The Mawkish Culture of ‘Weeping and Wailing.’



Noo’s eleven year old son has come to stay with us for a few weeks for the school holidays, so I’m now well and truly outnumbered by the younger generation.

About a month ago, I told Noo to bring her son down for the holidays, but she was a bit reluctant, due to her concerns that he ‘might be a nuisance’. I told her not to be so silly, and that he is a lovely, well-behaved lad and it was a pleasure to have him here. Then when she called her parents to make arrangements to send him down, they too were reluctant, as they were also worried that my life would be too disrupted.

‘Mum and Dad are worried that he will be a bit of a pest,’ she told me.

‘That’s ridiculous; tell them I am very happy to have him come.’


When he arrived from Nong Khai, at the crack of dawn, last Monday, the smile on Noo’s face was a joy to behold. She loves her kids like crazy and speaks to them both on the phone several times a week, and she is ‘over the moon’ to be able to spend a few weeks with him. 

In all the years I have been in Thailand, and all the women I have lived with, I have never known anyone who was so considerate and prepared to defer their own happiness and needs to make sure that the man with whom they were living was not inconvenienced. For the most part, these ladies bring their kids to stay at the drop of a hat and barely a mention – not that I have ever minded – but it continues to sink in to my thick head what a’ gem’ I now have as a companion.

I told Noo that next time she must also bring her daughter, who is now 4 years old.


Next week, my eldest daughter and her husband are coming for a two week stay, so it will be a pretty full house. I am not sure how much time I will have to write this blog, but I will just play it by ear and try to get something out, even if it is only a few paragraphs.

Also next week, Wednesday, I have my assessment at Rajavithi hospital for the final decision on  ‘if’ and ‘when’ I need the operation to replace my heart valve. I am still doing my daily walks – some days are better than others. Sometimes I can walk for up to 20 minutes without feeling any ill effects and on other days, almost as soon as I start walking, I feel some of my symptoms – chest tightening, breathlessness and a bit of pain.

But even if I feel fine to start with– which is usually the case –  after about 20 minutes or so I tend to get very tired, and after 40 minutes of steady walking, I am pretty much whacked out. This isn’t a physical thing, as after more than 4 months of daily walks, my leg muscles are in pretty good shape, so it can only be down to inefficient ‘heart hydraulics’.


Time to call ‘Time’ on National Anthems?

How many times have you sat bored stiff through a sports medals ceremony, or maybe during the opening ceremony of an international sporting events, while some dreary recording of another country’s nation’s national anthem is played over the PA and airwaves?

Let’s be honest about this, the only time when we might be prepared to tolerate – even enjoy – the playing of a national anthem, is when it is our own. But even then, it is not the anthem that is making us happy, it is the sight of our winning countryman or team which brings a fleeting feeling of nationalistic pride to our hearts. Whenever another nation’s anthem is played, we sit grimly on our hands and wish that it would hurry up and finish so that we can get back to watching the sport.

At least the UK anthem is mercifully short, but some of the more obscure countries have anthems that seem to go on forever, and we sit there wondering why the sports authorities don’t insist on a special ‘sports mix’ version, which would only last a minute or so.


But there is one medal ceremony that I would dearly loved to have attended – in person – and it was not one where my own country’s anthem was played.

I am referring to the recent international shooting competition in Kuwait, where one of the events was won by an illustrious female competitor from Kazakhstan.

It seems that the unwitting Kuwaiti official, who was responsible for obtaining the countries’ anthems, made a bit of a boo boo when he downloaded the Kazakh national anthem from the internet. Instead of downloading the real thing, he downloaded the spoof Kazakh anthem from Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”, in which Kazakhs are portrayed as inbred racists.

You can imagine the look of surprise on the poor gold medal winner’s face when she heard the spoof anthem strike up, and in particular, when the words;  “Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region/Except of course Turkmenistan’s.” rang out over the Kuwaiti desert.


But the Kazakhs could hardly complain as it was only few months ago that in Kazakhstan itself , at a northern Kazakh ski event, when the opening ceremony was treated to a chorus of  Ricky Martin singing  Livin’ la Vida Loca, at the opening ceremony, instead of  the Kazakh national anthem.

Maybe all this should start a trend. Instead of international sports events driving everyone out of their minds with dreary, endless patriotic rubbish, they should liven up proceedings by playing more ‘country-appropriate’ ditties.

The UK for example could use Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, and Syria could play Edith Piaf’s “Je Ne Regrette Rien”, and Greece, maybe, that old WW1 song, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile” and Kuwait, maybe Britney’s “Oops I did it again”, and who knows, Maybe Kazakhstan would receive a greater international welcome if they adopted the ‘Borat’ version as its official anthem…

Any other suggestions are welcome.


The profligacy of Hollywood – yet again

Don’t look now, but the moguls of Hollywood, are at this very moment, making plans to hike the prices of DVD movies yet again and chuck yet more kickbacks down Congress’s throat to ensure an ever more aggressive and draconian policy towards the ‘would be’ illegal movie down-loaders.


Haven’t you heard? Disney have taken a bath of something exceeding 200 million dollars on a flop called ‘John Carter’. A massive $250 million was spent on its production, as well as close to $100 million on marketing!


Yet its inability to lure large audiences seems so obvious and very easy to explain.

  • Almost everything in the film is old hat – it has all been done before. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom novels, upon which John Carter is based,  have been so thoroughly strip-mined for ideas by science-fiction cinema, that their key motifs — human soldiers leading alien uprisings, mystical artefacts cached in forgotten tombs, alien princesses with a fondness for metal swimwear — are already firmly ensconced in the modern movie-goer’s imagination.
  • “John Carter” is a deadly dull title
  • The opening voice-over is filled with jargon is incomprehensible to anyone who has not already sat through the movie!!!
  • The film’s whopping 100million dollar marketing suggested nothing of its setting (on Mars) or its romantic elements…
  • It is purely and simply a very long, very boring film.

This disaster is of such gigantic proportions that it will seriously affect Disney’s financial results and now they are desperate to recoup money from wherever possible and cut back their budgets on new film productions.


I have a suggestion for Disney and all the other Hollywood studios. Cancel all your current productions, get rid of all your ridiculously high priced directors, producers and production staff, and in particular your grossly overpaid movies stars, and start over.

Hire some of the wonderfully talented production staff and actors from TV production houses such as those hired by HBO and the independent film sector, put a maximum budget of 10 million dollars per movie, plus a pre-agreed share of the PROFIT to the key players, and see how you get along.

I guarantee that within 5 years you will be making profits unheard of right now. Even if two out of every three movies flop, you will still come out ahead and remain in business. You will be able to charge the movie watching public a sensible price to buy the DVD’s, thus obviating the need to go after the pirate down-loaders, as there will be so few it will not be worth the effort.

I further guarantee that the quality of movies will improve dramatically, as it is this ridiculous, mind- numbing conviction that the more you spend on a movie, the better it is, that has got Hollywood into this crazy situation where such vast sums are wasted.

‘I’m sorry, but by any stretch of the imagination 350 million dollars is a totally obscene amount of money to spend on any single movie and it is time to put an end to this completely unnecessary extravagance in a world where one in seven people are still suffering from malnutrition, and millions of people in  Hollywood’s own country – the richest on the planet – are below the poverty line.



The mawkish culture of weeping and wailing.

What happened to the Bolton footballer, Fabrice Muamba, at the match against Tottenham nearly two weeks ago was by any standards was pretty shocking. Anyone, let alone a Premiership Footballer, who collapses front of tens of thousands of people and is then seen struggling for his very life in front of them is a highly distressing experience for those who were there and the event justifiably became front page news.

But I am sorry to say that much of what has happened since has been yet another maudlin display of vicarious grief from the ‘football family’ and, indeed, far beyond.

We are all distressed by the incidence of an apparently fit young man, at the peak of his athletic and earning powers, being struck down, and we all wish him well for the future and hope he makes a full recovery.

But most of us had never even heard of him, let alone know anything about him, and this increasing tendency to wallow in the kind of self-indulgent weeping and wailing, that first manifested itself over the death of Princess Diana and reached its gruesome nadir with the demise of Michael Jackson, is totally over the top.


Recently, the death of Wales manager Gary Speed, who hanged himself, was a tragedy for his family and friends. But the aftermath was a carefully choreographed travelling circus of remembrance, which made its way around the grounds of every club he’d ever played for. It went on for weeks and weeks.

I am an avowed atheist, but it does seem to me that with a dwindling number of people attending church, millions have taken to worshipping footballers and celebrities instead.

When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.’ (G.K.Chesterton)

I am an avid news listener and viewer, and while I understood the large amount of news coverage on the plight of Fabrice for the first couple of days, I became increasingly aggravated as the story stubbornly refused to remove itself from the top of the news; day, after day, after day. For the most part there was little new news, yet were treated to constant news reports from reporters camped outside the hospital and interviews with everyone from Bolton’s football manger to the Bolton lavatory cleaner.

And as for BBC radio, I was subjected to hour after hour, day after day of discussions and ‘phone ins’ on the subject until I was ready to go for voluntary euthanasia.


Can you believe that Sky News even interrupted live coverage of a speech by the Prime Minister to bring us the latest bulletin from the hospital, even though there was no change in Muamba’s critical condition.

In Italy, Real Madrid wore ‘get well soon’ messages on their shirts, even though I doubt few of the players have ever heard of Muamba. The English disease has gone global.

At Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea defender, Gary Cahill, a former Bolton team-mate, ‘dedicated’ his goal to Muamba and unveiled a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Pray 4 Muamba’ for the benefit of the TV cameras. He couldn’t even be bothered to spell out the word ‘for’.

The Manchester United fans magazine, entitled ‘Red Issues’ caused a major rumpus when they published a front page spread showing Muamba receiving treatment after suffering his cardiac arrest on the White Hart Lane pitch with speech bubbles coming from the crowd saying: “Is he dead?“; “I’ve Tweeted my condolences just in case“; and “Good mourning” under the headline, “Grief Junkies run riot”.


Many people, including MANU fans, were outraged at the apparent insensitivity of the piece, but to their credit, the editors of ‘Red Issues’ have stuck to their guns. They have pointed out that it was in no way intended to show disrespect to the unfortunate footballer but was aimed, (rightfully IMO), at:

 “…the people who latched onto the situation and all their fake sentiments. The self-satisfaction of so many people on Twitter and other social networks as though their thoughts and prayers were responsible for his (Muamba’s) recovery rather than the paramedics and those involved and the player’s own fitness.

“You see it more and more. Whenever celebrities become unstuck it’s a big issue while there are people being killed in Syria and Afghanistan who are not worth a mention.

“In no way was this intended as a dig at Muamba, why would it be? It was at the circus surrounding it.”


A few days ago a young teenager playing rugby collapsed and died while he was being airlifted to hospital. It made the news, but very briefly; after all, it is not a totally uncommon occurrence. Sadly, young, apparently fit young men, die all too frequently from sudden heart failure, often when indulging in an athletic pursuit. 

Very few of these deaths make the news and none of them, up until the incident of Muamba make the headlines for days on end and attract almost mass hysteria amongst thousands who never knew him. And some of this was on BBC World news – not the domestic version. I can’t imagine what the good folk of India or East Java or Papua New Guinea must have made of this obsession with an English footballer who nearly died.

If anything should make the headlines it should be the drive to find ways to make detection of people at risk much easier and to ensure that more effort should be made to screen young athletes.

It all started with the death of Princess Di, which marked the birth of our mawkish culture of weeping and wailing.

Where will it end? Maybe the Prime Minister will declare a week of national mourning, and compulsory self-flagellation upon the death of our favourite guinea pig.


BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a Hoot!…



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