The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

I have to say that I’m very grateful to the BBC for pointing out that the perennial Christmas song ‘Fairy-tale of New York’ by the Pogues should now be considered offensive.  Released in 1987 it’s probably been played millions of times by such people as Tony Blackburn, Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis and countless others over the years on BBC Radio 1 – launched in 1967 to placate the ‘baby boomer’ generation incensed that a Labour government which closed down the tremendously popular radio ‘pirates’ such as Radio Caroline and Radio London.  Even then the moribund BBC had failed once again to face and take on competition. I’ve no idea who listens to ‘Onederful Radio One’ these days with all the multimedia outlets available at the touch of a button. Looking at the decrease in listeners to many of its shows at both national and local level, it seems to me that its days as the chosen ‘listen’ for youth and anyone else tired of inane comments and twittering from what the BBC calls ‘presenters’ are probably numbered.

Who then, I muse, after 43 years decided that the lyrics of this song are offensive and who, I wonder, decides what offensive is? Particularly as it’s reported that the ‘full version’ will still be played on something called Radio Two once, you may recall, the home of Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan who entertained millions for decades without either deliberately or unintentionally causing offence.

Perhaps the decision was made at some Zoom planning meeting. With thousands of BBC staff furloughed at the moment and with next to nothing to do at home, perhaps someone – in the name of diversity and equality of course – asked for suggestions, something to take the spotlight off how much they all receive in compensation for their massive talents and that little matter of everyone working from home getting 200-odd quid to buy a new chair to make their working time more comfortable.

Just imagine the conversation: “Look guys, I know we lost the Last Night of the Proms battle and annoyed the establishment and baby boomers and are taking Grandma’s free licence away but that’s all gone quiet now, so let’s have a go at that other little ‘ritual’.  They adore Christmas; we can hide behind politically-correct and cancel culture and appeal to the kids coming home from uni while taking the heat off ‘fisherpersons’, Princess DianaGate, lack of equality of pay, political bias, and institutional bullying.”

Actually I have to freely admit that I hadn’t noticed that parts of the Pogues huge hit was offensive – presumably it wasn’t written to offend anybody 43 years ago and in that it certainly succeeded, although it’s not one of my favourite Christmas recordings and for years I had no idea who was singing.  It always sounded like ‘Sir What’s-his-name’, you know, the Irish ‘Band Aid’ bloke to me.

Anyway, what we could all do with this year is a bit of cheering up, I’ll even put up with Noddy Holder, Slade and ‘Merry Christmas everyone’ which I have really missed this year.  Having not visited a garden centre for obvious reasons we missed the start of the Christmas season in September so have not, as yet, heard this hit from 1973, and every year since.

I wonder if politically-correct permanently-offended listeners have any worries about lyrics which include ‘riding a red nosed reindeer’ or ‘hanging a stocking on the wall’.  By the way if you remember seeing this at the time when young people watched a “must view” on BBC television called Top of The Pops, Noddy Holder is now 73 years old.

This Christmas though, seems to be well on the way to, as one person said when interviewed in the aforementioned New York, ‘being messed up for everybody’.  Something we can all relate to.  The fact that Christmas in New York is going to be difficult for many of the homeless, unemployed and poorer people like the 75-year-old lady queuing at a food bank but was, she told the interviewer ‘being careful and getting on with it’, should, in my view at least, give the permanently-offended or furloughed working-from-home people something to think about more than the words of a decades-old recording.

They may, for instance, like to look at food banks in a town near them, or give a moment’s thought as they buy their Christmas gifts from an online retailer, that tens of thousands have lost their jobs in the retail, entertainment and leisure industries and thousands of retail outlets and small business have closed, never to re-open.

These are facts apparently lost on people in the public sector, often living in the leafy confines of Audi Avenue, as they agitate for a pay rise and, according to one report, strike action, along with that other overrated section of society the political class, presently worrying that the Home Secretary is, apparently, a bully and has been known to shout and swear when staff actually don’t perform to her satisfaction. Odd that the same political and journal writing staff worried little and made even less comment when one George Brown used to, it is alleged, shout and throw things around.

If some in the Civil Service are offended by this, they should pause for a moment and consider that, out in the world of private enterprise where managers, especially senior ones, have to manage and produce results, tempers can get frayed and voices raised following incompetence or refusal to carry out instructions.

Much of the civil service seems to act like a private club – and a dysfunctional one at that. Years ago, a Labour Home Secretary, John Reid, claimed that it was ‘unfit for purpose’, which it was and still is.  Much of local government, quangos, the NHS, the Police service and the voluntary sector often feeding from the public purse, have become in recent years, nothing more than taxpayer-funded job creation schemes.  Where once industry and commerce created meaningful jobs for the masses, we now create far too many ‘soft’, mostly unproductive roles which are ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘must have’ and serve no purpose but to keep down the unemployment figures of the overeducated, offspring of middle income earners and keep them quiet.

We will soon see the hidden effects of that policy as we become part of a global economy which has competitiveness and survival as a driving force – instincts and behaviour that, particularly at this time, we need, rather than nice warm friendly green issues, which on cursory examination do not at the present time make any economic, let alone, social sense.

St. Mary on the Wold, rather like our nearest town, has many residents that have not noticed any disruption to their nice comfortable lives.  Dishi Rishi has taken care of the furlough payments – now giving them what one told me the other day was basically a year’s holiday. Pensioners here, many of them retired public sector workers, have been largely unaffected as have public sector staff who have received full pay while still continuing to work from home.

It’s a pleasant place to live.  Most properties have largish gardens and there are miles of deserted leafy lanes, well used by the middle class walkers this year, noticeably fewer grandparents though, as their child care duties have been curtailed and some, following the guidance, have locked themselves down for months and not ventured out, even to the community shop.

A walk through our nearest town shows just how bad things have become following the first lockdown. Five national retailers have shut up shop, for good that is, not for the ‘duration’ as one shop owner with a sense of humour notes on the shop door.  What you also see are other notices that show the human cost of the lockdowns, never investigated or spoken about by smiling TV personalities, and rarely by politicians locally or nationally after making decisions, it seems now, based on outrageously suspect data and projections.  Decisions that have ruined countless businesses.  I wonder how many of them have faced problems with their six figure salaries, star status and gold-plated pensions, something that the media should surely be asking.


Part 2 of When the going gets tough … will be published here tomorrow.

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