Monday, June 30, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

After Brown, What, Exactly?

We all know the Labour Government is awful. But are you so naive you are prepared to risk the alternative?

George Osborne has already said that when the Conservatives are elected (although I believe he said "if" to avoid the appearance of over-confidence), they will respond to the renewed vigour of the unions by strengthening anti-union ligeislation.

Of course, that won't bother the majority, because they're not in unions anyway. They haven't got enough money to pay for union subscriptions; and the bosses wouldn't like it.

Plus those unions are only in it for themselves, really.


I saw a kid this morning wearing a t-shirt with the words NO SLOGAN in big black letters on the front.

How he must chortle at the irony when he stands in front of the mirror combing his hair in the morning.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I was talking to a friend with a yen for philosophy last night about self-indulgence, particularly as it applied to the workplace.

Screwing the System. I'm all for it. "They" are undoubtedly out to screw you. That's why you can't afford to pay your heating bills after working your arse off for a month and "they" drive around in BMWs. "They" deserve to get a bit of their own back every now and then, don't "they"?

Most people screw the system by pulling sickies. They have a hangover, or a mild twinge in their back, or they feel a little giddy because they just got up off the sofa too quickly after stuffing their face with Pringles. They could go in and do a day's work. But Why Should They? The workplace will go on perfectly well without them. And if the bosses don't care about them, why should they care about their bosses?

Which is fine in the abstract. The majority of bosses don't care about you, however touchy-feely the language of the workplace might have become to ensure your compliance with whatever unreasonable or downright oppressive policy is being foisted on you this week. They'll turn up at your birthday party; they might even spring for the cost of the cake. But they will throw you onto the street and take food out of the mouths of your babies without a second thought if you put one foot out of line, or if it ceases to be cost effective to employ you and run the Beamer.

Except when you call in sick for no good reason it isn't your boss or the System you are screwing. Actually it's your own colleagues, the poor bastards who are in the same leaky boat you'd like to exchange for a fancy cruise ship. Because somebody has got to cover your shift while you're sitting at home with no socks on watching "Jeremy Kyle" on tv and thinking you've got away with something; and it isn't going to be your boss nine times out of ten (and it'll never be your boss' boss, the guy who actually runs the company). No, it'll be one of your workmates who gets pressured into doing it. He or she will have to give up their free time, come in on their day off or work a double shift, not see the wife or husband for twenty four hours, have to say goodnight to their children on the telephone, wind up so tired they feel like puking or they snap unreasonably at everybody who speaks to them until they've caught up on their sleep.

That extra free time you're enjoying when you pull a sickie is time you've stolen from somebody else, somebody who has as much right to a decent life outside of work as you do.

Perhaps this viewpoint comes across as Straight, conservative, conformist, even On The Side Of The Bosses (to those who don't know how to read or follow an argument). I wouldn't be surprised if half the people who read it never come back to this page again. That's life. Thinking of yourself as belonging to a community just doesn't seem fashionable anymore.

And in that sense those sickie-pulling system-screwing girls and boys half our workplaces seem to be drowning in aren't philosophically any different from the bosses they think they're rebelling against so cleverly.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Those of you with long memories will know I have been having a long fight with those charming people at TV Licensing. Well, I thought it had finished when I gave in and sent them a request for a tv licence, even though I have no access to television and find the majority of it so mentally deadening I wouldn't watch it even if I did have. Who the hell but the terminally brainless would want to watch the shit the BBC serves up for our edification these days? (And then they wonder why the streets are full of gum-chewing, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, monosyllabic, grunting morons.) But anyway. It turns out they didn't GET my request for a licence. I found this out when they turned up at my door yesterday expecting to be admitted to investigate my property like some mildly politer version of Robert Mugabe's pre-election militia. Luckily (for me or them I don't know), I was at work. But they left me another one of their delightful, bullying letters. Here's my reply.
Edward Abbey, where are you when we fucking need you?


Today I came home from work to find a discourteous letter from your organisation informing me I had been "visited" with regard to my not having a tv licence.

Some time ago, despite the fact that I do not watch television (cannot, actually, since I am unable to get a signal in my flat), I wrote to you with my bank details requesting you to set up a tv licence for me. I was doing this under duress after months of deliberately intimidating letters from yourselves had left me too anxious to continue trying to wrangle with you. Not one of my queries about the specific legalities of tv licensing was ever satisfactorily answered anyway.

Can you tell me, if your organisation has any means of investigating itself and does not just specialise in bullying its customers, what happened to my letter--which included my bank details, remember.

Can you note, once again (this is at least the third time I have informed you) that I do not live at --------- in Earls Barton, but ------- in Earls Barton (addresses supplied).

Can you also tell me whether it is now illegal to own a tv set without paying the licence fee. Your literature does not make this at all clear. But that has been my situation all along, as I have only used my set to watch dvds. You have been told this ad nauseam and yet still you continue to bully and threaten me.

I will attempt to set up a direct debit this afternoon, since I have no wish to speak to any of your operatives over the telephone. By the way, since your intrusion into my privacy seems to have no legal limit, I should probably inform you I will be doing this from an internet cafe to protect myself from further accusations of lawbreaking. But as I said in my (misplaced-by-you) letter, I will be doing so under profound duress.

I am absolutely disgusted with the way I have been treated by your organisation and hope that once you have helped yourself to my money I will never have to deal with you again.

Bruce Hodder.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I have to applaud the action that that agglomeration of business concerns known as "the international community" is beginning to take against "Bob" Mugabe and the catastrophe that's unfolding, largely because of Bob, in Zimbabwe. The Queen's decision to strip Mugabe of his knighthood was a particularly impressive one, given the general fear the monarchy has of getting drawn into politics (or any other controversy, for that matter). Make no mistake, this man is a monster, and if we don't act in unison to squeeze him out of office pretty soon, Zimbabwe may never recover, at least not in our lifetime. Talk to people from that country if you think this is typical Bruce left-wing rhetorical bullshit.

But one thing among all the high-sounding expressions of concern and (in Queen Liz's astonishingly intemperate case) revulsion did puzzle me. The British Government getting heavy with the Cricket Board, or whatever they're called, and insisting that the tour of the Zimbabwean cricket team should be cancelled on "ethical grounds".

Aren't these the same people who are telling pro-Tibetan campaigners that the Beijing Olympics must go ahead because sport and politics don't mix?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


A question from 2005 when I was labouring through the quagmire of my relationship with R***. She required it. Had the "insight" that the me I was becoming under her tutelage was the person I was meant to be! That the poet and the left wing pro-animal polite agitator were an overhang of the dominance of my mother.

Well guess what R***? I'm still writing and I'm still thumping tubs. I tried to put a shirt on and go to an office every day like you wanted and all that happened was I had a breakdown.

I'm not changing for anybody anymore. "This is the creature I am." If I have to be alone for the rest of my life (however short or long that might be) because the women I meet are too dumb or too uncultivated or too conformist to understand me, so be it.

Oh, and I would be proud to be considered a creation of my mother (which biologically I am anyway). She was no better or worse than anybody else, but I loved her. I'm proud of what I have inherited from my father too, though his influence on my personality is harder to detect for those of you who've grown accustomed in the new modern age to childish reduction signalled by flashing lights and music. Which appears to be about eighty percent of the population.

(Nothing has been the same since Margaret Thatcher murdered all th classical values in society and replaced them with flat pack furniture and tv chefs.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The State of the Art

You know, while reading "Emeryville War" this morning, it crossed my mind (not for the first time), how bizarre it was that writers like Bill Blackolive were out there writing the real literature of these times, telling the story of the Age just like Kerouac and Ginsberg told the story of theirs, or Hemingway and Dos Passos told the story of theirs (in a different way), but that only one bookshop in every five hundred (and that's a generous estimate), would have the intelligence or the foresight to carry their books. It's the same with libraries. Northampton, where I'm writing this from, is a fairly big provincial town, with historical connections to literature. John Dryden had some involvement with Northampton. So did Jane Austen. But I couldn't go into the grandly-titled Central Library--about five minutes walk down the road from this internet cafe--and find anything by Bill Blackolive. They have no books by anybody on the roster of the ULA, who publish Bill. They have nothing by Aleathia Drehmer or Michelle McDonald or Pat King or Michael Grover or Paul Tristam or Chris Torrance or Norbert Blei or t.kilgore splake or Ralph Murre or Sharon Auberle or Bruce Hodder (most gallingly) or Ron Whitehead or Robert Zoschke or Rob Plath or Carter Monroe or Jim Chandler or Donnie Cox or Ron Androla or Cheryl Townsend or John Korn or Tom Blessing or Tim Peeler. But these men and women are writing poetry and prose that's ten times as vital and beautiful and compelling and intelligent and true to the world we live in as anything the library stocks. Go to Leicester, birthplace of Joe Orton, and the story is no different. Go to London and the story isn't much different either, at least in the bookshops (I've never been in the libraries up there). I love hanging out up on Charing Cross Road, which is famed for its concentration of bookshops and does stock a few more poets than you can get down here, but I defy you to go into any of the places in London and find a poet whose writing can hold a dirty candle to the talent I've listed above. You might find the odd one who's still alive, but somehow those big time publishers just don't warm to anybody whose verse'll unsettle them while they work on their coffee and croissants in Cafe Nerro on a rainy metropolitan morning...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Received In The Mail Today

the new print versions of Wild Bill Blackolive's "The Emeryville War" and "Tales From The Texas Gang" . Bill, for those who haven't come across him, is probably America's most famous underground author, justifiably, and "Texas Gang" in particular has an almost mythical status among serious, hip readers. A figure no less than William S. Burroughs, a man famously not given to empty praises, declared the book "really great" in a 1975 letter to Bill and tried to interest his own agent in representing it.

The book has existed online for a while at Bill's own site but now it's back in print form--as far as I know for the first time since 1978--published in a handsome new edition by the Underground Literary Alliance, ISBN 1-892590-38-7. You can order it directly from them by sending $22 postpaid to:- ULA Press, 4686 Meridian Road, Williamston MI 48895. And this is one instance where I can promise you you won't be disappointed. Unless, of course, you're the sort of person who doesn't know great literature from a hole in the ground.

How's that for objective criticism, eh?

Friday, June 13, 2008

42 DAYS etc.

After the vote in parliament the other night, we can now, in Britain, detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge. Which, apparently, the majority of the British public and Rupert Murdoch (neither of whom I would be comfortable siding with), think is a good idea.

Of course it is. Internment works a treat with an enemy that fuels itself on martyrdom. On feeling wronged and sacrificing its children as well as yours to the cause. We've just emerged for thirty or forty years of peace and roses and cuddles and nursery rhymes in Ireland, after all, where similar policies existed.

The Labour Party now seems determined to abandon every principle that made it seem, in the Eighties, like the only hope the country had after years of Thatcherism had left England an almost unrecognisable, callous, uncultured, little plastic offshoot of the United States. Gordon Brown doesn't even believe in an NHS free at point of access anymore. He'd be severing the last remaining political links with the unions too, if Labour didn't still take so much money from union subscriptions.

Well, here's a suggestion. Perhaps the unions should sever them first and give the money to politicians or lobby groups who support the union cause. One union at least has talked about it, but given the traditional association of trade unionism with the Labour Party it's a big step.

The thing is, this isn't the same Labour Party anymore. At the top it's an ineffectual, morally compromised little cabal of bank managers and boardroom toadies who have no more connection to the working man than you or I or Donald Trump.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Allen Ginsberg sings a song that encapsulates everything the many querying souls I've met lately want to know about Buddhism. And what a great folk voice he had!

Monday, June 09, 2008

first draft: LUCKY (after Allen)

I'm lucky, yes.
Lucky I have a job, a place to live.
Lucky I get three square meals a day,
too many don't even in Northampton
let alone Zimbabwe, their bad luck on the news.
I'm lucky my parents gave me brains,
mixing their respective genes together
so I can think and write these poems.
I'm lucky that I found the dharma.
Lucky meeting Kelsang Powa on the street last week,
he walks for children, what a great example.
I'm lucky I know Emily,
I never had a daughter but she calls me dad.
I'm lucky Sadie has the shop beneath my flat.
She came all the way from Suffolk
like I did, and I met her here.
She gives me clothes, incense to burn in meditation,
through her I've made new friends as well.
How lucky's that? but then I am, I am.
I'm lucky.
Lucky my own dad still bothers
though I've been a lousy son for years.
Lucky to have two arms and legs.
Lucky (so far) to be around at all
to think about my luck, that's a miracle!
I've lived for forty years on bad food and beer,
I should be dead
and yet I'm round and pink,
though a hypochondriac, convinced each sneeze will kill me.
And I'm lucky Allen Ginsberg spent fifty years
yawping from a base line rhythmically,
he gave me something to hang this poem on.
I'm lucky to have a window with a charming view
instead of some graffiti'd wall,
or garages where kids in hoodies meet
to scuff their trainers, spit and blush at girls.
Mine looks down on a village square
where today the sun shines beautifully,
and for once there's not a breath of wind.
Those women down there in white skirts and sunglasses
look particularly sweet to my two lucky eyes.
One sits down on the grass alone
talking on her mobile and eating crisps.
How brown she is! how lovely!
and how small her feet!
If I believed my luck was that good I'd shout hello.

Friday, June 06, 2008

first draft: my death plaque

on my death plaque,
screwed to some rotting bench
that overlooks the sea,
please don't say
i was "always brave",
even if i went
from cancer
after eight long months
of chimotherapy.
please say instead,
"he wet his pants."
"he went out
like a snivelling coward."
"he met death
on his knees, and begging,
with a suspicious
faecal odour
wafting in the air
about him."
even if i am brave--
and that possibility
is quite remote--
please don't let on
to anybody,
now, or in the
doubtful future.
i don't wish my exit
to ennoble man
(most of whom
i didn't care for).
i'd just like it
to make them
fear their own.

~waterside holiday park, devon.