Sad as


What is the saddest song?

Well, apparently it’s Brian McKnight’s “One Last Cry”.

Nice song, sure… but the saddest ever? Hmm. I’m not so sure. What do you think – is it really the saddest song ever?

For sad, I usually turn to orchestral then in turn to country.

However. for sheer Mutterseelinallein, you have to turn to Paul Buchanan’s voice – especially with the Blue Nile.

But where to start?

“Let’s Go Out Tonight” is a good start… from the title on, it describes loneliness mixed with boredom, listlessness, anxiety, longing, love, insecurity and everything teenagery…

But when you are full grown and settled – why does this still connect? Why is there still that connection? Is it hypnotically induced by the slow march? the relentlessness?

Is it when Paul goes falsetto? Is it because the music is perfectly claustrophobic?

“The Downtown Lights” is a different thing – more up-tempo, but the claustrophobic hypnosis remains – as does Paul’s voice, singing those plaintive lyrics. Yep, again, it’s a killer. Then add in harmony and pizzicato plucks, and it’s getting melancholy. Again.

It will be alright, it will be alright.

Sad but reassuring. What a band.

Then you hear stuff like Can’t Get Over (unreleased) by Paul Buchanan – and then you realise it is the voice most of all.

This is confirmed by the pared-down acoustic version of “A Walk across The Rooftops”

Depending on where your “heads at”, any track on any Blue Nile album will be the saddest song ever.

Having said that, there are times when country will be necessary. Country music is more specific, it’s about the situation and the story or lyrics…

One example might be the old Nobody’s Child…

Another example applies to Dads everywhere – it’s a killer for me as I always break down for the chorus.

There are loads of sad songs and love songs, but what makes a truly sad song is when it strikes when you are actually happy, content, fulfilled and at ease. That’s the thing with the Blue Nile – they can creep up and get ya when you’re not expecting it. What’s your sad stuff? Do tell?



I have just watched a broadcast on the BBC Parliament channel showing a hearing with chair Damian Collins, various MPs and a bunch of BBC presenters – Paul Lewis, Liz Kershaw, Kirsty Lang and Stuart Linnell. It was FASCINATING.

It also pertained to me on a personal level. So I was interested and vestedly so.

It’s all about IR35. And that means tax.

Liz pointed out that HMRC is going after the “low-hanging fruit” by attacking individuals who are either self-employed or who work as contractors (self-employed but as an incorporated – or limited- company), instead of going after the big tax-dodging multinationals.

It often seemed to be torn between traditional political lines – Labour/ Socialist/  Trades Unionist/ Employee lines versus Conservative/ Capitalist/ Freelance lines.

This comes up time and time again – I recall the Uber thing recently. It’s no good trying to get the modern world to fit ye olde worlde politicale partye crap.

That is not to say that the issue is simple, nor that a solution to the various problems is easy. Not at all. But then again, it’s not terribly difficult either.

I recall Thatcher’s Britain: she encouraged the Self. Companies would pay off 51 % of their staff on a Friday, and they would turn up on Monday to do their exact same job but this time as self-employed or contractors. They would have received a lump sum redundancy payment – this bought them shares in Sid (British Gas), allowed them to buy their council houses, put their kids in private schools, get a mobile cell phone and so forth.

This simple idea – to make people entrepreneurs/ self-employed/ MDs of their own firms – was designed to weaken Trades Unions and provide the engine for home-ownership, and the world as we know it today (for good or ill).

I have been self-employed (Schedule D), but when I work in the construction sector that is not allowed, so I have had to work via Personal Service Companies, umbrella companies, and incorporated – or limited – companies. In addition, I have worked direct (invoicing the client) and indirect (invoicing an agency who invoices the client).

I love it.

I feel free. I am free from office politics, back-biting, arse-covering, career-building, aspirational social climbing, blaming, bickering and laziness. No one, employers, trades unions nor anyone else can tell me what to do.

My tiny wee Limited Company invoices my clients/agents and I take out what I need (not what the company is paid). I pay VAT, I pay PAYE, I pay NIC, I pay Corporation tax, I pay an accountant and I pay an agent to pay me each and every week for each and every hour I worked.

I could “go direct” and invoice the client myself – but that means I would have to wait until I got paid. Poor cash flow, irregular income and the stress of chasing payments and keeping track is a pain. Sometimes you have to withdraw labour or threaten to, sometimes you have to sell the debt (factoring) at a knock-down rate just to get some income to pay the bills. Working via an agency means I always get paid each week, and they get to chase the client for outstanding unpaid invoices. Lovely.

My wee tiny company pays me when I am sick or on vacation. It can pay me and my family BUPA or whatever other benefits I choose, from mobile phones, Christmas dinner to a company car and everything in between.

However, the BBC presenters presented this differently – that because the client the BBC) doesn’t pay the contractor (the presenter) for sick days or holidays, there is a trade-off; the loss of “security” (as they put it)  is traded off against the higher rate of pay. My view is that it is a mistake to confuse the limited company with a person. The presenter’s company pays them as employees – and should pay them – all the proper benefits; sick pay and holiday pay has nothing to do with their client, the BBC.

It’s a subtle point, I know, but important.

The BBC presenters definitely confused the person with the firm. This is probably because there is an important difference between people who like working that way (me) and those who are forced to set up self-employment or companies against their natural disposition and inclination.

The trouble is that there is no current distinction, and so whatever is decided by the government will favour one over the interests of the other.

IR35 has been the sword of Damocles for 18 years and it seems to be getting near to crunch time due to media coverage of what’s going on at the BBC.  I personally do feel anxious about this direction of travel – the mood seems to be about ruining my life. HMRC is coming after me as a tax dodger! Yet it’s simply not true! I pay all my taxes and take all the risks. I have to have professional indemnity insurance, I have to keep on top of continuous professional development, I cannot settle down to my job and become lazy and complacent at my desk.

Yet I have sympathy for Liz Kershaw having to return to work too soon after her planned Caesarian sections. The life I chose (and like) is not suited to her, and she was forced into it. I get that.

Did Liz do this to dodge tax? No. Did I? No.

The BBC is a publicly owned and funded corporation so it cannot be seen to dodge tax. But why put it like that? Why deliberately confuse the company with the person to score political points?

Why doesn’t HMRC leave us alone and get on with catching the big multinational tax dodgers instead?

Better still, why do we pay all those MPs, MEPs, MSPs, councillors and civil servants? if we cut them back we wouldn’t need to raise so much tax to pay them all.


Old Dog – New Tricks

One thing about the internet is that it can educate.

Seriously; I have learned new ways to tie my shoelaces, neckties and even how to boil an egg.

However, one thing I have noticed is that when I tell people IRL about something I just learned from the internet, many of them roll their eyes and back off. They don’t want to know!

New ideas rock their world, so they refuse to hear and accept anything that doesn’t fit with their schema.

As for me, I am consciously evolving. I have a long list of things about which I was wrong in the past. So what? Is that a bad thing or a good thing?

I am changed daily by the internet (youtube – Alex, Rick, Scott, Phil, The Brothers Green, Gordon, The King of Random, ProHacker, this guy, and this, TED talks and more), I am constantly amazed by podcasts such as (The Tim Ferriss Show, Planet Money, 99% Invisible, The Science of Success, History Extra, WTF, The Adam Buxton podcast, Criminal, Radiolab, Risk, Beautiful Anonymous, The Partially Examined Life, The Allusionist, Death Sex and Money, The Psych Files, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, Here’s The Thing,  and more again).

The only TV that comes close is BBC Four.

Maybe I am of a “certain age” that likes to learn, needs to relearn, and wants to change and grow.

If you have any recommendations leave a comment – I won’t let it be seen if you prefer.


I have a loan of a Burny Les Paul.

I have not played an LP for decades; I bought an American Classic Strat way back in the last century, but my first electric guitar was a Les Paul gold top.

I swapped out the bass humbuckers on the gold top with a Dimarzio twin humbucker and added a toggle and it rocked and ripped. What an instrument that was.

Sadly I slipped on a patch of ice and tossed it under a lorry.

I still can’t “go there”. Let’s move on.

So, after years of whammy bars, and twangy-ness, I have a guitar on loan that weighs a lot more, is curvy, and the neck is not bolted on. My first job was to put on a set of 9’s.

So how did it feel to be back on a Les Paul?

Amazing. Different.

The first thing I noticed was the sustain. Wow. Just wow. Then it was the possibilities of the settings – two pickups and two volumes and tones – plus the inbetween position and all that could give.

Wonderful and empowering.

I missed the whammy, but the sustain made up for it. The superbly low action and low frets meant I was doing long slides, legato runs and playing at greater speed. yes, it makes you play differently.

The neck felt more like an acoustic – and it played well with open standard chords like people do on acoustics. It stayed in tune and all in all a happy experience. I have already written and a couple of things as a result.

But who can afford a Les Paul? I  was thinking of maybe an ES 335 in my dreams and one day  – but that day never comes. Should I get a Burny or other version? Hmmm? I hear that Gibson is almost bankrupt, so maybe now would be a good investment opportunity to go for the real thing, plus this loan has made me think I need something of that ilk to fill what is so obviously a gap…



It was a perfect storm.

In the run-up to Christmas break, everyone was busy and self-absorbed. I stopped shaving and soon a beard was evident. Then there was the festive break, during which my beard flourished.

I ate too much and drank too much and did not exercise enough during the festive break, so I resolved to lose weight in the New Year — much like everyone else.

I returned to the office with a beard and on a diet.

Over January I lost over 5kg by skipping bread, potatoes, and alcohol. (protip)

On the last day of January, I shaved off my beard. That was when the problems started. I woke up on 1st February with a crick on my neck. It was very painful and I had to tilt my head to the left to gain pain relief.

I now think it was the head tilt, the beard loss and the weight loss – whatever it was, my client looked at me and freaked out.

“Do you feel alright, Dave?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Come with me”

I followed him to the main boardroom where a meeting was going on.

“Sorry guys, sorry to interrupt, but look at Dave – what do you think?”

I stood there, ignominiously, as people stared at my face, intently, deliberately and solemnly.

“Oh dear!”

“Not good”

“Get him to hospital”

My eyes widened.

Suddenly I was told to go straight to the nearest hospital. I was also told to leave my car and they got a colleague to drive me to the hospital right away and without delay.

Scary. Serious. WTF?

How weird did I feel? Imagine how you would feel. They thought I was having a stroke!

Minutes later, and  I am in the A&E department of Monklands Hospital. I am Whisked into a bay, the curtains were drawn. Blood was drawn too – and a catheter installed in my right hand. I was tested for mental agility, I got an ECG print out, I had a sip test. All sorts of things were done and I was thoroughly checked over.

All in all I was whisked from my desk at 1pm and eventually made it home alive at 8pm. That’s a long, stressful shift. My wife and children arrived to relieve my colleague. And what was the verdict?

I’m OK.


Nice to know.

On the other hand, people think I have had a stroke just because I am ugly.


Christmas Songs

Christmas Carols aside, there are a LOT of Christmas songs out there, yet we only hear the same cycle of songs that form the canon.

I like to explore a bit at Christmas, and this year I came across a Bob Dylan Christmas album. Yes. Bob Dylan. I know.

According to Wikipedia today….

“Christmas in the Heart is the thirty-fourth studio album and first Christmas album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on October 13, 2009 by Columbia Records. The album comprises a collection of hymns, carols, and popular Christmas songs. All Dylan’s royalties from the sale of this album benefited the charities Feeding America in the USA, Crisis in the UK, and the World Food Programme.

“Dylan said that, although he was born and raised Jewish (he converted to Christianity in the late 1970s before returning to observing Judaism[), he never felt left out of Christmas during his childhood in Minnesota. Regarding the popularity of Christmas music, he said, ‘… it’s so worldwide and everybody can relate to it in their own way.'”

For me, the most fun track is “Must Be Santa”. I encourage all to enjoy this one; it’s daft. It was written by William Fredericks, Hal Moore, but listen out for the Dylan subversion!

Fredericks/Moore had:

“Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,
Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen”

Dylan changed this to:

“Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer, Vixen,
Eisenhower Kennedy,
Johnson. Nixon,
Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan,
Bush and Clinton”


In this treat, Dylan is backed by a klezmer band! And… it’s a Schitzelbank song! Oh! trust Bob Dylan to be so complex – Jewish/ German/ Christmas/ Christmas/ American Politics/ Charity and good works – and the video is set in an American deep south colonial mansion where adults frolick and party and also have some fighting and destruction – and the video is shot so well that you are surprised at coming across Dylan after a cinema verite style one-take sweep. Genius! and – what a complex package of sheer silly funness! Classique!

Anyway, Merry Christmas!


Random disparate podcasts serendipitously interconnected for me this week on the concept of empathy.

At the partiallyexaminedlife the topic was “Bladerunner 2049” (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) – referencing the seven versions of “Bladerunner” (Ridley Scott, 1982) film and the Novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (Philip K Dick, 1967).

All versions have lead character Rick Deckard as a bounty hunter for androids. He has to use a machine and a process called the “Voigt-Kampff test” to measure the emotional responses to questions about harming animals. This measures empathy and is used to distinguish between a real human being and a replicant or android robot.

Empathy is the key to it all; it seems to be the defining human trait that cannot be faked by a sophisticated machine.

I later caught Episode 296: The Psychology and the Research Behind Why Some People are Angry when Athletes Take a Knee podcast from “The Psych Files” where Michael Britt explains that part of the explanation lies in what’s called the “empathy deficit” by people in power. Britt references the article, “Power Causes Brain Damage” (Jerry Useem, The Atlantic, July / August, 2017), that states, “Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place”. Studies of behaviour and of the brain itself support the loss of empathy as a person climbs the social ladder.

Britt’s podcast explains in detail the tests that show clearly how people who feel (or are primed to be made to feel) wealthy, healthy, advantaged and so forth lose their empathic ability to read moods, atmospheres, facial expressions and body language – while those who are feeling disadvantaged, low class, poor, stupid etc scored well in empathy.

NPR’s “Uncovering the Brain of a Psychopath” is an interview with James Fallon – professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at the University of California, Irvine, and author of “The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain” – who reckons he, himself may be a psychopath!

  • I found out that the term “psychopath” is not accepted in DSM-5, so cannot be diagnosed officially, this is mainly because it overlaps too much with other conditions – yet the term is widely known and popular in use. Mind you, the same document recently moved “Aspergers” too as it’s just covered by the term “autistic spectrum”, and again, the terms continues to be used anyway.

The transcript includes:

FLATOW: There are Asperger’s, people with Asperger’s who don’t – you know, we don’t consider them psychopaths. They have troubles with empathy. Is there a difference there?

FALLON: Yeah. Well, there’s – the empathy circuit connects to other circuits. It connects to the mirror neuron circuit. Now, it appears that in people with – like with Asperger’s, there’s a poor connection between those mirror neuron areas, that is the ability to understand what others are doing, okay, and what the meaning of what they’re seeing is. So they have a problem with that.

But in – the connection to the empathy-related areas like the insula is also, because of that, faulty. But that doesn’t mean they act anything out in violence.


FALLON: Because their amygdala, etc., the other parts that induce this control of violence, there’s not – they’re normal. So, you know, they may not be able to see it or understand it in such a way but they don’t act it out like a psychopath.

FLATOW: What percentage of the population do you think has psychopathic traits?

FALLON: Well, full psychopathy, it’s one to two percent in any population.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

FALLON: And it’s pan-cultural. So it occurs in all cultures. And it’s very interesting that, you know, our genome – that we’ve kept this so close to us. You know, why?

FLATOW: Could this serve – could famous people, you know, leaders, is this something – a positive trait for them to have? If a general, you know, if a general is ordered to go into battle, you know, and he says I’ve got to get the job done and I can’t let my feelings get in the way of it.

FALLON: That’s right. If you’re a surgeon, if you’re a leader, a president, a CEO, you’ve got to do brash things. And it turns out that people with psychopathic traits can – are very successful at taking chances. Somehow they’re able to read things without reference to negative emotion. Right? They don’t sense negative emotion and – or pain that much, really.

But people – if you look at it in a more general way, those sorts of traits – bravado and this manipulativeness and glib – and the willingness to take chances, risks, it’s important. Because most people will not take risks. Most people are safe, so things stay static. And if that’s true, you know, how does a company or how does a country or how does a family protect itself?

Because there’s always others out there that are predators on…


FALLON: …your group or your family or you. And so it’s important, probably, to have people with those traits because they have not only the lack of fear and they’re willing to take chances, but, you know, how many people have the energy to do this? How many people have the energy to be a president or a CEO every day? To go out and say things that they could get nailed on.

So you’ve got to have a healthy dollop of narcissism, you know, to really…


FALLON: …pull this off. So it’s probably important or else you couldn’t do those jobs on a day-to-day basis anyway.

FLATOW: James Fallon, thank you for being with us today. It’s a really interesting book, “The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain.” And good luck to you.

There is also a good Radiolab podcast on Spindle Cells regarding animal empathy levels, as well as an episode called “Killer Empathy” (2012-02-06) about the article, “The Nature of Violence” (Jeffrey Lockwood, Orion Magazine, and “The Risks and Rewards of Empathy” where Lockwood’s college mentor  always warned him not to slip into a muddled, empathic mood, not to let his emotions sideswipe his objectivity.

  • It is interesting to note that scientists actively suppress empathy and emotion.

Do Animals Have Morals and Show Empathy“, (Kiran Moodley, The Independent, 2014-12-23) explores animal empathy levels – referring to videos of animals showing compassion. Frans de Waal of Emory University – a renowned biologist and primatologist  – says animal empathy is underestimated.

It almost goes without saying that most folks – the masses, ie normal, poor people like us have lots of empathy. Animals may have some empathy too.

But just look at what we have in the lower-or-no-empathy group:

  • autistic,
  • psychopaths,
  • androids,
  • serial killers,
  • scientists, and
  • rich and powerful leaders.

There is not a lot you can do about your empathy levels if you are autistic or a psychopathic serial killer.

Scientists have empathy – it’s just that they try to contain it, to reject it. It’s possible that already having low empathy levels would help in a scientific career – maybe that’s why it’s a career choice for upper-middle-class people.

If we deduct the psychopathic leaders from the rich and powerful group, it may be possible to change empathy levels by grounding (taking them down a peg or two).

PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra Nooyi sometimes tells the story of the day she got the news of her appointment to the company’s board, in 2001.
She arrived home percolating in her own sense of importance and vitality, when her mother asked whether, before she delivered her “great news,” she would go out and get some milk.
Fuming, Nooyi went out and got it.
“Leave that damn crown in the garage” was her mother’s advice when she returned. (The Atlantic)

It’s difficult to maintain empathy levels if you are doing well, feeling happy and secure and all seems right with the world. How do you square contentment and satisfaction with becoming more like a psychopath or robot?

Is it possible that Mr Spock is actually happier suppressing his half-human empathetic self than Dr McCoy’s emotionality? Is it possible that animals are happier the less empathy they have? As our lives merge with all sorts of AI tech, androids and robots – and with our increased leisure time in the future – will we be less empathetic, more selfish and much happier as a result?

What To Do When Someone Harasses You

I am a man. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace. I’m not even all that gorgeous.

I want to explain what I did, and what I think you should do when someone harasses you at work – that could be sexual harassment or other forms of bullying. I apologise for the length of this read, but I have a lot to get off my chest, and you can speed read or skip at will, can’t you?

First, let me set the scene: I have always worked for myself. I have never been anyone’s employee. I often use an agency for contract work. I am paid by the hour and paid weekly. Always have been. My older brother decided to work this same way.

This type of work has a very short notice period (just a 5-day week of core office hours, – 35 to 40 hours depending on the contract). Legally we get paid this amount whether or not we have to work it. Usually, firms know what’s coming up and we work the notice period. More often than not we get a few weeks’ notice. Sometimes, though, the work has simply dried up, or the client has lost a project and has to let you go. In which case, we would leave immediately, and get paid the week without turning up.

So the scene is set.

Let’s look at my brother’s thing first. He was on a job and weeks went by, payments were good, his work was praised, and everything was working nicely with no hint of a hitch. However, they ran out of work for my brother, and probably money too, so they took him aside and gave him the goodbye talk. He asked if they wanted him to work the rest of the week, and they said there was nothing for him to do, so he was free to go.

However, they refused to sign off on paying him the notice period. My brother contacted the agent to sort this out.

The agent called back to say that the client wasn’t going to pay. When the agent pointed out that they legally had to – unless it was a sacking due to something like misconduct – they suddenly declared that they had to sack my brother due to him sexually harassing a member of staff.

My brother was outraged! But what could be done? If he took it further, he’d have a sexual harassment claim on his record, and no agent would go near such a toxic copybook blot – and that goes for clients too.  My brother would just have to accept losing the money.

That’s pretty awful, isn’t it? Did he do the right thing? What do you think?

OK, so now, a personal tale or two.

I was younger, freer, and single. I was working late and alone in the design office when in came the big busty blonde from accounts. She slid up onto a desk and struck up some chat while I typed and worked on the PC. At some point, she started flirting. She was a little bit older than me, divorced and quite assertive. The level of innuendo was inappropriate for the length of time we’d known each other. I was uncomfortable. Then she noticed a small run on her tights.

Suddenly she was ripping them.

I couldn’t believe what was happening.

To this day, I don’t know just how I managed to get out of that situation unscathed. But I did. I was in fear of discovery, then concerned about someone seeing her in ripped tights as we left the office. She could say I attacked her. Jeez.

I was just lucky that she was not quite that mad. Although I did have to deal with her every day thereafter, and that was always uncomfortable and awkward.

I’ve told this story to guys who said I should have had sex with her on the office floor as she was clearly wanting that.

Do you think I should have? Did I do the wrong thing?

These guys try to make me feel less of a man somehow. I can’t persuade them that it’s not about my virility, but about professionalism, staying in work, having a clean record, and not being controlled by another person.

Their argument is enriched with their idea that “You might as well be guilty of something she might accuse you of – if you’re caught”.

As a man in today’s world, there are a lot of uncomfortable situations from simply walking down the street at night and seeing how a solo female reacts – to things like changing rooms where other dads change small girls when you’re changing your son.

Lately, the media has been all about famous men as sexual predators. It seems to usually be homosexual paedophilia, but sometimes it’s underage girls.

The “underage girls” aspect of this has been a problem for me as I have a lot of sisters and I have met their friends (and years later their daughters and their friends). I have also played in rock bands and visited my fair share of pubs, clubs and concert venues. I know what a preteen crush looks like. We have all seen girls screaming at the Beatles, the Bay City Rollers, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra – to name a few. Girls can lie about their age, and they can certainly look older with clothes and make-up. I am not condoning rape or sexual harassment, just being honest – especially from back in the day.

Back then men wanted to play in rock bands to get chicks. You know, if Freud is to be believed, everything men do is to get chicks (money and power is merely the method). On the other hand, perhaps power corrupts, meaning that powerful people corrupt into being sexual predators.

I don’t know which it is. Certainly, the world of work was invented by men for men, and although women have joined in, most of the companies and boards are still dominated by men. If men hold most of the power, then it stands to reason that power-corrupted sexual predators are mostly men. Some people think that men and women are equal even in this respect and that as more women take more powerful positions, we’ll hear about female sexual predators.

I reckon it may be the case for other forms of bullying, but I don’t think it’s the case when it comes to sexual harassment; as my own experience shows, women have the ability to call the shots. There is no balance or equality here; you just don’t get crowds of boys screaming at the Beatles. That woman ripped her clothes and it looked like I had attacked her. But had the situation be reversed, and I had ripped my clothes – it would still look like I had attacked her, and she’d defended herself!

I have heard of men being falsely accused of sexual harassment and even rape. And although exonerated, their record remains tainted. The accusation is enough to ruin a man’s life.

So lately the media has been filled with stories about Harvey Weinstein. It’s looking bad for him. It’s too easy to judge before anyone has been found guilty of anything in a courtroom. It’s also too common, look at the media just now.

It’s got to be more complicated. It always is. I tend to think that some of the stories are exaggerated, some complete lies (perhaps some personal pay-back), and who knows? He may have been corrupted to a severe extent and been a monster.

But here’s the thing that gets me with all these stories – how can these monsters get away with this stuff for so long. We’re talking years, in some cases, several decades. How is this possible?

In an online article,  “Classic(al) Sexual Harassment” (The HuffPost, 2017-10-10), Susanne Mentzer describes years of personal sexual harassment in the opera and classical music world. She’s finally “speaking out”. But she still names no names. And that is the actual problem.

The above argument suggests that the reason why some monster rapes some girl is because power corrupts. What I take from that is difficult to explain well, so bear with me, my thinking is that when a man goes too far, the victim is morally obliged to report it; if she doesn’t, then she’s complicit.

Each time he gets away with it, the more powerful he becomes, and the more corrupt. Each time he gets away with it, there’s another victim, another damaged human being. Each time he gets away with it, the corrupted system is supported, everyone is involved, all are complicit, all are tacitly approving, accepting and supporting the continuation of it all.

He becomes a monster. He wasn’t born a monster. Each silent victim makes him worse and each silent victim causes the next victim. The responsibility is group.

Yes, I understand why Susanne Mentzer won’t name names. She’s selfish. Just like my brother was. Why should they lose their jobs, reputation, income and so forth? They can keep quiet, play the game, support that system and not rock the boat. They refuse to accept responsibility for future victims or for making a talented man into a monster. As a result of joining in the game, they lose all rights to be called a victim.

I have told you what I did in a situation, or rather what I refused to do. But I have other situations and other tales. And yes, I have quit lucrative contracts because of abuse, bullying and bigotry. To my mind, it is my responsibility to stand up for myself and to make a positive difference. I don’t need to hire a hit man or to wreak revenge, but I do have to draw my own line and my life only makes sense if it has a solid moral foundation. It starts at home, if more people did likewise, the world would be a very different place.

Sure, I have suffered, but not for long; I always find another job. It always works out. It will be like that for you too, and it gets easier over time to do this, you gain confidence, you grow. Suffering for being out of work – to me – is better than suffering at work, taking money to keep schtum, 40 pieces of silver to allow someone to abuse me – and other people. No thanks.

I have a friend who was caught up in an online paedophile trawl, and while this chap is lovely, moral, kind, and innocent, his barrister recommended that it would be in his best interests to just plead guilty, and be placed on a sex offenders’ register, go to regular counselling sessions for his “problem”, and let it all go through smoothly.

I begged him to fight it. He didn’t; he was too shocked at what was happening to him. He pled guilty, lost family and friends, and even though it’s all over and cleared up over years, he remains labelled by some with good memories.

OK, in closing this down, I can see that I may come across here, to some, as insensitive to victims and supportive of paedophiles and sexual predators. That is certainly not what I wanted to get across. Rather, I am accusing victims of being irresponsible and immoral. I think that speaking out after many years, or only after the monster has died, or going to the press only after someone else has put their head on the block is shameful. Writing about it in an autobiography and selling that through press and interviews on TV is almost worse than the original event. It is even possible for a victim to claim that the “incident” caused them to develop a mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders and more. Then they are acclaimed for heroically overcoming it all, and this, in turn, sells their book and gets them publicity.

Victim publicity is now a thing. It’s a new bandwagon, and I am frankly disgusted that it is mainstream now and may affect children growing up to think this is normal or morally good.

The morality today is skewed. This is my tiny fight back on a blog that no-one reads. Except I hope my daughter does read it one day.



Educational Restyle

Everything has changed in my son’s primary school now that there is a new headmaster since the headmistress retired.

Under her leadership, football in the playground was banned. There was no school team to play other teams. It engendered bad behaviour and competitiveness apparently.

The School Sports Day was always bizarre – no-one won anything. There was no medal ceremony. The children played in “countries”, but the ages, genders, ethnicities and just-about-everything-else was mixed up. Everyone was a winner.

Now we have a man at the helm.

We now have four new houses. The children run for house captain in an election. they even have to submit an application form and state their case. There are teacher changes too – heads of P1&2, of 3&4 and of P5&6.

Locals have spotted him bringing from the local shops a carton of milk for the staffroom – some have even seen him playing football with the children in the playground at lunchtime.

Children can earn points and prizes now, trading earned “Golden Time” for extensions of time on returning homework.

You get the idea; there are fundamental and comprehensive changes – more than I have hinted at here. Are things better? Who knows? Only time can tell.

In many ways, it seems to me, things are returning to an educational model closer to the one I experienced myself a great many years ago.

I wonder if this is a new thing – a countrywide initiative, or because the new head is a (dare I go there) man?

Home Alone

I always thought it was illegal for parents to leave their children alone, but it turns out to be a myth; you can.

Parents can legally leave their children in cars, or at home, alone.

Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.

That’s all there is to it. It’s up to the parents throughout the UK to make that call.

I suppose then, that if a parent judges the children to be mature enough, and if they are in a safe environment for a short while, then – in the unusual event of something bad happening (such as an intruder), it would be irrational to blame the parents.

Being a “helicopter parent” is something I try to fight against; children need space to develop and grow – they need to go out with their friends, to cross the street by themselves, and to be able to be trusted to survive being left alone for a short time.

I would hate to think that – should an accident happen – I would be blamed and possibly ruined.

Would it be better to mollycoddle and raise dependent, incapable adults?