Showing posts from November, 2006

Martin Hodder On Elvis

I've been following your utterings on the web thingy and at last I've spotted some comments with which I wholeheartedly agree. "Listen to Elvis as though you're hearing him for the first time," you suggest. Well done!

As someone who DID hear Elvis from the absolute beginning, on Radio Luxembourg, I can assure you that the impact was profound, and very much more so than was the case with any of his contemporaries. I can't remember precisely how it affected me, but it was obvious from the very start that the songs of Elvis Presley (as he was referred to then, of course) were in a class entirely of their own.

I remember when the film Jailhouse Rock finally made it to Ipswich. I hadn't long known Mum then, and of course we both wanted to see it. I couldn't go, because the week it was on I was working a shift (I was a police cadet then) that didn't finish until 10pm, and there was nothing I could do about it. So she went on her own, and I dashed from the…

Silly Accident #2

There's a line in "Howl" about throwing your watch away to cast your ballot for eternity and then having alarm clocks fall on your head every day. This is my life at the moment. I made fun of Ruth a while ago for being accident prone and since then I have had two accidents so ridiculous they wouldn't have been out of place in a Laurel & Hardy film. So either I am being punished for mocking her or my brain tumour is beginning to make itself felt.

Last time, as regular readers know, I fell down the stairs in a Northampton bar (and I wasn't drinking, wiseass.) Today, I was picking something up behind a mechanical gate as it opened and stepping aside quickly so as not to get pinned between the gate and the wall, I fell over, catching my leg on an outjutting piece of gate iron, ripping my trousers and doing something queasily unpleasant to my knee as I sprawled to the ground. And twenty feet away there was a beautiful woman watching--just the audience you don't…

Vicky Stuart And Joe Woolley: Proving Northampton Is Really The Capital Of England

While we're on the subject of music, which we usually are, try these two Northampton-based musicians: Vicky Stuart (, and Joe Woolley ( ). (No, I'm not working for bloody Rupert Murdoch, it just happens that musicians and poets are flocking to MySpace in large numbers, and that's where you'll find the internet home of these folks.)

I don't know too much about Vicky, though I like her voice and the few songs she's posted. I know Joe and have seen him play, albeit in his own living room. He's a great guitar player who's been listening to the best folk, jazz and blues for a thousand years--despite being somewhere in his twenties--and absorbing everything he's heard into a distinctive, and impressive, style. He also sounds more English than Syd Barrett when he sings. If there's any justice in the world, which of course there isn't, he will inherit a small kingdom …

The Elvis Presley for Martian Ears Game

Have you ever tried forgetting everything you think you know, and everything you remember, about Elvis Presley and listening to the music as if you've no idea who he is and it's the first time you've ever heard him play? You really should. When you do, he's fantastic.

They called him the King of Rock 'n' Roll for a good reason, kids. No one ever even came close.

New Novel By Wred Fright Excerpted On His Site

The first chapter of Wred Fright's new novel "The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus" has been posted for your reading enjoyment at Wred's MySpace site ( ). You owe it to yourself to go and read it, particularly if you're as bored as I am by the literature coming out of mainstream publishing houses these days. This book'll never make Richard & Judy's reading list. Why? Because it's funny, inventive and if chapter one is anything to go by, terrifically well-written.
Cut it out, Wred. Don't you know how passe those qualities are?

Stray Shots, Late

I have absolutely nothing to offer anyone. Not even a particularly sharp mind anymore: I have noticed a steady diminishing of my brain power in the last couple of years--memory loss, declining concentration, a fairly constant feeling of woolly tiredness...I haven't penetrated to the root of an idea or felt a mastery of any subject for so long now, the likelihood of there having been days when I could do that has all the credibility of an improbable rumour.

This I am absolutely sure of: that the spread of evangelical Christianity is a poison which eventually will contaminate the world, first by discrediting Jesus' beautiful message--which it already has done with most reasonable people--so that people who might have believed will be made to suffer spiritual crisis and alienation, and then by enslaving society with its ugly, intolerant, right-wing political agenda.

Never Blog On A Cold Sunday Morning

Never blog on a cold Sunday morning when it's still dark outside and you have woken up alone with a twelve-hour shift ahead of you.

All night there were dreams of frustration and failure. All night the tap dripped into the saucepan in the sink downstairs, waking you with its insistent rhythm. And now the idea returns yet again that you are not with the woman you love, she is drifting further and further out to the peripheries of your life. And whose fault is that? Great work, poet.

It was always meant to be her, you and her, in a nice house together, out in the country somewhere. Everything you have done since, with other women, has been an effort to put you into that scene--but it just has the ring of compromise now. That retreat, that idyll, has no meaning without the one it was meant for.

Like I said, never blog on a cold Sunday morning. The noise and distractions of the day will wind up obscuring these truths even from you, and then you'll feel such a fool for sharing them.

I Got My Next Month's Pay Slip Yesterday

I realised something this morning, comparing my present situation to that of a friend who's in trouble: it is a miraculous thing just to have enough money to take care of your needs for the coming month. Having enough cash--unless something terrible happens-- to feed, clothe and heat your body for the next four weeks is a hell of an achievement, and something a person can be proud of. Yes, there is the longer view, and you do have to give some consideration, at least, to the future; but rest a little while in the glow of what you've done so far. Some people don't even know where their next cup of tea is gonna come from.

The Age of the New Pilgrim Fathers is Coming: Look Out, Beatniks

Someone I know said the person they would most like to meet is Jesus Christ, so that they could find out what He actually said. Me too. Half the time when I hear Christian people talking about themselves and society I can imagine Jesus leaning down out of Heaven and saying Don't associate me with that crowd!

There was a reverend on the radio this morning saying that Christians were now a persecuted minority in England. A minority, maybe, but persecuted? Really?? "This is a Christian country!" they will say, which sort of undermines the argument that they are in a minority, and harks back dangerously to an England that existed before multi-culturalism--was that the true England, people?. "We're a Christian country and yet we can't wear crosses at work! But try telling a Muslim they can't wear blah blah blah."

It seems to me that Christianity has staged a phenomenal comeback in the last few years--and thanks, largely, to the arrival of large numbers of …


I fell on my arse tonight. I was coming down the stairs in Lloyds Bar and my feet, wet from the torrential rain outside, slipped and sent me sailing. I landed heavily on my backside in front of the evening drinkers at the tables near the stairs, jarring my back and wrists, hurting my thumb too somehow. And when I got up and attempted to navigate the rest of the stairs I fell again. It had been a bad afternoon all around. I'd walked three miles in the wrong direction trying to find the house she lived in and the rain came down with such vengeance the streets were soon running with pools of dirty water. By the time I actually found her street and got her (via text) to answer her door I was so cold I had those shivers that travel right to your bones and won't stop however many layers of clothing you put on to make yourself warm.
Even before I fell on my arse I should have seen the omens and realised what a rotten date it was going to be.

What The Devil Is Christmas Anyway?

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't get Christmas?
What's it for?
Wasn't it supposed to be a Christian festival many moons ago?
If it's not that anymore, what is it?
You say Happy Christmas, but if it is just another day in the calender and no longer represents anything, isn't that the same as saying Happy Tuesday?
If Christmas is just what it appears to be, some kind of celebration, what is it a celebration of? Capitalism?
I'm supposed to show you I care about you by buying you the new Pirates of the Carribean dvd? What does the gift I get you demonstrate other than my buying power? And how do I acquire the buying power I have? by being resolutely good all year? (see previous post--you can call me an old leftie if you want, but it seems to me that the higher your buying power, the more a) morally compromised or b) plain evil, you are likely to be.)
I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be clever here, but I really don't understand what Christmas is about…

Wake Up

Okay. We've been through the clever post-socialist age where we allowed ourselves to believe that "there is no society," and collective effort drags everybody down collectively, and in our meritocratic system anyone can rise to the top if they put their shoulder to the wheel and work hard etc. etc. etc. We've allowed ourselves to believe that wealth "trickles down" and if the captains of industry are liberated to forge ahead without any restrictions, everybody down to the lowliest office gopher or floor sweeper will eventually get a goodly share of the pie. We've been through that, and though I resisted it and decried it at every step of the way, it was probably a worthwhile experiment. Probably. But you know what? Enough is enough. There's too much injustice now. Too many bosses firing too many employees without so much as a twitch of their conscience (unless they're the worst sort of boss, the liberal jerk-off who gets a kick out of the power …

I Can't Write A Happy Poem For S***

I've never really solved the problem of how to write good poems about happy things. For example: I had a lovely afternoon with two friends on Saturday--drinking, talking, eating, watching the sun set over Northampton town centre--but could I write about it afterwards? No. I tried three or four poems and they all came out as superficial, smug, lacking in impact. But if I'd gone to meet them and we'd argued, or somebody at the next table had stabbed her boyfriend in the eye with a capuccino spoon, I'd have produced a killer short poem by now.

Why is that? Does it speak of the received wisdom we have in the post-existentialist age about what is and isn't intellectually serious? (Comedies very rarely win movie awards, after all.) Or am I just a poet with a limited range? Any other writers out there struggle to give the good things in their life the same treatment as the bad in their lyric strains?


A friend wrote to me the other day saying "poets have the gift of seeing beauty everywhere, even in ugliness." Well, that's not how we tend to think of it these days, but terminology aside, it's true. What else is happening--I mean other than the perception of some kind of beauty--when you're sitting by the window in a bar and it's starting to get dark outside, and you cast your eye over all the people packing the tables in the fading light--some beautiful, some ugly, some smiling or staring keenly at a lover across the table, some chattering, some lost in their own thoughts or looking like they wish they were dead--and you see them all, all at once, and there's something about the tableau of everybody seen in that moment in their various lives that you know you're going to have to put down on paper, or on the computer screen, when you get home? What is happening there other than a perception of a kind of beauty?


Anybody see Wayne Rooney's performance for Manchester United in their 2-1 win over Sheffield United yesterday? Explain to me how that doesn't qualify as poetry.


As we drive through the minor roads looking for the way to Minehead, the radio plays "What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?" You turn the volume up, and everybody starts to shout the words. The driver jerks the wheel to make the car zig-zag in the road. You raise you arms and move your body round, dancing in the passenger seat.
To our left the grey sea glitters in the morning light, then disappears behind a sudden bulge of Southern land as we reach a crossroads and the speed we're going forces an unexpected turn.


Walking up a hill everybody else is walking down, heading into a cold-silver winter sunset.

Fat Kid

That boy has to beat his sister when they race home after school. To everybody in his own class he's just the fat kid.

Company Man

If there's anything more spineless and despicable than a company man, I haven't seen as much of life as I'd thought. And I've seen a great deal of life, friends.

I'm packing my rucksack and heading out for the back country.

The Third Reich Is Alive And Well

Believe me, I have seen it in operation today.

I hope I am never so far up my own arse that the sight of a terrified girl doesn't make me want to run home and question everything I have ever believed.

Workplace Narcs

If that's as far as your grand ambition goes, do it for free--for the goose bumps it gives you to be so righteous, for the sanctity of those lofty values you're protecting. Don't do it for money. That's ugly. That's "taking the king's shilling," as the Irish used to say.

Night Rain Sketches

Behind me the booming voice of a student high on beer and the nearness of a beautiful girl. In front of me the road, chrome and paint of cars illuminated in yellow street lights, wipers raking across the wide front windows of the night bus, sweeping off the rain.

It's a poem of sense and movement--stepping off the bus onto the pavement, yellow leaves pasted to the tarmac by the rain, flipping my hood up over my head as I turn into the wind and start walking, heading for my home.

Party Kids

That gang of kids behind me on the bus, just out of a birthday party, full of beer and party food--won't be long before most of them go through their front doors quiet and alone, leaving their joy outside with a sense of stabbing hurt.

One Muhammad For Ten Of You Mothers Any Day

The newspapers today have photographs of my childhood hero Muhammad Ali arriving somewhere or other supporting himself with a zimmer frame. At least one paper attaches the word "sad" to Muhammad in the headline.

NO! You can't describe anybody's waning years as sad when they have lived their lives as gloriously as Muhammad Ali. He did more in a few short years than the rest of us achieve in decades, and he still glows like an immortal.

Muhammad said once that if he'd been a dustman he would have been the greatest dustman in the world. It just happened that he was a boxer. He had achieved his greatness because of will, pride, integrity. And his message to the world--to the black world particularly, but also to the rest of us--was that by finding the aforementioned qualities in yourself, you became master of your own fate.

Which, in the words of another Ali admirer Hunter S. Thompson, is "very high thinking."

But that's not really why I love Muhammad. I lo…

Remember, Ladies And Gentlemen

Democrats need to avoid ugly triumphalism after their trouncing of the Republicans in the mid-term elections in the U.S. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, this victory was won because of the dead in Iraq. Is it appropriate to raise the flag of victory over the most tragic battlefield in thirty years of war?


Early reports suggest that right-thinking people have done a good job at the polls. The House of Representatives has now gone to Democratic control. As I write this, we're still waiting for results from the other House.

Well, two Houses would be great, and it would help tie the hands of that malevolent dimwit George Bush (and by extension his masters), but losing the House of Representatives alone weakens his position. It's harder for any political leader to drive through his extremist policies--and make no mistake, Bush IS an extremist--if he has to convince a chamber full of men and women predisposed to oppose him.

Now the Democrats have to do something with the trust that has been placed in them by the American voters. Influence the Republicans to change direction in Iraq (and with Afghanistan, and Iran, and North Korea--and whoever else they are turning their guns on this week.) Stand up against any more of the macho posturing and expansionism that has made the world such a …


Go out and vote today!

Tomorrow it may be illegal!

and next week the world may go up in flames.

You think it's not that serious? Wake up and smell the oil burning.

Pick Up The Tempo

by Willie Nelson
(Atlantic/ Rhino R2 73383)

Ah! There's a world of forgotten brilliance in these 3 cds! They're reissues of albums Willie released in 1973/ '74 just as he was transforming himself into the artist we know today. Cutting loose from Nashville, growing a beard and long hair, creating a style and a sound that would get rednecks and hippies into the same concert halls at a time when American society was polarised enough to make that kind of thinking revolutionary.

So why are these albums so brilliant? Maybe you have to know where country music was, or where Willie was. Maybe you have to know where the world was. Or maybe you just need to have a certain sort of mind. But across the three albums--Phases & Stages, Shotgun Willie and Live at the Texas Opry House--you get an attitude that is simultaneously rock and country, hip and redneck, cosmopolitan and out of the deep woods, with spins on country tradition that extend …

Abandoned By Auntie (Part 2)

Readers are reminded that part two of my phenomenal essay "Abandoned By Auntie" has been published today by the ULA at . Go read. Enlighten your bad selves.

"I Don't Believe It!"

Whoa, who's that who snuck in and wrote yesterday's "Saturday Ruminations"? The 45-year-old alcoholic Kerouac temporarily resurrected? Or Victor Meldrew?

We all have a bit of the Victor Meldrew in us, my boys, and as we get older the portion increases. But all the person I have woken up as this morning (you can never step in the same human twice) would change about yesterday's post is the language--though I'm not going to. The language is too aggressive. It uses too many of the buzz words of the right wing hatemongers.

I do believe that education has let young people down, and I also believe that as more emphasis is placed on vocational training in schools and colleges, the further let down the young people will be: education should be designed to create a rounded man or woman who can be trained to work once he or she is ready.

And I also believe that boundaries need to be set. This doesn't sit comfortably with my well-rooted libertarian streak--and I know A…

Saturday Ruminations

50% of older people smile at everything. Even walking down the street alone, they're smiling. It's as if they're hearing divine music played on angelic violins (which at their age they may be.) Either that or age has just addled their brains. The other 50% of old people smile at nothing. If they're well fed, they're cross. If the sun is shining, they're cross. If the rain has stopped and there's a beautiful rainbow arcing over the horizon, they scowl. If their granddaughter is giggling in their lap, they look sour and annoyed.
I wonder which type of older person I will be, if a miracle happens and I get that far? Though I think I know. I'm already bitter and twisted, and I'm only 41.

************** ************** **********************

Why do groups of young people standing outside late-opening corner shops look so threatening? Because you know that walking past them you'll have to run a gauntlet of abuse and mockery, at the least. And we read …

Fox Hunting Returns Today. Let's Help The Police Police It

Today is the first day of the nex fox hunting season in the U.K.

Remember, that "sport" that the Government banned?

Except they didn't. In a typical Tony Blair tightrope walk designed not to displease his conservative friends while appeasing the rest of us, hunting with hounds was banned. The hunt as a unit could still ride out and the hounds could go with them; they just aren't allowed to hunt the fox with the hounds anymore. At least, that's how I understand it.

However it works exactly, the law is ridiculous, and easily flouted out in the back country--particularly with a police force that has neither the resources, nor (I would guess) the will to monitor what's happening. And I hear the law is being flouted, although on my side of the discussion exaggerations are as much of an occupational risk as they are with the idiot red jackets who warned that hound packs would be destroyed if the law was passed.

But hey, to employ my famed journalistic objectivity for a…

Too Much Ordinary (2)

Am I suggesting, in the post "Too Much Ordinary", that mainstream people are smaller, in the sense of philosophical grandeur, than those of us who are either on the fringes of the mainstream or completely underground?

Seems to be that position is unsustainable, on some levels (does anyone else argue with themselves like this?) I don't know that I have anything in my head or in my heart that's BIGGER than those people, even if they do read the Daily Mail, listen to Pussycat Dolls, have nothing to say on anything that Alf Garnett couldn't have said more eloquently 40 years ago. They still love, probably more freely and with more maturity than I do, and love is really the only thing that matters on a high philosophical level, given that human civilisation has been characterised by hatred and destruction and alienation since it all began, and remembering that we all live in the long shadow of the grave.

Maybe what I should have said, or would have said if I hadn't …


You wonder what the country's got that the town hasn't got?

Ah, I wish I could show you that tractor I saw last night rolling over a field of knotty grass towards a bleeding orange sunset.

Too Much Ordinary

I spent some time tonight discussing the question of artistic purity with Tim. Whether the guitar players and writers who make a living that is at least related to their craft are more committed and less corrupted than those of us who don't. Well, I tried to make it living on the dole in my dad's house (rent free), and I failed. I spent most of my time lying in my room watching clouds pass over the rooves across the street, or hanging out in coffee shops in Wellingborough having fantasies about the waitresses.

I would still prefer not to work. Not at what I do now, anyway. But a writer is a writer if he writes. The issue is whether or not you are able to maintain your independent mind, your sense of yourself as a creative person. Which is hard when you have to become some grinning corporate cardboard cut-out, assuming (to get your wage), values you don't have or are actually violently opposed to. But if you can do it, if you can preserve your mind, it doesn't matter how…