Posts

Showing posts from 2008

Happy New Year

I usually hate New Year's Eve. When I've been in a room and people were leaving to go somewhere or other and I knew "Happy New Year" greetings and hugs and kisses were coming, I've always tensed up, hoping the people offering them wouldn't come for me, praying at the same time that they would. I've always found an excuse, at that moment, to get up and leave so I didn't have to deal with the unwanted physical contact, the absence of the much-needed physical contact, my horror at the meaninglessness of the conventions etc etc. Have you never thought that the words would turn to concrete in your mouth if you spouted some socially mandatory cliche like "Happy New Year"?

I have spent every new year I can remember on my own, imagining the fun that other people were having, hearing the fun in pubs along the street from the Lookout, watching the fun on television, reflecting self-laceratingly on all the horrible mistakes I've made in life right f…

South Bank: A Cheap Fishing Expedition For A Publisher

Yesterday was my first day at home in several, after various Christmas adventures at work and elsewhere. I was exhausted after the Festive season, and so cold I might have snapped if somebody had nudged me.

For hours I did nothing except sleep, doze and listen to football on the radio. Then, in the evening, I put a Lee "Scratch" Perry album on, and instead of writing the thought I had down in my journal, I wrote it in a poem. I did a Kerouac and let the size of my notebook (A-6), dictate the length of the lines and ultimately, when I stopped.

It came out beautifully, and very easily. I wrote another, and then another, and before I knew it I had lots of them, all around one theme: my memories of South Bank, the care home where I worked, that mad season when, after a lifetime of being ignored by the fairer sex, I had two lovely women express an interest in me in the same month.

How and why that happened I still don't know. Ultimately, I lost both of them and since then I'…

Scrooged, The 80s, Now

"Scrooged" was one of the tv delights yesterday. You know it, the Bill Murray version of a Christmas Carol from the 80s. I was thinking as I watched it how ridiculous the clothes were then, how unattractive the hair was, how soulless and empty the aspirations of the mainstream were, how stupid the movies were that people flocked to then, and loved.

The passage of time often has that effect on things that seemed, at the time, perfectly sensible. But I thought that about what was going on in the 80s when I was actually in the 80s. It seemed to me as if half the world had lost its mind -- which is why, despite being a child of that generation, more or less (I was 20 in 1984), I dropped out and resurrected the 60s, just for me.

I'm still sort of living it too, though with a rather angry anarchistic twist that is pure punk, and despite the fact that I meet plenty of people on the alternative side of things these days who have their heads screwed on aesthetically, intellectuall…

A Christmas Movie Clip

A Christmas Prayer

Huntingdon Life Sciences have won a case against animal rights activists whom they claim were trying to intimidate and blackmail them using such tactics as sending used needles through the mail and smearing them as paedophiles. Leave aside that the scientists deal in what we, as members of the community of Earth, ought to consider the deliberate murder of our own, we will never win for our cause by becoming moral lepers ourselves. Think what sort of a karmic mess we would be creating for ourselves and the animals we wish to liberate.


May all the turkeys slaughtered,
all the chickens stunned, hung
upside down, their throats cut,
then their heads cut off,
the geese likewise disposed of

to fill our plates this Christmas
please forgive us.

Adrian Mitchell: To Whom It May Concern

I note with sadness the passing of Adrian Mitchell a day or two ago.

Not familiar? He's probably going to be known by posterity as the author of "To Whom It May Concern" (I think that's what it's called)--the "tell me lies about Vietnam" poem--which he famously, and beautifully, read at Wholly Communion in 1965. (Was it '65? I don't have a firm grasp on my facts this morning.)

He did a lot of other work, of course, but most of it was rather average in my humble reckoning, spoiled by his tendency towards a sentimental populism characteristic of all of the lesser poets of his generation. It was a brilliant generation, to be sure--Raworth, Torrance, Harry Fainlight, Hollo, Horowitz, among the many--but the great ones were largely overlooked and those of limited talent or achievement struck it BIG. McGough biggest of all in the Liverpudlian afterglow of some group called the Beatles, but Mitchell too, especially with the liberal-minded arts media, wh…

Eyes On Mars

Blue Fred Press is not given to excessive self-promotion, but our favourite staffer has a poem at a site you should be giving the once-over anyway, so how about taking a peek at J.D. Nelson's "Eyes On Mars" page in the next few hours and enriching your day considerably?

http://www.eyeonmars.com

J.D., by the way, has some poetry today at our sister page THE BEATNIK (http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com ).Coincidence? A case of what Charles Bukowski delightfully called "asshole clasping"? No to the former and possibly to the latter.

BEATNIK has been inactive for a couple of months now because of the personal problems your esteemed editor has had (those self-inflicted, and the ones coming from without). And we've been rudely sitting on a submission from JD for all that time. With his own patient but disciplined approach to dealing with our work, he has finally shamed us into action.

Thanks again for the space you've given our beloved staffer, J.D. It's a b…

The Yes Man

Have you seen the advertisements for the new Jim Carrey film, "The Yes Man"? It's about a guy who decides to say yes to every proposition he is offered for one year, no matter how absurd, to see what effect it has on his life. And judging by the picture on the poster of Jim Carrey flying through the air with a big goofy smile on his face, the overall impact is a good one.

"One word that can change your whole life," the movie tag line says. And undoubtedly it would, if you mixed in the right circles and met with the right propositions. But as much as I have a reputation among those who know me in the flesh for being a bit of a hippie (it's actually a fairly inaccurate characterisation), these joymongers who believe in the essential goodness of the universe, such as becoming a Yes man is presumably supposed to open you up to, bring me out in a bit of a rash.

Passing the hoarding with that rather-too-California/ New Age sentiment blazing out from it this morning…

Broken Britain & The Conformity Cops

In some ways there may have been a decline in society in our lifetime. The SUN newspaper's "Broken Britain" analysis may even have some legitimacy, though I don't like to be in agreement with them even when they're right, and they have completely failed to understand why Britain might be broken, or how to fix it.

Britain started breaking after World War 2 when people started to feel guilty about social stratification and tried to dismantle all of the systems that had supported stratification beforehand. You gasp that I should make such a statement? Hang on.

The efforts to dismantle the social strata that had previously existed were motivated by people in my camp and embarked upon for the very best reasons. Nobody should be born with nothing more ahead of them than a life of poverty and servitude. Nobody should be born into a life of wealth and ease either. If you want something you should earn it, right?

So getting rid of the bottom stratum was a noble endeavour. An…

The Death of Fun

I was delighted this morning to learn that Russell Brand won the British Comedy Award for Best Live Act last night, and dedicated the award to Jonathan Ross. Ross was supposed to have been presenting the show but because of the absurd brouhaha in the British media about the silly calls Brand and Ross made to Andrew Sachs on Russell's now-defunct radio show, he's still not allowed in front of a camera (and when he comes back they'll be expecting him to show appropriate contrition, you can bet, like a drunk driver who accidently mowed down a family of cute blonde-haired infant picnickers).

This story broke before my own little spot of trouble with my employer in re: a careless joke on Facebook, but even before I was suspended I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. We seem so keen in this country to find someone we can all bunch together and vilify (life hasn't been the same in Old Blighty since witches all married I.T. consultants and opened expensive trinket …

Dave Church

The death of poet Dave Church last week was sobering news. Somehow it never seemed that any of us who were doing this would die. But die he did, in his taxi cab, apparently from a heart attack, and so the rest of us must die as well. There isn't always going to be next month, and then the month after that, to get your inspiration back--or your confidence back--and finally push on to write the poem or the book you always seemed to have in you.

Which is obvious, but it's amazing how easy it is to forget the obvious as we careen through our lives hung up on the importance of every little thing we do.

Hearing about Dave makes me realise I've got to stop messing around and get down to some good, hard work before it's too late. How foolish would it be if I dropped dead (not that I'm planning to), with eighty hours of overtime behind me that week and not even the ghost of a poem scratched down in one of my numerous notebooks?

When The Going Gets Weird

Ah, yes, and it has certainly done that just lately. I get suspended from work for putting a joke on my Facebook page, and then I fall over again in town--outside Waterstone's, ironically--am taken to hospital, have a load of tests run including blood and ECG, and they conclude I've probably had a seizure. NOW I have to go to something with the rather ignominious name of a "First Fit Clinic" to have the diagnosis confirmed or denied.

But I'm pretty sure that's what it is. I have worked with epileptics for most of my adult life; I know the signs. And last night I had another one, while I was lying in bed. Woke up on the floor again with a headache, and blisters and flayed skin on my arms. As I have joked to friends a couple of times, I'm just glad I haven't wet myself. So far. The way things have been going I wouldn't take anything for granted (my humour is dark, I know, but in some circumstances it has to be).

People (not experts) have blamed the st…

The Hearing

You may be interested to know--or you may not care--that Fred has avoided being sacked at his hearing this morning and comes through the experience much more aware of the possible pitfalls of speaking his mind too plainly on the internet. I say "aware", obviously, and not "disinclined to continue". But there are ways, boys, there are ways. He's also going to be much more careful about who he trusts in future. Fred is quite naive, in some ways (why is Fred writing about himself in the third person?). Fred had no idea that somebody he thought was his friend had been talking to those who wished to do him harm. But such is life. There have been so many people this week who've been supportive he couldn't possibly lose faith; in fact, he may have a bit more, if that doesn't contradict the statement about mistrust. And even if it does.

Damien Green and Democracy

Much as I hate even to be suspected of defending Tories, the arrest yesterday of MP Damien Green, it seems only for the charge of assisting moles in government to leak information to the Press that Brown et al would rather we didn't have, is profoundly worrying and a terrible indictment of the state of our democracy. We need to know, if we haven't been told already, why he was arrested, what they were looking for when they rooted through his personal possessions, why he was held for nine hours, and who was the motivating force behind the police action.

According to the radio this morning Brown knew nothing about it. But since the authorities informed Cameron and Green's arrest had profound constitutional implications, it's frankly pretty hard to believe that nobody told the Prime Minister. (Which is what the Tories have been trying to imply by calling the tactics "Stalineseque"--remember the LibDem leader's put-down on Gordon Brown as having gone from Sta…

BEATNIK

I'm not sure who reads this page other than the kind people who leave a comment, but I'd just like to use the space here to say that production on our poetry blogzine whatsit THE BEATNIK has temporarily ceased, for obvious reasons. Everybody who has submitted is asked to sit tight and wait a while for the editors to respond. Things will get back to normal, one way or another, after the hearing over the Facebook thing is finished. And that hasn't even happened yet. Presumably it takes a while to ship in a strong enough rope, especially as the post slows down in the run-up to Christmas.

Grave New World

I have had a rare and rising sense of optimism these past few weeks. It began to seem as if things were working themselves out at last. I'd seen off the depression; I'd made new friends. Even the desire to write had come back, although not much actual writing had emerged yet (what appears here obviously being decorative spaghetti). But events of the last couple of days have thrown me off course again.

I can't say too much about it at the moment because I am involved in an investigation. Suspended from my job for something I wrote on Facebook. Just a comment left on the page of one of my friends, something funny I thought, but somebody saw it and reported it to my employer and now I'm being investigated for gross misconduct. Can you believe that? I didn't name anybody; I didn't name the company. But somehow I am supposed to have brought the company's good name into disrepute.

We'll see. Thankfully I am a union member so I won't have to go into the dis…

Choosing Life

I've been conscious of my lack of productivity on the writing front lately. Haven't written a poem for so long I can't remember. And the last short story or novel attempt was a dog's age ago.

I want to get that back. I want to write. (What am I doing now?) It's been the mainstay of my life and the sinking post of my sanity since I was a wee nipper.

But it's complicated. I can't seem to write in Earls B, which is where I moved the Lookout when I finally accepted my relationship with you-know-who was over. The whole village became like the tomb I buried my old life in after that. I would lie in my flat in the dark remembering everything that had gone before and feeling like a dead man who had forgotten to fall down. "Walking through the leaves/ falling from the trees/ feeling like a stranger/ nobody sees," as Dylan says.

The continuity of my life in the world was interrupted. I went out to work--which any walking corpse can do--in fact, dead man status…

Winter Prayer

It's a Sunday in the world and everything is strange, eerily so, but interesting. Coming out this morning there were black crows and falling leaves everywhere. Well, yes, you might say, it's autumn. Winter, even, to all intents and purposes. But lately I've had a feeling that everything was ending, and--dare I hope?--beginning. That I went to Earls B to bury my old life, which has been so full of false turns, ghastly mistakes, friendships lost and loves destroyed. Arrogance. Snobbery. Stupidity. "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," as the Beatles said. And all I've ever done is breathe out anger. Disguised as love, disguised as compassion, disguised as empathy sometimes, but anger. Have I ever seen other people as anything other than projections of my own ego? Images on my own giant movie screen? How vastly idiotic, to look at the universe as your own creation! It's a Sunday in the world, cold, wet, and no wonder I'm alone wi…

Americanisms

You all know I love America, especially now that Barack Obama is heading for the White House. Its music and movies and its poetry have had a huge influence on my life. But it does make me laugh when I'm in Sosta Coffee on Abington Street in Northampton and I hear a procession of people in clothing combinations obviously copied from Sunday newspaper fashion supplements saying, to the congenial Greek chappie behind the counter, "Can I get a Latte?" or "Can I get a mochachocachino and two blueberry muffins, buddy?" or "Can I get an hour on the internet?" Since when was "get" an adequate or even necessary substitute for the word "have"? Since when was it even accurate? Obviously he can get a Latte, he's in a coffee shop, not an aquarium.

A State Funeral For Thatcher? You MUST Be Joking

One of the newspapers confirmed yesterday that the Government intends to confer the rare honour of a state funeral on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she (finally(excuse me--who said that?)) dies.

I have one question.

WHY?

The last British PM to get a state funeral was Winston Churchill. Which is fair enough. You could find a number of unflattering things to say about old Winston--any number of criticisms to hurl against his sacrosanct flanks--but even an old malcontent like me has to admit that Churchill saw Britain through World War II wonderfully. He embodied somehow all of the values our grandparents (those of my generation at least) were fighting to preserve against the savagery, the criminality, the immorality, the flat-out dumbness, of the Nazis. Some of Churchill's speeches are as famous now as Shakespeare's.

What did Margaret Thatcher see us through? The instigation of the untrammeled version of capitalism which has brought us to the brink, now, of the worst…

Obama And The Common Good

Obama's transition team have announced that Barack plans to veto a law passed under Bush making it acceptable to drill for oil in wilderness areas. I think that's the nub of it, anyway: I came in to a newsagents to shelter from the freezing rain and saw the story on the front of the Guardian newspaper. He's also heading for conflict with Gordon Brown over tax havens for the rich.

Wonderful! Can I apply for four-year citizenship in the United States with an option to renew for another four years dependent on the result of the next election?

Brown will trot out the tired old (Tory) argument that the rich and powerful cannot be hamstrung by legislation; that the only incentive they have to fatten the bank accounts and fill the dining tables of us all is complete freedom. Action cleansed of all moral, ethical and cultural considerations.

But it isn't the heads of the multinationals who have made Britain and America wealthy nations anyway. It's the ordinary men and women …

The Next War

One of the fabulous things about Obama's election is that when confronted with racism these past few days, I've been able to point out to the ignorant curs who perpetrate it that history has left them behind. You can stick to an increasingly deluded view of your superiority over a whole race of people if you like, feller,though quite how skin pigmentation is supposed to affect intelligence or morality I've never understood; but there's a black family heading for the White House now and the country everybody else presumes to be terminally racist has voted them in.

Rosa Parks didn't quite know what she was starting all those years ago when she refused to get up off her bus seat to let a white man sit down.

And the struggle for civil rights for black people (and Asians in this country) isn't finished yet. Obama is only the end of the beginning and if we allow ourselves to become complacent about black equality because of his triumph, the racists will sneak up on our…

Well Done America, All Is Forgiven

Ted Pope just wrote to me, "We've got a president who's read more books than I have." He's right, and it's marvellous. Think about it. Barack Obama is so erudite, no rhetorical flight I could produce here to express my satisfaction at the American presidential election outcome, and why I think it will be important not only for America but for the world, would have a prayer of surpassing in style or content what Barack has already said himself. I feel--I hope temporarily--quite silenced by his prodigious gifts as a communicator. And I like that. I want to know that the most powerful man in the world is a man of extraordinary talents.

Well done, America. You played a blinder when you went to the polls the other day.

Cheney Endorses McCain

John McCain must have been privately squirming when he was publically endorsed by Dick Cheney the other day. Is that what the flagging Republican campaign really needs? The vocal support or a central figure in the Bush administration? Even Republicans don't like Bush anymore, not now that his plummeting support among moderate Americans threatens the interests the Republican Party is designed to protect.

Same Old Same Old

The world--well, the part of the world that is conscious and not preoccupied with survival--holds its breath. America is only a few days away from deciding its future, and by extension, everybody else's future too. Do they elect Barack Obama as president and send a signal to the world that they are renewed--that the torch, as Jack Kennedy might have said, has been passed to a new generation who want America to rediscover its sense of mission, its presumed destiny as the leader of a New Way that enshrines fairness "and justice for all"? Or do they elect John McCain, who stands for a slightly more liberal version of the same corrupt, greedy, lying, illiterate bullshit America has soured the world with for the last eight years (with my own country, which has never known any better, cheering it on).

The people I have spoken to--Africans and Pakistanis among them--men who have witnessed enough corruption and violence in their own countries to turn Michael Landon to drink and D…

No!

I found out yesterday that a woman I really like, in whatever way you want to take that, thinks I use long words when I talk to her because I know she doesn't know what they mean.

I was rather appalled anybody would even think me capable of such pretentious behaviour. If I use long words it's because they're the words that are passing through my head when I'm talking to somebody, or writing something down. It's not because I'm trying to intimidate anybody, or impress anybody.

Actually, I think my vocabulary is pretty basic for a man who likes to believe he's intelligent.

The most pretentious thing a person could do in conversation would be to simplify his (her) words or ideas because they presumed the person in front of them was too dumb to understand them in their original form. (Stand up everybody publically campaigning for the Republicans in the American election.)

It didn't even cross my mind that the woman I like wouldn't get what I was telling her…

Barack Does Rhyme With Iraq, After All

The Republican campaign in the American presidential election may go down in history as the sleaziest one ever fought.

They have to take some, though not all, of the responsibility for the ridiculous idea that seems to be abroad aqbout Obama's true religion, since they made such an effort to conjoin their opponent's name with terrorism in the public imagination.

I saw one woman at a McCain rally the other day say that Obama was really a Muslim. That he was just pretending to be a Christian until he got into the White House. At which point, presumably, he plans for there to be a great Ta-Da! moment when he rips off his suit to reveal a chest strapped heavily with explosives (maybe when he does his first speech from the Oval Office, eh?)

Of course, to a sensible person being Muslim signifies no more of a connection with terrorism than being Christian, or Buddhist. But to the uneducated, prejudiced, angry white swine who vote Republican in America or Conservative in the UK it does.

Basting Mummy

I was cooking two chickens at work the other day, the fellow who usually does the cooking not being around, and I can't even begin to explain how horrible I found it looking at those poor plucked and beheaded creatures sitting on the baking tray in front of me with their legs tied together. Some readers may think my views are extreme (as I would theirs, in reverse), but to me they'd been murdered, those chickens, and they had just as much of a right to life as you or I. The method used to slaughter chickens for human consumption is ghastly too, adding sadism and torture into the mixture, until murder actually seems too tame a word to describe what happens to them. I can't refuse to do the cooking, though. That is part of my job. And I'm preparing food for people who are meat eaters, and are unable for various reasons to prepare meals for themselves.

I told the Muslim man I was on duty with how revolting I found the experience of preparing the chickens for dinner.

"…

On The Cushion

I had the feeling that I came out of my body while I was meditating this morning. Never had the feeling before, not in meditation anyway (knowing ho ho ho). I didn't go up, or down, or sideways; I just suddenly wasn't inside the seated figure in the half-lotus on the floor in front of the old wooden buddha. I knew I used to be, but now I wasn't.

It wasn't frightening at all. This is the way it will be, I thought, warmly, remembering the prophesies of the ancient masters. And then I was back inside my body again, like slipping into a familiar old coat.

Off out to face whatever dreams the day had in store.

How To Cope With Death

Someone I know is watching a family member go through his last hours of life, and she's understandably devastated. She sent me a text message a couple of days ago saying she didn't know how she would get through it.

Yes, I remember the experience all too clearly. And one day I will have to go through it again, if death doesn't take me first (who knows what little surprises are in store for us, eh?)

I was tempted, for a moment, after I received her text to write back that something of him would live on, that he would be reborn, that her grief would disturb him after death and cause him to drift towards an unfavourable rebirth. I wanted to echo Chogyam Trungpa's words to Allen Ginsberg when his father died, "Please let him go, and continue your celebration."

But my friend isn't a Buddhist. And she doesn't need to hear me proselytising for Buddhism, regurgitating stuff I learned from "The Tibetan Book Of The Dead", any more than I would have appre…

It's Time To Move The Lookout

By the time I left work this morning I'd been there for more than 48 hours, give or take the odd walk into town for fresh air. It's because we have people, including me, sleeping at the home to be on hand in the event of a crisis. You get paid for it, which isn't a bad gig, and since it's cheaper and easier for me than trekking the 8 or 9 miles out of town to the Lookout, at night, with no transport of my own, I'll do the sleep-in when it's available.

I've fallen out of love with the Lookout anyway. Every home I live in is called the Lookout, of course (I say "of course" as if it were obvious!), so what I actually mean is that I've fallen out of love with its present location, in a cold, two-bedroom flat over a shop on the Square in the middle of Earls Barton. I quite liked living over the shop for a while, since it sells flutes and Buddhas and Indian clothes etc. etc.--I was living some early fantasy of the bohemian poet's life--but now I …

Nearly There

America is frighteningly close. The presidential election is only a few weeks away and Obama is still ahead in the polls. McCain looks old and irrelevant, and he's desperate enough to attempt to make any charge stick against his rival, however ludicrous, however scurrilous. And to the credit of the American public, his barrel-scraping tactics these past few weeks seem to have caused enough distaste to turn swing voters towards Obama.

He encouraged the racist groundswell against Obama by peppering his references to his rival with the word "terrorist". And his featherweight running mate followed suit. They were referring to an old association Obama himself had denounced long ago, not directly to Obama. It was obvious. however, that they hoped the man and the word would become conjoined in the public consciousness; and among less discerning Republicans it worked. Ironically, how stumbling and weak McCain looked having to redirect supporters at his own rallies when they stood…

The Other Bruce Endorses Obama

Shitting In Your Own Nest

I met the last woman I was seriously involved with when I was at work. "Shitting in your own nest," they call that, because it makes an unholy mess in a place where you really need to have some kind of comfort and security. Though I would do it again, if the right woman came along (at the right price ha ha).

I was working for social services when I met her, in a residential home in Kettering that's since been closed, and they had a policy against relationships between colleagues. So when we got together my new partner said we ought to keep what was happening between us a secret. I suspected even then that the policy against relationships wasn't the only reason she wanted to pretend we were still just friends, but it was a great cover story, if nothing else. (She was married, for one, and didn't want to become the subject of a lot of workplace gossip, especially given the fact that her new partner was me--regarded with some accuracy as a bit of a weirdo by half of…

Know Your Rights (1)

On the radio last night, I heard this reassuring little gem:

"It's not illegal to kill yourself in this country."

The police must have been relieved to hear that. Can you imagine them blue-lighting over to the mortuaries to arrest the day's new batch of dead?

Me And That Old Suburban Marching Powder

A friend of mine said, last night, "I don't know anyone who hasn't done a bit of coke." Well, you do, mate, because I haven't. I've always been a pot and lager man, no more. Oh, and peanut butter, of course. That's beginning to make me look like Biggles would have looked if you'd taken him out of a W.E. Johns novel and plonked him down in the middle of San Franciso in 1967.

I've known a lot of snorters, of course. You can hardly fail to given coke's ubiquity. I've known people who were heroin users too, though amusingly, in the drug user's hierarchy, that's looked down on. "You don't see any dirty old tramps doing coke," my friend said yesterday. "It's definitely the drug of professionals."

There was only one time when I was tempted to try anything stronger than Miss Green. It was when I was going out with my friend's friend Ronnie, who I'd worked with in a care home in Kettering. She was interesti…

Everything Must Go, And Went

I listened to the Manic Street Preachers' cd "Everything Must Go" this morning for the first time in about ten years. What happened to them, I wonder? A truly great band, perhaps the greatest of the late Nineties, and certainly my own favourite back then. How we need their intelligence, their commitment to something other than their own haircuts, now.

It's a ridiculously obvious observation that music opens the door to old feelings. But I will make it anyway. When the cd was playing, it was as as if '96 or '97 had blown in through the open window and set up again in my living room. And that wasn't an especially comfortable sensation.

Richey Edwards disappeared around the time my mother got cancer. "Everything Must Go", their immense, valedictory, first post-Richey album, came out either just before or just after my mother died (the chronology is jumbled, maybe not surprisingly, in my mind). And the songs provided the soundtrack to the stunned, imm…

A Flipping Van

I saw a stolen van turn over in a ditch this lunchtime. It took a corner too quickly as it left the A45 near Billing Aquadrome, veered violently off course, flipped over on its roof then landed with the right side up again in a ditch, as everyone on my bus--which was travelling behind it--let out a collective gasp and stood up in their seats to get a better view of the crash. As soon as the van stopped rolling, two men climbed out of the open window on the passenger side--the door was jammed--and ran away up the road towards Earls Barton. At first we thought they were just getting clear of the van in case it blew up like they always used to in American tv shows. But they kept on running, and soon they'd disappeared altogether. Hence my not-altogether-brilliant surmise that the van was stolen.

The bus driver called 999 on his mobile to inform the police and he couldn't get through. "Is it actually 10-10-10 and I'm calling the wrong number?" he asked sarcastically f…

A General Silence In The Room

The Guardian today reminds us that my nomination for greatest living Briton Michael Foot, now 95 years old, called for "much closer direct control over bank lending" in Labour's 1983 election manifesto. This manifesto is historically referred to as "the longest suicide note in history" and led to a defeat that almost wiped Labour off the political map.

Will all those who voted against Labour in the '83 election stand up, please?

"Capitalism doesn't work successfully forever," Foot said yesterday, probably smiling just a little--although as a man of conscience and a responsible citizen of the world the present situation must be grieving him.

Memories of the Doors and Selina

I spoke to this teenage girl the other day. Very cute and intelligent she was (in that order in my leery sexist reckoning), but in the course of our conversation it emerged that she didn't know who Jim Morrison or the Doors were.

It may seem obvious that somebody who's 16 won't necessarily have come across a band that split up nearly forty years ago. But I was really surprised by it. I don't listen to them much anymore--and I rarely read Jimbo's poetry--but the Doors were one of the defining cultural experiences of my youth. I couldn't quite compute the idea that a band and a writer who helped me become who I am (for what that's worth) might have passed another person by completely. If they were that insignificant to a really cool person, what did it mean for all my assumptions about the validity and importance of my own cultural journey?

After speaking to the girl I went home and fished out my copies of "Morrison Hotel" and "An American Prayer…

A Hurricane In The Head

People who know me will be aware that I get bad depression from time to time. When it hits it hits hard, like a hurricane in the head, and for days everything goes haywire. I can't stay awake, I can't think straight, I get paranoid, I hurt the people around me either by neglecting their feelings or behaving irrationally (as they see it) towards them.

It's been going on for many years now, and I don't think I'll ever beat it. I've tried counselling. I've tried drugs. But when it's hurricane season, it doesn't matter what I think I've put up to defend the homestead. Soon it's all flying around in the air again.

It's been flying around just lately, actually. I hope now that the hurricane has started to blow itself out, but you can never be sure.

Somebody asked me today--knowing I've had, or given myself, a rough time in the past few weeks--what it was I was depressed about. I can't even begin to explain that without dragging SUFFOLK PU…

Obama The Bomber? Come On!

I heard some American blogger on the radio this morning trying to convince listeners that Barack Obama, by taint of association with people he denounced a long time ago, was a supporter of terrorism and murder. Well,of course he is, right? Not only is he black, he's also half Muslim. Or something. Which fits the Republican prototype of the mad bomber perfectly.

I hope everybody realises how desperate this means the Republican Party must be and dismisses the putrid insinuations out of hand. It's a new low even for them, and no party in the civilised world (wherever that is) has shown itself able to go quite as low as the Republicans.

As if we didn't know they were struggling when they chose first John McCain, and then his running mate Sarah Palin, to chase Obama and Biden for the White House.

You betcha. Gosh darn! Well, gee, folks. Oh, and did I throw in a golly?

The university educated operatives of the Republican Party will piss themselves laughing if "joe six-pack&quo…

The Credit Crunch: Who Exactly Is To Blame?

It seems a touch hypocritical to me, all these people (those who know it's happening) blaming the supposed forthcoming economic catastrophe on the greed and rapaciousness of Wall Street and the City alone.

Anybody who voted for Thatcher or Reagan (or Blair or George Bush) was voting for an unrestrained free market. Anyone who fails to vote votes by default for the established order, and the unrestrained free market has been our established order for a whole generation.

It was the politicians who created the conditions in which the practices we're told led to the credit crunch were allowed to flourish. Wall Street and the City couldn't have done it without being set free to do it.

I voted for Tony Blair in '97 and 2000, or 2001 (whenever it was). That was to replace a rotten government with a slightly less rotten one. But I voted for the market. (I also voted for an illegal invasion of another country, and I have to live with that too.)

The only consolation I can take is kn…

To Whom It May Concern In Real Unreality

i am a beatnik a dharma bum a hippie an old bohemian a poet a punk a dropout a psychotic i like to drink beer i like the occasional joint i like meditation i'm learning to play the flute i think the best place a person can be is deep in the woods on a sunny day i like rain i like a full moon in the sky first thing in the morning i like my long hair i like my beard i think hair wax on men is a sign of evil i will never wear a tie again i do not want to spend twenty pounds on a shirt or a hundred quid on a pair of shoes when there are people on the streets with nowhere to sleep tonight i am not a part of your make money and buy useless shit to prove how impressive you are take a foreign holiday eat dinner in a fancy restaurant once a month world okay? okay? now hopefully i won't have to say it again.

SEASICK STEVE

I spent most of last night in sweet isolation drinking beer, washing my clothes in the sink and hanging them to dry over my bath, and listening to the new Seasick Steve album "I STARTED OUT WITH NOTHING AND I STILL GOT MOST OF IT LEFT" (well, the title's something like that). I also reassembled my shower to Seasick Steve, as one of the doors had fallen off and I don't like stripwashing anymore since everybody in the world became obsessed with a person's smell and my 43-year-old balls dropped half way to my knees (you wait, it'll happen).

If your life is half as Beat, half as make-do-and-mend, as mine is--if you couldn't get your act together even with a million pound cheque in your bank--listen to this man's growling electrified twenty-first century blues. I swear he's the brother that my mum and dad were too ashamed to tell me about all those years ago, before my karma grew me sideways and made me seasick too.

An Encounter On The Street

A shining example of the intelligence and articulacy of the nation's youth shouted "YOU F***IN LONG-'AIRED BASTARD" at me as I was walking down to the internet cafe a few minutes ago.

Long-'aired I obviously am.

F***ing, I would like to be.

Bastard, thankfully, I am not.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions you might have had, you delightful young man.

Of course, the likelihood of you reading this is small. The likelihood of you reading anything is small, other than the big words on your cigarette packet. But one doesn't wish to stereotype.

poem: rush hour

Blowing laughter down his nose discreetly,
the Chinese kid sitting next to me
looks at something funny on his laptop screen.
I have put down a book of poetry
to watch a long-limbed Polish girl
do nothing several seats ahead.

Ronald Baatz

I read a beautiful poetry cycle this morning. "Cemetery Country" by Ronald Baatz. It's part of a split chapbook co-authored by the fabulous Mark Weber just out on Zerx Press. The story of Ronald's relationship with his dad and the latter's final months battling (if that isn't completely the wrong word) Alzheimer's Disease. Poetry is poetry, you might think--pleasant, diverting, chuckle-inducing, but essentially a slight experience in this world of fast and cheap thrills. But "Cemetery Country" is brilliantly written and profoundly beautiful. After I'd read the last poem on the morning bus I had three waves of the shivers (you know, the kind you get when you're really moved) and a knot in my chest the size of a baseball glove. Read more about it, if you're interested, at whollycommunion.blogspot.com and investigate Baatz's whole body of work, as a matter of urgency. You'll kick yourself when he's not around anymore and you…

Blocking the Bail-Out

It's not often I find myself in agreement with George Bush, but lordy lord, the dogmatism of those "fiscal conservatives" in Congress and elsewhere who don't seem to want Bush's Government to do anything to stop the economies of the West collapsing astonishes me. Sometimes, fellers, even when you hold a principle dear, you just have to admit that the game is up (even if it's only temporarily up); that people are more important than abstract ideologies. The American Communist Party did it in the 1940s when they threw their support behind the American Government in the war against Hitler. If the American economy goes down, half the economies of the world go down like a line of electricity pylons being dragged down by the fall of one in a lightning storm. And then there's darkness everywhere.

Of course, fiscal conservatives may be known for plenty of things, but compassion isn't one of them. What do they care about your suffering, as long as they keep th…

Paul Newman

Image
There may be quite a lot of this on blogs written by what the media call "men of a certain age", but I'd just like to note my sadness at the death of Paul Newman last week. He stars in one of my favourite films ever, the little-known "Pocket Money", and plenty of other great movies besides. I hardly need mention "The Hustler" or "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" or "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid".There's also "Hud", "Hombre", "Absence of Malice"...The man was prolific and approached his job with a seriousness that was never self-conscious or pretentious, but resulted in a body of work that no other American actor can match in terms of quality.

The Gory Tory

Yes, David "Call me Dave" Cameron may think we are stupid enough to be taken in by a cosmetic exercise in rebranding the same old product, but a Tory is a Tory is a Tory, end of (s)tory. This apparently affable, apparently liberal fellow, with his apparent distaste for what went before in recent Conservative (his)tory, is a supporter of blood sports, however much he tries to disguise his prejudice in the rhetoric of non-interference. The anti-hunting bill Labour brought in was a fudge, and a ludicrous one at that, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Now Cameron is committed to undoing it.

Most people left politics around the time Blair was elected. He made it seem a distasteful, cynical, manipulative art that men and women of principle should have no truck with, precisely because he emphasised style over substance, treatment over truth, in the way Cameron (his best disciple) is doing now. But with a Tory landslide now on the cards, and the repeal of the anti-hu…

Wake Up And Smell The Tory

Newspapers today are reporting that the Tories will win with a majority of (I think) 146 seats at the next election, if present poll ratings don't change.
Terrific. We are sleepwalking back into the 80s. And anyone who thinks the Tories have changed would obviously believe he had moved house if you crept in and put up different wallpaper in his living room. Show the Conservative Party you're not as stupid as they think you are, I urge you.
They are still opposed to strong unions. And David Cameron himself is a supporter of blood sports. He has referred to fox hunting as a traditional country pursuit he doesn't think it's appropriate to legislate against. Never mind the cruelty. Never mind the death.
Those are just two examples of how the Tory Party of today is no different from the Tory Party of Margaret Thatcher. If they aren't enough for you I will gather more in the days and weeks to come.

The World Looks Nice Today

Third day off work today and I woke up this morning after a good long sleep feeling quite wonderful. Read a little, listened to Willie Nelson's old "Shotgun Willie" album as I dressed, walked outside into a beautiful cool bright autumn day to catch the bus, easy in myself and happy with other people...I am a human being again rather than a bundle of stress and anguish lashing out in all directions and wondering which disaster is going to befall me next. Tomorrow I go back to work.

Who Winds Up Bleeding

You'd think I was two different people. Here I offend without meaning to, just by speaking by mind. At work I am often condemned for being "too nice". I am "soft", apparently, "afraid of confrontation". Which is total shit, of course. I am just more cautious at work because I know that truth is one commodity that isn't valued in the workplace, unless your truth happens to coincide with the boss' truth. So many managers in the world of work--and it's not a new thing--are like Shakespeare's King Lear: they want to hear what is convenient and makes them feel good about themselves, and will genuinely believe (because they identify, egotistically, their own cause with the common cause), that somebody who opposes them is making trouble and trying to dismantle the whole apparatus. (Perhaps you aren't drawn to the idea of leading people unless you are vain, insecure and capable of huge, fatuous, self-deceiving rationalisations.)

So, I flatt…

Free, And Cared For

Whenever I oppose the idea of an unrestrained free market I am called a Communist and reminded that Karl Marx's theories foundered in the vicious, repressive, One-Party behemoth of Soviet Russia.

That is the argument of another century now.Soviet Russia is gone. Even China has become a quasi-capitalist state within the boundaries of its totalitarian rule; and in case anybody hadn't noticed, my vituperation is equally fierce when I'm talking about China.

The key to my opposition to an unrestrained free market lies, if it's really necessary to spell it out, in the word "unrestrained".

I am an individual, perhaps even an individualist (though I'm not so sure about that). I would probably live less successfully under a totalitarian regime than most, given that even in an atmosphere of supposedly complete freedom I'm still out of step. (I say "supposedly" because the pervasive influence of mass media in modern capitalist societies makes every third…

I'm Afraid It's The Clap, Mr Greedy

The people who work in the City and on Wall Street, facing the threat of economic collapse, remind me of a man who has slept with a prostitute and now sits anxiously awaiting the results of a test for venereal disease.

An Acceptable Price To Pay

The prophesies of economic chaos being bandied about at present--by the few who seem to have noticed it's happening--remind me eerily (and wearily) of the early 1980s. Do we really have to go through that, or worse, again?

When the economy goes tits up the media reports fulsomely on bankers and executives losing their jobs. Today the newspapers are full of it. By they will be okay. Most of them will have put enough money away during the good times to see them through the bad times in a comfort comparable to what they've already enjoyed.

It's the lives of ordinary people that are wrecked. Their dreams taken away from them. Their one chance of living the storybook life they wanted stolen by circumstances they have no control over. The privation and degradation they are set to experience in the next couple of years will mark them forever.

Ask anybody who lived through the 80s at the rough end of Thatcher's economic miracle why they hate the Conservatives so passionately and …

You Don't Sound Like You Think You Sound, Boss Man

Save me--please!--from workplace managers who say "shit" and "fuck" and "face like a smacked arse" because they think they are relating to the troops.

Or worse, because they think they are Keeping It Real. Since when was it inherently truthful to use the language of Shakespeare as if you were in the school playground?

Is this 2008? or 1888?

The elegant people are all on the shop floor now, since Thatcher and unrestrained capitalism put power in the hands of so many vicious little barrow boys.

White Flags And Snowballs

The radio was full of talk about a challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership this morning. Nomination papers have been requested by a small number of Labour MPs. Not enough to force a challenge by the terms of Labour's Constitution, but enough, the disgruntled MPs are said to hope, to embarrass Brown into a contest.

Unless the anti-Gordon brigade have a Tony Blair or a new Nye Bevan in waiting, of course, a leadership contest right now will hand the election to the Tories tied with a nice white flag. And I suspect there is no young lion waiting to galvanise the party and the British public with a new idea or a bold restatement of Labour's traditional values. The name of David Milliband is often bandied about, but he'll be associated too closely to the present administration in the public's mind (and the public loathe Brown)to take Labour into the next election with a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. To me, anyway, he just looks and sounds like a bank manager. …

One Minute Poem

No short hair.
No shaven face.
No designer shirts,
trousers, shoes.
No useless widescreen
television,
or sound system
to play
Jack Elliott on.
No fast car.
No shiney car.
No car with
aerodynamic features.
Yes sir?
No sir!
I won't accept
every last thing
my bosses tell me.
Ambition? No,
not one drop,
bubba.
I only want
to sit out in the fog
barefoot
at breakfast.
Sleep all
afternoon.

Trying To Be Brilliant, Not Pleading To Be Known

I move, intellectually, in a triangle between politics, religion and poetry. In the past one has always been in the ascendant at a particular time of the year. I'm obsessing on the iniquities of the Tories, or thinking about nothing except my zazen cushion, or I'm writing reams and reams of haiku and whatever. Lately I've been trying to find a balance between them all so that I can find time to indulge each without neglecting the others. Abandon this habit of phases for this or that. And I've been doing all right, though poetry still suffers a little bit.

I have seriously fallen out of love with publishing poetry. I have done it--not as often as some, but I've done it. So it's not the rationalisation of a defeated man. I'm just struggling to believe there's any merit in it anymore. Does publishing mean you are any good? You'd think so, but so much of what is published (I include mine) is mediocre, or average, or uninteresting. So much of it does noth…

Labour And The Unions

The appearances of Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown at the TUC conference have illustrated clearly what we already knew: the Labour Government is not a friend of the Trade Union movement, even if many Labour MPs are. Maybe a Labour Government can't be. Maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe a government of any colour, functioning properly, should be a kind of Solomon-esque father arbitrating between the vested interests of the nation, siding neither with the working man and woman nor business.

The problem we have here, though, is that the Labour Government doesn't stand apart from the fray like a wise and indulgent father. It tends to side with business, just like Tory governments do. And yet Labour are partly funded by massive investment from the unions.

I think the time has come to ask whether this benefits the unions anymore, if it ever did. Perhaps we should now consider removing funding from Labour and putting it into building our own cause independently through promotion, educ…

Palin: The Books She Tried To Ban

I know I said I was quitting American politics, but you can't expect me to break the habit overnight. Here, just in case you haven't seen it, is a (believe me) massively edited list of books Sarah Palin attempted to ban when she was a Mayor in Alaska.The truth, perhaps, behind the Mr Smith Goes to Washington act Palin put on so successfully at the Republican Convention. Prepare to be appalled.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Lo…

Poor Gordon

Every time he smiles he looks like his lips are being parted from his teeth by invisible wires operated by tiny electrodes planted in his hair. The electrodes activated by brain impulses whenever a faint memory of how Tony Blair used to meet the press or the public arises in his mind.

A Sort Of Prayer For Ramadan

Good luck to all the Muslims I know and their brothers and sisters across the world in Ramadan. I hope you come through it purified and with clear vision so that you can liberate yourself from the suffering put upon you by oppressors from within the Muslim faith as well as those who oppress you from without.
Peace, love, tolerance of opposing views and forgiveness of transgressions against you are the key to spiritual advancement, in my humble Zen Buddhist opinion. And maybe I've been lucky, but every Muslim I've ever spoken to has had all of those qualities in abundance.
Let's not curse the many because of the iniquities of the few, eh? Bruce.

Mourning In America: Why Suffolk Punch Is Quitting American Politics

he who knows does not speak. he who speaks does not know ~ zen proverb


I resolved this morning to stay away from the American presidential elections. I heard Sarah Palin's speech to the Republican Party Convention last night and I was quite depressed by how snide and negative it was, how cheap and obvious it was, how one-dimensional and cliched her characterisation of herself and her opponents was--and worse, how much her audience and the media seemed to relish it, all of it. Every carefully-worded sentence of mean-spirited, transparently fake, folksy bullshit that she uttered. This woman is Ronald Reagan dressed up as Loni Anderson in a "Barbie Goes to College" B-Movie from 1983, but if that's what people want, who am I to argue?
I don't understand them or their world. If anybody thinks that speech was anything other than an exercise in skilled manipulation of the electorate by invisible men dedicated to anything other than getting the party that serves their inte…