Friday, 24 July 2009
Just got back from Paris.
I love Paris. It's my favourite city. Steeped in history, shrouded in romance, Paris is, as I may have mentioned before, a city made for lovers to walk hand in hand through its streets...
I first visited France's capital city with my Mum, Jackie, and my brother, Mark, back in 1998. I returned very briefly in 2003 and met a very nice boy from Kazakhstan who I sadly lost touch with some years later. I told myself that one day I would return. It's taken six years for that day to come, but at long last I have finally returned to the city that I love.
I have just spent four days in Paris with my friends, Carl and Craig.
Carl and Craig stayed at a Parisian hostel, very popular with Algerian immigrants and Romanian asylum seekers, while I lived it up at a four star hotel. Ah, the benefits of capitalism. I did however remember to send over my shoe shine boy and I gave C & C permission to whip him mercilessly whenever they felt the need.
I can't say I did that much during those four days in that fine city.
I ended up spending a total of about five hours with Craig because (a) he left earlier than us and (b) he kept wandering off. I told him that he would eventually get lost and wouldn't find us again. Well, surprise surprise, he did just that. He wandered off and never returned which was more than a little annoying as part of the reason I headed to Paris when I did was to spend time with him.
It wasn't all bad though.... I headed to a restaurant with Carl where, for the second time in my life, I tucked into a serving of frogs legs (the first time was in Romania seven years ago). I can't say that I see the appeal of le legs of ze frog... there's just no meat on those suckers.
I haven't really spent enough time in France to form a proper opinion of the French people.
One thing I will say however is that the French are much more polite than the English... though us English do have a reputation for being overly polite, which we're not, really.
I have always admired the French for standing up to the Americans during the invasion of Iraq. Jacques Chirac saw through Bush's lies and told him where to get off... something that Tony Blair didn't have the guts to do. Unfortunately, Sarkozy, who is a wanker (and crap at jogging), models himself on Blair and is banning burkas. Oh dear.
Still, better to be in France than the police state that is the United Kingdom (police in the UK now have the right to stop you if you take a photo of them and they deem that your photo might aid terrorism. Of course, the rules aren't clear and many police officers are arresting people for any old reason and invoking the anti-terrorism act).
If I hated this country anymore than I do, I would say that the British, along with the Jews and Americans, are on a slippery slope to Hell. But of course I am not so consumed by hatred and so would never say anything like that. I will just close my eyes and walk blindly into the future, ignorant to the injustice, unfairness and evil that surrounds me...
I climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Well, I didn't actually climb it. I'm not Philippe Petite. But I did queue for 45 minutes to buy a ticket, then climb a few flights of stairs, then wait another hour and a half to get a lift to the top, then wait another 15 minutes to get a lift down which only took me halfway down which meant more stairs and then another lift which resulted in me finally getting away from the Eiffel Tower two hours later, by which point I hated it and never wanted to see it again and just wanted to eat some frogs legs.
Named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower opened on 6 May 1889. It was the world's tallest tower up until 1930 when New York's Chrysler Building was completed.
If you ever visit Tour Eiffel, go there in the evening. The tower is lit up and it looks rather beautiful. Quite magical. Just don't go there on a hot day in July... unless you like snotty-nosed kids, cans of Coke costing three euros, overcrowded metro stations and lots of queues.
So that's it. Paris in five easy pieces.
On our last night in Paris, there was actually a riot. Hundreds of cars were burnt out. I missed out on all of it... I was too busy in my hotel room, watching my wide screen TV and eating strawberries out of the bellybutton of a 25-year-old blonde Swedish virgin named Inga, who spoke only one word of English: "Yes".
Ah capitalism. Gotta love it.
P.S. Au Revior, Paris. See you next year, I hope.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
It's difficult for me to remember a time when Michael Jackson was not a part of my life.
I remember watching the Thriller video for the first time, and the excited conversations I had with my school friends about this young black man who had just taken music video to a whole new level.
I remember sitting in school assembly, bored out of my brain, imagining I was up on stage, dressed in a white suit, tipping my fedora, strutting my stuff, as the kids went wild and screamed my name.
I remember when Michael Jackson performed in front of a sell-out crowd in Liverpool in 1988. I remember watching Michael Jackson at Wembley stadium four years later. A friend and I managed to get within two rows of the stage. At one point, as Michael performed Beat It, he swung from a crane above me. I was looking up at him; he was looking down at me. I remember thinking: My God. Michael Jackson is looking at me!
I remember being 18 years old and listening to Michael Jackson's first new single in two years, Black or White, on a crappy hi-fi system in a crappy bedsit near Liverpool. I remember standing below Michael Jackson's hotel room in Prague in 1996 as he threw signed pillow cases down to the adoring crowd.
Later, I remember where I was when Michael Jackson was accused of abusing a child. I also remember where I was when he was acquitted of child abuse in 2005. And, of course, I will always remember where I was on Thursday 25 June 2009 when I heard the news that the world's brightest star was shining no more.
I was in a caravan in Blackpool playing Scrabble with my family. This is strange enough in itself: I am not close to my family (we live on different planets). When we were younger, we were all huge Michael Jackson fans. This was our first family holiday for 15 years and the first time we had been together in years. Strange that Michael Jackson should die on the last night of our holiday when we were all together like that.
It's difficult to put into words the effect Michael Jackson had upon my life. I have never been a fan of celebrities; I am not like many of the people in this country, who mindlessly read gossip mags and follow the lives of the rich and famous because they have no lives themselves. But when I was a kid it was impossible to ignore Michael Jackson.
It is a testament to his fame that, in the house of a poor family who had no carpets, no phone and no TV, a family who were in many ways detached from what was going on in the world outside their front door, the most popular topic of conversation was Michael Jackson. Like millions of people the world over, we were fascinated by this all-dancing, all-dancing, crotch-grabbing, moonwalking phenomenon.
It was Michael Jackson's remarkable talent that initially drew me to him. Later, when the songs and albums started to dry up and Michael began to lose his creative spark, it was his trials and tribulations that kept me fascinated. I've always found myself drawn to people who have suffered (often to my cost) and Michael Jackson suffered more than anyone.
Yes, Michael Jackson squandered a huge fortune and was prone to a spot of baby dangling. Yes, he was an American, and I've made clear my feelings for those people and that country. But Michael Jackson was also victimised by America: loved, and then hated, in equal measure.
I knew more about Michael Jackson and understood Michael Jackson better than the majority of people who have been writing about him since his death. The truth is, I loved Michael Jackson. He was a constant source of strength, and an inspiration. I probably would never have gone to work in an orphanage in Belarus if it were not for him.
The fact that Michael Jackson was able to get out of bed and face the day, despite all he was going through, gave me the strength to carry on during my terrible teenage years and turbulent twenties.
Between the ages of 18 and 22, when I was a total recluse, going for weeks without leaving my flat or speaking to another human being, Michael Jackson was there. When I was 21 and suffered a minor nervous breakdown, due mostly to my isolation, Michael was there.
Our childhoods were both abusive. I never had a father, and was never called "big nose" or whipped with an iron cord, and, unlike Michael, I never woke up to find my father standing at the end of my bed wearing a ski mask and carrying a kitchen knife. But I was told by my mother that I was stupid, that she hated me, that she wanted to kill me in my sleep. And there were the beatings. All of this does lasting damage to a child, and defines the adult.
Michael Jackson went through it all during his short life. Though some of that pain was self-inflicted, it was pain nonetheless. Lesser men would have blown their brains out. He plodded on and, with the exception of a handful of interviews, he suffered in silence, rarely complaining.
Imagine helping a 15-year-old boy through cancer, only to have that boy and his deranged mother turn against you and try to get you sent to prison for child abuse. Imagine sitting in court and watching as a parade of former employees tell lies about you in an attempt to destroy you. Imagine if you had fired those employees after they stole from you; they sued; you counter-sued, won and they ended up penniless. Then they took their revenge...
Imagine if almost everyone you met took advantage of your wealth and passive nature and stole from you or stabbed you in the back.
Imagine if you ended your life deeply in debt, homeless, moving from one rented home to the next, lost, unable to put your life back together and unable to find your place in life.
When I was going through my own trials and tribulations, I had Michael Jackson; his strength was an inspiration. But who did Michael Jackson have? There was no-one, because no other star has been through what Michael Jackson went through during the last 15 years of his life.
Michael Jackson's death was as tragic and bizarre as his life. He was on the verge on a comeback, days away from a run of 50 sell-out shows in London, his first proper live shows since the HIStory tour in 1997.
The world's press were all asking if this frail 50-year-old was up to doing 50 shows. Rumours were rife that he would cancel the concerts, pretend he was ill or come up with some lame excuse not to go on stage. Most pundits reckoned he just couldn't do it, he'd gotten in over his head. Then 12 hours after one of the last rehearsals, the guy drops down dead.
One month ago, the man who gave the world the moonwalk disappeared off the face of the planet. A massive part of popular culture went with him. There will simply never be another Michael Jackson.
For that to happen, an 11-year-old boy would have to become famous as part of a popular dancing group, have a string of hits, go on to become a popular young star in his own right, release the biggest selling album of all time at 25, revolutionise music video, break down racial barriers, embark on some of biggest tours in history, create some of the most memorable pop songs ever written, release more multi-million selling albums and still be a source of fascination decades later.
Even if someone were to do all of that, he would just be copying Michael Jackson. It ain't gonna happen. The King of Pop was truly a unique individual, a one-off; and we will never see his like again. If fame is immortality, then Michael Jackson will truly live on forever.
On 25 June 2009, the planet lost its most famous star. I lost a man I admired, a man who was a role model for me when I was a troubled and lonely child, who gave me strength and brought me happiness.
I have long dreaded Michael's death. I always felt that he would never be allowed to grow old and fade away. I imagined that his death would be sudden, with rolling news programmes and blanket TV coverage. That happened one month ago, in exactly the way I imagined it would.
I will never again write a blog entry like this about the death of a celebrity. I will never again grieve for a man I never met.
Being a Michael Jackson fan, I was often subjected to a roller coaster of emotions, as his life lurched from one crisis to the next. Strangely, I never felt gratitude. Perhaps I didn't realise I was grateful. Today I understand that I am eternally grateful to him, for the years of happiness that he gave me.
I couldn't have allowed Michael Jackson death to pass without doing something, however small, to remember and celebrate him. This blog entry will help serve that purpose.
It will take some time for it to sink in that this weird, wonderful, troubled and immensely talented individual has moonwalked for the last time. It seems unreal, this chain of events that I played out in my head time and time again, which finally came to pass a month ago. I am trying to find inspiration from his death, as I did from his life. My book, when it is published, will contain a short dedication to Michael Jackson.
For now though, this simple blog entry is for the lonely and troubled man trapped inside the body of a child, the man who was a constant source of strength and inspiration, the man who taught me how to dance, the man who helped me through the worst times of my life.
And Thank You.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
A few months ago, a Belarusian girl I am no longer in touch with asked me to tell her about the best day of my life.
I had to think for a while, as I searched my mind and sifted through my memories. Eventually I came up with an afternoon from my childhood that I spent with two boys, play fighting on a big grassy hill next to the place where I went to school.
We must have all been about eleven or twelve at the time. We spent the day there on this hill, as the sun beat down and we played and shouted and tumbled, covering our jeans in grass stains, before climbing to the top to do the same thing all over again.
That afternoon probably took up less than five hours of my life. Yet at the time, that day seemed to go on forever, as our lives stretched out before us and tomorrow seemed like a lifetime away. That single day became a metaphor for the childhood that I wished I could have had.
Those boys never made it out of their twenties: both were killed in road traffic accidents before they hit 25. I'm the only one left to tell the story of that wonderful afternoon of grass stains, sunshine and laughter.
We all have lives made up of good and bad days. There are those days that we recall with great fondness: days of wonder and beauty, which are always with us. And then there are those days that we try to forget, but which are simply too painful for us to ever truly put out of our minds.
The past ten years of my life I have spent travelling, I have been searching for happiness. I travel much less now than I did (the next few months are, however, an exception) because I can no longer find the energy to spend hours on trains, planes and automobiles. I guess it's a sign of growing older. I will, after all, turn 40 in five years time...!
I have also been searching (albeit unsuccessfully) for those most mundane and yet seemingly elusive of things: a wife, a child, a place to rest my hat and call home. There is, however, a little bit more travelling left in these tired bones, and so a few days ago I got my bones in motion and set off to visit Ireland's capital city.
A Man From Mogilev in Dublin
I did not visit Dublin to see Ireland or meet the Irish. I didn't like the Irish before I travelled to Ireland, and I like them even less now. My grandfather came from Ireland (my Mum always tells me that I am 25% Irish) and so I have wanted for a long time to visit the place that helped give me life. But that was not the reason I went.
I visited Dublin to meet a Belarusian friend of mine, Serosha (that's Sergei to you) who studies in Limerick. When the people of Mogilev were stealing from me, Serosha (along with two other boys) was there for me. The least I could do was go and visit him for the kindness he showed me during those two terrible months in Mogilev.
I don't have many real friends. In fact, I can count the number of real friends I have on the fingers of one hand (and still have my thumb left over). But Serosha has been a true friend to me, and when my book is published later this year, I will finally be able to repay him.
I hate to say it, but the young people of Belarus have become real beggars. They are always playing "let's see how much money we can take from the foreigner." They can't help it; they can't stop themselves.
When I first visited Belarus ten years ago, nobody took my money. Now everybody takes my money. The only reason I can see for this is the influence of capitalism. If generation after generation grew up kind, warm and generous in the Soviet Union, but then one generation has become scheming and deceptive in ten years, I put it down to capitalism.
It pains me to say it, but Belarus has started embracing capitalism in earnest. As we nationalise in the West, Belarus privatises. There are two reasons why the President, Alexander Lukashenko, is converting to a free market system: disputes with Russia and the financial crisis.
In late 2006, the Russian government began charging Belarusian consumers more for gas than it charges its own people. This offended Belarus a great deal; a relationship based on friendship and a shared history suddenly became one based on economics.
Russia uses gas as a political tool, but not only gas: angry at Belarus's westward drift, Russia recently banned Belarusian milk products. (Russia has in the past banned Moldovian wine, Polish meat and Georgian mineral water). It's a catch-22 situation: the more Putin gets angry and the more he punishes Lukashenko for looking West, the closer Lukashenko moves to the European Union, which makes Putin angrier.
The other reason why Lukashenko is encouraging investment, selling 500 state controlled enterprises to the highest bidder and putting in place plans to privatise the Belarusian rail network, is because the financial crisis has seen Belarusian exports drop by around 40%.
So, almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the finest people in Europe are changing and changing quickly. It won't be long until the country is crammed full of McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and the like, and those good people living in the last Soviet republic become more and more like the spoiled bastards in the West.
Back Out of the USSR
For me, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy.
I'm not talking about repression or Stalin or gulags - I'm talking about the end of socialism. In South America, socialism is making a comeback thanks to Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa (the latter was sworn in as the President of Ecuador when I was in the country two years ago. His Vice President is called Lenin, ironically enough). But while socialists can be turned into capitalists in, oh, about ten years, it takes generations for a capitalist society to become a socialist one.
Weapons Of Mass Deception
The West, especially the USA, is so hypocritical. Condoleezza Rice once branded Lukashenko 'the last dictator in Europe', but there is a fine line between a dictatorship and a so-called democracy.
In my own country, Tony Blair, that mass murdering democratically elected former Prime Minister, who was re-elected by the British people even after he invaded Iraq and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, used the terrorist threat (which he created) to bring in a series of curbs on personal freedom.
This means that if you read out the names of dead soldiers near the cenotaph, or you heckle a Labour minister at a party conference, or you protest against climate change, you can be arrested under anti-terror laws and released at an unknown location without phone or money.
This is a country where police officers recently attacked anti-globalisation protesters in London, in one case actually killing a man. This is a country where the same police force shot dead an innocent Brazilian student on the metro. This is a country where, a few days ago, police in Nottingham used a taser gun to electrocute a man lying in the street. This is a country where Metropolitan police officers are currently being investigated for 'water boarding', a form of torture where the victim thinks that he is drowning.
This is a country that invented the concentration camp (the Germans simply 'perfected' these camps) during the Boer War, when more than 26,000 women and children died in South Africa between 1900 and 1902. Similar camps had existed before (in the USA, the Cherokee and other Native Americans were interned in camps during the 1830s) but it was during the Boer War that the term 'concentration camp' was first used.
Having learned nothing, this country recently took capitalism to its limit when it helped the USA invade Iraq and take control of its oil supply. This is a country where every adult has the blood on his hands of thousands of Iraqis. This is a country where the hapless current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced a few days ago that an inquiry would be held into the war, but "it will not seek to apportion blame."
Another whitewash. An inquiry by Gordon Brown's chums. And when Brown announced in Parliament that the inquiry would be held in private, in an unbelievably cynical move, he quickly went on to pay tribute to all the dead soldiers (killed by Bush and Blair), knowing that the shouts and protests of the Liberal MPs would fall silent out of respect.
The UK and the USA can never redeem themselves for Iraq. I remember when the bombing began, George W. Bush talked about "saving the world from grave danger" and "the fight against tyranny", echoing the words that Lyndon Johnson used when he ordered soldiers into Vietnam forty years earlier. When the first missiles began to rain down on Baghdad, Bush took time off and went to his ranch in Texas. The guy didn't give a damn.
The rape of Iraq could never have happened without the support of the American people. As the Germans were held responsible for the crimes of the Third Reich, so the Americans and the British should pay a heavy price for the crimes committed by their democratically elected leaders.
As Iraqis were being blown to pieces, the Americans were watching the Oscars. The war was presented as an infomercial; 'shock and awe' was the name given to the opening campaign. The same term was later used to market a video game. With the Republican foot soldiers at Fox News in the USA and Murdoch's ragmag The Sun in the UK leading the way, there was a call for war, a demand for war, a lust for war. The Americans and British could smell blood and they were revelling in it.
The UK is on the road to hell and there is no turning back. This is a country where, a few weeks ago, I went out for the first time at night in a long time, because I was sick of having problems with the British. In one hour, I interfered when an old woman told a homeless man that he should 'FUCK OFF' and got a mouthful of abuse. Minutes later, a man I had never met before tried to pick a fight with me.
When I caught a taxi to Dublin airport on Sunday, I was ripped off by the driver. The same day, I was walking through the streets of Bristol to catch a train back to Exeter and watched as a middle aged white woman shouted to a Middle Eastern woman that she and her young son should "get back to their own country". Within minutes of arriving in Exeter, I walked past a man who was threatening passers-by and talking to his friend about how he was going to "knife somebody in the kidneys."
A few days ago, I watched a film called Slumdog Millionaire. The stars of the film are a couple of Indian kids. The British director, Danny Boyle, wanted the film to have an authentic feel, and so rather than employing professional child actors, he went to the slums of India and found a few kids who knew how to act well enough to appear in a feature film.
The film cost $15 million to make. It has grossed over $360 million to date. Yet, the stars of this film still live in their slum. Worse still, they were taken on a worldwide promotional tour, and then dropped off in a silver mercedes back in their slum. It completely beggars belief.
Recently, the kids lost their home and were living on the streets. More than a year after the film was completed, and only after criticism in the press for doing sod all to help them, Boyle finally stepped in to give the kids and their family a flat (by which time it was too late as the Indian Government had already given them a new home). He said about these children a few weeks ago: "It's natural they want their lives to change, but these things take time."
This film has made a profit in excess of $340 million. This British bastard, who sums up just about the entire British population, couldn't even take a few thousand dollars out of that $340 million and get three children out of poverty. It reminds me of when I was in Ecuador and surrounded by Western lowlifes who were completely oblivious to the poverty surrounding them.
Dreaming of Destruction
I think that the British, along with Westerners as a whole, are a people who have lost their way. I no longer even see them as being human as they lack the qualities that make up warm, good hearted human beings.
The West does so much harm, both to the planet and to people's souls. The countries of Western Europe are built on the backs of colonisation, slavery and suffering. And forms of slavery still exist.
The clothes on our backs are put together by people working in sweat shops from Asia to South America. Fat, repulsive British females, with rolls of flesh hanging from underneath their t-shirts, gulp down litres of designer lattes and cappuccinos in Starbucks, while Ethopian coffee farmers get paid a pittance to fund our indulgent lifestyles.
Western corporations outsource and so when you call your local bank, you get diverted to a call centre in Mumbai where young people get paid pennies for listening to whingeing bastards all day.
It is these Western 'values' that are corrupting - no, contaminating - the good people of Belarus. It is a European parliament made up mainly of centre-right and far right MEPs that Lukashenko wants to get closer to.
I began this blog entry writing about dreams and happiness, good days and bad days. I dream of a better world, a world where countries and peoples that do harm to the world no longer exist. I am, however, a realist. And so it is my dream to get out of this country, out of this part of the world, and to a place where the people are warm, where I do not have to live in shame of my country's foreign policy.
Soon it will be time to go, time to leave these people to their fiery fate, never look back, as the time for dreaming will be over.
- Professional Englishman
- London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
- This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.