Friday, 18 January 2013

Lance Armstrong: A Fan's Perspective

So he’s cheated. Lance has been caught – the big fish, the shark. All because the other sharks, pointed at him and said ‘he’s a shark.’ No matter the method, the truth is out, but why does it matter?
Why does it matter than a guy on a bike took some drugs? I have a friend who rides a bike and he takes drugs all the time. Doesn’t bother anybody, expect the neighbours sometimes, but that’s just the smell.
In the grand scheme of this whole sordid affair, my take might not mean anything, but I think with journalists salivating at an easy feast, it’s important to have some human perspective, so here goes.
In December 2004 my Dad told me he had cancer. Simple as that. I was in the middle of my University final year. This isn’t a sob story. We were the lucky ones; my Dad survived and I graduated. Just getting a chance to go to University means I’m privileged.
But cancer kills context as well as people, and at the time I felt like shit. Dads don’t get sick. They laugh at illness. I know most people have a ‘my Dad is hard’ story, but cancer was his first day off sick. Ever. Pretty remarkable considering he was just about to turn 50. Happy birthday – have cancer.
That’s where Lance came in. Here I was bitching about exams; he won the Tour De France. He stamped on cancer, dusted it up and threw it in the rubbish. When my Dad had his operation we both wore LiveStrong bands. We cried when we put them on. Well I did, he’s an old Yorkshireman – he nodded and said ‘thanks Son.’ His version of crying.
A year later I sat in a Doctors room hearing the words, “if you don’t have an orchiectomy I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have testicular cancer within 24 months.” I had the surgery; I got the nickname ‘The Russian.’ Bolokov. The piss taking helped. So did Lance.
Lance flipped the bird to cancer, and told everybody else to do the same. Just because he cheated afterwards, that will never change. An ESPN article had the following sentence. “The amoral celebrity who ‘beat’ cancer.”  
He did beat it. And suggesting otherwise to further a story is a lie deliberately told. Ironically enough that’s just what Lance did.  
Armstrong gave people strength and hope. I’m glad people haven’t stopped supporting LiveStrong. It might have been started by a cheat. No matter. Hilter built the autobahn; do we rip it up and make people walk?
I’m not writing to defend Armstrong though, he let me down. But do I regret defending him before? Not for one second. If I could go back to when people were saying he was a cheat before any evidence had come out, then I’d defend him all over again. Every person, no matter how abhorrent their actions, deserves the chance to be proven guilty. Otherwise, that way lynchmobs lie.
Every person who has used Armstrong as beacon will have their own reactions. Mine is disappointment. Disappointment that such a force as Armstrong’s will could have been used to fight cheating in cycling; instead he embraced it and made it more effective. Bradley Wiggins summed it up best ‘it’s like being told Santa isn’t real.’
Before I wrote this I had it in my head that he didn’t need to cheat, that cancer sufferers will have used him getting back to riding professionally as inspiration enough. But as the words come up on screen, is that really the case? No. Other people have fought back from where Lance was to get back to sport. John Hartson showed incredible spirit to beat cancer. Do we tweet #ShowHart? No, he’s a football pundit now, a good one and I’m very glad that he is. His story will inspire football fans, but has it travelled round the world and inspired billions?
That’s no excuse for Lance, just the sad reality. Reality is something that journalists need to keep in their heads right now. As they clamour for their pound of flesh, whilst also lecturing from moral high ground, they’ll do well to remember that this has given them enough copy for a lifetime. Even the journalists writing books like ‘LA Confidential’ have a made a mint they wouldn’t have if Lance was clean.
Somehow Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton et al are heroes. They stand to benefit financially for this whole affair. Some journalists speak of them in glowing terms, of showing ‘courage.’ Bullshit. They’re cheats, just like Lance, and manipulating the story to show them in any other light is lying. Lying to benefit the narrative. Just like Lance did.
People have suffered because of the actions of Lance, but that’s for the courts to deal with. Not journalists. Not the baying mob all saying ‘it’s not enough.’ You’re right; it isn’t enough, what would be?
For those of us duped by Armstrong, remember, just like a cheating partner, ultimately this is his sin, not our stupidity. We need to learn from this, move on and leave a cheat like Armstrong as a character in history.
I’ve moved on from Armstrong the man, a cheat, bully, liar … the list goes on. He joins a long list of people fallen from grace that I have no reason to waste my energy on.
Armstrong the myth though? He helped my Dad beat cancer, and that I will never forget.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it

One last blog before the end of the world. I bet you want an end of the world blog don’t you? You greedy bugger. I’ve not blogged in a year and you’re telling me what to blog; unbelievable. Well just to spite you I’m not going to, and also because there’s nothing to blog about. It’s the end of the world; does it help if you knew?

Look at these guys. They know the end of the world is coming and they’re spending their time planning for it. Time that could be spent getting laid … well in their case, maybe thinking about it, or making a friend or two.
I’m not sure the Mayan calendar says anything about it being the end of the world for only the disorganised, but then I can’t read Mayan. Can anybody but Mel Gibson? We should ask him what to do.

I digress and I nearly stumbled into an end of world blog. I like what you did there, very sneaky.
No I must plough on, so here goes: It’s been a while, and the world has changed in the last year. This is my first blog post-Saville; the first Christmas post-Saville; the one where Santa has to have a criminal records check. Turns out white haired men in weird outfits offering goodies to kids aren't to be trusted with unrestricted access to children.

If you’re one of my non UK readers and are at this point wondering who Saville is; do some research. No point doing work, it’s the end of the world and I’m too busy blogging to help with links.

When the Saville announcements came out the general response was akin to hearing the answer to a pub quiz question that you couldn't quite remember the answer to ‘ahhh yes, now that makes sense.’ Like Saville, the signs that Christmas is not to be trusted is all in the music.
Let’s take ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’ 

“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.”
Voyeur. Turns out the best place to hide a tree is in the forest. Because we’re told Santa watches us in our sleep through the medium of jolly Christmas songs we accept it, like Beyonce singing ‘if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it’ whilst claiming to be an independent woman.

Would you let your boss record your sleeping patterns? So why do we let a random fatso in a red velour onesie?

Some of the messages about Christmas are subliminal  Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is clearly functionalist propaganda. Nobody speaks to Rudolph until he gets a job, a purpose in life. Then, and only then, “all the reindeers loved him.”

It’s hardly a surprise to know that the song was written in DDR Germany. ‘Rudolph, reindeer of the people. He didn't mope about with his disability, his ‘red and shiny nose,’ he turned it into a tool for productivity. Heed the message slacker.’

There’s even racism pedalled through the fog of Christmas.
“You must never do a tango with an eskimo,” sang Alma Cogan in 1955. The promotion of racial segregation there for all to see. The B side ‘Never duke a gook’ confirms the argument. It gives ‘White Christmas’ a whole new angle.

Even the great Bing Crosby took liberties with his songs.
“Don’t get worse, grab your nurse and come to the Holiday Inn.” Which if it wasn't a song, would be the worst tagline for a co-operation in history.

Please don’t’ follow that advice, grabbing a nurse, or a person of any profession for that matter, will most likely end with a charge. Taking them to a cheap hotel won’t have any medical benefits; it’ll just add to the problems you’d be in from grabbing them in the first place.

The worst song of all though has been sung by many great duets, and also Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. In ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ the male protagonist is keeping a woman at his house clearly against her will. She couldn't make it clearer when she sings “the answer is no.”

Despite such a verbal rebuttal he stays persistent, taking a sinister tone.
“Listen to that fireplace roar.”
Being a song there’s no stage direction, but if there was, for that line it’d be, ‘walks towards woman brandishing a poker menacingly.’

The conversation goes on:
“Maybe just a half a glass more.”
“Put some music on whilst I pour.”

Ignoring the presumption, getting her to look elsewhere and giving her an aural distraction as he pours is a manipulative trick and leaves the situation open to all sorts of misdemeanors.

“Say what’s in this drink?”

A whole Christmas song celebrating date rape, but society lets it go because ...

“Baby it’s cold outside.”

So if you think it’s shocking that the BBC ran a tribute show to Saville last Christmas despite knowing him to be multiple sex offender, remember it’s just the tip of a sexually twisted Christmas iceberg.  

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Twice a year I have to sacrifice an afternoon of my life to the God of Interior Design, IKEA.

It usually happens when my girlfriend is unhappy with one element of the house. It might be that we need a bookcase, a bin needs to change location or the curtains are too white. It doesn’t take much to open the gates into a land of complete house renovation. The table isn’t wooden enough, the backdoor doesn’t creek enough when it opens, the stairs are too steep.

It all builds up, the pressure increases until neither of us can take anymore and the situation explodes with a calm statement of ‘can we go to IKEA this Sunday?’

IKEA attracts 3 kinds of people:

- Couples who spend their time arguing about what to buy. It picks up briefly in the children’s section as one makes an effort to lighten the mood by picking up a soft toy, before it descends back into screaming fits in the market place over whether to buy the Jole or Jule cabinet.

- Students who look around the store for cheap furnishings that will stand their abodes out from every other student hovel in the country, but realise that the only things that they can afford are the same pieces of MDF self assembly junk that every other undergraduate has.

- Parents trying to measure up curtains whilst desperately trying to keep track of their children, who seem intent on hiding in each and every available nook and cranny within the store.

You could drop your kids off at the play area, but to do this involves filling out endless forms that remove IKEA from any liability should your child lose a body part or get lost in time in a wormhole. It also means leaving your beloved in a ball filled maze with the children of parents who will quite happily blindly fill in details for an hour or so as long as they can get rid of their little mites for a time.

I’ve not been to every IKEA store in the world, but I think I can take an educated guess that their layout doesn’t change too much. An endless queue of depressed grown ups who don’t earn enough to shop at John Lewis, follow arrows on the floor from section to section trying to find items that they hope will make their lives as happy as they were before they entered the store. What kind of a store needs arrows to help you through? Might as well put a conveyor belt in.

There are short cuts at various points, but these just leave their users disorientated, and often lost. One man I spoke to had been going from Kitchen to Storage and back for 3 days straight.

The store weaves around and back on itself like an intestine. Fold the whole thing out and you’d see to get from one end to another would be 7 miles. It could be used as a running venue. The Great IKEA run, raising money for those who have lost their children in wardrobes, somewhere in the bedroom department.

Should all this be something you wish to repeat at a regular interval you can join the IKEA family; it’s presumably some sort of cult where people use the polished bones of their victims to assemble their newly bought birch wood hat stand, purchased with a 10% discount.

That all said, they do have some pretty funny adverts.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Heron's Reach

Another new housing development has appeared in my fair village, this time going by the name of Heron’s Reach. I’ve no idea how large a heron’s reach is, or for that matter what it has to do with affordable housing for professional couples. I would have thought Heron’s wingspan would be more correct biologically speaking. However, I’ve recently wondered if the reach is, in fact, referring to the social reach of the lone bird. Perhaps the ‘lovingly designed cul-de-sac’ is actually a collection of safe houses and gambling dens for those lucky enough to be covered by the connections of the heron.

Either way we’re only one word away from Heron’s Reach Around, which adds a whole new slant on proceedings. The next street to be built is to be named, I believe, Badger’s Felch, which will be next to Mole’s Docking, with the end street to be called Toad of Toad Hall’s gay sex orgy.

So mafia influence or homosexual euphemism, both with the subject being a 3 foot wading bird; one of them is the reason for a street’s name. Take your pick, either way you’re paying £200K for a house on a street with a shit name.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Did You Hear The One About The Sexist Sky Sports Presenter?

I have a real and deep rooted fear that my child will grow up into a sexist / homophobic / racist bigot and get a job writing for the Daily Mail. It’s a hypothetical fear; because it assumes that I’ll have children and also that I won’t launch an online and real world Guerrilla war to rid the planet of all filth peddling publications that make their money from generating controversy by spouting hatred. They’re two fairly big assumptions because the idea of devoting my life to appeasing something that does nothing but shit and scream for 2 years haunts me, and also because, wouldn’t the world be better off without a paper that runs a story like this?

If you can’t be bothered clicking on the link, then to summarise: a woman was in a house fire that left her under sedation for smoke inhalation. All 4 of her children died in the fire. She doesn’t know this at the time of writing as she’s still unconscious. Thanks to the Daily Mail though, we all know and she’ll be able to find out from a newspaper. How considerate.

Should I have children and decide not to embark on a crusade against middle class tabloids, then my fear will be a very real one. It seems some people simply love to hate. Just as we make strides towards finally accepting that racism is wrong (reforms in the police, BNP being refused a platform during the election) another hatred or two comes up to replace it.

This week it’s been sexism. Andy Gray and Richard Keys have been sacked and resigned Sky Sports for asking a female colleague to tuck a mike into pants (Gray), referring to a female colleague thus ‘you’d smash it, you’d hang out of the back of it’ (Keys) and for suggesting a fully trained female official would need the offside rule explaining to her, simply because she is a she.

They’ve both since left, but it’s the reaction that’s worrying. I have a friend who’s certain it’s all just a ‘big joke’ and we should just ‘move on.’ Just as I wonder if he’ll ever understand that his attitudes are offensive and outdated at best, I also wonder what Andy Gray’s wife will have said to him?
“You’re right love, just a joke love. In no way is it a sack able offense to judge an official’s ability on her gender alone and treat a female colleague as a sex object by asking her to put her hands down your pants in front of a full work room. Cup of tea?”

My friend’s attitude is that it happened off mike so it shouldn’t matter. He’s a smart lad, degree educated with a good job. Yet to him sexism is completely acceptable as long as no one finds out. As if beating a wife would be fine as long as bruises aren’t left. That refusing to give a job to a black man on grounds of his race would be fine and dandy as long as you tell him it’s due to his pants being too short.  

It shouldn’t matter than Andy Gray has been in broadcasting long enough that he should know if in broadcast journalism, you’re near a mike, treat it as if it’s recording; only that these are his views. My friend also claimed “these views are expressed in the stands every game.” That’s no defence of Gray, but a damning indictment of what we deem to be acceptable in this country.

But what do I do about my friend? I tried showing him the error of his ways through logical debate, but he thinks sexual harassment is just a bit of a jolly, so I fear the logic might have gone over his head.

I could hit him with a spanner and stand over his leaky head whilst saying to a colleague “somebody better get down there and explain the sexism in the work place laws, if his manager finds out about the mess on the carpet she’s going to go potty.”

Or I could do what most people will do in this very same situation, clear my conscience by expressing that sexism is unacceptable, but when he shows no signs of assessing whether his views are right or wrong, just carry on as normal, sharing a beer, watching the football.  

This is the worrying part. For every office discussion about how abhorrent the actions of Gray and Keys were, there’s somebody lurking about sneering ‘it’s just a laugh, come here sugar tits and put your head down my pants, just a laugh, ha ha!’

Hopefully, in the future we’ll look at sexism in the way we now look at racism; fuelled not just by racists, but by otherwise decent people who have no idea of the damage that their ignorance does. Failing that we could just hit them all with spanners. 

Monday, 10 January 2011

An Open Letter to Elwyn Watkins and the Liberal Democrats

Dear Elwyn,

I received a letter in the post recently.

Firstly I’m writing this assuming you’re a decent man. Your record certainly indicates so, and I appreciate the work you’ve put in for the local community.

However, you won’t be receiving my vote this election.

I write this as an ex Liberal Democrat voter, believer and in a better world, soon to be member.

Sadly I saw the pictures of you campaigning with Nick Clegg and in an instant all your credibility vanished.
It’s interesting that you would base a large part of your campaign on the lies told by Phil Woolas and Labour. You’re right of course, he did lie and I, for one of many was glad to see him go. It’s even more interesting that you would associate their new candidate with the old lies, when The Labour Party clearly condemned Mr Woolas.

However, just last year Nick Clegg signed an NUS pledge to vote against any rise in University tuition fees. Just 2 months ago he voted to increase tuition fees.

Whether you agree with rises in fees or not, there is no doubting that this is a lie told by Nick Clegg. The very same Nick Clegg you haven’t condemned. The very same Nick Clegg you have campaigned with.

I trust you can see the hypocrisy?

The cuts your party are supporting will cripple this town and send it back 20 years in education terms.
I work for The Junior University Project. In my role as a Maths and English mentor I’ve been part of a team that has seen a year on year increase in the numbers of students gaining C or above in Maths and English, and therefore the number of students progressing onto Further Education.

On April 1st, thanks to cuts supported by Nick Clegg and your party, The Junior University will cease to exist. I will be unemployed.

So when you say you’ll fight for this town’s future I’m sure you can see why I might think the dishonest one isn’t just Mr Woolas; It’s also you?

Before the election at least 50% of teachers and education workers I’ve spoken to, at a guess, would have voted Lib Dem.

Now, thanks to Nick Clegg, the man you preach about dishonesty with, thanks to his lies, at least 90% of the people I speak to will vote anybody but Lib Dem.

It’s a bitter irony that the lies of one man gave you this second chance, yet the lies of another man, a man in your party, a man you campaigned with, could well end up costing it you.

Should you feel the need to respond you can do it here or email me at

There are a lot of people who have read this that would like you to.

Just so you don’t forget, the main charges are:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-          <!--[endif]-->You knowingly and happily campaigned with Nick Clegg, a man who lied on record to the public.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-          <!--[endif]-->You knowingly and happily campaigned as a Liberal Democrat, a party that supported cuts that will destroy the educational foundations of our town. Cuts that will see no new buildings that are desperately needed for Saddleworth School, Our Lady’s and Saint Augustine’s, and no essential maintenance for North Chadderton, Bluecoat, Hathershaw and Royton and Crompton.

I do hope you think I’m important enough to respond to.

                Yours rapidly losing faith,

Lewis Wright  

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Mega Stardom

I wrote this blog on my birthday. My birthday. Did you write a blog on your birthday? Probably not. What were you doing on your birthday? Enjoying yourself or something equally selfish. More to the point, what were you doing on my birthday? Waiting for my blog is the answer you should give, but you were probably thinking of things to do on your birthday; bastard.

I’m only angry because my birthday is so close to Christmas, and New Year. Two celebrations in a row people can handle. They’re used to it, ready for it. ‘Christmas is done, I’m ready for NYE BRING IT ON!!’ Ask for them to join in a 3rd and the excuses start to come out. ‘Night out for your birthday Lewis? I would but my capacity for joy has reached its limit, plus my hair needs a wash and I’m not certain, but I think I have an in growing toe nail. Sorry, but what else can I do?’

If you have a birthday in the summer you can crank it up. ‘Come to my party – what else is there to do? Buy me presents, give your time selflessly, the sun is out.’

Have a birthday near Christmas and presents become an afterthought. ‘But I got you stuff last week, hmm, have these potatoes I didn’t eat.’ Whatever else he did, Jesus will always be known to me as the world’s greatest thunder stealer.

But that’s OK, I have a plan. A plan to make me more famous than any other blog writer ever. I’m going to die. End it. Kaput. Goodbye cruel world.

Before the tears flow like Babylon you should know there’s logic behind this. Paul McCartney has produced an almost endless body of work since leaving The Beatles. He can even play a mandolin. Yet in the BBC poll of 100 Greatest Britons he came 11 places below John Lennon. All Lennon did was lie in bed and get shot. (I should point out those were mutually exclusive events.)

There’s an airport named after John Lennon. He even managed to leave the parenting of his son to McCartney, cheat on his wife Yoko Ono, all with no reduction in his popularity. What he did do was die, and so Lennon became legend.

River Phoenix appeared in a small handful of films and his name is known world over as a great acting talent. He’s dead too, same as Jeff Buckley, a man who released just one album, yet has had documentaries made about him and been referred to as a musical genius. Before Nick Drake died he was playing to pub audiences and selling a handful of albums, now he’s dead he’s a must have in any cool music collection.

The problem comes with the blogs. If I’m dead how will I write them? Thought of that too. Michael Jackson is dead and he’s had albums released, so has Jimi Hendrix, Biggie Smalls, Tupac. All prolific. All dead.

Elvis even performs concerts through a holographic image, and he’s been dead for ages. Soon they’ll be resurrecting his corpse, polishing it up and dancing it around the stage like a demonic muppet. Watch closely and you might see a finger drop off as he jigs about to All Shook Up.

If you read next week’s blog and see my 13 followers increased to 13,000 you know what will have happened. The blog might look real, it might even make you laugh, but it won’t be mine, it’ll be hashed together from some notes I left on the back of a Sainsbury’s receipt. Don’t feel too bad though, rest assured my estate will get all the website hits.