Friday, July 23, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The heartbroken eight-year-old me, sat in the living room watching Diego Maradona (height: 5’ 5”) fist the ball past the agility-free and rather lackadaisical Peter Shilton (height: 6’1”).
Watching Maradona jink and stumble his way through England’s defence - blissfully unaware of the danger that the little fella would cause some thirty-yards up the pitch. He scored right-footed, which leads some people (me) to suggest it was a Terry Butcher own-goal, but even still, what a goal.
It wasn’t all over, there were still eleven people on the pitch wearing white shirts and sky-blue shorts. John Barnes came on for one of them, and crossed from the left to find Gary Lineker. 2-1! He did the same thing again, moments later, but Lineker couldn’t put it away.
Heart truly shattered, I went to bed, no doubt clutching my wad of ‘swaps’ – Panini Mexico ’86 stickers I already had duplicates of stuck wonkily into my album – that went with me everywhere. Not forgetting to turn off the radio, which had been playing the match commentary quietly - but just loud enough so that my little sister wouldn’t know that I’d been allowed to stay up late watching telly.
This was the first year I was aware of video recorders. A boy in my class at primary school, Wayne, his grandparents had a video recorder, and they had taped the first Scotland game for him. ‘Don’t tell me the score’ he probably pleaded with us. It was obvious though, Scotland lost, to Denmark, who were amazing and beat everyone. Well, until they had to play Spain and got trashed. Denmark had this amazing kit too, but I suggest you read about the amazing Danes of '86 here.
Bryan Robson was my favourite player then. Captain Marvel, they called him, skipper of both club and country. Got crocked in the second game, a tired affair with Morocco. Ray Wilkins, who had left the Manchester United midfield for foreign climes before I started watching football, got sent off. The third group game, against Poland, wow. This lad who’d scored a veritable shed-load of goals for Everton, Gary Lineker, up he pops to bag a hat-trick. Brilliant. Little chap called Beardsley tees them up for him, and we’re through!
Scotland meanwhile, oh deary me. I get out the bath and run downstairs. I've missed the first minute of their crucial World Cup decider against Uruguay. Oh blimey, a Uruguayan’s been sent off. That’s good news, 88 minutes to break down this defence. And Scotland have got Souness, and he’s a right hard bastard. We know this, me and my friends, because on one of our World Cup wallcharts, there’s this picture of Souness with a skinned knee, like ours were. And he hadn’t gone crying to his mum or nothing, he played on.
Souness wasn’t even on the bench. Neither was McAvennie, one of the top scorers in English football that season. They’d already lost to Denmark and Germany, and their shocking inability to break down the dirtiest team I’d ever seen meant they were on their merry way home.
Northern Ireland, if memory serves me right, they got a full plate of cold revenge from the Spanish side that they beat at the previous tournament. Brazil then smacked home a few goals past Pat Jennings to stick them on a plane home to what would presumably become George Best International Airport.
There was an amazing goal, me and my friends at school, we’d never seen anything like it before (we were 8, dammit). Manuel Negrete of Mexico. It was in the first knock-out round. Here is the video that I’ve just managed to find. Words fail me.
England beat Paraguay at this stage, I remember loving Paraguay’s kit. Red and white striped shirts, blue shorts, white socks. No-one wore those colours in English football, and I just loved how it worked. Obviously Atletico Madrid wear this kit, but we barely had English football on TV, let alone Spanish matches...
Then along came Argentina. The Hand of God and the boot of Butcher. Ho-hum.
France losing to Brazil on penalties, that was harsh too. Taffarel, the Brazilian ‘keeper, committed an atrocious foul on a French attacker, it was nearly up there with the GBH the German goalie had committed on France’s Battison only four years previous. And for Michel Platini, the best player in the world, for him to miss a penalty in the shoot-out, devastating.
And after all that, the Argentina won, beating West Germany. It’s always a little more rewarding to know that the team who bested you, were unbeatable. A recognition of deservedness. God lifted up that trophy high above Mexico City, and a voice called out, ‘Jamie, it’s time for bed’. I was only eight: it was probably past my bedtime and I had school in the morning.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A micro-dialogue by me.
"No, it’s not that simple. The thing you have to remember is that it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. It only matters that you have conviction in what you’re saying, what you’re arguing. The accuracy of facts, the veracity of your statements, facts can be created and manipulated, quotes reassigned and invented after the event. Just go out there and say it like every word is the truth. Go out there and say it like every word that that smug bastard is saying is poison, say it like every word that Sloane Square Oxbridge Trust Fund cunt is saying is a personal affront, not just to you but to the audience in the studio, and the people at home. Because if you believe in what you say, even if it’s misattributed or misquoted, or just plain made-up, if you convince that audience of your belief, then you are selling honesty, integrity: by virtue, you are an honest man, with integrity. And then you win the election – ‘cos everyone thinks the honest politician is a gift from god, a messiah, a shoe-in, regardless of his policy. Look at Christianity, Judaism, all the made-up religions. They all say the same thing, be nice, believe in God, don’t lift a finger on the Holy Day, givvus yer fooking money – yet they are all at war with each other, purely because of the misappropriated faith and belief of their followers, the faith and belief in a description of god from 2000-odd years ago that they think is the right one. If we can garner a tenth of that belief in you, We don’t need policy, consultation, consensus, compromise – just your face on the billboards. Believe what you think you know. Believe."
Monday, July 12, 2010
A 300 word piece of micro-fiction. By me.
He filled the kettle, watched as it boiled, made a coffee. He didn’t actually watch it, his life wasn’t quite that desperately dull. He did notice the blue light, the bubbles behind the translucent plastic getting more excited, but he didn’t watch it boil. While it was boiling, he spooned two spoonfuls of coffee and three of sugar into his mug. He opened the cupboard door, the cupboard with the savoury staples, the pasta, the rice. He closed it quickly, after realising there was nothing he could instantly consume.
Neither had he filled the kettle, not completely, anyway. His mother had drummed into him that he should only boil the amount of water that he needed. The kettle manufacturer stated that there was a two-cup minimum (500ml). He contemplated measuring the cost of extra electricity of boiling 250ml of extra water each time he used the kettle, and comparing it with the cost of a replacement kettle, but he had no idea how many under-filled boils it would take to damage the kettle irrevocably, maths was never his strong-point, and his life wasn’t that desperately dull, so he just boiled somewhere between one and two cups at a time.
But the two-cup rule; the large tins of beans and tomatoes and tuna that were always better value than the smaller ones, which meant that he had to overeat or refrigerate, then forget, and then throw away the remains; the comfort of having someone to talk to, to hold, to touch: the lack of someone to share his days and nights with did make his life considerably duller, and emotionally poorer. Whether it made his life financially poorer, (single person council tax deductions aside), he didn’t know, as he had yet to replace his kettle, and maths was never his strong-point.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
A long, long time ago, I went to University. It was a disaster. Fresh with A’s in English and General Studies A-Level, and D’s in Politics and History, I went to Swansea University to read... you got it, Politics. Only when I got there, they had changed the course. So instead of pure Politics, you had to choose additional subjects in the first year. Unperturbed, I elected to take two History modules and one in American Studies. At this point I can see you shaking your head, thinking to yourself: why Jamie, why did you not change to do an English degree? I know, right?
So yeah, that was a huge mistake. I thought I knew it all, based on the first few lectures in each subject. Because, actually, I did. I’d taken Politics and History at GCSE and A-Level, I knew the basics. At no point did I think it would get harder. Well, I probably did, but by that point a self-assured apathy had already set in. Along with all the other standard problems faced by a teenager with depression and a naïve take on life-skills, living in a strange new city with new people and all that. I couldn’t control my depression, my inability to sleep at night, my inability to get out of bed before the afternoon. I couldn’t manage my time, my (ie. my parents' & Student Loan Company’s) money, to turn up to lectures. I was homesick.
I lasted nearly two years, and then because of being ill I started to re-sit my second year. But trapped in a vicious circle of needing a student loan to pay my course fees, not being able to get a student loan without registering for the new year, and not being able to register without being able to make the payment, I fell out. I dropped out. I was advised to go. I got right the fuck out...
So anyway, knowing that I’d always regret it otherwise, about three years ago I enrolled in the Open University, to read for a BA in Literature (finally picking the right course). And it’s great. The first year was the compulsory course An Introduction To The Humanities (no longer available) – a little bit of literature, art, music, history, theatre, architecture, history of science, all bases covered. The OU has a policy that you’re not allowed to name your tutors, a policy that I will keep. However my first tutor turned out to be a record producer that I had always wanted to work with, and I did, just not in the way I’d hoped for when I was still playing in bands. The final project, on the counter-culture movement of the ‘Long Sixties’ was so enjoyable.
After the first year, it’s a free-for all, you just have to pick courses in the English department which count towards your degree. I next took An Introduction To Literature (the only other mandatory course) – which covers authors such as Shakespeare, Aphra Benn, Austen, Dickens, Mary Shelley, Byron, Ibsen, Turgenev and so many more. I have never felt so exhilarated by the books studied on this course, even though I had read many of them before. I guess reading them in context with other comparative works (Literature and Gender, The Realist Novel, The Romantics) gave fresh perspectives on familiar writing.
And now I’m waiting patiently for two things – the mark from my Creative Writing course that I have recently finished (ETA I hope sometime in August), and the start of my Advanced Creative Writing course in September/ October-ish time. That’s kinda why I’ve started this blog really, one of the reasons anyway. Keep the old typing fingers and ickle grey cells ticking over. And if I write something I like, then it’ll go up, like the short story below that I wrote on Friday.
So yeah, I’m more than happy at the Open University, with its online discussion forums/ tutorials and CD/ DVD lectures. I don’t have to meet with or talk to anyone if I don’t want to, which I was in no state of mind to do so when I started. But the confidence it’s given me is unreal. Let me explain about that first paragraph. My English A-Level had a coursework component, in which I got virtually full-marks. Neither the Politics or the History courses did, which meant it was all down to the exam. I’m shit at exams. Dreadful. My memory isn’t amazing, I get what I now know are panic attacks (I had no idea what they were then), and I get stressed. Very stressed. I have been known to just walk out and get the bus home.
So despite being really actually quite good at Politics and History, I was doomed to fail, and exams at Uni were just as bad due to my now self-fulfilling exam-phobia. But now, thanks to the study advice from my second tutor, a wonderful poet living in mid-Wales somewhere, I took an exam, and passed. Hell, I did better than pass – I got a 2:1. And because of that I felt able to go to the physical tutorials on the Creative Writing course, and will go to the tutorials on my next courses as well.
I know a lot of these things I have achieved are because I’ve matured, I’m on the right medication, and most importantly I have an incredibly supportive wife, but I’m still not sure whether I would have been able to achieve what I have within the claustrophobic walls of a ‘brick’ university. So thank you Harold Wilson, Jennie Lee and to a lesser extent, Michael Young (as he is also responsible for giving us Toby Young...) – thank you for setting up a wonderfully supportive, accessible, and truly Open University.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Stephanie says I should get some sleep. Stephanie says a lot of things. On this occasion, for once, Stephanie is right. I can feel my eyes straining, I’m running on the stale stench of dried alcohol and perspired adrenaline. But as ever with Stephanie’s bold statements and personal judgements, the timing could be better. Like when she told Mischa she should just chill-out and have a fucking laugh once in a while, the day after Mischa’s boyfriend dumped her.
We’re stuck at the train station, we’ve missed the last train home until tomorrow morning. People freeze on railway station platforms. I would sleep but for the shivering, for the cauterizing cold, the night-frost tearing and pinching at my muscles. The more I think about it, the more my teeth chatter and my jaw starts to ache. The bench we’re sitting on is turning to ice. People freeze to death on benches. People spontaneously combust on benches all the time, Stephanie says.
There’s no buses until morning; and the cost of a cab to home is way beyond the realms of our purses. Fuck, the price of a burger and chips each is out of our icy grasps, let alone a room in a Travelodge or whatever. Warmth is in Stephanie’s front garden, our coats and jeans tucked up safe in a plastic bag, hidden in a hedge – it’s our ploy to avoid her mother and that scalding, scathing, sneering I’m not having you leaving the house looking like prostitutes speech she gives as we try to escape out of the front door.
Do they let you in a Travelodge at three in the morning, anyway? Stephanie asks. Not with two-pound-fifty-seven, half-a-bottle of orange Fanta, 12 B&H and a Boots Advantage card. Still, at least it’s not a school night.
If you have heard of them, follow the link at the bottom of this paragraph. If you haven’t, read on. If you have heard of them and then decide to read on, then please be aware that *some* of this article may not quite be 100% factually correct. But never let that get in the way of a good story, right?
That link in full: http://tinyurl.com/koreshsuperstar
They released an album (their second) this year on their own label – Corporate Records. But unlike most other self-funded indie start-ups, this label has balls. And a highly effective multi-media content distribution system, whatever one of those is.
Eschewing the modern trend of making people pay a prescribed amount of monetary tokenism to purchase the album, The Indelicates’ Songs For Swinging Lovers is available on CD and as a pay-what-the-hell-you-like download. You can pay nothing, which is great if you’ve never heard of them and would like a listen, or if like me, you’ve paid for it but need to download it again on your other computer. And as any marketer knows, you get the punters in with a free download, and then they buy the tee-shirt, the gig tickets, the Ltd. Edition seven inch, the poetry book, and the branded Christmas Fudge. As Catch would say: ‘Bingo!’
Anyways, where was I? Yeah, The Indelicates, that’s right. They’re a two-piece with lots of other band members. Formed in Brighton in 2005, they are fronted by the not-married-but-are-a-couple-who-share-the-same-assumed-name-but-don’t-read-anything-into-that Simon Indelicate and Julia Indelicate – or Jumon or Silia in the ghastly modern-day parlance. The insolent debonair Simon Indelicate grew tired of the Bacchanalian debauchery and rock’n’roll excess (and loose-knit cardigans) of the poetry scene, and hitched his wagon on the sedate, laid back and well-dressed world of... erm... Rock’n’Roll.
Julia was a sometime polka-dot wearing escapee from the once-kinda-cool-yet-now-nothing-but-a-sub-Sugababes-catastrophe that has become the frankly embarrassingly god-awful P*p*tt*s. She had met Simon at one of those slammin’ poetry rhyme-off style events, like in the film 8 Mile, but more British and presumably more polysyllabic and with less mum-cussing. They hit it off, got it on, and formed a band (they formed a band) – although it is lost from the annuls of history in which order these events took place. Maybe they formed a band, then got it on, then realised they actually had a lot in common. Or maybe theirs is a story to be told by Mills and/or Boon at a later date. Maybe I should just twitter them up and ask, but that would be a bit too much like genuine research.
They released a record. Not ‘New Art For The People’, a song which opens with a fella having spilt his seed, Onan style, all up in some wayward coke-whore's hair. This, categorically, is not how Simon and Julia met. They said so in an interview, and I believe near-enough everything I that remember that I think that I've read, especially when I can't find the proof.
They released a record – a rather fine debut single, on Sad Gnome Records, ‘We Hate The Kids’, an attitude shared by most free-thinking people. Certainly Sad Gnome agreed, stumping up the cashmoney to release an Indelicatastic EP with the self-deprecating and not all self-aggrandizing title The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock And Roll. This was quite rather very good too. And a bit of a lie.
The next significant statement to be made in Rock’n’Roll was the news that the Indellytwins had in fact got a record deal. In exchange for some magic beans, a flagon of cider, a promise of some studio-time and the all-important creative control, they signed to Weekender Records. They released three singles with Weekender – ‘Julia, We don’t live in the Sixties’, which not only is a magnificent title but is also factually correct; ‘Sixteen’, which is ace and whistle-y and nicks a line from Don Juan, which is way better than nicking a line from Kate Moss; and ‘America’, which as the title suggest is a love letter to the United States at a time when everyone was hating on our Trans-Atlantic bastard-cousins . In amongst all of that came the quite stunning debut album, American Demo, a record that in terms of lyrical content and musical style is pretty much like most mix-tapes I used to make. Albeit, a mix-tape without the hip-hop tracks I’d stick on to enlighten indie-kids’ minds.
At some point in this timeframe, they wrote and performed and released as a bonus track the song which anyone who is writing about The Indelicates is contractually obliged to write about – ‘Waiting for that fella from that band, what were they called? The Libertines? Yeah, that’s right, Waiting for the fella from the Libertines who is always in the tabloids and in court to die’. Obviously, they didn’t mean it, man, not in that way. It’s not like they had poisoned Pete Doherty (for it is he) slowly, adding a little bit of some dastardly chemical to his soup/ syringes/ alcopops on a daily basis, and were waiting for him to die as a result of their actions. No, they meant it like: this is what the tabloids want, a celebrity death, a celebrity drug death – PICTURES OF HIS DYING MOMENTS ON PAGES 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,&9 IN YOUR SUPER SOARAWAY SUN. Like when Nicky Wire proclaimed he hoped Michael Stipe went the same way as Freddy Mercury – they are voicing the cynical mercenary tabloid opinion that the tabloids themselves are too embarrassed ever to voice themselves.
So, American Demo, an album laced with cynicism and bile and genuine love and misguided affection (‘Unity Mitford’). Beautiful piano solos and arena guitar solos? Hells yeah (‘Stars’). It really is a wonderful, uplifting record, and even the programming of the songs works: the instrumental opening, the big set-piece ending – ‘Thank you and goodnight’. It’s like those albums that you always dreamed of writing when you were a wide-eyed nascent dreamer indie/rock kid, but didn’t have the musical ability, the lyrics, the wherewithal, the drive to make it happen. Well fuck you, ‘cos the Indelicates do. And have done so.
Always aware of the visual possibilities of their music (S-indelicate wrote a musical based on The Book Of Job, you know, out of the bible. It’s called ‘The Book of Job, a musical’) the Indelicates have played with some wonderful imagery. From the pistol-blowjob from the front-cover of their debut single, to the white line of American Demo (as in, which side are you on?) they’ve devoted considerable effort to match the music with the art. Their videos are equally stunning affairs, directed in-house by guitarist Al Clayton and his film-making partner Stuart Laws. From the political rally and news broadcast of ‘Julia...’, the old-peoples home of ‘Sixteen’ to the recent hoe-down tap-dance extravaganza of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and the Taxi Driver homage of ‘Flesh’, The Indelicates have never shied away from the controversial or ridiculous, the shocking or the beautiful (‘New Art...’).
Anyway, there was a recession, an economic meltdown notable for the collapse of a bunch of banks and financial institutions, and the scaling back of Weekender Records. The Indelicates celebrated their freedom from the chains of record company oppression by self-recording and releasing the genius ‘Recession Song’ and Indelicates recession wear ‘value’ rock tee-shirts. Fuck aye.
Then along came Corporate Records, and Songs For Swinging Lovers, recorded in East Berlin, for that authentic socialism-forced-into-capitalism. The result? A slow-burning album of real wit and understanding, intellect and beauty. And now? Well, I refer the honourable reader to the link at the top. The third album, by Britains best-kept secret band, The Indelicates, a David Koresh themed concept album called David Koresh Superstar (sadly not Waco-a-go-go, which I suggested). Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Intellect. Genius.
And here's a sneak preview...