Thursday, 23 December 2010

Carol Singing round the Village: a vermifuge for Xmas earworms. And why I feel sad every Festive Season.

Tuesday Evening: carol singing around Eaton to raise money for Dove Cottage.

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

Midsummer 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 & 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

Remembrance Sunday

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

Hitler's Brain

Last night I dreamed of Hitler's brain. It had been sliced up roughly and put in a casserole dish. I looked down at it and felt privileged to view the tissue that had ordered the invasion of Russia.

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 Predictors of Beaconicity

Lovely day on Cambridge Market yesterday: air crisp and chill, ringing of church bells, low sun creating shadow patterns in the intricate details of the buildings, the scent of bacon and fresh coffee wafting across the market place, people strolling about looking relaxed, blue skies above with the occasional cauliflower of white cloud evoking a mystic thrill.

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


Economics is a subject I don' t profess to understand, particularly the 'macro' version. I suspect most politicians are in the same boat but daren't admit it. Hence they have no idea what the outcome of the policies that the Government are now pursuing will be. They just cheer and boo according to their tribal loyalties.

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

A1 Revelations Part 1

One of the worst things about doing what I do for a living is that I have to get up very early on a Sunday morning and therefore cannot go out on a Saturday Night and drink myself into a drooling sentimental stupor with my fellow Englishmen.

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

Cambridge Market, Sunday 10th October.

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.

I had also spilt ostrich burger juice down my shirt and this left a nasty brown stain. This caused me intense irritation. That's why I'm in my Tshirt.

Thank you, Naama, for buying the bangle which I hope you are enjoying wearing. Hope to see you next time you are in Cambridge.
The bangles are great colours [see top pic]. We've put some on our website:

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Railway Lines & Ley Lines.

Curious how you pull one memory out the hat and it tugs another out after it. After writing a blog entry a few weeks ago about Lee and I doing a 'play' in our RE class, I recalled that we were assisted by a classmate by the name of Stuart Lynn. He played a very creaky melodic accompaniment to our rendition of 'Yessir that's my Saviour' on his violin.

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

Indulging in meandering ruminations...

Just in from a wet windy day [ you don't have to read this, it's just the meandering ruminations of tired marketeer] and feel as though I'm about to drop. [ Add your own self pitying whinges here, about half an hour's worth]. OK that's moaning done with.

Sausages and mash now, with onion gravy.

Monday, 13 September 2010

'I'm a Hog for You Baby...' / 'To His Coy Mistress'. Compare and contrast.

Mister Cunnington, my English teacher in the Sixth Form, is someone I feel very grateful to. He opened my eyes [or should that be ears?] to the Metaphysical Poets, Andrew Marvell, in particular. I remember reading Marvell's 'The Garden' in one of his classes and discovering there a magical world of wit, sensuality and mysticism. Here is the fifth stanza of the poem:

What wond'rous Life is this I lead!
Ripe Apples drop about my head;
The Lucious Clusters of the Vine
Upon my Mouth do crush their Wine;
The Nectaren and curious Peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on Melons, as I pass,
Insnar'd with Flow'rs, I fall on Grass.
It has a gorgeous, lip smacking texture. It's a verbal opiate carrying one off to Eden. Every so often, when no one is around, I indulge myself and read the whole poem out loud in a big, booming, slightly slobbery, voice.
Mister Cunnington was old and tweedyand spoke with a gruff voice, like Badger in Wind in the Willows. His wife taught Domestic Science. She had silver hair and a little daub of red lipstick on her thin pursed lips. I don't know why but one of our gang wondered, in the way callous schoolboys do, whether or not they ever had sexual, ahem, whatsits. This lead to some detailed discussion. Various conjectures were developed over several weeks. Lee, being an energetic and imaginative lad, worked on a kind of speculative choreography of what their sexual encounters might consist of. This grew steadily more obscene and surreal as he responded to the approbation and applause of his chums. I don't want to go into too much detail, but will say that the final performance involved lots of rolling up of sleeves, the ejaculation of faux Yorkshire exclamations such as ' EEE LASS! COOM HERE!' , much sprinting up and down and some violent jerky movements that left Lee sweating. It was the kind performance that critics refer to as 'bravura'.

After watching Dr. F. perform the quintessential 'I'm a Hog for you Baby' on the OCC film, I experienced a sense of deja vu. Then made the connection. Lee was using some of the same choreography that he had developed at School in response to our conjectures about Mr. & Mrs C! I was delighted at this thought. I, sort off, stretching the truth a little, could now claim that I'd watched Lee develop his act. Contributed a smidgeon even!
So thanks to Mr. Cunnington and his Missus for providing such diverse inspiration. And apologies, too. I'm sorry that we were such horrible schoolboys. I have to admit, though, that I still grin like a Cheshire Cat whenever I see a recording of Dr. F. , in their pomp, doing 'The Hog'.
The final lines from Marvell's ' To His Coye Mistress' come to mind:
Let us roll all our Strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one Ball:
And tear our Pleasures with rough strife,
Through the iron gates of Life.
Thus, though we cannot make our Sunne
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
An appropriate sentiment for the band in their prime -and Lee especially.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

From the South Side Jug Band to the Incredible String Band.

!Warning: philosophical reflections!

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.

!End of philosophical reflections!

My parents were typical East Enders: they aspired to semidetached respectability, never did the Okey Kokey, never used Cockney slang, considered punctuation, grammar and a knowledge of Scripture to be essential ingredients of the good life. My father was a devoted fan of West Ham. Leyton Orient was his second team. Cricket was his greatest pleasure though; he was a devoted follower of Essex County Cricket Club.

I was a great disappointment to him. I had no interested in sport in my teens. What's more when I was fourteen I started making visits to Canvey Island. A place that my parents regarded as 'common'.

However I found my visits to Canvey refreshing. The sea air, rural squalor, anarchy, and jollity provided a kind of vitamin supplement for the soul. You could hang out on the sea wall and there'd be people to chat to and banter with. In Hadleigh, where I lived, there was no street life. There were trips to 'the shops', to Belfairs Woods and Sunday School. [ I was made to go to Sunday School until I was fifteen! That shows we are talking of 'an historic era' now!]. But there was nothing happening for a teenager. So getting the 3A bus down Benfleet Hill and crossing over to the Island was a treat, an escape. Playing with the Jug Band in the Canvey Club was simply great. I loved walking around there and just looking at scruffy shacks that some people still lived in and was intrigued by strange manifestation of religion present there. I recall the Jug Band having its photo taken outside 'The Assemblies of God'. Crazy evangelism intrigued Lee. It was part of the world of the Blues he was exploring.

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

Psychogeography, Sweyne School and an Armpit

There's times and places I return to when I'm half asleep.

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

Psychogeographically speaking...

I realised a few years ago after reading several books by Iain Sinclair [ 'London Orbital' and 'Downriver' in particular] that I've always been psychogeographer. I mean by this that wherever I go I'm exploring the feelings that arise in me in response to where I am. This goes beyond the physical experience of the place. I also get synasthetic or psychic sensations that I struggle to put into words, because, I suppose there are no words available for me to use in such a context.

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

Esperanto and hogs.

Doctor Tim, drug expert and amateur surrealist, sends me a message on Facebook. He has recently acquired 'The Edinburgh Pocket Esperanto Dictionary' [1939 edition]. I ask him if he can translate into esperanto:

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

Things that stick in your Mind.

People tell you things sometimes and they stick in your mind. When you're driving, waiting for a train, or in the small hours, when insomnia plagues you, they twiddle and twitch making you irritable and depressed.

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

Easy as falling off a Blog... and books ...and a musical vermifuge

Procrastinations and la la la LA etc. etc. ad nauseum.

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

Jeremy Clarkson for 33.33333p

I always check out the charity stall opposite me on Friday. There's often cheap books available. Amongst the usual stale decomposing Browns, Koontz, Grishams, Rowlings, and so on, I find a couple of decent poetry books: The Oxford Book of Nineteenth Century Verse and The Everyman's Book Evergreen Verse. Good solid poetry ideal for chanting out loud, iambic pentameters and sonnets galore. The books are three for a pound so I have to choose another. It's all trash to my snobby eye so I pick one at random. It's a collection of Jeremy Clarkson's essays.

I return to my stall. It is quiet due to a a strong warm wind blowing through the market, a kind of Sirocco due to global warming, I surmise. It's a malicious wind which leaves dust all over my show cases and knocks over and breaks my favourite Green Man mirror.

I distract myself by leafing through the Clarkson book. I have to admit that it is pithy and witty but the opinions espouses, his unremitting optimism, faux common sense grate after a few pages. I object to just about everything he stands for particularly his jolly dismissal of climate change and Health & Safety law. Glib, ridiculous and ill informed. One can see why people refer to him as a twat. Please excuse this vulgar expression, not one that I would use myself, but it does seems appropriate in Clarkson's case. Fortunately I only paid 3.333333 recurring pence for his book which is about his worth in my eyes.

In a civilised country he'd be given community service and compelled to do care work for victims of road traffic accidents and industrial diseases. He'd be banned from reading Car Mags too. They're techno-porn. They cause addictions which make to difficult for men to maintain intimate relationships. Instead he'd be made to study poetry, some Willie Blake and Al Ginsberg perhaps. And memorise this line from John Cooper Clark: Nobody's got a good word for you , I have, TWAT.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Am I a paranoid narcissist?

On my way down the A1 I pondered the meaning of this phrase which was uttered by some pontificating criminologist in connection with the late Mister Moat as though it explained something. It didn't explain anything of course: it was just word play designed to demonstrate the sheer cleverness of the person who uttered it.

What does the expression mean?
Paranoid: worried about what other people were thinking about him.
Narcissist: self centred.

Which clearly describes most politicians and most experts, including, of course, the guy that used the phrase.

I am obviously one too, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Just Another Day on Cambridge Market. And Earworms..

Deeply embedded in the cerebral folds of my brain are various tunes . One is ' Just another Day on Earth' by Brian Eno. I like this. It captures the feeling I get when I'm having a satisfying day on the market. People come and go. We talk about how hot it is or how cold is, about bumble bees, climate change, the iniquitous connivings of bankers, and so on. In Cambridge these conversations might also include the biochemistry of cell membranes, the current status of Nietzsche in philosophy departments, the conceptual assumptions made by macro-economists and the implications of the multiverse.

The latter is a particularly intriguing topic for traders. Is there an alternative Universe in which I'm fabulously successful and go home every day with [ as traders use to say ] a wad like a donkey's tadger? Apologies for the gratuitous vulgarity, but it has always been a component of market life.

Other earworms include 'Going Back Home' by Doctor Feelgood which is very nice and lively and nostalgic; something embarrassingly fey, mystical and pretentious by the Incredible String Band which I don't want to go into thank you very much, and Mistletoe and Wine' by Cliff Richards. This is The Earworm from Hell. It dances out of from some deranged bundle of neurones every Christmas like a Biblical curse. Perhaps when neurological surgery becomes more advanced I can have an electrode inserted into my brain and have the offending nerve cells fried.

A few years ago when I went on meditation retreat in Vermont this bubbled up from the depths of my mind:

Diddly di diddly di DE diddly le diddly did did did DADA

Diddly di diddly di DE diddly le diddly did did did DADA

At first I thought it was some profound message from an archetypical entity, or a spiritualistic communication from a Transcendental Master. Gradually I realised, as I sat on my cushion, that there was something familiar about the rhythm. Then the Zen moment hit me. AHA! It's the theme tune to Captain Pugwash! Kipper me Capstans, me hearties!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Brilleaux Pix: The Man in the Bowler Hat.

Posted by Picasa A witty play on words by 14 year old Lee!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Some ranting re. Sport plus Green Stuff Again

Hope I'm not becoming a Green Bore and contributing to what Hugh F.W. calls Green Fatigue, but I feel compelled to mention the book I've been reading, 'Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth' [ed. Simms and Smith].

The book discusses such issues as sport: How Green is golf? for example. It's not, of course, particularly in Spain and the USA where it consumes water and land like a cancer. This chimes with my conviction that 'Sport ' is a grotesque juggernaut of fantasy, financial greed, egomania, xenophobia, racism and bad taste, 'Soccer'of course being the worst offender, the spectating of which reduces otherwise normal humans to the level of decorticate monkeys...

Sorry, but I've been adversely affected by the World Cup... I was talking Green Stuff. The book has a good essay by Philip Pullman who describes how he counted 17 contrails in the sky above his Oxfordshire garden and had a moment of realisation: I thought: all this stuff is going on all the time,this is really unsustainable, it really can't go on. I experienced a similar feeling when I looked up at the sky when the volcanic ash flight ban was in place and thought: how nice, the sky unscarred! That was my Green Moment of the year.

The most significant aspect of the book, for me, is its engagement with trade and shopping. Contemporary, Mall style shopping exploits cheap labour in China and the Third World and causes massive pollution. We need to get back to local production and local trade. Buy Local is the slogan. It needs to be supplemented by the slogan Make it Local. One of the main reasons I stand market is that I sell local goods that Sharon and I make. [ Unfortunately to make ends meet I have to buy in goods: I'm not comfortable with that].

Making and selling your own stuff feels wonderful. It's Human. I talk to people, they talk to me. This doesn't happen in the Bluewater Shopping Centre, Meadowhall, the Arndale Centre or some other depersonalised corporate Disneyland where the punters drift about in a retail trance having their wealth hoovered up via their plastic cards. We are considering making or business slogan [or should it be 'motto' - that sounds nice and old fashioned!] Love what's Local. What do you think?

The only jarring note in the book is from the inclusion of an article by David Cameron who, naturally, I distrust whatever Green Noises he emits, suspecting him of covert Thatcherism.

Monday, 21 June 2010

A Stamford Character ambling about doing his job.

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.

The Scent of Bacon & Piss.

There must have been much revelry last night. A scent of fresh urine hangs in the air mingling with that of frying bacon from the tea waggon. The bells of the churches clatter and clang.

Chuckling Colin, the second in command Toby, arranges for a cleaner to slosh disinfectant about. Nina, my neighbour who sells tea towels and aprons, and I scrub the cobbles with a brush and manage to clean up effectively and get to start on the day's trading.

I can't help lapsing into weather talk, the English conversational default position, but I have to say that it's cold and grey this morning and, along with the aforementioned stinks, the day feels depressingly uninspiring. I find myself looking at the Great Saint Mary's Church and the gorgeous pinnacles of King's College for help. Ecclesiastical architecture always helps me cope. I will lift up mine eyes to the hill whence cometh my help. It's that kind of feeling. Strange how it contrasts with the shudder of nausea that I get when walking back from parking my car and hear the Evangelical noises that emanate from one of the churches I always pass: guitars, cymbals, jollity, clapping, laughter, the door left open so that us poor wretched sinners can hear the the Worship of the Lord. One of these days I might actually throw up at this crass, infantile lobotomised, exhibitionist, style of relating to the Mysteries of the Universe.

Apologies... I was moving towards a full blown rant there. Count to ten, 'arry.

In the afternoon the Sun peeps out and it becomes warm. We collectively cheer up.I snap a few pics:

2. Ben of 'Cafe Mobile' at the controls.
1. The American Lady who runs the Music stall who his delightful, vivacious and helpful.
3. The view from my stall mid-afternoon.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Green Men and Grumpiness

Up to Robin Hood's Bay for a brief holiday. I start the week in a grumpy mood prompted by paying out a [to me ] ridiculous amount of money for a mediocre pub meal and lacklustre beer.

The cottage very nice though rather twee for my taste: doilies, flowery plastic trays, fussy little fittings here and there, John Grisham novels on the book shelf, Countryside and Celebrity mags on the coffee table. Did glance through a 'Hello' magazine. Bizarre stuff. I don't recommend it. Strange people in there. What do the Beckhams do in their spare time? What do they dream about?

Still as the week progressed, my mood improved. I found some paths through woods and thickets that were devoid of human beings but buzzing with natural life. One patch of scrubby oak was alive with insect life and birdsong and had that delicious 'Green Man' feeling. I took some photos of the foliage there with a view to using them for some art work. When I did this I was visited with pang of guilt. Shouldn't do that: a sacrilegious intrusion. I found myself apologising to the The Green Man for my typically human attitude to a beautiful and private place and promised Him that I would do my best to use my pictures of the green glade responsibly.

Yes, when it comes to it, when I'm outdoors in woods I always become an unapologetic nature mystic and pay special attention to the subtle shifts of atmosphere that I sense around me and believe in nature spirits. If you want to know what I mean, find a remote wood at dusk and sit there very quietly and take note of your feelings. If you get through the inevitable fear you'll find the experience enlightening.

Here's the wilderness south of Ravenscar where the path I was following disappeared into impenetrable thickets. Not wanting spend an hour retracing my steps I escaped by climbing up the cliffs at the top of the pic. This was foolish especially as I was carrying my stuff in Sharon's floral shoulder bag. When I got to the top I had to cross a patch of nettles and brambles in shorts. this was foolish too. But I felt great!

When I got back found I was infested with ticks. I didn't notice them at first for all the scratches on my legs. went to the doctor a nice young lady she checked over my thighs and removed a deeply embedded one with a scalpel. I had mixed feelings about this.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Weather Prattle

The danger with writing about market days it can turn into a drone about the weather. It 's constantly changing, constantly being bothersome. Last week it was cold: this week it was hot and sticky. Over the last fortnight I've had innumerable exchanges with passers-by: ain't it cold? ain't it hot? These little comments all help social intercourse because we can't always think of anything to say just as I can't always think of what to write...hence this weather prattle

It's because I've had a cold, you see, no a virus. There's another good safe British conversation. It's a virus, a special one. Your's is man 'flu, but mine is a special virus. Viral one-upmanship.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Since this is a big week for Oil City Confidential, here is a bit of Lee juvenilia. This is the introduction to stories and pictures by various members of the Utterly Club, later the Weasel Club alluded to by Rico. It shows our obsession with crazy journeys as illustrated by 'The Map of the World' [see previous blog entry and OCC sequence]. I like the tongue in cheek pomposity of the aim to investigate the effect of absurdness on everybody. This was written when Lee was fourteen, a few months before the Jug Band's first 'world tour' of Kent which included Meopham, Harvel, Trottiscliffe, and a grass verge just outside Wrotham.
More soon...
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Unscarred Skies

Blue sky unscarred by contrails.
Volcanic dust settles on my stall.

When travel becomes more difficult it will be a worthwhile activity again. These days it is pointless as everywhere is becoming the same.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Harry does something illegal with a pheasant.

After a hard day on the market I decide to drive down to Stathern Stores for a bottle of Merlot. It's a lovely evening with pretty clouds turning amber over Nottingham. A lovely evening for a cock pheasant to go for a walk, too, and show off his pretty feathers. At the crest of Stathern Hill the pheasant, no doubt made reckless by the spring surge of hormones, charges across the road. Thunk! I hit him. I stop. He's not dead. His wings are fluttering furiously, but he can't fly. He has one eye, missing. Blood drips from his beak. He's damaged beyond repair. Maimed.

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?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

'Just another day on Earth'

Early Sunday morning. Stare at my tea. Stupor.

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.

p.s Treen?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Map of the World.

Posted by Picasa This is the map of the world that Lee Collinson [aka Brilleaux] and myself produced one day at school when we should have been doing proper school work. This map makes a brief appearance in the film 'Oil city Confidential'. Canvey Island is in the centre coloured green.
Again this has nothing to do with markets but I love this pic so in it goes.

Oil City Confidential & Cognitive Ego Therapy

Chris Fenwick, 'arry [Me that is], Rico Daniels and the Canvey Club.
This is where we used to busk in the late sixties along with Lee Brilleaux and John Sparkes. Reactivated memories of this period of my life helped restore my sense of self worth.

Rico, the Salvager being interviewed by Julien Temple. Location: Hadleigh Castle.

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.

Cognitive stuff:

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.

By the way Rico's been ill recently but is now recovering. Best Wishes to you Rico. You're an inspiration! Google 'Le Salvager' to see his award winning trailer for his Discovery Channel series.

Look out for the film which is about the story of Dr. Feelgood. One of the best live bands ever.
I appear in it briefly I'm very proud to say.
More cognitive stuff:

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.
* Please allow for a degree of irony here.