Tomlinson v Harwood

In the red-eyed corner, homeless alcoholic and occasional newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson.  He comes into this fight with two failed marriages, nine children (four of his own and five step-children; proof that he loves them to bits is evidenced by their names crudely tattooed on his hands).  He’s wearing a blue Millwall football shirt with a grey Milwall t-shirt on top; it’s not a good look.  He’s not in great shape and looks older than his 47 years.  Homelessness can’t help and cirrhosis of the liver brought on by his alcoholism means that Harwood is a strong favourite to take the bout.  Tomlinson is drunk, meaning that his movement is impaired and his reactions are slow and unpredictable.

In the blue-flashing-light corner, territorial support officer Simon Harwood.  He comes into the fight in good shape physically, though he’s been up since 5am and this must count against him.  He’s limbered up for the fight by pushing and palm-striking protesters and has roughed up a BBC cameraman for good measure.  His chequered past means it’s tricky to predict the approach he’ll take.  He’s with the Met at the moment, though he’s already moved from the Met to Surrey police once as a result of a misconduct hearing.  This fight could define his future.  Tomlinson is the crowd favourite and Harwood has little support from the crowd.  

Before it’s started, it’s all over.

Tomlinson is down, the result of a smart baton strike to the leg and a simple push.  He’s down, up again and down again.  This time he stays down.  Police are pelted by protesters as they attempt to help Tomlinson.

Harwood barely notices the incident and certainly makes no note in his note book.  The whole bout has taken little more than a few seconds but it’s enough to remove Ian Tomlinson from the face of the planet and to send ripples of shock a long way out from the centre of the incident.

Tomlinson has been unlawfully killed, it is decided.  No-one is guilty of this unlawful killing though Harwood’s performance in court is so poor than it’s almost as though he’s trying to get himself sent down.  Further revelations about Harwood’s past and character are released.  He is released.  

The Tomlinson family sense reimbursement and state that they will sue unless an admission of guilt is forthcoming; their own guilt or greed may be driving factors.  13 years since Ian Tomlinson left to live his own life away from them, he’s now reinvented as a wonderful dad.  Look at the tattoos, they say…

There’s some good news of course; Paul Lewis of the Guardian is named reporter of the year for his investigative journalism concerning the case.  Meanwhile, Syria dominates one or two of the middle pages…

What’s new?

This is a particularly irritating way to start a conversation; similar to saying ‘how’s tricks?’. No-one is quite sure how to respond to either of these, and I’m not even sure what the second one means, unless you’re talking to an member of the magic circle, which seems unlikely.

The only acceptable answer to the question posed by this blog is: nothing. Nothing’s new. We as a nation seem to have run out of ideas. Everything is a re-working of something else, and if it’s not, it’s simply a straight repeat. I do genuinely worry that in popular culture, we’ve run out of stuff. There is nothing new, and it’s just something we’re going to have to get used to.

TV is one of the worst culprits, with I heart 1975, the top 100 best family animated musicals ever, take me out (bawdy blind date), Have I got news for you, Have I got old news for you all spamming the airwaves with their unoriginal tune. TV is stuck in a mass of repeats and nostalgia, and when someone tries to be original (10 o’clock live) it’s unbearably bad, pandering to a Guardian-obsessed sub-species of uber-cool City dwellers and students that don’t really exist anywhere. Films at the cinema tend to be part of a ‘franchise’ , such as the Fast and the Furious, which I now believe has churned out 5 films (when did film sequences become ‘franchises’? I’m pretty sure I never admitted to watching the later offerings from the Police Academy ‘franchise’), or re-makes of successful films, such as the Italian Job. The hangover wasn’t particularly original, but it was quite funny, which means the inevitable sequel (a la SATC) where the plot is indentical, just taking place in a different time zone.

Theatre, often a bastion of originality, is not immune. The Mousetrap inexplicably enters its sixth decade (surely even tourists are now bored?), the Rattigan revival continues to celebrate his centenary, and there’s Jersey Boys and other assorted singalongs from the past to entertain the proles.

Music, surely? Well not really. The last really original thing I heard was The Streets in 2002, and Mike Skinner ended up sounding like the voice of the whinging chav generation. The last band I went to see was Suede, and they were going through their back catalogue of albums, one by one (again). They were great, as always, but these songs are nearly 20 years old. Manufactured pop is back in, just like the 1960s, and everyone who was anyone has reformed, from Pulp to Dollar, to feed the nation’s bottomless appetite for nostalgia. The best music programme I saw recently was a retrospective of 1990s music on bbc4, and my twitter timeline almost exploded as other 30-somethings relived the days of Doc Marten boots and global hypercolour T-shirts. I listened to some Gil Scott Heron just after his death, and the commentator prounounced that his tunes were ‘as relevant today as they were in 1971’. Maybe so, but that’s because there’s been nothing new in between. Fashion? Judging by the 70s revivial (and 80s revival) of recent years, I sense not, but at least no-one’s going to force me to grow back my PJ and Duncan-style 90s curtains.

So what is genuinely new? The only thing I can come up with is reality TV, specifically to incorporate ‘scripted reality’. Jersey shore, Geordie shore, Made in Chelsea. This is the present, and maybe the future.

So next time you’re asked ‘what’s new?’, assuming that you have irritating friends, you can tell them.

‘Nothing’s new; and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back caeslessly into the past…’.