brian's soapbox
MAY 2016

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EXPERT OPINION - LETTERS

 

As always, the opinions expressed in these pages are purely and personally those of myself, Brian; they are not the official views of Queen, or of any other organisation or individual.

Reference:
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Cheers ! Bri
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**Fri 13 May 16**
PROUD TO RECEIVE MY STRAIGHT ALLY AWARD
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Bri receiving Straight Ally Award from Adam Lambert

PROUD to receive my Straight Ally award at LGBT ! Honoured and touched.

And thanks Adam Lambert for your words.

Bri

READ MORE HERE

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**Fri 13 May 16**
LIVING IN KENSINGTON. HELL AND DAMNATION
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I did a radio interview on Radio London this morning at 8.45am. For someone like me who regularly gets to sleep about 4am because that’s how my work schedule works out, this is not a pleasant prospect. But today I have been offered 6 minutes of radio time to put my point of view. I’m grateful. Just to make it more jolly, they will also have someone from the Council on the end of the phone to put the ‘alternative point of view’.

I didn’t sleep, of course, last night, rehearsing in my mind what I might say to get the point across, the anger building up as I think what we’ve all suffered here, waiting for that phone call, knowing I was going to be more frustrated at the end of the conversation than before. These are my scribbled notes I made while waiting for the phone to ring.

 

There are thousands of us Kensington residents who feel utterly betrayed by you, the council, because you have allowed unscrupulous people to make our lives unbearable for years on end, and with no sign of it ever ending.

“We have brought in the Article 4 Direction. Now all basements have to go down the planning permission route. With this in place, our toolkit is complete and we can now ensure that all future basement development is sensible and proportionate.”

Yes, you have taken some steps in the right direction. But, dear Tim Coleridge, all the misery we have suffered in my street is from applications which DID go down the planning permission route !! So Article 4 makes no difference to us. Because you GAVE the permissions. You allowed this antisocial behaviour to take place.

“Ensure that all future basement development is sensible and proportionate.” ?

That’s like saying … oh we’re going to make sure all events in which old ladies are beaten up are sensible and proportionate. The only way to make basement extensions sensible and proportionate is to STOP them.

NO BASEMENT EXTENSION IS SENSIBLE and PROPORTIONATE if it makes 100 people’s lives unbearable for 3 years. It’s UNACCEPTABLE.

You have to stop ALL basement building in established residential areas. You have to say no to any plan which involves massive excavation and pile driving. It simply CANNOT be done without wrecking residents' lives. You, the Council, are supposed to be there to protect us from incursions into our quality of life. These building works benefit only the unspeakably selfish people who are embarking on these projects purely to make money.

STOP it NOW. And if you don’t have the authority … I will personally speak to the Mayor of London and ask him to overrule your decisions and put some protection in place ... to try to make London a decent place to have a peaceful life.

I HATE this.

I hate being forced to be angry every day of my life. I hate waking every morning to the sound of drills, angle grinders, piling rigs, heavy machinery, lorries beeping as they reverse past my door, vibrating the whole house. It’s 8.45 am and they’re outside my window right now … loading stone blocks on to a lorry with a giant crane. A JCB is digging Earth on the other side … it’s been doing that 6 days a week for the past 4 years.

All last night, waiting for the phone to ring for this radio interview, knowing I was going to find myself arguing with someone who will tell me I’m some kind of spoilt rich kid, the resentment in me built up. It’s bad enough fighting every day with people who want to abuse animals. Now, in addition, being abused myself every day by these grossly inconsiderate bastards is killing me. My guts are permanently messed up. I’m suffering from sleep deprivation on a constant basis.

This morning, after trying to remain calm about this for over 7 years, I’m spitting blood. I’ve become a person I don’t like any more.

This country is now dominated by greed, selfishness, privilege, and downright boorish behaviour. The countryside is dominated by people who regard anyone or any creature who gets in their way is disposable, and can be victimised or eliminated. The cities are dominated by pure exploitation of the middle classes and the poor by a minority of rich people, mainly inherited wealth protected by off-shore investment, who are using these builds purely as a way to make money, with no regard whatsoever for any of us.

My neighbour round the corner has already moved out, and only occasionally visits his house, which he unable to sell because of the disruption all around it. He feels that our children and our pets are no longer safe with all the increased heavy traffic … says he had to grab his toddler the other day when a lorry sped round the corner not paying attention, probably a driver unfamiliar with these small roads.

The lady interviewer says “But how can you tell someone who wants to beautify their home and expand it, that they can’t do it ?”

Well, suppose you had a meeting with your architect, about building a swimming pool and a car park under your house and garden, and they told you ... “Yes, we can do that, and it will make the lives of all your neighbours a misery for three years.”

Would you press on ? Would you say … “OK. That seems fine to me. What I want is much more important than what they want”. Well, in the case of 9 properties around our street – yes, NINE – people have made exactly that decision.

This is ALL unacceptable.  It’s time we all stood up and stopped it, along with all the other activities which are going on right now, increasing the gap between the super-rich and the ordinary people of Britain, and ignoring the right of decent people to decent treatment.   

I HATE being beaten on the head every day, being made to fight for my life and that of my family, being full of hate and anger and frustration every day of my life … it’s making me ill … I cannot go on like this.  I make music … I’m in rehearsals for the upcoming Queen Summer tour of festivals in Europe … I need to be NOT using up all my energy fighting for my life.  I need to be decently rested, to be able to work at my job.  These people have ruined my life, made it impossible for me to work and do the things which I want to do, and I believe a lot of people want me to do.  

Royal Borough of Kensington has moved things forward by limiting the number of floors permitted in a basement build, and some other small changes to noise allowed at weekends, but sadly it’s too little too late. 

Somebody has to STOP this madness. 

Bri

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**Thu 12 May 16**
END OF OUR ROPE
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Just so ya know, dear pals, we really HAVE come to the end of our rope with the awful basement-building Hell that Kensington has become.

Lots of reaction to my ‘end of my rope’ open letter package on the menace of basement builders. If you have strong views on this, please let us know.

Lamest Headline of the Day !! apparently the Western Daily Press think it’s all amusing … ?

Badger campaigner Brian May forced out of London home by 'Chelsea Badgers' hell

Cheers

Bri

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**Fri 06 May 16**
PRINCE AMONG THE IMMORTALS
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Even without all else he was, this guitar playing would put Prince among the immortals...

<VIDEO was WITHDRAWN for copyright reasons. Ed>
Prince - Purple Rain 20 Minute Finale & Insane 10 minute Guitar Solo
- https://youtu.be/I2dz1ev1BDo

Bri

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**Fri 06 May 16**
POLISHING TRACKS
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In the studio with Kerry

[3.42AM): With the always energised Kerry Ellis. A great three days (3,4,5 May) in studio polishing tracks for our Anthems II album.

Bri

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**Tue 03 May 16**
BASEMENT BUILDING HELL CAN KILL YOU
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In the last few weeks, months and years, I’ve been campaigning for many causes, often for the rights of animals, Foxes, Badgers, Hedgehogs – sometimes for awareness of the need to protect against Asteroid strike, sometimes in support of Children’s projects … but all the time, I’ve been quietly battling against something back home which has been poisoning my life. Every morning for the past 9 years or so, I’ve got up with anger inside me, frustration, feelings of being abused. And although I’ve occasionally let out a cry of something like ‘Basement Building Bastards’, mostly this feeling of powerlessness in the face of an enemy that hides behind planning permissions has been bottled up. It’s made me feel ill, and now it’s time to let it out of the bag. I’m not just fighting for myself, even here, of course. All my fellow neighbours in our street are in a similar state of extreme despondency, because we are being day by day forced to leave the homes we worked all our lives to build.

Is this the cry of a rich kid ?

I come from a very poor family as a child. I know what it’s like to have no money to pay the gas or the electricity. I lived in a street where nobody had enough money to buy a car, never mind build extensions to their houses. But those people were decent … they were considerate. They wouldn’t make disruptions in the street. They’d make sure their kids were polite. They’d never mow their lawn on a Sunday, because they knew others were getting a quiet moment in the garden. But it was very basic - tiny rooms, tiny gardens, no central heating, and really we were crammed so close together there was little privacy.

The neighbourhood where Anita and I bought a house about 20 years ago in Kensington is the kind of place I always dreamed I might be able to afford to live. A peaceful tree-lined street with houses big enough to accommodate kids, pets, overnight guests - and also be a work place for people like me who create their stuff mainly at home.

About 10 years ago, all that began to change. In the area people started applying to extend their houses, making noise and dust and giving us increased traffic; but this was only the beginning. Soon the drive towards basement extensions began, and over the last few years our quality of life has disappeared. We now have no peace. We now wake up every morning to drilling, angle-grinding, and the hideous noise of piling rigs. The road is filled with men in hi-vis jackets on mobile phones, heavy lorries, cranes, earth-moving equipment, and our privacy is non-existent. Not just for short periods while a job is expedited. No. It's six days a week, every week of every year.

It’s like having someone banging on your head with a stick for hours on end every day. Someone who regards it as their right to do so. You can’t stop them. You can’t hit back. Day after day they get away with it. Day after day you feel abused, hurt, angry, frustrated. In the end you really want to strangle them. Seriously, I’m surprised someone somewhere hasn’t cracked, and physically attacked one of these perpetrators of basement-building Hell on Earth.

Well, I’m not the attacking kind, but I feel that if I sit on all this frustration any longer, without letting the lid off it, I truly will explode into pieces. So today I’m setting out the whole story here on the Soapbox. It’s a package of compressed documents, which anyone will be able to access, to get an idea how one of these scenarios unfolds. It’s a case of a few incredibly selfish people building most often purely to make money, and a few people on the local council who have failed in their job of protecting the residents of London from the destruction of their environment.

Kensington truly has become a Hellhole. You only have to walk around it to see. We will now be seeing more and more decent people quitting in disgust, in search of a decent place to live.

Cheers all
Bri

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**Mon 01 May 16**
HEDGEHOGS - FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
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Grace the Hedgehog

 

Hi Folks

Let's take one more moment to talk about hedgehogs. After our launch of the 'Amazing Grace' campaign at the House of Commons last week, I did some interviews, including answering a set of questions from a chap at the Mail on Sunday. I spent quite a bit of time on it to try to do a thorough job, but, as is often the case, not very much got printed. So we thought you'd like to see the whole "interview" the way I sent it back to the newspaper.

Here it is.


[Answering questions posed by Ned Donovan by the Mail On Sunday - SEE Print article]

1. Is there any particular reason for the new focus on hedgehogs, I believe he once had one called Grace?

It’s a very bad time or ALL wild animals in Britain - from the persecution of foxes and badgers, to the millions animals abused while being bred for food, to the millions being tortured in research in experiments which often tell us nothing about the corresponding effect on humans. And we live in times when every decision at Government level is made on the basis of money considerations alone. There are many good people working to change all this, but these days their work is often blocked by political manoeuvres aimed at preserving moneymaking interests and the status quo as regards preserving the trappings of privilege. Each animal-oriented organisation focusses on one area. And we all slog on as best we can, during these lean and mean times. We at Save-Me support animal projects across the board, but the main thrust of our work is to try to improve the lot of wild animals and give them a voice. The plight of hedgehogs has become more and more apparent in recent years, and, for once, almost everybody is on side as regards trying to reverse their sad decline in these islands. People are generally amazed that these charming creatures have been living in Britain for over 15 Million years, compared with our paltry 40 thousand.

Save-Me operates on two main levels … campaigning nationally, and hands-on wildlife rescue on the ground in Surrey. Anne Brummer’s Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue, now part of Save-Me, has rescued many thousands of wild animals over a 20 year period, including large numbers of hedgehogs which are brought in, often in a sad state from injuries or poisons.

In fact, over Winter, we house over 400 hedgehogs every year, and recently Grace was one of those. She was injured as a tiny hoglet, but after a lot of TLC, she survived against the odds. She became the face of the campaign by accident, really, since from being bottle-fed, she was easy to film, and, became the star of hours of footage.

When it came to putting music to the video for our campaign, the song Amazing Grace came to mind, of course, and the more we worked on it, the more we realised that it was relevant in many ways. Kerry [Ellis] and I did an arrangement of the song as the sound-track for the video, to publicise the launch, and we performed the song live in Portcullis House on the launch day.

 

2. Is he disappointed not too many people turned up to the event in Parliament?

We actually thought it was a pretty good turnout on a day when there were so many pressing issues in Parliament. Having put together a number of these events in Parliament, we know that this is a hit and miss affair. MP’s normally drift in an out to fit it in between other appointments. We had many MP's of all colours, or their assistants turn up – not at all bad for a Tuesday morning in the midst of EU Referendum fever! So far we have been in contact with over 150 MP's over this issue, many of whom are new friends willing to take this issue up as a cause. In particular there seems to be a friendly competition emerging between the counties of Suffolk and Surrey, both of which are keen to become the most Hedgehog-Friendly counties in Britain.

It’s worth mentioning here the simple things that we’re asking people to do in their neighbourhoods to help hedgehogs coexist with us. Eliminate pesticides from your gardens, especially slug-pellets, which bring death, ironically, to all the animals, which eat slugs – especially hedgehogs and birds. Make a hole in your fences the size of a CD sleeve – about 4 inches across, to enable hedgehogs to move around, to forage for food. And if anyone tries to tell you that the decline of hedgehogs is due to them being eaten by badgers, greet them with a pitying smile. That’s a nasty bit of propaganda spread by people who want to smear the reputation of badgers by portraying them as voracious predators. A badger is well capable of eating a hedgehog if it’s hungry, but, think about it … badgers and hedgehogs have coexisted in Britain for over 10 million years; how strange that it is only in recent times, since humans arrived on the scene, that the hedgehogs became threatened. There are at this moment efforts being made to ‘prove’ that badgers are bad guys and of course this makes it OK to slaughter thousands of them in a badger cull, even though it’s now beyond doubt that the Government’s badger-killing sprees can do nothing to help farmers eradicate bovine TB in cattle.

It’s a bit like trying to prove that lions eat antelopes, and therefore are bad creatures and need to be culled. And of course, what species is the most damaging predator of all ? Man, of course. So please be aware of how ridiculous and nefarious all this blaming of badgers for hedgehog decline really is.

 

3. Could he tell me a little bit more about the special recording of Amazing Grace that he did to raise awareness?

The song is beautiful and, of course, quite fitting. The tune apparently dates from slave ships in the dark years of the Slave Trade, and the words were added by a slave master from Donegal in Ireland who was also a poet and clergyman – John Newton (1725–1807). It's a somber sound that suits the severity of the issues facing Grace; very often in campaigning for animals we find ourselves facing exactly the same arguments that Martin Luther King and the Suffragists faced. It’s logical, really. What we do is start from the logical assumption that EVERY animal on this planet is worthy of respect – not just human animals. I’ve actually always loved this song – and recorded a version with Minako in Japanese some years ago. The name for Hedgehogs in Japanese means needle mouse!

 

4. Is there a backstory or some more information on his hedgehog Grace? It would make a lovely addition to the story.

Anne says :

“We were called by a member of the public who heard a high-pitched piping sound in her garden. She thought it was a baby bird. On further investigation she found a pile of leaves dragged out from her compost heap and inside the disheveled pile were three tiny hoglets. One was covered in blood with a wound. The lady brought them to our rescue centre. She had a severe wound on the side of her neck and like many of our patients the cause was and is unknown. On arrival she was first treated for fly strike. Her wound was cleaned and fly eggs removed from that and her open dry mouth. Fly eggs hatch into maggots, and if we didn't act fast they would start feeding on her. Without our intervention Grace would have died from maggot infestation. In nature, this process is essential to remove decay and dead wildlife from the environment, but on a live animal it can often be fatal. Nature is effective but harsh.

Grace recovered with the usual fight we see from hoglets, and her two brothers who were found near her also battled to pull through. Grace like all hedgehogs was strong and stoic and has the will to fight most adversities, and after a little TLC all was well.”

 

Final addendum, I mentioned to Anne that we have also been made aware of a fad currently popular with celebrities of taking pet hedgehogs to parties on their hand or in their handbags. Obviously this is insane, and I wondered if Brian had a comment on the practice at all?

Pathetic. Simply beyond belief, and another example of animals being treated as inanimate objects by very ignorant people.

Bri

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