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Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Mournes, by Helen Waddell

Its my Birthday today. I'm missing Banbridge, The Mournes and friends and family. The Mournes are the mountain range I grew up near, and loved to escape to on bicycle, by car and by foot. 

Helen Waddell was an academic, playwright, poet and novelist who loved Banbridge and the Mournes too. She wrote this poem after the loss of a friend.

There are many people I'd love to be sitting by that winter fire, having a bit of craic. 

The Mournes {by Helen Waddell} 
I shall not go to heaven when I die.
But if they let me be
I think I'll take a road I used to know
That goes by Slieve-na-garagh and the sea.
And all day breasting me the wind will blow,
And I'll hear nothing but the peewit's cry
And the sea talking in the caves below.
I think it will be winter when I die
(For no one from the North could die in spring)
And all the heather will be dead and grey,
And the bog-cotton will have blown away,
And there will be no yellow on the wind.
But I shall smell the peat,
And when it's almost dark I'll set my feet
Where a white track goes glimmering to the hills,
And see, far up, a light
--Would you think Heaven could be so small a thing
As a lit window on the hills at night?--
And come in stumbling from the gloom,
Half-blind, into a firelit room.
Turn, and see you,
And there abide.
If it were true,
And if I thought that they would let me be,
I almost wish it were tonight I died."

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Culture War

Awful. Dahl really was a nasty wee posh man. Though of course, these views were held by many upper middle class people, and the aristocracy at the time. Other interviews really should be reexamined from our past. I remember people spouting this crap a lot on tv and in long inteviews i read. And these views permeate left and right. 

I once met a northern irish film producer at a party in Glasgow. She said about Northern Ireland at the time (late nineties), "lovely, warm, beautiful people with awful views." I welcomed this view... It helped me understand people I loved. I see this re many people all of the time. I think of what happened here re brexit and what happened on the states re Trump. 

I've met people from all over the world, wonderful, warm people, who have upheld awful, sectarian, shitty views on an 'other' that for some reason they pour unsubstantiated  bile and hate towards, yet have "a xxx friend" (for xxx insert black, jewish, muslim, gay, trans, catholic, protestant, Asian, woman, poor etc etc).

{Article HERE}

Culture wars is the new big THING the political class have siezed upon to crack open solidarity and to pull together groups of people into coalitions of hate, conspiracy and anger (the Scottish attempt seems to centre around Salmond and women haters like Craig Murray plus those who want to in varying degrees cancel Trans people from humanity). The recent most visceral realisation of this pulling together of splinter extremities being of course, the Trumpist horned man Qanon and nazi storming of the Capitol in Washington DC.

Culture wars at present, are massively important and really should be faced down. Boris and his ultra alt tory government have launched kultur wars and will be dog whistling all over the place... The latest one being their attack on Universities and their pretence that "cancel culture" (read "we aint allowed to spit words of hate at jews, blacks, trans or gay people). Their nonsense centring on an imaginary tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland is also part of this... Both a distraction from the utter shite bucket they have made of relations in Ireland re the border, and as a "look what the uk could afford... Independent Scotland couldnt (watch how this tunnel never materialises ' because of scottish nationalists, or another source attacking Brit Boris and his fiendishly cunning crew.' ).

Announcements and projects in a culture war really dont have to be factual... They just have to stir emotion and pull in bigotries into the orbit of the cult-warriors.

As soon as you see someone agreeing with this cult-war shit, eg, "there is a conspiracy to bring down this powerful man by women/lgbtiq+++groups /israel/muslims..." etc you've just heard a chihuahua wolf whistle. Culture wars, created by these people, are about pulling people with unsubstantiated views into bigger, alt right groupings. Brexit did it (and, for example, had idiots calling themselves 'lexiteers,' while voting for a massive right wing Brit-nationalist regime and policy). Trump did it. Craig Murray, Wings, Salmond, Cherry etc are doing it (some players may of course not realise they are being played).

Call this shit out. Conspiracy nowadays is no longer "the deep state, are infiltrating the unions," no. Nowadays someone spouting the words "deep state," are more likely to vote against working class interests because they have been convinced they are saving kids, the morality of the country, the left, unity, the union, women in toilets etc etc 

Sectarianism, antisemitism, anti Trans people, anti Black, islamophobia etc all exist left and right. If your ally is a nazi in your particular culture war, you have been Trumped.

Saturday, 13 February 2021


As a lefty, I have some views that are seemingly against the lefty grain (and against the inevitable rightward political crawl of a society in which money is always power, and those in the upper classes control the output of the media media, albeit the Islington left, or the Etonian right).

One of these almost unpalatable views has me shunned by left and right alike (and some music lovers ). And yesterday, while teaching in our school "bubble," turned the we'ans against me, as I subjected them , periodically, to my earworm outloud (from beneath my mask). Though it did cause a conversation about what an earworm was , and I learned about the types of songs that get stuck in their heads (mostly computer game tunes).
Yesterday (and today), I had an earworm. An earworm few anticapitalists would dare admit, except me. And the we'ans in the bubble were subjected to it for the five hours they had in class with me. The effect of this earworm almost did to them, what a drunk guy on an overnight ferry to Liverpool from Belfast, did to us in the mid seventies.

My family were on route to Blackpool for a family holiday, and mum and dad had decided to bring us across on the ferry. We didnt have a berth, so we found seats in the bar, and tried to sleep while folk got drunk around us. One guy, all night, sang, "I - put - my Brutus jeans on, I pull my Brutus jeans on..."  He'd fall silent, we'd  all start to doze off and then, "I - put- my Brutus jeans on..." I remember we all laughed for a while, but people got fed up with him and groans and shouts of, "Shut up!" would come from every working class corner of that bar... Communal torture by earworm. 

The we'ans, were subjected to...

"Don't turn around, don't turn around again.
Don't turn around your gypsy heart.
Don't turn around, don't turn around again.
Don't turn around, and don't look back.
Come on now love, don't you look back."

A brilliant song on a superb album, in a string of great albums, from The Unforgettable Fire to Zooropa. 

Look. Bono isn't Morrissey, or Gary Glitter. So don't start.

" Whose gonna ride your wild horses... "

Anti- Capitaliste

I love reading right wing arguments, with left wing people. They say stuff like, "if you are socialist, how come you buy stuff," as if this is very clever. This happened to me once, in real life, (as opposed to stupifying social media) while eating a baguette and drinking a diet coke, outside a café beside the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, in Vannes. I wear it as a pyjama top nowadays, which at 1.37pm, shows how I am spending this Saturday. Anyway, these three guys sitting at another table thought it was profoundly funny that I was drinking a capitalist coke, and eating a baguette I hadn't grown the wheat for myself, processed the flour and baked the bread in a portable anti capitalist oven in my pocket, and was wearing a teeshirt I HAD BOUGHT that illustrated my disgust at a system that systematically creates poverty. Their mind was completely blown when I admitted I that I had, in fact bought the teeshirt and didnt have a portable loom and screen printing frame. They laughed and called me, "Capitaliste!" (they were french).
One of them had a Liverpool top on. I asked him if he played for Liverpool. He laughed. I proceeded to blame him for Liverpool FC's shitty form that year. "Why didn't you stop Chelsea beating you in the FA cup? You being a team member?" They didnt get it. The conversation ended with me shouting, "You let Chelsea walk all over you! You let two goals in! YOU" and them shouting "Capitaliste!" And everyone else enjoyed the sunny day in Vannes.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Old men no longer...

I remember when Peter Sellers died. I was in Majorca with my family. We were sitting outside a cafe, and I read the news in a British newspaper, which probably meant, because British newspapers came to Mallorca a day late, I found out two days after he died. I remember being saddened by this. I had recently read "Being There." And had watched all of the Pink Panther movies. 
I was 14. Seller's age never really entered my head at the time. He was old to me. 

I'm not sure why this popped in my head... But when I looked up Wikipedia to confirm that this was in July 1980, I realised that I am now nine months older than he was when he died. 

That seems extraordinary. This man who had lived through WW2 and who had had this incredible career and odd, sad, wild life, died at 54. I look at photos of him and really dont think of him as younger than I am now. Come to think of it, the same goes with quite a few people who died younger than me. Jim Morrison, Elvis, Jimmy Hendrix... All seem older, for some reason.

Colbert Comfort

There is very little on British telly I watch nowadays. Even the news, which I find in its want to be "neutral Westminster centric British," is grating (with the exception of Channel Four). I find British comedy now either elitist, stupid or crass. And Scottish telly is as bad. 

{American telly is politically partisan, but the partisanship really is intelligence on one side and Quonservative (Qanon is a conspiracy theory many of Trump's cultists centre on that Fox et al are trying to pull an audience from )

During the recent horned beast of a Trump Show, I found CBS News, CNN International , MSNBC and other American outlets. And in particular, the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It ticks a lot of boxes. It is, stylish intelligent satire, gently funny and fun to watch. He likes his guests, and isn't competing with them. Unlike todays British chat shows, the comedy doesn't make you feel uncomfortable (unless you are a right wing, Fox News digesting, AK47, antler wearing Quonservative quonspiracy theorist) and the music is great. The Colbert show house band, Stay Human led by Jon Batiste really is the best chat show band around (and I've gone through the lot...). They play everything beautifully... From Blue Note style Jazz... To sea shanties... And the music guests have given me some new leads on great music. Musically, I have a lot to explore, which really is different from the blandness of Brit-chat, which usually goes for what is being promoted by the large brit-music industry concerns. Blando boogie created by daddies money. 

{House band leader, Jon Batiste

It is odd, and pretty brilliant, that its easy to catch up on decent TV via Youtube. I was an early adopter of Youtube... And I am still surprised as to where it has led us. I haven't adopted TikTok... It really seems like Twitter for the less literate... I'm being  unfair as some people are in it to promote themselves using the language of the auteur aiming at an audience of Dory minded fish. Quick quality. 

And odd that I discovered David Letterman during the first lockdown (in particular, I watched all of the brilliant Andy Kauffman slots and interviews). Letterman was the previous incumbent in The Late Show, and pretty much the inspiration for Jonathon Ross, whose show in the eighties on Channel 4 were decent. I recommend Letterman's more recent long interviews, which can be found on Prime, I think. And he has become a little more political as well.

Watching the most recent episodes over breakfast has become part of my routine, as has watching MSNBC . Its brilliant seeing the view of here from there, in particular the view of Brexit, Scottish independence (Jon Stewart's interview of Nicola Sturgeon is a must see) and of the buffoons controlling the UK. Also a must see is Colbert's interviews of Jacinta Ardern, and his visit to New Zealand.

And of course, Colbert has been brilliant viewing during the Trump Show and the subsequent opening days of the Biden administration. It is partisan, but intelligent, rational and "fair," as opposed to Fox Faux News and its new ultra right wing rivals who are competing for the still fooled Q-Trump viewers.

Of course, ultra left friends will bemoan the liberal intelligensia and establishment credentials of Colbert. But anyone who can say directly to President Bush, by way of a satirical character he played invited to speak at a Whitehouse dinner,-

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world. -

is alright by me.

Visit Colbert on YouTube HERE

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

2020 Gob Redux...

 I remember reading , quite a few years ago, a long essay in a magazine, by the writer Martin Amis. He was bemoaning his middle aged teeth, and the pains he was going through as they crumbled, and infested and pulsed with pain. Amis went on to have all of his teeth  removed and replaced with drilled and screwed in falsies, and was reportedly paid a million pounds for the story. American, porcelain pearly whites. 

When I read about Amis' troubles in a long form essay, (an essay written before his ultimate surgery), I was a young thing, who had 1970’s teeth, with all of the problems that crunchie bars, a ton of Mairie biscuits and sweet, sweet cereal and fizzy drinks had given me. I had by that time, kind of sorted out my eating into a more healthy regime and thought I could outrun the “middle aged crumbling teeth” thing.

I didn’t. I wrote a few weeks ago about my agonies that kept me up all night in pain I  imagine a medieval torturer full of the Holy Spirit, drink, with a stomach ulcer, a hatred for living things, and the fervour to crack a "witch" would struggle to inflict on a cake hole.  

I've had a lot of work done since those halcyon late 2020 days of pain free gums. Repairs, caps, a triple root canal, fillings and scaffoldings worthy of the awnings and restoration at present concealing Big Ben, all failed last night at around 4pm in the morning as I sat with my old dog, who had been a little distressed at waking up to find noone there. As I sat with him, watching American chat show comedian, jazz fan and all round clever, charming guy, Stephen Colbert peel the orange ex POTUS, I chewed on some dried fruit. And blam. My refurbished molar exploded, the metal core rattling around my bottom teeth and the outer casing of the tooth, split apart, but still rooted in my gum. 

Is this my future? A future in which dried fruit is too tough for my teeth? A future of seering pain, hours on my back, gob gaping, filled full of drilling, heating, blowing, poking metal tools and crumbling, sometimes exploding teeth? 

Even now, many hours later, my mouth isn't fully defrosted, and I am feeling the first signs of the bruising it underwent to save what is left. And I await the next session later in the month staring at the light, mouth full of machinery, screws and chippings, wondering how many American porcelain teeth you can get for the price of a ton of Maire biscuits.