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Posts from the ‘Chewing the Fat’ Category

Chinese Metal

This is boring. Literally boring stuff, but like all boring stuff, it tends to be important.

The London Metal Exchange (LME)10 Finsbury Square London, EC2A 1AJ is the world centre for the trading of industrial metals from lead to gold. In 2018 the LME traded $15.7 trillion and 4.1 billion tonnes of what they call ‘lots’ of metals across the globe.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) bought the 135-year-old LME for an estimated £1.4bn in 2012. The HKEx now promotes itself as one of the biggest market operations in the world and the leader in “China Connectivity.”

HKEx itself was created in 2000 and formed through the merger of The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Hong Kong Futures Exchange and the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company. The merger was designed to increase China’s competitiveness in the global market.

The sale of the LME raised a few eyebrows at the time with the Financial Times reporting (June 2012), “The sale would also deliver a windfall to the banks and brokers who own the LME. At £1.4bn, JPMorgan would receive £151m for its shares, Goldman Sachs would get £132m and the Bagri family, owners of Metdist, would receive £130m.” In the same article, the paper also suggested the Chief Executive of the LME was inline for a bonus of around £10m.

Seven years on following the sale of LME to the HEKx it is widely accepted that the deal has not realised its ambition of building a commodities bridge between the West and China. But as HKEX chief executive Charles Li says, “All you need to think about is if this is the right asset for us. The rest is detail. You don’t worry if the price is right.”

Roll on to December 2019, Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union has already fired a shot across the UK’s PM Johnson’s bow by warning that Brussels is ready to cut off the City of London’s post-Brexit market access unless the UK stays closely aligned with EU rules after it leaves the EU.

In an interview with the Financial Times (December 2019) Dombrovskis is quoted as saying, “Brussels was willing to grant the UK access through a system of “equivalence” decisions that are already used by banks and brokers in other countries such as Singapore and the US. The EU would be especially vigilant in checking that British rules for ensuring financial stability and protecting consumers remained aligned to the EU’s own standards and would act decisively in the event of any lapses.  Access will depend on Britain not starting to engage in some kind of deregulation.”

Meanwhile, as China maintains one alarming eye on the streets of Honk Kong while accusing ‘foreign interests’ of stirring up the disturbances, the other will be watching the negotiations between the UK and EU. Playing safe The London Metal Exchange has an office on the 7th Floor, MYP Centre, 9 Battery Road, Singapore, although it’s not as if they do not already have one foot in the negotiations.

Earth Suite: Assassin of Sound

The photograph, design & layout work for the album Earth Suite by Assassin of Sound, along with a link to the album and the various draft ideas produced for the project.


16.12.19: The Magic Lantern & Pete Roe

Properly my last proper gig of the year, but ending on a high note. I realised tonight that I may have overindulged this year on what some may refer to as “difficult music.”   The essence of a beautiful song with its woven lyrics, delivered with real heart and sincerity was in abundance tonight at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol. The Magic Lantern and Pete Roe. Beautiful.


Life’s Little Eccentrics: Flt Lt Alan Pollock

My late father being of RAF regiment stock often made reference to this incident during my childhood. The so-called, Hawker Hunter Tower Bridge incident occurred on 5 April 1968 when a Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter jet fighter from No. 1 Squadron, flown by Flt Lt Alan Pollock, flew through Tower Bridge. Unimpressed that senior staff were not going to celebrate the RAF’s 50th birthday with a fly-past, Pollock decided to do something himself. Without authorisation, Pollock flew the Hunter at low altitude down the Thames, past the Houses of Parliament, and continued on toward Tower Bridge. He flew the Hunter beneath the bridge’s walkway, remarking afterwards that it was an afterthought when he saw the bridge looming ahead of him. Pollock was placed under arrest upon landing and discharged from the RAF on medical grounds without the chance to defend himself at a court-martial.

Up the Avon on a Mackerel

May I introduce you to this bloke called Geoff. You may or may not know Geoff as the international jet-setting, champagne drinking geezer who rattles the gongs for the band’s Beak> and Portishead.  Aside from the occasional banter on Twitter, I’ve never met the guy, but we have five things, apart from Bristol and an appreciation of early Gary Numan stuff in common. Firstly, we are both white and male. Secondly, I understand we come from working-class ‘stubborn’ stock. Thirdly, we both like mackerel and fourthly (and I’m guessing here) we both have a sweet tooth. If you take these four elements and compound them with, an erratic lifestyle, chaotic diet and the inescapable consequences of time then the outcome will generally be, the fifth thing we have in common gout.

Gout, its something I’ve meant to write about for a while and reading Geoff’s ongoing battle has just provided that helpful nudge. Men are rubbish at this stuff, we are, acting like John Wyne while in reality during our gout despair seeking out our comfy blankie. So, I’d like to share what I’ve been doing to tackle the dreaded disease while reducing dependence on prescribed drugs.

Let me start by saying I’m no martyr to pain and would always recommend drugs to combat the painful torture gout brings when it strikes.  I’m not lecturing, because if you are like me, you’ll hobble along in excruciating discomfort for years before doing anything about it. So let’s start with family and friends. Expect little sympathy given the misconception remains that your disease is a result of rich living, grouse, red meat, game and port.

What we are suffering from is a form of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. In short tiny crystals shaped little pins, the kidney fails to deal with, which then float down to their lowest point and stab the shit out of us. Its impossible to explain the pain when an attack is severe, but it easily makes grown men cry.

If you seek your doctor’s advice, you will properly end up on medication for the rest of your life and some necessary guidance on changing your diet and lifestyle. The problem with this approach is not the doctor. It is you. Because of 9 times out of 10, you are going to home in on the drugs while a wall of white noise permutates your earing when it comes to the words ‘diet and lifestyle.’ That is your choice and responsibility, which is the choice I took. I was a dick.

At the moment I’m down to one maybe two severe attacks a year. I get the occasional discomfort and very rarely use prescribed medication, and this is what I did and am currently doing:

  1. Discovered my triggers. Keep a close eye on what you eat, especially when your body starts telling you an attack is imminent. You know that feeling, its the tingle before the storm. I know things like mussels, mackerel and prawns are some of my triggers. I still eat them occasionally, but you need to build resistance up to counteract the likely attack.
  2. Removed white bread from my diet. The devils’ work. Serious. With or without gout get this shit out your diet. It contains quickly digestible sugars, refined flour, excess calories and very few nutrients. Wholemeal bread contains the whole grain and provides fibre, vitamin B, and minerals.
  3. Light exercise. If like me you have/had a busy lifestyle then you need to build regular LIGHT exercise into your daily life.  I’m not talking about strenuous and demanding routines, but regular walking for example. It’s not about the burst of energy one often gets from gym-based exercise for instance. Get those joints working, blood flowing and most importantly get some primary body stretches going. I would advise finding a nearby steep hill, or bank and walking up and down it on a regular basis.
  4. I stopped eating meat. I have no evidence that meat was triggering my gout, but overall removing it from my diet helped towards losing weight, and I do feel a lot better without it in my diet. But having said that I’m not a food fascist, and this will be down to your personal choice. I don’t miss beacon sandwich but crave lamp and mint sauce occasionally.
  5. Drink water. I bought two x 1-litre water bottle, which I fill up and drink through the day. To make this a little bit more attractive, I add some sugar-free Vimto.
  6. Get breakfast right. I usually have a fruit-based breakfast each day, which consists of banana mashed on two pieces of wholemeal toast (unbuttered). A pear and 2 Medjool Dates. Occasionally, I’ll have porridge or shredded wheat. It took a week, but apart from the natural impact of the dates they also bring sweetness into your diet to helped to tackle my next craving.
  7. Sweets. By and large, I’ve managed to reduce my intake considerably. Chocolate remains a favourite, but the sugary syrup based type sweets with all kinds of colours and additives have gone. If I get a sweet urge, then I tend to search out a bag of Henry Goode’s soft liquorice (strawberry flavour). Then hide in a corner and fight off anybody who dares approaches for a share.
  8. Booze. Nothing has changed really. If you get pissed up on a regular basis, then you probably have more complex issues to tackle. Again, it’s about common sense.
  9. Stress. I can’t emphasise this enough, so I’ll say it once again stress!! Apart from being the route to a potential heart attack stress is like an invisible dark shadow, cancer, to your overall wellbeing.  We all have different abilities for managing and absorbing pressure, but constant exposure will undermine your happiness, life and may ultimately kill you. Get it under control! I can’t advise you how to do this, but for me, it involved a 3-year plan to reduce and where possible removing its causes from my life. It’s not easy, and it often takes difficult decisions, which in the short term may cause additional stress.
  10. Take your time. Do it gradually, don’t cheat yourself. You will have the setbacks, and the attacks will still hijack your life now and again, but you can take control and reduce its scourge on your life if you want too. The drugs your doctor will typically prescribe to tackle gout are:
Naproxen, which is a painkiller that is also an anti-inflammatory. Some side effects of Naproxen may include:
  • indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea;
  • a headache, dizziness, drowsiness;
  • bruising, itching, rash;
  • swelling; or.
  • A ringing noise in your ears.
Commonly Naproxen is medically prescribed with Omeprazole, which is used to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach to tackle the side effects of the Naproxen. But Omeprazole also comes with some potential side effects, which include:
  • heartburn that has lasted three months or maybe longer
  • lightheadedness, sweating, or dizziness with your heartburn.
  • chest or shoulder pain.
  • shortness of breath or wheezing

Another drug often prescribed is Colchicine. As well as gout, Colchicine treats familial Mediterranean fever, pericarditis and Behçet’s disease. Side effects from taking Colchicine may include:

  • muscle pain or weakness;
  • numbness or tingly feeling in your fingers or toes;
  • pale or grey appearance of your lips, tongue, or hands;
  • severe or ongoing vomiting or diarrhoea;
  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms
If you decide to take the medically prescribed drug solely, then I highly recommend you do your research. I’ve listed the commonly known side effects above, but there are more. You ask need to ask your doctor about the long-term impact on you if you decide to take this route. Based on my experience I would advise you to stimulate your natural resistance (body and mind) before you start a lifelong use of prescribed drugs. Look at prescribed drugs as the complementary therapy rather than the other way round.

Tom Robinson (Band): It’s Yesterday Once More

24.10.18: Nostalgia is a bitch. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid through the years ever since witnessing the Sex Pistols reunion, Finsbury Park, 1996 and quickly realising that hard-fought reputations and credibility can be deconstructed at an alarming rate. So it has come to pass for much of the bands churned out towards the end of the 1970s under the threadbare banner of punk.

Its the winter of 1977, at 16-years old, I met a mate Ste Birmingham (sadly no longer with us), and we took a bus from our hometown of Stockton on tees to the neighbouring town of Middlesbrough Rock Garden to catch the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) live.

It was my first gig without parental guidance, involving a stop off at a pub (The North Eastern) where I managed to drink 2 pints of Double Dimond Beer, witness grown men being men with their racist and sexist banter, masculinity overdrive, play my first game of pub pool (lose…badly), select a record on a pub Juke Box for the first time (New Rose by the Damned) and then subsequently make a fake excuse go outside gasp fresh air and throw up in the adjacent alleyway.

Within an hour or two I’m standing in an exuberant crowd of young men, full of testosterone, mostly dressed in homemade punk regalia singing, “Glad to be Gay.”

Today, such are the changes in attitudes that this would hardly raise an eyebrow, even in some of the UK’s most conservative towns and villages. Back in 1977, it carried the risk of a life-threatening physical assault from a mainly hostile public and police where queer bashing and racist abuse seemed a norm and a routine way of life. Nowhere more did these attitudes manage to incubate than in the pubs and socials clubs of 1970s north-east working-class England. This may feel like a lazy indictment, but nonetheless a cultural acceptance I was brought up in, which had many a complicated reason.

I recall a nervous confidence in Tom Robinson’s voice that night as he introduced ‘Glad to be Gay.’ A nervousness which is equally shared by an audience, initially not sure what to do with the singalong anthem. Sweat-drenched men who have been bouncing relentlessly to the guitar-powered set are now looking at each other, fuck it by the second chorus, a unified audience is wholeheartedly singing. Its one of those small moments in time when things start to change for the better.

Tonight (41 years on) I find myself at the Fleece, Bristol to capture Tom Robinson performing his classic ‘Power in the Darkness’ album in full and in celebration of its 40th year since release. First and foremost it remains a great (I mean a really great) rock album. Lyrically it is not only a reflection on how far we have come. It is also a recognition as to how far we have allowed ourselves to regress back into the darkness.

This evening I raise a glass to my old mate Ste and Tom Robinson’s bravery, his art, the man and a band of young men who recorded an album that had a very significant contribution in shaping my politics.

PS: I’ve still got my vinyl copy and its accompanying spray can stencil remains in perfect condition, unused….until tonight.

Best Man Project

The #BestManProject collects, shares and inspires the collective wit and wisdom of best mates all over the country. Check out the film, sign up and expect all sorts of tips and tricks on being a great best mate, direct to your inbox. More info here

Punk Albums 40 Years On

My top 10 so called “punk” albums, which I was listening too in the 1970s that have remained influential to this date.

1. Pink Flag – Wire

2. Entertainment! – Gang of Four 

3. Rattus Norvegicus – The Stranglers 

4. Fun House – The Stooges

5. The Clash

6. Never Mind the Bollocks – Sex Pistols

7. The Ramones 

8. The Undertones 

9. Germfree Adolescents – X-Ray Spex

10. Singles Going Steady – The Buzzcocks

Northern Slopes: UK Best Parks

Voting is now open for UK’s Best Park, as voted by YOU! 2017. Voting closes at 5pm on Friday 3rd November and the winner of UK’s Best Park 2017 will be announced at the Fields in Trust Awards at Lord’s Cricket Ground on Wednesday 29th November. Please vote for the Northern Slopes, Bristol in the Best Parks competition under the South West region.

The Northern Slopes, Bristol: This is beautiful open space in Knowle has a stunning view of Bristol, which is not usually seen. It is little-known to people who do not live in the area. There is increasingly less space in this area so Northern Slopes needs love and respect. Please vote using this website link: Northern Slopes Scroll down the webpage to find the Northern Slopes and press the button. It’s as simple as that. If you would like to find out more about the Slopes – then click here.

The Last Flower

Somethings have explanations, some things take belief, while others just leave you pondering for a rational reason for them to exist. They capture a moment, like stars when they align. On this damp, chilly September morning in the corner of my kitchen, a corner where the plants do their best to thrive, of all these days, a blooming flower stretches out seeking the sky. It’s the last flower, my father planted before he died on the 3rd March 2017, which is exactly, to the day, 12 months after my mum had passed away. The significance of this solitary flower that blooms on this damp, chilly September morning is what causes the pause, as I make a breakfast tea and say happy birthday to my mum.

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