Thursday, 23 December 2010
Carol Singing round the Village: a vermifuge for Xmas earworms. And why I feel sad every Festive Season.
Nothing like a bit of rousing carol singing for expelling ear worms. I had suffered an infestation of Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone which I'd picked up on Melton Market earlier in the day but few verses of 'We wish you a Merry Christmas!' and it was subdued. No doubt it is still lurking ready to strike again. Strict aural hygiene will have to be observed: earplugs if I venture into shopping centres, no TV, care exercised when I try to tune the radio.
I really enjoyed the singing. No doubt a scientific paper somewhere demonstrates that we sing because it releases a special hormone, enhances social cohesion, produces vitamin B12 or whatever, but such explanations are really just the verbal reductionism of obsessive geeks who want to put all kinds of raw human experience into manageable boxes. Singing is good, it's nice to be with other people who are also singing, makes you feel connected: it's as simple as that.
It was stunningly cold around the village, but that was part of the experience, as was looking into other people's houses, which is always fascinating. In most houses the phantasmagorical flickering of coloured lights could be glimpsed through windows: the product of the big TV screens. It worried me [ me being me this is the kind of thing that worries me] that so many people were just sitting there in an hypnotic stupor sucking in the banal nonsense that 'viewing' consists of these days. Shouldn't they be reading books, writing bad poetry [my options], practising hobbies, meditating, feasting, participating in orgies, taking drugs, planning world domination...? No they just appeared to be slouched on the couch. This gave me one of those moments of angst that arise in me every Christmas. I can't help it. I can't help seeing [surely we all can?] the dullness and loneliness beneath the noise and bright lights and, in particular, the isolation of the old.
This feeling was intensified when we sang 'Silent Night' in front of Mister S's door. His wife died a few weeks ago. He listened to us and when we finished, wept. We were going to conclude with a noisy chorus of We Wish you a Merry Christmas. But we were struck silent. The stark sorrow of Mister S crushed our jollity. We stood and looked at Mister S. He stood and looked at us, not only sad, but embarrassed too. An Englishman crying. Had we been Italian we would have rushed to him and hugged him and wept with him. But we were English. We muttered goodnight and continued our rounds.
The incident is with me still, making me feel sad. I don't want anyone to cheer me up either. That would be false.
Christmas:underneath the glitter, the horror. The horror which we should all acknowledge and then do something about. The plight of the sick and the homeless is obvious, but that of the lonely is hidden away in rooms in warm houses all round the country.
Sorry if this sounds bleak and sermonising. Anyway my resolution for 2011: do something about the loneliness we all share.
Choir Practise. Perhaps that's what we need.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Today, at Waitrose, I thought that I'd passed on.
The broad aisles gleamed, the punters in a daze
drifted, eyes glazed, about their retail maze.
The chillers chanted mantras OM & OM &
At dusk I sip my 'Best Shiraz', eat cheese
and fruit, savour my new Amazon books
Oh? Gaia's heading for disaster bees
bumble in the catmint. On Cat's Hill rooks
murmur like bored football fans
a sudden gust
shakes trees, a dog yelps, sheep bleat, somewhere
a child shrieks. The rooks caw like a goal's been missed.
The World Cup's on: I hear somebody swear.
I drowse, then wake. Moths flitter, the moon's bright:
I raise my glass and toast the Earth, Good Night.
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Friday, 12 November 2010
Reminiscences of a Desert Rat on Remembrance Sunday
Last November on the way to Church, the War came back,
Anointed with Old Spice, Brylcreemed, in trilby and Mac
I paused. An amber haze from the lamp set in the wall
Did something to my eyes. It seemed to me a pall
Of mist drifted amongst the quiet lichened graves
And coalesced into a shape, an animal, a dog, Dave's
Dog, a yellow scrawny tyke, that arrived
From out the desert somewhere near Tobruk. How it survived,
God only knows. It had a taste for rotten meat
A bit like Dave, we joked. She licked his feet,
Size twelve, he didn't seem to mind.
They were, we all concurred, two of a bloody kind.
Rita, he called her, she sat in the truck
On the retreat to Alamein. Said she brought him luck.
At Hellfire Pass strafed by a one-o-nine
They emerged without a scratch. Later, a mine
Went off by the truck. Bert Allsop got the blast
Dave and Rita were unscathed, Bert didn't last.
Rita sniffed Bert's ruined guts. Dave grinned,
Nerves, I suppose, tugged Rita back. The wind
Blew tyre smoke in our faces as we buried Bert,
Digging by the roadside, deep in the 'gyptian dirt,
Beyond the reach of dogs, of foxes, flies.
Poor Bert, a fine spin bowler, rests under foreign skies.
We got to Alamein where the War turned round,
Followed the tanks, recovered our lost ground.
We left Dave in the cab, heard him talk to her,
He seemed to forget she was a scabby, desert cur.
At Mersa Matruh, we got shelled by eighty eights
One hit the Mess tent, smashed five of my mates.
That night we couldn't find Dave. He'd gone,
Over the scrub, towards the German lines alone.
I had a shufti, found Dave, well what was left of him
He'd trod on a debollicker, been ripped limb from limb.
Found Rita too, well she'd got a tasty treat…
I stabbed her with my bayonet, made sure she was dead meat.
The bell had ceased to toll as I approached the gate,
I heard the murmur of the organ, I was bloody late,
Not like me, I thought, and thought of Dave and Bert,
The mist had dispersed, but not the bloody hurt.
The church door opened and I took my musty pew
I knelt on my dusty hassock and prayed to start anew.
This poem is dedicated to my Dad who never told me what he saw in North Africa in the war.
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010
As I came to and hovered in that pleasant realm between dreams and morning cups of tea, I thought there must be a set of neurones that when fired, make one invade Russia and do all sorts of other crazy things, such as watching Celebrity Come Dancing or Eastenders. Between those that induce watching the latter and those that make one invade Russia there must be an overlap, as surely, the neurones for 'East', 'End', and 'Murder' are involved both activities.
Which makes me think- or sets off lots neurones abuzzing- that a Mad Neuroscientist might infiltrate the Eastenders script writing team and devise a means of inducing some kind of electronic glitch in the viewers' brains so that they collectively rush out and invade Russia.
Or perhaps I've got it all wrong. Perhaps we just bully our brains into doing bad things. What would Hitler's brain say? I said to him, Adolf, you dumb schmekel, use your brain [i.e. ME] ! DO NOT invade Russia. It'll all end in tears. Don't say I didn't warn you! But that schmuck went and did it any way and now I get the blame. You don't know what it's like being inside the head of a madman!
Then if his brain wrote his [or her] Confessions the other organs might want to cash in. We might, for example, have The Dropped Bollock: I was Adolf' Hitler's lost testicle.
Just had a nasty thought [well another one]: if brains are to blame and there is a brain cell for everything, would it be possible for our Mad Neuroscientist to fire off the set of neurones that would make me think I am Sarah Palin, don a Grayson Perry frock, climb up a telegraph pole and sit up there singing 'I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air'? And would I be sectioned or would I win the Turner Prize?
Anything is possible.
Monday, 8 November 2010
The only spoiler was the information from Phil on the cheese stall that the church bells are Ersatz: produced by a recording not by real live sweaty campanologists toiling away in their church towers. Fortunately there is still plenty of the real in Cambridge to counterbalance this disturbing deviation into Disneyesque territory. However the local Tourist people need to be on their guard in case they start presenting Cambridge as 'The Cambridge Experience'. That, is as an expensive non-experience. We have enough of that sort of thing in Melton with Ye Olde Porke Pie Shoppe. Perhaps our local council will devise an 'old pork pie experience' for visitors. Might bring a smile to touring Cockneys...?
In the afternoon I was delighted to receive a visit from my old and dear friend, Dick, who initiated me into the deeper mysteries of Local Government Bollixspiel. Dick works for a Housing Department. We are now a Predictor of Beaconicity, he tells me and grins as a look of total perplexity contorts my face. I think he's made it up but he's not. There is Beaconicity and organisations can become Predictors of it. Dick explained what it meant but I could not grasp the concept; it was too nebulous. I think it was something to do with people in offices showing people in other offices how to go about things properly. Houses didn't seem to come into it.
I think I might write I sci fi story: The Predictors of Beacon City in which the Predictors, a malevolent priesthood, dressed in steampunk robes, swan about in an Egyptian cityscape which features a dramatic Tower at the top of which burns a Mysterious Fire. The Predictors job is to go around being nasty to homeless people. These latter, wretched but nice, are eventually redeemed by a maverick Predictor, who having endured an arduous climb to the top of the Tower, has a Divine encounter with Horus and realises his Divine Mission is to set things right. He then descends, eyes glazed with Righteousness, and kills the bad guys in a orgy of divinely sanctioned fury. The climatic scene would involve lots of blood and entrails being flung about. Afterwards all the homeless people get a nice Council flat to live in. People would be able to understand that.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
I do suspect, however, that some politicians, the rich ones to be specific, know very well where these policies are leading, that is to the impoverishment and degradation of many people, and this they find delightful. They find it delightful because they enjoy feeling wealthy and this sensation is enhanced by the increasing the level of poverty of amongst the majority of us. The feeling of 'I am rich' relies on this relativity. This feeling is the most wonderful thing in the world to this group. It makes them glow with self satisfaction and self importance especially when they indulge in a titillating and conspicuous act of charity.
Monday, 18 October 2010
The pain of getting out of bed at 5.30 A.M. is intense. Sharon's Blackberry makes a cheerful little calypso noise that chops through my dreams like a guillotine. The feeling is, I imagine, like that of the child in Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights' being separated from his daemon. I do my ablutions, go downstairs. I wander around the kitchen, drink tea and stare about me, fart, look at the backs of my hands, fill my flask, scratch my nose, examine stains on the kitchen table with an idiotic intensity, rustle about for a CD to play in the car...Then Sharon shoves me out of the door and cold air hits me. This is another moment of pain. Followed by a sharp moment of pleasure as the early morning scents of damp meadow engulf me along with the soft sounds of early morning: scufflings in the hedge, a murmur from the rookery on Cat's Hill, a breeze softly rustling the yew tree by the shed.
Sorry, these words don't do justice to the sensation I get: it's a jolt, a thrill; it's raw and chunky; it's a revelation. There I am in stale early morning domesticity of my kitchen ...then [roll of drums and guillotine noise]...out into the world, the real world. A very remarkable and beautiful place, in case you hadn't noticed. And when you have it all to yourself early on a Sunday Morning this fact seems to be cavorting about in the trees, yodelling.
And, I know saying this puts me [unjustifiably] in the 'old Hippie' niche by those out there who think in cliches, but I have to say it:
And WOW! and AMAZING because it's wow-worthy and amazing and beautiful and ineffable and incontrovertibly there and alive. And why, I wonder, are there not more people out there applauding and cheering it, this Real World? Is it uncool or do they just not notice? Answers on a postcard please.
Sorry haven't got anywhere near the A1. Haven't even started my old Fiat or scrapped the ice of the windscreen.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Naama Yaron, a photographer from Israel sent me the two pics above of my stall. She cheered me up. I had a bad morning. No one wanted to buy anything. On the market you can sometimes feel the mood of the country [or so I imagine] and it was fear on Sunday: Cameron's cuts, jobs, the economy, the state of the World. Perhaps these currents are more tangible in Cambridge, pulsing, as it is, with some of the World's Best Brains.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Then, tugging again at the Hat of Memory, I recalled that Stuart and another lad in our class, Trevor Wherret, went out cycling each weekend around South East Essex on their Raleigh bikes, [with Sturmey Archer three speed gears in the rear wheel hub, of course]. It's forty odd years ago but I presume, probably correctly, that they were clad in navy blue anoraks, black leatherette gloves and flapping grey flannel trousers held in check by cycle clips. I suspect that pockets held neatly folded linen handkerchiefs, Vic inhalers, neatly coiled pieces of hairy string, blue Bic pens, leather purses containing florins, half crowns and threepenny bits and other useful items.
Not an unusual activity for schoolboys of the period. All over the country similarly clad lads on identical bikes were pedalling away in all weathers burning off their adolescent energies. However the Wherret and Lynn* outings were unusual. They were conducted according to a strict timetable, the timetable of Avery Rail.
Avery Rail was a transport system that comprehensively covered every town and village from Wickford to Shoeburyness. I believe that Canvey Island was excluded for technical reasons - not suitable terrain for track laying- and also, I surmise, because of the steepness of Benfleet Hill and the wildness of the natives.
Avery Rail rolling stock, naturally, went along at the speed of a Raleigh bike. There was a summer timetable and a winter timetable. There were branch lines, termini, bus links, Sunday and Bank Holiday services. Stuart and Trevor made maps and painstakingly wrote out pages and pages of timetables. These were complete with asterisks and addenda, and so just as confusing as real timetables. At each station Stuart and Trev would dutifully halt their bikes for a prescribed period of time so that passengers would have sufficient time to embark and disembark.
An immense amount of work went into their project. It was a magnificent, if obsessive, feat of imagination, a psychogeographical artifice of the finest kind. It was also admirable because it was so useful for the community providing, as it did, safe, affordable, reliable transport. It was a stark contrast to the contorted cartography that Lee and I developed with our 'Map of the World' but we, nevertheless, considered their project to be a thing of wonder worthy of a wider audience.
However I have to confess I am not entirely free of obsessive behaviour. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time studying Ordnance Survey Maps. Actually, to be honest, I still do, especially when I'm a bit under the weather. I find examining, say, a tract of moorland in the West of Scotland soothing. I find going for imaginary walks around rugged declivities and along meandering burns strangely fulfilling. There are the delightful names you come across, too, Nick of the Balloch, the River Stinchar or -my favourite- Ferret of Keith Moor. The latter is a tract of drab heather moor just south of Greenock in case you want to know.
Essex O.S. Maps do not reveal much in the way of spectacular scenery. However if you take a ruler and a pencil you can find lines of mystic power, Ley Lines. There seem to be lots of Ley Lines in the Southend area with Rayleigh and Rochford as particularly significant foci.
After I first found these in the early Seventies, I pointed them out to my friend Roy Carrington , the Thundersley Mystic, who nodded knowingly and said 'there's definitely something there'. They confirmed his contention that South East Essex was an area where 'The Higher Energies' traditionally manifested themselves. Hence the the Canewdon Witches, Cunning Murrell, the Black Dog and the traditional name for the area: The Witch Country. There certainly is something in the air but whether or not it corresponds to Roy's spiritualist/theosophical viewpoint I've no idea. Until the coming of the railways in Victorian times it was a backward area of marsh, woodland and scrub well off the beaten track, a fecund area for the breeding of superstition.
My researches included treks across the area in straight lines. This helps one induce the psychogeographical trance prescribed by Iain Sinclair for such expeditions and brings to your attention all kinds of previously unnoticed trees, graffiti, buildings and so on. I found these treks an enjoyable and welcome distraction, on my periodic visits to see my parents after I had left home, from the sense of suburban claustrophobia I used to endure in their Hadleigh bungalow. But the mystic revelations they I hoped they would induce never materialised. Interestingly [well to me] years later I was visited by dreams of brick pathways stretching from East London [Ackroydish, eh!] down to Essex. So the area does have a strong hold on my imagination.
Curiously, there were no ley lines going through Canvey Island. Roy Carrington was perceptive on the matter of Canvey. It's a low place, he remarked, nodding knowingly. Perhaps that's why it produced such amazing music.
I googled Trevor Wherret in the process of writing the above. Sadly the first item that came up was his obituary. He was a keen numismatist and had planned to make a film on the coins of Essex. I remember him as another outsider at school. The book in my satchel was the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in Lee's, The Good Soldier Svek, and in Trev's Tristram Shandy. He was a unique individual. I'd like to say something like God bless you or rest in peace, but I can't find the right words. All I can say is that I feel sadness. Here we are in this strange, ugly, beautiful world in which we occupy ourselves for a few years with work, reproduction and fantasy, then we leave. I've no idea where to, perhaps back into the strange imaginative matrix from which our souls originally emerged.
* I always remember school friends by their surnames, as we were called by them by our teachers. We used elegant variations amongst ourselves, 'Slashcroft' in my case,for example.
Friday, 24 September 2010
Sausages and mash now, with onion gravy.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Thursday, 9 September 2010
A brief note on my worldview. To me there is no such thing as a time or a place without a person present. Hence psychohistory and psychogeography are the proper subjects for human study and contemplation. A time and a place are just hypothetical constructs without the presence of a person, that is someone present to experience whatever is there. Likewise there cannot be a person separate from a time and a place. The concepts of time and place are unfathomable. None of us really know what they mean. Experienced directly time and place can exhibit a delightful and numinous quality.
My Jug Band career was intermittent. Lacking musical talent and not doing my homework for Lee - he wrote down chords for me to learn and lent me books and records- it petered out after a year or two.
I was, anyway, getting into other things. A book on Yoga, James Hewitt's 'Teach Yourself Yoga', to be precise set me off on the quest for Spiritual Enlightenment. I also discovered 'The Incredible String Band' and spent many hours listening to Robin Williamson warbling away mystically in a thin quavering voice All this world is but a play, be thou the joy..oooo...ful play er....Ducks on a pond, ducks on aaaa... pond.....It's the Haaaaalf Remarkable question. I loved it. I know lots of rock fans will think it fey, naff, daft and worse, but I loved it, and importantly it got me out of the chronic existential gloom that afflicted me.
As I'm writing this I'm Youtubing some old ISB stuff. It's bringing a smile to my face. That's quite something for a cynic like me who habitually talks with his tongue in his cheek.
Last year an oldish bearded Scotsman in a tartan waistcoat stopped at my stall on Melton Market to buy a present for his wife. It was Robin Williamson, and a very nice chap he was, I'm glad to report. Lovely musical cadences ran through his speech. We went to his gig in the evening at a local village hall. I enjoyed it. Robin's principal instrument was the Welsh Harp, the sweet romantic tone of which contrasted nicely with Robin's voice which was, I am glad to say, no longer the thin hippy thing it had been but grown up, gruff and flecked with experience, some of it, no doubt, hard.
And all a long way from Canvey Island. But Robin has that quality that Lee had, even if their music was so different, of a having a special energy and colour. I'm trying to think of other people who I've met who have this same quality: they are few and far between. I must make a list.
Monday, 6 September 2010
Fairlie Glen in Scotland, for instance, when I was twelve. Where I used to crawl about in bracken, guddle for trout, climb trees and play 'commandos' with my friends. The rocks there fascinated me: grey basalt -frozen lava- towards the Kaim Hill, the waterfall over the Old Red Sandstone outcrop, boulders covered with bright green lichens, mosses and liverworts. The air was redolent with the aroma of pine trees, sodden peat, rotting leaves, fungal growth. There seemed to be a magic there that I could never get hold of, a magic that went beyond the merely rural and picturesque to include the terror of geological timespans, the power of Vulcanism and the bloody story of Scotland. This magic feeds my soul to this day.
When I was thirteen my family moved to Essex. I felt lost. The new landscape had none of the hard rocky bones of Scotalnd: it was clay, gravel, sand and mud which induced in me anomie and fretful boredom. In my new school, Rayleigh Sweyne, I felt out of place. Having a mild Scottish accent didn't help. Inevitably there was piss taking of the Where's yer kilt 'aggis? variety, but nothing as bad as what I had endured in my Scottish school. Words are just not as bad as the street ju-jitsu of the Scottish playpark which includes advanced spitting techniques. I was a victim somtimes because, in Scotland, I sounded English, my mum being from Forest Gate and my Dad being from Upton Park. It's hard to fit in the West of Scotland when your Dad's brought you up to sing 'I'm for ever blowing Bubbles' and those around you are singing 'Scot's wha hae wi Wallace bled.'
The horrible feeling of being an outsider I felt seemed part of the landscape visible from my new classroom: ribbon development, sour pony paddocks, stunted oaks, thickets of thorns concealing refuse chucked from passing vans, transport cafes...The only verticals were the electricity pylons that looked as though they had wandered in from all over the country for some tedious meeting. Sweyne was OKish academically I suppose. But it's Headmaster's humanistic vision of his pupils becoming good citizens who wouldn't litter, who had nice careers, who played the violin in their spare time who knew who T.S. Eliot was and understood the Periodic Table, just added to my sense of alienation.
I felt trapped. Fortunately in class 3B I made some good friends; John Wardropper [aka 'Crusher'], Roger Hare and Lee J. Collinson. Thirteen year old Lee loaned me his copy of Catch 22 , a thick Corgi paperback with a black and red cover. I just did not 'get' what it was saying at first. Then I had one of those great penny dropping moments of my adolescence. I 'got it', as they say these days.* Catch 22 become a reference book. With it's help we could chart our way through dull school days. Lee was Yossarian, of course. He had the same intelligent scepticism, the same sense that institutional life was crazy and that, for the sake of one's soul, must not be accepted as reality.
Our gang developed, called variously the Lovely Club, the Weasel Club or the Utterly Club depending on our whims and fancies. A uniform of waistcoats, pocket watches, cufflinks, ties worn like cravats emerged. There was some fighting, vandalism and general antisocial behaviour, but nothing really serious. The main thrust of our activities was the indulgence in gags, jests, mockery and the creation of little acts and stories. Lee and Crusher used to do an American style Evangelical rant preaching the saving graces of the Deity Charlie Pill . It was deeply offensive to anyone with strict and conventional relgious views and meant to be. There was elaborate Scotish rant that Lee and I developed featuring, myself as Hellfire preacher. We persuaded our RE teacher to allow us to perform it as a short play. This included a version of 'Yessir that's My Saviour!' with Lee playing the banjo and astounding the class with amazingly high energy solo. I concluded with the old gag about God on His Throne being distracted by the shrieks of Sinners burning in Hell. They bang desperately on the hatch next to throne. God opens it. The Sinners cry: Oh Lord! We didna' ken! God looks down at them, screws his face up into a Glaswegian grimace, tells them: WELL YE KEN NOO! And slams the heavy hatch shut, trapping a few fingers as He does so.
This stuff filled a void for me. I found a new kind of magic, one to do with words ideas and fantasies. The secret was: You can imagine anything you like!
Somehow the dreary landscape receded and I felt better. In fact I think the landscape helped. It was so soul destroyingly dull we had to create our own world. And we remapped the real one too! [ See previous entry 'The Map of the World'.]
The armpit? I'll have to talk about that next time.
*I don't actually like this phrase 'getting it' but it's useful little cliche and I can' think of another expression just now.
Saturday, 28 August 2010
I have had to develop my on private vocabulary. For example, there's what I call 'The Midlands Feeling', 'The Hull Feeling', and 'The Essex Feeling'. The latter I can subdivide into 'The Canvey Feeling', 'The Rayleigh Feeling', ' The Benfleet Feeling' and so on. It's all rather clumsy, I admit, but it is inevitable if one is trying to get beyond the strait jacket imposed by 'normal language' which reflects consensus reality.
Literature, art and music help us out of this strait jacket, when they are doing their job properly. Thus 'Great Expectations' invokes the atmosphere of the Thames Estuary, as does Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'. It may surprise many people to find that the area has such a rich and dramatic psychogeoraphy. Manichean forces swirl about at dusk. The woods and scrubs harbour Witches and the Black Dog, a complex geometry of ley lines channels punches into the landscape like acupuncture needles.
A recent expression of the energies present is embodied in the volcanic power of Doctor Feelgood. The original members of the band were deeply rooted in the nether lands of Canvey Island; they had to be to avoid being washed away. Geology affects character. Living on a mud bank reclaimed from the sea makes people sensitive to the power of the Moon; it makes them self reliant; it makess them sympathetic to others in similar places. Thus Canveyites [is that the correct term?] are predisposed to feel an affinity with the Dutch and, of course, with the lands of the Mississippi.
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Í'm a hog for you baby, I can't get enough of your love.''
In case you don't know, this is a traditional Essex folk song sung by a young man to his sweetheart. It was made famous local folk musicians, Doctor Feelgood. And, Roberto est onklo, within an hour or two the Tim gets back to me. The translation is:
'Mi estas porkovi infanteo, mi ne povas recvi sufice da via kunigo.''
I've tried to sing it, but somehow it doesn't sound right. I can see why esperanto never caught on.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Last Friday I was chatting in the pub with a neighbour. We were talking about beggars and their various styles of extracting money from passersby. I described the typical Cambridge species: he or she sits cross legged on a blanket, has matted hair, a scrawny dog that needs worming, and plays something squeaky on a tin whistle. He or she is irritating but harmless. My friend then told me of one he'd witnessed in Paris. She was an Eastern European gypsy. She lay with her head on the pavement with her hand, out stretched to receive offerings. From her mouth an ululating shriek rent the air. It was nasty. It stayed with me all week. Somehow I get a whiff of the horror. There's the scent of pogroms, diasporas, ethnic strife, murder in the cry. Like a curse it's followed me around. I've felt it sending a tremor through my cosy little world that I love so much, with its village pub, its runner beans, its books, its beer, its dental care,...all those things we take for granted. For some reason it prompts me to think of the deep, sacred silence that is held safe by the thick Norman walls of the old church that sits on the hillock above my house. That seems to help.
Horrible, but in a different way: I read an account of a visit to a huge factory in the 'International Trade City' Yiwu in China. There the workers suffer horrendously long shifts and live in dormitories -slavery in all but name. One production line is dedicated to the manufacture of light up plastic Virgin Marys that are exported to every Catholic place of pilgrimage on Earth.
I have been accused of being too serious. Sorry. So on 'a lighter note' I'll conclude with a 'humorous' item, like a well trained BBC newsreader. Tim, the Thespian Haberdasher sidled up to me last Saturday. He says to me, I'm thinking of setting up a new business selling jackets, small barrels of beer, pickled cucumbers and pubic wigs. He pauses to allow my puzzled frown to arrange itself. It's going to be called Jerkins, Firkins, Gherkins and Merkins.
Monday, 2 August 2010
Afflicted with a Cliff Richard earworm again accompanied by the sickening eyeworm of the kitsch elf himself strutting and twitching on stage. At least I've added some of my own words.
I was considering my lifelong tendency to procrastinate which manifests itself even in the simple matter of maintaining a simple blog. There's the bigger issue, too, of career. I'm still wondering what to do when I leave school. [What a waste! What a waste! ]*. Worrying.
As I reached this point in my meditation cheery Cliff bounced on to the scene! A man who knows where he's going. Perennial, evergreen, clean, Godly, his Mansion inside the the Gated Community called Paradise assured. A community of Saved Folk for whom every day is a Sunday full of cheery worship and Hosanas in which they can wander about in a bliss of [ self ] congratulations and jubilations.
Honoured to have Mister Will Birch following my blog. His biography of Ian Dury is on my reading list for the summer. Ian produced such wonderful words. Reasons to be Cheerful indeed! He wasn't a perfect person, 'a flawed character' no doubt and not a brilliant father according to Zoe Street Howe's entertaining and insightful book on the relationship between rock stars and their progeny.
I enjoyed reading Zoe's book because it avoids the usual dreary sensationalism that accompanies such an investigation. Zoe allows the sons and daughters to speak for themselves and, without succumbing to the temptation of doing a bit of pop psychologising, shows the difficulties and dilemmas they face with sympathy and wry humour.
I found Frank Zappa to be one of the less comfortable figures. There was something chilling and empty about his libertarian parenting. I'd rather have Ozzy Osbourne as a Dad. Just. Pleased to see that Lee Brilleaux came out as a good Dad, which might surprise some people.
By the way, if you find yourself afflicted by a Cliff Richard earworm, eyeworm, lungworm or tapeworm check out Mister Brilleaux with Dr. Feelgood on You Tube playing 'I'm a Hog for You Baby'. This will cleanse you of auditory parasites of all kinds and serve as an antidote to the image of Cliff's twee twitching jive and expel intestinal parasites into the bargain. Caution: do not view if you are in denial about the connection between rock and the male libido or are easily offended.
The two books I mention are 'Ian Dury, the Definitive Biography ' by Will Birch and
'How's Your Dad', by Zoe Street Howe. Both of which I can recommend.
*The title of any Ian Dury song, for those not familiar with his work. Strikes a chord with me!
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Monday, 12 July 2010
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Monday, 21 June 2010
It falls to certain folk to take on the role of being a character who hangs out on the Market. [Capital 'M' to denote the archetypal Market]. It's a calling that is not for everyone. I have known many who have followed this path who, sadly, are no longer with us but who have done a marvellous job maintaining the crazy Genius Loci of the said archetypal Market.
Monday, 14 June 2010
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
It's my clear duty to dispatch him. I try to neck him as I would a chicken, but his neck seems to be different from that of a chicken's, more flexible. I twist and yank his head. But he remains alive. The one eye looks at me. I try stamping on his head. This doesn't work either as his head sinks into the damp turf of the verge. Rather than ending his suffering I am intensifying it. The one eye looks at me. I am pheasant bane, pheasant nemesis. I feel a pang of horror. This pheasant who, a few minutes ago was strutting about so full of himself, is having a very, very bad day. And it's my fault.
More than ever it's important to give him the coup de grace. I pick up an a stick, position it over his neck and stamp hard. There's a brief spasm of nerves and he goes still. Dead. I feel relieved. I drop him in the foot well of the car and take him home. The next day Sharon's Dad butchers him and we make a very tasty pheasant casserole. So he didn't die in vain.
Later, up the pub, when I tell people about the incident, they delight in telling me what I did was illegal. If you hit a pheasant you can't pick it up but the bloke behind can. And don't show any sympathy for the pheasant.
Me? I even dream about the damn thing. A couple of nights later a giant game bird with a piece of flint in its beak attacks Sharon. I have to fight it off. Revenge of the birds? What does it all mean?
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Willpower gets me out the door.
The spring air is moist, fragrant, laced with bird song. I breathe it in. It feels more like a drink of fresh water when you're thirsty. I'm jolted into wakefulness. Think God it's so beautiful!
I start up the motor. The chunky revving of the diesel engine is reassuring, a solid noise, a going to work noise that chases away the spindly fears of the night.
On the eastern horizon the sun is a smudge of pink. As I pass Eaton Grange a muntjac scuttles into the hedge. No one else on the road until I reach the A1. There's little traffic there: the odd rusty Tranny heading for a Sunday gaff, a Hamburger waggon or two, a BMW hurtling south at high speed. I turn on the radio. The religious programme on R4. It's all Easter stuff and paedo priests. I turn off the radio in case it taints the day. Listen instead to 'The Astounding Eyes of Rita', Middle Eastern music featuring oud, bass clarinet and various other instruments. Sinuous, curving, melancholy ecstatic music.
As I pass Stamford I peel the foil off my breakfast sandwich and savour it: smoked salmon, salad in gritty brown bread. I sip jasmine tea from my thermos cup. A little ritual. Don't allow myself this pleasure until I see the spires of Stamford churches. Consider one of the ironies of my life: I love old churches but loathe the singsong pontifications of priests and clergymen. Or should that be clergypersons?
Little pleasures. Finding a parking space on Jesus Lane. Church bells celebrating Easter. Talking to Greg about music. Drinking a coffee from his little waggon. Talking to Mike who sells treen about the geology of Leicester. Did you realise that granite is radioactive? Chatting to some students with that braying upper class accent that can be rather grating, about philosophy. Nietzsche's being taught now, you know, one of them tells me. The sun shining. Eating my couscous salad after sprinkling some hot chili sauce over it. Selling one of pewter repousse Sharon's Green Men. Packing up without a hitch. Driving home without the diversion through Huntingdon that made me late home last week. Listening to 'Pick of the Week' on R 4.
And then arriving in my local -The Wheel Inn- licking my lips in anticipation and drinking a nice hoppy bitter and eating their superb home made chips served with their delicious home made ketchup. Exchanging banter with a few other customers. Meeting Sharon, John and Thomas there.
Little pleasures adding up to a feeling that this day was a good day, another day on earth that was worth living and enjoying.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Friday, 2 April 2010
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Getting out of the Big Black Hole, continued...
Yes, Oil City helped. Got a phone call from George Hencken when I was off work with depression. At first I thought it was OCC. Health phoning up to arrange for my statutory brain check, but then Dr. Feelgood was mentioned and I was snapped out of my depressive stupor. A film! Would I go down to Canvey Island and be interviewed?! YES! ABSOLUTELY!*
So went down and took part in the filming. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. I met lots of people I hadn't met for years. There was beer, laughter, chatter. And no one treated me like something the cat had sicked up on the carpet. Julien Temple, George, old Feelgoods, Rico 'Le Salvager' talked to me as though I was a bona fide human being. That was the most therapeutic thing.
These guys are cool
They think I'm OK
These guys are cooler* than my bosses
[Who think I'm not OK]
So I'll go with their opinion:
I am OK.
Look out for the film which is about the story of Dr. Feelgood. One of the best live bands ever.
I am cool* enough to be in this film.
Therefore I am not the repulsive emotional cripple I thought I was.
That's how the mind works! The restoration of self confidence!
Market trading connection [as Market Trading is what is what this blog is ostensibly about]? When I got my confidence back I was able to come back to market trading and enjoy it. It's not the sort of thing you can do if you are unsure of yourself.
*I never actually used the expression 'Absolutely' [too cliched] but it seemed appropriate in the context.