Why I hate New York…

Fabulous 57th Street which is managing well without me...

Fabulous 57th Street…which is managing well without me

Dear New York,

Why do you haunt me and taunt me so? Don’t you know I can’t get you out of my head? It’s all right for you…you just go on being yourself. You don’t care about me. You don’t miss me. To you, I was just an ant scurrying around your shiny streets. Can’t you see – I can’t love you if you don’t love me back, if you don’t want me back. Say you want to see me again, please! Until then, I’ll have to keep singing the refrain from that old Shirley Bassey song, the one that goes: I love you, hate you, love you, hate you, love you till the world stops turning

You think you are so big and important, don’t you, huh? The Big Apple. Who do you think you are? What have you got that Bradford hasn’t got, eh? You haven’t got Bradford City FC, have you? Ha ha! You haven’t got a big hole in the middle and Lister’s chimney! Come to think of it, what have you got that Porto Alegre hasn’t got, eh? You haven’t got footy star Anderson, late of Manchester United, have you? You haven’t got black-bean stew and funny Gaucho hats! So, just what have you got? Well, erm, here are a few things…

Why do I have to look through every single record in the shop?

Why do I have to look through every single record in the shop?

Record Shops: dozens of them, full to the rafters with old LPs. Each record has one of those lovely, thick cardboard sleeves to protect the disc. Each record is a bit heavier, thicker vinyl, with sound quality to drool over. For just a few dollars – the price of a blueberry muffin and a regular coffee – you can get yourself albums by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express or The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra. Tearing around Manhattan and Brooklyn breathlessly, I managed to plough through 13 record stores in 3 days, dislocating my shoulder with the weight of the bag. As Jeff Ogiba of Black Gold Records in Brooklyn says: “Records are the closest thing to a human relationship that I’ve discovered so far. I’m not on drugs.”

West 57th Street: if I could have chosen a better place to parachute into Manhattan, then my name wouldn’t be Herbert Butterworth. Bordered by Central Park, 5th Avenue, 7th Avenue, Broadway and with Times Square just down the road, this bit of the Big Apple is where the action is, where those in-the-know go, where the cool cats hang out – Bert included. And…just opposite my hotel was the coolest burger joint playing the hippest black swamp jive, hidden away behind a curtain inside the swanky Le Parker Meridian hotel.

Hidden gem on West 57th - the burger joint in Le Parker Meridian

Hidden gem on West 57th – the burger joint…worth going just for the tunes

Brooklyn Bridge: landed in Dumbo, Brooklyn 4pm (freezing the brass monkeys off), steaming cuppa tea 4.15, sprawling but neat second-hand bookstore 4.30, procured little bottle Wilson’s Whiskey 5pm (getting dark), climbed the 20 dozen iron stairs up to the bridge, knocked back the fuel and prepared to brace the biting winds 5.15, marched across the bridge with glorious views of the Manhattan skyline, landed Lower Manhattan 5.45, chilled to the bone, crimson-faced but exhilarant!

Was it the whisky that made everything look surreal on Brooklyn Bridge?

Was it the whisky that made everything look surreal on Brooklyn Bridge?

Greenwich Village: like London’s Soho in the old days, the Village has a kind of seedy, Bohemian feel, where every multi-coloured cafe, pub and shop is wildly different from the place next door. I even got sucked into the beat-up East Village, with edgy streets that seem to go on forever. I was lost and scared. I felt like Jack Kerouac…”an angel-headed hipster burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.” Wow!

My hero Jack Kerouac in NY 1953 - about to enter a record store, of course!

My hero Jack Kerouac in NY 1953 – about to enter a record store, of course!

Carnegie Hall: growing up a jazz fan, the words Live at Carnegie Hall on the LP cover always filled me with awe and wonder, wonder and awe. Guess what? Carnegie Hall is on 57th Street – so off I went on Sunday afternoon, sober and civilized, to watch a little jazz group. Sitting in a cozy theatre room (an offshoot of the main auditorium) with the saxophone, piano, bass and drums just a few feet away, and knowing that Manhattan was waiting for me outside, was my kind of heaven.

OK, so New York can also get on your nerves sometimes. Like when you get the bill in a diner and there is a 20% service charge. That’s because the greedy owners don’t pay the waiters. Oh no – they expect you to pay them with a hefty tip! Many times Manhattan made me feel like a little, poor guy, like I shouldn’t really be there, like I should be emptying the garbage at the back of the celebrity party. And – get this – nobody speaks English! So annoying. I went to New York specifically to practise my American drawl (“What it is, bro!” and all that) and everybody, everywhere was chortling away in Spanish…shut your eyes and you could be in Mexico.

Why does New York vinyl taste so good?

Why does New York vinyl taste so good?

But little niggles aside, I am still smitten…love-struck to the core. Every time I play one of those heavy LPs with Made in New York printed on the back I hurt inside. The trouble is, too many people already love New York, that’s why she doesn’t care a fig about little old me. But I am already planning my return – I am going to MAKE her notice me, even if it means shouting “Hasta la vista, baby!” in the middle of 5th Avenue. Start spreading the news…

 

 

Categories: Brazil, Travel, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I think, therefore I am not good enough?

It's 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb...

It’s 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb…

I can’t get started this year. It’s 2015, the year of the sheep, and I feel like a toad. I want to be good this year. But I’m confused. You see, the other night I dreamt I was in a giant maze made of Yorkshire pudding.

...and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

…and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

It was scary. As I tried to find my way out I kept bumping into famous dead philosophers. Every time I saw one I asked the same question: “How can I be a better person in 2015?” Here’s a summary of what they told me:

Socrates: The first of three Greek blokes with beards, this one asked me why I wanted to be good. I said I wanted to do good things, you know, help others and not be selfish. He asked me why I believed in “good” and “not good”. Then I was stumped. He told me to forget dwelling on right and wrong and try to grow as an individual. Evidently I need to love the universe and my own life within it, but always to question what people tell me. Then, just before he vanished, he stroked his beard and said: “Remember, to be is to do.” I was still confused.

Please, Mr Plato,can I keep my poetry books?

Please, Mr Plato, can I keep my poetry books?

Plato: This old stick was a bit severe. When he found out I loved poetry he turned nasty and told me to throw my poetry books in the river Styx. Poetry is bad for me, evidently, because it’s not “true”, it’s only fiction. He told me everything on earth is imperfect, so I can’t be ‘good’ because ‘goodness’ is an illusion. And all my relationships have to be ‘Platonic’ from now on. Plato’s world sounded a bit strict for me. Luckily I had the Yorkshire pudding to console me.

Aristotle: I had to define ‘goodness’ for this real scientific guy. What is essential about being good, he asked me, what must be always present in an act of goodness, something that cannot be removed from the equation? I said ‘love’. He smiled, and for a second I thought he must like me, at least more than moody old Plato. “So, go forth and multiply”, he said, “with your earthly love”. Great.

"It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living." Right on, Jean Jacques

“It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living”, said Mr Rousseau

Descartes: This French guy had a really strong accent. What I think he asked me was how did I know that my ‘life’ was not just one big dream. Good question. “You think, therefore you think you are”, he said. I suddenly realised my dream was happening inside a much bigger one. Hmm. So, the shrew I found in 1967 in Heaton Woods that accidentally died on the way home was just an illusion, like everything else. What a relief!

Rousseau: Another French bloke, Jean Jacques told me to ditch all my possessions pronto and get back to nature. Get naked and live organically. Mankind, in his (or her) natural state is not avaricious and envious, but kind and considerate. So, it would be easy to be good, he told me, when human beings had dispensed with their silly commodity society. Being naturally human again, living in the woods on berries and nuts, would be noble, not savage. Voila!

Friedrich 'Superman' Nietzsche with his walrus 'tache

Friedrich ‘Superman’ Nietzsche and his walrus impression

Nietzsche: Friedrich’s moustache was awesome and made him look like a walrus! He was ranting in German but then toned it down a bit when I approached. He told me to imagine a place beyond good and evil and asked me what I would find there. I said ‘love’ again, and he said “Ja, Heureka!”  Then he told me not to trust language because it was only used to boss people around; I have to will myself to escape from language and ‘morality’ to a distant, metaphysical place where I can be a ‘Superman’. Sounds a bit mad to me. When I left, Friedrich was hugging a horse.

I want to be an existentialist just like you Jean Paul

I want to be an existentialist just like you, Jean Paul

Sartre: Another French guy, this one with inch-thick glasses, a funny eye and a fat cigarette in his mouth. He asked me what exactly I based my decisions on. I said the circumstances. He said those circumstances are always beyond my control, so choosing one way instead of another is absurd. I kind of agreed with him. Then he asked if I had a spare cigarette, preferably Gauloises. He looked really sad when I said no. Before I left, he said “Remember, jeune homme, to do is to be.”

How do you mean do be do be do?

Stranger in the Night: Frankie

All of a sudden I found the exit to the maze, which was lucky because I was stuffed with pudding. But I was still confused and feeling sad that I didn’t have a definitive answer to my question about being good. Then, out of the distance came a shadowy figure who seemed to be singing to himself as he walked towards me. It was Frank Sinatra! “Hey, kid, what’s up?” he said. So I told him about the philosophers and my dilemma. He asked me what had been the best advice so far. I said Socrates told me “To be is to do” and Sartre told me “To do is to be”. Frank agreed that was really confusing. Then suddenly he smiled and said, “Wait a minute, kid, I got your answer!” “Tell me, please!”, I said. “Do be do be do!”, he said. Then I woke up singing Strangers in the Night, which I realised was a great title for my dream.

Categories: Great Minds, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘How much is that brainbox in the window?’

Come on now...who doesn't love shopping?

Come on now…who doesn’t love shopping?

I shall scream at the next person who says Christmas has become too commercialized! The other platitude we hear at this time of year is that we have all become “mindless consumers”, drawn to the glittering shopping malls like moths to the light from a plastic torch. Surely it is shopping that keeps us together, gives us power, justifies our existence? Isn’t life a struggle to reach a point where we no longer have to worry about where our next plate of beans on toast is coming from? And if we try hard enough we can all get there, can’t we?

Who's the guy with the fake beard?

Who’s the guy with the fake beard?

Brazil’s ex-president Lula said recently that the aim of his Workers’ Party is not to make the poor richer by making the rich poorer. No way, José! Lula wants to make everybody richer. Pure genius, you have to admit. By “richer” I presume he means giving people more spending power. In other words, more money. And the big shop of the year is Christmas, of course. Which means driving lessons for Dwayne, a fortnight in the Algarve for Courtney and a big new telly for granny.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this end-of-the-year spending spree has made me reflect on 2014 as a year of myth shattering – a time when the money-God has not fared well. In fact, the authors of 2 of my 3 books of the year would be put up against a wall and shot by members of the Capitalist Billionaires’ Club if they had their way. Dare I say that over the past 12 months there has been a bit of a revolution in the way some of us think about life, the universe and property ladders. So, without further ado, here are my fab reading choices of 2014, in no particular order:

"So you're telling me that inequality is part of the deal?"

“So you’re telling me that inequality is part of the deal?”

1) Thomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century This is the French economist who tossed an ideological bomb into the swish corridors of big business and somehow got away with it. It takes guts to make such devastating claims about how our economic systems are rigged. Myths like this: there is no mechanism in capitalism for creating equality, as many of us naively believed. The profit motive is not philanthropic – how could it be? The notion that wealth trickles down from the creamy, luxurious top to the grey, muddy bottom is cobblers. The only solution, according to our Thomas? Start taking huge amounts of cash from the very wealthy (money they will never be able to spend) and invest it in education, health and job-creation schemes. I mean, what is this guy on? I hope he uses a police escort.

What Piketty is arguing, based on a mass of historical and economic evidence, is that wealth accumulates and becomes concentrated in the hands of – yes, you guessed – the wealthy. It is inevitable, therefore, that inequality does not diminish, but grows. And grows. Even Scrooge would have to admit that in the last 30 years the incomes of the wealthiest have shot up into the stratosphere, whereas the incomes of you, me and Bob Cratchit have stagnated. Or worse.

"Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? You're poor enough."

“Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” Scrooge chides poor Bob Cratchit

Recently a Brazilian oil magnate involved in the country’s biggest ever corruption scandal admitted illegally salting away $20 million in a Swiss bank account, money that was “skimmed” from inflated contracts. The miscreant has now agreed to pay back a total of $100 million. My question is: just what exactly did he intend to do with all that money? Nothing, is my guess, because having it hidden away was the thrill: a secret stash of filthy lucre. And this in a country like Brazil, where 40% of the population live on less than $300 a month. Shameless.

Maybe I’ve been deluding myself. Maybe I was a fool to think that “equality” was something to be worked towards. Nevertheless, the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” will only stop widening when enough people stand up and shout. People like Piketty.

spend spend spend...that's what it's all about

spend spend spend…that’s what it’s all about

2) Paul Verhaeghe: What About Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society What is wrong with us? Why do we feel lonely, guilty, inadequate, unlovable? I used to feel the same…until I let this Belgian professor of psychoanalysis soothe my worried mind. Now I understand the current “happiness crisis”. It stems from the way we judge ourselves: if we are not financially “successful”, we are losers. Over the past 30 years the pressure has intensified for us to “perform” economically as individuals. We have all become “consultants”, trying to sell ourselves on the open market we are born into. We have an identity crisis because we cannot remove the mask, the “marketing” face we put on every day to win approval. All our institutions – schools, hospitals, libraries – are now “businesses”, and making money has become sacred. We are mere pawns on the Monopoly board of life.

And, according to Verhaeghe, these anxieties have led to a worrying increase in psychological problems: self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and social phobias. When we allow market forces to judge our “performance” in life, we are bound to become anxious, even paranoid. In the neoliberal circus we are trapped in, there is little room for spirituality – a space that allows for self-awareness on very different terms. This has led to the blossoming of movements such as ‘Mindfulness’, a meditation-based philosophy which tries to bring our damaged souls back to life so that we can appreciate the small miracles that happen to us every day. But as usual, of course, the culprit for this psychological mess is rampant, free-market profiteering: the only game in town, the only reality we have in front of us. Adam Smith – I hope you are listening, you nincompoop!

It's time to stop consuming and be mindful...

It’s time to stop consuming and be mindful…

And finally…

3) John Gray, The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths How about this – life is utterly meaningless! An absurdist farce, a sick joke! Surely not…surely there is order in this chaos, surely human beings are still evolving, there is a master plan and the name is “progress”. Erm, well – not according to Mr Gray, English philosopher and retired professor of European thought at the London School of Economics. You see, our ancestors believed in religion – the purpose of life was to be “saved”, to get into heaven. Then came Darwin. After that we put our faith in Science: advances in technology would keep making the world a better place to live in. So, the question is, are we – you and me – better examples of the human species today, after all this “progress”? I can’t see it, myself.

John Gray: progress is a myth

John Gray: progress is a myth

The problem is, we have swapped our faith in God for faith in the “progress” of civilization, as if “improvement for all” was somehow built into the future – a place we will surely reach someday. Gray exposes this kind of mythology as connected to the naive hopes of modern-day “humanists”. According to Gray, “humanists believe that humanity improves along with the growth of knowledge, but the belief that the increase of knowledge goes with advances in civilization is an act of faith”. So we are back to a kind of religious belief that things can only get better.

And all this because, as humans, we kid ourselves that we are morally superior to animals, whereas in fact, “human uniqueness is a myth inherited from religion”. So, if there is no heaven and hell, no progress, no pride in being human, what the devil is the point of it all? Why are we here? Well, one thing we are here for is to learn from John Gray’s book and stop deluding ourselves.

We humans are just animals after all

We are just animals after all

Only when we face up to the meaninglessness of life will we be able to get together communally and make the best of it, not live as atomised individuals forever struggling to get ahead in the rat race.

Phew! What a lot of food for thought! I hope you enjoyed the ride. Actually, I have my own philosophy of life. It’s simply this: never stop asking big questions, try to become better informed, and learn to love your fellow-humans as you learn to love yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to get your mum a lovely present at the shopping mall…a very small one, of course. How about a book token?

Categories: Books and Writers, Brazil, Global Crisis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The day the travel bug drops dead

Life in a suitcase is an adventure...but pulling up roots is painful

Life in a suitcase is an adventure…but pulling up roots is painful

I’m a drifter. All my life I have been on the move: Bradford, Iowa, Bradford, Plymouth, Ilkley Moor, Brighton, California, Bradford, Andalucia, Madrid, London, Rio de Janeiro, Bradford, Surrey, Porto Alegre…the list goes on. So, where exactly is home? Wherever I lay my hat? Maybe. But there is a feeling that haunts the constant traveller. The question is, when and where I am going to stop this long, fascinating journey? Because we all need roots, even if they are delicate and don’t go down very deep. One day you just have to stop and say: “This is it. I am ready to stop the magic bus right here and stay forever”. Forever is a very big word. But journeying is a kind of madness; a sweet, delicious madness sometimes, it’s true…but mental all the same. One day you need to end the madness and settle down. The roots need to go down deeper. As Status Quo once put it, Down down, deeper and down.

One day you need deep roots...down, down, deeper and down

One day you need deep roots…down, down, deeper and down

Everybody loves travelling. Why? Well, for a start, when you are travelling you are not working. You are on holiday. You are in a relaxed and excited mood and perceive everything accordingly. All your responsibilities are on hold. Travelling is certainly different to tourism. The traveller goes to way out places, mixes with the locals and stays longer. But living abroad is different again. For that, you have to work. You have to get well integrated into the economic culture of the country you have chosen. You have to pay rent and tax, talk to lawyers and navigate through the treacherous corridors of bureaucracy. Living abroad is when travelling gets serious.

Most people who want to throw caution to the devil and live abroad make a plan to stay one year, or maybe two. There is a kind of wisdom in this compromise: you are taking the plunge to live in another country, but you have a return date. You will come back home with an expanded mind and enjoy a hero’s welcome. You will be a star in the village for a week or two. Having had a deeper and wider experience than most of your pals, you can wear your other-worldliness as a kind of badge of eccentricity. You have “seen the world”; you are different, a little bit wild even. You are cool.

If I ever leave Brazil I will weep over those Florianopolis beaches

If I ever leave Brazil I will weep over those Florianopolis beaches

But what about those of us who have no return date? We are the “lifers”, born into this world to hit the ground running, to take the road less travelled, to squint into the distance to see what’s coming next. And yet, for even the wildest wanderer there comes a day when the future must be faced. Then the question is: where am I going to end my days? Where does my heart tell me to buy a little place, collect my pension, keep a few dogs and chickens? This is the moment your adopted country becomes HOME. You are not moving anymore. You have got everything you need and wear a smile on your face each day. Your roaming days are over.

South America's football guru Tim Vickery has lived in Rio for 20 years

South America’s football guru Tim Vickery has lived in Rio for 20 years

As a born drifter, this is probably the toughest decision you will ever make. We are talking death-bed; finding a place to croak your last as you look through the window at those distant mountains; a place to write your will, leaving all your money, of course, to the George Gissing Museum in Wakefield; a place where you finally have a full drinks cabinet, complete with cocktail-shaker, lemon slices and Epsom salts. I am getting old, remember. My fellow-students call me “grandpa”. I need a place to wear my favourite yellow cardigan with the gnarled leather buttons, the one covered in dandruff and HP sauce stains.

All this points to one thing: LOVE. Do I love my adopted country? Can I picture the neighbours carrying my plastic coffin through the streets as the school band plays Abide With Me? Big question. My old mate Tim Vickery, Rio’s resident football guru, once told me Brazil was not a country to grow old in. Funny that, because he’s been here 20 years and appears totally integrated in the culture. So what did he mean? I think it’s a syndrome all ex-pats suffer from, the fear that this place, Timbuktu or wherever it might be, is my final destination, warts and all.

The Yorkshire Dales is not a bit like Brazil...funny that

The Yorkshire Dales is not a bit like Brazil…funny that

Which brings me to an even bigger question: Bradford or Porto Alegre? Rio Grande do Sul or Yorkshire? Brazil or England? Well, in order to decide, there needs to be some criteria. Things like: comfort, safety, quality of life, cost of living, a variety of fun things to do and at least a few friends you can rely on. Do I have all those? Hmm. Would I have all those in Huddersfield or Keighley? Hmm.

"mother's milk" - Yorkshire bitter with a creamy head

“mother’s milk” – Yorkshire bitter with a creamy head

For a Yorkshireman, of course, there is only one thing to consider: the water. Yes, you heard me. But I mean the water they use in the brewery. The glorious, soft spring water they use to make Yorkshire bitter, so that when your pint appears on the bar, it has a gorgeous creamy head on top. ‘Mother’s milk’, we call it. The problem is, if I move back to the north of England, I will end my days staring out of the pub window at drizzly-grey skies and derelict mills, chuckling at the pasty-white Yorkshire folk at the next table who talk funny. How the dazzling suns of Brazil and those immaculate bronzed bodies on the beach will all seem a million miles away!

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The truth about love

Romantic love makes your knees turn to jelly

Romantic love makes your knees turn to jelly

Hey – this is supposed to be an adventure journal, a ripping travelogue from steamy South America! So where do I keep disappearing to? You have every right to ask. I should be writing this with trembling, blood-stained hands. I should be telling you about my hair-raising adventure in the Andes where I contracted double-malaria after being attacked by a herd of tsetse flies. Or I might be dictating this to an amanuensis because I am attached to an oxygen machine after my swash-buckling travails through the Amazon jungle, wrestling crocodiles and with only a tub of Marmite sandwiches to keep me going. But no, folks. The sad truth is that I have been hiding out in my little pad in Porto Alegre, watching Brazilian soaps, reading George Gissing, frying fish and depressing over Bradford City losing twice in the space of a week. Life is a crock of cockroaches at the moment. But I don’t feel sorry for myself – oh no! In fact, by busily doing nothing, I have had time to reflect on something we all cherish, crave and care about.

L-O-V-E. A mystery we never seem to solve. Can we learn more about it, or is it something you can only feel? Who knows most about it? Poets and songwriters? Jilted lovers? If you learn more about it as your life goes on, then I should know quite a bit by now, seeing as I am entering my dotage. One of my very favourite poets, W.H. Auden, spent his whole life trying to understand what those four little letters really mean. He begins one poem wittily:

W.H. Auden spent a lifetime writing about love

Wystan Auden spent a lifetime writing about love

Some say love’s a little boy, 
And some say it’s a bird, 
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that’s absurd, 
And when I asked the man next-door, 
Who looked as if he knew, 
His wife got very cross indeed, 
And said it wouldn’t do.

And he ends by asking how he will know love when it comes: 

Will it come like a change in the weather? 
Will its greeting be courteous or rough? 
Will it alter my life altogether? 
O tell me the truth about love.

Of course, I cannot hope to ever match Auden’s insight and wit. I’m from Bradford, remember. But over the years I have had a few ideas about love myself. Romeo I am not; Casanova neither. But having had a few broken hearts and plenty of time to mull over the whole business of romantic love, I would like to share a few of my thoughts and maybe shatter a few myths. So here goes:

LOVE LASTS FOREVER: Who said that? How do they know? Sorry to disappoint you, but love is not a solid, static thing that sits permanently on your shoulder. Love is the most fluid thing; it won’t just stick around. Love comes and goes and sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop it flying off like a bored budgerigar. The point is not to feel guilty about it. No-one is to blame when love steals away. The surest things can change. But fear not: love will come back another day and make you glow all over once again.

Jealousy is self-love tinged with hate

Jealousy is self-love tinged with hate

LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WORK: Yes and no. If you spend all your time cultivating loving relationships you might end up as a bus driver. Love is here today and gone tomorrow and there isn’t much you can do about it. But there is a lot you can do to improve your work options. And someone who loves their work is much more attractive than a shabby sentimentalist who can’t even buy you dinner. I say: work hard at finding something you love doing for a living, and let love come and find you. Unless, of course, you love buses.

LOVE AND SEX ARE DIFFERENT: Whoever said that deserves a chocolate cookie! The trick is never to confuse the two. But for that trick you need to be a master magician, unfortunately. How many people get married because the sex is good only to find themselves waking up every day next to a wazzock. You see, passion cools, and it’s better to assess the respect you have for your lover when the flames have died down. Because respect is the key to a long, loving relationship. You need to find someone you deeply admire, but still fancy. Tricky, huh?

LOVE IS FEELING JEALOUS: Isn’t it natural to feel a twinge of jealousy when your lover is swooning in someone else’s company? Maybe. But being possessive can be catastrophic and says more about your insecurity. If you genuinely love someone you will want them to enjoy their freedom, too. Besides, if your partner is really enjoying someone else’s company that much, you had better let them go. Just make sure you have a hobby to turn to when you get dumped. I collect plastic submarines.

LOVE IS SAD: I have learnt this the hard way. Love might be quick to depart, but there is always a little bit left over that stays in your system. As you get older, it builds up and can easily turn to nostalgia. Better to allow the old loves to mature inside you, like good wine. Without the sadness that love leaves behind, we would never experience the joy of finding and treasuring love in the first place. Joy and sadness: these are the essence of love.

LOVE, AND BEING “IN LOVE”: “I love my partner, but I’m not in love with him anymore.” I’ve heard this a few times, but what does it mean? It means you don’t really love your partner, or rather, you love him like a brother. But you can live without your brother, so you really need to move on. Love means staying “in love”, and I don’t mean sizzling in the flames of passion, I mean the delight you feel just watching your partner experiencing moments of happiness. Falling “in love” is so wonderful that sometimes we fantasize about having a fling on the side. But if you are prepared to risk all on an illicit affair, better dust off those suitcases in the garage.

Poet Wendy Cope doesn't know what to say on Valentine's Day

Poet Wendy Cope doesn’t know what to say on Valentine’s Day

Love is not “staying together through thick and thin”. It is not a test of commitment. Love is freeing your spirit, not trapping it in a dingy flat in Shepherd’s Bush. Love doesn’t calculate; it liberates. It doesn’t build up resentment; it forgives and renews itself. Love is like a butterfly that doesn’t die. Oh dear – now I’m trying to sound poetic. So I’d better finish with a proper poem, or part of one. Wendy Cope wonders what to say to the man she’s been with for donkey’s years when another Valentine’s Day arrives: 

Today’s the day we have to be romantic.
Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.
You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.
And saying that has made me feel romantic,
My dearest love, my darling valentine.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. But that’s enough romance. Next week I will post some pictures of me grappling with a big brown bear in a supermarket car park. I thought the bear loved me…I was wrong. 

I found this alligator in my swimming pool, so I've been a bit busy

I found this alligator in my swimming pool, so I’ve been a bit busy…honest!

 

 

Categories: Books and Writers, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Passion, politics and personal hygiene in Brazil

Tiririca the clown says: "If elected I promise I will help all Brazilian families... especially mine"

Tiririca the clown says: “If elected I promise I will help all Brazilian families… especially mine”

Today is a big day in Brazil. More than 100 million people will toddle along to their local polling station to cast their precious electronic vote. Today, Brazil’s huge population will not just decide who the next president will be, they also have to choose senators, governors and representatives at a municipal and local level. For weeks, every strip of grassland next to the main roads has been cluttered with billboards, huge photographs of dozens of well-heeled contenders and their electronic numbers. There are no written messages on the pictures, apart from the subliminal and obvious “Vote for Me”, which goes without saying.

Having found myself caught up in all the excitement and, as an outsider, mystified by all these names, numbers and bland photographs, I naturally consulted my colleagues and students to discover how they were going to choose their next political leaders. To my chagrin I discovered that the vast majority of these “delegates” are unknown; anonymous faces with numbers to match. In fact, it wouldn’t be stretching the truth to suggest that many people will vote for the person who, from their photographic portrait, appears to be the most sincere and reliable. I won’t say “trustworthy” as Brazil has a shameful history (one which runs right up to the present) of corruption in politics at all levels, leading most voters to adopt a cynical attitude to the electoral proceedings. It looks like a case of “meet the new boss – same as the old boss”, as The Who’s Pete Townsend  aptly put it in his ironically titled song, Won’t Get Fooled Again.

That's Dilma the president at the top...but who are the rest?

That’s Dilma the president at the top…but who are the rest?

What a daft system! Surely nobody should be voting for someone they have never heard of. But then that is the nature of metropolitan politics where huge numbers of people live together and know next to nothing about how their city is run. It may sound idealistic, but wouldn’t it be great to get to know your candidate, to sit down and have a little chat? Only then would you know if this was the kind of person who best represents your opinions. Not only could you broach all those touchy subjects like poverty, education and corruption, you could get a feeling whether this candidate was understanding, humane, kind – somebody worthy of your vote. You could also check whether they have bad breath and expect you to pay for the drinks (obviously a no-brainer).

The biggest issue, as I see it, is how to make our societies fairer: how to engender more equality of wealth and opportunity. The simple solution – to tax the rich and give to the poor, Robin Hood-style, is surely way too simplistic. Wouldn’t that just make rich people not want to work anymore and, at the same time, make poor people lazy? Well, it depends. Like all political ideals, the answers lie somewhere deep in the darker realms of philosophy. The bigger question is: are we human beings basically good-hearted, sharing, caring creatures, or are we selfish individuals out to get everything we can for ourselves and our precious families? More to the point – shouldn’t all those candidates with the big beaming faces know the answer to these quandaries?

Hobbes: without state control you would be a brute

Hobbes: without state control you would be a brute

Of course they should! So, here’s the thing – all the candidates should be made to sit a philosophy exam and the results made public before the election. You see, I’m full of great ideas! But hang on a minute – do I know myself what the philosophers say about human nature? Well, erm, let me see…

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): Here we have a very influential English pessimist who wrote in his impressive tome Leviathan that human life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” without the powers that be keeping tight control on everybody. That’s because human beings have a natural tendency to fight with everybody else in the name of self-preservation. What Hobbes called “every man against every man” or what we call today, proverbially, “dog eat dog”. (Oh dear…not a good start!)

Jean-Jaques Rousseau (1712-1778) “Man was born free”, Rousseau famously proclaims, “and he is everywhere in chains.” Sounds familiar? Well, the Frenchman’s invention of the term “noble savage” might also ring a bell. But what does he mean? Well, unlike Hobbes, Rousseau is a bit of a romantic. He believes that in our true “natural” state, human beings do not know good and evil; in fact our ignorance of vice makes us unable to do bad things to others. Men and women are naturally peaceful and “passionate”. (Now this is more like it…sounds lovely!)

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith in Edinburgh: 'Just start up a business and everybody will be better off...honest!'

Adam Smith in Edinburgh: ‘Everybody is better off with Capitalism’

This Scottish economic philosopher has got a lot to answer for, my friends. He believed that yes, man is selfish, but that self-interest will actually benefit everybody else. Sounds dumb? Well, Smith argues in The Wealth of Nations that the creation and maintenance of business practices will benefit the whole of society, from the managing director to the cleaner who scrubs his floor. This is the thinking that spawned “neo-liberalism”, a free-market, no-holds-barred economic system which ultimately led to the chaotic global financial crisis we saw just a few years ago. Aggressive capitalism, Adam Smith-style, surely does not benefit everyone. How could it?

Karl Marx (1818-1883) My homeboy, in case you hadn’t guessed, this infamous German revolutionary believed that humans are naturally sociable “self-expressive animals who need one another to survive, but who come to fulfillment in that companionship over and above its social usefulness”, according to Marxist professor Terry Eagleton. Humans are political creatures, in the sense that we always have to organize ourselves and work together in order to produce the things we need. The problem is, in the advanced capitalist societies of today, little people don’t get a chance to voice their opinions or have the power to change the mighty economic system.

The very noble savage

The very noble savage

Which brings me back to the Brazilian elections today. Everyone I have spoken to here has very strong opinions about their beloved country. Brazilians are passionate about politics and have a wealth of ideas about how the country’s institutions need to change. How, for example, the cynicism of corrupt, selfish politicians can be traced back to a woefully underfunded education system which fails to enlighten schoolchildren about the crass limitations of consumerism and economic self-interest.

Luckily, being an ex-pat, I don’t have to vote today, but if I was Brazilian, I would be rooting for the candidate who regularly visited all the areas (including the very poor) of his or her constituency to actually speak with the people; to meet the voters – as many of them as humanly possible. That is true political representation. I would also be tempted to vote for someone who was stunningly attractive, of course – as long as they had read all three volumes of Das Kapital!

Categories: Brazil, Global Crisis, Great Minds | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair today, gone tomorrow…

"Hope I die before I get old"...balding, grey hair is no fun

“Hope I die before I get old”…going grey and thin on top is no fun

What’s the funniest thing in the world? The Pope doing the ice-bucket challenge? A dog skateboarding in the middle of the freeway? England’s latest football performance? Nope – it’s none of those. It is, of course, a man wearing a wig and thinking nobody has noticed. When we see him walking along with his false hair-piece, we all hope a big gust of wind will come and blow it up in the air. Wigs on women are sad, but wigs on men are hilarious. So why do I want one? To cover my bald spot, of course. Getting old is a drag.

I asked my Brazilian barber the other day for advice about having my hair dyed to cover up all the grey areas. He asked me if I wanted to look ridiculous. I sheepishly said no. He told me EVERYBODY knows when a man colours his hair, so he instantly becomes a figure of fun. And yet 99% of women colour their hair but that’s not funny at all. In fact, it’s like the world’s best kept secret. Men – around 50% of the world’s population – are not supposed to notice, and many don’t. Well done girls! I used to think most of my female colleagues were blonde until one day my boss pointed out that every one of them had been bleached. I have never truly recovered from the shock.

Even a prince is powerless against the ageing process: William needs a crown topper

Even a prince is powerless against the ageing process: William needs a crown topper

You see, hair is important. Often it is the only thing you can change to try and make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex. For men in particular, who don’t normally wear make-up, having a “rug rethink” or getting a “new barnet” is the only make-over option. Maybe I should try a pink-rinse and perm one of these days to see if I get a reaction. It couldn’t be any worse than having a “bad hair day” that goes on for years. But there is something else about hair that has been obsessing me just lately. I speak of the unspeakable – bodily hair.

Darling, look into my eyes not my armpits...

Darling, look into my eyes not my armpits...

Here we have another gender split. Most men wouldn’t dream of having any bodily hair removed, whereas EVERY woman seems to remove hers. Women have become like marble statues made of skin, with hardly a hair in sight. Imagine a supermodel posing for photographers on the catwalk, then suddenly lifting her arm skyward to reveal a hairy armpit! My goodness gracious! It would be front-page news across the globe; the whole world would be talking about it. Daft but true. So, we have to ask ourselves, why does armpit hair make a man sexy but turn a woman into a scary monster?

Then, of course, there is the far more delicate issue of (dare I say it?) pubic hair. Now I cannot claim to be an expert, but I gather from superior intelligence that most women these days take pains to remove most, if not all of it. In fact, as I understand it, Brazil – my adopted country – has played a crucial role in this cultural phenomenon. I am told by the most reliable sources that “getting a Brazilian” means to have the area of one’s modesty deliberately “waxed”. According to my urban dictionary, a ‘Brazilian’ is defined as: a depilatory technique derived in Brazil whereby pubic hair is removed, aside from a small inverted triangle superior to the genital area. 

Hey - are you for real! Beauty or the beast?

Yikes! Are you for real?!

Golly gosh, how it makes a man blush to even write those words! Whatever would my great-aunt Dolly say? I expect the shock would kill her. Thankfully she was laid to rest in 1957. Certainly there seems to have been a sea-change since the hairy, hippy let-it-all-hang-out 1960s. We appear to have entered a new era when young women in particular make themselves into dolls, stripped of any anthropological evidence that human beings are derived from our ape cousins.

But maybe, just maybe, we have gone too far with this. Our precious bodies have been caught up in this homogenized, over-hygienic, anodyne commodity culture. Bodies must be smooth, perfumed, and non-natural: empty spaces where fantasies begin and nature ends. Hair on a woman’s body is a grotesque reminder that she is an upright mammal, not very different from a man.

It is much better for everybody in big business to keep women in their new role of denaturalised, sexualised objects. Not only would the beauty industry lose billions if women suddenly decided to go “natural”: 

Sanitise that body! All the gloop women use...

Sanitise that body! All the gloop women use…

men, the poor things, would have to face the fact that women are hairy animals with bodily functions, and not sweet-smelling manikins fabricated solely for their sexual predilections. Commodities. That’s the word. Women are prettified, nicely-packaged products to be exchanged on the open-market.

True, hairy women would take a bit of getting used to again, I admit. But at least we wouldn’t be fooling ourselves. We are homo-sapiens who, relatively speaking, have only just come down from the trees. Let’s celebrate our naturalness, not hide it! With one exception, of course – hairy legs. Women with hairy legs, unfortunately, look like footballers, communists or camp commandants who order you to remove your clothes before performing a gruesome experiment. Come to think of it, women with moustaches are rather comical, too. Hmm…perhaps I haven’t quite thought this through…

Categories: Brazil, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living next door to Smokie…

 

Bradford's answer to the Beatles? Smokie were big in Montreux...

Scunthorpe’s answer to the Eagles? Nearly…Smokie blow up a snowstorm in Montreux

Imagine a place where the water is so soft and pure you can drink it straight from the tap. Not only that, but when the local brewers use it to make beer it produces a wonderful creamy head on the top of your pint. And when you come to pay, it’s only a couple of quid (less than US $3). Then, when you’ve had a skinful of beer, you can stagger out into the bright lights and follow your nose to a little place where they serve the most wonderful fried fish. The name of this marvellous fish is haddock, and it comes covered in golden batter and soaked in malt vinegar and salt. Delicious! And if you are not in the mood for fish, you will also find in this place an array of little cafes where they serve the most mouth-watering, aromatic, spicy food which you scoop up with great fluffy discs of flat bread.  The name of this food is curry and chapatis.

Battered haddock...comfort food from heaven

Battered haddock…comfort food from heaven

The weather is never a problem in this place, because all is forgiven when Christmas comes and the snow falls,  turning the town into a picture-postcard winter wonderland, complete with mistletoe, robin redbreasts and snowmen with carrots for noses. It’s so cute you feel like weeping. When the snow clears you can catch a bus over a hill or two and find yourself in a delightful Olde-Worlde village where the famous Bronte sisters lived in a pretty little parsonage. Or you can stay in the town and wander over to the world-famous museum of film and photography to while away a fascinating hour or two. After that, feel free to pop down the road to see a concert at the famous St George’s Hall where icons such as Charles Dickens, David Bowie and Duke Ellington have appeared.

After a few pints, there's nothing like curry and chapatis

After a few pints, there’s nothing like curry and chapatis

In this mythical place, the rivers are crystal clean and the old canals carry shining white pleasure-boat cruisers – so lovely on a Sunday! And when you feel like driving you can buy a brand-new second-hand Mercedes for a couple of grand (thousand pounds). For more sedentary pleasures, you will find plenty of quaint little bookshops which may even stock a few slightly worn vinyl LPs, if you are lucky. And if you want to study, there is a first-rate university and a very well-known art college. The people in this magical town and surrounding area are pure and simple (a bit like the water). They are also very honest and tell the truth to your face. They don’t beat about the bush or talk with forked tongues like sly Londoners who are only after your money. 

What a bunch of hunks - Smokie in their heyday

What a bunch of hunks – Smokie in their heyday

Of course, ladies and gentlemen, in case you haven’t guessed, I am talking about none other than BRADFORD, my beloved home town. Yes, folks, I dream about the old place every day. But there is one thing I haven’t told you about – a little known fact that makes it all the more astonishing. Bradford once spawned a world-famous pop group, one that I would like to pay a little tribute to today. The name of that group is Smokie. Please don’t feel dumb or guilty if you haven’t heard of them, but the truth is they were massive. I know the 70s was a long time ago now, but the impact of Smokie is still being felt all over the world. So, let me entertain you with a few facts about this overlooked outfit:

1) Before they made the big time, Smokie had a manager called Mark Jordan. I kid you not.

2) Also before they shot to stardom, when they were known as Kindness, our heroes were the backing band for Peter Noone from the famous Herman’s Hermits (“There’s a kind of hush…”)

3) In 1973, drummer Pete Spencer joined. He had played in loads of groups with amazing names such as The Chevrons, The Common Bond, Dave and Dee Dees Playground, London Fog, Sugar and Spice, and Brenda and The Collection. I would love to know who Dee Dees is (was?). Pete’s first gig with the band was performing on a sightseeing boat in Frankfurt, Germany.

Someone, somewhere in Scandinavia has all 28 Chris Norman albums

Someone, somewhere in Scandinavia has all 28 Chris Norman albums

4) When fame first arrived, the band were called Smokey, not Smokie. So, what’s the difference? Well, US soul legend Smokey Robinson didn’t like it one bit. He threatened to file a lawsuit, alleging the band’s name would confuse the audience. Can you believe that!? In order to avoid legal action, the group changed the spelling to “Smokie”.

5) In 1978, now firmly established as pop stars, Smokie had a brilliant idea. They decided to produce British football star Kevin Keegan’s first single, “Head Over Heels in Love”, which charted in many European countries. (Don’t tell me you haven’t heard our Kev singing his heart out!)

6) Smokie were not just a big hit in little old England, they were even bigger on the Continent and elsewhere. The band had loyal fans in Denmark,  Israel, Germany, Holland, Australia and Russia – to name but a few.

7) To date, heart-throb lead singer Chris Norman has released 28 solo albums!

Absolutely fascinating facts – don’t you agree, folks? But my favourite anecdote about the band comes from a Russian fan, Danny, who shares his love of Smokie on a website called vinyl-blog.com. Danny has proudly posted pics of his very own copy of Smokie’s Greatest Hits, an LP made in Israel. Here is exactly what Danny says:

“One of the first western Rock’n’Roll bands which became very popular in Soviet Union was Smokie. I think, that their LP was released there even prior Beatles and Stones. Being a child I very liked them, I still kind of like them…For the very first time I heard Smokie when Soviets released the record contained the mix of popular foreign music. One of the songs there, I even remember it was the last one on side A, was “I’ll Meet You At Midnight”. I think this was one of three or four songs I liked from that vinyl. The rest sounded to me like a crap. The compilation is finalized with a great ballad “Wild Wild Angels”. If I would be a musician, I would rearrange this composition to make it a Metal one. But even the way it is I really enjoy it.”

Russian Danny's fabulous Greatest Hits LP - made in Israel

Russian Danny’s fabulous Greatest Hits LP – made in Israel

Don’t you just love him already? I’d love to meet Danny and share some reminiscences about Smokie. But perhaps it would be most appropriate if I finish with a line or two from one of their songs, a sentiment that is close to my heart. The song is called Back to Bradford, and it goes like this: “Goodbye cardboard city, you’ve nothing to say / Though your face is pretty, I don’t have to stay / She’s my friend and you know what I like / Going back to Bradford, it’s what I prefer / Though your face is pretty, you’re nothing like her.”

I just couldn’t say it better myself…

Categories: Blighty, Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For once I am lost for words…

Looking older, certainly, but any wiser? Hmm...

Yours truly…looking older, certainly, but any wiser? Hmm…

One of my favourite song titles is, I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me. I love the sentiment of the writer, who doesn’t think himself worthy enough to be on the receiving end of such adoration. He is a humble chap – just can’t believe his luck. “That this beautiful creature should choose silly ME to love is just amazing!”, he says to himself.

Well dear followers, that feeling is not a million miles away from how I feel about you. Yes, YOU, dear readers! You see I have just discovered that I now have 100 followers. How wonderful – that 100 people could be interested in the things I write!

I suppose many bloggers have thousands of followers, but I don’t care about that. I am very proud of my very own 100. Thank you for reading. You all inspire me and make me want to write better things.

CHEERS!

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Brazil’s winter of discontent…

 

Losing is no fun: a Brazilian fan feels the agony of another German goal

Losing is no fun: a Brazilian fan feels the agony of another German goal

An eerie calm has descended on the streets of Brazil – or at least my bit of it down here in sunny Porto Alegre. The World Cup may be a fast fading memory, but the scars haven’t quite healed. There is still a mood of bewilderment. The other day I met an elderly woman who doesn’t even follow football, and yet she told me she has the numbers 7 and 1 going around her brain like a curse (Brazil were hammered 7:1 by Germany in the semi-final). In Brazil, the number of the beast is no longer 666, but seven and one. Nowadays, no Brazilian would buy a car with 7 and 1 on the number plate, and you can bet no-one will gamble those numbers on the lottery.

But the war is over. Germany won and everyone has gone home. We all got patriotic for a few weeks and now we’re back to being global nobodies. We all imagined our blood was better than Johnny Foreigner’s blood and shouted it from the terraces, or from the safety of our living-room sofas. Global football tournaments are one of the only times when nations meet to do battle and the fans can put on their war paint and jump up and down like demented warriors. Of course, it’s not that long since real wars were commonplace. It’s only 500 years since the War of the Roses, for example, that glorious Yorkshire victory! Yes, the House of York (white rose) trampled the House of Lancaster (red rose) and I still have my white rose cufflinks to prove it.

Richard III had a few problems...he wasn't from Bradford

Richard III had a few problems…he wasn’t from Bradford

War or World Cup, men still love the chance to be macho and aggressive. But what happens when the fighting has stopped – what do men do when the war is over? According to Shakespeare, after the Wars of the Roses they started prettifying themselves to win invites into ladies’ chambers so they could try out their amorous talents. But not all men are made for love-making. If you are deformed and ugly, like Richard III, you cannot join in the passion and the poetry. Richard’s response was to avenge himself by killing all his rivals and crowning himself king. It was one way of dealing with his exclusion. But today, for us men who live in peaceful times, we can’t just pick up a sword and let fly: we have to be happy with the bedroom antics. It has led to what some people refer to as the “feminisation” of culture. Men are now more like women. So, the World Cup was a chance for us men to be tough guys again for a few weeks.

Yet more growth at what human cost?

Growth: the only solution in town?

But now Brazilians have more important things to consider. There is an election looming and the country is crying out for change. People are demanding more investment in education, healthcare and infrastructure. Like most economies, Brazil has taken a tumble and the “boom” years appear to be behind. What the politicians tell us is we need more “growth”. It’s funny. The solution always seems to be the same. The magic word is growth – all we need is more people spending and everything will be all right. Well, I agree with Professor Tim Jackson who, in his book Prosperity without Growth – economics for a finite planet, says that every society clings to a myth: in ours it is the myth of economic growth. “The days of spending money we do not have on things we do not need to impress people we do not care about are over”, says Tim. Or they should be.

Here is what all Brazilians should do: STOP. Stop for a few minutes every day. Turn off that stupid ‘Smart Phone’ and think. Reflect on your life. What are you doing with your precious time on earth? Do you just want to be richer and buy more stuff? Who are you when you are not at work? How much time do you have to grow as an individual? What are you doing for the planet?

I'm looking after Number One...that's me and my kids. Sod the rest of you!

I’m looking after Number One…that’s me and my kids. Sod the rest of you!

Most people will tell you that work and money are not so important for them: what comes first is the family. As if “the family” was the panacea for a perfect life. Well, I say STOP that as well! Stop thinking your family is more precious than mine, or any other. It’s another myth, I’m afraid. One that has been so successful ideologically that we dare not even question it. Believe me, it is not “natural” to dote on one’s family; it is “cultural” – and culture is always part of the broader economic system. The truth is that the “family unit” is a divisive little institution. Through our blind obsession with our own families we have simply stopped caring for anybody else in the wider community. Love stops at the front door of our house. It’s every family for itself – like every man for himself. Dog eat dog. Sad, but true.

No, my friends! Consumerism is a blind alley where you lose your soul. Increasing your buying power – the very thing everybody seems obsessed with – won’t make you any happier. What makes us happy is feeling good about ourselves, and we get that from generosity of spirit. Doing good things, helping others. Kindness.

Of course, in Yorkshire – under the shadow of the “glorious sun of York” – people don’t have a problem buying things they don’t need to impress somebody else. That’s because Yorkshire folk are notoriously tight-fisted. Let me put it this way, if a Yorkshireman owned Siberia, he wouldn’t give you as much as a snowball. I met a bloke from Leeds in Rio de Janeiro a few years back. I kid you not, he would walk a mile to save 5 centavos on a glass of beer. I went with him, of course. I had to.

"Eat all, sup all, and pay now't!" Stingy Yorkshire folk

“Eat all, sup all, and pay now’t!” Yorkshire folk hold on to their dosh

And another thing, Brazilians might still be suffering deep down, but at least their boys got to the semi-final. My army – the ones waving the flag of St George – were annihilated. England were atrocious. We lost twice and drew 0:0 with Costa Rica. What a shower! But at least I have plans for my huge England flag – I’m waiting for a fancy-dress party so I can go as Richard the Lionheart. On second thoughts, after looking in the mirror this morning, I’d better go as Richard III. “Now is the winter of my discontent…”

Categories: Brazil, Football, Global Crisis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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