Saturday, December 30, 2006

Scarlett's Reward On The Day They Hang Saddam

On the day Saddam Hussein was executed, we also received news of the New Year's Honours list-- a quaint little British tradition in which a range of titles are bestowed on people who have served their country well in the previous year, from Knighthoods, OBEs, CBEs, to the peculiarly named Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, which is given to people in the diplomatic service.

And can you guess who got that one this year, though it's not being widely reported? John Scarlett, current head of MI6, previously on the government's Joint Intelligence Committee. Who's he? The obliging fellow who, in the so-called "sexing-up" affair, agreed to the last-minute changes in the dossier Tony Blair presented to the nation to make his case for the invasion of Iraq. Fears had been expressed that the dossier, as it stood--replete with facts and other such inconveniences--would not make a convincing case for war. But by the time they'd finished rewriting it, having solicited Scarlett's consent for the changes, even half of the anti-war brigade secretly believed that Saddam had weapons sophisticated enough to launch strikes from Iraq on mainland Europe. It was a masterpiece of creative literature, way better than anything I've ever written, and it got Blair into Iraq behind George Bush with only a minimum of fuss.

Scarlett did his job well and on the day the deposed leader of Iraq was murdered and over seventy Iraqi citizens perished in a series of car bombs, he has been handsomely rewarded. It would leave you with a very bitter taste in the mouth if Iraq hadn't been tasting like poison on the tongue since it started.


Saddam is dead. This will hardly have escaped your attention if you've had the television on in the last few hours, especially in England, where BBC 1 has featured nothing else. They've even been kind enough to show, repeatedly, footage of the former dictator being led to the gallows.

Am I the only one who finds that distasteful?

Am I the only one who finds the execution reprehensible?

To be fair, I am against the death penalty anyway. A mass murderer has no moral right to live, as far as I can tell, but I have no moral right to kill him. I am not a good enough man. But this one comes as a result of an illegal invasion and occupation by the world's last superpower and its bullying cronies. The British Government--in an act of backsliding even George Bush wouldn't stoop to--has distanced itself from the execution, saying it doesn't support the use of capital punishment in Iraq or anywhere else, and that Saddam's death was the decision of the Iraqi Government, but unless I have got my chronology mixed up (and I doubt it), there was no Iraqi Government when Saddam was sent for trial. And even at the beginning of the process, execution was the only possible outcome if--and I use the word if with all due irony--he was found guilty. This was a trial for war crimes, remember, established by the victor to (paraphrasing Margaret Beckett's words) hold the defeated to account. It wasn't some internal Iraqi affair. At least have the courage to stand up and say you did it and you're proud of yourselves.

But there is probably nothing to be gained from debating it now. The man is dead. And by showing footage of his execution we are undoubtedly insulting his supporters, and fanatical Islamists who--while having no great love for Saddam--will be inclined to see him nevertheless as a victim of Western imperialism...insulting them with enough force and impact to guarantee instability and extremism in that benighted region of the world for another hundred years. Way to go George, Tony. Way to go, everyone like me who voted for one of these leaders. Way to go, everyone who thinks Iraq is none of their business and skips over that part of the paper to read the celebrity gossip every day.

Like Paul Simon said about another conflict in another dark time in modern history, We come in the Age's most uncertain hour/ And sing an American tune.

Today I'm really struggling to believe that my country stands for anything an honest, decent and fair-minded man to be proud of. What surprises me is that until today I did.

Friday, December 29, 2006


*"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." - Interview with CBS News.

*"I think - tide turning - see, as I remember - I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of - it's easy to see a tide turn - did I say those words?" – Response when asked if the tide was turning in Iraq.

*"The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany."

*"I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I've tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max, and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq knowing what I know today."

yes, all of these quotes are genuine. still feel the world is in safe hands?

Don't Look Back

It has come. That time of the year when, whether you understand the impulse or not, you find yourself reviewing the successes and failures of the last twelve months and making resolutions for the next twelve.
Well, the archives of SUFFOLK PUNCH catalogue my successes and failures with more accuracy than any end-of-year backward-looking essay could, as the posts (those I haven't deleted in shame or embarrassment), were written at the time, as the successes and failures were actually occurring. So if you're really interested, and I can't imagine why you would be, all the evidence is there.
Looking back is pointless. But we do it. The past rapidly becomes a kind of mystery, a vanishing dream, and the present is no less of a puzzle. How did you become this peculiar creature that you are? Was it this moment that shaped you? or another? Did those other worlds you live in really exist?
Can we not just step back, for a moment, and put right what we did wrong? Can't we say that word instead of this word and make everything better?
Unfortunately I think we all know the answer to that.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stray Thoughts On Iraq & The Execution Of Saddam

Can anybody think of another British Prime Minister who participated in the illegal invasion and occupation of another country and then had the deposed leader of the country executed?

Tony Blair. Isn't he against capital punishment?

I would not weep for the soul of Saddam. He is clearly a nasty piece of work, and--I would think--a little bit mad. But does he deserve to be alive?
Do I?

Saddam is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. No debate there. Ergo, crimes against humanity.
How many innocent people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq?

The hand that signed the paper that launched the invasion--who put the owner of the hand in power?
I was one of the many.
Iraq is on my conscience too.

He was no friend of Bin Laden. He didn't have WMDs.
Why were we there, exactly?

Don't misunderstand me. I fear Islam as much as the next man. I fear any philosophy that takes away my right to think, and feel, and express the contents of my head, without fear of persecution.
So I also fear Police, Secret Service, Labour Party, Tory Party, Liberal Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Neighbourhood Watch, MySpace, Beards for Peace, Anarchists United.

This post can have no natural end.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why Do You Write?

It's the question that is always asked of the author in the room. Jack Kerouac answered it by saying he wrote because he was bored. Charles Bukowski refused to answer it.
I write because I have nothing better to do.
I write because I am immensely vain and like the sound of my own voice, even in silence on the page or computer screen.
I write because I don't know how to say these things in conversation.
I write because I want to be told how clever and talented I am.
I write because I believe telling one's own truth liberates everybody.
That's all. If I get a reputation or a career out of it, fine. But I'm too lazy and undisciplined to seek them actively.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Zenbo at Christmas

When I was a kid, or more specifically when I was a teenager, I used to hate the way older people would try to attach some seasonal significance to everything they did at this time of year--you know, everything was a christmas kiss, or a christmas hug, or a christmas drink, or a christmas nap. I could see even then the pathos of our attempts to match our mood to traditional expectations of the season.
I think a lot of the sadness that people feel at Christmas arises from the chasm that exists between their own emotional state and their sense of what they should be feeling. Their physical situation and their sense of what they should be doing. Someone who is alone for the other 364 days of the year (or however many there are these days), suddenly feels utterly bereft because they are alone on December 25th, and they don't think they should be. Someone else feels empty, scooped out of any emotion, but thinks they should be feeling love for their family, or the presence of a divine spirit. So they translate that into a rant about the lack of spirituality at Christmas.
We all know how it goes.
The thing I like about Zen Buddhism is that it teaches you to live in this moment precisely, and this, and this, and this, without intellectualising about the past or the future or even the nature of NOW. A Zenbo at Christmas wakes up and does his thing without considering what it was like last year or when he was a kid, or what the people across the street are doing. He breathes, he feels his heart beat, feels the cold kitchen tiles on the pads of his feet, feels the taste of coffee on his tongue, listens to the birdsong outside in the trees, notices the absence of cars out on the road today. His mind is still. He is, without connection to anything except what is in the present moment alongside him.
If more Westerners could learn the skill of just being, there would be so much less of this terrible sadness and stress that we seem to have accepted as part of twenty-first century life. And Christmas, which is currently unbearable for large swathes of the population, might become quite a pleasant experience again.

James Brown

BBC news is reporting that James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, has died. There's no more information yet.
What a loss. Since Elvis, they haven't come any bigger than him.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Blue Fred's Christmas Speech

Happy Freaking Christmas, esteemed readers. May you all get the sort of December 25th you deserve! (as you surely will.)

Now, how about we work extra hard in '07 to end the Occupation of Iraq, and head off at the pass any other war George Bush might want to start in his bull-headed campaign to make the world safe for extremist Christianity?

Then maybe we'll have the dubious privilege of labouring through another Christmas next year.

"Take it easy, but take it."

----------Blue Fred.

Christmas Eve

Want to feel the Christmas spirit? There's a beautiful seasonal poem over at Ralph Murre's blog ( ) that might get you in the mood. I wish I could write with that kind of grace and maturity!

I'm off to London for the day on a work-related mission. Getting a bus half way and then training into the smoke. I'd rather go all the way on the train, but it seems the great iron horse won't be passing through little Northampton on Christmas Eve. Well, I can't blame the rail company. I wouldn't be passing through Northampton if I had the choice either. I'd be staying at home, drinking too much, taking a cold back country walk, lying in front of the television getting depressed etc. etc.--all the things I like to do best.
When I get to London I probably won't stay long. In fact, I may just do the deed I have to do, then turn around and come home again. It's what I did last year when I was in the same situation. I always intend to make the most of the fact that my work are paying me to travel to the city I love, but at Christmas the freezing weather and the crowds are just too much. I have so many issues with the capitalist free-for-all that Christmas has become, I want to get on a box like John the Baptist or some drunken nut and yell at everybody for letting themselves be hoodwinked so completely. Which I have no more right to do than anybody else, being a "tragic figure," according to one correspondent on this page, but there you are. Like that correspondent, I hide behind a keyboard and sling my self-righteous insults.

Listening to the news this morning as I was drinking coffee and trying to wake up, I remembered: it used to be a joke among us cynics that at Christmas, the news programmes would suddenly rediscover their collective conscience and pack their airtime with stories about abandoned animals and the homeless. But that doesn't happen anymore. All you get in 2006 are stories about Christmas shopping on the high street and what it means for business and the economy (oh, and the usual stories about the war, and America picking on Muslim countries.) It's represents an obvious a shift in the priorities of our society in the last 20 or so years: back then you at least had to pretend that Christmas had something to do with religion; now you don't even have to do that. Which is more honest, in a way, but it's also very sad. Am I the only one who doesn't want to live in a society where the highest aspiration a man is supposed to have is to acquire more and more and more stuff?

Yes, I know, bah humbug. But the Christmas they want you to have sucks.
Buy NOTHING. If you have spare cash, give it to someone who needs it.
Tell somebody how precious they are to you.
Shut your eyes and try to feel the presence of a divine spirit.
That's Christmas. This is just shopping.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

December 23rd High Street Christmas Snapshot

So this is Christmas. And what have you done?

A lot of shopping this morning, discovering in the process one great use for mobile phones. When you're lost in a Christmas crowd and you can't find your companion, you can pull out your mobile and locate them immediately. If they have one hand not laden with shopping bags and are able to answer it. I wonder what they did in the Seventies. Of course, I was around in the Seventies, but as I recall we always spent the 23rd of December at home in those days, lamenting the fact that it wasn't yet December 24th, because that at least was only a day away from Christmas.

Would the crowds in the shops have been so tumultuous then? I don't know. I doubt anything could have equalled the heaving press of humanity I encountered in Northampton this morning. I am normally quite happy to mooch around the shops for an hour or two, but today it really got on my nerves. Every shop I went into had queues at the tills twenty deep. And I couldn't get to anything I wanted to examine because there was somebody in front of it already. How can people spend five full minutes studying the track list on one compact disc I ask you? And why would a big fat bloke block up a whole aisle in W.H.Smith's while he stands and reads a magazine? Does it not occur to him that he's too large for anyone to pass? Can't he sense the person standing just behind him trying to suppress the impulse to push his fat arse out of the way? I can feel someone's eyes on me when they are watching from the other side of the street.

I said to my friend as we pushed and excuse-me'd our way through the herds in the Grosvenor Centre, "Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind when he was dying on the cross?"

It seems unlikely. But there is no stopping this hurtling train now.

The Gays Are The Last Acceptable Target

Okay, I don't think I have too many English readers--something about S.P. doesn't chime with the limeys--but did anybody see that story about the police interviewing a Christian couple who had made public statements about homosexuality being morally wrong? I believe it was in Lancashire somewhere. Now, I'm not one to side with the police unnecessarily, but the real lunacy in this case was not the fact that they interviewed the couple, but that they have now been forced to apologise to them and pay damages.

Are you f***ing kidding me???? It may say in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination. I believe it also says you shouldn't part your hair in the middle, or wear ringlets at the side of your face. But the same Christians who complain bitterly every day that they are a persecuted minority in this country and that Tony Blair only cares about Muslims (how do they work that one out?), will tell anyone prepared to listen--or too polite to tell them to piss off--that gay people are going to Hell because what they do in the bedroom is revolting and unnatural.

If incitement to religious hatred is a crime--and I believe it should be, though the law must never confuse incitement to hatred with vigorous discussion--then incitement to any sort of hatred should be unacceptable. If you're going to protect the Muslims, the Hindus and the Christians (who must also be protected--don't get me wrong, I have many Christian friends), then how come it's still acceptable, apparently under the law if this latest case is any indication, to express disgusting views about homosexuals? I don't want to live in any society where a man or a woman is considered a second- or third-class citizen just because they like to pleasure themselves differently.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice has arrived. Hooray!
Wossit mean, I hear those of you recently arrived either to Earth or consciousness?
It means the days will start getting longer from this point on, and the nights shorter.
Which means in a few short months it will be warm again. (Thank God for that, currently it's debilitatingly cold.) It means there will be daffodils, and lambs. And then pub gardens in the evening. Girls in vest tops. It means (adult note here) electricity and gas bills will become affordable. It means things will get better.
And isn't that all anybody really needs to know in life?

I am broke and desperately missing the love I once had. I've tried to distract myself with other women--been trying all summer--but it isn't working. Ho well. Sometimes you just have to deal with things head on, and not duck the issue. Love hurts, as Gram Parsons and a whole lot of other people would say. I do not want to leave the Lookout and have to face the possibility of sharing a house with two or three people until I can get the cash together to fly solo again (and how I like to fly solo.) But the way things are going, that's what is going to have to happen. Again, that's life. At least our government shoots other people, and not us.
At Winter Solstice we are reminded, through the best of all providers of metaphor, Mother Nature, that things change; and sometimes when they change you get daffodils and lambs, and more money in your pocket.
And look at her out there anyway, all cold and bare, labouring with such dignity to support you in your miserable, complaining life. Giving branches for the birds. Mud for the worms. Water for the fish. Grass verges for the dogs. No one deserves a little warmth more than she does.
This is why I greet the Solstice with so much appreciation today.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The shaven face is corporate. Don't be fooled. But the corporate world has many faces. It might be that of your boss at work. But equally it might be the face of a handsome young footballer staring at you from a billboard as you travel into town. Or somebody on a television ad who looks cooler than you, who has beautiful women kissing his bare-baby cheeks (rewarding him for his conformity). Those images aren't real. That's MOVIE, as Charles Bukowski says. Those guys are getting paid millions by big companies to represent that life to you. However much they wrap it up in rock and roll imagery, or imagery which at least seems to have nothing to do with rich old farts in big houses who wouldn't piss on a pauper like you if you were on fire, it's still the fake world of control, suppression, homogeneity. Industry has wanted to stamp out your right to be a free-thinking person with an individual identity and separate hopes and dreams since way before the days of Henry Ford.
Since I grew the new beard I've had nothing but condemnation. And worse than that, a kind of sympathetic horror, as if the appearance of a healthy grey bush on my chin were indicative of some inner decline--of moral backsliding, or depression. And I am more than capable of falling into the grasp of both, but NOT THIS TIME HONEY (that's another Buk line, isn't it?)
Why is it that a shaven face is considered to be a sign of moral well-being? Because I would suggest--it's Puritanism--we have the natural element, the individual element, in us, suppressed. A clean-shaven man is not going to be a howling monkey driven by wild sexual urges. A clean-shaven man is going to do his duty and be humble and small in the sight of God--or in a post-Christian, super-capitalist age, his boss at work. As the slave comes to identify with his captors, the majority of people labouring in this repressive system, with media brainwashing and poor education to fight against as they struggle to know their own minds, have bought the bullshit message that shaving represents moral health and now they show Beardies like me what amounts to a genuine concern (albeit mixed with a certain pious repulsion), when the hair starts to appear on previously smooth chins.
Why is that a shaven face is considered to be more aesthetically pleasing than a hairy one? Perhaps our aesthetic sense has a moral component. Perhaps beauty is equated with moral well-being in the half-formed and under-educated: how can something be beautiful, in other words, if it is at the same time a sign of moral decay? It can be, of course, but maybe not in the minds or eyes of these particular beholders.
I don't know. It's a complex subject requiring intellectual analysis I don't have the capacity or the time for. Personally I've never understood an aesthetic that celebrates homogeneity. When you shave you look like everybody else. And though a lot of the young, hip bands coming out of the U.K. are hairier than they have been for many a decade, almost everybody else in this country, young or old, could have been made using a human cookie cutter. Take your courage in your hands and go into a town centre on a Friday or Saturday night: if you're slightly drunk you may think you're hallucinating a crowd of unruly laboratory clones--all short greasy hair, clean faces, untucked shirts and expensive pants. But a beard is like a singing voice; it's an individual signature that won't ever be reproduced, no matter how many countries you visit, however many people you check.
Does it, then, offer too much of a challenge to the person who has never had an individual thought in his life?
Does it send an unconscious message to the heads of industry that their empires won't last forever?

Monday, December 18, 2006

42nd birthday poem (all right still)

it's my birthday today.
i'm 42 years old. same age
elvis presley was
when he bit the carpet.
and i look much older.
my woman's gone.
i'm spending
the day alone.
soon i will have
to leave this house i love
and i can't afford to--
the cost of renting
is astronomical these days.
all in all, the outlook's
pretty bleak as the
pale sun
climbs the trees
into the winter sky
this morning.
so why is it
i feel this goofy hope?
perhaps because
i have no choice at last.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Clint and Bob, Still Causing a Fuss

Two old heroes of mine have been in the news this week.

Clint Eastwood, who is releasing two new films about the invasion of Iwo Jima in Japan in World War Two--the first movie from the American perspective and the second from the Japanese point of view. The critics are saying that Clint has risen to new heights with these films; some are even calling them masterpieces--and he's nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe for both of them. Way to go, old boy. Clint was always a little better than the average even during his "Hamburger Hill" and "Dead Pool" days, though it was a lot harder to see his good qualities in those (thankfully) far away times. And how interesting that someone associated so closely with the Right--albeit not the dumb-ass Right of George Bush--is making movies that express ambivalence about the glories of war and America's purpose in the world. If that don't tell you we're in changing times, then nothing does.

The other old hero of mine in the news this week was Bob Dylan, who, it's reported, is suing the makers of a new movie about Edie Sedgewick, "Miss Lonely" in "Like a Rolling Stone," because the film suggests a character obviously based on Dylan caused her death. I contacted Dylan's site on MySpace to find out if the story was true, but perhaps not surprisingly, they haven't responded. I always heard "Rolling Stone" as a warning to Edie from Bob about the dangers of associating with the vampiric Warhol set: he's trying to save her by singing those cruel, immortal lines, not kill her. But what do I know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

You Gotta Move

My landlord came around tonight and told me that the people who own the Lookout want to sell it. Well, ain't that just great news to hear five days before your birthday! He says he has advised the owners not to put the house on the market before the Spring, but since the Estate Agents want to come around and value the place straight away, I'm not taking anything for granted. Gonna have to start looking for somewhere else tomorrow.

Which is fine. I've lived in the Lookout for three years, and though I've had some great times here, the really good times were a long time ago, when you-know-who was still with me and our love was young and insane. I've had some fun since she was last here, sometime last April or March, but it's not really been the same. So if she's not going to warm the chair at my computer table anymore, maybe the time is ripe for packing the saddlebags and moving it along.

But moving's no fun. It's stressful trying to organise it, plan it, then make it all happen. And bloody expensive too, for a broken-down poet who can turn money into water that trickles through his hands. I will have to do a comprehensive clean of the Lookout to see if there's a snowball's chance in Hell of me getting my deposit back, so I have a deposit for the next place. I'll start with the wax on the carpet where I kicked over a candle, continue by trying to glue the front door back together and work out what needs doing after that!

Whisky Gaps

I have interruptions in my memory which I refer to as "whisky gaps." So many things fall through them these days. So why can't I lose the memory of our love?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iraq: Who's Really to Blame?

On the anti- side of the Iraq debate we compromise ourselves sometimes by appearing not to have a grasp of the complexities of the situation over there--it isn't another Vietnam, people. And too often, because we are either ducking the complexities or we really don't understand them, we seem to be blaming our own side (if, as human beings, we can have a side) for everything. Other than as a result of their own paranoid monomania, it's the main reason why those on the side of Bush and Blair think we're a bunch of stinking radicals who want to overthrow the government and set up a kingdom of radical Islam.

Personally I would rather Church and State were separated whatever the church. George Bush proves how dangerous a politician can be if he thinks God is talking to him. I don't want a Christian government (though I'd be more in sympathy with it), and I don't want an Islamic government. Nor do I want anarchy. I may be inviting accusations that I've turned into a comfort-seeking old has-been, but there has to be some kind of organising principle in human society. There is too much of the savage in us to risk a state with no laws at all.

Today according to the radio dozens of Iraqi workers have been killed by a suicide bomber as they queued up looking for work. It wasn't a British or American soldier who did that. It wasn't Tony Blair or George Bush who did it either. It was another Iraqi. I'm sure if you'd caught him in the moment before he did the deed he would have come up with a thousand rationalisations for it, blaming everybody from the buffoon in the White House to Michael Jackson's pet monkey, but ultimately, he did it. And however his country has been violated by the imperialist aggression of Britain and the United States, nothing on this earth can justify his action.

What am I saying here? The invasion was wrong. No argument. The Occupation was a mistake; and they haven't even done it well. We have tortured and murdered so many innocent Iraqis since George Bush declared that the job had been done, the stains won't come off our hands for a hundred years--and it will take longer than that for the insult to fade from the race memory of Iraq. It is also agreed pretty near universally--except perhaps in the Oval Office and at 10 Downing Street--that the presence of British and American troops in Iraq makes a disastrous situation much worse. We should get out of there.

But those of us on the anti-Occupation side should not shrink from pointing the finger at the anarchists and radical Islamists within Iraq, and calling for them to lay down their guns and bombs and whatever other instruments of murder they are turning on their own people.I am for peace, but it's not an expectation I lay on my own government while excusing everybody else. The peace movement should be demanding the same moral conduct from all sides in the Iraq disaster. If we don't we just end up looking like nice well-meaning ineffectual Western hypocrites getting off on a sense of ourselves as radicals--reliving the Sixties, in some way-- while never really expecting to have a constructive impact on the horror that is unfolding over there day by day, hour by hour.

Knocking your own government, after all, has been a game for bourgeois Westerners to play at the dining table for so long, nobody can even remember when it started.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Beards For Peace

That's right. It's the new peace campaign that every man wants to be a part of! Wish you could do something about the disaster in Iraq? Want to keep the pressure up on the Bush and Blair governments to bring our troops home? Grow a beard! It's a symbolic gesture to show your individualism, your independence, and your brotherhood with the innocent Muslims being slaughtered in the streets of Iraq every day. (No, it's not British and U.S. troops doing most of the killing, not now, but it's a situation we created and then failed to control; and even the British Army has admitted that our presence there "exacerbates security problems," or whatever the phrase was.)
The anti-war/ anti-Occupation lobby has made huge progress on both sides of the Atlantic--maybe more in America than here. But if we turn the heat down on our respective governments now the Occupation could go on for years, and how many more Iraqis--how many more British and American troops for that matter--will have to die if that happens?
So grow a beard. It's such an unacceptable, anti-social gesture in this prim, manicured, puritanical age, the bush sprouting on your chin is bound to provoke discussion. And when it does you can fire off a lecture about Western imperialism and the murder of the innocents in the Middle East. You may get punched, you may lose your friends, you may wind up being investigated by over-zealous security agents who mistakenly believe that wanting your nation to be a nation of peace is unpatriotic, but at the very least you'll save a small fortune in razors.
Go to to find out more about the campaign.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

a little poem for yer

Picking up my journal a while ago, I realised I didn't know the date, so quickly scribbled off this little poem.

time blurring.
days and years all sliding into one.
tonight with heartburn
listening to arthur 'big boy' crudup 1950s blues
thinking of the railway club:
drunken teenage nights listening to rock 'n' roll,
avoiding the fistfights in the lobby.
electric blues riffs and cars passing through the steady rain
heading for the shortest day december 21st,
when spring starts inching back
to light the evenings--.

Adios, Pig

So Pinochet is dead. Shame.

Doctors say he died with his family at his bedside. That's more than the thousands murdered in his name got to enjoy when they breathed their last.

Margaret Thatcher must be bereft to have lost another of her dear old friends.

An Explanation

I hope people understand that when I'm knocking Christianity I'm not knocking Christ. It seems highly doubtful to me that the two are synonymous.


Here's one for you. I heard from a Christian I know that Christmas cards depicting Santa aren't acceptable because Santa is an obvious misspelling of Satan. The Devil isn't as clever with his disguises as we thought, boys and girls!

I pointed out to the person that you couldn't get the letters of his surname to spell anything sinister, unless SLUAC worries you, but apparently that is not the point. The laughing rotund white-bearded gift giver who comes down your chimney on Christmas Eve will be the Devil, and the Santa/ Satan thing proves it. Gives a whole new meaning to, "You better watch out/ You better think twice," or whatever the song says.

The Spirit of Christmas

That sense of something special in the air hasn't gone away today, and I was expecting it to. But I can't explain what it is; it defies analysis. Once you get into conceptualising anything, anyway, you go off into your own mind and lose your connection to whatever it is that's out there: Zen people have been telling us that for centuries. MU!

All I can say is that to me it's like some sort of electrical charge hanging everywhere that somehow carries all our collective hopes for ourselves and our loved ones, all our secret dreams and delights, all the things about us that are good and open and giving rather than sad, cynical and lost. There's an intimation of the love and tenderness of all the generations that have come before us in the air as well. Step anywhere and it's like the dead are close enough to touch. I could feel it walking around the Disney Store in Northampton today, with kids running around everywhere and Kermit the Frog singing something from one of the giant televsion screens. But I could also feel it sitting on a cold fence an hour later in Northampton Bus Station watching two women who looked like hookers sharing a can of Fosters lager and trying to skank a light for their cigarettes from everyone who passed.

It's either a trick my own mind is playing on me because I happen to be in a good mood lately, or I'm really onto something. Frankly, though, I don't care, because I'm rather bewitched by it anyway.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas: Damn, I Think I've Figured It Out!

I'll tell you something I've figured out today. Christmas is the big chance everybody gets each year to put all their past screw-ups behind them and figure out how to be a better man or woman in the coming year. Jesus died on the cross to prove the resurrection, right? To show that with faith and selfless love you can have a new life. Now, I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that message can apply to you whether you believe in Heaven or not.

As for the consumer orgy that Christmas has become--which I and a million others have defamed as murderous to the traditional spirit of the season--well, yeah. But put on Sinatra singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or Elvis blues hollering through "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"...feel the cold nipping your fingers...and tell me honestly that there still isn't something about Christmas, some kind of strange magic in the air that isn't there the rest of the year. I don't know if it's Christian or Hindu or Pagan or Schmagan but it's there, kiddies, and it's beautiful.

You have blundered through the last year like a blind bull, hurting and being hurt. Now you have a chance to cut out all that shit and let some happiness into your heart--some simple , uncomplicated, unpossessive happiness. Christmas lets you clean your karma NOW. But you've got to look and listen, and open your heart, or you'll miss the opportunities you're given.

(Sorry for sounding so positive about all this, by the way. I'm uncomfortable with it too.)

Friday, December 08, 2006


slime. my world is mud and slime.
crawling thru barbed wire on my belly
frightened as a rat.

slung out of an alleyway: a dustbin!
bomb! the crowds scream and en
masse rush out of the way.
my mind races: to that parked car?
what's in the car???!!
if i follow them, the car will blow.
i press my back into a doorway.
"i'm scared," i tell my dark friend.
fear defines me like a name.

Which Side Are You On?

It amazes me that so many people don't belong to trade unions in this country (or anywhere.)
Seems almost willfully perverse to me. Or the height of naivete. One day it will be you hearing the Man's footsteps behind you. And you are not the Man, though you might wear cheap imitations of his clothing. He will squash you like a bug when you stop putting money in his pocket.
Here's a suggestion. If you don't agree with trade unions, give up the benefits you've got because the unions fought for them. Like a livable wage. Like paid annual leave. It's a bit hypocritical to enjoy the fruits of the labours of people you disdain, after all, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ronald Baatz Publishes New Book

Concrete Meat Press of Knighton, Leicester have published a chapbook by my favourite American poet Ronald Baatz. It's called "On The Back Porch" and it's very good indeed. 50 short poems (but not the haiku one usually associates with Ronald), about love and loss and death, all told in that funny/lyrical/ sad/ surreal/ orientally-influenced style that makes the Baatz ouevre so compelling and distinctive. He's American poetry's best kept secret, thanks in part to his own desire to remain beneath the literary radar; and if you haven't encountered him yet, you are missing something. Take it from one who knows.
No price is quoted for the book. Contact the publisher for more information via their website: .Oh, and tell 'em you were referred by a poet friend of Ronald's who has a chapbook of his own he'd like to place with some congenial Press.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Meaning of Life

Watching the children coming out of Wilby school tonight--remembering me running home from school in Little Harrowden 35 years ago--exhausted after spending the day working at a job that does nothing for me except pay my bills, I thought: What a shit stick we're handing the younger generation! What is there waiting for them except the ritual of wasting their best days going to and from meaningless jobs, enduring insufferable company, being put down by people who deserve to be hit with a shovel but you can't because in the absurdist hierarchy of the workplace they've somehow risen to the top? What is waiting for those delightful, free-living, tousle-headed kids except the gradual diminution of their will and their energy, their joy, in shops and warehouses and offices performing, ritualistically, over and over and over again, totally pointless tasks just so they can earn enough money to survive to continue performing the pointless tasks?
All of which is true. Capitalist society is degrading and anti-human, and the sooner somebody (I've always wondered if it wasn't my destiny) comes up with an alternative, the better we'll all be. But life does have something to offer those kids. The value of life lies in the experiences that the individual has which seem to have no value to the society as a whole. In who you love, particularly. In your relationships with your friends and family. In the values you discover in yourself--especially those, like loyalty, which society doesn't prize. And in the things you think to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. A day cannot be given meaning, or substance, by signing a lucrative contract or getting praised by your boss, unless you are a moral worm, but it can acquire those things instantly when you suddenly realise the beauty of a yellow moon hanging low over the town lights at the horizon.
Life gets its substance, in other words, from poetry.
It's rather funny that I, of all people, should have forgotten that.

Monday Morning Notebook Observations

wind sweeps
the overgrown
garden bushes

a full yellow moon
over the woollaston
secondhand car garage

a black man
with a long-handled
comb in his hair
adjusts his
baggy trousers
in the mirror
by the basins
in the bus station
at 7 a.m.

from my journal, yesterday

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Poetry Readings

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but it bears repeating even if I have. Come January I will be reading poetry at the Labour Club in Northampton, first Wednesday of the month (whatever date that turns out to be).It's just me, a few loose leaves of poetry, a microphone and an audience of (I hope) appreciative listeners. Anybody who's in the area should come along. Hear this s**t read out loud by the man responsible for it (and pelt him with oranges).

My hope is to turn the performances into a regular thing. Maybe one day if I combine performances with a little freelance writing, I can even quit the money job. Today I've been discussing another gig with a Northampton event organiser, so it's not beyond the absolute, outer realms of possibility that a few more might come along, and on a regular basis.

We shall see. I have to get past the first gig first, and not die a huge and horrible death. After that we can talk of glory.

Oh, the point of this entry was to say this to promoters, pub owners, whoever else might be out there: I am available locally or nationally if you want to book me for readings. Drop me an email at

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It Was Cold As Hell Tonight But The Women Were Lovely

i'm sprouting beard hair
like an unkempt bush,
growing my grey tresses
down my neck again
and roaming towns at night
in a big warm military coat.
sitting in bus stations
reading knackered paperbacks.
a girl i care for says, "you
look like a bag of shit
bruce. why don't you shave?"
i am happier
than i have been in months.

Rosa Who?

Something great on the BBC website yesterday. They have an "on this day in history" feature, which is always interesting if you have a curiosity, as I do, about politics and world affairs generally. But yesterday it said something like: "On this day in 1955 a black woman in Alabama USA refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. Her action helped to begin the Civil Rights movement in America." So, she didn't have a name? She still hadn't done enough to be identified as an individual person rather than a representative of her race? Try Rosa Parks, dummies.

Oh, before you race off with the impression I'm being politically correct, a glance at other events from the same day in history on the site shows that everybody else DOES get a specific name. A black friend tells me that the woman in the picture isn't even Rosa Parks! We've come a long way, kiddies, but there are miles to go before we sleep.