Friday, 13 March 2015

Sewing Lessons for Buccaneers

Is it really over a month since my last blog post? Where does life go?

Maybe I'm waiting for some seamless and erudite narrative to share rather than the few random jottings currently in my head.

However in lieu of any kind of literary opus;

My partner persuaded me to accompany him to his Lewes Bonfire Society AGM this week where I found myself amused by such agenda items as 'Sewing Lessons For Buccaneers' and charity 'Pirate football with Swords' not forgetting the entreaty 'Don't forget to buy my knitted bonfire boys to raise funds' on the way out. We did, for our cat Mr Cheeky to play with. There can't be many AGM's where the use of gunpowder is openly discussed without anti-terrorism squads parachuting in, but in this part of the world, blowing things up is called tradition, notwithstanding the odd extremist who will go as far as taking out a parking meter.

Our first Latest TV show BizBuzz went out on Sunday night, although the first one was simply doing a series of links for the Sussex Business Awards. The next programme is more interesting as we get to interview a series of local businesses. We are producing a programme a month to start with and also writing for Latest TV magazine once a month to tie in.

Things are taking a while to take off with our new business so I have a day job to pay the bills while Oliver works on it full-time and put my other hat on in the evenings and on days off. It is an exhausting life, but luckily I am enjoying both and finding that one role makes me even better in the other and vice versa. Lots of transferable skills in property and PR and both involve a good deal of networking.

On a completely different note, a while ago I met an ex whom I hadn't seen for some years for a drink for old time's sake. He told me that he had lost both his parents the previous year. I sympathised saying how tough that must have been but he didn't seem to want to go into detail. I dismissed this as doubtless being too painful to talk about. The other day, in a rare idle moment, I typed his name into Twitter to see what he was up to and found to my surprise, among the gadget and rugby club tweets, a tweet saying 'Nice 75th birthday lunch at my mum's on Sunday'. Hmmm. 

Monday, 9 February 2015


We live in terror of making mistakes, yet that is the very way in which homo sapiens learn.

A parent can tell a small child not to touch the electric hob plates on the cooker when they are on until they are blue in the face but it is only when the child touches a burning hot plate for themselves once the parent's back is turned that they accept their parent was right and it is a bad idea.

I know. I was that small child. And I've made a million mistakes since,
The only thing I can say in my favour is that I try to learn from my mistakes so I don't make the same mistake twice.

Trouble is there are so many mistakes to make!

Of course there are ways and means of REDUCING the number of mistakes a human being makes, not least by listening to and taking good advice or asking rather than assuming when unsure of something. Or simply by being determined to learn from mistakes and nip any behavioural patterns in the bud (ie if you are repeatedly attracting the wrong partner in your relationships).

When making a major decision, research and planning, or at the very least a list of pro's and cons can be enormously helpful in weighing up the options. On an emotional level, an unwise temptation can often be resolved, if determined to override natural instincts or alarm bells, by asking oneself; 'Does this fit into the 'good ideas' box or the 'bad ideas' box?' If you can't envisage a thing fitting into the 'good ideas' box, you have your answer.

For some people though it seems they use their mistakes to beat themselves up for the rest of their lives and allow regret or remorse to paralyse them from daring to make mistakes or take risks ever again. But what is that in itself but a big mistake? No one learns or progresses through stagnation.

Whatever the mistake, there are normally apologies or amends that can be made and forgiveness (if required) all too anxiously waiting to grant its' plea.

However the biggest stumbling block is forgiving oneself. for no one is a harsher critic than our own ego, whatever its public front of innocence, denial or self-delusion.

This culture of the frustrated perfectionist who has to appear perfect even though they might be falling apart at the seams or inwardly living lives of quiet desperation through not being true to themselves does no one any favours. At the extreme end of the wedge we see a growing number of mental health issues, suicides and even familicides by those who feel their lives have gone so far wrong, there is no way back, no redemption. Even more tragic, many have not even tested the truth of this personal assumption before they take some irreversible action to end their anguish, passing the baton of suffering on to those left behind.

In New Zealand a hundred and twenty individuals nearing the end of their natural lives were asked what their greatest regret was. Almost universally the answer came; 'I wish I'd spent less time worrying.'

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Dress

As a 5'11" individual with shoulders, which females are not allowed to have, it used to be quite a challenge to buy ladies clothes to fit and I would often end up wearing men's jeans and tops.

In my late 20s I decided to embark on a course of evening classes to learn to dressmake.

Here I am (with a friend) wearing the sum total of three years' weekly night classes at my local Further Ed College, though I also made a somewhat physics-defying brown velvet shoulder bag (not seen here).

I just couldn't think in 3D it seems. My long-suffering tutor Christine did not seem too upset that I decided not to embark on a 4th year.

Luckily female fashion for taller girls has since become a little easier to come by.

I still quite miss my dress though (lost in the mists of various house moves).  Maxi with a capital M and made of canvas a sailor would be proud of. I really can't be doing with all these pathetic spaghetti straps, which are no support to a big girl like me anyway.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

What Have The Super Rich Done For Us?

Whilst most documentaries seek to have us envying the super rich, Jacques Peretti's insightful 2-part BBC2 documentary The Super Rich and Us took a different tack by posing the underlying question; What have the super rich done for us?

The whole idea of encouraging super rich non-domiciles to live in UK with the tax exile carrot of zero income tax or capital gains tax on income earned abroad was the 'trickle down' effect - ie their vast wealth was meant to trickle down to the rest of the economy - a promise made repeatedly by successive British governments.

Over 40 years later this unproven economic theory is shattered by Mr Peretti who demonstrates that the reverse - trickle up - has happened. Wealth has increased among the wealthy and stayed very much in the enclave of the super rich, the prime beneficiaries being the luxury product and holiday providers and the servants and assistants needed to service the super-rich (mostly on lowly incomes themselves). The super rich are not to be found supporting the local pub or cafe or shopping in the local village shop. Meanwhile the middle and working classes have seen their incomes and savings plummet and their bills and outgoings skyrocket. Job security too is a thing of the past with part-time jobs, zero hours contracts and microjobbing now commonplace.

Financial inequality has never been worse with some company CEO's earning several hundred times what their average employee does (whereas once it might have been 10 x times max) and at the other end of the scale people resorting to food banks to eat.

Moreover, among the new super-rich, bankers have found devious ways to manipulate and gamble with our savings and pensions and encourage us to live in perpetual debt to the extent that jobs can be devalued without the threat of us striking as we dare not afford to lose our jobs (if we still have them). A whole industry has been spawned to take advantage of the struggling and desperate through rip-off financial products and gambling outlets.

The  current recession (which never existed for the super rich) is far from over for the rest of us. Our very economy is now in mortal danger by the lifeblood being cut off in so many limbs by the top 1% hogging the vast bulk of the wealth and not circulating it as promised.

Ah well, at least super rich wealth boosts UK economic figures as long as no one enquires too closely as to what their wealth is contributing to the economy, aside from a large black hole in our tax system which public services are now paying dearly for in draconian cuts. Furthermore, though this wasn't mentioned in the programmes;  was there any quality control exercised concerning which super rich were lured to our shores to ensure there were no gun runners, drugs barons or Russian gangsters among them? I am not so sure. They let Robert Maxwell in after all.

A startling fact to emerge in the programme is that up to 80% of the flats in every luxury London block being erected are being snapped up by oversea buyers, some of whom will never even set foot in their new pad - it is purely an investment -  the modern equivalent of gold bars in the bank.

Even Henry Ford recognised that you needed to pay your workers enough to afford the cars they produced or the economy would be adversely affected, hence his brainwave, the Model T Ford. Many companies today have forgotten this basic principle and to ask themselves the pertinent question; Who is going to buy these goods or who will afford these 'affordable' houses?

The top 1% however are not without their worries. Protests are gathering apace and the pitchforks are a-coming if things don't change soon as enlightened early Amazon billionaire Nick Hanauer warns. The world has grown up to be aspirational, not to accept serfdom without protest as we might once have done in darker ages.

A particularly refreshing element of this documentary is that it assumed no obvious political stance, proving that you don't need to be a communist or a socialist to believe that there should be decent economic prospects and civilised living conditions available to all. I was indeed myself a proud marcher in last year's March Against Austerity/Britain Deserves a Pay Rise protest featured in the documentary.

Perhaps Peretti's next documentary can explore how in a so-called western democracy, corporations, not to mention the top 1% super rich, now have more say in how the country/world is run than anybody else and more political muscle than our elected governments.

MatchFit Media

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Save the Hippo!

Charlie Chaplain
Laurel and Hardy
George Formby
Gracie Fields
Sandra Bernhardt
Harry Houdini
Buster Keaton
Lillie Langtry
Laurence Olivier
Vivien Leigh
Max Miller
Sammy Davis Jr
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones

are just some of the stars and acts who've graced the 3,000-capacity Brighton Hippodrome in its 118 year history since first being erected in 1897 as an ice rink with the occasional indoor circus before its transformation in 1901 by Frank Matcham into one of the foremost vaudeville and variety theatres in Britain.

Several decades later came the age of television and London-centric shows and nationwide theatre tours which meant variety fell into decline, despite the heroic efforts of local comic legend Max Miller to keep the artform popular. In addition local tastes were no longer catered for.

The Brighton Hippodrome closed its doors in 1965. After a short spell as a film and TV studio in the mid-1960s, followed by a 40-year stint as a Mecca bingo hall, it closed its doors again in 2007 and is now an empty Grade II listed building 'at risk'

Two ambitious plans to turn Brighton Hippodrome first into a live music venue and secondly (and more ruinously to the original Matcham interior) into an 8-screen cinema 'entertainment hub' with internal shops, a public square and a restaurant on a removable floor, have recently come to naught. However there is every chance of this being 'a good thing' as local opinion and feeling for this forgotten gem has been well and truly awakened and is gathering apace. Brightonions have already lost the finest Victorian pier in England (West Pier). It seems denizens are damned if they are going to lose another Victorian gem and potentally golden USP for the city.

Furthermore Brighton boasts the largest arts festival in England the Brighton Fringe, so it seems ironic, not to mention tragic, that a historic premier arts venue finds itself 'at risk' in our city.

As a performance poet myself, I can only imagine the magic of performing on a stage of so much history and in the footsteps of so many stars. I really do hope that one day it can become a reality for myself and many others too young to have had the chance first time round.

My own proposition is that the Brighton Hippodrome should be a crowd-funded and co-operatively owned venture where stage and theatre management schools can use it during the day and variety bills can fill it at night. The circle has revolved once more since the 1960s. We are now bored with TV and hundreds of channels showing the same dross. We want some VARIETY again! Other cities who have had the foresight to retain their Hippodromes are bearing this out by apparently enjoying excellent takings, so there should be no reason why Brighton Hippodrome couldn't.

Not only that but we currently have a demographic of far too many stag and hen parties pounding the streets out of tourist season which needs to be redressed by encouraging a classier clientele of more theatre goers into town (though of course cheaper night time parking would also help).

For more info visit Our Brighton Hippodrome and show your support on Save the Brighton Hippodrome Facebook page

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dude, where's my tights?

When TV's The Apprentice star Bianca Miller was accused of stealing her skin tone match tights idea from a fellow female entrepreneur, who begged that she be disqualified from the final as a result, Ms Miller gave an extraordinary answer; 'I don't claim to be the first to come up with this idea, but I am the right person to take it to market' - as if that made her conduct legitimate!  Conversely if her rival had not patented or trademarked her idea, it was iffy as to whether she would be able to obtain any kind of legal redress, even if she could have afforded to pursue the matter through the courts. Not that Ms Miller was about to sell a whole stack of tights anyway at £20 a pair (and with no more guarantee of being ladder-free than a cheap pair). To be honest I was surprised she managed to convince Lord Sugar that skin tone tights would be such a big thing as one who has alternated between, black, grey, navy and brown for years. I thought mono-bloc colour and patterned tights were all the rage, though I well remember being laughed at for wearing 'American Tan' tights to school in vivid orange hue, which I somehow convinced my 13-year old mind looked like a bona fide tan! In the event Ms Miller did not win The Apprentice, the final of which had, in any case, already been filmed by the time the allegation hit the press.

Needless to say my partner and I lost no time in trademarking our new company name MatchFit Media, even though we are not claiming to be the first to come with our idea - PR. Luckily for us it's much harder for anyone to patent a whole field rather than one item and what we hope to distinguish ourselves by is the quality and reliability of our PR, rather than the originality of the concept.

Anyway it's been a busy few months getting the branding and the website sorted out and winning the first pitches and this is still just the beginning.

We are excited and terrified in equal measure and have already weathered a number of setbacks. Comfortingly everything we've read and everyone we've spoken to on the subject suggests that the rollercoaster experience is entirely natural to the beginnings of any business venture. Besides which, if one enjoyed instant success from day one, where would the story be in that, ten years hence, when invited to give an industry award thank you speech? Good stories are built on struggle and overcoming adversity.

While my partner has been known to have the odd sleepless night, I try not to waste my energies on worry but rather focus on what we do want - and getting enough sleep to tackle life's growing demands.

Simultaneously however my partner's father has grown very ill and frail and is now in hospital. Things have been hectic to say the least.

I fully intend to carry on blogging though, if somewhat more sporadically than I would like.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Taking A Look At The Internet

Error message from early internet

It was the mid-90s and although I worked at a computer every day and had heard 
of the internet. I had never actually seen it and had only the haziest idea of how 
it might be more useful than my local library.

As was standard practice in 1990s workplaces, internet access had been cut off
lest we employees be tempted to “abuse it for personal use” during work hours.
As for my home computer, this was a lumbering ton of yellow-grey plastic circa 1988,
purchased for £200 from a pensioner in Southampton who was updating to
a wondrous new-fangled PC, half the size.
It could just about handle early Word and the odd game of Solitaire,
but probably would have taken half an hour to connect to a home dial-up,
even if I could have afforded one.
Then one day in the Coventry Evening Telegraph –
I lived in Coventry at the time – I read that a new “internet café” was to
open on Foleshill Road.
Excitedly a student friend from the local Writers’ Group, Miranda,
and I arranged to meet on Saturday morning to “go and have a look at the Internet”.
We fair skipped to the café in our enthusiasm.
It turned out to be a disappointingly run-down converted newsagents.
We were grunted at by the equally scruffy owner who relieved us of our
£2.50’s and indicated some tatty chairs in front of screens.
We found ourselves sitting at the screens staring uncomprehendingly,
having no idea how to “log in”. Eventually we had to plead for help.
The cafe owner duly logged us in. A screen appeared with a
white space at the top. We thought of things we would like to look up,
the BBC perhaps, and typed them in. Error messages came up.
Again and again.
The internet café owner looked at us like we were mad.
“It won’t work,” I complained. “I can’t find the internet.”
“What addresses you got?” asked the owner.
“What addresses? You need addresses.”
I typed in my home address and another error message binged.
“Not that kind of address, you need URL address.”
“Uniform Resource Locator address.”
“I don’t know what that is. We just want to look up the BBC.”
“Give me address. I find it for you.”
At that point I recall we legged it from Coventry’s first internet café,
half embarrassed by our ignorance, half wondering what all the fuss was about.
Surely this internet lark was never going to take off. Evidently
it was for computer programmers only.
It would be two years before I was re-introduced to the internet by a
sympathetic I.T. Officer at my next workplace.
He talked me through it and allowed me to open my first email account
as well as navigate the world wide web.
To my astonishment, he did not see it as an abuse of work time at all,
but as an aide to work, sparsely populated by useful websites as the
internet was in those days, and requiring knowledge of the full
URL before anything other than an Error 404 page appeared.
Little did I know that more intrepid internet explorers were
exchanging emails with celebrities like Stephen Fry who
made no attempt to hide their contact details in those heady
days and were seemingly thrilled by any fan who sought them out online.
Then again we were all thrilled to receive every email, impossible
as that seems to believe these days!
Much though the internet has transformed our lives out of 
all recognition since then, those early days will always hold 
a touch of nostalgia for me. I am also glad I knew
life pre-internet. In many ways there is much about it that
is to be missed, not least thriving High Streets.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Confessions re Modern Poetry

In some quarters I could be shot for writing this but maybe it's about time I started living dangerously considering I'm never going to die young of the usual artistic mores...

Confessions of a Reader Who Doesn’t ‘Get’ Modern Poetry

Everyone except me seems to be in the know
About why poems often interrupt themselves mid-flow
Or end a sentence in mid-air
Leaving me to divine some hidden meaning there
They focus in such detail on achieving the abstract
Won’t be pinned down by anything so mundane as a fact
An opinion, a meaning or some thing to get a grip on
It’s like having a mountain to climb without a clampon
Tantalizing and elusive they allude to realms beyond my ken
One day I’ll wake up and understand every word, but when?
Modern poets often claim they don’t know what it’s about themselves
So what chance do I, the reader, have? And do I have room on my shelves?
For all these tomes of complexity, the odd shimmering line here and there
That save them from consignment to Oxfam (and my innermost despair)
Seems to me modern poets delight in making readers like me feel idiotic
Readers who are otherwise quite intelligent, or at worst, quixotic
Of course I can choose the easy life, I can pretend to comprehend
Refuse to invite doubt and speculation as to the vim and vigour
Of my intellectual rigour.
Or share any suspicion that imbibing the clutter of another’s head
Hoarded thoughts seemingly randomly disgorged like a Jackson Pollock said
Am I a whistleblower on the emperor’s new clothes? Should I eat my words?
Should I start a picket for the return of rhythm and rhyme?
Or invent a new sub-genre with sub-titles for each line?
I suppose time will tell which way poetry goes
And which way next the wind blows

                                                                ©LS King 2014

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Writing Cheques Like They're Going Out of Fashion

My smartphone is often to be found surfing the internet without my knowledge or taking photographs of the inside of my bag or pocket.

Why on earth would I trust it to make payments on my behalf?

It would probably go on a wild spending spree and develop an online gambling addiction or connect to my email and respond to the dodgy African scam emails with all my savings.

Mind you I do seem to have bought a dumb phone by mistake!  

I find it extraordinary how today's youth have no such qualms and seem to entirely trust their smart phones to manage their finances and come up with their electronic app bus passes on demand.

While I have possessed an online bank account for over a decade I find the idea of my bank account becoming unaccountable to me or the prospect of having to entrust my life to a clearly untrustworthy gizmo a terrifying proposition. That is why I am truly writing cheques and spending cash like it is going out of fashion. I am the backlash as they try and restrict our choices by banishing both these and cash, ironically in the name of greater convenience and freedom, but in reality I suspect, in the name of greater control over us and our spending habits and bank accounts.

I am already disgusted that the car tax disc has been scrapped but NOT the car tax and insisted on paying at the Post Office and obtaining a receipt (should I now display this in my windscreen?) Not only is it appalling to have to pay £145 for a tax disc and not even receive a circular piece of paper to show for it, there is no instant proof of payment if I am challenged by a Traffic Enforcement Officer whose hand-held scanner is faulty. Furthermore at the same time as this was brought in, the DVLA also hit us with a sneaky measure to prevent anyone selling unused car tax as part of a second hand car deal. If you buy a second hand car now, you cannot merely finish the existing (non-existent) tax disc - you have to shell out for an entirely new non-existent tax disc from scratch!

HMRC Tax Office has not yet succeeded in obtaining their mooted control of our bank accounts, ostensibly in the name of pursuing tax dodgers, but in reality, if HMRC Tax win this power they will be able scoop cash out of anyone's account and they have a horrendous track record of making mistakes and not always being quick to rectify them. Plus HMRC Tax Office as we all know targets the easy targets rather than pursuing the elusive bigger fish who can afford to hide their assets offshore or behind a corporation.

I am writing this on my sinister new laptop which only allows me to use it by signing into my Microsoft account. It is virtually impossible to use offline, which makes it entirely probable that my every keystroke is being monitored by somebody somewhere for nebulous reasons unknown to me. I then had to purchase a sinister version of Microsoft Home Office to install which is no longer a product which is mine for life for the princely sum of £75, but a yearly 'subscription' which presumably locks me out of my own Word documents if I don't permit Microsoft to mug me of £75 from my account on a yearly basis.

This insidious new trend of once-occasional products and services turning into 'subscriptions' which need to be renewed on a yearly basis (or which are automatically renewed if they already have your bank details) for continued use is truly chilling to me, not to mention a rip-off on epic scale even once multiplied in all our lives. I don't even want all the stupid downloads which more often than not tend to impair product function rather than enhance it. 

If I want an upload or enhancement I will search it and then be willing to pay if I do not have it already.

Please government, make auto-renew illegal at least. I may need car insurance and rescue cover every year but I want the freedom to shop around for the best deal, and as we all know no one gets the best deal through loyalty any more.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Not Listening

I like to think I speak clearly but increasingly often I notice that when I say 'no ice' in a pub, my drink will be half-filled with ice cubes. The bar staff have only heard the word 'ice'. Similarly if I am in a cafe ordering a hot chocolate and I specify 'no cream', I will often end up with a third of a cup full of disgusting squirty cream with that slight industrial tang. Again the serving staff have only heard the word 'cream'. It is only when establishments don't pollute hot beverages with cream in the first place that I am safe. But it's not just the food industry. Twice recently I have been sold the wrong rail tickets and found that they had either the date or destination wrong on them, despite telling the clerk more than once what the date and destination was. Today I even had a machine sell me a 'single' rail ticket when I wanted a day card to London, so machines are now joining in the non-listening, with the added bonus that machines cannot rectify a mistake!

Of course none of us are infallible and I make my fair share of mistakes. But what I don't do is plug myself into electronic devices 24/7 and ignore real life and real people. This I suspect is at the heart of setting oneself to 'world wash' and only registering the odd word of everything said to one. Information overload and constant multi-tasking between applications, particularly since one device can now perform a multitude of functions simultaneously has got to have an impact. I also don't dare to work in either a bar or a cafe without a natural talent for being able to memorise a dozen orders at once and get them right.

Ideally I would love to be able to boast total recall and am exploring basic meditation techniques to at least improve my retention. I particularly want to be able to remember books in their entirety when I read them. The late comedian Bob Monkhouse had an extraordinary memory. He would remember everyone, their names, where they lived, what they did, what their spouse was called, what the children were called, what the family dog was called and be fit to ask about the whole family and their lives by name even if two or three years had passed since he had last set eyes on that person (and he obviously encountered many thousands of people in his television and public speaking career.)

My partner is currently having a website built where the guy designing it either doesn't read his emails properly or the information about what his clients want just doesn't sink in owing to symptoms of electronic overload. He is undoubtedly a talented web designer who has produced good sites for other people, but the fact he comes back with something even less like what was requested each time is delaying the launch of the website and thus impacting on other things. It better not affect the final cost though, when he could easily have done this fairly straightforward site (graphics provided) in half the time for a client who actually knows his own mind and could have offered a 5-star review to boot. However the stars are diminishing by the delayed week. And this is the second designer. The first company seemed even more unreliable and unaccountable.

Ultimately listening is respect though, People don't respect the person they are talking to if they don't listen to them, let alone if they surf the net, check their texts or emails or phone another friend in their presence - all pretty crass behaviours. It is disturbing how quickly society has forgotten its manners since the advent of the smart phone or claims never to have known about human etiquette in the first place. If I meet or talk to someone. I expect their undivided attention and I give them mine. It is no surprise to me that loneliness and mental health issues have gone up in commensurate measure to the rise of electronic and social media. At the end of the day people need real human contact and to feel loved and valued by real people, people who listen to them and care about understanding them. Electronica can never replace real life, real time, warm human interaction. And it is only with good mental health that people have enough mental resources to care about those other than themselves, electronica aside.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Brighton and Hove We Nearly Lost

This is Regency Hove. Along with the whole seafront from Kemp Town to Hove, it was almost razed to the ground and replaced in the 1930s by 'New Brighton' (see bottom picture).

New Brighton was the brainchild of Alderman Sir Herbert Carden, a city councillor who also wanted to demolish this...

seeing the Royal Pavilion as a monstrosity and a decadent Royal folly which had had its day. Shockingly he was not alone among the councillors who willed two of Brighton's strongest USP's to oblivion, with not even the picturesque Town Hall safe from his sights.

Alderman Carden was greatly inspired by Embassy Court, the sole modernist building to sneak onto Brighton and Hove seafront in the early 1930s, a leading example of art deco in its own right, albeit 'in the wrong place' as so many have commented over the years.

Luckily before Alderman Carden's dastardly plans to make the whole of Brighton and Hove look like Embassy Court could bear fruit WWII broke out in 1939 and his master plan had to be shelved whilst the war was fought. As fortune would have it in 1941 he died. 

Shortly after the war ended, a group of Hove citizens, determined that the area should never come under such a threat again, formed The Regency Society, which is still going strong today, protecting the remaining Regency heritage of Brighton and Hove. 

In his love affair with 'progress'. Alderman Carden also wanted to extend Brighton and Hove as far as Worthing into one super city akin to London.

However Alderman Carden also had a surprising side, for he purchased the entire Downs around Brighton and Hove and later sold them back to the council at cost price to protect them and the water supply of Brighton. Had he not done so, there might be no Devils' Dyke today and the Downs may be considerably more spoiled than they have been. It seems an extraordinary contradiction that he cared so much for the preservation of the surrounding countryside, but sought to take a wrecking ball to the special character of Brighton and Hove, much though he instigated many good things in his forty years with the council, such as the city's municipal tram and telephone systems. But this wasn't the only surprising contradiction in Carden's character. He was an immensely wealthy solicitor and local dignitary born to an old Brightonian family yet was a staunch socialist all his life (which possibly explains his contempt for any building alluding to wealth or decadence). 

Less controversially, Carden campaigned for Brighton to found its own university nearly two decades before it did, though he may not have approved of this being plonked on his beloved Downs! 
Today he is largely commemorated in the long and winding road linking nondescript estates at the back of Brighton known as 'Carden Avenue.'

With thanks to Andy Garth, owner of that magical emporium of Brighton history known as  Brighton and Hove Stuff in Western Road, who inspired this posting with his prints and encyclopaedic knowledge of, and enthusiasm for. Brighton.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Save The King Alfred Leisure Centre!

This is the recently-refurbished 1930s Hove leisure centre that the council want to raze to the ground and redevelop into guess what? A £40m leisure centre, albeit incorporating 400 new houses. They claim this course of action would be 'cheaper' than making the existing leisure centre greener and more economical to run! Is it even theirs to sell to developers? It is a municipal facility which belongs to the tax payers of Brighton and Hove.

Aside from the sheer waste, this is not just any old leisure centre but a nationally important piece of maritime war history.

For this building, originally known as Hove Marina and completed just before the outbreak of WWII in September 1939 was requisitioned by the Admirably and re-christened HMS King Alfred to become a 'land ship' training centre for over 22,500 officers of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War II.

The RNV(S)R had been formed in 1936 for gentlemen who are interested in yachting or similar pursuits and aged between 18 and 39.

Once this intake had been mobilised, the role of HMS King Alfred changed to training new officers of the RNVR. This required a longer course as many members of the RNVR had no experience of either maritime pursuits or the "officer-like qualities" required. Longer courses needed more space so the Admiralty requisitioned two further premises: Mowden School also in Hove and Lancing College. 

Mowden School, taken over in 1940, became known as HMS King Alfred II or HMS King Alfred (M) while Lancing College, taken over in 1941 became HMS King Alfred III or HMS King Alfred (L). The Hove site continued to be referred to as HMS King Alfred or sometimes HMS King Alfred (H).

A training course consisted of ten weeks, the first two weeks at HMS King Alfred II, then six weeks at HMS King Alfred III and the final four weeks at Hove. Upon successful completion of the course, the men emerged as Temporary Acting Probationary Sub-Lieutenants and attended further training at the Royal Navy Training College before being posted operationally.

Training ended in December 1945 and the leisure centre was returned to civilian use in June 1946.

Among the many young officers to pass through its doors were Alec Guiness, Kenneth More, Norris McWhirter, Ludovic Kennedy and Dr Who's, Jon Pertwee, who detailed his wartime experiences in his engaging autobiography 'Moon Boots and Dinner Suits'. It is said the water training tanks are still below the present leisure centre.

I must confess I have a personal stake in this matter for I am a member of the King Alfred Gym and it really could not be better. It is an excellent gym and being council-owned, not as expensive as most, so one of the few affordable sports facilities in Brighton would be lost in addition to a respectable 1930s building and piece of wartime history.

Aside from the leisure centre there is also a privately owned bodybuilding gym and a large ballroom contained within the building, which would presumably be swept away.

There is a tiny glimmer of hope though. There have been many plans and schemes for the King Alfred 'site' over the years and all have come to nought for one reason or another. But there is still no room for complacency.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Reprogramming the Poverty Consciousness

I have been reading a lot of motivational books and books about setting up businesses lately with an eye to the future.

It seems completely obvious if you think about it but one particular book has hit me straight between the eyes with the truth that schools and universities are and always have been intended to prepare children to become employees, not bosses. There is also a social conditioning to fear money so that if you are poor, you fear you'll never have any money and if you somehow become comfortably middle class or even rich, you fear losing it. Money often controls its users, not the other way round as it should be with what is essentially just a tool to facilitate, not an end in itself. This is because there is no financial education to help youngsters overcome this fear and maybe societally, that suits.

Perhaps this explains why 70% of successful entrepreneurs have apparently not been to university. They've been prepared to take chances that more educated people might not.

However the traditional (and still standard) parental advice; 'Study hard, get good grades and you'll get a good job' is undoubtedly somewhat simplistic or even outmoded in today's society where there is no longer job security or company loyalty in the vast majority of jobs, so people may as well take their chances via other routes.

The book is called 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' and features the advice a young boy received from the two 'dads' in his life, his natural father who studied hard, got good grades and became a teacher, but never a well-off one as he paid so many taxes and the man who became a second father to him, his best mate's dad who taught him how to think differently if he wanted to be truly successful and rich just like him and how he followed that advice and found it worked.

Certainly my grandfather's world where his company looked after him and his family for over 30 years and even had its own theatre and sports centre are long gone for most people, though perhaps the loyalty of yesteryear just made employees less dissatisfied wage slaves than they are now, rather than happy per se, as the engineering work my grandfather did was undoubtedly boring and monotonous, but there was no expectation then that a job should do much more than put food on the table and pay the bills, never mind provide any kind of happiness or spiritual fulfilment. My grandad's generation were just grateful to have survived WWII.

To get back to the book, another eye-opener was the contrast of how an individual is taxed on everything before they know what they have left and then continues to be taxed on spendings,  savings, private pensions and even after death via death duties and benefactors through inheritance tax, whereas a corporation spends everything it wants as well as needs to, and then only pays tax on the rest!

In view of this, I think I'll register myself 'Laura King inc' at Companies House pronto!

I went to a school where there was an unspoken understanding that we were a school of shop assistants and farmer's wives, with perhaps a smattering of teachers. It took me a long time  as an adult to believe I could achieve so much more for myself, other than being able to write and facilitate. On the plus side, I haven't been over-educated, which I have observed in some, can be just as much of a handicap to realising one's true and full potential when it can also lead to false beliefs about oneself plus overconfidence in one's abilities and intellectual inflexibility.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

No Pain, No Gain...?

No Pain, No Gain...?

My stomach protests what it can't digest
My incisors hurt when I'm indecisive
My limbs stiffen when I'm inflexible
My blood goes anemic when I lack iron
My heart aches when it's broken
My voice is lost when things go unspoken 
My nose runs when I'm run down
I risk the big C if I let things eat away at me
Whenever I risk going off track
My body gives me a symptom
to nudge me back
But why, oh why, doesn't the bloody thing just send me an email?

                                                        ©LS King 2014

Service With A Surl

It never ceases to amaze my partner and I how with probably the greatest competition outside London, any Brighton cafe dares to provide poor customer service.

Last Saturday, exhausted by our efforts to find a suitable birthday present for my partner's father, who, with his Alzheimers, can no longer relate to most of the things he used to love, we flopped into the nearest cafe for a drink in the new Lanes.

From the outside it looked inviting with its colourful mosaic walls, but no sooner had we crossed the threshold of someone's romantic dream of a Greek Taverna than a guy barked at us, 'We're not doing hot food!'. No apology, no explanation, but we only wanted a drink anyway so made the mistake of going in. Our drinks then proceeded to take so long to arrive we would have walked out were it not for our large collection of shopping bags. We also had time to notice how shabby beyond chic the place was with its crude plaster cave-like coving, bad paintwork and half the chairs missing part of their backs. The brusque male server then jostled me out of the way, again with no apology, to open the ill-positioned cake cabinet for someone else's order. Just as well my partner's coffee arrived, served by a meek skinny eastern European girl who seemed somewhat cowed by her male colleague/boss, for about a moment later, the rude colleague shouted to the kitchen staff; 'That's it! We're out of coffee.' We nearly choked on our drinks. A cafe out of coffee...? And if so, why didn't he just go round the corner to the supermarket to purchase some more? It was only 3.30pm. How did he propose to carry on for the rest of the afternoon?

'Never again.' we vowed as we left the cafe, oddly branded 'Inside Out' when perhaps 'Upside Down' would have been more apt. In future we shall listen to any alarm bells going off in our heads when we enter a place which is meant to be an enjoyable experience.

It has been a tough time for my partner. He has been made redundant, his dad has been getting sicker with Alzheimers to the extent my partner has to keep reminding him who he and his brothers are and that they are his sons and he is their dad, and what their names are. My partner has also suffered health issues and to cap it all he had an unpleasant encounter with his ex the other week when she confronted him at the local tip where he was disposing of allotment waste and told him to 'F**k off or I'll call the Police!' He was shocked but admirably restrained in the face of such a ridiculous threat and did not retaliate. He always fears making things any worse re the children, whom he has now not seen for almost three years, so in a sense, how could things get any worse? He did not even sue his ex when she made false criminal allegations against him during his legal bid to win access, presumably in her efforts to turn the children against him, which I advised him he should as she shouldn't be allowed to get away with that (even though the Police and Social Services evidently didn't believe her and take things further or even tell my partner the allegations had been made! It is only in the courtroom they emerged). Again, he feared it would cause further upset to the children to sue their mother, though I pointed out that legally clearing his name might actually do some good in that regard. However ultimately it has been hard to know what to do for the best and so many things my partner tried seemed to just backfire on him or make things worse. Even presents and cards have been sent back immediately and if he dared to telephone the house (which my partner did about twice), a threat of Police Harassment would swiftly follow or a string of abusive or silent calls would be received by other members of his family.

But being so mad at him three years after they split? Well I suppose his ex has to maintain that level of anger towards him to justify some of the stuff that she's done by way of revenge. We do find it strange though, considering she had apparently wanted a divorce for years, so why isn't she now happy to have her wish and freedom at last? Why isn't she moving on with her life?  It can't be doing her any good to be eating herself up with so much bitterness, let alone their poor children, who might be young adults now, but who are surely still suffering. When will she finish punishing my partner/them? When will she feel that she has exacted her pound of revenge, all is now square and peace can break out between all parties? Even a prisoner knows when their sentence/punishment will end, but not my partner re this situation.

On the plus side she has released a lovely man back onto the market who is now with a partner who truly appreciates him. His parents are also seeing more of him than they have in more than 20 years (his ex never liked him seeing them for whatever reason, particularly in latter years), and at the point in their lives when they need him most.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Oh For The Wings Of A Gull

On a more cheerful note, latest poem...

Oh For The Wings of A Gull

Synonymous with the sea
You’ll find them in smart white, grey and yellow livery
Surfing the wind above the waves
Patrolling every seashore, cliff and cave
Counting the trawlers in
The ferries out
Combing the beaches
Before other scavengers are out
Then gliding inland to urban dominion
Ruling the rooftops over small town bird civilian
Fish and chip suppers on the fly
They sign summer across the sky
Wheeling and dealing
Squealing and reeling
Gulleted gulls so graceful in flight
But not above a squabble and fight
Over a split bin bag outside the takeaway
Beating the refuse collectors at the dawn of day
Then there’s the Waterloo Street gull who’s friends with a cat
Fancy that.
They emit their soundtrack to the sea
You can even buy it on CD
The council wants to cull the gull
But is happy to use their image to promote its city and CD, no royalties

©LK  King 2014

Monday, 25 August 2014

Robin Williams - a curious end

In the wake of the complete shock of Robin Williams' suicide being announced, part of me also felt anger. How could he? He who starred in just about every film about human triumph and redemption against the odds? It felt like a betrayal of his fans. It was only after watching his last interview that I saw for myself how genuinely ill and haunted he looked. Mind you, it was a bizarre interview with the interviewer seemingly firing random questions at him including ironically one about whether he thought communication with the dead was possible.

Nevertheless certain things have been haunting me about the manner of his death, despite his unquestionably depressed state;

Sleeping in separate bedrooms alone is of course no indication that his 3rd marriage had hit the rocks, but the fact that his wife Susan Schneider seemingly didn't even check on her severely depressed film star husband, having not seen him for over 12 hours, before going out the following morning is very odd. Had they had an argument the previous night which pushed him over the edge? 

Then there was her almost immediate statement on his death a few hours later: 'This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one if its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.' 

Pretty slick for a woman so shockingly widowed only hours earlier but look again at the last line - she doesn't want us to 'focus' on Robin's death. 

The following day we now learn, she had somehow persuaded the coroner's office to release his body for a hasty cremation  only 24hrs after he had been discovered and before most of us had even had a chance to get our heads around the tragic death of a legend many of us grew up with (and before the toxicology results were through). How and why did she do this? While perhaps understandable to desire a private funeral, surely she would have struggled to get the whole family there in time, never mind if the coroner had wanted to conduct further tests on the body. And then there's how suspicious such a hasty fanfare-free funeral was going to look...

It would take days or even weeks for the body of a suicide or one deemed to have died of unnatural causes to be released  for funeral in Britain as foul play and other possibilities need to be ruled out. All this takes time. In addition sometimes the body is needed for further examination which obviously cannot happen if it has been cremated.

Not that I am suggesting foul play in this case. I completely believe Robin was severely depressed and  thus, emotionally vulnerable. However if Robin was his wife's 'best friend' as she stated in her tribute to him, where was she in his hour of need? How come his publicist was the one to find him some 12 hours after his death? I don't doubt it's no picnic being married to a severely depressed man, but if his wife couldn't cope alone, where were the hired psychiatric nurses to help her? Why didn't she get him sectioned if he was that depressed?

So what was Robin depressed about?
Well his comeback TV series 'The Crazy Ones' had been cancelled the previous year which he was known to be upset over.
He reportedly had financial issues, though the nature and scale of these have not yet been revealed. However if they were genuinely off the scale, did his insurance cover suicide? (some suicides have been known to take this course of action if their cover does and they are in dire financial straits and want to ensure their family is looked after.)
Robin was apparently in the early stages of Parkinsons (according to a statement released by his widow at roughly the same time she was getting him cremated, though at the time of writing we have yet to see medical corroboration of this).

Speculatively he could also have been depressed about the following:
Was he facing the end of his third marriage after only three years? This doesn't seem unlikely in view of his wife's odd behaviour and indecent haste to get his death and funeral over as quickly as possible.
Did he feel that his career was all washed up? (though even if he had Parkinsons, he could have continued to do lucrative voiceovers for some time to come, if not act as well).

Then there was the manner of his suicide. Here was a man who was a self-confessed ex junkie and ex alcoholic. Why then would he painfully saw away at his wrists with a knife before rather bizarrely managing to yank himself sideways from a chair to asphyxiate himself? Wouldn't anyone else just get the drugs and opt for a quick and painless overdose as their first choice? Ok so perhaps his dealer was no longer on speed dial in his attempts to get clean, but this highly intelligent man would have still known how to get hold of drugs and fast. In addition he surely had enough legitimate prescription anti-depressant drugs in the house to kill an elephant so why not use those?

For all his irreverent humour and zaniness Robin was a practising Christian or 'Catholic Lite' as he joked about Episcopalians. In fact one of his wry observations as a stand-up was; 'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.'

As I said before I am not suggesting that it was not possible for Robin Williams to have taken his own life, just that there seem to be more unanswered questions than there are answered ones. It hasn't even been established if he left a note yet. Why?

Marilyn Monroe was known to have made several suicide attempts during her life, yet 51 years after her death, it is still being hotly debated whether she died accidentally, by her own hand or was helped along the way.

For all his flaws, Robin Williams was an admirably honest star. The least he deserves is the whole truth to come out. It can't possibly be more sad and sordid than it already appears. In fact his widow would be doing herself a public favour to share everything she knows as she hasn't exactly covered herself in glory as far as Robins' fans are concerned. And better if she turns out to have been on the verge of leaving him rather than suspected of worse. That said, some internet conspiracy theorists think his death is an Iluminati hit, though I don't see it myself.

Either way it's an ironic end for a man who brought hope and happiness to millions through his work. I am sure I am not the only one who grew up with him lighting up the screens. RIP Robin Williams. So long and thanks for all the laughter.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Strange Correspondents

It's some while since the tail lights of my twenties disappeared from view. Yet life is good at providing strange reminders of former times.

The other day I received an email out of the blue from a former (married) colleague who asked if I could possibly do him a little favour and send a message to his former married lover to say how much he missed her and ask if she was happy. Oh and by the way, she had a restraining order out against him. Naturally I declined. Most people would accept a restraining order as proof that an ex doesn't want to see them. Worse still, whilst I didn't know the lady in question, I had once known her husband quite well through my then-work and he was a really nice guy. S knew this, so how could he possibly think that I would have contributed to hurting the husband, let alone get myself into trouble on S's behalf by interfering with a restraining order? I was forced to conclude my former colleague S must be having some sort of breakdown. In fact I told him so and encouraged him to seek help. I haven't heard from him since. I did find myself quite shaken by how my former respect for him was eroded by this episode though. He was quite a formative figure in my twenties.

Another correspondent who puzzles me is the ex (think echoes of the late Mike Smith) who emails me every so often with 'How are you?' and then if I don't reply for a few hours sends quite a frantic 'How are you? Are you alright? Please email me back as soon as you can', yet when I reply he goes completely silent for another few months, with maybe one or two cryptic lines about how he is/how am I? at Christmas. I've even suggested we meet for a coffee, he with his partner, me with mine, since he lives almost in the next town and it's nigh on 20 years since we dated, but he seldom replies, except to agree, and then goes silent when I email date and venue suggestions. Yet when I moved to Brighton, I had this impassioned email about how he had struggled to make friends on the South Coast and couldn't wait until I was in the area. Whilst a highly intelligent chap with an engineering degree and law degree which he has now combined into his own business doing something rather worthwhile, I know he's always been insecure about his literary prowess. But it's not as if I ever asked for Shakespeare from him. Just a tad of consistency would be nice. I remember when he ended it, sobbing down the phone line to him in the public call box outside my grandmother's house; 'But I'm not ready for it to end!' (we had only dated for a couple of months). In retrospect I can see he did me a favour. I would have been a basket case by now to have ended up with someone so flaky and uncommunicative. Probably we didn't have that much in common either. Nevertheless, it's nice to know what became of him. We Brits are sentimental souls.