Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rockin In The Free World

Hazel Blears has been going around saying we should have the courage to stand up, despite "political correctness gone mad" (the mantra of frustrated right wing lunatics everywhere), and stand up for values we hold dear. Okay Neil you start.

Poverty and inequality seem to be two of the most popular ones with either Labour or Tory governments.

Oh, and what's this shit about emboldening ourselves to tell Muslims that homophobia and misogyny are against our core values? Islam would love the attitude of at least half the British population towards gays and women. It tends to be we maligned liberals and leftists and anarchists and hippies and whatever you call those kids with dreads who want to free everybody.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm So Glad I'm Moving I Could Almost Pop

You're supposed to have ambivalent feelings when you move house. You know, when you pack away your possessions (which people think of as their life), and see the house or flat in which there has been so much love and laughter now empty, and needing a hoover.

Not me. I can't wait to move into the new house in Northampton. Not only for all the well-rehearsed reasons about how much more convenient it will be living in town etc etc. But also because, much as I hate to say it, I haven't been happy at the flat in Earls Barton. Not at all, in the whole of the two years I've been there.

Which is not to say I haven't been happy in two years, don't get me wrong. But all of my good times have happened in other places, at other people's homes, or in pubs, or even (again, it's a rather guilty confession), at work, where--despite the stresses any job brings--I've had some great laughs and wonderful conversations and met a few people who I hope will be friends for the rest of my life.

But Earls Barton sucked. Well, the flat sucked. I had no phone line, which they didn't tell me when I moved in, and when I asked for one they said I could have it installed if I payed half. The TV didn't have a proper signal and when I asked them to fix that they told ME to go to the local repair man. Who himself told ME how to fix it and said he was too busy to do it himself.

Then they rented out the space underneath my flat and put a shop in there. I told them, reluctantly, that it would be okay because I didn't think I had a choice. And then I had nowhere to put my bin. I asked the estate agent for a solution and all they did was ignore me. So I put the bin in various places and three times it was stolen. Finally I did a deal with the woman who ran the post office--a fierce but kindly old girl--who let me use the space just outside the post office in the alley as long as she could share it.

And the flat had no heating of its own. Just two free standing radiators that couldn't warm your ass if you sat on top of them. And the flat had its shower in one of the bedrooms which left mould growing on the ceilings and one of the walls. And the bathroom was wallpapered and the paper began to peel the first time I used it and continued to peel fror the entirety of my stay. And the kitchen door they promised to put on was never put on. And twice during my tenure there the landlady put the fucking rent up!

You might ask why I didn't move, if things were so bad. A good question.Well, if I could have moved I would. But moving when you rent is horrendously expensive and I didn't have the money to stump up for a deposit, one month's rent in advance and the handling fee or whatever it is the estate agent charges to process the contracts . If I hadn't been offered the use of my old manager's house (there go my radical credentials) I might have still been there in Earls Barton living in the nineteenth century wondering when the landlady was going to decide to up the rent again.

So no, no ambivalent feelings about moving. Hell, I even started having goddamn seizures while I was there. When the woman who had the shop beneath brought in a medium and the medium said the whole building was possessed by a malevolent spirit I could well believe it.

Except that bad spirit may have been the ghost of laissez-faire fuck-your-neighbour 1980s capitalism.

Onward. And upward!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Greyfriars Bus Station Friday Night Late


i left all my friends behind
for the promise of a woman
that she never meant to keep.
now scrolling through my phone
i can't find anyone
who'd be awake this late, or understand.

i've been alive a thousand years.
and through them all ungrateful,
sorry for myself. no wonder
everyone i know's got someone,
and i'm talking to this bare white page.


four teenage girls beside me,
accosted by an old drunk
who talks to them in riddles.
tells them he knows something that they don't.

"what do you know?"
one perfect girl demands.

and i think," time."

Thursday, February 19, 2009


packing boxes on my own,
moving house on tuesday--
too much to take, too little

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The Broken Britain theory that David Cameron and his honourable, morally spotless friends at the Sun newspaper have been advancing may be right. But if it is, who broke it?

Labour may have been in power for twelve years now, but the so-called New Labour project was only ever a hypocritical, toothy reworking of Thatcherite capitalism anyway.

If you really want to understand why the streets at night are filled with illiterate child thugs stabbing grannies and impregnating overweight, spotty fifteen-year-olds look at Margaret Thatcher--if, unlike me, you can bear to do so without jumping into a hot bath and scrubbing yourself raw.

She is the one who created the culture in which such disturbing and dangerous things could occur. Though I wonder sometimes if these newspaper-led moral panics and the last acceptable prejudice, against so-called chavs, aren't just odious attacks on the working class by the very people who have taken away their power and dignity.

I'd rather live next door to that kid's parents, after all, than some banker who awards himself a multi-million pound bonus for ruining the British economy and throwing hundreds of thousands of decent, hard-working people onto the unemployment line.

Monday, February 09, 2009


four times i fall down
after a considerable headache.
dropping in the street, at home,
and losing consciousness completely.
waking--after how long?--with my mind
curiously blank, and paramedics round me.
fear tightens in me like a fist:
ballasteros has a tumour!
the fifth time i go down at work.
two hours of tests. eight hours
of waiting, with no visitors.
then a doctor solemnly intones words
that relieve me, and appall:
"you're having seizures mr. hodder.
take epilim. have a brain scan too,
just to rule out deeper causes."

extract from "Southbank" by Bruce Hodder

Monday, February 02, 2009

Springsteen at the Superbowl

I know I am slightly cynical. But I'm certain Bruce Springsteen, the symbol of integrity and authenticity in American rock music, was lip-synching when he sang at the Superbowl last night.

And what's with this enormous gospel choir that seems to be following him around these days?

His new album "Working On A Dream" is good, though not sensational or era-defining or a creative high watermark--and I've never been a fan of Brendan O'Brien's production--but the most powerful thing you can have on a stage is one man with a guitar and a harmonica. You don't need fifty people in flowing white robes jiggling around like they're animated by the ecstasy of some holy communion with God.

Okay, "Nebraska" or "The Ghost of Tom Joad" probably would have got Springsteen booed off the stage by the Superbowl crowd.

But I'm much more of a fan of the lonesome Bruce who speaks from his own heart and doesn't care whether anybody likes it than I am of the consensus-seeking "Boss" who's emerging again after a string of big hit albums and his close identification with Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

If that tendency continues I may have to put his cds to the bottom of the pile for a while and play a bit more Neil Young.


Gordon Brown showed the true colours of the mainstream Labour Party when he called the present rash of wildcat strikes that are sweeping the country (if a rash can sweep), in a fine and surprising show of solidarity with workers in one place who are seeing a lot of jobs go to Italian workers, "indefensible" . The strikes are only wildcat strikes because the pin-up girl of the New Labour movement Margaret Thatcher made it illegal for unions to go out without formal ballots and all that other boss-centred palaver. Labour should have repealed all of her anti-union legislation a long time ago. But of course it never will.

The rightness of the cause behind the strikes is debatable, as most things are. Technically speaking, much as it grieves me to say it, nobody on the boss side seems to have broken the law in putting a job out to tender and granting the resulting contract to an Italian firm who have brought in Italian labour to do the work. Not that following the letter of the law and doing the right, moral thing are necessarily the same.

But let's look at that. I heard an English striking worker on the radio the other day being questioned by an overpaid BBC presenter about whether British workers were pricing themselves out of employment by routinely expecting £1000 a month more than their Italian counterparts. (It's always been the case when we get into economic difficulty: accept gruel, you greedy fuck, or you'll get nothing. Whereas with the guys who caused the recession the song is: if we don't pay them massive bonuses, their vast talent will be lost to the country.) I would turn that around somewhat and ask why, for one, Italian workers are getting paid so badly, and why business and government in this country support/ allow a tendering process which claims it's driven by best value or whatever term they'll put on it when to get that all they do is squeeze labour like the bedraggled remnants of a toothpaste tube and expect the workers to like it.