Wednesday, 30 March 2011

DOING JACK SH*T

Image from http://www.hm2k.com/upload/dsc_0015-large.JPG




I've gotta be honest, I'm starting to get a bit worried. I have an Acer Aspire 5920 laptop and I think it's starting to give up the ghost. The battery is practically dead already, so I have kept it permanently plugged into the mains for the best part of a year, otherwise it goes flat completely. I simply haven't been able to afford a new battery, even when I was working, but it didn't seem too much of a problem at the time.

But recently a blue light has been flickering on and off near the DC jack input, meaning that the power keeps dropping out. Naturally, I assumed it was a cable problem. Being a junk-collecting sort of chap, I rustled through the boxes of old tat upstairs and found a spare power adaptor, but the same problem kept occurring whenever I plugged it in. So, Dr. Watson, I have thusly diagnosed the hardware problem being a faulty DC jack. This, my friends, is a pain in the arse.

I have since cellotaped up the wire to the base of the laptop to keep the damn thing working, holding it firmly in place so the power doesn't keep dropping out, but how long it'll last I don't know. If the DC jack stops registering the presence of an electricity cable, chances are my laptop will die completely, and that's not exactly ideal for a wannabe technophile like me. In conclusion then, this faulty DC jack appears to be the first sign of my laptop's potentially imminent demise.

Obviously, I'm aware that such a problem can be fixed. But it looks like it'd cost somewhere in the region of £75-£100 to get it repaired, so all the while I'm unemployed it's not something I can even think about doing. I simply don't have the spondooliks at my disposal. My finances are so stretched that even a packet of Bachelors Super Noodles is a luxury, so I guess I'm just going to have to bleed as much electronic usage as I can out of this laptop until I'm earning some cash. This is primarily the reason why I haven't blogged in the past few days. Technical issues.

In any case, I've backed up all my data in the event of total disaster, but I just thought I'd write this so you're aware that if I vanish from the local blog scene altogether, then technological armageddon will probably be the reason. It's hardly a Fukushima-style nuclear catastrophe, sure, but it's still troubling nonetheless. It's greatly underestimated how important the internet truly is to me. Without it, I cannot blog, e-mail and, perhaps more crucially, I cannot search and apply for jobs very easily, so my fond hope is that my laptop stays alive for as long as it can. Here's hoping.

Friday, 25 March 2011

DUFF LUCK

The Turner Contemporary looks set to bag some extra funding after an £8.2 million donation to the arts sector will help set up new creative learning spaces for children and young people in the gallery. The money has come from the multi-millionaire philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield, bless her. However, it should come as no surprise that in the past Vivien has, in fact, been revealed by the BBC to have donated money to the Conservative Party, such is the nature of her generosity. Not that that’s a crime, mind you. Or is it? You decide.

Monday, 21 March 2011

SHAKE IT LIKE A POLAROID PICTURE!

I had the pleasure of visiting the Helter Skelter Boutique’s private view of their polaroid photography exhibition “A Portrait of Margate Now” on Friday evening. Bringing the night to a fantastic close, Margate indie surf rockers Two Wounded Birds played a set of '50s-inspired lo-fi power pop that certainly got me bopping my head.

There was a bit of a problem with the PA system which meant that the vocals weren’t perhaps as clear as they could’ve been, but the musicianship was top class and I can totally see what Krissi Murison, the editor of NME magazine, sees in them. It’s just pure rock 'n' roll, but not in a leery trad rock neanderthal sense, more in a Dick Dale & His Del Tones-meets-Buddy Holly kind of way. It’s a type of music that’s certainly ripe for modernizing, especially now bands like The Vaccines are making big waves on the indie circuit, namechecking the likes of Eddie Cochran or making nods to early-'60s Phil Spector-esque pop music. The main difference is Two Wounded Birds play surf rock with more energy, more reverb, and a more punky gusto in their embrace of distortion, and I love it.

I have to say, I also love the vibe of Helter Skelter. I’ve always been a sucker for mod fashion and retro designs, and a lot of the movie trailer posters (for The Italian Job, Blow Up, etc.) were pretty wicked too. They even had Trojan Reggae CD collections and Fred Perry shirts. It’s practically my idea of heaven. However, being as skint as I am, it’s also my idea of hell, since I don’t have any money to buy the stuff in there, so it felt like I was taunting myself by staring at all the stuff I couldn’t afford. Plus, once a besuited Andy Warhol-lookalike was thrown into the mix, it kind of felt like I was mingling with arty types in The Factory, New York, circa 1965. Very surreal.

At least the music offered some distraction from my unemployed status and I, for one, enjoyed Two Wounded Birds's live performance. It would’ve been nice to hear some of the vocal melodies, but they still put on a bloody good show. In fact, they’ve recently been featured on Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music Roundtable in a podcast for the BBC, in which they discuss the release of Two Wounded Birds’s new single “All We Wanna Do” for Moshi Moshi Singles Club. I’m just pleased a local band like them is doing so well. Best of luck to ‘em. Who knows? If that Andy Warhol lookalike has his way, Two Wounded Birds could end up being Margate’s answer to The Velvet Underground!

Monday, 14 March 2011

OH, TO BE YOUNG

© Copyright David Simonds. Image from http://bit.ly/o9AnNu.


I spotted a letter in the Thanet Gazette yesterday which got my goat a bit. Written by 72-year-old Ramsgate resident Leslie Elledge, it said the following:

“We have hundreds of unemployed, able-bodied young people. Surely there are some who would be happy to become involved in some voluntary part-time work for the benefit of the community. It seems to me that it has become the norm to rely on the Government for benefits at the slightest opportunity, to the detriment of taxpayers. I often wonder whether our generous welfare system has become an unsustainable burden."

With youth unemployment at a record high, since when did the young become a mere resource to be exploited for menial labour? Is it fair to forcibly enlist us all as military conscripts to Cameron's Big Society? A scandal has recently come to light where some Jobseekers were told they would lose their entitlement to benefits if they didn’t volunteer to work at a Poundland shop for nothing. Is stacking shelves at Poundland working ‘for the benefit of the community’ in the way Leslie Elledge is suggesting?

I admit that some voluntary work does have its benefits. I myself have done voluntary work in the past, to gain some experience and keep myself busy when I struggled to find work after I graduated. But we’re living in a terrible time for young people. Even those with qualifications like myself are scrambling for job opportunities and some may even have to resort to taking unpaid internships just to get a foot on the career ladder. That option, I imagine, tends to be taken by young people who still live with their parents, so they can afford to work for nothing because their living costs are subsidized by mummy and daddy.

But for currently unemployed people like me who live in privately rented accommodation, it’d be much more preferable to acquire paid work. But what paid work exactly is there? According to Simon Duke at This Is Money, 97% of the job vacancies created since the UK economy came out of recession are part-time. Part-time jobs are all well and good, so long as they pay the bills. The problem is, many of them don’t. As for what all this means for Thanet, a TDC report on the local economy said:

“Job density figures indicate that there is 0.65 (2006) of a job per person being of an economically active age. This density is lower than the rest of the districts in East Kent, and significantly less than the south-east average of 0.89.”

This basically means that the ratio of the amount of jobs available to the amount of people who comprise Thanet’s working age population is below average. In short, there simply aren’t enough jobs for everybody, of all ages, let alone just young people. Sure, some young people may benefit from voluntary work – they might have failed their GCSEs, or need to gain extra skills, but to generally assume that there’s a growing pool of young people to foist low-paid apprenticeships or unpaid internships onto and force them to pick litter ‘for the benefit of the community’ is very callous and exploitative. Moreover, to threaten to remove benefits from Jobseekers who refuse to work for no financial incentive at Poundland smacks of state-sanctioned serfdom.

People shouldn’t need to live in fear of destitution. What Leslie calls our 'generous welfare system' is anything but, in my opinion it is only providing individuals with what the employment sector, both public and private, are failing to supply them with. And let’s face it, if demand is higher for jobs than supply, then that means that big businesses will obviously prefer to create part-time jobs because they are cheaper, mean less red tape and the amount of National Insurance contributions businesses have to pay per employee is minimal, especially if Simon Duke is correct in his assertion that: "There is often no National Insurance to pay on behalf of the part-time employee because earnings are comparatively low."

Furthermore, David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald's book The Wage Curve made the convincing claim that "wages are lower in labor markets with higher unemployment" so, for all of the political rhetoric spouted about job creation, if it's cheaper for employers to keep people unemployed, then what options are left for people of my generation?
What young people need to be provided with, most of all, is well-paid jobs. We are the future. We should be building our lives, as I am trying to do. I am about to become a father and I’m trying my best to forge a decent career for myself and make the most of my talents, while at the same time forming the nucleus of a family.

I may be unemployed at the moment, but to hear other people assume that unemployed young people my age should be expected to subjugate ourselves to menial or voluntary work for zero pay simply because it’s convenient for disgruntled taxpayers and opportunistic employers is arrogant at best. It ignores the elephant in the room – the failure of the UK economy to create enough jobs for the workforce.

Friday, 11 March 2011

LOLLIPOP GOES THE WEASEL

I took this photo about a month ago. Can anyone else spot the misspelling? I'm pretty sure this Thanet Times newspaper billboard should be using the word 'lollipop', not 'lollypop'. What does everybody else think?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

TO THE BAT CAVE!

Image from http://www.margatecaves.co.uk/images/frontpage.jpg
To the bat cave! Well, not quite. To the Margate Caves! Oh wait, they’re closed. Damn. Still, at least we have the Friends of Margate Caves trying to reopen them again, eh? In a recent post on their website, it was stated that a recent FOI request has called into question the amount of money it will cost to repair the caves:

“Since January, the Council has stated various figures ranging between £100,000 and £250,000 for the costs of the works required to be able to open the caves again. FOMC used the Freedom of Information Act to request from the Council how they arrived at these figures. We have had a response which confirms that they "do not have a detailed cost estimate for the works required to comply with the recommendations of the Atkins report that described the required improvement works to the caves", however they "have been able to trace a report from the Councils chief engineer in 2005 that indicated that the works would cost in the region of £55,000, with a contingency of £5,000 for works to comply with the HSE prohibition notice". Obviously this is a long way short of the figures the Council has repeatedly been quoting to the press, and indeed used as the basis of their argument for claiming the Caves unviable.

FOMC Chair Sarah Vickery said "There's been a lot of misinformation about the Caves generated by TDC over the years, but we hope that now we have uncovered the council's own 2005 estimate for repair we can all move forward and work with the facts, rather than rumour and exaggeration."

So, apparently it’ll only cost £55k to fix the caves, after all, eh? I guess that may debunk the previously quoted £100k figure as inaccurate. But is it right to rubbish Cllr Moores’s more larger estimates as ‘rumour and exaggeration’? Not that I wish to defend the man, but Cllr Moores’s position on the caves is best exemplified by his comment on Big News Margate:

“Firstly, as a businessman, I have a personal impression of the cost of bringing the caves back into public use, as expressed on my own weblog. This takes into account not only the council’s £100,000 figure for making the caves safe but the on-going maintenance and repair costs involved in making them a viable tourist attraction, so in my unqualified opinion this figure would be closer to £150,000 - £200,000 over several years and you would have to balance this against its viability as a commercial attraction.”

This suggests to me that Cllr Moores’s £150,000 - £250,000 estimate (which the Friends of Margate Caves appear to refer to) encompasses not only the cost of repairing the caves, but also the cost of ongoing maintenance, as part what he presumably considers to be a seven-year business plan. In my view, he’s appearing to suggest that Margate Caves may not be worth repairing, as even if investment were forthcoming to repair them, they may not be able to afford their maintenance costs on a year-by-year basis, especially if its ‘viability as a commercial attraction’ is in doubt. In other words, if it ain’t gonna make a profit, it ain’t worth it, guv’nor.

Like I said, I don’t intend to defend the man. I’m merely pointing out that Cllr Moores’s estimates weren’t just related to the cost of repairs alone, as the Friends of Margate Caves seem to imply. Moores’s figures were part of his attempt to speculate, as a businessman, about how much it’d cost to run the caves in the long-term and whether they’d be a viable commercial enterprise worthy of investment in repairs. Cllr Moores, if you’re reading this, can you confirm that I am correct in my assumptions?

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I'd agree with him. If we used that same ‘does it make a profit?’ logic on libraries, none of them would receive investment, and they’d all be shut down, wouldn’t they? In my opinion, local heritage sites like the Margate Caves deserve to stay open for posterity alone. Besides, let’s face it, if local investment is always decided upon on the basis of commercial viability, would anywhere remain open? And what does this say about our standing as a seaside tourist destination, if tourist attractions like the Margate Caves are closed on the mere presumption that it won't be commercially viable?

That being said, I welcome any progress the Friends of Margate Caves make in trying to get the caves reopened, especially if it’s marked with some degree of commercial success. It’s in everybody’s best interest to see the caves open, and to pretend otherwise is rather foolish.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

ZEBADIAH - THE BEST MC IN CLIFTONVILE?


This music video to local MC Zebadiah's new single “Giro Junkie” is doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, I believe he’s a Cliftonville-based grime artist who’s just released “Giro Junkie” from his forthcoming Athelstan Road EP on iTunes. It’s only 79p so if you want to support Thanet’s local music scene, then I recommend you nip by to the online iTunes store and buy it. Fo' shizzle.

Grime, Hip Hop or Drum 'n' Bass might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but no matter what musical genre it belongs to, it’s important to recognize that local music should be supported and embraced, otherwise Thanet will lag behind other more fruitful musical hubs like Medway, for instance. Besides, Zebadiah’s lyrics are quite socially relevant – he refers to Jobseekers Allowance, being on housing benefit, not being able to find a job, etc. – so fair play to the guy. I think it’s great. It’s the sound of the streets, blud.

A word of caution: explicit swear words are contained within this music video. If you are of a sensitive disposition, then please do put some ear muffs on. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

MARGATE OLD TOWN GETS POLITICAL

When looking at Margate Old Town's Facebook page, I noticed that an interesting status appeared recently which appeared to take a swipe at Tory Cllr Simon Moores:

“Mmmm, Cllr Moores throwing his weight around on the blog scene again. Anyone seen the lesser spotted Moores in the area recently? No? But he is so keen to make changes down here, you’d think he’d at least visit the place.”

Needless to say, this was a very interesting statement. When I commented about them getting political, the Margate Old Town Poster replied:

“Well, we do action, enterprise, community and inclusion, why not political. What we don’t do is snidey... we leave that up to certain Tory Cllrs.”

Now, I don’t want to make assumptions, but I think the motive behind this status may have originated in a post on Maisiegrace’s Weblog, on which Cllr Moores posted a comment which seemingly accused the poster of being uninformed. Is anyone noticing a recurring trend here?! I recommend you take a look. We could be witnessing the start of a revolution.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

SKA DOWN THE ROAD


"Put your braces together and your boots on your feet, and give me some of that old moonstomping!"

That’s right, slap on yer Ben Shermans folks, because the Margate Winter Gardens will be playing host to This Is Ska: Too Much Pressure tonight (5 March 2011), a fantastic gig which brings together those old 2-tone favourites The Beat, The Selecter and Neville Staples (of The Specials). It’s an absolutely stunning lineup which every rude boy no doubt has to doff their porkie pie hats to. I can practically hear an army of Doc Martens stomping towards the venue right now, can’t you?! Enjoy.

Friday, 4 March 2011

BERTIE BIGGLES IS ALIVE!!!

© Royal Mail Group Ltd. Image from http://bit.ly/n4wN4t.
I have been informed that Bertie Biggles - formerly local blogger for Thanet Strife - is alive and well. I've been told he unfortunately suffered a heart attack and was advised to stop blogging to prevent further risk to his health, which is completely understandable, as I'm sure you'll agree. However, my informant has also led me to believe that Bertie is considering a return to blogging in the near future, as he apparently has some views on the upcoming local elections which he is considering sharing.

Needless to say, it would be great to see him return to the local blogosphere at some point, but obviously his health should indeed take precedence. I respect his decision either way, but for now at least, we should be thankful that Bertie is still healthy and in good spirits. In the long run, that's all that matters. There are - after all - some things in life which are far more important than blogging. Good news, eh?!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BERTIE BIGGLES?

Image from Thanet Strife
Well, it's good to be back. Even Adem Djemil has recently announced his return to blogging, so it's good that all of us old faces are making something of a comeback. But whatever happened to Bertie Biggles? Bertie used to blog over at Thanet Strife - and, yes, it was a pseudonym - but he stopped abruptly after his last post revealed that he was "at the disposal of his medics at QEQM and will not be blogging until further notice." That seemed to be the last we heard of him. I hope he's OK. Does anybody know what happened to Bertie and whether he's in good health? If anybody knows anything, then please do leave a comment. It'd certainly be nice to find out.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

CRISPS? CRIPES!

Image from http://bit.ly/nUj4QX.
Tomorrow is the day that Quex Foods – based in Birchington – are launching their own range of crisps using potatoes grown here in Thanet. I doubt I'll be able to grab a packet myself, but with three flavours on offer – Sea Salt, Oyster & Vinegar, and Ashmore Cheese & Onion – I'm certainly interested to find out how they taste. If anybody reading this blog tries them before I do, I'd be very interested to know you think. Surely they can't be as bad as those awful Chilli 'n' Chocolate-flavoured crisps that Walkers made with the help of TV chef Heston Blumenthal.

I don't know about you, but I think it’s quite exciting that Thanet now has its very own range of crisps. Will they be rivaling the likes of the Real McCoys before we know it? You never know. Maybe we should poach Gary Lineker away from Walkers to advertise them for us on TV. Nah, that’s just being silly. Former Manchester United footballer Gary Pallister would be a more fitting choice, since he was born in Ramsgate and originally and originally came from the Kent Coast.

In any case, I think we can all agree that if these crisps end up being successful,then it looks like it’s crunch time for Thanet. Boom boom!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

RENDEZVOUS WITH JANET...?


♫ "I'd rendezvous with Janet, quite near the Isle of Thanet..."

Oh yes, I do love a bit of Ian Dury & The Blockheads. But aside from him, are there any other contemporary musicians to make lyrical references to Thanet? Let me know.