Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 26 December 2020

We dont need no thought control... 1979

I'm nostalgic at times. I was always so. Facebook makes me look like I am always looking back... I'm not, but I suppose this place is a bit of an outlet (as it is for politics ... Another thing I really don't constantly talk about- nowadays- in real life).

As a teenager, I reminisced about a brilliant childhood (always leaving out the shitty bits in school, like primary teachers who wailed, flailed, and beat and like peers damaged by a less than idyllic upbringing who wailed, flailed and beat). When I was older, when I drank (and shared a, wee toke), I reminisced about teenaged years, and when I was older still, reminisced about those days. There are precious days I dont share here... The past 23 years with my wee family being one- that'll be for the grandkids (though I annoy my family with photos... But only because I know they will be valuable to the family in the future ).

Pink Floyd's Brick in the Wall pt 2 HERE


This year has been a year of reminiscing. Especially about dad, who I think about every single day. And about good times, when I think I did ok... But I know I overthink times, when I didn't do so well. In my head I have hundreds apologies for people I treated badly as I was learning to be me... Just as old me will have thought of apologies for these days, months, and years of this period of my life (sorry, in advance 🙂) . I think people who go about their lives pretending they have no regrets really are creating problem after problem for themselves. I think reassessing everything, from your very core, to the very brief and inane, is important.

Apologies are important, and I really have thought about contacting people who where in my sometimes awful, seering, burning and explosive orbit in the past, and telling them I'm sorry. Having said that, I then of course realise that they really couldnt give two hoots about how I misspoke, or what a flake I was, or that I was just a selfish idiot. Life moves on.

Nostalgia can be fun. And "What ifs" fun, too. What if I had have worked harder at school? What if I had have enjoyed my first job and grovelled and scraped a bit more with that unreasonable boss? What if I hadn't volunteered for redundancy when I was 25? What if I had have went to Exeter rather than Stirling Uni..? What if the UK had have voted Labour, rather than Thatcher..? What if I didnt overthink things..? What if I wasnt so nostalgic?

Living in the now, is very difficult at the moment, during this seasonal storm, during covid, during the needy end months of my dog's life, so sitting watching telly, tired, eating badly really does need to be punctuated by nostalgia. Living in the now was something I did very well between the age of 17 to 30 (and older), especially on Friday and Saturday nights... But alcohol had that freeing effect.

Music really is one of the most magical things. It reminds you of smells, foods, events, people, emotions. Every song I've loved reminds me of great times, regrets, loves, decisions. And I really could choose from a thousand songs to illustrate this. At present, I'm listening to Japan, Quiet Life... And I've just listened to Life in Tokyo... Two songs from my early teenaged years when life, was about waiting, wondering what adulthood would be like. So I'm reminiscing about the on the cusp time. The time before big decisions, big nights out, clubbing, relationships, children and worry.

1979 was the cusp of everything... And really seemed like the beginning of the future. I was reading 2000ad and listening to punk, post punk, new wave, Abba, my sisters music, and watching Kenny Everett and Not the Nine O'clock news...

The Jam, Going Underground HERE


Sunday, 20 December 2020

Two un-Christmas Songs...

REM... 

Its not quite the end of the world... But in one short year, the UK has been transformed forever. A rogue state. Broken. A country now being internationally shunned. And its about to hit hard. The disaster capitalists greatest feat. Billionaires will rake it in, and anyone left standing will be feeding starving children. Its already started.

I dont feel particularly fine. But, the country I'm in within the UK, Scotland, really needs to saddle up and go. Idiots who luV BruTiAN an a BrutISh can of course, find loads of empty accomodation in London at the moment.

But it'll do, save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

Click HERE for REM, It's the end of the world as we know it.. 

INXS... 

Ive just come, across an Inxs concert from 1991 (BBC IPlayer) . That year was life changing for me. Watching this, it really was a different era in many ways. Very male , big stadium sounds, end of eighties fashion, the troubles still raging, etc.

I wasn't a fan of Inxs... But they definately had some decent tunes, of their time. I don't think I ever met an Inxs fan. But they did exist, because Wembley is absolutely stowed out in this. I don't think of an Inxs era, like an Oasis era, or a U2 era, or a New Order, The Smiths, The Cure era. Or was there and it just passed me by? 

The Hutcheons story is surely ripe for  making into a movie. These guys must have felt on top of the world at the time. How awful it ended in awful tragedy and how it brought much more down with it afterwards. 

This really is a top choon. I don't know what the story is behind it, but it always makes me think of Paula Yates, and their daughter.

We all have wings, but some of us don't know why... 

Click HERE for INXS, Never Tear Us Apart... 

Murderous "Common Sense."

Hancock, the "Health" minister, has been on TV berating those travelling last night after his pal, the Plague PM announced the Christmas lockdown yesterday. Of course, none of this can be the fault of ultra liberal capitalists and right wing libertarians. 

The reaction by Government here in the UK has been piecemeal, to be kind. The message of "we need to be responsible for ourselves," during a pandemic that effects one section of our communities more than others (the vulnerable and the old) is dreadful. Simple "guidelines," when opening schools - opening schools with primary class sizes in the same, pre covid sizes and rooms and young people *expected* to act like robots rather than young people, pubs, gyms and expecting people just to act safely, was/is madness.

"Common sense" really is a murderous term. This was a time for leaders, science, clarity. We got donkeys neighing, acting, pretending, career and bank balance building. 

Add to all of this, a tory ten years of deciding things; public services operating on the edge of the precipice; and the factors layed out in the, article below- the British Government seems to be on a path of destruction, death and economic failure.

We have idealist capitalists in power. It was just like having leaders saying, "The only leader. we need is the great Aten! Our fates are in his hands! Praise him and he'll guide you!" Faith capitalists. The worst kind. Capitalism is bad enough... But Faith Captalists have, thoughout history, created genocidal poverty. This time, as well as generating awful poverty, they have exacerbated death throughout the UK, incredibly.

Why they are in power, is another question.

 Money creates marketing so powerful, nowadays, that it goes straight to your pocket, in front of your face whether or not you buy a, paper or switch on the telly or not. In fact as a teacher, i know very few children who watch telly anymore. All of them having political and corporate propaganda pumped into their heads. Billionaire propaganda brought us the Donkeys who have killed our loved ones, and took your jobs, and starved our children. 

Two final words... New Zealand.

Click HERE for excellent blogpiece.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Let's be a little more Francis Bacon...

I was thinking of Francis Bacon the other day. I really am interested in the process of creativity. In schools, we teach stages... We teach instructions - in order - for creating a piece of writing, a piece of art or music. 
Most adults I know who do these things do not think linearly. They think messily. They are messy. Creativity is really messy. And artists studios usually are messy. The pages writers write on are usually messy. Creation IS messy, and that's more than ok. We don't teach that though, so how many messy creatives are boxed into the perfect world of in/ out trays and numbered structure? How many ideas a squashed because creatives are told from the outset... THIS is how this is done... No other way , and are marked on those stages (eg teaching writing... We mark the broken down stages someone came up with. Kids are expected to come up with characters or a setting from a story, and describe them , without creating the story... And are tick box marked on that. The Ford version of writing. Writing Time and Motion stylee. Writing by numbers). 

Chris Stein, of Blondie, posts really interesting pics, screen grabs, snaps, on his "story" thingmy on facebook. His pics reflect creativity in him and sometimes in others he has met, witnessed or just stumbled upon on Facebook. He posted a pic of the aging London Soho artist Francis Bacon in his studio, which was weird because I'd been thinking of posting a pic of him and other artists in their messy studios, during the week last week. I wrote on Stein's message board...

"Creativity really needs room. It can be messy. This is what school should be [more] like.

[nb... Schools, are used for more than creativity, of course, so children need to learn how to properly tidy and clean after their creative processes].

I'm a Primary teacher here in the UK. I "allow" mess during creativity and fun. Eg on Friday, we tipped up the paper recycling bin and had a "snowball fight." 
{me amidst the mayhem... I replenished their stocks of "snowballs" as they flung them across the class at each other from behind overturned desks...} 

[We tidied after (recycling is important). By 3pm, the floor was incredibly clean after a competition of "who can pick up 30 things from the floor..." with 25 children in the classroom, the pieces went down to the very, very minute.] 

The kids had a ball. It gave them much needed release during these quite tense covid days. Who needs hours of the extra pressure of "needed" tidy desks, and perfect robotic, lined up behaviour, these days? We all need mess, wildness, explosions of colour, noise and release. 

Let's be a little more Francis Bacon.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Teacher stresses, December 2020

As a primary teacher, I think the lack of real engagement from a Government expecting teachers to keep the economy going, is creating a stressed workforce.

Society at large, including parents, have no idea what is going on in schools, (the safety measures have created an almost victorian militaristic (though of course, as always, kind) regime.

Social distancing, rules about toilets, masks, walking in corridors, staying apart, staffrooms etc, and the constant drip of children being taken from classes as their families are forced to isolate, teachers off (some, because of exposure at home, and then again in school, for over a month) and the stress management are undergoing doing trace and track, and stressed parents taking their frustrations out on what they see as the nearest authority to them... Us.

And the Government tell us, we are safe.
I understand we are relatively safe, because my wife, a Public Health Consultant, explains the figures to me. I have that privilege. 

But.

What the figures do not show are teachers shielding vulnerable family members and the incredible stress of the large wider community centred on the schools.

It really is up to the Government and local authorities to engage directly with teachers and school communities. Sporadic new rules and announcements in letters given out to kids, really is not enough- and add to the stress.

If the government think that schools open right up to just a few days before families are allowed to party, and opening them again a week and a half later, are SAFE, they need to show us their evidence.

We are prepared to do our jobs, and have been doing so without question, keeping children happy, as well as teaching them through their stress and their being upset about this new world. But we need clarity, and something more than diktats.

Pants

Cody, our wee 15 1/2 year old dog, has mobility difficulties. Besides that, he's brilliant. Intelligent, loving, alert.

Cody, for most of his life, slept with us upstairs. At night, when he became tired, he'd become vocal, telling us it was time for bed, and if we stayed up, he'd head up the stairs himself. Just over a year and a half ago, as the Canine degenerative myelopathy took hold, Cody decided to start sleeping down stairs (which is a blessing, as he now has continence problems, and trying to rush him down the stairs in order for him to get to the garden was a superhuman effort!) 

So... Nowadays, one of us sits with him until he falls asleep (he hates sleeping on his own!) and then he lets us know, with a moan if he needs out. We take this in turns. 

Cody's walks are short, and becoming less and less as he gets bored with walking along our road. I drive him to a local park once a day, where he walks a loop through trees that, when he was fit, would have taken five minutes, but now takes twenty as he staggers sniffing from tree to tree.

This morning was Sonya's turn to have a lie in. I heard his moans and rushed down to let him out (at 7.45am... After sitting with him until 1.15am - actually not a bad nights sleep on my watch!). I let him out into the garden, where he deposited his gifts, and then fed him freshly cooked shredded chicken, potatoes, asparagus and carrots, I made my porridge and my near litre (or so) of ground coffee and lit the log burner and now I sit here reading the online newspapers, playing new music from Loud Women, reading Facebook posts and plotting the downfall of the aristocratic, land grabbing capitalist system that has ensured children are going hungry a couple of miles away from my house. 
I sit  in my teeshirt and boxers, waiting for the household to wake up. Its worth it though. Cody has given us a lot in his short, wee sped up life. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

RIP Charley Pride

I grew up in the '70's to the sound of my dad and mum's music taste (and later my older sister, Karen's) ... Mum had the radio on in the kitchen while she cooked the tea or served me lunch in the break in the school day. I played their records, and some they bought me, over and over on the record player behind the couch. Dad's music dominated the car- Charlie Pride, and Jim Reeves, Tammy Wynette, Big Tom and the Mainliners, Philomena Begley, Susan McCann, as well as Glenn Campbell, Johnny Cash, The Dubliners, and others (including Abba!).

It is sad to see Charlie Pride has gone (Guardian article announcing his death HERE). As a child, I knew most of his songs off by heart, listening them on loop on the car eight track.
When I was younger, as a teenager and older, I rejected country music... For my own age groups music, I suppose. In fact a lot of what I listened to seemed to be a total rejection of the music my dad introduced us to. But actually, my love of melody, and meaningful words or a story, was born in my dad's favourites.

Thankyou for the music, mum and dad. I'll be singing along with Charley tomorrow, thinking about you, the kitchen radio, the Volkswagon Beetle trips across the Irish Sea to Blackpool, the wee Renault with the go faster stripe and you listening to your country music radio programme on Sunday night in the kitchen.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Three Stars and a Wish...

In my time as a teacher, there is nothing that sums up the failure of a system to understand mental health than this:

🌟 Lovely handwriting, Sue!
🌟 Interesting title!
💫Next time, could you remember you need to punctuate more than once when you have written three pages of story?

It seems harmless enough, eh?

Exams, school, the stress of peers and doing the right thing according to the great random powers of adults around you etc, were bad enough when I was little. But the extra stress of "two stars and a wish," following you through life, to interviews, work appraisals, shit sandwiches (some without the bread), is absolutely incredible. Children and adults, are taught, "you never succeed, because the power above you in the chain of command will find something about you that you must work on. And when you overcome that, something else not quite right will be highlighted." The absolute tenterhooks every professional interaction brings when this is the case, does nothing to help those of us who find interactions hard enough, and whose confidence has had lifetimes of knock backs.

Resilience is NOT repeating the mantra I hear a lot from adults, "oh they need to learn to fail."

My god have they learned to fail... Smilng through; biting their lip through, shaking through, crying through, stressing through  every two star and a wish and shit sandwich they are fed. Add to the list of mental knock backs, poverty, stressed homelivesmental health issues in the home, and parents brought up in this absolutely mad system of constant criticism , and we have a generation of uncertain, unhappy, stressed children.

Children need real nurturing in schools, as do the teachers, and as do parents . I feel a priority for Scottish Government should be propper mentoring for teachers by a prifessional whose soul job it is to do that; a real application of nurture throughout schools-with training from mental health specialists; a rethink by government regarding appraisals, and recommendations as to how these happen - not only in the public sector, but the private.

I wrote this piece a few years ago, based on real stories, and my annoyance at how "Resilience" is applied at times. (voiced by "Wee Raiph" for Ungagged)

Video HERE 


alt-pop anon

I started off a thread on THIS JOY DIVISION GROUP on facebook. It has led to some interesting conversations, (if you are in to these kind of things) some of which I have copied below. 

My post: "One of the things that appealed to me about JD, and then in turn, NO, was the band's anonymity. Despite Curtis' tragic death , the members, for years, didnt do publicity. There was no "frontman." No glossy photos of any of them on their own. The images associated with the band were the U. P. album cover, and the Closer cover. Few, if any, other bands did this. It completely fitted with me. "No more heroes."
{photo: Anton Corbijn

 None of them pushed for the limelight.

They just experimented with sound and it was the sound (and in the case of JD, also the lyrics) that reigned supreme. After their silly dabble with nazi imagry (as many pre punk and punk bands stupidly, "ironically," did), their image was almost a non-image. No fashion, no hair do's, no outrageous appearances on music programmes or in popular magazines. (The fans dressed, ironically, in long coats we nabbed from our fathers, grandfathers and from charity shops (nb. In Belfast, we had a super second hand shop called American Madness, where I bought a few))."

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

He's on the phone...

So... 15 hours, after it stopped working, my phone has had enough sleep and has, just out of the blue, come back, fully functional. And after me rebooting an old, glitchy crappy phone that refused to play music, type the letter Y, and which tries to fill in the pass key loads of times, occasionally leading me to be locked out of it.
{Click HERE for St Etienne} 

So glad this one, with its less frustrating glitches, has come back. I really need its entertainment when I get home from work and have to cook, walk and feed dog, clean kitchen, dishes, and other stuff. I borrowed my wife's phone tonight to blast JaMC's Psychocandy and Darklands at full tilt while cooking breaded Tofu Katsu Curry and rustling up a salad (and cooking Cody's chicken for the next two days, plus potatoes, asparagus and carrots ...). That's going to muck up her automatic selection playlist thing ...

This phone really has been a lockdown lifeline, much in the way our new computer was, when my son was wee, and I was stay at home dad. We got all internetted up circa 1998.. Dial up... And I immediately got involved in political and geneological groups, and in file sharing (remember, Napster? Boy did I spend long hours, downloading music... Each song taking painstakingly long to arrive , and then burning them on to cd). We had moved to a place where we knew noone, and the company of political, lovely people on Freepobal kept me sane. I was also able to reconnect with people, which is still hugely valuable. And I have online friends who I have never met, but have known for years, and value immensely... massively.

I love this little machine ... I use it to read the news outlets, facebook posts that entertain, inform and enrage. Those of you who have entertained me, informed me, exasperated me and enraged me are really valuable to me. I really hope over the next few weeks you all have a well earned escape from the stalag covid 19 2020 worries, stresses and confinements. I hope you all get what you desire, that is, if it isn't some politically awful thing... Those who haven't listened to ME have imposed brexit, Trump, awful decisions re covid, and political dead ends (basically, if Santa is delivering, he's delivering MY political outcomes for next year...it'll be good. Honest. Trust me.). 

I am fokkin knackered today. I was up late with the pooing, peeing, whining wee dog last night, and up at six this morning. Tuesdays are a difficult day in work... Though weirdly , I've always found Tuesdays to be the day when I'm most knackered . I used to put it down to the effects of alcohol at the weekends, and its effect on my sleeping pattern. I can't blame that now. I think its just the sleep interupting 15+ year old dog. My wee, old, infirm, pal. And before my son was a teen, he was a terrible sleeper, so latter life Cody is, really, just a continuance of that. Sleep deprivation. For 24 years. 

I think there will be a major decision to be had about Cody the wonder dog in 2021 as his legs are really quickly deteriorating... And he's definitely much more doddery. He'll most definately be our last dog for a long time. 
I'm glad this space aged communication device that noone but Iain M Banks predicted (any sci fi folk know if there was anything other than Banks Culture novels and, I suppose Ziggy from Quantum Leap, that predicted an all knowledgeable, interlinked hand held that placed all human knowledge at your fingertips?) is back because I've been practising my writing, and blogging SOME of it here. I've blogged for around fifteen years (an old blog was lost when the platform I was using was discontinued). It's a good outlet. As is Facebook. Sometimes.

As is YOUR company, even if its just to disagree with you in capitals. :)

Thursday, 26 November 2020

My Heart and Soul

Before Joy Division, I had a few bands I liked. The Undertones, Blondie, The Pretenders, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts... others... But, they were other people's bands too. 

I first heard JD when my sister bought the seven inch single of Love Will Tear Us Apart. And that song and the B Side, These Days just blew me away. The song was definitely a pop/rock song, but the delivery was far from the other stuff that was  charting at the time. It was far from many of the groups who still wanted to keep the pub/punk rock money machine going, and it was far from other post punk, new wave stuff I was listening to. This was a song that was anything but nice, but not the spitting, "fuck you, this is me," brash finger to society or to someone. 

This was about failure. Raw. Honest. 

Failure to love and be loved. And during my discovery of this music, not long after, I read of 23 year old Ian Curtis's sad, desperate death. This song was about torment. And although I didn't understand a torment so cataclysmic that life could go over its precipice, I did understand torture. I understood that scream that led to art, writing, imaginary escapes and plans to bite back. I understood life really on hold because of unpredictable people. 

So,  I did a rare thing, I bought two albums at the same time. 


Affording an album as a young working class teenager, Investing in one, was a big thing that took a lot of reading Sounds or NME, and trying to hear some tracks. Some albums took long deliberation… I remember, for example, standing for hours in Newtownards shopping Centre pondering over Kate Bush's "The Dreaming," which I bought. That was an amazing investment of a fiver (a fiver, of course, being a large sum of investment in 1982). An investment that is still making returns. To go on and buy TWO albums, based on two songs, was a huge leap… and a very serious one. 

Unknown Pleasures and Closer were just monumental to me. An incredible sound. I remember the first time listening to both albums back to back. They were like nothing I had ever heard before,and really stand outside of anything I've heard since. I've heard other bands influenced by JD, and some have been great, producing a unique sound of their own (The Killers, for example, don't mimic, they reference, and their sound is unique in the pop/ rock world of more recent years). Lyrics that felt important, and marked a change in me. I'd found a sound that matched my inner teenaged, on the verge of new, unfettered life, as I was vomited from the awful school system that separated children between those whose families  could afford tutors for verbal reasoning tests, those whose families couldnt or wouldn't, and catholics and protestants. My High school was the one in which we failed in order to gain entry. I left a failure, battered blue and purple. And I was glad to meet the world. 


JD were not a band many knew of in Banbridge, County Down in the early days. My friends could draw the logo of the bands they loved on toilet doors, jotters and on the backs of their hands (this was the thing during 1983 when I enjoyed, learned to drink and at last find girls and wild friends, but totally wasted educationally in Banbridge Technical College). Madness, Two Tone, The Jam and various punk bands names were graffitied everywhere a teenager was, in cartoon and comic writing, easy to reproduce. JD remained inside. Impossible to share. A personal escape. Graffitiing the cover of Unknown Pleasures was almost an impossibility anyway. I recently found a jotter and I had doodled a Madness sign on it, to show someone else how to (Madness, nor much else other than bands that rarely hit the top ten, were my thing). I had a few waves drawn beside it. I was drawing other people's bands, but feeling Joy Division's hymns to my core. Joy Division were my personal soundscape, my internal image that few of my friends experienced, and one I never again shared with girlfriends after one  wrote "boring!!" and "depressing!" all over the tapes I'd made of my vinyl. 

I literally, religiously listened to both studio albums every day for well over a year after buying, and often for years after that. This was an obsession. A religious, transformative rite. Something extremely serious. Important. And every pore absorbed the sacred chords and words and beats and chimes and broken, shattered glass and life.  If I had a religion, its hymns were these songs. And really to begin with, it was the soundscape, the music, the effects I photosynthesised, or audiosynthesised, and slowly and especially after a visit to Virgin Records in London in 1982, when I bought Still and a book of cuttings that shakily told the story of Joy Division's gigs, members, and printed the lyrics , I tried to decipher this enigma of a man's last written testimonies. 

As someone who emerged from four years at a school in which violence for a lot of that time, was just an acceptable thing, normal, and during a time when life, friendships, and interests were changing along, with my body, mind, chemistry and in a place where destructive competition mattered to everyone but me and bombs boomed, people died, and the news worried us daily, these songs were my personal, strange, gelid friends. 

A few years back I watched a drama in which the main character, a lawyer played by Maxine Peake, danced to Joy Division. Her dancing was to a sound no-one else heard, a sound that for many was not a sound for a dancefloor awakened a beautiful, personal memory. This was my thing. My personal thing I did in my bedroom. Twisting and turning to Transmission, head banging to Disorder (a video of which I made, here… of a place that my town, Banbridge and I had a mixed, but very important relationship with). All the time knowing, this group, this singer, was the most important thing in the world of Music. And a beautiful, flawed, friend. 

Then came our mutual transformation… New Order. Ceremony, an incredible song, sad in that Curtis had written it, but a joyous transformational rock song. Movement, beautiful, bleak, heartbreaking in parts, but heralding a new start. And then Everything's Gone Green. An incredible, running, spinning, euphoric piece of music. Temptation - the sheer beauty, unusualness, effervescent energy of this song at that time, cannot be overstated; and the emotionless, timeless dance music of Blue Monday and the many textured, and hailing modernity at the time, Power Corruption and Lies, an LP that at last, others began to talk about.  


Transformations in sound, that matched me transforming, working, growing. Some friends began to discover this band, and Blue Monday became a track we heard in clubs. Emerging from Joy Division, that comfort, that assurance that I was right, that the world was far from perfect, had transformed into joy, fun, ecstasy, exuberance, meeting my new world with hope. 

In between, overlapping Joy Division and New Order, I had other musical loves, and religious experiences. But Joy Division was the bedrock. A band I never saw, but whose recordings helped me over that transformational, helpless time, to a time when I could try to reinvent me (a process I still struggling with). 

As time went by, I began to leave JD and NO in their sleeves, and life moved on. I hated taking tracks from Unknown Pleasures or Closer and playing them as individual tracks as my experience of them were as acts in an opera. I probably didn't do that dismantling individual songs from the whole, until the late nineties. 

My collection of vinyl diminished as I moved around, and record players fell silent, and CD's and then MP 3's and then streaming became the preferred delivery systems. I lent out albums and 12" Singles I never got back. Still, Closer, (Unknown Pleasures lent to a guy I worked with in a charity shop in Glasgow in the late nineties… A loss I still mourn), Atmosphere, The Peel Sessions, Movement , Ceremony, Everything's Gone Green, Power Corruption and Lies, Blue Monday, Temptation, and a few subsequent albums remain (Low Life being a massive favourite at the time as it coincided with a gorgeous summer, an Ibiza holiday that went wrong, and a girl). 

I now return, occasionally, to JD's two beautiful, stark, life changing albums, but still on my own. They are mine, not to share (it felt weird when my wife began to discover New Order, and she loves Love Will Tear Us Apart, but isn't interested in Unknown Pleasures or Closer, thank goodness). They are my temple music. My transformation music. My first real, deep and true private, selfish, secular religious experience. 

Music that always feels like tentative, nervous, needed change; one where I walk out of an old, torn, battered, skin. 

Monday, 23 November 2020

A Potted History of Coffee and Me

My coffee is always black. I grind the beans every morning, and have two large cups of whatever bean I have in the cupboard. I'm drinking an Italian blend at present, which is smokey, choclatey and with a superb balance of sweet and bitter tones . Occasionally I'll buy the already ground stuff. This is the result of, after being brought up on sixties and seventies cuisine, the cuisine that built the empire and then sunk it again,  finding out since the eighties that I have things called tastebuds.

And nowadays real coffee is as common as builders, tea (which I have also drank, stewed in a teapot on a gas ring, whilst shivering in a dusty, muddy, raucous temporary building on a few building sites in my life... After lifting flag stones, mixing cement or priming planks, those sandwiches washed down by strong tea really did always taste better than any three course meal).

At my current work, I drink black tea, or at lunchtime nip out to the local drive through Starbucks, which serves coffee that is head and shoulders above the odd brown, dishwater like stuff we used to get in cafés and kitchens in this country.

Except, of course, for the milky coffees Italian cafés used to serve. We had two of those in Banbridge, Fuscos's and Scappaticci's, who also served amazing Ice cream. Fusco's had incredible murals, on the walls - scenes of Mr Fusco's old country.
{Mrs Fusco and friend in front of some of tge Majestic Café murals} 

 Jovial, friendly, proud Mr Fusco, dressed in his white or grey cotton over coat, mixed the ice cream with ash precariously hanging off the end of the feyg balanced between his lips ... Smoking wasn't part of the rigourous health and safety regime he went through as he approached closing time. Cigarettes were part of being human. An appendage as important as a finger or a nose, or a good cup of frothy, milky coffee. If some of that ash ended up on your plate, you pushed it uncomplaining, to the side of your plate.
Some of my early memories are going in to Fusco's with mum, after shopping, having proper chips with vinegar and that chippy vinegary tomato sauce, and then an icecream float or knickerbocker glory while studying the scenes of Italy on the walls. I didnt know Fusco other than from the other side of his always friendly counter, but I went to his funeral with my dad, as he was part of my childhood and teenaged years. A decent, welcoming, friendly man who kept a great café. 


{Mr Angelo Fusco and Mrs Rosa Forte Fusco

Scappaticci's had great chips, icecream (though not just as good as Fusco, though close) and a juke box. These things mattered. Large coffee chains, play piped, coffee shop music, and all have a degree of interior design that reminds you you are in plastic Seattle, but have neither beautiful murals, or a jukebox that ranges from punk to Jim Reeves. We need another Italian invasion like the one that brought us Mr Fusco, and the Scappaticci's. 

I was thinking about the years I worked in  Down Shoes (Lotus Shoes, or as we referred to it, "The Shoe Factory). I used to drink this stuff out of a machine which was called "coffee" according to the button you pressed after inserting the proper change. Ten cups of it a day. Going to the machine, which was by a wall and two doors that intersected the Bottoms section, the Assembly, the Closing room, the offices and the Shoeroom, was an excuse to get away from the desk. And I suppose I was addicted to the stuff. It may not have tasted anything like the coffee I know of as coffee today, but they had, in the process of making the stuff that went in to the machine, managed to keep the caffiene in. Basically it was hot, brown and it had a taste that if someone had have said to me was essence of rotting wood, I would have had no good reason not to believe it. If someone, on their turn to go to the machine, bought you tea by mistake, it was difficult to taste the difference. Tea didn't taste like tea either. It was probably less rotten rotting wood. I remember the price rising to a round ten pence... We were outraged (remember those days when you'd have a ton of loose change in your pocket ?). Our water cooler moments were at this brown stuff dispenser, and I met at least three girls there I went on to have a fling with, once I knew what time their "line" had a break. And on Saturday morning overtime days, the morning after the Friday night before, it was a hangover cure. Not an amazingly brilliant one. Not one you'd swear by, but one into which you'd pump a good quid of that overtime. 

At home, when I lived with mum and dad, the coffee of choice was Maxwell House, or Douwe Egberts Gold. Those where the days when I drank milk. Drinking these odd almost inaccurate facsimiles of coffee black, really is not far from that strange brew back in the eighties and early nineties from that machine we slagged off, but really was a rotting pearl of joy in our long factory days.

Why don't we have taste museums? The development of what became coffee, really has happened in my lifetime, though before the invention of instant, surely people drank the real stuff? Its an extraordinary devolution of a beautifully rich, and luxurious drink (before my lifetime), and then its re-emergence (during my lifetime) is a history much more important than that of the much studied and discussed Classic Coke, New Coke thing. It really must have its origin in a consumer culture focused on price and speed rather than quality and factory, reconstituted, easy packed and stored mass production. Imagine classes of children tasting little thimbles of Shoe Factory caffienated  rotting wood, moving on to Mellow Birds or Camp and then an expresso from an amazing italian blender? Every morning I'm glad to be on the other side of the odd history of coffee in the industrial UK as I drink the best part of my breakfast.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

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Saturday, 21 November 2020

Knockout.


This damp, narrow alleyway has not changed one tiny iota since I was a child. It lies on the opposite side of Banbridge, from the streets I grew up in, safe, happy and surrounded by love. 

It lies opposite my friend's childhood house.

This alleyway has gone a long way in defining me as an adult and informing me as a teacher. 

I think I was around 15. School for me at that time had become more bearable. I had worked out after a few years, how to avoid people who were, when I look back, troubled, unpredictable. Their hangouts were predictable … Where they sat in the morning before school started, where they went at lunchtime, where they played /hung out during down time. 

I'd worked out routes between classes that took me away from them… Sometimes longer routes that meant I arrived out of breath, late, to the safe anger of a teacher. And my friends and I had drummed up the courage to go to teachers and the school management team to ask for help from the constant fear. I don't recall what was done by them in reaction, though. 

I compartmentalised my life. School was where bad things happened, randomly. Home and my after school, weekend and holiday time was a different life, where I had predictable, fun, friends and a really wonderful, loving family. Sometimes when I suffered abuse in school, when I was reduced to tears, the tears were about this division. If only these people could see how great my family were, and how cool my friends were, they wouldn't want to do these things to me. Eventually this was to become me finding ways to be, safely, as random as them. A rebellion that took me to the same dives and gable end cans of beer, boozing where they were. And I developed a stinging, judgemental wit, that although funny, ironic, mocking when in a crowd, made me feel bad. I still sometimes get memory flashes of this past behaviour and cringe. 

I also took my frustrations out on someone, beating him up, when I was about 12 years old. It led to me being thrown down concrete stairs in school,as he was a friend of one of the most unpredictable of the people who, for what ever reason, hated me. I met the victim at a festival once, while watching a band. We stood for ages talking about what we were doing- I  was working in a factory office, he was an accountant in Dublin. He introduced his girlfriend, I introduced mine, and then I shouted an apology over the noise of the band, because I had hated myself for seven years for the eruption of fury I had directed at him. He told me not to worry, and at nineteen, I had to hold back tears. To this day I don't know why I went for him. It really was no fault of his. But I think the rage of being absolutely stressed was channelled at him that rainy day. My powerlessness was vented in power over this boy. 

And that has been a huge factor in my life ever since. If I am consistently attacked, verbally (adults don't tend to push people they don't like through windows, or pick a fight after school for the fun of it), my feelings sit bubbling behind a smile, and then eventually erupt. I try hard nowadays to let people know how I feel, and unions over the years have been this amazing thing that either can step in, or the use of which can be waved in front of the power abuse. Anyway, I haven't seen him since that mid eighties late night summer, less than sober meeting, and I wish I could. I'm not wanting forgiveness. I'm wanting to apologise for something that was not his fault at all. Have a real discussion about it and how my random shittiness impacted on his life at that time. 

Having to pull your trousers down in front of a teacher is deeply disturbing. I was pushed through a window as I tried to dodge one of the unpredictable group's game outside the Art room. He wasn't a huge tormentor, his brother however, was. At the beginning of this year, after my dad died, during the week leading up to his funeral, my mum and I were in a shop, when the brother walked in. As an adult, I've always confronted this guy, not with the torture he put me through, but with a kind of change of heart on my side. For a few years after we left school I dreamed of kicking him senseless. On two occasions, I came close to going for him. But I have sat and had a pint with him (in my late twenties) and exchanged pleasantries. He's obviously damaged. I know some of his childhood story, and it wasn't pleasant. But his lashing out from pressures he felt as a child led him to do horrendous things on people, including beating up a guy because his family were well off; and riding over his head with his motorbike. The guy survived, and his family pressed charges. I am not sure what happened in court. This behavior among a large group of young people, was justified, and he was heroised. Abuse and violence really was seen as heroic, and funny, in my school. That was my impression as people cheered on beatings and abuse. It's no wonder really that some members of these groups went on to take part in horrendous sectarian torture and kilings; their miserable, disgusting actions heroised on gable walls. 

He stood in the queue in front of me. I've met him a lot, especially when I lived in Ireland (I lived in the same town for the first 27 years of my life). I never confront him when he's drunk. Well, I did once and tied him in knots with sarcasm, irony etc, as we stood in a park drinking as teenagers before going to clubs or pubs. The last time I'd seen him was in a chippy, late at night circa, 2011,and he was pissed out of his skull and was abusing young guys in the queue for being, well, happier and healthier and more balanced than he was. None of them crumpled like I had in school. He didn't physically lash out. He just drunkenly abused them, laughing at his own insults. Sounding every bit like the right wing, violent shit I'd known at school, but now in a middle aged body. This guy who proudly wore nazi badges and UVF badges as a young teenager, flashing them at us with pride. And the young guys, tall, athletic, laughed at him and dismissed him as the old, drunken loud mouth he was. He didn't recognise me that night, in the queue, and I remember hoping he wouldn't, because I may not have been as understanding as the young guys who treated him as the idiot he was. And I didnt have to say anything in the shop earlier this year. But I really never want to back down from confronting him. Smiling at him. Showing him, I'm OK. So I said hello, and he looked surprised as he stood there in the queue. Seemingly genuinely happy to see me. My mother said, loudly, "what are you speaking to him for?" knowing some of the hell this guy put me through. We went back to the car, and my wife was sitting in the passenger seat, and I pointed him out to her… and he waved , smiling at me again. And I felt sorry for him, and at the same time, I loathed him for what he had done to me. And I knew, looking at him, he was still the same mentally tortured, unpredictable person he was. Yet, he had welcomed the fact I said hello. 

The game in the corridor, as I remember it, seemed to be chasing each other, but pushing as many people to the ground or to the floor as they could as they went. I pushed myself against the wall, and seeing that that would not be enough as I was me, the guy with the big target on my clothing, on my face, hovering above me. I sat up on the windowsill, which was about waist high for me. And as I shuffled up, out of the way, he ran towards me and gave me an almighty shove and I went arse first through the window. I pushed myself forwards so I didn't fall right through, and I lay face down on the corridor. I don't remember the sequence of events, but I was questioned, driven to hospital, where I was examined (I had cut the top of my leg) and a nurse invited my teacher to inspect the cut as i stood bare arsed behind the curtain. The next time I was shoved at a window, in a door in the school, I made sure noone told on the person who did it, and I wasn't taken to hospital. The breakage was put down to someone accidentally hitting it with a school bag on the way past.

I could go on about different incidents. Like someone I counted as a friend telling me he had to beat me up after school because the shits in the class were goading him that he wouldn't beat me in a fight; he gave an apology before he basically nearly strangled me  and buried my face in dirt; or the amount of times I had to fend off another of their targets for the same thing, or the time when I was placed at a table in French with a group of them and girls they hung around with and became a target for an hour, regarding their perception of my sexuality, looks, my family etc, basically verbally tortured for an hour solid at eleven or twelve years old, to the point of tears. Or the many times I was left in the street outside the school knackered after trying to fend off a beating. Or the time one of them nearly broke my leg on a sponsored walk. I limped in pain for days. As I sit here, lots of awful memories come back to me. Worse ones. Lesser ones. 

I dredge up suppressed memories of incidents a lot now. I suppressed a lot of this over the years, knowing only I hated school. I hated certain people. And coming to the realisation a lot of who I became after the relief of that last day in Banbridge High School in 1982, was because of the fact I had to spend my days surviving. I left with virtually no qualifications… I had went from being top in the class in the early years, to failure, because I excelled at survival by the time I reached fourth year. 

What did the adults do? This was in the seventies and early eighties… Attitudes were different. I don't remember teachers doing a lot. Though perhaps inviting me and my friend to do things like the lights for the school plays, building scenery etc, might have been attempts to take me out of these classes and give me a more positive feeling about school. I have good memories… I forced myself to remember, because when I left that last day, it became a closed box of negativity for years. I loved art, writing stories, the school plays and learning how to develop photos. And, I loved the trip to London, and the trip to Wales. And some teachers felt like allies. Most didn't though. And when my parents found out things (I didn't tell them) they acted. Dad took me in the car to find someone who tormented me. Actually he wasn't the worst, but he was the one from that day. And dad knew his dad, shouted at him, and told his dad. The guy met me years later and told me that that had changed his life. He became a teacher and, I hope, recognises bullying and deals, with it. I used the same tactic on a guy who had bullied my son over a period of years. We had tried everything, from talking to the parents, to going to the schools. But it didn't seem to make any difference. I rolled the car window down and told him if he touched my son again I'd rip his f***ing head off. His family phoned the police who came to our door and told me to phone them if it ever  happened again. I would not advise that approach at all. But my response really was one driven by the awful feelings anyone being bullied dredge up. 

I had set out to write about the alleyway in the photo above. 

I was, as I say, fifteen. And it was a Saturday. A beautiful, bright summer, teeshirt weather day. I remember cycling the mile through the town, down the hill through the worlds oldest underpass, freewheeling to my friend's house. I met him at the bottom of the steep hill to where he lived. I'm not sure what our plan was, but I was just glad to be out and about. As we spoke, three guys came over to us. Two were brothers I recognised from school, the other guy, i didn't. But I recognised his manner, his tone, his threat. He grabbed the handlebars of my bike. 

"Give us a go on your bike" 

That's what I remember. I think there may have been the pretence at conversation before that. I wasn't from this part of town, and I recognised my friends tone. One of conciliation. One of, "joke, but not too far," with these guys. 

He wouldn't let the handlebars go. I remember thinking, 'this isn't fair. I go through this torture in that place. This is my time away from this. I don't even know you.' 

The guy kept going on at me for a go on the bike. 

I was shaking. Fear, anger, built up frustration at the target floating above my head. 

"F*** off," I said. It felt good telling someone I didn't know, to get back. To reclaim my space. My mate looked at me in horror. He whispered , "you've picked the wrong guy to say that to, you better go." 

So I sprinted as fast as I could up the hill, and they sprinted after me. I remember cycling through some of the grammar school grounds and then eventually to this alleyway which is opposite my friends house. A blind alleyway. And just as I was about to go around the corner, they appeared. I remember one of them saying, "Aha! Look who it is!" I had no way out. And the guy I didn't know, grabbed my handlebars. 

All I remember was a feeling of the inevitable. Surrender. Powerlessness. Of my safe space- after school, the weekend, crumbling. Its safety a lie. The compartment, the shield crashing to the floor. I don't remember the beating I took, and, I have no idea how long I lay in the alleyway. I have a vague recollection of an old bloke helping me to my feet. And me wheeling my bike over to my mates house, me having no recollection as to why I was there. My friends mum standing in her garden looking concerned as fifteen year old me burst in to tears, not because of the beating, because I couldn't remember it, but because I had no idea how I got there. 

Eventually after about an hour, things started coming back to me. And for about a year, I had three more people to avoid. 

This alley. One I have often thought of. One that appears in nightmares. And one I visited this time last year, and one that after nearly forty years looked exactly the same. One alleyway I confronted when I went over to Ireland to look after my ill dad for a weekend. 



Friday, 20 November 2020

The Morning after the Life Before...

I woke up this morning, around 6am, with a dry mouth, sore head and confused about much of my world. I staggered downstairs, poured a glass of water, and downed another hit, just to get me to the time I could phone in sick to work. I underestimated my ability to stay awake having taken the opioid , and woke again at 8.30am, after odd dreams of fences, and people who spoke freedom while keeping us in a maze of confusion. I grabbed my phone and phoned my boss, who was understanding, and I hung up and drifted into a half sleep, in which I actually thought I was planning my day. 


Mornings akin to this were familiar to me many years ago. The dry mouth, ill feeling and needing to escape the world were introduced to me on the first night I went out drinking with my mates. We stood in a circle, behind the local grammar school and I drank a few cans of lager, hid the rest in a bush for another night and was introduced to The First and Last bar, the first  of many boozers I called "mine." 


The hit of the booze… How I felt … How I was received (or how I felt I was received), the confidence I felt… Was incredible. I really did think, "the power this gives- no wonder adults don't want us to have it. Teenagers with power… Teenagers who can look at people in the eye, and talk on the same level are dangerous!" Of course, this power was me drugging the fearful child, the one who had been kicked unconscious outside the school gates, pushed through school windows, insulted, assaulted and who buried everything they hated under fear, silence , and the ability to compartmentalise "life," and that place. We all cope in different ways. My Jekyll and Hyde, my Nutty Professor elixir was a few beers. A few shorts, a few glasses of wine. 


Alcohol made and defined me in those days. After a pint, or a few shorts (in early days, pernod and black currant), I was confident , funny, unpredictable, happy, free. I managed to pull together enough of a persona, a lie, to have relationships some of which I had to end as the pretence of the confident, constantly witty guy at the pub, club, gig etc was just that. The sober guy was trying to work out how the world worked. In work, at home, I was morose, unhappy, quiet and tried to be invisible. When the Nutty Professor tried to bring the alter ego to the office, he fell flat, a bit of a laugh. So it was best to restrict that unsustainable figure to the pubs and clubs in Banbridge and student unions and nightlife in Belfast, which is what I did. 


Don't get me wrong . There were a few times I could be me. I was me for a couple of years from 1989. And I stayed off the booze for the most part. But I started to miss that cool, confident part time me, and when I went to University, he tried to re-emerge, but being older, or being in a completely different environment, aye, he was wild, drinking when he could, but messing up more. I remember by the end of my first year, when I was 27, I first encountered a new feeling of being exhausted with booze. I stopped drinking for a while, got fit again, but discovered, or rediscovered a drug I had first tried in my late teens but didnt "get." Hash. Mary Jane. Weed. 


And for a full, hazey year I hardly drank. Just now and again when I cut through the smoke and the political, cultural and downright mad stuff me, Kev, Sarah, and others talked. Then came the mixture. Red wine, smoke, and bang… Life changed again. Calimotxo, caffeine, wine smoke. And I grew tired of the long haired, at times manic hippy creature that had emerged. After Uni, I set aside the extra curricular activity of drugs, and concentrated on when, through parenthood, I could get drunk. When could I fit in talking shit, confidently at friends, strangers and bar tenders alike? 


But that dry mouth, sick feeling; that need to knock back something to be that guy really was annoying real, submerged me. 

Scotland, like Ireland, has a drink culture. Drink is acceptable, excused, as is being a loud, confident drunk. You can have regrets, and people will tell you not to worry, "as you were just drunk." Alcoholism is encouraged on our media and by friends who like a swally. But I was realising that the me I was suppressing was not being allowed to grow. And I was beginning to loathe Mr Confident, and the awful effects of the drug that produced him, on my body.

So here I sit, in a coffee shop, in the last few hours running up to the latest covid lockdown , fuelling my only addiction, a little bit high on codeine because of the awful discoveries the dentist made in my mouth and for over an hour tried to put right yesterday. 

I understand how and why codeine is addictive, but the reminder this morning of Mr Confident's mornings after the wild night (or day, or weekend, or week, or in the case of one particular summer, two months) before, is a sobering one. 

I used to say for years after quitting alcohol (eight years ago) that I have never said never again. I'm not sure if there are circumstances that would bring me back to that warm, but destructive, glow of the first few sips, when Mr Uncertain, Mr Uncool, Mr Unconfident, The Nutty Professor, Dr Julius Kelp became Buddy Love, Mr Confident, The Irish Hippy, Mr Unafraid. 

Im addicted to being afraid, or hiding, but pushing myself to emerge now and again. To grow in a way those first few sips of lager stopped me from going beyond the fearful 17 year old who wanted a potion to help him shout back at the world. And I find myself at times , unfolding and meeting the world as me.


Thursday, 19 November 2020

Creeping Conspiracy: The Left and Antivaxxers

I'm finding it quite sad watching left comrades fall down holes of conspiracy theory. I do feel a lot of this has to do with simplifying complex issues for leaflets, slogans and tabloid like articles that delve no further than to try to create some sort of activity through anger and fear. There was a time I could, wrongly in retrospect, turn a blind eye to this stuff (ie when i was ensconced within a political entity that i was trying to help build... I did have doubts then, but like many, I got caught up in the building rather than the minutea of what was going on in order to build). 

The proliferation of vaccine doubters and antivaxx folk, from the left, is a case in hand. I remember the debates around the autism scare back in the noughties in the Scottish Socialist Party. They were often ill informed, and based on nothing but fear and decontextualised, isolated pieces of information, and at times, very skewed and misread data.
I do think this highlights the ongoing issues within the organised, small, left groups. Encouraging suspicion of systems and news sources , and academia, seems to have become a part of SOME peoples activism. These are traits of the far right. Socialism, really should be based on all data, and outliers should totally be dismissed as outliers when studying data. Beliefs and suspicions and conspiracy with NO BASIS really need to be discarded from our discourse.

2020 Gob.

What a selfish thing, intense pain is. I really have so much admiration who live with chronic pain daily.

I have an abcess. I've  had an abcess before, and abcesses are bloody painful. But, the pain I have had in my gob, for the past twelve or so hours, has been the most intense pain I think I've ever had. No pain relief has worked, - paracetamol 500, ibrobruphen 400, usually dulls this sort of pain for me... Not this time. Relating this pain to people, ie my wife, my work and my dentist, is, I find, pretty difficult. Describing pain as, "this is the most intense pain I've ever suffered," is on a scale of my pain.

Why haven't humans developed a way to pass on descriptions of pain through touch? "This is how I feel... "
"Ah. That is a very intense pain. Here are the exact drugs you need for that."
Even when I fell and broke three vertebrae, yes the pain was excruciating , but i was able to sleep that night after pain meds. Cracking my ribs, same. Broken fingers and toes; slept like a log. Previous abscess, same. This abcess, which is painful in itself, has spread from the upper  jaw to the bottom one... And that pain is really like no other I've ever had. This pain- no sleep last night. At least our wee, old, anxious dog benefitted from company as I lay on a seat beside him in the livingroom all night, unable to do anything but concentrate on the sword driven and twisted through my jaw and skull.

I will be at the dentist at two. I'm not sure why I'm looking forward to this so much, other than I hope she prescribes raw morphine, injected directly into my jaw, or something similar. I've never looked forward to a dental visit. When I arrive, I imagine I'll sing. I'll dance. I'll praise all of the pantheons on high or below. Inside my own selfishly sore head.

Edit: Well, I went to the dentist and after a lot of x-raying, testing, injecting, drilling, filling, etc, I found out it WASN'T an abcess, but nerve damage caused by an old old filling impacting on a nerve and also infection on said nerve. This pain then travelled around my jaw. I usually hate when they freeze your mouth, but the relief of it was incredible as it froze the nerve that was damaged and my whole jaw seemed to return to normal.

So, cautious hope that with the work that was done, painkillers and antibiotics, I'm going to get some sleep tonight.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Who is thine enemy?

There is a very interesting (really!) thread on Scottish Left Forum at the moment, in which members are saying what they see themselves as. What labels they slap on their various experiential , educational, moral and political person. 

I've said, "I'm a revolutionary socialist." I do so with caveats … I'm not about a singular philosophical divergent branch of anything.


 I see truths, in many philosophical branches that  diverge towards platonic thought, I suppose, like most. I ask "why?" when others say something I at first glance disagree with, and I reset if I'm persuaded that a particular analysis has been wrong. This happens on occasions. 

If I feel, or can see evidence for abysmal analysis that seems to be being carried without thought, I challenge it. I loathe many of those who seek power, or get in to politics just to seek power or have a career- they really do warp, slither and slide and Teflon shoulder and wreck lives to reach their goals. Most of these people are narcissists. 

I'm not part of any sectarian group or thought (never have been) . I feel the left groups have disintegrated into dogma built by some of the post 1968 "new left" heroes (and coat-tail followers) , and 1980's/'90's groupings that are reluctant to give up power and have ensured new thinking and analysis is squashed, or derided. 

It really isn't just a linguistic wrongness- ie. using old slogans and 19th century words to describe complex and modern systems (which, along with using terms that were sloganised in the nineties that have been usurped by the right, do not help). Its the whole root and branch of how policy etc is built. The groups and prominent people (mostly men, but not exclusively), find it impossible to say, "we got that previous 'scientific marxist dialectical analysis' wrong, lets take another look," and instead they warp their wrongheadedness into why they were right, and build on that. Its a problem that all political entities have from right to left. But the organised left are drowning in it at present. 

My absolute hope is for a programme that is centred on the conditions we find ourselves in NOW and is flexible enough to be steered as those conditions change that socialists can get on board with in order to come together and debate other issues that really do divide us (eg internationally like the strange allegiances of some with the ultra capitalist Russia, the totalitarian capitalist, China and the genocidal Assad). A proper analysis would see a clear out at The Morning Star, Jacobin and others (who in these times see the enemy through a 1850's, 1910's, 1930's, and a 1990's to 2008 lense- subsequent conditions are analysed through wrong turns, at those times) as centrist rather than fascist, right wing and right wing populist. At this moment of time, some organised groups on the left seem to think centrism is society's enemy and that it is out to get 'US' in particular. This in the face of a defeated Trump, reportedly planning a media organisation to tge right of Fox, driving through a crowd he has rallied of racist, far right and fascist fans and giving the thumbs up. And a fascist President, urging on attacks of antifa and incredibly a few days after remembrance days, condemning anti fascists in no uncertain terms. 


You'd think, though, that the left could aspire to be different . Centrists at present, like Ahern in New Zealand and Sturgeon here in Scotland, are attempting to show how decisions are made and that aye, we can be wrong and change course. This is creating trust. Holding on to wrongness and denying wrongness and building on wrongness is really helping destroy the left from within. It makes the left easy to attack from the right who now use the same slogans (neo liberalism, elites, 1% and other meaningless  stuff we really should eject).

There is a fear in new young people on the left to be "wrong," as anything said outside dogma is crushed and derided. The left really us an awful cul de sac to be in at the moment that needs a huge overhaul.


Saturday, 14 November 2020

On UBI and the "Left."

I've seen conversations on this topic across the left over the past couple of years, the most recent one had its own graphs that actually made no sense, but some "revolutionaries," were using them to "prove" that UBI would be a setback for "the class," and their "revolution." Complete pish, in other words .

The left I once hoped to be part of in a united front, really over the past decade from Syria, through Labour Party shenanigans, through Brexit and the American elections (and reaction to Biden's uniting campaign that took down a (at the very least proto) fascist, to name a *few* things, has been horrific. The now bouncing from, "Look at what Sawant did in Seattle; dont vote for Biden," to, "Look. AOC (who campaigned wholeheartedly for the Biden/Harris ticket) is also saying she's annoyed at moves to exclude the left from government positions ," shows

1 a disengenuousness borne on a contrarian analysis, rather than a socialist one and

2 the swinging weathervane approach Tony Benn used to speak about.

Its a left that now seems to just dip in to a dogma created through years if an inability to truly reflect on campaigns and policies and analysis and slogans that get it wrong... Each wrong turn building into worse and worse analysis.

Anyway, these revolutionaries are now turning their ire on UBI. There is tonnes of research being done on UBI across the world. REAL research that actual professionals working in the field can quote (Google is your friend). This is an answer i made on the conversation at present, floating around Facebook, which is as i said, illustrated by terrible graphs.

"UBI's most important plus point for socialists really is, in my opinion, what it SAYS to everyone. It tells us, "this place belongs to you, here is a payment from your country to you for being a valuable citizen [nb, the LEVEL of payment is what we should be fighting for]".

It treats everyone as equals. All equal citizens, equally valuable. And a good set level of ubi payment means people can, like we were able to in the past before the tories started dismantling the welfare system, THINK for a while about how we want to contribute to society.

UBI really is projected to increase social mobility, something that is virtually non existent in the uk - a place where it was quite high for the boomer generation. UBI could really stimulate social mobility.

There are some left voices who dont like it because it thwarts the revolution they have been planning in their branch meetings of five or six people in a few places across the country.

Reform that tells us we have a right to the country's wealth, really does, psychologically, go towards creating revolutionaries.

I urge you to seek out the research by the late Ailsa Mackay on this . And the more recent research by public health scotland and others."

{Ailsa Mackay

Friday, 13 November 2020

Dreaming about Blondie

It was a particular kind of contrarian who used to say they didn't like Blondie. It was like not liking salt and vinegar crisps. Or Galaxy chocolate. Or Bugsy Malone. Or Convoy. But some people hated. It was their job. 

 People in the late seventies loved to be contrary. Loved to think they were ahead of a curve they didn't, of course, give a fuck about. Blondie sold out, was the pish I heard from my The Exploited, Ramones, Crass, Dead Kennedys, Killing Joke loving friends and not so friends. They screamed left wing lyrics in the playground, but I bet all of the contrarians who screamed against the changing world, "Punks Not Dead!" all grew up and voted for the exploiting Brexit. 

 All of the above groups were great, I loved the punk finger held stiff in the direction of all that had come before... It cleared the way for beauty that came after and the thing was, I really couldn't be arsed fitting into some punk, post punk, new wave, indie box. I didnt fit, because as well as all of the above, I loved The Pretenders, Blondie, Abba, Charlie Pride, Toyah, Siouxsie, Glen Campbell, The Slits, The Dubliners, Johnny Cash, The Undertones (You could be contrary to the idiot contrarians and like "rival bands..." later, I got into SLF through their biggest fan in Banbridge, County Down, Roger Moorhead.). 

I loved a lot of New Wave stuff, at the time. I knew the singles, but Eat to the Beat and Parallel Lines were introduced to me by Alex Adamson. Amazing albums. And Debbie suddenly replaced the comic characters on my bedroom wall. 🖕
 

Friday, 30 October 2020

No Love Lost

Japan, The Associates and Joy Division were the first groups that felt were MY groups.  I couldn't afford to buy loads of vinyl, so I collected The Associates and Japan's stuff on tape- borrowing albums from the local library, but buying all of JD's available stuff. This decision was as much to do with the emotions generated as it was financial. The Associates and Japan had, of course, weight. Their stuff was symphonic poetry... Beauty. But jesus kruschev, man, JD had weight in every chord, word, syllable, and record sleeve. They were art, politics, the working class voice of post industrial, crumbling Britain in many ways. To me.

And Curtis spoke of the inner self like no one else I had heard, as a young teenager. This stuff spoke of - and to- the world.

In a lot of ways, I was seen as a bit wild, out of control, when I was a teenager. I worked 9-5...but disapeared from mainstream life in my room with my records and tapes, and at times, when I needed some kind of way out of here, from Friday evening to Sunday night, physically, and mentally to pubs, clubs, couches, strange beds, floors and other unsuitable places that were not mine.  But I really believed the world should change. I just had no clue how that could be done, and I had a load of baggage I had to wade through before I could think beyond myself. Alcohol really helped me escape my shit, as did other stuff (I had a love hate relationship with alcohol, that sometimes turned to total hate, and I went for bursts without it... Sometimes, replacing it with other addictions like exercise or mary jane). But music really was my drug- an addiction that has never left . And like alcohol and other drugs, it really took me on emotional and physical trips - and like my need for  alcohol to help me escape and be my much more confident alterego, I thought music like Joy Division, shouting to the world, would change it. I really did. Music was my movement. My political rally. My branch meeting.

Unknown Pleasures and Closer, although definately late Joy Division, are very different beasts. I'm not going to review them here. And I'm not sure I ever will, because to do so, would seem like exposing the deepest secrets of my family, or something. My relationship with these albums is so personal, I've never played them when my wife is around. They are mine.

When I was young I couldn't get bootlegs, or back catalogues of Joy Division, in their previous guise of Warsaw. These things were rare, and never in record shops in Banbridge or Belfast. But, I heard this track eventually, in the mid eighties.

I have never heard a decent cover of JD... And I don't think I ever will hear one that will make me think I'll play it instead of the original. Well, until someone posted this earlier, in a JD Facebook group. I've never heard of The Distillers, and have thus far listened to two tracks. This one and another filmed at Reading in 2004, when I was too busy detoxing (eventually) and being dad to an eight year old. For all I know, they were the most famous band in the world. 

Anyone want to recommend me any other Distillers tracks? Because this is a decent cover I'll play more than once (I have already) with the energy of the original, done slightly differently.