Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stop Akmal Shaikh from being executed

Akmal Shaikh is facing imminent execution in China. Amnesty International reported that his execution has been scheduled for 29th December 2009.

Akmal, aged 53 and a father of five from North London, is believed to be mentally ill. He was sentenced to death for drug-smuggling on 29th October 2008 after an unfair trial.

Although he appears to have suffered for many years with mental instability and is likely to have bipolar disorder, the Chinese authorities have refused to allow him to be examined by a doctor. According to Article 18 of China's Criminal Law, a mental patient who commits a crime, and has not completely lost the ability to recognise or control his own conduct at the time, still has criminal responsibility but may be given a lighter punishment.

Please email Downing Street as a matter of urgency.

Amnesty International has more information on this.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Foray into Scotland

We started with an unnecessary bus journey, the first of a few faults during our foray into Scotland. Lovely Mark walked us to Bolton Bus Station, at the wrong side of 6am. Although, unless we are talking at least 4 hours after 6am, every side of 6am is wrong. Anyway, we waited for a bus in the cold northern air. Mark saw us safely onto said bus and took a photo of it as we left. (He has new camera excitement). Chorlton Street Coach Station, the home of National Express in Manchester, was located with ease. Upon checking the Information Board, we discovered with numbing horror, that our coach would take us to Bolton before journeying onwards towards Glasgow! So, we caught a bus to take us to Manchester and then boarded a coach that took us back from whence we came! Joyous.

It was a long coach journey. We enjoyed lots of conversation which meant that we didn't enjoy much sleep (and by god we needed some). Before moving on, I would like to mention my on coach toilet drama. Now, I try to avoid using toilets on coaches. There are many reasons for this, some of which, I won't get into (it's better that way). However, one of my reasons for coach toilet avoidance actually occurred during my delightful toilet visit. As I prepared to return my clothes to their preferred public display location, the coach began carrying out strange hand-break turn style maneuvers. Unusual for a coach on a vast expanse of straight motorway and extremely difficult to manage for a woman who was desperately trying to return her jeans and knickers to her bare arse. I clambered around a lot and hung onto the handrail for dear life. I left the toilet cubicle, fully clothed but rather flustered and extremely annoyed to discover that the coach had just pulled onto a Motorway Service Station! That explained the movement and yes, I could have used the toilets there. Genius. Some time after that debacle, we pulled onto Buccanan Street Coach Station and James, our host for a few Scottish clad days, was waiting for us. Plenty of weaving around and occasionally through happy Scottish shoppers, another bus ride and we landed in James' flat (I should point out that we disembarked and walked to James' flat, the bus, fortunately, didn't actually drive into the flat). There was some lengthy female getting ready processes, quick clothes change for James and rushed takeaway food consumption before we headed back, via bus, to the centre of Glasgow.

We entered the magical venue that is King Tuts and prepared, mostly through beer consumption, for Sucioperro to arrive on stage. Apart from catching up with James and experience of the venue that is King Tuts, Sucio were the reason for our visit to Glasgow. The supports at tuts were Make Sparks and Orko. We enjoyed both but Make Sparks erm sparkled. They were that good that I bought their EP at the Merch stand alongside Sucio's new EP (thanks Dave). (As an aside, I'm listening to Make Sparks as I type). I'm sure I speak for the audience at tuts when I say that Sucio were utterly marvelous. I've seen them play many times this year and I always enjoy it (hence the frequency with which I watch them) but tuts was far and above the best I've ever seen them play. Watching them amongst the home crowd provided a hefty helping of audience participation which included singalong, mosh pit, chanting and all the things that makes a gig an electric experience. For me, it was the best gig I've been to this year. We hung around for a short time after the gig to drink a little more, although tiredness and early starts the next day meant that we only managed one post-gig drink - lightweights.

We once again travelled to James' flat, this time via taxi - yay no buses! Tomorrow heralded our next installment in Sucio music fun, when we were scheduled to watch a free instore Sucio acoustic set at Avalanche Record Stores. Prior to this, James had to work, so we had to find our way into Glasgow without our trusty tour guide. However, impeccable directions and some geographical genius on the part of Sam and I meant that we found Avalanche without any difficulty. We hung around the shopping centre (how very American of us) and briefly met up with Sam's brother-in-law's brother (confusing) before entering Avalanche. Now Avalanche is small and that's probably part of it's charm but somehow we managed to squeeze into it, ready for the acoustic Sucio set. We waited whilst Sucio set up by erm sitting down with their guitars and the unplugged set began. Prior to the gig, I'd received exclusive (ahem) information that they would play The Ruins and they played it. I've never heard The Ruins live and it's one of my favourite songs. It was great to finally hear it. I really enjoyed a B side from their new single, a track called The Lonesome Tree. Great song. Sadly, James didn't make into Avalanche but we caught up with him afterwards. We chatted with Dave (aka Cyclops), Spider, Gus and JP and then wandered off to meet James in Waxys. Nice bar but not very cheap. After Waxys we visited another bar near to Avalanche (its name escapes me). Not sure that you'd describe it as nice but you would describe it as cheap. Alarmingly, you needed a key to access the ladies toilets. An actual key! I liked this pub though, even though it did smell slightly of wee.

This almost concludes my blog, however before I close, I would like to mention Matty Latty and Francoise Le Pooch. The first is a man that James used to work with, to be honest you really had to be there but much hilarity ensued around the antics of Matty Latty. He had a catchphrase and accompanying action that has, unbeknown to him, swept the nation. Francoise La Pooch is a ornamental dog owned by Dave / Clyclops. It's a dog that previously belonged to Robbie Burns! I may be wrong on this but suspect that Dave named him Francoise La Pooch. :-). Coincidently, I have a picture of Robbie Burns, taken when i saw him last, move down to see it.

In no particular order, some random pictures:

Stevie Wonder head movement and Les Dawson style piano playing. Nice

Toilet graffiti in King Tuts

Are you ready for you close-up James, judging by the surprised look, I'd say not

Sucio Avalanche instore. Spider where the heck are you?!

You look a tad grey Mr Burns, late night was it?

The drama, the atmosphere, have you done this before Sam? If you heard the tune created, you'd have to say no

He looks like an expert but appearances can be deceptive

Oh and....
Sucioperro Myspace
Make sparks Myspace
Orko Myspace


Thursday, 10 December 2009

What's in a name?

I was thinking today about people’s names. There are many words that we use to describe the person that we are, such as I and me but our name, the one we are given at birth and perhaps later change – seems to hold meaning for us.

My name is fairly rare. I have met perhaps two other people in my life that share my Christian name. For me, though I guess not for everyone, it’s something of a novelty to meet another Hazel and practically unheard of to meet another Hazel Leese. There are 3 Hazel Leese’s on Facebook, only three, out of millions of users. Two of them are me! (I have a work and a personal Facebook account). The other, and for the sake of ego, 3rd Hazel Leese (because I’m the original and the best, ahem), is, I recall, much younger than me (the cheek) and a fairly recent Facebook recruit. This I know because I searched when I joined and searched again quite recently. Yes, yes, I’m extremely sad for checking but everyone with a less than common name does it (don’t they?).

Moving on. How is it that we somehow feel that our name belongs to us? We acquire it at birth, given to us by our parent(s), we learn to respond to our name and over the course of time, it becomes a part of us. Or do we become a part of it? Do we inhabit our own name? By that I mean that our name, somehow sits at the very epicentre of our identity. We belong to it. Other aspects of ourselves are transient – our age, address, friendships, careers, appearance, national identity (British, European, English in my case). Our name is fairly static. When we marry we can take on our partners name, though we can also choose to keep our own surname or truncate two names together. Western tradition has stated that the woman, through marriage, changes her surname to that of her husband, though this is beginning to evolve (I shall blog on this practice at another time). We can all change our name by legal process. There are many ways to become known as someone else, name-wise. Yet, as people that have changed their name know, you have to attach yourself to your new name. It’s a process and a necessary one because it’s more than mere label. It’s a system of belonging. Imagine what it would be like to have no name – to be unable to describe yourself, to introduce yourself to others. When we meet people, one of the key questions they ask us is, what’s your name. Although different naming structures exist throughout the world, at worldwide level, we all need to be able to identity ourselves by name, it’s both relational and personal.

So what’s in a name? We are. Biologically we exist, name or no name but sociologically and perhaps psychologically we exist within our name and through our name.

Fear not, my philosophical wonderings / irrelevant bollu (delete as appropriate) has ceased. I’m off to spend some quality time with a cup of tea and a biscuit or erm two.


Keyboard enthusiasm

I feel an uncontrollable desire to put fingers to keyboard, a metaphorical pen to virtual paper. I’m experiencing an Angela Lansbury moment, where words come, you type at speed, the words are flowing, spilling out of you like erm……..vomit. I’m probably more Daisy Steiner ala Spaced than Angela Lansbury ala Murder she wrote. I’m an aspiring but profoundly unsuccessful writer. I do feel very productive though. Not necessarily productive towards anything noteworthy but I shall note it down anyway, just in case.

Anyway, I sit and I type at my parents steam-driven PC. No Internet connection, so this blog will be saved, transferred to laptop, then uploaded into cyberspace at some later stage. My parent’s PC runs on a Windows 98 Operating System. It was cutting edge in its day but sadly its day has long gone. The keys stick slightly as I try to type, not because of some fizzy pop spilling incident but because keyboards were once much clunkier in days gone by. I still have to work out how I will save this word- processed blog. My parent’s PC has no USB drive, my lap-top doesn’t take floppies and it seems something of a waste to burn to CD. So this blog may remain forever stored on my parent’s antique PC and never find its way into the big, wide world that is the Internet.

It’s interesting that I mention both Daisy Steiner and the Angela that is Lansbury because they can be seen on numerous occasions typing away on over-sized typewriters. It’s interesting because this PC is not far removed from the typewriter. I say again, a Windows 98 Operating System! I’m not taking the piss out of my parents, it was exciting and expensive when they bought it and since then the trusty PC has moved way down on their list of entertainment priorities. Preferring instead, to read, do the crossword, listen to the radio, potter in the garden and enjoy ballroom dancing.

You may wonder at the point to this blog and you will be unsurprised to discover that there is none. No point, just the rambling thoughts of a blonde, 30 something (god I hate that term, why I have just used it) woman with failing eyesight and worrying obsession with mmmmm chocolate. I can feel another blog coming on and this one may actually have a point....

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