Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bookshelves and Books and Writers 2011

The website is amazing. It's aspirational. And a little bit crazy. So here's what's on mine...

I’ve mainly been reading guilty pleasures of late: football books. Gary Neville's autobiography Red is a sturdy, solid read, not especially exciting, but dependably relentless none the less. There are a few glaring errors (surely it’s Salford Quays, not Keys?), but that just adds to the way the book reflects Neville’s career.

Football - Bloody Hell!, Patrick Barclay’s book on Sir Alex Ferguson, is a bit too stop-start for my liking, jumping about too much to deliver a consistent narrative. Every time I thought ‘this is getting good’ the subject changed.

I’m reading Player One by Douglas Coupland. It’s  very good. I love Coupland. The way he writes these ‘big issue’ books in such a personable and relatable manner, with tiny vignettes and trivia and pop culture references that just decorate the scenes beautifully.

I’ve been discovering the work of Rachel Trezise, recently. She’s a brilliant writer who I discounted years ago as the only book of hers that I’d heard of at the time was called Dial M for Merthyr shares a title with a brilliant compilation album, and therefore I thought it could not live up to the (unrelated) LP. But her short story collection Fresh Apples is awesome. And the half of Sixteen Shades of Crazy I managed to read before I had to take it back to the library.

I met Richard Gwyn the other day. That was quite an honour. I was made aware of his poetry in a creative writing class at University, and particularly love a poem called ‘Dusting’.
“You run your finger down a ledge and it returns covered in the filth of 1976. Punk dust. It is now 1999. You wonder should you lick this dust, would you get a flavour of the past?” 
Really want to read his newish memoir, The Vagabond’s Breakfast.

I keep buying Margaret Atwood books in charity shops and then forget to read them. This is something I shall rectify in the next few months.

My very good friend, the part-time supermodel and compulsive liar A.K. Bruty, has had a story published in From Glasgow to Saturn. It’s very, very good. Download the full magazine for free from their website. Now.

A.K. ‘47’ Bruty gave me a birthday present a while ago, and apart from the bit about Spillers Records having a soul aisle (it doesn’t), Miranda July’s short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, is stunning.

Anyways, Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. See you soon. Et Cetera.
(Not my bookshelf)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Extract: A Route 95 Summer

An extract from something (a novella? a long-short story?) that I've been writing, but keep forgetting I'm writing. I hope by posting it here, it will remind me to keep going with it. 'Cos some of it is really quite good.

Richard is twelve years older than me. He doesn’t let me forget this. I move to change the radio station on the car stereo, and he swipes at my hand.

‘This, my love, is pure Americana. We have to listen to it, absorb its cultural power, its lamenting blue-collar dream-soaked working-man symbolism, otherwise... otherwise what's the point of taking this road trip?’

I just want something I can sing along to.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I'm not sad...

The quality of this video is poor.
The song is beautiful.

'a table's not a table it's a chair you said'

Short Story: Shrinkwrapped (no star)

A piece of micro-fiction. By me.

I’m sat in the Dutchman’s office. I’m wearing a plaid shirt in red, white, and black; cord jeans; Vans skate shoes. What I’m wearing, it’s not that important. It’s just what was on the floor. It could have been ripped jeans and a Quiksilver hoody. But thanks to my inability to put clothes away, today I’m more Seattle grunge than Waikiki surfer.

'So, your T-shirt. What does it mean?'

It’s a Sonic Youth tee. This apparently is important.

'It's a band. Sonic Youth. I like ‘em’

'It's an interesting name. Sonic Youth. The Sonic Youth. The sound of a new generation. A nascent sound. The development of a primal scream. Not the cry of a baby, but the rebellious yell of adolescent humanity. The Sonic Youth’.

The Dutchman chuckles at himself. I don’t know whether he thinks he’s being funny or clever.

‘So, The Sonic Youth. Wonderful. Tell me, is their music an utter disappointment compared to the ideological and philosophical sophistication of their name?’

Does he care? God knows. But fuck, if I don’t have to talk about me, I’m game, innit?

‘Ah, y’know, New York alt-punk grunge. Noise. Avant-rock. I like a lot of what they do. Some of the albums, anyway.’

‘Indeed, always with you it’s the early albums, the debut novel, the first season, before they were cool...’

Busted. But...

‘For once, no, it’s the mid-period, Dirty, Experimental..., Washing Machine, they’re so much better than the early shoegazey nonsense of the first few LPs. They have like, proper choruses. And tunes, melodies.’

‘But how do they make you feel, The Sonic Youth? You put the CD in the player, or you press play on your Walkman, are you excited, filled with the trepidation? Do you feel anything?

I wish I’d read the Wikipedia entry on Sonic Youth, rather than piss around on Facebook all morning. That would have kept the fat fuck from asking me personal questions for at least another two or three minutes.

I hide behind music, choosing records to listen to in order to inform and support my state of mind. I use music. I use other people’s lyrics and hopes and dreams and guitar playing and drumming to reinforce my world view, and I steal them to make myself interesting. This is what I should tell him. He probably already knows.

‘It depends on the song, depends on the album, I guess.’

'No, it depends on you. Now then, last time we were talking about your family life when you were growing up. Important things in childhood happen, no? Let's continue.’


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Reviews, well, sort of...

Right then. Where was I?

So I’m just about to embark on the final leg of my belated journey to getting a degree. The last course I’m taking is '20th Century Literature: stories, poems and stuff', and there is, as you may imagine - if you squint hard enough and really concentrate - a Waterstone’sworth of reading to be done. And I’ve more or less done it.

In my previous lives, I’ve reviewed records and concerts and TV shows, but never books. Here I shall demonstrate both the stupid amount of books I’ve read recently and also my madd skillz as a literary critic. I’m sure you’ll agree, having read my biting postmodernist aesthetic dialectical breakdown of the set texts that I’m a shoe-in for a ‘distinction’ come next summer.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song.
Parochial proto-Irvine Welsh. Language seemingly inpenetrable, but if penetrated, very lovely and soppy and a little bit socialist.

Virginia Woolf – Orlando.
Boy/Woman skips through time and into bed. The blueprint for Captain Jack Harkness.

Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca.
Ooh that Mrs Danvers!

Berthold Brecht – Life of Galileo.
Science and Religion, one of which I don’t understand, the other of which I don’t believe in. I believe I understood this book thing though. Could work well as a play.

Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Only if you put them into ‘sleep’ rather than ‘shut down’. Amazing book – in the sense that it explores some brilliant ideas and concepts yet at the same time it is completely rubbish and is as clunky as a dinosaur in leg-irons.

Manuel Puig – Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Mwah. Reminded me of the storytelling bits in Generation X (good). The plot certainly weaved an intricate web (sorry). xoxo

Abdulrazak Gurnah – Paradise.
Like Lord of The Rings but without the elves and the shortfolk and the talking donkey and the rings, and with more wheeler-dealing, like in Only Fools and Horses.

Pat Barker – The Ghost Road.
Hospitals, War, and random anthropological bits from the South Pacific. I liked the first two strands. The third I just wanted to wash right out of my hair.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Tonight I went to the Welsh Millennium Centre to see Dan Rhodes. That there were other people performing was cool, but ultimately inconsequential. I certainly wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of convincing my wife to drive us to Cardiff if he wasn't on the bill. Especially with the Torchwood guys now decamped to the US - I mean, who's protecting Cardiff Bay from irregular rift activity?

I'd not heard of Rhodes until late last year, when my university tutor gave us four passages of prose to 'try on' in terms of style - one by Susan Sontag, Grace Paley, the brilliant S.J. Perelman, and all 101 words of Dan Rhodes' 'Baby', from Anthropology. The story I submitted for that assignment has already been on this blog, it's called 'Uncrossed'.

Something just clicked about it with me. The concrete surrealism, the concise and precise language, the blatantly obvious attention to microscopic detail. The empathy, the sadness, the humour, the pathos. I bought the book.

Since then, I've read everything he's written. Nothing has disappointed. I adore his digressions, an example being the lives touched by the titular character in Timoleon Vieta Come Home - each tiny bubble as well-rounded and fully developed as those surrounding the book's 'main' characters.

Rhodes has found a way to fuse the miniature perfection of short stories with the depth and length of a novel, and successfully create books that encompasses his clear talent for brevity, clarity, structure; wit, irony and utter, utter heartbreak.

Anyway, where was I...
So I went up to him at the end of the thing (show? performance? evening?) and was really rather nervous - I've never done this to a writer before, only bands, and they don't count - and asked if he would sign my copy of GOLD, and he did and we had a little chat and I went home having met my favourite author (sorry Ali Smith, sorry Douglas Coupland, you'll have to make do with 2nd and 3rd).

Everything he has written has inspired. I know as a writer I'm not 'funny', but as a reader, I do enjoy a smile with my wordplay. I try to make my own prose as tight as possible, never a sentence where a word will do. Like many new writers, I've had an over-descriptive prosaic flowery-language spell: not anymore, I'm over it now.

This is not to say that I want to bottle his literary gift and repeat and mimic and imitate and purloin: far from it. I'm not 'that' kind of writer, and while I love his stories, they aren't 'my' stories. But they are brilliant ones that even though I wouldn't / couldn't write them, I love reading them. I felt humble just shaking his hand. Why that Dan Brown fella sells more than Rhodes does, I just don't know. It's not fair.

It's late now, and I don't really have the words right now, but Dan Rhodes, honest to blog, is a fricking genius. And a really nice person too*.

The End.

* Based on reading online interviews and having a three-minute chat with him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Story by Someone Else

One of my fellow students on the OU Creative Writing courses had one of her short-stories read out at some sort of reading out short stories event, held somewhere in England.

It's very good. It's by Cathy White, and it's called I can see through people. And this is a video of it. Well done Cathy!

Cathy also writes several blogs, including the relentless jogblog, which is ace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Poem: Consoling Myself After Your Affair

Consoling Myself After Your Affair
After James Tate.

My television is mocking me:
staring me into a strange proposition - the beguiling seducer -
compelling me to stare back and be sucked into its pixels.

No, [presses button] I have remote infrared power
sending out infrared beams to distant civilisations.
(It has no idea it is doing this,
it thinks that it is just sending out ‘On’ ‘Off’ ‘117’
but it is actually calling out to occupants of interplanetary craft
‘Come to Earth, invade, it’ll be fine
if you do it on a Saturday, around X-Factor time’).

I don’t need a custom kitchen or MTV or CSI or
to text flirt with real girls in my local area.
I miss you sitting next to me so badly
like ‘And Smith must score’ but even more painful,
and with that I taste the sweet fresh air,
running away from the home that you left.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bands I Love: #2 Art Brut

Art Brut are a ramshackle bunch of chancers who met in dives and bus-stops and Deptford pubs and at school and formed a band (at which point in any Art Brut article it is vital for the writer to insert the lyric ‘THEY FORMED A BAND’ in brackets to show you’re down with the kids. But I’m not, so I won’t).

They have recently been locked in recording studio by Frank Black/Black Francis/That Fella from The Pixies for a fortnight, and have just come out clutching the master-tapes for an album that is dirty and happy and melancholy and fighty and funny and reflective. And rocks.

It’s called BRILLIANT! TRAGIC! and as a title, it’s fairly accurate. It is also a landmark in indie-rock circles – it features vocalist Eddie Argos’ singing debut. After three albums of talk-singing (his natural singing voice – it’s not irony), he sings all pretty and reverbed and sensitively. It’s kinda cute.

What do you mean you have no idea who Eddie Argos is? He’s like seven-foot tall, but not in a stringy, bandy-legged Joey Ramone way, but in a man-giant way. He’s a comic-book geek, and yet a Jägermeister and red wine fuelled rock’n’roll party animal.

Girls don’t like him, Boys wanna fight him’ he claimed on the song These Animal Menswe@r, but a: have you seen his rather beautiful girlfriend, b: only that guy from Bloc Party wanted to fight him, and c: seriously, his girlfriend is very lovely. Christ, this guy had a proper spiv moustache and pork-pie hat phase, yet still is clearly cool.

He’s the lead singer in about a million side-projects and spin-off bands including Everybody Was In The French Resistance... Now!, Art Goblins, Spoiler Alert!, and Glam Chops, despite his previous lack of actually singing. He does it on charisma, and stage presence, and generally having lyrics that are witty, punning, realist, funny, heartbreaking, familiar and tragic. And often brilliant. He’s equally foppish and foolish, lithe and lumbering, rock star and humble indie-kid.

Eddie Argos is not his real name. His real name is Edwin Argos. He prefers the more informal ‘Eddie’. The rest of the band have suitable made-up names, too:

* There’s Freddy Feedback on bass (a girl called Freddy!), the German bassplayer, who sings along microphone-less all show long.

* Ian Catskilkin (a made-up name and he chooses ‘Ian’! Hilarious!) is the guitarist, a man who has been hit with a widdle stick, and yet knows when to rein in his rocking for some nice little melodies.

*Jasper Future (real name Jeff Fulcherington-Smyth) holds the rhythm guitar, upon which he often plays the right chords, inbetween doing backing vocals and precision pointing, in the air and at the crowd. He also does a really good ‘wait for it’ in the quiet bits of songs.

*Mikey Breyer (real name Mike Breyer – the ‘y’ is far more rock) is a stand-up drummer. Not in a comedic way, but in a standing up to play drums way. Also German.

From a post-modernist point of view, Eddie’s self-referential lyrics are not a vain or desperate attempt at meta, but are clever and genuinely warming. As he ages through the albums we leave the teenage boy still in love with Emily Kane; to a young man to idealistic to settle down – ‘People in love lie around and get fat/ I don’t want us to end up like that’; to a singer on a rock’n’roll cliché mission ‘Parents/ Please/ Lock up your daughters’; and finally get to meet the grown-up-ish Argos who now lives in Berlin with his partner ‘People in love lie around and get fat/ I think I’m OK with that’.

Did I do the ‘formed a band’ (they formed a band) bit yet? Oh. Well, the thing is, every time I hear them I’m glad they did. An energetic and explosive live band who love nothing more than to talk about mixtapes with the kids in the audience after the show; a band who combine humour and sincerity like only the very best writers; an enjoyable stomping guitar noise, jangly and angular, melodic and rocking.

If Art Brut didn’t exist, only Eddie Argos could invent them. And I love him for it.

Art Brut's BRILLIANT! TRAGIC! can be bought in all good record shops. Including this one. And iTunes and whatever the kids use for their Mp3pod things.

The Comic Book to accompany this LP, featuring work by Bryan Lee 'Scott Pilgrim' O'Malley, Akira the Don, and Jamie 'Phonogram and Suburban Glamour' McKelvie, amongst others, can be bought from here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

99 Words: Uncrossed

I look up, into the sky. But no learned finger joins celestial dot-to-dots. I look through (what I think is) Orion’s arms. There are hundreds, thousands:
all visible to the naked eye on a clear night.

We used to live in London: clarity is novelty. But here, just me: adrift, lost, since our paths and our stars uncrossed. Staring at the moon –
the etymological root of lunatic is moon-sick
– a vague, solemn emptiness stares back; uncaring, forever reflecting. And the stars tonight are dead light; energy burnt, spent years before. But now, still: I’ll love you, miss you, despairingly.

NEWS! Step Into My Office, Baby.

“We need to talk.”

The first line of this blog post is the first line in each short story in the Summer 2011 edition of The First Line, a literary journal based in the USA.

I’ve read several copies of said journal. It’s a very good journal.

The first issue of any magazine that I submitted a piece for was The First Line, Vol 12. Issue 2, in which the first line was Paul and Miriam Kaufman met the old-fashioned way.

The first journal that rejected a piece of my writing was The First Line, when I submitted a piece with the first line was Paul and Miriam Kaufman met the old-fashioned way.

Having recently re-read it, I can’t blame them. But that was last year.

In the meantime I’ve spent another year at University studying Literature and Creative Writing.

In the meantime, The First Line has had several editions published, all with different first lines.

And then, while trying to write something, anything, as I had a really big Uni assignment due in and I had the old writers block malarkey, I started writing, as a distraction, a story with the first line “We need to talk.”

And now, the Summer 2011 Edition of The First Line, Vol. 13, Issue 2, has a story in it titled ‘Already’ with the first line “We need to talk.” And it’s by me.

If you’d like to read by short story ‘Already’ please pop over to The First Line shop, where you can purchase a PDF for US$2 or order one in the excitingly revolutionary new ‘Paper’ format for US$4. Bargain.

You can also pick up copies at all of these amazing bookshops (in the USA).

Anyway, while it’s fantastic to be ‘in print’ and ‘published’ and ‘a writer’, it’s all a bit surreal and the first step on a long journey and a great impetus and all that.

And I’m a massive Belle & Sebastian fan, and I had this wonderful song in my head the entire time that I tried to write ‘Already’.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

99 Words: Alice Does It With A Boy

So, Alice realised with alacrity, this is losing your virginity. The boy between her legs grunted; not in agreement (he wasn’t psychic), it’s just what boys do, she reasoned. His rigorous thrusting seemed primitively bestial to Alice, but she didn’t know any better. She’d once given drunken head to some man in the park after way too much Malibu, but that was all.

Alice was only doing this because waitressing was boring her. Sadly, his monochromatic, lacklustre lovemaking couldn’t dispel the ennui. Maybe I’ll give girls another try, she thought, rearranging her uniform in the staffroom mirror. Less messy.

Updates and GOLD and First Lines.

Blimey, that was quick!
Have just sent in my last assignment for the Open University Advanced Creative Writing course. One more module next academic year and I gets me a degree and that.

It's been a very formative year for my writing. Last year was really about experimentation: whereas this year has been honing and fine-tuning and developing my own style and voice and tone and all those kind of things.

The last assignment was to hand in the first 4000 words of a 'novel'. My 'novel'.
It's not the novel I thought I was going to write, but darn it if it ain't shaping up quite nicely.
Think I'm going to have to finish it - the three people who've read the first chapter all want to read more, so I can't disappoint my public now, can I.

Well I can, as this blog is a long-winded way of saying I am going to be doing a lot of writing, but not as much blogging - although, to be fair, my blogging is a tad sporadic at best.


Anyways, instead of reading things by me, go and buy some proper books. Like Gold by Dan Rhodes, which is my favourite novel at the moment. A charming story set in a seaside village in beautiful, raggedy Pembrokeshire, with lots of beer and walking and biscuits and funny old men and the deep complications of relationships and the importance we place on traditions and GOLD and tinned spaghetti on toast and watching contact lenses dance in a variety of styles and pub quizzes...

It captures all of that in a very humourous manner, and yet as you turn the last page OHMYGOD. I love the two other Rhodes books I've read, Anthropology and Timoleon Vieta Come Home: Gold takes all the humour and pathos and wonder from both of these and spraypaints it all into shining sunlight smiles and rainy winter days.


Oh, and one more thing, check out the brilliant Literary mag The First Line, which I've found a wonderful source of comfort and inspiration over the last year or so.
If you like the kind of short story that I write, then you *might* want to look out for their forthcoming Summer 2011 edition. Just saying, like ;)


Monday, May 9, 2011

99 Words: Fings Vey All-ways Says

rite whatchu no

i no football an musik an drinkin an druhgs an women an ntendo an readin ver gaurdjan on mondays for ver meedja jobs – not vat i cud get one cos i aint gonna gradjuate but i’d lyke ta doo sumfing in tv.

i no sittin in a room wiv my mpfree player smokin twenny superkings bfor havin ta look for money dan ver back off the setty ta by mor.

i no stealing an lifting so vat i can eet.

i no drinkin vodker an wine so i can sleep.

i no i need help.


Short Story: Michael Loses

Michael’s day is routine. He knows the route so well, that he doesn’t notice crossing the footbridge over the dual-carriageway. He doesn’t see the cars stuck in the school-run, the office-rush, the morning-delivery slot convergence, stop-starting under his feet. He hasn’t woken up yet, he never does until about half-ten. It makes the day go quicker. It makes the mornings less painful. He’s concentrating all his neural activity on his headphones, The Clash on Broadway (Disc 1) on MP3. He wishes he was Topper Headon. He wishes he was the drummer in a garage band in Garageland. He reaches into his pocket for his swipe card. Carefully and with a vague surreptitiousness, he flicks his spent cigarette into the same drain he always aims for. He misses. He reaches into his jeans pocket for his swipe card. It’s not there. Envisaging the awkward conversation with the security guards on the front desk, he tries his back pockets, his front pockets again, his coat pockets, nothing. Panicking, he starts to ransack his rucksack, trying not to spill leaking pens and expired bus tickets and the components of his not-very-well-packed lunch across the pavement in the hunt for this elusive identification and site access card.

Had he looked up earlier, he wouldn’t have bothered to continue the search. As it was, he had just reconciled himself to the reality that: (a) he had left it at home, and (b) that he would have to be condescended to by one of the physically intimidating and highly judgmental security guards, when he walked into the anxious throb of his colleagues, gathered at the gates of the warehouse-cum-aircraft-hanger in the middle of the regeneration zone. Michael takes his headphones out of his ears, and, like everyone else this morning, stares at the chained gates, as if an act of mass-concentration would lead to answers appearing on the Chubb High Security Cruiser padlock. Capital Radio One is now broadcasting to his collar-bones. He reaches into his inside pocket and turns off his personal stereo, an unbranded iPod imitator. He won it at work, for having the best attendance record. He’d have rather have had cash at the time, but now he had used it for a while, he wasn’t so disappointed. It wasn’t like he would have ever bought one for himself. Not with the interest rates on his wife’s credit cards. And the mortgage.

Half-an-hour later, a red-eyed former Communications Officer comes out of the building, escorted by two security guards. He tries to be officious and bureaucratic as he sellotapes laminated notices to the gates, and he’s ignoring all questions with a broken ‘it’s all on the statement, that’s all I know’. Michael has never really liked the guy, but that was then, in there. The way he loved the power, withholding information in a very extroverted oh-I-can’t-possibly-say manner. Now he was this cracked mouthpiece, sticking up the last rites of a fallen institution on a chicken-wire fence, being jostled and harassed by a swell of disgruntlement. Michael writes down the telephone number of the administrators, and as the local television news van drove up the access road, he puts his headphones back in, and started walking.

He may as well go home, he thought. The Citizen’s Advice place and the Job Centre can wait until tomorrow. Or next week. And he was already on the bus. He hadn’t noticed it. Autopilot again. Coffee. He had enough money to cover the mortgage for a couple of months. Some more money in an ISA, and there was that savings account he’d set up for a rainy day. It’ll be alright, we’ll be alright, he assured himself. There’s other minimum-hassle, minimum-wage call-centre jobs in town.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Star Wars Day and YES to AV

Today is the 4th of May. Some wag, a long time ago, decided that the punning nature of ‘May the 4th’ and the Star Wars line ‘May the force be with you’ should be honoured with the declaration of this day to be Intergalactic Star Wars Day, or something, until the end of time.

You’d think that for myself, that this day would be a glorious celebration. But that’s to underestimate the power of the force. In my house, every day is Star Wars day.

And what a fine achievement it is: that the most successful film series of all-time utilizes such a combination of documentary footage, found through deep-space historical research in 1977, and isn’t one of those fictional films that seem to fill the cinema seats, and bust-blocks.

I think that’s why I love the Star Wars so much. Because I relate to these people, Han, and Leia, and Luke, and Vader, and Chewie. These are real people, living similar lives to ours, facing the same struggles that we face, but deep in history, and far, far away. These are the kind of characterisations that ‘made-up’ and ‘scripted’ films can never come close to.

I’d like to think that if I’d lived then, I’d be some sort of space administrative: writing press releases, proof-reading the Rebellion Manifesto, laminating the X-Wing user manual and ordering flea-medication for walking carpets. I think this because I side against the Galactic Empire, but am a rubbish fighter and pilot.

Tomorrow is May the 5th. Tomorrow, we in the UK have a chance to make a significant change in our electoral procedure. We have the opportunity to re-establish democracy within our democracy. For hundreds of years, the legislature of the United Kingdom has been offered to the people with one hand, and taken away by the minority with the other.

For every act of emancipation, for those under 30, for women, for poor folk, the state still claws back even more. Our country is the United Kingdom. The Monarch still has the final word, no matter how we vote.

The House of Lords has been revamped, with the ongoing removal of hereditary peers. Yet instead Life Peers are created as a result of political opportunism, filling the benches of our upper chamber with a bunch of un-elected party cronies.

The House of Commons, ie: the bit we vote for, is just as ridiculous. We have all these wonderful ‘seats’ – that is to say, parts of the country divvyed up and gerrymandered in the pursuit of securing a power base. So few of these are ‘swing’ seats that voting in most of the country is irrelevant: in many areas a proverbial cardboard cut-out of a politician wearing the right-coloured rosette will get elected, no matter what.

And the Prime Minister, our fore-most politician and representative here on earth, well we don’t elect him – he’s chosen by the party that wins the most seats. It doesn’t even matter if his or her party failed to command 50% of the vote – regardless the winning party has near-enough unlimited power to refill the benches of the House of Lords with their highest-donating / most-loyal supporters.

We have the option of changing this, slightly – so that when I vote, my vote is not only counted, but my opinion is heard. The Alternative Vote system ensures that the majority of people in a constituency are represented by someone they chose. It’s not perfect. It’s not pure democracy, or pure proportional representation, it’s not even the Additional Member System, which I really like, but for now, it will do.

It’s certainly better, and fairer, and more representative than the awful First Past The Post system we operate now, where votes don’t count, and parties choose safe seats for their special favourites, and then promote those that fail into the ranks of the Lords anyway.

But enough about me: the Conservatives and the RACIST BNP SCUM are against it. Surely that says something, right?

In the spirit of today though, it’s worth examining the archives that Lucasfilm discovered, and see how our friends across the universe would vote.

Kashyyyk – home of the Wookies – says Rawwallawwweell to AV.

Yes, They'd rather have the Alternative Member System, or a proportionally-elected upper chamber, but anything is better than the legacy Wookie MPs who get elected no-matter-what in seats that no longer count. Also, Chewbacca would like a none-of-the- above option.

Tatooine – ruled by The Hutts – says No to AV

The Hutts love their safe seats in the Senate, and have no reason to want to change. Now, I'm not calling the Tory party a bunch of slug-like slime-oozing gangsters who only have their own interests (money, dancing girls, bloodsports) at heart, but there are similarities....

Naboo – ruled by pre-teen girls and Jar-Jar Binks’ species – says No to AV

No offence to 11 year-old girls, but they are quite easily misled. And the Binks and his underwater gang of buffoons are idiots. No wonder they say No.

Cloud City – Ruler Lando Calrissian – says Yes to AV

Lando was elected Head of State after receiving 32% of the vote in a four-candidate race. The other candidates were all more left-wing and liberal than Lando – and would never have pulled such a dodgy deal with The Empire. However, the anti-Lando vote was split, and that is why Bespin had a garrison of troops left there, and its citizens want a fairer electoral system.

Alderaan –ruled by Hereditary Royalty – says Yes to AV

Well, they would, but the selfish King decided to ignore democratic thoughts and allowed the rebellion to base their operations on his planet. And now, thanks to the awesome devastational power of the Death Star, a million voices calling out for a fair voting system were suddenly silenced....

Droids – y’know, metal robots – say Yes to AV

Droids are the second class citizens in the galaxy. The number of them who are eligible to vote is so low, that no droid representation is found in the Galactic Senate. This is why it is commonplace for many restaurants and public houses in the galaxy to bar droids and ‘their kind’ from their establishments.Droids want a balanced vote, and see the Yes to AV campaign as a building-block or stepping-stone to further progression in electoral fairness.

Friday, April 29, 2011

290411 : First Republic


These are my last words on the subject. Then I can rest and get some sleep. I hope.

If you'd rather read something intellectual on the subject of the Royal Wedding, Monarchy, and Republicanism, may I point you in the direction of someone I regard as a genius, the very clever and brilliantly passionate and talented word-smith Mr. Simon Indelicate, who uses erudite sentences such as these:
If you realize that Republicanism (UK, not evil US Republicanism) is for you, then may I suggest you join REPUBLIC or, at the very least, read what they say on their website.

To summarize how I feel:

  • I don't believe that there should be a Monarchy.
  • I don't respect any unelected person who claims to rule over me, purely by accident of birth and the fallacy of God's Will.
  • Mainly because I don't believe in God.
  • And because unelected power can only be opposed by revolution.
  • And I'm a pacifist.

With regards to this wedding:
  • Who gets married on a Friday?
  • Because that's just showing off. Why not get hitched on a Saturday?
  • Then we wouldn't be forced into marking the big day with a Bank Holiday.
  • Forced into a pro-Monarchy position whether we like it or not.
  • And where is my invite?
  • Oh yeah, I'm not a dictator with an appalling human rights record. I forgot.
  • Can you genuinely think of a more effective and salient time to protest the Monarchy?
  • Me neither.

With regards to the bride and groom:

  • If it's love, then good luck to them. Like all couples marrying for the right reason (love) I sincerely hope that that love stays with them until the end.
  • But I don't really care that they are getting married anymore than I care any other people I've never met are getting married.
  • And I resent the fact that they will one day claim ownership of the land in which I live.
  • Therefore, I ain't getting no bunting out.
I've peppered these articles with music videos. I recall a fantastic song called Man-Made by a band called Credit To The Nation, for which there is no YouTube video, which suggested:

Take a black woman and a black man too / give them to the Royals so they can screw / Black woman with Edward /Black man with Andrew / Then the Windsors would have some colour.../ Edward would be pleased and Andrew would be happy and gay / And they'd set the rules by which they'd played.
Now these would be weddings / sex-tapes I might be interested in seeing.

You may remember me writing "But I wish that they would do the good, honest thing and dissolve the monarchy and fuck off to Las Vegas, and run their pathetic side-show in the new ‘Buck House’ hotel and casino complex" and I stand by that, 100%.

I don't want a violent revolution. I don't want one drop of blood to spill.

But I do want the Monarchy to go away.

I'm wearing my Sex Pistols T-shirt today and going to work. Bank Holiday my arse.

Two videos. 1 obvious. 1 less so.

Repeat after me: No Monarchy.


Goodnight, and mythical-invisible-white-haired-old-man-in-the-sky bless.


Monday, April 18, 2011

290411 : Les Misérables Destin d'Catherine Middleton


"Lady Di? Lady Di? RENOIR!"

She got a degree in History of Art. She could get a job at any gallery, perhaps even be the new Simon Schama. She was a fashion buyer for Jigsaw.

There are so many things that Catherine Elizabeth Middleton could do. Hell, she could go and work with her parents in their moderately successful party-bits business. And yet she's thrown it all way, she's about to make the worst decision of her life... which begs me to ask, Carrie Bradshaw style:

Seriously, Middleton, what are you thinking, marrying into royalty when you could be a successful independent woman, like Beyonce off of MTV?

After all, we all know how well some of your predecessors got on - Boleyn, Howard, Ferguson and Spencer to name a handful, and they weren't half as common as you.

Ultimately, you're giving away your life - your privacy, your enjoyment, your very being - to a supposedly more noble cause, for an alleged higher purpose, for the profits of what used to be Fleet Street.

You think it's a bit annoying now, not being able to get your security man to sweet talk traffic wardens without getting in the papers, well just you wait until you're properly institutionalised. That'll be fun.

Perfectly harmless toesucking on the beach will be front page news. Your husband will follow in Daddy's shoes and stick it to married posh girls behind your back. Every dress you wear can never be worn again.

Everywhere you go, flash bulbs and paps and respectable photojournalists and film crews and interviewers and flash bulbs and neon lights and TV presenters and news-readers will be in attendance amid the constant flash bulbs and you'll be consumed by madness and you'll never be skinny enough or you'll be too skinny and you'll throw yourself down the stairs in desperation to avoid another trip to another shopping centre to cut another ribbon because you can't do that with a broken ankle, and your kids will be taken from you and given to nanny, and sent off to public school, and your marriage will be in tatters, and you'll find yourself alone in Kensington Palace, in your private quarters. Only a butler for company. A butler and a salad. A butler and a salad and a desperate urge to get out of there, out of the stifled London, maybe head off to a fancy hotel with your lover, maybe in Paris. . . .


There is an easy way out. Don't show up next Friday.

Go shopping. Go to Bijou. Go anywhere, but the church.

If he loves you, he'll understand.

If he doesn't understand, he doesn't love you.

Marriage is an expression of love, not a submission to an antiquated and obsolete nationalistic and tribal institution.

You are being served up, as the main course, for a country desperate for your beauty, sucking you dry of emotion every time you visit a sick kid in hospital, pulling sequins off your dresses at state balls, and long-lens photographing every intimate moment.

Now's your chance. Learn from the mistakes of the past. Walk away.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

290411 : Charles Windsor, who's at the door?


Now then, the tee-shirt for sale at this shop is an absolute peach.
Designed by a fella called Tony Scalomi they truly are a work of art.

Why not buy it, and wear it on the big day?

Oh, and check out this lovely tune by the wonderful McCarthy, about some fella called Charles Windsor: it's wonderfully utopian ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011

290411 : Repeat After Me


The Best-Man. Organiser of the last hurrah, looky-afterer of the rings. Who better to choose than the flame-haired, Nazi uniform (replete with optional swastika) wearing, dope-smoking, user of foul racist language that is Henry Charles Albert David of Wales. Or Harry to the lovely ladies at the bar. Hey darling, rah-rah-rah, let me buy you a drink. See this Fifty-pound note - yah, that's my Nan, ah-hah.

The amount this little bugger has done wrong is incredible, given that he is only 26 years of age. Talking of swearing and the number 26 - guess which position in the UK Top 40 this song reached back in November '91.

(Adopts mid-Atlantic phony smug voice) This week, a new entry at number 26, it's the Manic Street Preachers with 'Repeat'. . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

290411 : Elizabeth My Dear


So, the bridegroom is the most highly-educated member of that exclusive list of cousins who are currently heir-to-the-throne. He went to St Andrews, remember? To do a degree and that.

In fact, he went to St. Andrews to do a Masters in History of Art, but then changed courses and got a 2:1 in Geography. The award of an MA is less impressive when you realise that everyone there gets an MA instead of a BA, by doing an extra year. No external interviews and applying for funding for you, eh William?

Interestingly, it doesn't really matter that he went to Eton and only got ABC on his A-Levels (private education ain't what it used to be, right?). Queenie the Queen didn't even go to school. She was home-schooled in Constitutional History and had some French au-pairs/ nannies / lackeys to teach her to speak their language.

And of course, it's this precise kind of exacting grounding in politics, theology, sociology, history, law and philosophy that you expect from a self-proclaimed ruler, isn't it? Not A-Levels in History of Art, Geography and Biology (William), a 2:2 from Cambridge (Charles, and let's face it, the quality of the tution there is world-renowned for being terrible... oh), and, erm, her own Girl Guide troop (Liz - the 1st Buckingham Palace Guide Troop).

So here to sing us out is a song with four lines, is a minute long, and the only long words are 'conscience' and 'Elizabeth'. Therefore, you'd anticipate that some of the lesser members of the Windsor-Mountbatten mob might be able to both concentrate and understand the meaning of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

290411 : None of my Heroes Ain't Appeared on no Stamp


On the 29th April 2011, the son of a family of slightly-inbred superrich toffs, and a girl from the middle-classes – a hybrid of bluestocking and blue WKD – will marry. And it appears that the Eton-educated pillock who married an affluent heiress and became Prime Minister has decided that we all get the day off to watch the extravagant nuptials on the telly. Well fuck that.

The groom genuinely believes that God – that well-known, affable and personable being of scientifically twin-studied double-blind-tested proven existence – has given him the divine right to rule, unelected and undeniable. Albeit, only after his Nan, and then his Dad, die.

I mean, it’s hard enough to justify the belief in this 'God' that many have ‘faith’ in. But that God has decided for the people of the United Kindom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that after revolutions, wars, invasions, porphyria, haemophilia, succession acts, not allowing females to take the crown, then allowing females to take the crown, locking kids in towers, sympathizing with the Nazis, murdering wives, getting cross with the Pope and the idea / fact that we’re only one lightning strike away from John Goodman becoming king, that this William fella was the one that He up in Heaven has predestined to be King - well that takes more suspension of disbelief and literary conceit than a shit science fiction novel.

I’m sure I wouldn’t be so cross and angry if he really was just a token figure head, but constitutionally, despite the separation of powers we have achieved over the years, he will still be the person who signs the bills, the acts, the laws. He’s hardly going to sign his own Eviction of Office notice, is he?

And the amount of money we, the public, have to fork out for the Old Dear, her casually-racist consort, the twice-married philandering heir, the divorced-daughter, the son who is a friend of a paedophile and all sorts of military juntas, and the son who has failed in every career apart from cashing-in on his name, and all their assorted ex-wives and drunken-children; well that amount of money could be so much better spent.

Of course, we should remember, that God says they can be Royal. And as such, we should give them our money so they can enjoy their lives. Although, wouldn’t it be fair if they kept their nose in their bibles, their cocks in their pants, their mouths shut and their hands out of the till? That would also be what God wants, wouldn’t it? Oh, what's it called, now? Yep, being a good Christian.

I only need a pittance to survive each year, according to my employers. So why do the Mountbatten-Windsor’s need so much from the ‘civil list’ each year, when they could just sell a painting or two?

Don’t worry, though. I’m a pacifist. I’m not off on some Guy Fawkesian mission. In fact, I’ll be happily in work on this prescribed day off. But I wish that they would do the good, honest thing and dissolve the monarchy and fuck off to Las Vegas, and run their pathetic side-show in the new ‘Buck House’ hotel and casino complex.

I wish.

Monday, April 11, 2011

99 Words: Disposables

A 99-word micro-fiction, by me.

I have elasticated amounts of disposable income. I spend it on clothes, comics, CDs, video-games, taxis, ready-meals, and Tesco’s Finest chocolate cookies. I have all the household appliances. I don’t have the time to do things by hand.

I’m lying. I have time. I just want to use it in an entirely different way. Even packing the dishwasher is a burden; unpacking it is just as annoying. I’d rather just use paper plates and plastic knives and forks, but Ellie says it’s bad for the environment.

‘But I’d still use a proper coffee mug, rinsed out. Occasionally’

Ellie sighs.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

99 Words: The Wedding

A 99-word micro-fiction, by me.

Stephen and Rebecca met. I don’t know how.

I’ve known of him since we were little. Me and Steppy have been friends for years. He plays bass-guitar and football, and is good at numbers.

Me and Becca, we’ve never met.

It’s OK though.

I’ve seen her photo on facebook: she looks nice.

I’ve heard her in the background of a long-distance telephone call: she sounds nice, too.

She’s marrying someone that I respect and admire and love and am amused by and am in awe of: we clearly have a lot in common.

Cherish the day: relish the life.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poem: Final Destination (not a film)

Final destination
Swansea Railway Station
Welcome to Swansea Croeso i Abertawe
A commuter WH Smiths, un petite boulangerie,
A classy glass enclosed ticket office with plenty of desks
Step Outside:
The Grand Hotel with its vibrant ground floor bar
The Park Lane Club
Bendy Metro buses with TV screen updates
Special, Super, Diamonds, International
And down at your feet, a line confronting the bard
Ambition is Critical - well, here’s my critique:

Pigeons at home and uncovered platforms
A faux-langerie and an overpriced Smugs
A ticket office that is always closed
Don’t step outside:
The Grand a mass of façade weathered and grey and aged
Like a gossip of pensioners wearing fluorescent socks in the post office on pension day
The Park Lane Club salacious not salubrious
A happy ending massage amid Mos Eisley surroundings
The METROFTR – the bus of a vowel-less future
Unlike the TARDIS inside it is smaller than a regular bus
Time-tabled secrets never to be told
And the news and the weather on the TV screens is three months old.

The bus stop a shelter for the street drinkers
The junkies and the alkies
And the criminally inclined
The bloodied of hand and the addled of mind
Special Vat, Super T, Diamond White, Carlsberg Export
Ambition is Critical? Here’s my irony’s retort:
Ambition is Critical, it’s on life support
Pull the plug and write it off, it’s just not worth the effort
The Bus Stop crew, Dylan Thomas and me
We’ll just sit here and get pissed
Come here friendly bombs, Betjeman picked the wrong town
Please flatten the bits that the Luftwaffe missed.


AMBITION IS CRITICAL – Dylan Thomas noted Swansea as the ‘Graveyard of Ambition’ and this engraving is Swansea Council’s response. Anagrammatically, some ‘CLAIM IT’S A BIT IRONIC’
SMUGS – In satirical magazine Private Eye, WH Smiths is referred to as WH Smugs
METRO FTR – The so-called BendyBus service. All have TV screens on board, and at some special bus stops too. They display the time, and the news from 19th December 2009.
LUFTWAFFE – The Germans bombed half of Swansea town centre during the war. The bit they bombed is now the nice bit, shopping centre, nice buildings etc.

99 Words: Bubbles

A 99-word micro-fiction, by me.

W. told me to think about ‘small private worlds’: bubbles that float alongside the rest of existence for moments or for days or for weeks. Indiscriminate air-pockets sustaining transitory lives – temporarily stuck in departure lounges, broken-down cars, tired domesticities – until the oxygen runs out, or the membrane is pierced by external well-wishing or malevolent destruction.

And I remember when we used to be – intimately, microcosmically, and all-too briefly – you and me: coffee, cigarettes, cider, cassette tapes and cash-strapped. But now if you call, you’re like oil in my glass of water, suspended in an impossible, unforgiving reluctance to mix.