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Showing posts from 2010

HONOUR ROLL 2010

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all these people have made 2010 a better, easier, more inspiring, more entertaining, more interesting or more stimulating year than the previous one. big thanks and humble prostrations to each one of them.


Michael Aston


Phillippa Bennett


Bill Blackolive


Lisa Body


Mark Brown


Portia Chandigere


Robert Davies


Mel Goodwin


Dawn 'Dawnie' Hamilton


Martyna Herbut


Beata Kulinska


Geoff Lovesy


Jackie Lovesy


Rachel Lovesy


Kristian McLelland


Lindsey Ransley


Carol Reynolds


Sheldon Richards


Emily Stanley


Laura Stanley


Kerry Wilkinson

BBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

I have no hot water at the moment. No warmth in my radiator either. I think my pipes have frozen. Or have they? If they have how can I still flush my toilet? And what am I gonna do when I can't? Who's gonna escort me around town throwing bags of you-know-what over garden fences? (Was it Hunter Thompson who did that? Or Keith Richards? I know it was somebody.)

I don't know. This is why God invented plumbers. Sadly, they are rather difficult to get hold of at this time of year, especially during the coldest December since 1890s (or whatever it is). I booked one to come yesterday but he cancelled on me at the last minute. Now I have another number. But if he doesn't come through I will have to wait until next Thursday, which is the the earliest time the guy I originally booked can give me on a re-booking.

And you know what? I don't mind. The snow is beautiful; it's so deep it completely covers the two Buddhas in my garden. And I can keep relatively clean by strip w…

The Bloody Chamber? You Wait For The Caffe Nero Edition

An essay on Angela Carter is the next thing I have to do for my degree course. Oh dear. I hate Angela Carter. Well, hate might (might) be a strong word for how I feel about her. She actually bores me senseless.Or is it her?

It could be the universal approbation of her work that bores and annoys me. Feminist critics and male academics seem to think she's wonderful. "Sophisticated" people who drink lattes instead of coffee and like their bars to have sofas in them praise her lavishly. Her complete wondrousness appears to be the received wisdom of the literate professional classes.

But look at her book The Bloody Chamber. Is it really so incredibly innovative and intellectually marvellous - can it really be so 'out there' - to take a bunch of old fairy stories and folk tales, with their androcentric emphasis, and rewrite them from an empowered feministy perspective? That's the sort of reasonably interesting (but not especially so) idea that every intelligent perso…

10/11: What Really Happened

I was there. The journalists were there too, but they were looking for a story. They had to go to the place where the glass was being broken, the placards burned, the fire extinguisher recklessly slung. If they had walked with the other students and finished off in a giant, good-tempered, weary scrum at the other end of Millbank cheering speeches they couldn't hear by student leaders, the journalists would have been thrown out by their editor the next time they showed up at the office.

The journalists didn't really know the students either. They could put a microphone in someone's way and snatch the odd soundbite about Nick Clegg or tuition fees or lies and hypocrisy, but they couldn't know the students; their world is simply too far removed. I knew the students, though. I knew the people I had come up from Northampton on a coach with, and I got to know the people who were marching all around me in that unbelievably long, loud, and, yes, happy train of  humanity going p…

Karl Marx, Ron Whitehead, Bill Blackolive, Me

I'm taking a break at the moment from an assignment I have to write on Marxist Literary Criticism for my degree course. It's a tough one, and it's going to take some time. Not because Marxism is hard to understand, but because the text we have to apply it to is a difficult one: the opening pages of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, which at first sight has almost nothing meaty in it for me to use. Yes, the High Court of Chancery is an institution supported by a particularly capitalist ideology which itself is supported by agreement rather than enforcement which itself might be an example of interpellation since it doesn't seem to be helping very many people etc. etc. etc.; but how the hell to word that on a cold, grey Monday with a 1000 word limit and only 6 days left to complete it?

F**k knows. I was ruined over the weekend by the purchase of a cd which closed with a 1961 reading by Allen Ginsberg of his poem "Auto Poesy to Nebraska". Such freedom! such humou…

FUN

I have been asked, very kindly, if I have any writing on the subject of fun to contribute to an internet page. I can't tell you how stymied I was when I read the email. How could I possibly write about fun? What, after all, did I really enjoy?

When I think about it, though, there are a few things I enjoy. I enjoy being with my girlfriend. I enjoy being with my friends. I enjoyed it when we were all walking arm-in-arm across the Racecourse after closing time the other weekend, drunk and shouting songs we'd made up into the cold midnight air. I love having a cat sit on my lap paddling until it's ready to sit down and sleep. I like it when it rains. I love eating a peanut butter sandwich on the first slice of fresh bread from a new loaf. I love reading Chinese and Japanese poetry and feeling through them the majesty and peace of old mountains and rivers...their old wisdom that applies still today.

So maybe I'm not as miserable as I first thought when I opened that email. Ma…

University Week 2

I am having to read a lot of books for this degree. I suppose that was to be expected. And reading is one of my favourite occupations, so it's not a hardship, although as the course leader predicted during my interview, being told what to read sometimes is a hardship for someone whose mind has roved wherever it pleased, in literary terms, for a long time. That freedom has not been especially productive for me, however. It helped me reach the interesting lands inhabited by what you might call the outlaw sensibilities of people like Li Po, Dostoyevsky, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski and Hunter Thompson, but I haven't written anything I'm really happy with in response to my unnoticed invasion of their psychological turf. Except my long poem 'Oldtime Beautiful', which appeared unexpurgated in Bryn Fortey's 'Outlaw' magazine and then disappeared seemingly forever, along with my ability to write poetry (or so it has seemed).


I am expecting the degree to wake me u…

It's So Clear I Can Barely Stifle A Yawn

Now that Ed Milliband has won the rather tedious Labour leadership campaign and given his inaugural speech to the party, I predict that "Red Ed" is a name you're going to hear a lot in the next few months from alcoholic hacks writing simple-minded prose for redtop newspapers owned by multi-billionaire Tory puppetmasters. But as Milliband himself said, perhaps in vain, a "grown-up debate" would be preferable. He isn't a Red, if that attempted insult even has any meaning anymore outside of newspaper offices and building sites. He's a left-leaning liberal. Although why Reds should be unacceptable in politics when Blues, who represent the opposite, and equally extremist, end of the ideological divide are welcomed in and given a comfortable chair and biscuits, is quite beyond me.

A Disturbing Thought

I've already learned something about myself in the week I've been at University: my brain doesn't work in the way I thought it did. I read "Wuthering Heights" last month, knowing it was one of the first books we would have to study, and coming back this week to think about it a little more, with a view to being the generally acknowledged superstar of the seminar, I realised I could remember hardly anything specific about the book. So I started reading it again. And saw in it loads of incidents and details I had forgotten. Including really significant ones like Catherine's appearance as a ghost calling at the window during a snowstorm early on in the story.

I have gone through life presuming I was some sort of undiscovered genius; but these days I'm beginning to wonder if I might not be a bit of a moron. At the very least my brain needs rigorous training if it has a snowball's chance in Tripoli of ever genuinely understanding anything. How can you write…

Day One, Freshers' Week

Today was my first day proper at the Uni. Two hours of presentations and discussion, first with the Dean (who looks a little like Nick Clegg), and secondly with my course leader Phillippa Bennett, who I like already because not only did she approve my application in the first place, she also remembered my name when I met her again today.

Everybody around me seems very young. But to them I undoubtedly look very old. We will get used to each other. I have associated with people much younger than me for a long time now, in the care job, and in many ways I even enjoy it. The only time I think it's significantly better to keep company with somebody your own age is in a relationship. You need to be with someone who understands why you groan when you pick money up off the floor.

I am a little concerned that I haven't got a timetable yet -- that the Uni intranet system shows me as not being enrolled for any courses -- but I'm sure that's a kink that will work itself out this we…

University Challenge

I enrolled at University for my English degree today. Being the natural pessimist I am, I thought something would go wrong right up until the last minute. But it didn't. And now here I am facing three years of study and a thirty thousand pound debt at the end of it. I couldn't be happier.

There is a conflict here, for a writer who has spent his writing life on the fringes of the small press (I was never fully accepted by the small or the large press, for whatever reason). The small press tends to think of itself as more dynamic than the "Academies". The universities are supposed to produce anaemic poetry by hopelessly unworldly, unhip writers published only because of their contacts and their credentials.

Well, in my experience it's not that different in the small press. Good poetry is good poetry wherever it comes from. And Charles Bukowski's theory that your writing is somehow improved by working dead-end gigs for no money, by living in fleabag rooms and walk…

The Deserving Poor

This is an extract from a longer piece, including comments from other authors, which originally appeared on Facebook.

America's idea of welfare is everybody else's idea of throwing the poor to the wolves and letting them feast. But it's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. Do you know what percentage of the population over there is on benefits? And how much that number rose as the recession -- which I think most people agree was caused by rich folk at the high end of unrestrained free market capitalism -- bit deep? Who are these people deliberately getting knocked up so they can get more benefits? Do you know them personally? And if you do have they told you that's why little Bobby or Alice came along? Could it have anything to do with poor education? Low self-esteem caused by the demoralisation of living on the dole, with nothing to do all day, nowhere to go, no money in the kitty and knowing every time you turn on the radio or tv or read the letters page in the pap…

The Coalition, A Hidden Agenda? Is the Pope A Catholic?

Why, I wonder, after watching an extended News at Ten report last night, is the visit of the Pope a State Visit and therefore, I presume, the financial responsibility of the taxpayer? The Dalai Lama wasn't accorded such an honour. And aren't the Coalition telling us that the public purse is in such a dire condition even the armed forces, the fire service and the N.H.S. will have to share some of the pain when it comes to budget cuts?

You wouldn't, of course, expect logic from a government that pours millions into a foreign occupation that serves no discernible purpose and a nuclear deterrent in Trident which was constructed for an enemy who is no longer there. But the cuts threatened in public services are really ideologically driven anyway. The Government doesn't want to own anything that could be flogged off to business and it is using the deficit as an excuse to pare those services down to a minimum. It might even be hoping for a confrontation with the unions so that…

The Bloody Chamber: Comments I Probably Won't Submit At Uni

Reading Angela Carter's "Bloody Chamber" for my Uni course today, I remembered those immortal, acid lines from Charles Bukowski: " 'Well, shit,' someone said/ And that's what it was."

The introduction to the book says that many students find it shocking. I don't know what that says about me. I think it's a sterile, middle class bore from page 1.

"Let's re-present fairy tales in new and sensuous and surprising ways."
Actually, Angela, let's not.

The arts editor of Cosmopolitan must have loved this book when it first came out, all those years ago.

Dream Record 11/ 9 / 10

Okay, here we go. I was at work again, and lunchtime was approaching. I thought I'd go to town for mine and escape the oppressive atmosphere of the care home. But first I needed to go to the toilet. For convenience I went into what I thought was an empty service user flat opposite the office and peed in the kitchen sink. I was just finishing and putting my cock away when a service user and two carers, both Asian, came out of his bedroom. They didn't comment on where I'd peed, but I felt I should be friendly with them just in case I had made the wrong impression. We got talking. All the while I was thinking what a nice room the service user had. The only drawback was that the ceiling was as high as a warehouse roof. I imagined lying in bed staring up at that ceiling in the dark. It would scare the crap out of me.

I agreed to show the carers the way to whatever place they wanted to take the service user, despite the fact that it would cut in on my lunch hour, and we set off o…

Dream Record 10/9/10

I'm working in a supermarket on an unemployment scheme. I'm having quite a happy time until the shop is taken over by this manager who clearly doesn't know what he's doing. Soon all the procedures that work so well have been replaced by ones that don't. Experienced shop workers try to tell him but he won't listen; and the supermarket falls into chaos. When the people from the Job Centre are visiting I go to them and ask to be transferred back to my old placement. But they tell me that the regulations make this impossible. Pissed off, I walk back out into the shop and see about twenty staff standing around disgruntled near the bread rack; and an idea comes to me. This place is in such disorder now they won't know whether I'm here or not!

I go to the toilet, and when I've done the business, I hang my bag up on a nail by the urinals -- its presence will show I must be around somewhere -- before leaving the supermarket through a side door. I walk for a w…

Paranoia Explained

I get at least ten phishing emails a day. You know the ones I mean. Someone telling you that you've been awarded, mysteriously, £1,000,000 and all you have to do is send them your bank account details so the money can be forwarded to you. Or sob stories from people you don't know who are stuck in foreign countries because all of their relatives have died in a plain crash, and would I mind awfully sending them a lot of money so they can get home. There are many variations on the same theme. One repeated intruder in my inbox even disguises himself (or herself) as a representative of the Windows Hotmail Team and asks for my details so that they can be verified. So forgive me if, occasionally, I get paranoid and don't answer a message from you if I don't know you. And if you're a poet submitting material for BEATNIK (whollycommunion.blogspot.com), do me a favour and send a list of the magazines you've previously been published in. You may think my suspicious nature…

Old Farts Induction Day

I went to University for something they called a day-long "Survivor's Guide"  for mature students yesterday. Which is a cute way of saying "old farts induction day" basically, although the letter they sent out prior to the event strenuously denied it was an induction day. We were on the Park Campus, which is just a short walk up the road from the care home I used to work in and the pub we used to frequent with the service users. I hadn't seen the care home since I left the company under a cloud of hot contumely. It was nice. That home I had a few nice months in, before they got rid of the one good manager they had, ripped apart the staff team and sent me to the other care home to work with my old nemesis Cruela.


But as the song says, "that's all in the past", and walking past the building on my way to the University symbolised it perfectly. The "Survivor's Guide" itself was good, although what I really want is to pitch right into …

Haiku

Nothing else to do But watch white clouds pass over-- Finally, success.

Unemployment & Oncoming Learning

I hadn't realised what a long time it's been since I was here. But life has been busy at times since July, and then at others so stultifyingly dull that stirring myself to write here was beyond me.


That's the life of the unemployed, after all. I didn't think it would be, but the prophesies of all my friends turned out to be true. When you run out of money, they predicted, your brain will turn to porridge.


And so it did. Sometimes in the last month I have laid across my bed in the afternoon staring up at the ceiling almost paralysed by sloth.


Thankfully, now, I have university on the horizon, and I think I've done everything I need to do to get me there. I'm just involved in a last minute rush to get hold of a copy of the NVQ 3 certificate my last employer had, and lost, in case I have to show it at the uni to enrol.


And reading. Reading, reading, reading. But that's how life will be in the next three years, if I haven't made any unforeseen stupid mistakes…

I Say It Every Year, But...

In memory of Sylvia Hodder, who died today 14 long (short) years ago. Pagan, artist, terrific dancer, Communist, peace campaigner, anti-apartheid activist, women's refuge worker, Janis Joplin fan, reader of Dick Francis books, occasional partaker of the hierba buena.

So many lives lived in such a short time. "Unseen, you still fill sight."

Quick News on BEATNIK

Readers with a literary bent are strongly advised to visit our sister page THE BEATNIK (http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com/ ) where there has been a "redesign" as I believe we say in these days of mangled English.


Feedback on the redesign is welcomed. A huge total of two people have commented so far and they liked it. But it's not obligatory.

I Wonder

I wonder if a blog really has any function other than to prove to you and to everybody else that you're an idiot?

Another Bump In The Road To Education

I was feeling really sunny and peaceful until I opened my emails about ten minutes ago. That was when I found a message from the student loan people telling me they couldn't process my application for financial support through the next year at university because they still hadn't received the evidence I need to send them to support the application (birth certificate and wage slips, primarily). But I sent it to them about three weeks ago, in the regular mail.

Has that bundle been lost? Now I have to spend the afternoon making phone calls to track it down. Unfortunately I didn't send it via recorded delivery, so if it has gone astray somewhere I'll have no way of proving I ever posted it. Dumbass. You should always presume that something is going to go wrong somewhere along the line, especially when the goal is as important as this one.

Dukkha in the Shopping Line

Yesterday I saw a woman in the queue at the Co-Op with a football-sized hump over her right shoulder blade. There were two little girls in front of her with their mothers: one African and one white, European if not English. The African girl stood dutifully at her mother's side and didn't look up. The European girl stood a little apart from her mother and stared and stared and stared at the hump; but not cruelly -- she just looked fascinated, as if she were trying to understand what was under the woman's dress and what it meant; how it changed her life; why she wasn't the same as other people the little girl had seen.

I thought: a similar encounter is what set Buddha on the path. Imagine if we had a Polish female Buddha born in Semilong.

Before Sunset

While I'm on an old movie mood, I thought I'd share with you some notes I wrote after watching a favourite film of mine again last night:

I just watched "Before Sunset" again, and I liked it more than I did the first time because I could pick out its subtleties more easily on a second viewing. The little important moments when you see into the heart of the two characters; the dissatisfaction they have with their lives, and the intensity of their feelings for each other, which might be shown just by a look (Ethan Hawke is very good at those), or a hand raised to touch the other's hair. Those things are revealed with such great skill and timing within the natural flow of the conversation I quite envy the ability of the actors AND the writers. Who, sickeningly, are the same people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy wrote the script with director Richard Linklater).

I thought about ******** constantly as the film unfolded because Julie Delpy showed so perfectly what is delig…

Terminal

Last night a friend and I watched the old (2007) Tom Hanks/ Steven Sielberg film "Terminal". She'd picked it up in a shop in town in an effort to entertain us one evening when the relentless football got a bit too much and it was too cold to sit in the garden drinking beer and burning cardboard.

I wished she hadn't the moment she mentioned it. I don't like being rude to anyone, at least in person (my native rudeness comes out in the blog), and when anyone gives me a gift I try to show due appreciation for their kindness. But I can't bear either Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg. Still, I thought I would give the film a go, just to be nice.

It was dire, despite the News of the World (what do we expect?) calling it "superb" on the jacket of the dvd. Tom Hanks is at his excruciating worst, overplaying the sincerity of his character Victor to charm or jerk tears of sympathy from the audience. The side characters (with the exception of Catherine Zeta-Jones'…

Holmes & Watson

I saw the (relatively) new Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes" movie yesterday. If you're wondering whether to buy the dvd I can tell you this much: it doesn't bear much of a resemblance to any of the Holmes versions you may have seen before. It opens and closes like a Batman movie, actually, with lots of noise and decidedly non-Victorian fighting in locations intended to be spectacular. And in the middle there's an interminable, allegedly comical, fight sequence that reminded me, at least, of the wake-me-when-it's-over battle scenes in "Pirates of the Caribbean". I am not a fan of movies that rely on a combination of special effects (or should that be CGI?) and cliche to please their audience. But the new Holmes did have some impressive things in it. The rendering of Victorian London is as good as, if not better than, Tim Burton's in "Sweeney Todd"; and Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr., as Watson and Holmes respectively, are fabulous on scree…

Just Another Mouth In The Wind?

What's the difference between being socially engaged and projecting your own delusions onto an already confused, difficult situation and making it worse?  I've been thinking about this lately. I should, too, as someone who has spent three decades now bellyaching about injustice in private journals, blogs, and (on the odd occasion somebody had the patience to listen to me) in conversation.

Everyone thinks they're right after all. David Cameron isn't a wicked man bent on sucking everything decent out of the world. Margaret Thatcher believed she was right and that what she was doing was beneficial to the nation and the world. I do think she was blind to something privately vengeful in herself, but that's just my opinion, even if I recognise the same thing in myself and I'm not, therefore, accusing her of anything that doesn't taint myself as well.

The Israelis think they're right blockading Gaza. The terrorists operating inside Gaza, firing rockets into Isr…

Maggie's Farm Revived

I have been given a vuvuzela and a Chinese lantern today. Now even the sight of Margaret Thatcher back in Downing Street on the steps of No. 10 with Prime Minister Cleggeron can't completely ruin my evening!

Although I must confess that seething hatred seized me when I saw her, and that it was directed not only at her but at the manipulating, duplicitous Tory swine who fooled a third of the country into believing they had disowned their vicious, homophobic, misogynistic, socially ruinous past; and the massively hypocritical, unprincipled Lliberal Democrat leaders who are clearly prepared to do anything, however distasteful, to leap out of the minnow pond and swim with the big fish for a couple of dizzying years in their sorry, anonymous history.

Story

I went to a wonderful bbq with old and new friends yesterday afternoon. Then I spent the night with someone special while the lightning flashed and the thunder crashed outside. A mighty rain and stiflingly hot air followed the storm. We had to open the windows in the bedroom just to sleep. At 3.50 am we were woken up by the beautiful, busy, natural sound of the birds in the trees singing in the new day. It seems louder then because there are no cars or lawn mowers or ipods."They're talking to each other about what a great storm we had last night," I suggested. Now it's nearly lunchtime. She's stretched out on the sofa underneath a brown wool blanket. I had a long-haired black cat beside me a moment ago, but when a bird called in the garden he got up quickly and ran outside. The remnants of my coffee are resting on my belly's ample curve as I write one-fingered on her laptop. I am happy.

Question Time

The attempt by the ConDem Coalition to seize editorial control of the BBC's "Question Time" by refusing to supply a Cabinet Minister if Alastair Campbell was also on the panel is outrageous.

It's common practise, by all accounts, for a certain amount of negotiation to occur before these programmes, but a flat refusal to supply a member of the Government if the "Question Time" editors didn't do as they were told is an unacceptable abuse of our allegedly free media. Or it's an attempt to abuse our free media, anyway, since it didn't work. Congratulations are due to the BBC for their refusal to be bullied.

Of course, the Government have said, since, that they were not attempting to choose the "Question Time" panel; that they were actually just taking time to choose an appropriate Minister to counter the presence of Mr Campbell (or something), and that the BBC had booked Conservative backbencher John Redwood before they (the Government) lo…

Peter Orlovsky

I read on various blogs and social networking pages that Allen Ginsberg's lifetime companion Peter Orlovsky is seriously ill.

Anybody familiar with the literature and counter-culture of the 1950s and 60s in America will know what a significant figure Orlovsky is. He served as a muse for Ginsberg throughout the latter's life and is an accomplished poet in his own right.

His poems possess a lyrical eccentricity and unrestrained appreciation of beauty that place them in both the avant-garde and the classical traditions. Just try his Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs and you'll see what I mean.

The word on his health is not promising, but let's hope against hope that he makes it. I'm not sure how many more of those crazy wisdom poet saints our society can afford to lose.

Nutter Is Such A Subjective Kind Of Word

Sometimes I fear for this country.

Yesterday I heard someone say, without any sense of irony, on a phone-in about the deportation of a suspected terrorist, "The only way to get rid of these fanatics is to shoot them."

And perhaps even more worryingly, he was allowed to say it, and not admonished by the fellow chairing the discussion for his inflammatory statement. If a Muslim had said the same thing about we supposedly reasonable, moderate Englishman, the chair would have been fired and the radio station shut down.

But the man phoning in was English of course. This is his country. If a man can't be an intemperate nutter in his own country, where can he be an intemperate nutter?

The suspected terrorist, as I understand it, had been tried without seeing the evidence against him. But his deportation, after the trial was over, had been stopped because the suspect said he feared persecution in his own country.

Which caused outrage, naturally, among those who had put their copies …

11 Ballot Papers? Willie Walsh, I Hope That You're Blushing

The High Court ruling yesterday blocking the planned strike by BA cabin crew on the most ludicrous of technicalities does profound discredit to BA and to the Law.

The strike was stopped because Unite, the union, had failed to notify those balloted, which I believe numbered between 10,000 and 11,000 employees, that 11 ballot papers were spoiled.

This is the law, interested parties are telling the tv and the newspapers.

Leave aside that there was an overwhelming vote in favour of strike action. Leave aside that the 11 spoiled papers would have had no effect on the outcome of the ballot if they'd been correctly completed and counted into the total number of votes. It's the law.

It's a stupid law when it has no impact on the outcome of the vote. Just one of many unreasonable, obstructive and petty pieces of legislation introduced by Thatcher and her cronies, and not repealed by Blair or Brown, to restrict a man or woman's right to withdraw their labour -- at the inconvenienc…

Virginia Woolf

I've been reading the diaries of Virginia Woolf just lately. She's an exquisite writer; somebody I find I like more and more as I get older; and I write my own novel much more easily when I've been reading her. Our styles have nothing in common, but the quality of her prose convinces me of something or other that I need to be convinced of in order to write. Whether it's the importance of what I'm attempting -- and what she did so brilliantly -- I don't know. Maybe it's just that there is stiff competition out there and before I'm dead I ought to stop calling myself a writer and write.

But a stray thought occurred to me about how the celebrity culture has distorted our expectations of success as I read the book over coffee this morning. Virginia writes that she considers one book -- I think it's "To The Lighthouse" -- a tremendous hit (though she would never use such a vulgar word) with the public because she has sold 1600 copies of it. Thin…

Cool Hand Bruce

Last week was strangely bookended for me. Interviewed for a university place on Monday morning, discussing William Blake and Ezra Pound in a room full of books and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and then signing on at the dole office for the first time in many years on Friday, with crowds of quiet men and women waiting for their turn to be politely grilled on the "jobseeking" they'd done since they last signed on. They have to do this before they can get their next cheque, and despite the fact that I had to go through it myself, I think it might be a good thing. We all need a little help every now and then, and sometimes a firm push too, once we've settled into the easy routine of living broke and doing nothing.


The decision I've made to do a degree is going to leave me broke for the next three years at least, if I can afford to go at all. I still don't know because full-time students can't get Jobseeker's Allowance or Income Support; they can't, for so…

Here's Your New Politics

This is the demographic make-up of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition representing "new politics": 23 millionaires, 29 white people, no black people, 1 Asian person, 26 men, 4 women, and no lesbians, gay men or bisexuals.

Sounds pretty much like the old politics to me.

Milliband May Have The Jazz, But Do I Really Care?

I listened to the speech David Milliband gave yesterday announcing his intention to stand for the Labour leadership in the coming contest -- if you can call anything a contest when there is only ever going to be one winner -- and felt a tiring sense of deja-vu about his words.

He is probably exactly what Labour needs to get elected to Government again. His Obama-ish rhetoric about humility and public service, and his declared plan to tour constituencies Labour didn't win talking to voters about the reasons why certainly sounded statesmanlike.

But haven't we, or at least I, been here before? Yes: in '83/'84, under Neil Kinnock, after Michael Foot stood on principle rather than pragmatism and Labour was hammered by Margaret Thatcher, and then in '93 or '94, whenever it was Tony Blair stood for the leadership. Kinnock made Labour electable again, somewhat to the cost of his own principles and trade unionism, and Blair (and Brown) did some wonderful things and some v…

In the Parlour of the Devil At Last

We have what David Cameron is disingenuously calling the Liberal/ Conservative Coalition now. As if it were a fair and true balance of power and we had anything other than Conservative Government by the back door.


That, anyway, is my instinct. Others might say that I was intellectually a part of the "old politics" and that compromise is the mark of the new game in Westminster. Mr. Cameron even tried to persuade us that compromise is somehow the mark of a sophisticated mind.


Perhaps it is. It depends what we mean by sophisticated. Somehow when David Cameron utters such words (I can't remember if he used that one specifically, but he spoke in the same linguistic ballpark)  I associate them with insincerity and seduction. And when Nick Clegg utters them I associate the words with a kind of commendable juvenile idealism.


We have now a vote on creating an elected Second Chamber in Parliament and that's excellent. We have a referendum on A.V. which the so-called Progressives …

Hot Damn, The Bard Of Semilong's Going To Uni

Political events are momentous at present, although now that we have a Cameron-Clegg Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government they might perhaps slow down for a bit. But things have progressed in my own life too, as I've been sitting by the radio listening to the news from Westminster. Today I received, and accepted, an unconditional offer to go to University as a mature student and do an English Literature degree this coming September.


This probably means very little to anyone other than me and my small, immediate circle, but if anybody has been brave enough to return to Suffolk Punch and its relentless grumbling bad news, finger-pointing and simultaneous self-reproach over the years, I feel they deserve to know when there is a break in the gloom, even if it's only a temporary one. And I'm determined this one's going to be permanent.


I haven't worked out how I'm going to support myself over the next three years, and that might be difficult. If a part-time job ca…

Brown & Out (If The Sun Can Do It, I Can)

It's hard for any blogger to keep up with political developments at the moment as the deals that will create our next government are thrashed out in what they used to call "smoke-filled rooms" in the capital, especially if, like me, you have a hundred things to do as well as your blogging and no immediate access to a laptop or a phone with an internet connection (I know, I live like a savage).

But it was enthralling listening to Gordon Brown's statement yesterday, in which he offered the Lib Dems and the country the ultimate prize of his own resignation, and William Hague's subsequent counter-punch offering the Lib Dems a referendum on reform of the voting system. One political commentator likened it to a showdown in a spaghetti western (showing his age somewhat, as I was by understanding him); but I thought it had more of the feel of the desperate competition for Rene Zellwegger's love in "Bridget Jones' Diary", although I couldn't quite wo…

How Does One Get To Blog For The Beeb?

Every time there's a political news story on the radio, a blogger is hauled in for comment and described as a "Conservative blogger" or a "Liberal blogger" (it's possible those appellations might require a small "c", but that's hard to tell on the radio).

When I listened to a debate one of those internet commentators was involved in on Friday morning, I found myself wondering firstly, how a person would get a big enough profile in this vast ocean of opinionated swine to be called on by the BBC to share their wisdom; and secondly, how the vagaries of an intelligent mind could be squeezed into a box marked "Conservative" or "Liberal".

Or perhaps the minds of these bloggers don't have vagaries. Perhaps they think quite naturally within the perameters of their party's manifesto. This Liberal Democrat commentator on Five Live (I forget her name, tellingly), would not be drawn on what her own preference would be with regard…

The Election: Why Brown Can't Continue, Among Other Things

I don't know what to think about the General Election result.

I am delighted the Conservative Party have failed to win an outright majority, of course. I have a dislike for them that goes beyond reason, rooted in the social destruction they wrought in the 1980s.

I am saddened that so many Labour MPs lost their seats and sorry the electorate didn't take the leap of faith it looked ready to take and give more seats to the LibDems. It shows the old two-party system may now be wired into the DNA of the nation.

I am thrilled the Green Party won a seat, although the ward I voted Green in was held by the Conservatives.

And I could still laugh at the trouncing the Roderick Spode of the BNP, Nick Griffin, took in the constituency where he ran.

But Labour were always going to lose their majority because of Gordon Brown, whom the public has disliked intensely from the start. We prefer our politicians to look like schoolboys or estate agents these days.

Gordon Brown is a poor communicator bec…

Get Thee Hence With Your Silliness So I Say

Perhaps now the Election is over (or is it?) all those shaven-headed, Sun-reading, British Bombardier drinking "patriots" will take their Poundstretcher St. George flags out of their windows and off their cars (around my way there's even an ice cream van bedecked with them). I've got nothing against declarations of patriotism -- although personally I think that is faintly absurd as well -- but patriotism is not the real reason those flags are on display. Paranoid nationalism is the reason. The men and women trapping those flags in their windows so they hang half way down their walls, and flap ostentatiously in the wind for every passing car to see, think they're sticking it to us liberals who are running the country down by preaching openness and tolerance. They think they're telling Africans, in as forthright a manner as our twisted laws allow, to go back to Africa, and Poles to Poland, and Muslims to the great hot violent primitive land somewhere near Russi…

Hot Election News!

Simon Cowell, Gary Barlow and Carol Vorderman are endorsing the Conservative Party. They really are the party of intellectual substance, aren't they?

But hold on one cotton-picking minute. Is Simon Cowell the sort of person whose opinion we are supposed to be influenced by? (Or perhaps the Sun, who feature the story of his endorsement as some sort of justification or magnification of their own, isn't aimed at me, since I've always thought it was a pernicious, racist, sexist, homophobic, intellectually antediluvian propaganda sheet for semi-literate right wing extremists.If they were endorsing me as they are endorsing the Conservatives I would change my act quickly.)

What has Mr. Cowell ever done, though? I mean to turn him into someone whose support a political party would be proud of and the party's publishing paymaster (Mr. Murdoch) would splash all over his "news"paper? Create a bunch of ridiculous, unwatchable tv shows that foisted untalented micro-celebrit…

Rats And Sinking Ships

Labour has lost the election. It just hasn't actually happened in time and space yet. If you wanted proof you could have turned on your tv this morning and watched the Prime Minister and his wife talking about how he would give himself over to some form of public service if May 7th found him moving house again. They always play on Gordon's nobility when he's crashing in the polls. "If we lose on May 6th," Brown supposedly said, no doubt straightening his back and drawing in a Churchillian breath, "I'll take full responsibility for it." This doesn't make him look as broad-shouldered as he intends it to, of course, as everybody else will think he's fully responsible for it too.

The other unarguable illustration that Labour has already gone and that Mr. Cameron will be Prime Minister at the end of the week is the unedifying spectacle of Labour Cabinet Ministers telling voters to vote tactically in marginal constituencies if they want to keep ou…

A Red-Green Poet Tries To Sign On

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen" -- Woody Guthrie  Pretty Boy Floyd

Since I had to quit my job because of the bullying and harassment I suffered at the hands of the manager there, supported as she was by others at her level, who had portrayed themselves as the good guys in the company and then went along for the ride the minute she pulled out for public viewing the knives she was sharpening for me (we'd been having hassles on and off in private for years, and the only complaint I ever made seemed to encourage the director to view me as a troublemaker); since then (forgive that lengthy introduction: thinking about what happened still makes me angry), I've been living on my savings because I was hoping to find another job or win the lottery or get a freelance writing gig or a fabulous publishing deal before my money ran out. But I can't get a job because I have seizures and people think I'm a malcontent, both of which are true, I …

The Election: Brown's Gaffe & The Clamour For Blood

It may be a tiny bit of a cliche, but someone has called the General Election a job interview with 60 million employers on the interview panel. (I think I have the population right.)

Now tell me truly. Is there anybody out there who hasn't, on occasion, met an interview panel when going for a new job, and after being sensibly gracious and friendly, told their family on the phone as they walked down to the bus stop what an idiot one of the panel was?

I have. Sometimes it was true and sometimes it wasn't. I was tired and stressed, in the latter instances, and my frayed nerves were affecting my well-known equanimity.

I've said different things to and about people more times than I can count, anyway, because it was expedient. Haven't you? I'm not especially proud of the times when I've done it, but expedient lies are the engine of the capitalist system.

This is why it irritates me to hear and read the apparently popular view that the real scandal emerging from yesterda…

The Election: That Key Word, Change

I wonder now whether there is a sufficient distance between the three major political to make voting for any of them worthwhile. After all, Labour has abandoned the unions and the strong stance it had on arms reduction when I became a Labour supporter in the early Eighties. It will support arms reduction, but only if America does it first. The Liberal Democrats support a degree of unilateral arms reduction but have a stance on unions that's no different, really, from the modern Labour Party's. And Labour, the Liberals and Conservatives will keep Britain in Afghanistan until the sky turns lime green and the rivers run with marmalade. We have "green" credentials tossed around by all the leaders in a kind of pathetic, insincere game of moral oneupmanship, but we know that when the fat is in the fire the environment will be sacrificed by the lot of them if it means keeping in with Business.

There is only one slight difference I can see between the so-called big three in 2…