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Maybe I'm just not listening to the right radio stations, or podcasts, or whatever; but there don't seem to be many novelty songs around these days. When I was kid there seemed to be lots of silly songs or monologues on the radio. Hmm, some examples: Right Said Fred, My Boomerang Won't Come Back, Have Some Madeira My Dear, My Brother, Here I am at Camp Granada, Monster Mash, etc, etc. By the way, I'm not guaranteeing all the preceding titles are the ones on the sleeves of the records concerned. What's happened? Has the world become a far grimmer place? All people seem to sing, or apparently want to hear, are songs about shaking something called a booty or shooting folk dead. OK, I know that's an exaggeration, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of humour out there these days.

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I see there’s a giant poster in Wishaw wishing the English football team the worst of luck in the World Cup. In previous blogs I’ve explained that in the case of football, there is a case to be made for this Anyone But England attitude; after all, the Football Association did end the annual clash with Scotland in 1989 because it reckoned the Scots were so rubbish they were not worth wasting time playing. The end of the oldest international fixture in the World. Oh, by the way BBC World Service, the first international was not played at Wembley in the 1920s, it was played in Glasgow in 1872. Football, or as the World Service often calls it “soccer”, is the most popular team sport in the World, so a station that bills itself The World’s Radio Station, shouldn’t be spouting such nonsense. But back to this poster in Wishaw. Most English people are unaware of the all too valid reason for the bitterness and maybe the Scots who persist with ABE are just coming over as childish boors. Many are English people hurt by ABE because when England fail to make the finals of some major international competition they throw their support behind one of the other teams from the British Isles which has qualified. And on the subject of the BBC, it must take a lot of the blame for ABE because many non-English sports fans find its coverage of their team both patronizing and dismissive, especially if the team is playing England. And that frustration is transferred to the England team rather than to the ignorant Home Counties Broadcasting Corporation.  Anyway, maybe it's time to let bygones be bygones and set a good example when it comes to manners. Nothing will stop the English going on and on about their 1966 World Cup win, even if it owed more to poor refereeing than to footballing prowess. 

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When I was kid there was a TV programme called Joe 90. It was about a kid who by wearing some hi-tech glasses could do things only highly skilled and trained adults could do. Like operate a nuclear reactor, they were cool in the 1960s, or fly a high performance jet fighter, or disarm a nuclear bomb. It was a puppet show, or at least marionette, and I think from the same people who made Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. There was also, as far as I can remember, always some psychedelic sequence with a spinning ball cagey thing that had something do with transferring the adult knowledge to Joe. And if he lost the glasses, he lost the knowledge, I think. Anyway, there are days when I wish for a touch of the Joe 90s. I don't want to operate a nuclear reactor or fly a hi-tech jet. All I want is to know what a book says without having to spend hours and hours reading it. Reading, as you know, is very very time consuming. Of course, there are some writers who take the reader on a journey which they wish would never end. But reading to find things out can sometimes be a slog - and a disappointment if it turns out the author actually has nothing new to share or say. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all a person had to do was touch a book with their forefinger and the contents would all be downloaded into their memory? 

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Several years ago I came across a crack in a book about Dam Buster hero Guy Gibson caring more about his dog than the men under his command. It was from one of the men who served under him. But I've never had much luck find out whether the criticism was justified. Gibson's entry in the National Dictionary of Biography notes that he got on better with his flyers than he did with the ground crews. That didn't quite seem to cover the crack about his dog being more important than his men. But recently Gibson turned up twice in a book of air crew reminiscences. One of the men in the book was a flight sergeant who noted that Gibson was distant in his relationships with any air crew who were not officers. Gibson, the sergeant said was "arrogant, a martinet, not very approachable" and ruled his squadron with a rod of iron. Another sergeant recalled Gibson had all his pilots arrested as they landed for what many would regard as exuberant high spirits while moving from one airfield to another. The same sergeant added that Gibson was quick to accuse air crew of cowardice and this was a cause of much resentment. Though he thought accusations that Gibson was nothing but a gong-hunter were unfair. It has to remembered that Gibson was a pre-war regular who had been taught in the RAF to believe in a strict officer/rank and file divide. He even had a problem with officer pilots who he believed were too friendly to their crews. Gibson once ordered his squadron's air crews to spend two days cutting down trees because he didn't want them spending their weather enforced non-flying time boozing. The real Gibson would appear to not quite as played by Richard Todd in the 1955 film The Dam Busters. But, Gibson's book Enemy Coast Ahead remains on my Worth a Look list. 

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I have got to admit I’m baffled as to why young men think it’s cool to spit on the street. I really don’t want to be treading that kind of stuff into my home after accidentally stepping in it. I feel like running up to them and saying “Hey, I’m calling you an ambulance, you must be really ill, don’t worry, lie down until the medics get here”. But of course I don’t. Some of them might be smarter than their ignorant behaviour suggests and they may be aware of sarcasm. There was a time when there were jobs that did do terrible damage to the working people’s lungs. I remember when I worked as a journalist in England going to all-too-many inquests for Tyneside shipyard workers who had died from asbestosis or for ex-miners whose lungs had been destroyed by coal dust. But there aren’t many shipyards or coal mines taking on youngsters these days. Now, I know that sometimes a lung infection can generate a lot of horrible thick green goop that needs to be coughed up. But I would think it should be possible to deposit it into the gutter. That’s what I do. 

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