Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Recently Deposited Stool From A Horse That Has Recently Consumed Several Especially Potent Curries

They say you shouldn't write while you're angry. Or at least I think that's something 'they' might say. They're wrong if they do. I find that writing while angry has a cathartic quality. There's things you can't say but you can write. Harrison Ford said something similar the first time he saw the script for Star Wars.

So I'm angry. Here's why. Two main reasons today. We're going to ignore the things that drive me slowly insane every day otherwise this entry will take too long and it's not that often that Emma's Sheffield Wednesday are live on television in a decisive play-off game. The first occured early this morning. I can't go into too much detail lest my employer force me into some Cersei Lannister-like naked walk of shame. Good luck getting me to walk you capitalist piss hat, but you get my drift. Their wrath will come down upon me in some other way. Something worse than having to work for the bloated behemoth's hovel for possibly the next 25 years. More if I live that long and Zelda from Terrahawks keeps raising the age of retirement at the current rate. The point of all this is that my employer revealed to me today that it places my value and that of my colleagues at something around the level of a recently deposited stool from a horse that has wolfed down several hundred especially potent curries. We are nothing to our employer we just exist. Take your meagre pay and fuck off home and 'oh would you like to come and help us with....'

No. Fuck off.

So, already feeling devalued and disrespected (what else is new? every time a woman opens a door for me I feel demasculated to the point where I want to cut off my own head) I was not in the mood for the chicanery which took place at Lime Street Station this evening. Emma had texted me at lunchtime to say she was going home. Something had gone wrong at her branch of the clown factory and she'd had enough and just wanted out. The problem was that I had the front door key and she had got quite close to the train station before she realised this. So since she had to walk all the way back up towards the bloated behemoth's hovel I thought I'd take the car keys with me and give her the option of taking the car home. I'd get the train. No problem. I'm all about showing willing.

With about 20 minutes to go before the departure of the 5.17 to Thatto Heath I bought a ticket. Apparently £2.60 for a single is a discount because 'you're in a wheelchair'. It's not and I'm not. It's still fairly scandalous and I'm a wheelchair user. But at this point I just want to go home so I avoid debating the appropriate language and progress to the gate. They have gates now. All professional and shit. The type where you put your ticket in and it clicks or whirrs and the gate opens. Not long ago you just went through unchecked and if the guard never asked you for your ticket on the train well then £2.60 extra went in the beer fund. Not now.

But you know, I am happy to pay if the service is good quality. Or at least if the service I receive is only as shitty as the service everyone else receives. I ask the man on the gate if I can have a ramp brought to platform 1;

"Have you told someone?" he asks me.

What?

"I'm telling you."

This seemed a reasonable response to me. There were still around 15 minutes before departure and he looked suspiciously like railway station staff. Who else was I meant to tell? I couldn't think of anyone better equipped to provide a ramp at a station platform than him but to cover the bases I told 300 people on Facebook. Perhaps I should have fucking cc'd the Minister For Transport. Or gone out onto the concourse with a megaphone and announced it;

"EVERYONE!! THERE'S A CRIPPLE TRYING TO GET ON A TRAIN AT PLATFORM ONE!! SAVE YOURSELVES!!!

Clearly I didn't do enough. I waited and waited. With about two minutes left before departure the man I had asked earlier came whistling by. He asked me where I was travelling to and there seemed to be hope. But he never gave me any further information. He just kept on walking by down the platform. I didn't know whether to follow him or not but with time running out I decided to. He stood chatting to the guard on the train....my train.....and when he turned around to see me he looked surprised. Surprised and inconvenienced. He made an attempt to unlock a ramp by the platform that was frankly an insult to the term half-arsed. He spent no more than six seconds twirling an oddly shaped tool in the vicinity of the lock and then gave up.

"I can't do it." he mumbled. Then after another brief consultation with the guard he blew his whistle and said;

"It's too late mate, we've had a signal."

With that the train pulled away. Too late. But I'd been there 20 minutes. I stormed back down the platform towards the gate. You could even say I flounced. Use whatever word you like. I was positively frothing with rage.

"Who's in charge of this fucking shit show!" I asked of a man stood uselessly by the gate. He denied it was him, as did two other men who I was incorrectly passed to. By this time I had completely lost it and one of the useless bastards asked me to stop swearing at him. With more than a trace of irony I told him to fuck off and advised him that I'd be using whatever language I liked until I was afforded some respect.

Now, swearing at railway station staff isn't big or clever, but in this situation it served a purpose. If, as a wheelchair user, you sit there and politely take this sort of shit you are going to achieve nothing. You might as well apologise for being a cripple and promise to let them bend you over and screw you any time they like. Besides, I challenge anyone to live with a disability as stigmatised as mine for 41 years and not feel the need to tell someone to fuck right off every now and then. It just continually takes basic rights away from us, a situation exacerbated by a society and a workforce that does not give a flying fuck. Legislation helps in some ways but largely it just causes us to be viewed as a problem to be got around. It doesn't matter if I miss a train because they can apologise and promise to 'look at' their 'procedures'. Not good enough.

So only swearing would do. It was all I had to register the depth of hatred I had for the rail service at that particular time. People who are offended by that need to have a word with themselves. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that they are just words. I could say some really offensive things without using a single swear word just as I could pay you a sincere compliment using the most foul vernacular. I needed emphasis and shock value to wake the cretins up. I did that.

They offered me a place on the next train but you can imagine where I told them to shove that. It cost me £37 to get home in a taxi but I'd rather pay that than meekly accept the piss poor rail service I was offered. It's not about the money. It's about the fight to be treated like a human being, especially by people whose superiority complex is unfathomable and unjust.

I'm driving home tomorrow......

Friday, 12 May 2017

This Just In - The Poor Don't Exist

Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard has never been so productive. Following on from my last two depressing entries on the subject of the whole country going to shit and nobody caring any more I’m compelled to spew out more political musings which are likely to be just as bleak.

The biscuit has been well and truly taken this time, as one Facebook poster informed me (presumably with a straight face, I don’t know because I couldn’t see him) that my view is all wrong because actually….and get this……..there is no such group as ‘the poor’ in the UK. So that’s it then, we’re fine. Everyone pack up and go home. Crack on Theresa you are doing one Hell of a job. We've obviously never had it so good…

Except. Except that there is evidence to suggest that there are some people in the UK who might reasonably be classed as distinctly wealth defficient. The number of visits to foodbanks has gone up from the tens of thousands into the millions in the last seven years since the Tories came back to power under pig-ploughing former Premier David Cameron. Now, some people may need to visit a foodbank more than once so the fact that something like 1.2 million food parcels were handed out in 2016/17 doesn’t necessarily mean that 1.2 million people are poor enough to have to resort to this desperate measure. But if people are going more than once doesn’t this show just exactly how poor they are? The poor, it seems, are very real outside of the entitled, spoiled world of your average Tory. Consider what the Facebooker believes exists instead of poor people;

“What we do have are a massive range of citizens... the majority of whom make life choices the consequences of which dictate an income level.”

Which is another way of saying that if you haven’t got any money it is your fault, so don’t expect the billionaires of this country to bail you out. They already pay enough tax remember, since the top 1% pay 30% of all tax. Aye, but firstly that is not enough and secondly that is 30% of all tax collected. What about tax that is not collected, dodged, swerved? How many people would have to use foodbanks if the rich paid their tax? I’d venture to suggest the figure would be significantly lower. This country can afford to rid itself of poverty, there just isn’t any appetite for it to do so amid the clamour to acquire more, more and more for yourself. Worse than that, this is money that these people don’t even need. They already have more money than they know what to do with. It’s a status symbol and nothing more.

Oh but it’s not ‘fair’ to make them pay more. Bollocks it isn’t.

Our Facebooker went on;

“Cruel Tory austerity" has been an effort to balance the books... to make sure as a country we are living within our means.”

No it has not. It has been an effort to make those with less foot the enormous bill because if you are a Tory that seems like the fairest thing to do. We’re all in this together, after all. For an encore he hit me with;

“We want to sustain the level of state assistance for as long as possible for people "genuinely" in need. That's only possible with financial prudence and Jeremy does not seem to understand that.”

I could tell you that I have had to correct his grammar but that would be just cheap points scoring. We don’t need that as you can see because he’s outed himself as someone who really believes it is fair and right to turn a blind eye to the greed of the rich and instead bash the poor (less wealthy? Under funded? I don’t know but we obviously can’t call them the poor any more) over the head with more austerity measures. In this context living within our means equates to the people with less living within their means while the mega-rich crack on snorting cocaine off the backsides of expensive whores. It is cruel and heartless to ask them to give that up.

His final point was that all that my previous post offered was “nothing more than ‘it's our fault because we don't believe it's possible.’”. But as I said in my post it isn’t so much that they don’t believe it is possible but that they don’t believe it is desirable to have the things that Corbyn aspires to provide. You can question his maths all you like but what kind of human are you if you question the desire to have fully funded schools, a free NHS and an end to tuition fees? And four extra bank holidays for feck’s sake. Who doesn’t want that? As someone else pointed out, there is a whole section of the Labour manifesto which talks about ending elderly loneliness that is simply sneered at by the me-first sub-species that has been created by Thatcherism. It’s a desperate state of affairs, but it now seems that people want markedly different things than they did in years gone by. Somehow, some time during the Thatcher years, everyone became a self-centred arsehole in reaction to the late 70s winter of discontent. And if you are still left wing after that experience you are branded ‘naive’. Naive as in compassionate and capable of empathy. Incidentally, if the right wing are that worried about a return to the 1970s why do they want blue passports, imperial measurements and no immigration?

Empathy towards others is something that is now in very short supply. Another contributor to the debate on Twitter informed me that psychologists estimate that there is a global empathy deficit of about 50% compared with just a few years ago. What this basically means is that nobody cares about anyone else any more, or maybe more specifically only half as many people care half as much. And that is from a few years ago when if you had asked me I would have guessed that there was a heck of a lot of self-centredness about even then. Years before that we used to have a sense of community and caring for others until Thatcher taught us not to, that all for one and one for all was the very definition of evil and that you were on your own in a dog-eat-dog world. Since then capitalism and greed have got worse through successive governments (including Blair and Brown’s Labour, sadly) to the point where now there are actually real, living and breathing people who believe that there isn’t any such thing as the poor and if there is then it is their own daft fault for failing to ‘make something of themselves’.

It is hard not to despair from this point. All the signs are that the greed is good mob are the majority and that we can therefore expect another five years of obnoxious Tory-ness in our lives following the forthcoming General Election. The number of people using foodbanks will grow, the most vulnerable will be denied the funding they need to continue living independently, and a load of posh twats on horseback will once again be allowed to chase a terrified fox through the countryside before ripping it literally to shreds with total immunity in the name of ‘sport’. All that I will have for comfort is the knowledge that I can vent my spleen on these pages which, to my knowledge, have not yet been shut-down for being a Communist vehicle.

It’s a fairly depressing scene and enough to make you want to move to another country. Somewhere sunny in Europe perhaps. What? Oh…

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Another Bit Of Politics

I can’t help but feel negative today. Over the last 12 hours it has become quite clear to me what kind of a society we are now living in. That we are just four weeks away from a General Election makes this realisation all the more terrifying and well….frankly….depressing.

Social media is as good an indicator as any of the way the land lies politically. Certainly better than YouGov polls, which as Dave Gorman once memorably demonstrated show that one or both of Ant and Dec are more right wing than Hitler. If they are, they would fit right in on my Twitter timeline. I never knew I associated with so many me-first Disciples of Rupert who really couldn’t give even half a shit about the effects of austerity or the future of the NHS.

It all started last night when one of my followers began ripping into Jeremy Corbyn’s maths skills, claiming that the Labour leader could not afford to make good on the promises he looks set to make in the party’s manifesto. He claimed that Corbyn’s plan to fully fund schools, the NHS and to scrap tuition fees is ‘a lie’. But it isn’t really that people don’t believe that Labour can pull these things off that really gets under my skin, it is the fact that people don’t want seem to want it to happen. They actually don’t support fully funded schools, the NHS, or the abolition of unfair tuition fees which, by the way, did not exist when most of these fuckwits who are in power now started their slimy climb up the political ladder.

Another pulled me up on my assertion that Tories want the disabled to die (which they do if their plans to cut funding for the most vulnerable are anything to go by) by claiming that we don’t have a problem with tax evasion in this country. Justifying this he informed me that the top 1% of earners already pay 30% of all tax, as if this somehow justified the evasion of tax by others. I pointed this out, along with the fact that far more money is lost to this country through tax evasion than it is through benefit fraud and yet we still continue to blame the poor through austerity and the privatisation of services and he kind of seemed to agree with me. But then he reverted to the default right wing position of blaming it all on ‘yerp’ and that nasty EU that’s busy ganging up on us right now.

Nostalgic isolationism at its finest. Let’s get our country back and while we’re at it, let’s watch as the north of the country is left to gently sail away from the power base in the south until it becomes part of fucking Iceland. Nothing good that has happened in this country in recent years from greater disability access to improved human rights and regeneration of northern cities would have happened outside the EU under a Tory government and you can expect it to stop if and when Evil Theresa manages to negotiate a deal for us to leave. But never mind all that, at least Tarquin won’t have to give up a larger share of his £387billion fortune which he has worked so hard to earn ever since his fucking daddy left it to him.

More and more now there is an acceptance of all of this and that consequently, we should no longer expect a free health service. One Tweeter made a comparison between the NHS and dentistry, for which we all now pay apparently without complaint. Excuse me? I don’t know what placid, stiff upper lip types this guy lives among but personally I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that the amount charged for dentistry these days is anything but an absolute disgrace. We accept it because we have to, it’s done now and once that happens it is very difficult to go back. But the idea that we never question it is beyond berserk. Also, you cannot really compare it to the NHS in any case. Dentistry is important but it is very rarely a matter of life and death. If the NHS is privatised you are faced with the very real prospect of people dying because they can’t afford the treatments or medication they need. It will be a society in which the wealthy will survive and prosper and the poor will wither and die. Tory ideology is that this is fine because I’m alright Jack. I don’t need to worry about being unable to fund my own health insurance so screw those that do. There isn’t a more depressing thought than that as far as I can see. It makes my head hurt.

Of course there is a possibility that this is scaremongering, and that the NHS will still continue to operate as it does now, free at the point of access. Yet with parts of the service having already been auctioned off to the highest bidder and with the Tory manifesto making very clear indications that it will not continue to fund the health service can we really afford to bet on the chance that they are bluffing? That’s a gamble even Joey Barton would shy away from. The awful truth is that Tory ideology involves governing as little as possible, and instead selling everything off to be run by the highest bidder. When that happens, the customer is the one who pays the highest price and some are inevitably unable to keep up and literally die off. I can’t have that on my conscience even if I have more than enough money to get by in that kind of system. I don't vote out of self-interest like an increasing, alarming number of people seem to these days.

Thatcherism has eroded any sense of community, of caring about the fate of others that we had. It’s every one for him or herself now and if you can’t keep up you get branded a lazy good for nothing while the rich cream ever increasing amounts off the top. Society has changed, capitalism is here to stay which is why there is such a seething media outcry against Corbyn’s left wing ideas. The BBC, Sky News and several of the best-selling newspapers are all in the government’s pocket because under their rule they will be allowed to keep doing what they do, fleecing the public for peddling their pungent, often preposterous shit. Anyone left wing is now laughed out of town as a dreamer and a bleeding heart. Caring for others has become taboo in the race to get more, more, more for your fucking fat self.

I am disgusted. You can probably tell.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Absolutely Not Imposing My Political Views On Anyone

We've all been warned. Despite the fact that there is a General Election exactly one month from now we have all been told in no uncertain terms that we must not, under any circumstances, use our social media pages to try and impose our political views on anyone. Instead, we'll carry on posting amateur philosophy imparted by Minions from Despicable Me and....er......Minions. That and pictures of our meals only, please. After all it's only a ballot to decide who gets to form the UK government for the next five years. It's not that important and well....it's boring isn't it?

So in a dutiful bid to comply with this rule and so avoid boring everyone silly I've decided to post my thoughts on the General Election here. That way you'll only see it if you're interested enough in politics to click on the link. If not, scroll past to the pictures of tortured animals that people post because...actually....why do people post pictures of tortured animals? Nobody on my friends list would be on it if I thought them capable of torturing animals and I'm sure your list is similarly free of animal torturers. So who are these posts aimed at? Chances are that by posting this sort of thing you're just upsetting people who are as horrified by the mistreatment of animals as you are. And if I can't post anything political there must be a similar rule which prevents these types of posts.

So, the General Election. Reading social media recently it has become increasingly apparent that not only are people ignoring the golden rule of not posting anything political but also that they are using their various platforms to make sure that nobody, not even Labour voters, especially not Labour voters, votes Labour in the forthcoming election. The reason? One Jeremy Corbyn, twice elected leader of the Labour Party and by margins for which the term landslide is barely adequate. We must not vote for Jeremy because he is in no particular order, a terrorist, an IRA sympathiser, financially irresponsible, indifferent to the idea of defence of the UK in terms of its nuclear arsenal, anti-EU, too old, unelectable and generally a boring, beardy git who invents problems on Virgin trains where there aren't any.

I must confess to having one or two reservations about Corbyn myself. His unelectability, although mostly a media-led and self-fulfilling prophecy, could ensure an easy victory for Evil Theresa May and her couldn't-give-a-fuck-about-you rich boy cronies also known as the most right-wing Tory party since the crazed reign of Thatcher. And though he must be aware of this Corbyn refuses to step down from his role to allow a more popular, middle of the road candidate to run for number 10. Someone like Tony Blair. Someone who would never start an unnecessary, illegal war and then lie about it afterwards. In refusing to step down Corbyn is displaying a worryingly deluded narcissism and almost certainly leading Labour to a huge defeat.

But he's doing it with a masive helping hand from traditional Labour voters who ought to know better. If this lot aren't voting for UKIP in a bid to get rid of Johnny Foreigner and get our country back from those who have no right coming over here performing life-saving surgeries and educating our children, they are busy declaring themselves 'disgruntled' with Jeremy and his Stalinist ideals and with the Labour Party as a whole. Corbyn would be a dreadful Prime Minister they say, and they are ever so keen to let you in on the fact via their Twitter feeds.

The problem, of course, is that if not Corbyn's version of the Labour Party then the UK government will instead be a May-led Tory one. Aside from their policy of wanting disabled people to die (13,000 disabled people in the UK face a cut to funding which will mean they can no longer afford to live independently in their own homes) my principal objection to Conservatism is its commitment to unfairness. It deals with a financial crisis caused by the rich by making the very poorest foot the enormous bill. It calls it 'austerity' and tells us that we're all in it together. Then it further embellishes this lie by demonising benefit claimants while turning a blind eye to tax fraud among its wealthy pals. Turning the working classes on each other becomes an effective strategy in drumming up support in areas where you would think that voting Labour makes the most sense. Most towns possess enough monumentally thick people who genuinely believe that the Tories were born to rule and that therefore they must know best.

The mistake being made here is not in being disgruntled with Labour. They're an unholy mess who need to do a lot of things differently if they ever want to return to their late 1990s high in terms of popularity. The mistake being made is in believing that there is a genuine alternative to either Corbyn's Labour or the evil, shithouse Tories. It's one or the other in a General Election. A Labour government or a Tory government. It's been that way for a long, long time. The other parties, whatever their pros and cons, are largely there to make up the numbers and to get in the way of the big two. Most of them couldn't form a government if they were asked to, while others don't even have enough candidates to make an election victory even a mathematical possibility.

What Labour voters need to do, instead of expressing their disgruntlement and muttering darkly about communism, is get out and vote Labour on June 8. If Corbyn is an unfit Prime Minister he will prove himself to be so and be challenged for the leadership of the party at some point during the parliament. Deny him that chance and there will be no opportunity to elect the centrist candidate that seems to be so desired until at least 2022. By then the NHS could well have been sold to the highest bidder, more jobs will have been lost and we will be well on our way to establishing the kind of overly-nostalgic, isolationist policies so beloved of Trump'n'Theresa.....

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Six Days Of Stress And Anxiety Amid The Already Existing Stress And Anxiety

I'm fuming. Here's why.

I went to the hospital yesterday. For the THIRD Tuesday in a row. This time it was to have a blood test following my nephrology consultancy last week. I should have had the test done last week but I was late for a meal with the family for my Dad's birthday so I sacked it off, not knowing that this type of test can only be conducted on Tuesdays. Like fucking bin collections or something. So back I went yesterday for the blood test.

The blood test itself is no big deal. Apart, that is, from the 45 minutes to an hour it takes for your turn to come around once you have taken your ticket from the machine and found a seat among some very sick looking people indeed. The problem comes afterwards because what they are testing for apart from kidney function is potassium levels. I have a tendency to get high potassium. I can't eat bananas. They're like Kryptonite. It's all kidney related but anyway if you get high potassium they ring you straight away and demand that you call into your local A & E to do a lot more waiting, a lot more blood tests and finally, if it comes to it, to have seven kinds of shite pumped into your veins in a manner that is time consuming as well as weirdly uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

It's an unpleasant business, so heading home after any blood test for me means spending the rest of the evening looking at the telly but not really watching it because I'm expecting a phone call from some crazed, panicked doctor to tell me that I need my potassium levels reducing right now lest my heart explode. And that's when you get the treatment. So I waited, and I waited, like a really long and boring Guinness advert and the call never came. I went to bed at about 11.00 last night and still there had been no call.

Now ordinarily this means that there won't be a call. High potassium is a grave enough concern for them to insist on ringing me as a matter of urgency, so when I awoke this morning I assumed I had dodged the bullet this time. The morning passed uneventfully (and oh, equally as boringly as any A & E department) until the end of my lunch break when my doctor, the otherwise personable Dr Chow, rang to tell me that unfortunately my blood samples had been mis-handled and would I mind awfully going back next Tuesday to take another test? You're ahead of me if what you are thinking is 'oh, but doesn't that mean another evening of anxiety and possibly time consuming and weirdly uncomfortable treatment?' Well, yes it does. She confirmed that they did not get a read on my potassium levels but stuck to the story that this type of test can only be conducted on a Tuesday afternoon, which maths fans will have worked out is fully six days away. I could go to A & E, but if I do that they probably won't get the actual kidney function results that they also need. Not that my kidney function has changed much in the last 10 years since they started pumping me with 50 shades of shite to stabilise it.

So there now follows six days of stress and anxiety, waiting to have the test which will then determine whether I again need to have the treatment. In the meantime, if my heart explodes (highly unlikely but I have been feeling a bit palpy recently which is why I didn't just dismiss the idea out of hand) then at least it will mean I won't have to go back to A & E for any time consuming and weirdly uncomfortable treatment. I don't mean to moan, you know. I really don't. I recognise that there are people far worse off than me but I just think that the way they have been handling my situation recently is an absolute piss-take. A couple of weeks ago they informed me in the waiting room that they had cancelled my nephrology appointment without informing prior notice. Must have been because of the bank holiday, the nurse told me. This shows me how much of a shit they do not give about the state of my health, but show them an even mildly threatening test result and they are rushing about like Charlie Fucking Fairhead on speed.

In addition to this ranty, desperately unfunny blog I have written a long, boring and futile complaint to the people who deal with this sort of thing at nephrology at the Royal Liverpool. I remember making a similar complaint about the way I was treated during a hospital stay in 2013 and having precisely nothing done about it. Yet we should rest assured that they are striving to improve their services. Now you could argue that I am the common denominator in all of this complaining and it is fair to say that I don't get all that excited about hospital visits. But it does not help when the incompetent plebs who pick and choose when to worry about your imminent heart attack can't do something as simple as correctly handling a blood sample.

It is customary to end pieces like this with the phrase 'rant over' but I like to think myself a proper writer so I am not going to do that. Instead I shall simply say 'sod off' and hope for all our sakes that I am not writing any more angry rubbish like this for some time to come.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Saints Set To Appoint Justin Holbrook?

And so it looks like the coaching situation at Saints has finally been resolved with Justin Holbrook seemingly set to be named as the new man this week.

Saints have been coach-less since the departure of Keiron Cunningham on April 10, since when the triumvirate of Jamahl Lolesi, Sean Long and Derek Traynor have been in interim charge of first team affairs. They have led Saints to two wins and two losses from their first four games at the helm and, while Saints have been inconsistent during that span, the trio have introduced some fresh ideas and a little more excitement in the way Saints go about their business.

So who is Justin Holbrook? Not many Saints fans (including this one if I’m honest) will have heard of the 41-year-old who is currently an assistant coach at Sydney Roosters. He has a good grounding in coaching young players having been in charge of the Paramatta Under-20s side and has also had spells on the coaching staff of both St.George-Illawarra and Canterbury. In all he has almost 10 years coaching experience which is considerable given his age.

Before moving into coaching Holbrook was a halfback for Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers and the Roosters in the NRL and it is hoped that a once creative player can transfer that to the coaching arena at Super League level. It’s a first senior head coaching role for Holbrook so it will be interesting to see how he makes the step up from an assistant’s role to being the main man. He has done it at youth level with the Australian Junior Kangaroos side and also with Parramatta. Whilst with the Eels he turned a side running 14th in the competition into a contender in the space of just a year. That kind of improvement is quite an achievement and something he will no doubt be hoping to replicate with a currently under-achieving Saints outfit.

Yet for all of this his appointment, should it happen, represents something of a gamble for Saints. After all Holbrook has no senior head coaching experience to speak of and you could make the argument that Super League is a vastly different beast to junior rugby league. Wondering out loud whether Saints might have looked for a home-grown coach, even one from the lower leagues, is not unfair. That approach has worked wonderfully well for Castleford Tigers after they took Daryl Powell from Featherstone Rovers, while our own Ian Millward was snapped up from Leigh when they were a second tier outfit at the end of 1999. A greater level of senior head coaching experience might have been desirable even if that experience was not at Super League level.

Not to say that Holbrook won’t be a success. There have already been comparisons made among the fans with former Wigan head coach Michael Maguire. Now the head coach of South Sydney Rabbitohs Maguire spent two seasons with Wigan, winning the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup in that spell and introducing a winning style and culture which has largely been left unsullied by current Warriors coach Shaun Wane. If it ain’t broke…

Where we would hope that Holbrook differs from Maguire is tactically. Maguire made Wigan very tough defensively and so difficult to beat, but they haven’t been the most entertaining team in the world to watch since Maguire introduced their now well-worn attacking structure. Also, though it is natural for a writer of my persuasion to notice the faults of our friends from over the lump, it cannot have escaped the notice of the average neutral that some of Wigan’s defensive tactics are less than desirable. The wrestling, holding down, third-man tackling are all dark arts perfected by Wigan since Maguire’s tenure. The problem for Holbrook is that, unlike at Wigan where winning is enough and who cares if you do it ugly, there is a certain style expected from Saints fans which has to also be married to a desire to win.

Stacked against Holbrook is the sheer amount of work that needs to be done to this squad to make it both entertaining and effective. There are half a dozen or more players currently on the books that simply aren’t capable of contributing to that kind of game at Super League level and who would therefore need to be replaced. The recruitment problems at Saints over the last few years are a well documented and ongoing problem, so Holbrook will have to be exceedingly shrewd in how he goes about building a team that he can call his own.

Additionally, the more observant among you will have noted that Maguire, for all his qualities, is no longer at Wigan. Yes, he left something of a legacy (even if we don’t much care for it) but the fact remains that after just two years in the job he jumped at the first high-profile NRL job that came his way. A coach imported from the NRL, especially an assistant, is much more likely to see a Super League club as a stepping stone to something better and more financially rewarding back home than one who has made the step up from the lower echelons of the British game as Powell did. That might not be a problem if we can then promote from within to continue implementing what will hopefully be a winning, attractive style but there is just as much chance of the whole thing having to be ripped up and started again in two years time. Perhaps on this occasion we just have to accept that in the current climate Saints are a stepping stone to an NRL career, but it doesn’t quite sit right for a club with such an illustrious history.

Still, now is not the time for negative, defeatist talk. Since so little is known about Holbrook and if he is the man in possession of the role by the end of this week then we must get behind him and offer our full support. He’ll struggle to achieve anything without the fans on his side. If he holds up his end of the bargain by re-introducing some of the stylistic traditions that Saints fans hold so dear, and if he can drag the side back into contention for honours once more, then the argument could be made that he has been a good appointment irrespective of what he goes on to do with the rest of his coaching career post-Saints.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Pointlessly Pressing The Down Arrow At Tescos

Over the road from where I work, an institution which dare not speak its name on these pages, is a new branch of Tesco. The shop floor is below street level but, this being 2017 and all, they have installed a lift to allow access for those of us who still somehow baulk at the prospect of a flight of stairs.

It’s one of those self-operated lifts with room for only one wheelchair user. It has a simple set of controls which even a UKIP voter could understand. An arrow pointing down to take you down to store level, and an arrow pointing up to take you back up to street level. Simple. The only thing left to negotiate is the narrow aisles between goods but it is only a small store, and to make it totally and easily accessible for wheelchair users you would probably have to evacuate everyone else. It’s a bit of a scrap to get around but that’s ok because at least there is a lift. That’s all I ask. I don’t want it to be evacuated. I’m not the Queen.

Except the lift doesn’t work and they don’t care. I haven’t been counting but I would estimate that on each of the last 10 occasions that I have tried to shop there for my lunch (and who doesn’t want to eat Tescos strawberries and grapes instead of a bacon butty at the cafe down the road?) the lift has been broken. I’ve managed to get in every time. The staff eventually notice me fruitlessly pressing the down arrow but going nowhere like Brian Potter on his stairlift. Never mind that smell, I’ve been stuck up here all night… When they finally notice me they rally round trying to fix the useless fecking thing and eventually, after some knob-twiddling, they manage it, all apologies and we’ll-get-someone-out-to-its.

So because I always eventually get into the store for my strawberries and grapes, and the Magnums that I often buy for my colleagues in the summer (ah, you think it is a problem now, don’t you?) I have managed to say nothing to the management beyond a polite suggestion that they should really get someone out to it to fix the problem once and for all. But yesterday they couldn’t get it to work. There were four of them milling around it fiddling with knobs and switches, opening and closing the gate like Ace Ventura in that scene where he is trying to prove that the balcony door is soundproof. Eventually I gave up on it and, I’m afraid to say, slightly lost my shit with the manager.

I’ll summarise it for you without the haughtiness. Basically I told him that if everyone who uses the store needed the lift to gain access to it then they would fix the problem overnight. The reason that they haven’t is that the people like me who need to use it are in the overwhelming minority. Who cares if I don’t go in there and spend my three or four quid twice a week? Extrapolated, capitalist scum like Tesco don’t give a flying shit about the purple pound, that is the money poured into the economy by disabled people. It’s not significant enough for their all-conquering business to take even half a hit, so why should they bother their arse spending money on piffling things like maintaining a working accessible lift? It’s another example of first rate lip service to disability access. They are bound by law to provide a lift but not, it seems, to maintain it. So what is the fucking point? It’s like giving me a Magnum and then cutting my fucking tongue out.

Their apathy is further encouraged by the fact that the nearest accessible supermarket is……a bloody Tesco!! This is what comes of allowing one company to open up 746 stores within a two mile radius of each other. Even if you protest by refusing to enter the guilty store you end up spending your money with the same company anyway just for your own convenience. Tesco have us all by the balls, especially those of us with mobility issues. Also, there is a whacking great hill between the office and that other Tesco and frankly I am not at home to it. And it slopes upwards on the way back, not on the way there. You can't imagine the level of demotivation I have for pushing up a steep hill for the privilege of going back to the office for the afternoon.

Emma has already written a far more reasoned and less huffy complaint letter than you are currently ‘enjoying’. She’s pointed out that it has happened on several occasions, that not only does the lift not work but that it is also regularly blocked off by empty shopping trolleys (an interesting variation on the pub classic of shoving everything you have no room for into the disabled toilet), and that all of this shows a total and complete lack of respect to customers with access needs. And do you know what they did in response? They sent it to the wrong fucking branch, didn’t they? There hasn’t been this level of absolute apathy to disabled people since I turned over live coverage of the Paralympic sitting volleyball because I didn’t want to miss Eggheads.

We await further response from Tesco who have at least assured us that the complaint has now gone to the correct store, but it is a fair bet that whatever they do I won’t be able to go in there for a good while yet. And they won't give a flying shite.