybody thought that was nice of them – but at the time of writing this I still haven’t seen one. There! And they led us to believe they were the saviours of Blackpool tourism! Never mind, if I haven’t missed it, I guess they will get around to putting it right – in time.

Much is placed on the launch party for Pride. It’s a big event. Cabaret acts will be giving their time and performances for nothing to help raise money. A really worthwhile winning Raffle, and a Grand Midnight Auction, where some of the collectable signed and framed celebrity items (from Beckham, Schumacher, Rooney, and Bruno – to name a few supplied courtesy of: The Frame Team, Blackpool) are each expected to go for hundreds of pounds, will help to provide some much needed funds for the now annual event, so everyone here is really hoping and praying that the local newspaper’s wrong information doesn’t prove too damaging.

To clarify matters: The Official Blackpool Pride Launch Party will take place at the Mardi Gras in Talbot Road on Thursday 25th January. It will be a spectacular night, and a busy Mardi Gras will be open from noon and right through until 3am. Admission is free (no ticket needed) and the drinks are at reduced prices throughout (mostly half-price, I’m informed). With the Cabaret Show hosted by Stella Artois starting at 9pm, and the Grand Auction taking place at midnight, it truly is an event not to be missed! Expect to see some important faces in the crowd. Full details of the event, and all the latest local Pride News, are on the Blackpool Pride website: http://www.prideblackpool.com

Another blow this week was felt by the Office for National Statistics – and you know how often I quote them! We’re told their headquarters in London is to close by 2010, with the loss of up to 600 jobs. Apparently some staff will be relocated to Newport in South Wales, whilst others will be made redundant. A most unhappy about the situation Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, claims it is an unnecessary and ill thought through move. He says it will undermine the quality of the statistics that the Government base their new initiatives and policies on.

The Office for National Statistics has often been an embarrassment to the government. Frequently the first stop for those who report on political matters, they seem to have an uncanny habit of releasing statistics to reveal the truth about a subject shortly after we have been bombarded by a load of spin from the government in an attempt to convince us otherwise. I’m sure we could be forgiven for suspecting this really is a case of “shooting the messenger”, couldn’t we?

Strangely relevant: speaking at his monthly press conference, Tony Blair has once more insisted crime has fallen, and that anti-social behaviour measures are making a real difference. Yeah, right! I don’t think many people actually believe that anymore. It’s become a sort of ritual. The government make a claim, and we either laugh or we ignore it. But perhaps we would be more inclined to believe a report issued by The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies?

Enver Solomon, the Deputy Director of The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and the co-author of the report: “Ten years of criminal justice under Labour: An independent audit”, tells us that despite the massive investment in criminal justice since 1997 he finds it startling how little independent work has been carried out to determine whether the money has been well spent. He claims that the results have been mixed and, most importantly, that the government has been too quick to claim successes that are not always apparent. So when he goes on to tell us many of Labour’s key claims to success in tackling crime and improving the criminal justice system simply do not stand up to detailed scrutiny, I feel I’m inclined to believe him – and I begin to wonder just how long it will be before this organisation is closed down too, or relocated to somewhere in Wales!

I suppose Wales isn’t that bad when you consider where they could be sent. We do still own – although Argentina might dispute it – a mountain range in Antarctica!

Whilst another blow, the cutting back on defence expenditure may not be news to anyone by now, the revelation that our police forces may have to cut the numbers of their police officers because of a squeeze on funding, most certainly is. It’s a severe blow. Nevertheless a Home Office spokesman has informed us: “It’s not about officer numbers, it’s about service.” Really? And at a time when we’re told: Labour’s key claims to success in tackling crime and improving the criminal justice system do not stand up to detailed scrutiny? Surely not? That takes some swallowing, doesn’t it?

Yet another blow for some is the news that many attractive home buyer’s mortgage deals, those with a fixed-rate that protects against interest rate rises, have been terminated. At least 12 banks and building societies have scrapped their fixed-rate deals, replacing them with variable rate deals which will be able to fluctuate along with the Bank rate. This follows the recent and unexpected 0.25% hike in interest rates by the Bank of England, and the subsequently held belief that more rises could be in the pipeline. House buying just became precarious again, folks! The money markets may be playing down this sudden lack of confidence in the Bank Rate remaining more or less stable, but it’s a big step backwards for some people, isn’t it?

Wherever we look today, money is becoming tight. Funding is being cut back further and further. And yet only recently we have learned that today we are more heavily taxed than at any other time since records began. So where is all this money? Our money? What is there to show for it? What is not falling apart around us?

The government claim to have poured money into so many things, and with little to show for it. So it’s not good news that whilst we are still reeling from all the inadequacies and failures – not to mention the cost! – of the Health Service computerisation, we are now learning about another black hole to come: the Prime Minister’s latest baby, the huge Whitehall “super-database” which he claims will make public services more efficient.

The government are to “relax the rules” on the sharing of information (but only for them) and say that this will allow data to be used more “sensibly”. Opposition parties and civil liberties groups strongly disagree with them. Shami Chakrabarti (Liberty) says: “This is an accumulation of our government’s contempt for our privacy.” From Sir Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrats) we hear: “Blair’s Britain now has the most intrusive government in our history. There is no part of people’s lives which is free from snooping. State intervention and control expands every day. It is time we put a halt to this.” And Oliver Heald (Conservative) says: “Step by step, the Government is logging details of every man, woman and child in ‘Big Brother’ computers.”

Oh, dear! Is this going to be another case of Tony knows best? Of Tony is always right, and everyone else in the world is wrong? Do you think he may have heard the voices? That God may have spoken to him again, and we really are about to complete the trip to 1984 – where only the date is wrong? I sincerely hope not, but it’s fast looking that way, isn’t it?

The blow to the government of Ruth Turner, Tony Blair’s director of government relations, being arrested in the course of the honours for cash investigation will have to wait for another day. There are conflicting reports on this story and at the moment it is unclear whether she has been released with no charges against her or has been bailed. It’s only a zephyr at present, but this may yet turn into a hurricane.

Oh, to Hell with it! A non politically correct political joke before I go: Why hasn’t Tony Blair stepped down? Why is he still hanging on? Answer: Because it’s not over until the fat lady sings!

See you next week – if I’m not in the Tower by then! And I don’t mean Blackpool Tower!

“The Bitch!” 20/01/07.

About the Author

“The Bitch!”, a weekly UK News Review column, is hosted by the author and columnist Michael Knell. These articles appear on the Blackpool Gay Directory website, but are not specifically gay in content. More information on the author: http://www.michaelknell.com and on the directory: http://www.astabgay.com.

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