Friday, 31 January 2020

Francais oo la la

It was nearly 30 years ago, that song where Trifle babbled on about the Single European Market and Free Access to All the European Nations, and then pivoted to start slagging off France because - and these are his exact words, folks - they were 'Sheep Burning Bastards'.

So that was nice.

I wasn't going to write anything today about this EU shit. It's all been said and it's been sad. And it's not even fucking started. I had a dream last night where I was at the beach on holiday on a promenade and some bloke had chalked a load of Union Flags and stupid WE R FREE type slogans on the floor, which I said were stupid and then I was scared I'd get battered for the rest of the holiday.

My distant relative, in America, doesn't think I ought to try and get my Lithuanian passport because there are some anti-semitic issues over there. I'm still wondering what to do. I mean, I like the idea of being able to work overseas without too much nonsense. The work permit rigmarole was bad enough when we lived in a fairly benign place like Cayman; it was paperwork, but it was a pain in the arse. And that was with everything done in English and largely based on UK law.

So be it. My wife - who is fluent in French and Spanish and moidering - has got all the paperwork to start getting an Irish passport. One brother lives in Scotland, where they've just voted to have another independence referendum, largely because Scotland is being dragged out of the EU despite having voted mostly to stay. And the other brother works in Dublin and all over the world and having a shit UK passport is going to be a massive pain in the arse unless something drastic happens like the UK negotiates something akin to what we have right now, except worse.

God, I am boring myself with all this. I've got work to do, and I need to go to town, and it's transfer deadline day so I need to half-arsedly keep refreshing various footy sites to read about rumours and deals and lots and lots and lots of nonsense that really does not make any difference except perhaps to make fans of clubs happy and distracted and, well. We all need that now.

Thirty years. That doesn't seem right does it. It goes quick, and it goes slowly, and at the end of it all the negotiations really never end. Au revoir.

PS: If any cunt comes up to me today with any kind of 'celebration' on their lips they will get the sharp end of me. I'm not having it. Yabadabadoo.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

It's all so fucking arbitrary isn't it

I don’t expect it matters too much but now I’m starting to mark dates on the calendar as absences and losses. Nobody was ever immortal, we just felt we were and knew we were. And at that moment we were right. But only in that moment.

Social media brings up photos of these times again and again and suddenly it’s 1 year ago 2 years 10 years and nobody is coming back are they. And yet it feels nice to revisit the frolicking in the ocean, the gawping at massive-titted mannequins, the snapshots of and in life. Maybe bittersweet is a better word.

I’ve got to go to work now and rehearse my writers’ group for their/our live event on Saturday. I think that matters, maybe not too much, but for us all it’s another moment and always will be. I hope. And that hope is really the important thing. I only understood this when I found myself still here arbitrarily and trying to unpack my guilt. Unwarranted. 

Turn on, tune in. And crack the fuck on with having some creativity and fun in your life, cause in 1 year 2 years 10 years – ach.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Ceci n'est pas une batte

Fog smooths the edges of everything.

Two ochre approaching orbs, blurred, approaching resolve themselves into parallel cyclists' sodium lights. They pass, ghosts, and are gone.

The only clarity is a bubble of visibility, my two-metre halo.

All outside is confusion. Muffled. My bubble travels with me. Its membrane is viscous; looming obelisks enter and transmute into dog-walkers. They, too, are gone.

There are non-sounds as I pass through these vignettes: a dog's bark being sucked away from the world; the reverse reverb of a motor car; the dopple of a bawdy ambulance shout.

I walk, trepidate, self-consciously, shoulderly shuffling the bag on my back.

The sun, if it ever existed, has long given up the day. No scrawny rays to fight through the briny mist now. Occasional expressionist chroma splodge above, burnt-out blobules of streetlights straining for purchase. But theirs is a frozen fire, forever stilled.

I am a tourist in time, in this awful coccoon that shrouds me.

A long wooden handle pokes out of the bag and taps me on the neck. Intermittent reminders that once the world was here. That once I was in the world. I am starting to mix up the concepts. Maybe I am floating. Maybe the ground is moving beneath me. Nothing is of my volition.

Can an absence exist?

Can anything?

Is nothing...

Is nothing?


There used to be a railway bridge here, but now it only exists in split-seconds as I pass. Bricks form ahead and fall behind. But I can never reach them, and if I stop, the bricks stop too. I am in a weird, wrongly-wired computer game. I look above my head for gold rings to grab, but find nothing but dead air that burns my eyes. I look away.

Did I really walk this way not an hour ago? My mind tells me yes and unreliable paintings of shimmering clarity of purpose flash past somewhere. I can't map them onto where I am now, even scrunching up my eyes tight, my fists too, my body. But those edges aren't sharp anymore.

There are none in this bruise, this pustule I inhabit.

The fog is a heavy giant's exhalation, trapped in a mausoleum.

The handle pokes at me again.

Behind and through this portentous miasma a distorted rectangle is created for me, by me, with me.

I decide it is a bench, and I ooze down through the foulness until something happens and we meld.

I reach for the handle. Its power shudders through me as I do.

A rough handle, rubber half-perished.

Time snaps.


I remember now. This handle is attached to a cheap cricket bat. One that was once an integral part of life and laughter and a different bubble, a happier one, a clearer one. One in which the road ahead was clear with certainty; with our certainty that the future would be our triumphant present, in time, in time.

And the past? Well. That was a triumphant present once, too.

No linseed has ever toughened this cheap, seaside plywood, and the scars show. There are no imprints of leather smacked through deep cover for a four before tea. It was, in fact, the Spank Records cricket bat, and specifically Jon Hall's cricket bat.

I assume he started wielding it because of the manager in Spinal Tap, the best film of all time. That manager, Ian Faith used to wield one, menacingly, saying that 'having a solid wooden implement in your hand can come in quite useful' in the world of Rock n Roll. We loved Rock n Roll. We loved Spinal Tap. And Jon loved his bat.

I don't think anyone got twonked on the head with it. And certainly no televisions were smacked into satisfying oblivion, sparks and explosions and all that. We couldn't afford that kind of thing. All the money had been spent on hugely expensive promo CDs in metal boxes, postage for hugely expensive promo CDs in very heavy metal boxes, and phonecalls to journalists to try and convince them to review the album that had come as a promo CD in an expensive, hefty metal box.

Which we did quite well at, as it goes, not that it made all that much difference to sales. 


So the bat came in useful in other ways. Here is the front of the bat:

As you can see, Jon has written, in his very clear and tidy script, using his favourite, expensive gel biros: 'This is a CRICKET BAT'. That's helpful isn't it. Some text is missing that used to be atop a sticker by the looks of it. I am pretty sure it said something like 'it is for writing on, taking messages, ordering things for delivery and bonking people on the clonk.'

The other writing on there is an autograph, faded but still discernible:

To Jon
Best Wishes
Tony Platt

Tony is a brilliant bloke and worked with huge names like AC/DC, Bob Marley, Toots, Maiden, Motorhead, Samson and many others. Jon and The Relatives met him in a pub in Liverpool and from that meeting he ended up mixing a Rellies single plus, I think, recording something with 28 Costumes. Memories are hazy. I forget.

One of the main reasons I have hazy memories is more evident if we consider the reverse of the bat.

You might note that there are a couple of things crossed out on this side. I can't make out what used to be written there, although I can hazard a guess, but I am not going to share that one just yet I don't think. Nothing sinister, folks. Also you can see my crotch in this photo plus my Guardian newspaper as I am a snowflake left-wing remainer loser.

What is still reasonably readable on this side is:


And a mobile phone number for the 24-hour alcohol delivery chaps. This was pressed into action on too many occasions when we'd all run out of beer and reached the stage where we could drink all the beer in the world if only we had more beer and RING THE BEER MAN GO ON oh I'm not doing it I did it last time and then I notice that every other giggling fuck has raised their feet off the floor so I'm the only one touching the ground so that's the rules and I have to order, slurring, a 24-pack of Foster's or Carling or whatever shit was available. 

The bat tells me that it cost £21. (It might be £25, or £24). 

In those days I think a crate of Carlsberg or Hofmeister or whatever shit the is it illegal I don't know let's not tell anyway 24-hour delivery people had access to and you didn't ask too many questions anyway.

We'd be asleep, or close to it, when the knock would come on the door about two hours later. And we'd still have to pay the men for the warm, sickly, unwanted fizzy amber crap. Manfully, whoever was still at least half-compos mentis (or a quarter), would give it a good go. All the joy'd've gone out of the experience, though. And soon it'd be stinking, snoring bodies with sweat steam rising and mixing with stale roll-ups and the farts of musicians and record label people and tour managers all with varying approaches to personal hygiene.

And now, nearly two decades later, Andy had done one of the most Spank Records-esque things for ages and spent shitloads of money posting this cheap piece of plywood to me. It cost way more than the bat was worth. But the bat was not a bat, of course. It was the lightning rod, the centre, the nexus of another time bubble.

This was the power.


There was a slurping sound as I deconjoined from the metal bench. I could not walk down the path that was no longer there. I could not loom inside my bubble, a man, unshaven, black coated and cricket bat in hand. If anyone else existed, if they crossed this membrane; who would I be? I knew. But the image was not a pleasant one.

I replaced this sacred sword as best I could in my backpack scabbard, and I squinted into the lowlands of undersea Shropshire.

At least, I assumed that was where I was.

It is hard to tell, when you carry your bubble around you wherever and whenever you are.

That is, if anyone ever is. Or anyone ever was.

It is impossible to know.

How do you measure an absence?

The sentence makes no sense.

Ceci n'est pas un batte.


Addendum: I've studied the writing on the front and I think it's actually me, trying to ape Jon's script. He must have left the room cause he wouldn't enjoy me scrawling in my clumsy hand with his excellent special pens. But the sentiment is the same; I just recorded it I think.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Telegraph Music

On Mon, 13 Jan, 2020, I looked at the BBC's daily newspaper roundup first thing - I quite often do this, to catch up with the front pages - and scrolled through as usual.

I came across this scan of the Daily Telegraph's front page. I don't read the Telegraph apart from in this kind of scenario, but something caught my eye. See if it catches yours (click to make it bigger)...

Nope? Well, it is a bit small. But if you look at the bottom, the very bottom, to the left of and underneath the bird off of the stamps, even underneath the red Wallace and Grommit sofa ad. You will see this, wot I have made bigger by magic and that:

To me, that looked like a kind of musical manuscript. No? Well, I decided to try and transcribe it anyway. Here's what I ended up with:

Who'd have thought the Daily Telegraph could be so tuneful eh?

Sunday, 5 January 2020

My most successful work...

I did some crisps reviews a decade ago and posts still get comments, making the whole endeavour arguably my best writing project of all time.

This week it came up again, after someone in the United States ate some cheese biscuits.

So, y'know. Is this that long legs thing that they were all on about in Internet-land some time ago? 

And, am I actually starting my 2020 work-life by prevaricating again?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

New Year's Eves of the 2010s, at least what I can remember

I saw in the last new decade at the worst New Year’s Eve party of all time. I lived in the Caribbean. I got free tickets to it. 

It was a man with a terrible band playing terrible songs and occasionally firing off a gun for some reason.
Apparently in the 1980s he was something to see, this bloke, and used to also have tigers on stage. Real tigers.
We live in more enlightened times. Except for the gun bit.

And the bubbles were lukewarm, some kind of Chilean cheap shit that made us feel absolutely nauseous even whilst we tried to get drunk so we could at least take the piss.
It made us tired and crotchety and crabby.

I think the following few years we probably stayed at home. In 2011 and 2012 we watched the fireworks from our balcony, which was 50 yards from the Caribbean sea, and 10 yards from a swim-up bar which was our local pub. By 2013 we’d moved to Dolphin Apartments, even closer to the Caribbean sea, and a smart little flat with our two now-permanent little rescue cats.

At some stage someone broke in and stole 100 bucks out of my wallet. I’m not sure, cause I can’t tell for certain, but in the morning we couldn’t find the kittens. They were cowering under a nearby bush, so had gotten out somehow. I shat myself thinking they were gone. Yes, they get under your skin don’t they. Little buggers.
They’re both clanking about in the house now. Maybe they remember it. They’re not too bad with fireworks as a rule, which is probably due to where they grew up.

We moved back to the UK and I think on NYE 2013/4 I had to phone the police because the Chinese lads next door were chucking firecrackers around at midnight or thereabouts. It was fine, but they were also landing in the garden and setting fire to things. That house had bad dry rot and the landlords did fuck all about it so we left about a month later.
They disputed the fucking deposit as well, because we hadn’t replaced the lace curtain things with the exact same fucking pattern. I mean, how petty. I did replace them, and asked for the original replacements back cause they were new. And then I gave them to the nearest charity shop. The hope was that the landlords would see it.

I think NYE 2015/6 was a good one, in the South of Spain, where we had Spanish dishes and tapas and celebrated UK-wise and Spanish-style with one grape for each bong of the clock at midnight. Then we got absolutely jarred by the Mediterranean, looking across at a haze which hides North Africa just a few miles south. We danced to Elvis and rock and roll, and drank complex cocktails that were more and more generously poured by a happy bar dude.
I don’t remember getting home; the house is at the top of a fuck-off steep hill which usually in the heat is an absolute bastard. I think we probably danced up.

Recent ones I spose I’ve been miserable, giving it all the “Oh this is the worst fucking night of the year, part timers all out, you can’t get a drink, the pubs are full etc etc etc”.

This year I might just raise a chilled glass – a chilled-out glass – and quietly toast those who aren’t here to do the same, and quietly toast those who are still here by luck, design and sheer bloody-mindedness.

It’s not an important day really. Nothing really changes. But for a few moments at least the possibilities ahead seem achievable and close at hand. Those moments are precious.

And that, if nothing else, is worth celebrating in a world that’s burning under our feet.

Be safe, try and be happy, and see you next time, insha Allah.

Monday, 30 December 2019

For Louisa

Where do they all go, the words breathed and heard?
The frequencies fading, the air once disturbed
Now quieted, softly awaiting those words?

A vortex of melody swirls with discord;
A maelstrom cacophonous, festered, a fraud
To the senses. A blood-taloned gargoyle’s claws

Scrape and slash at the air, but there’s nowhere to land.
No more is there laughter to perch on, to stand
Joyous, immortal, for one moment. And

Where have they all gone, those words grinned and sighed?
I retreat from it all; stilled, I sit, close my eyes
And listen for memories. Somewhere inside
The sounds bubble back of a life that abides.