Merry Christmas Everybody

It’s happened. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it’s happened. And it’s raised some interesting questions.

How did we get ourselves into a position by which just 52% of voters could make a decision that so hugely affects everyone in the UK? A decision that most outsiders, excluding the likes of Le Pen and Trump, think is mad. Almost half the people in the UK think so too. My daughter said that one of her friends said he was voting Out because he wanted to be able to go back to smoking in pubs again. Truly.

I have a problem with referendums in principle. A one-issue group decides we have to ‘let the people decide’ and forces us into a referendum.  A politician, dealing with a potential party schism agrees to an ill-advised referendum. (I’m talking about Harold Wilson in 1975 of course). It’s set a precedent that we’ve been stuck with ever since. So we get endless political warfare until we get a referendum that delivers the ‘right’ result. Let’s see how far ‘letting the people decide’ takes us from here. I think that if the subject comes up again, we’ll be told that ‘the people have spoken’.

Look no further than Jo Cox’s family to see how far the emotions this campaign has stirred up can take us. I was talking to a woman of mixed heritage today who said she’s been racially abused twice in the last fortnight. It last happened to her when she was at school, more than 25 years ago. Oh, and another friend told me that his son (who’s a good person) said he had decided to vote Leave because an African national grouping he identified hadn’t integrated into our city. I kid you not.

Hearing people being interviewed on TV, the theme seems to be that the Leave vote was older white working-class people sticking two fingers up at the political elite. This raises a genuine issue: people are rightly feeling excluded from political decision making. They have views on immigration, not my views, but they have fears that they think are not being addressed. But voting us out of the EC for that? It’s like burning down a house because the windows need cleaning. (Well, that’s saved me a job, hasn’t it?).

I hear that older people were more inclined to vote Leave. Be careful of getting what you wish for. Many older Leave voters will end up in nursing homes sooner rather than later, and let’s see who’s there to care for them if immigrants are ‘sent packing’. They may have a nasty shock.

They should also remember that Europe was the trigger for two World Wars in the last century and that the EU was partly set up to make sure there wasn’t a third. I thought it had done a pretty good job in that.

So who said turkeys couldn’t vote for Christmas?

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South Africa – plus ça change

My pal Drew married Marie-Louise in Cape Town at Easter and asked me to act as best man, which I was honoured to do. I started my speech by saying that I’d read that a good speech was a short speech and that, on that criterion, mine was going to be a very good speech. It went downhill from there but it was mercifully brief and didn’t ruin anyone’s night. The hosts were so kind and hospitable, it was a lovely event.

I’d been to South Africa before, to give a series of talks about personal communication skills for opticians (now there’s a niche market) and noticed this time that though the Cape Town harbourside had been ravaged by the World Cup development, the place was otherwise much as I remembered.

One change was that the taxi drivers seem to be mostly Zimbabwean, who were all very chatty and friendly. Like a lot of migrants, it’s usually the ones with the get up and go that actually do get up and go. They all seemed very bright and personable and way too clever to drive taxis for a living.

I got one lift from a black South African taxi driver who was very withdrawn – I like to chat, and he clearly didn’t. I asked him if the end of Apartheid had meant much to him but he said that things had stayed pretty much the same. I couldn’t help noticing that much of the time we ate in restaurants with white people but were served by black people. I guess it’s just an economic Apartheid now.

I’d heard how unsafe the place is – well you have to be unlucky or daft to be a victim of crime. I have a pricey camera and imagined I’d lose it to a knife-wielding robber but instead, when I left it in a restaurant, a smiling waiter restored it to me an hour or two later. He was black of course. As Drew said, the fear of crime can be a lot worse than the reality.

Things will take generations to change and lots of people who’d always supported the ANC are not happy with the current crowd – power corrupts – but you still feel hope for the place.

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Poacher turned gamekeeper

I had a request from the Colston Hall in Bristol. They were trying to find people who’d been to concerts there over the years to ask if I had any mementos.

I said I had some photos and I sent them some images I’d taken. Of course they couldn’t pay me (plus ça change!) but they offered me a couple of tickets for a show in the future. They were very kind to me about the images of BB King, The Pretenders, Frank Chickens and Ian Dury & the Blockheads I sent.

I thought it was funny that they should ask me for images when I’d always had to smuggle my camera into the place. I well remember Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders giving me a very disapproving look when I was taking her picture and her physically stopping another person from doing so. I think what may have saved me from a similar fate was that I was clearly taking shots of the whole band, and not just her.

One of my very favourite pictures was of Kazuko Hohki of Frank Chickens from 1985 (I love the tension in her body with the impassive look) but of course all people really want is photos of the big stars. Well it’s my blog and it’s what I want to show. I thought Frank Chickens were weird and wonderful and apparently they still are and are still gigging. The others, and a lot more, are on www.80srockpics.com.

Kazuko Hohki of Frank Chickens.

Kazuko Hohki of Frank Chickens. Colston Hall, Bristol UK, 1985. Copyright Paul Norris

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Well done Paddy Power. Well done Arsenal.

I’m not a betting man but I have to give credit where it’s due and it is certainly due to Paddy Power for their Rainbow Laces TV advert. Well done the Arsenal players too.

It’s here: http://bit.ly/1uD5AGe. I love the message and the clever way they get it over. It’s clever for Paddy Power too. First time round I thought it was put there by the FA (no, honestly, I really did!). I saw it again and actually looked for whose advert it was. Now I’ll never forget.

You sense that it’s just a matter of time before a current professional footballer comes out, and when he does, I’m very hopeful that most people will be as human as the rugby faithful were about Gareth Thomas.

I still remember seeing my first black footballer, Ces Podd a pretty decent right back for Bradford City against Bristol Rovers in about 1970. It was almost unknown to see someone black in football then. “They wouldn’t cope with the cold and heavy pitches in the winter” as the coaches used to say, but now only the most spectacular idiot would a) say such a thing and b) abuse a black player. And who but an MSI would think a player’s race or colour an issue today?

As for those few cowards who hide in a football crowd to make comments they’d never dare make in the street, it’ll be a useful way to find out who those meatheads actually are.

I’m not about to start betting but if I were, I know where my money would go.

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Old Friends/Bookends.

I was out last night with my old friends Paul and Chris and, as if anyone needs to be told, old friends really are such a delight. Paul lives in Salisbury, Chris near Taunton, and I’m from Bristol, so we meet up at the wonderfully eccentric Barton Inn, in Barton St David, as it’s roughly equidistant from us all. We first met at school and a year or so ago celebrated 50 years of friendship with a narrowboating weekend with our wives and partners. I’d never done it before and, as long as you’re with the right people, it’s brilliant.

Last night, we were seated together and while Paul and Chris were discussing the finer points of old cars, (when did I say everything had to be interesting?) I sat with a soppy face quietly meditating on the value of friendship. Old friendship. There really is nothing like it.

Sometimes I think I must have a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome and they’re the most tolerant people I know of my distinctly off-colour ejaculations (there I go again). I’m really not sure that any of us would be able to genuinely hurt the other and I’m in no doubt that we’re friends for life.

As Paul Simon put it in the Old Friends/Bookends album:

“Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…”

Well I’m not seventy yet, though it’s only two World Cups away. And yes, it does feel strange.

When I get back home my partner Geraldine always asks me what we talked about and I can never remember. I guess that’s just because what we talk about isn’t important. Meeting up though, means everything.

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Thank you Edwyn Collins

A photo of Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice

Taken in Bristol in December 1982

A photo of Nick Cave
Nick Cave, taken in June 1984 by Paul Norris

I’ve put up a website of my rock concert photography from the early 1980s and have been using Twitter to spread the word. I saw that Edwyn Collins (of Orange Juice and A Girl Like You fame) had a Twitter feed and sent him a Tweet to say that I had some pictures of OJ from 1982 on my 80sRockPics website. He actually retweeted it and my stats suddenly (I mean over a 10 minute period) went mad. Many thanks to you Edwyn. Lots of people were saying very nice things about my pictures and how they were going to my exhibition at the Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton.

I like my pictures of EC but I have to say that if I were to pick one subject’s pictures it would be Nick Cave. I just thought the results fitted him so well.

I shouldn’t really own up to this but there were no lights at Nick Cave’s gig and I couldn’t see a thing, so I guessed the distance and snapped with flash on camera – absolutely my last resort. There’s two up at The Pelirocco and they’re two of my very favourites.

It worries me that a chimp could have taken them but I tell myself that I was there and I took that chance. I wasted a lot of film but got some diamonds too.

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Hotel Pelirocco Exhibition Up and Running

A quick note to say that my exhibition of rock photos of the 1980s went up at the wonderful Hotel Pelirocco on Sunday. It runs until 5 December.

There’s lots there, including The Smiths, The Clash, Nick Cave, The Undertones, BB King, Hanoi Rocks, Ian Dury, Edwyn Collins, Yazoo and others. The prints are all A2 or larger and you can see them all on line at www80srockpics.com.

I think they look great, it’s just the right atmosphere at The Pelirocco and they tell me they’re delighted with them. Thanks to the team at the hotel and friends and family who helped put it up.

I also won the Observer Crossword competition with my partner Geraldine this weekend, so everything’s hunky dory.

An image of the photgraphic exhibition iat the Hotel Pelirocco

The Smiths, The Clash, Hanoi Rocks, Nick Cave and Dexys Midnight Runners rub shoulders at Paul Norris’s show The Hotel Pelirocco. See details at http://www.80srockpics.com.

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